Saturday, June 8, 2024

Do-it-Yourself Excommunication


I remember it as a very liberating moment of my childhood. All of us Catholic kids were told that if we didn’t do the things a good Catholic was supposed to do, like go to church every week and put money in the basket, we could be excommunicated.

Excommunicated! That word sounded so scary and painful. I pictured a ritual where I am marched out blindfolded into a yard with my head hanging in shame and my hands tied behind my back, like a prisoner headed for the gallows. A priest rips open my shirt a uses a hot branding iron to tattoo the letter X on my chest. I am then drawn and quartered by four horses.

But then I found out that when you’re excommunicated, all that means is that you’re kicked out of the church and thus you can’t take communion anymore and stuff like that. And I remember thinking, “Is that all that big scary word means? If I don’t do the things a good Catholic is supposed to do, is that all they can do about it? Big deal!”

 You mean, I won’t have to go to church every week? I won’t have to  put money in the basket every week? That sounded more like a reward than a punishment.

 I always resented giving money. I understood that the church needed money to pay for stained glass windows and shit like that. But why did it have to be my money? I mean, if Jesus could turn water into wine, couldn’t he also turn anything he wanted into a pile of cash? So it seemed to me that any priest who could pray worth a damn could persuade Jesus to make it rain dollar bills.

And I never cared much about taking communion either. I thought the wafer tasted like notebook paper.

If I was excommunicated, I wouldn’t have to think about stuff like that anymore. That’s another reason why it suddenly seemed like a pretty sweet deal. So I just stopped going to church, which is how I quietly excommunicated myself.

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Thursday, May 30, 2024

My Adolescent Expertise


As I recall, they pulled me out of class one day at the state-operated boarding school for cripples, which I refer to as the Sam Houston Institute of Technology (SHIT).

I was worried that I did something wrong. But what?

“Miss Joyce wants to see you in her office,” I was told. But what could I have possibly done wrong that would make them send me to  Miss Joyce’s office? Miss Joyce was the head of recreation. Her office was right next to the gym.

I was escorted to Miss Joyce’s office. She greeted me with a big smile. “Its so great to see you!” she said to me. And then she said, “I sent for you because I’m going to a costume party. My costume is going to be Poland.” She said she wanted to cover her costume, which would be a hunk of papier mache shaped like the country of Poland, with Polack jokes. “I understand that you know a lot of Polack jokes,” Miss Joyce said. “Can you tell  me some?”

 For those of you who weren’t around back then, there was a genre of jokes known as Polack jokes. And the point of each of these jokes was to illustrate how incredibly stupid all Polish people were supposed to be.

And it’s true that I had a million Polack jokes in my repertoire and I told them every chance I got. This was my adolescent expertise. I remember some of my Polack jokes  but I won’t tell them  anyway because they’re all pretty dumb. But on that day I regaled Miss Joyce with Polack jokes and she took copious notes. I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t come through for her that day. Would I have been punished? Maybe I would’ve been restricted to my room until I came up with some good Polack jokes.

As far as I know, my encounter with Mis Joyce was not video taped or recorded for posterity in any way. I’m grateful for that. That was a simpler time when a guy could make jokes about how incredibly stupid all Polish people are and get a big laugh. But now I would be ostracized, as if I was helping Miss Joyce put on black face.

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Friday, May 17, 2024

The Unintended Consequences of Cripple Awareness Campaigns

 I still assume that maybe it’s safe for me to wear  a red shirt when I shop at Target, because I ‘m crippled. But I’m not so sure anymore.

If there’s anybody out there who has never shopped at Target, you need to know that all of their employees wear red shirts. Thus, if you wear a red shirt to Target, it’s quite likely that another shopper will flag you down and ask you where they can find motor oil or yogurt or whatever. The most foolproof strategy for avoiding this annoyance is to never wear a red shirt when you go to Target.

But I always thought that wearing a red shirt would be no problem for me because even more conspicuous than my red shirt would be the motorized wheelchair I’m always sitting in. I figured that that would cancel out my red shirt because most people would see it and think that cripples aren’t capable of doing anything as lofty as working at Target. So I must just be some random crippled  old man whose nurse put a red shirt on him this morning.

But the last time I went to Target I went to the men’s department and there were various pictures posted around that featured young men smiling big and really enjoying their lives while wearing the items of menswear that were for sale. And one of those young men was in a wheelchair.

That means that Target is trying to convey the message that cripples are people, too. And if enough people who shop at Target come to believe, as a result of this cripple awareness campaign, that cripples are people, too, then they might also come to believe that therefore, cripples must also be capable of working at Target.

And if that happens, I’ll probably have to  think about whether or not I might end up at Target, before I put on a red shirt.

Sometimes cripple awareness campaigns have unintended consequences.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Cripple Spaz Fights

 You could find just about every genre of cripple at the state-operated boarding school from which I graduated 50 years ago. I refer to this school as the Sam Houston Institute of Technology (SHIT).

There were bleeders and polios and amputees. You name it. There were spastic kids. We called them spazzes. Every now and then their arms and or legs would suddenly start flailing around involuntarily and uncontrollably, especially when they got agitated. When that happened, you’d  better stay away from them or you might accidentally get punched in the face and/or kicked in the crotch.

One of the spazzes was particularly big and strong. His name was Arnie. One day Arnie was being fed by one of the housemothers. (The men and women who helped the cripples get in and out of bed and wiped our butts and stuff like that were called our houseparents.) And, right out of the blue, Arnie spazzed and his fist came down like a hammer right on top of the housemother’s head. Arnie didn’t mean to do it. But he knocked the housemother right out of her chair and she said she saw stars.

I wish I had an entrepreneurial spirit back then. I could have seized the opportunity to make a lot of money. I could have organized Cripple Spaz Fights. Just roll two spastic cripples into a ring, set them side by side, lock their wheelchair brakes and let them have an t it. Someone in corner crews for the spastic cripples might have to do something from afar to get them agitated, like tickling them with a really long feather.

But people probably would have come from far and wide to watch these fights and place bets. Hell, people come from far and wide to watch roosters and dogs fight to the death and place bets. So why not cripples?

Arnie would have been the champ.

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Tuesday, April 30, 2024

The Joy of Sinning

  When I was a kid, I really wanted to be a sinner. That was the first time I felt something resembling ambition. 

This was brought on by the fact that even though I was a Catholic, nobody pressured me to go to confession regularly, like they did all the other Catholic kids in the neighborhood who weren’t crippled. 

I should have just left well enough alone and accepted this exemption as the blessing that it was. And for while I did. But as I got older I asked myself why I was excused from confessing regularly. And I came to the conclusion that the reason must be that the Catholic church didn’t think cripples were capable of being sinners.

I was insulted by this. I felt it was my duty to prove them wrong by sinning, regularly. But what kind of sinner would I be? Which of the Ten Commandments would I break? I didn’t want to kill or  steal from anybody. Those Commandments made sense to me. Coveting my neighbor’s wife didn’t seem like such a bad thing to do. But one of my neighbors was a burly fireman and the other  neighbor didn’t have a wife. And even if I wanted to covet the fireman’s wife, I didn’t think there was any chance that she would covet me back.

Another problem was that the Catholic church had a much broader definition of sin than I did. The Catholic church thought everything from jerking off to belching at the dinner table was a sin. But I thought if you wanted commit a sin you had to commit murder. That was pretty much it

But that turned out to be a good thing after all because if I went with the Catholic church definition, that meant that nobody  could go a week between confessions without committing some sort of sinful infraction. Not even a cripple could do that.

To be human was by its very nature, to be a sinner. So I embraced that premise, even though I knew it was bull shit, because if that was the case I would automatically sin regularly without even trying. All I had to do was live my life.. That made sinning a lot easier to do.

It was true that by taking this approach, I wouldn’t experience the full joy of sining. Much of the time, I wouldn’t even know that I was sinning.

But I was a sinner nonetheless.. I cloud look back each week and feel confident that I had done something the Catholic had previously thought I was incapable of doing.

Just because I didn’t feel like a sinner didn’t mean I wasn’t one.

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Monday, April 22, 2024

The Cripple School Color Guard

 Here’s another way you can tell if a crippled adult went to segregated high school for cripples only, like I did. If that crippled adult was in their high school marching band, or if the high school they went to even had a marching band, then it most likely wasn’t a segregated high school for cripples only. Because segregated high schools for cripples only don’t bother to have marching bands.

No, the closest thing to a marching band I ever saw was at the segregated elementary school for cripples only. We had a color guard there. And every school assembly began with the presentation of colors. Three of the crippled students marched up the aisle of the assembly hall. The first two carried the flags of the city and state and the last flag was the American flag. The color guard kids marched up onto the stage and mounted the colors. And then they all put their hands on their hearts and Ied everyone in reciting The Pledge of Allegiance.

I really wanted to be one of the color guard kids. I thought it was so cool. But I didn’t know how to go about signing up. There weren’t any auditions or anything that I knew of.  I knew that the gym teacher organized it all. But other than that it just seemed like certain kids were randomly selected to be on the color guard and they were sent to the gym teacher and he took it from there.

As I recall, all of the kids in the color guard were the cripples who could walk without crutches or anything, like the hemophiliacs (aka the bleeders). Maybe the gym teacher was afraid that a wheelchair cripple might drop a flag or something and that might start a big commotion. There were definitely no spastic cripples in the color guard.

But the color guard kid I was most envious of was the one who didn’t even join in the marching. He sat off to the side behind a snare drum and drummed out the solemn, steady beat to which the color guard marched. I thought it would be so cool to have that job. I bet it made the chicks swoon. That was the closest thing we had to a rock star at the cripple school.

But it’s probably a good thing that I didn’t get to be a drummer at the segregated elementary school for cripples only. Because after I graduated from there I went on to an even more segregated boarding school for cripples only that was operated by the state. I refer to it as the Sam Houston Institute of Technology  (SHIT). They didn’t even have a color guard at SHIT, let alone a marching band. So would have been sitting there all alone with my drumsticks, frustrated that I didn’t have a creative outlet.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2024

An Essay Comparing and Contrasting Abandoned Dogs and Abandoned Cripples

I saw one of those television commercials where they try to convince everyone to donate $19 a month to an organization that saves the lives of abandoned dogs. And it occurred to me that abandoned dogs have a lot in common with abandoned cripples.

The abandoned dogs in this commercial ended up in some place that looked like a puppy mill. The sad voiceover of the narrator said these poor dogs had been dumped there. Indeed, it looked like the mustache-twirling villains that ran the place had vamoosed in a flash because they got a tip that a raid was coming

And it hit me that a lot of abandoned cripples are also dumped in sinister places that are very much like puppy mills. They’re called nursing homes but maybe we should call them cripple mills. Puppy mills profit off of their hostage puppies by selling them. Nursing homes profit off of their hostage cripples by taking away their Social Security and Medicaid money. The nursing homes send the bill to Medicaid for the room and board of the hostages and the hostages also have to sign away all but about $30 a month of their Social Security income to the nursing home.

The narrator in the television commercial spoke with urgency how the poor dogs are trapped in overcrowded conditions and get very little freedom of movement. The same is true of cripples trapped in  nursing homes. They might have three or four strangers as roommates and none of the hostages can leave the grounds without a doctor’s permission.

But there are some ways in which abandoned dogs and abandoned cripples don't have much in common. The narrator for the commercial said there is still hope for dogs like these. There was a video of several people coming to rescue the abandoned dogs. All the people wore windbreakers and on the back was the acronym of the organization that was trying to get everyone to donate $19 a month.

I’ve never seen a television commercial that tries to convince everyone to donate $19 a month to an organization that saves abandoned cripples. There must not be any organizations that raids nursing homes and frees all of the crippled hostages.

It looks like abandoned dogs have a whole lot more going for them than abandoned cripples do.

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