Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Cripples, Worms and Insects


There’s a professional hockey team called the Nashville Predators. Thinking about that name has helped me figure out a lot about the status of cripples in society.

Because like I’ve said before, at least one thing cripples don’t have to complain about is sports teams named after stereotypes of us. We're not like the poor tribes, being hounded by stuff like the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians. There hasn’t been a team that I know of with a name like the Indiana Invalids. Hell, there hasn’t even been a team with one of those cutesy cripple names, like the Houston Handicapables or the Philadelphia Physically Challenged.

But is this completely a good thing? Why would a team owner want to associate their team with predators but not cripples?

I then I thought I figured out the answer. Maybe it’s because cripples are perceived to be the opposite of predators. We’re prey. And the world of sports is all about predators and prey. There’s a clash and one side wins and one side loses. Period. So if you have to choose sides, you might as well choose the winning side, which is the predators.

But then I reminded myself that not all teams are named after beasts. Some are named after birds. They’re often predatory birds, like hawks and eagles. But there are also cute little tweety birds, like cardinals and blue jays.

These birds are hardly predators. But then again, aren’t concepts of predator and prey relative, depending on the point of view of a given species? Aren’t cardinals and blue jays vicious predators, if you’re a worm or an insect? To them, tweety birds must look like pterodactyls.

But when viewed through a human centric lens, which is what we do when naming sports teams, tweety birds are strictly prey. So that must mean that it’s acceptable to name your sports team afar some creatures that aren’t predators first and foremost, but not many others.

Then this, it seems to me, must be why you don’t see sports teams named after worms, insects or cripples. We’re all too far down the food chain. Well I suppose there might be some sports teams named after spiders. At least spiders are scary to humans. Cripples are scary to humans, too, but not in a way that has any marketing appeal.

So maybe nobody names sports teams after cripples because we are viewed as among the lowest, most vulnerable prey. The only thing we are a threat to feast upon wantonly and voraciously is the public treasury. And that’s not the dignified kind of predator. 

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Saturday, July 10, 2021

Things I Wouldn't Know if I Lived in a Stinkin' Nursing Home


Bohol is an island province of the Philippines. It consists of the island itself plus 75 surrounding islands. Its capital is Tagbilaran. Its most popular tourist attraction is the Chocolate Hills, which are called that because they sort of look like a range of giant chocolate chips. If they really were made of chocolate, you know some corporation like Hershey’s would have seized the land and strip mined the hills a long time ago.

I wouldn’t know anything about Bohol if I lived in a stinkin’ nursing home. The only reason I know Bohol even exists is thanks to one of the members of my pit crew. That’s what I call the crew of people I’ve hired to come into my home and do miscellaneous stuff for me like get me dressed and out of bed. One of them came in recently wearing a yellow t-shirt that said Spirit of Bohol. I asked him what Bohol was and he said he thought it was part of the Philippines. He said he got the t-shirt from a resale store. So that prompted me to look up stuff about Bohol, which I never would’ve done otherwise because I don’t spend a lot of time wondering about things like Philippine provinces. I’m not especially proud of that trait. I wish I was more the naturally curious type of person who embarks upon research adventures without prompting. But, sadly, I am not.

But if I lived in a stinkin’ nursing home, the people helping me get dressed and out of bed would all be required to wear boring-ass scrubs, which are all a stern solid color like grey or dark blue. Sometimes they’re adorned with stuff like Smurfs or rainbows or unicorns, but nothing interesting.

Another thing I also learned about from a resale t-shirt of one of my pit crew guys is the spread of communism in the 20th Century. On the front of his shirt was Lenin, Stalin and Mao and it said The Three Terrors. It was a parody of a concert tour t-shirt of The Three Tenors and on the back, instead of listing all the cities and dates of the stops along the tour, it listed, chronologically, countries that turned communist. The first date was Russia in 1917, followed by dozens of countries like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Yugoslavia, Poland, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary and China.

Whenever this pit crew guy worked with his back to me, like washing dishes, I learned more about the spread of communism in the 20th Century. But if I lived in a stikin’ nursing home, all I’d see when someone had their back to me would be a solid wall of a stern color.

I have another pit crew guy who has a wide array of soccer jerseys he bought at resale shops. They’re not educational, but they’re entertaining. 

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Monday, June 28, 2021

No Longer Living a Lie



This is the time of year when everybody reflects on how far cripples have progressed over the last few decades or so because July 26 is the anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.

Well one thing I can say about how the ADA has changed  my life is I don’t have to fake like I have a doctor’s appointment anymore. I used to have to do that a lot back in the 1970s and early 1980s, before the ADA was a glimmer. There was all kinds of public transportation in Chicago but none of it was wheelchair accessible so if a cripple like me needed to go somewhere and if they didn’t have a car they could drive, they had to call MOSCH, the Mayor’s Office for Senior Citizens and the Handicapped. (Well okay, that’s another thing that’s changed for the better since those days. We don’t get referred to as handicapped anymore. They used to call us that in the press all the time, but not now. And the government agencies that are supposed to serve us sure as hell don’t call us that.  The ADA isn’t called the Americans with Handicaps Act.)

MOSCH would dispatch a van equipped with a wheelchair lift to pick you up if you were lucky enough to get through before they were all booked up. And their limited hours we something like 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday thru Friday. And they would only take you to doctor’s appointments.

So what I did if I wanted to go somewhere was figure out what hospital, clinic, dentist’s office, etc. was nearby and I’d have the MOSCH van driver drop me off there and I’d go inside and wait for the driver to be far enough away and then I’d go to where I really wanted to go. And then I’d hustle back to the medical place in time for my pick up. And all the time in between when I roamed the streets I lived in fear that a van driver would see me and report me to their superiors and my lone source of independent transportation would be cut off, even though I’d never heard a confirmed case of that actually happening to anybody .

The people at MOSCH probably thought I was the sickliest cripple on earth since I was always seeing doctors all over the city. Sometimes when riding in the van I wondered if I should fake a hacking coughing fit just to maintain my cover.

But I don’t have to live that stressful lie anymore. All the buses and most of the train stations are wheelchair accessible now and none of the drivers or train operators give a shit where I’m going or why. They just shut up and take me there.

So at least there’s that. But it’s a lot. 

P.S. But of course not all cripples are this lucky. A lot of cripples who are stuck in nursing homes or places like that where someone else runs your fucking life for you still have to fake being sick. Sometimes the only way to get the hell out of one of those places is to pretend you're having a heart attack so they have to call an ambulance for you. They only take you to the hospital and back, but at least you see a little damn daylight.

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Saturday, June 19, 2021

Good Signs, Bad Signs


I guess the proliferation of those big blue signs with the white wheelchair stick figure on them is supposed to be a sign of progress. It means cripples are welcome more and more. But I’ll really feel like we’re making progress when I see that same sign except with a slash through the white wheelchair stick figure, meaning cripples are not welcome.

Because it’s too bad those blue access signs are even necessary. But they are necessary because cripples eventually come to assume through life experience that we are unwelcome unless informed to the contrary. Exclusion is our default position. We often err on the side of avoidance. Before I go someplace I’ve never been before, like a restaurant or whatever, I feel the need to call ahead and ask a bunch of questions to make sure I can actually get in and around and all that.

But it’s funny that, as a white man, I’ve never felt that I need additional confirmation to reassure me that I’m welcome. I’ve never felt that I needed to see a sign that says WHITE MEN WELCOME, which is good because no such signs exist. They aren’t necessary because that would be to belabor the obvious. As a white man, my default is the opposite of what it is as a cripple. Before I go someplace I’ve never been before, like a restaurant or whatever, I never call ahead and ask if white men are welcome.

You never see NO SMOKING signs anymore for the same reason. They’re unnecessary. Everybody assumes everywhere is no smoking unless otherwise designated. But it used to be the opposite. Everybody assumed everywhere was okay for smoking unless otherwise designated so you saw NO SMOKING signs every day.

But things have changed so much that NO SMOKING signs are now obsolete. So wouldn’t it be cool if things changed so much that the blue sign with the white wheelchair stick figure was unnecessary and obsolete because everybody just assumed cripples were welcome everywhere? And wouldn’t it be cooler still if signs with a slash through the white wheelchair stick figure were necessary to serve as a warning because cripples being unwelcome was so out of the ordinary?

Maybe someday.  

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Saturday, June 5, 2021

The Trespassing Tuba Player



Every big city cripple who rides public transit has experienced that awkward moment. You enter the bus but the seating area that’s reserved for cripples is occupied by someone with a baby carriage.

A stand-off ensues. Now what do you do? Will the person with the carriage refuse to move and escalate this into an ugly confrontation? If so, then you should assert yourself because, after all, that is your spot. The Americans with Disabilities Act is on your side. And a lot of people fought long and hard for the ADA so it is essentially your duty to past and future generations of cripples to insist that the person with the baby carriage vacate your territory. There is no such thing as the Americans with Baby Carriages Act.

But what are you going to do if the person refuses to move? Sue? And right there in the seating area there’s a sign, clear as day, that says PRIORITY SEATING FOR SENIOR CITIZENS AND PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES. It doesn’t say a damn thing about baby carriages! But there is no force of law behind that sign. It’s merely a suggestion. Most people obey it not because they’re afraid they’ll get arrested but because they don’t want to be an enormous prick. But what if this particular person with the baby carriage is a proud member of the rapidly growing segment of the populace that isn’t afraid to be an enormous prick and thus refuses to move? And what if you choose not to be the peacemaker by exiting the bus and waiting for the next one? The bus driver will eventually have to call the police and meanwhile everybody will have to wait and your fellow passengers will hate you. You won’t exactly come off as the new Rosa Parks.

Fortunately for me, every time I’ve faced this situation the squatter in the cripple spot has always yielded. But there was one time when things could’ve easily gotten out of hand real quick if not for a twist of fate. Rahnee and I were riding the bus so both cripple spots were occupied. The driver swung over to a bus stop and opened the door. There stood that street musician I’d seen playing tuba on Michigan Avenue. He was pushing a wheelchair and its passenger was a tuba. Apparently he used a wheelchair to tote his horn around town.

The driver told the tuba man that both wheelchair spots were occupied. And the angry tuba man said, “Damn cripples!”

The driver closed the doors and swung away and that was that. But what if the tuba man had gotten on the bus before us and beaten us to the cripple seats? Judging from his reaction, he may well have refused to move. And that would've gotten me riled and I surely would’ve said something like, “According to the ADA, you’re trespassing! There is no such thing as the Americans with Tubas Act! And I don’t see any sign that says PRIORITY SEATING FOR DUMBASS TUBA PLAYERS!” And the tuba man would’ve dug in his heels deeper and the driver would’ve had to call the police and the whole thing would’ve exploded to the point where the fire department would have to come too to extract my head from a tuba using the Jaws of Life and a lot of butter.

And I wouldn’t have exactly come off as the new Rosa Parks.  

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Thursday, May 27, 2021

Yep, Here Comes Another Ask Smart Ass Cripple


 Purging the mailbag.


Dear Smart Ass Cripple,

I sure wish Superman was for real, don’t you?


A Big Christopher Reeve Fan


Dear Big CRF,

No, I’m very glad that Superman is merely fictitious because there are no phone booths anymore so Clark Kent would probably change into his Superman costume in the cripple stalls of public bathrooms because they’re so roomy. And there are already way too many cases of cripple stalls of public bathrooms being clogged up by verts (which is what I call people who walk, because it’s short for vertical).

I bet Clark Kent would’ve used cripple stalls in public bathrooms to change into Superman from jump except there was no such thing as a public cripple bathroom stall until about 50 years or so ago because there was no such thing as a cripple out in public until about 50 years or so ago.

So I’m glad Superman isn’t for real. It would mean one more pain in the ass for cripples to have to deal with.

Dear Smart Ass Cripple,

I suffer from low self-esteem. What should I do?

Yours truly,

Dorothy the Meek


Dear Dorothy the Meek,

Suffering from low self- esteem is stupid! What the hell’s the matter with you? If you pay attention to the people who put you down, you’re an idiot! Stop it right now!


Dear Esteemed  Mr. Smart Ass,

I am a little crippled boy. Would you be so kind as to pray for me?

With Warm Regards,



Dear Timmy,

I’m so glad you asked me to pray for you. When I was little crippled boy about your age, I recited a prayer that helped me live as cripple in a world of verts (see above). As I recall, it went something like this:

“Oh Heavenly Father. Please deliver me from the vortex of shame. When others seek to diminish me because I am crippled, please bestow upon me the wisdom to recognize them as a bunch of dunderheads.

“And in addition, Oh Father, please grant me the strength to endureth byzantine bureaucracies, both public and private. In the future, when I am no longer an adorable criplet and I needeth something like a wheelchair or Social Security, please bless me with the tenacity to not take no for an answer. Please endow me with the ability to file appeal after appeal after appeal after appeal until the forces of recalcitrance finally relinquish that which I need to merely survive. And give me the fortitude to sue them if need be”

There are other stanzas from there that I don’t remember. It’s sort of like the Star Spangled Banner. But you get the idea.

I hope you find this helpful.

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Monday, May 17, 2021

Premature Hospice



There’s a caregiver agency called Home Instead. There’s another one called Home Again.

There are probably a bunch of others with Home in their name. There ought to be one called Home Forevermore because that would be honest. These agencies with Home in their names make it seem like all the people who use their services ever want to do is stay home all the time.

Maybe that’s true for some but not for me. That’s for damn sure. And I’m one of those people who uses services like theirs. Except I don’t use an agency. That’s also for damn sure. It’s ironic that they call them agencies because if you hire them you don’t have any agency. They just dispatch a stranger dressed in surgical scrubs. I have people come in and help me every day but I hire and train them myself and I fire them if I have to. I can’t believe anybody would want it any other way. And the wages of the people who work for me are paid by our tax dollars through a state program. And I don’t call the people who work for me caregivers. That word grates on me. It sounds too much like babysitter, I guess. I call them my pit crew. And I don’t let them wear surgical scrubs. I’d let them go naked before I’d let them wear surgical scrubs. I feel it’s my obligation to educate the masses by showing that not every cripple has to be constantly accompanied by a medical professional.

In the advertising of the caregiver agencies, the cripples and old people receiving the care are always home. It’s like the cripples are on house arrest. And they’re always happy as hell about it. It’s like their only goal in life is to stay home all the time and the job of their caregivers is to keep them there. I suppose being at home all the time beats the hell out of being looked up in some stinkin nursing home all the time, if those are your only options. 

But if all an agency is going to do is send people to just keep me comfy at home, that sounds like a nursing home on wheels to me. If I had to stay home all the time I’d go nuts. I’m super susceptible to cabin fever. If I had to stay home all the time I’d feel like I’m in hospice. Now don’t get me wrong. I got nothing against people in hospice. Some of my best friends are in hospice. Well, they were. Far be it from me to engage in terminal illness shaming. If I was terminally ill, I wouldn’t be ashamed to admit it. I’d hold my head high.  I wouldn’t try to pretend I’m somebody I’m not.

But I’m not terminally ill yet. So until the time comes, I’m interested in getting out and about a lot. That’s why I have a pit crew. I have things to see and people to do. There’ll be plenty of time for that sitting around doing nothing stuff when I’m terminally ill, or after I’m dead.

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