It’s was the mid 1990s or thereabouts. It was Anna, my late first wife, and me. And Mark was with us. He was an itinerant activist. Tall and thin with long hair halfway down his back. He probably wore jeans with the knees worn away like he always did. He was a vegan, a cancer survivor. It seemed like every weekend he attended some “grassroots” fundraiser of some sort. And this weekend we went with him to a fundraiser so a group of gay cripples could send some people to Washington. I believe the event was in the backroom of a bar. And there was a silent auction. I know how these “grassroots” silent actions work. I’ve been a part of many a one. Some people hustle up donations from their neighborhood mom and pops. And so you end up with a lot of gift certificates from laundry mats, dry cleaners and liquor stores.
One of the auction items at the fundraiser for gay cripples was from a store called Mexican Folk Arts. Anna put in a bid for that. Mexican Folk Arts was a new place just a few blocks down the street from where we lived. She figured she could get something cool with a gift certificate from there. Another auction item was a coupon good for a free weekend at the Melrose Hotel. I wondered who the hell hustled up that donation. The Melrose Hotel was a fleabag flophouse. Weekly and daily rates. I'd like to see the look on the face of the poor sucker who won that prize when he shows up with his suitcase at the Melrose Hotel.
So after a potluck supper and some speechifying, it was time to announce the winners of the silent auction. “And the Mexican Folk Arts winner is—“
Anna! She was excited. She rolled her wheelchair up to claim her gift certificate. But the auctioneer instead reached under the card table and proudly presented her with a sculpture of a skunk. The sculpture was about the size of a dachshund. I think the sculpture was made of cement. It must’ve weighed at least 10 pounds. The skunk had a rough texture like cement. You could strike a match on it. And the skunk had a badass look on its face, like it was staring you down. It was in full attack mode, its tail raised like a curled plume, like a question mark.
“And the winner of the free weekend at the Melrose Hotel is---“
Me! Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat? How the hell did that happen? Mark leaned over and told me he felt bad that nobody wrote in a bid so he put me down for ten bucks.
So those were the souvenirs we took home from the send-a-gay-cripple-to-Washington fundraiser: a cement skunk and a coupon for a free weekend at a flophouse.
But it’s amazing when you think about it. When cripples go to Washington, we’re fighting against assholes that, when they need to buy politicians, hold fundraisers where people pay $10,000 for bacon and eggs. And the silent auction items are original Van Goghs.
But somehow, the cripples who go to Washington have managed to get the Americans with Disabilities Act passed and a whole lot more. So whatever we’re doing, it works, so far. I don’t know how or why it works but who cares? It works.
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