Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The Clown College of Life

  There’s this cripple I know who has cerebral palsy. He walks but he doesn’t talk.

 Before I tell you more about him, let me give him an alias in case he doesn’t want to be outed here. I’ll call him King Ferdinand of Spain.

Anyway, I don’t see King Ferdinand of Spain very often- maybe once a year or so. And when I do I’m always impressed by the way he communicates. It’s kind of like a combination  of miming and playing charades. Like if he wants to have a drink with you, he points to you and himself and makes a drinking motion. And he can get a helluva lot of mileage out of a facial expression. If he thinks somebody is full of shit, you can tell by that certain “full of shit” look he breaks out. He doesn’t have to say a word. He gives the finger a lot, too.

King Ferdinand of Spain walks funny, too. One leg steps just fine but the other leg sort of skips every time he takes a step. It’s like that leg has a mind of its own and instead of walking  normal as the brain commands it skips, just to be a smart ass. I guess that’s how cerebral palsy works sometimes.

Whenever I see King Ferdinand of Spain, I feel bad for him because I think he could have been a very successful man, professionally and financially, had someone somewhere along the line encouraged him to embrace his inner clown.  But probably just the opposite happened. If he asked a vocational rehabilitation to help him get a job, they probably required him to pursue something decidedly uncolwnlike, like accounting. Or hell, the best vocational rehabilitation would probably offer a guy like King Ferdinand of Spain would probably be a job on an assembly line tightening screws all day for a dime an hour or that kind of thing.

But I think King Ferdinand of Spain could have been a distinguished professor at a clown college, teaching eager pupils how to be mute clowns. Because King Ferdinand of Spain has the mute clown routine perfected—all the elaborate nonverbal communication techniques. King Ferdinand of Spain learned it all in the clown college of life. He has a hard-earned Ph.D in clown arts. Or is it clown sciences?

 So it would have been nice had someone recognized King Ferdinand of Spain’s area of true expertise and set him up teaching at a clown college. He could have been a superstar.

But that’s not what  cripple rehabilitation is all about. Cripple rehabilitation is about getting cripples to run away from their crippledness as far as they possibly can. So a guy like King Ferdinand of Spain, whose crippledness is always front and center, is destined to always  come up short. Who would hire a clown as an accountant?  

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Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Genuine Cripples Sitting in for Movie Stars and Gettiing Faith Healed


The Oscar people are making a big push to make sure more cripples work in the filmmaking industry, both on and off camera.

Starting in 2024, in order to win an Oscar for Best Picture, a film will have to have a certain number of people in the film or involved in the production or distribution who aren’t your standard white, heterosexual, uncrippled males.

That sounds good. It ought to constructively address at least some of the criticism Hollywood has come under for a long time for having so very few genuine cripples appearing in movies, writing screenplays, etc.

But again, this doesn’t take effect until 2024. If the Oscar people wanted to get more genuinely crippled people on camera a lot sooner, they could hire a bunch of us to be seat-fillers. Everybody knows that in the audience of every Oscar broadcast there are some regular pedestrians who are hired to occupy the seats of movie stars when they get up to go present an award, take a piss, etc. It gives the illusion of a full house. That seems like the perfect job for someone like a Down Syndrome guy. Just put him in a tuxedo and sit him down. But I’ve never seen a genuinely crippled person in the audience at the Oscars except maybe guys like Christopher Reeve who have a good excuse for being crippled. The reason there aren’t a lot of genuine cripples in Oscar audiences is probably the same reason there aren’t a lot of genuine cripples in Hollywood movies. We’re too jolting. If the camera is panning the Oscar audience and suddenly there’s a Down Syndrome guy in a tux, that gets everyone’s attention and it upstages the stars. First and foremost, I imagine, a seat-filler must blend in and not detract any attention from the stars. Cripples suck at blending in.

Another time you never see genuine cripples is on those faith healer preacher shows on television. There are never any genuine cripples in the line to be healed. Nobody who is all spazzed out and drooly ever receives a stiff arm to the forehand from the preacher and then suddenly becomes all suave and eloquent. You never see an amputee sprout a limb. Before I die, I want to get in one of those lines to be faith healed on television just so, when I get to the front of the line, I can watch the preacher shit his pants. But I’d probably never make it to the front of the line. The preacher’s security goons would probably intercept me and escort me out.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2020

My Fairy Godmother Wheelchair Repair Fantasy

 Any cripple will tell you that when your motorized wheelchair breaks it’s depressing as all hell because you know you’ll probably be dead in the water for at least a month.

Because first you have to call the wheelchair repair company and they’re all big corporations which means that they are prohibited, by law, from giving a shit about their customers. Even if you know that your problem is that you blew out a motor and you need a new one and you tell the wheelchair repair company that when you call, they’ll still make you make an appointment to have one of their tech people come to your house to figure out what’s wrong. And a week later (if you’re lucky) the tech person shows up and determines that you blew out a motor and you need a new one.

So then the wheelchair repair company has to get the new motor from the wheelchair manufacturer and the wheelchair manufacturers are even bigger corporations who have somehow figured out a way to give even less of a shit. They know they’ve got you by the scrotum when it comes to wheelchair parts so they charge like $500 for a screw.

So then you have to try to get a third party to pay for your repair job, like your insurance company or Medicaid. And oh man, those are both big corporations, too, so God knows how long it’ll take to get payment approval, if you get payment approval.

But before a third party will even think about giving you payment approval, you’ll have to furnish them with a note from your doctor certifying that repairing your wheelchair is “medically necessary.” And sometimes doctors can be big corporations, too, so who knows how long that will take.

That’s why I wish to hell there was some kind of emergency roadside assistance for busted wheelchairs. Something like the AAA, except maybe the AWA. One time I locked my keys in my car like a dumbass but all I had to do was make a call (I think the number was 1-800-DUMBASS) and soon a guy came and jimmied open my door. If life was at all fucking fair, whenever I blow out a motor on my wheelchair I’d just make a call and some guy would be there fast and install a new motor. And the service call and parts and labor would alll be free. And there wouldn’t be membership fees either. Otherwise AWA would probably turn into a big corporation.  

If I had a fairy godmother, all I’d ask of her is that whenever my wheelchair breaks it gets fixed right away with no muss, no fuss, no fees and no doctor’s notes. She'd just tap my chair with her wand and poof, it's all fine. When my wheelchair is working , everything else in life is pretty much gravy.

My fairy godmother would probably laugh it up with her fairy godmother friends about how boring I am, but I don’t care. 

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Monday, December 14, 2020

A Patch of Cripple Blue



I found this hilarious patch many years ago at some weird store somewhere. The background of the patch was that unique shade of blue that you always see behind that white stick figure guy in a wheelchair on access signs. I call that shade of blue cripple blue.

The stick figure guy in the wheelchair on the patch was smoking a bong with the letters THC on it. And across the top of the patch it said CRIPPLED.

So I bought the patch and had someone sew it onto the backpack that hung on the back of my wheelchair and I proudly displayed it. People often asked me what the patch meant and I always had to say that I didn’t know. I surmised that maybe it was some sort of stoner slang, like when you’re really really stoned you say, “Oh man, I’m sooooo crippled!”

But anyway, I was out and about one glorious summer day, rolling down a bustling sidewalk in Chicago and I heard a voice from behind shout out, “Hey cripple!”

I decided to just ignore it and keep rolling.

But then I heard it again, louder. “Hey cripple!”

At this point, I’m figuring it must be a friend of mine making all that noise. Who else would be shouting that at me in public with such bold determination?

I turned around and there were two guys hustling up to me. I didn’t know either one of them. But it was easy to tell by their grins and their bleary eyes that they were both quite stoned.

The guy on the right snorted out a laugh and said to me, “That's the funniest bumper sticker I ever saw!” And then he said, “You deserve one of these!”

He reached out and held a one-hitter in front of my mouth. The other guy reached out and lit a lighter.

But I hesitated. I looked around. After all, we were in the middle of a bustling city sidewalk. Surely this whole encounter was being captured on some video camera.

Then the guy holding the one-hitter said, “What’re they gonna do, arrest us? Fuck ‘em, I’m a lawyer!”

So I took the hit and continued on my way. And about 15 minutes later, oh man, I was soooooooo crippled!

Well, let’s just say I was a lot more crippled than usual. 

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Monday, December 7, 2020

Tales From the Pit Crew

 I have a crew of people I hire to come to my home and help me get dressed, get out of bed, take a crap and do stuff like that. I call them my pit crew.

 Anyway, here’s a story one of them told me recently. (I’m giving him an alias to protect his identity. I’m calling him Alexander the Great.  He said he didn’t care if I protected his identity, but I’m giving him an alias anyway because I think it makes the story funnier if I do.)

 Alexander the Great just turned age 21 last March. Before that he faced a common but daunting challenge of finding a liquor store that wouldn’t card him. He heard tell of a liquor store in another neighborhood that was lax on carding because it was near a college campus. It was owned by Assyrian guys.  He went there with some underage friends and nobody got carded.  So he figured it was safe when he went back alone and picked up a six pack of Pabst.  But the guy behind the counter asked him for ID. Alexander the Great had to think fast. Since he speaks German, he put on a German accent and said he was visiting from Germany. “I do not like to carry my passport and I do not yet have American identification,” he said. As soon as he said it, Alexander the Great wished he could do it over. He was convinced that his accent was way too over-the-top generic, like Hogan’s Heroes.

The guy behind the counter had a Middle Easternish accent. “What part of Germany are you from?” he asked.

Alexander the Great made something up again. But apparently that was good enough for the guy behind the counter because he welcomed Alexander the Great to the U.S. and rang him up. The guy said his name was Faheed.

When Alexander the Great returned to the store a week or so later to get more beer, Faheed was excited to see him. There was another guy behind the counter with him. Faheed introduced the other guy to Alexander the Great as Maurice, the owner. “Maurice used to live in Germany!” Faheed said.

Oh shit, Alexander the Great thought to himself. Now my fake accent will for sure get me busted!

“Wie gehts! “ said a smiling Maurice to Alexander the Great.

“Wie gehts!” replied Alexander the Great. Maurice spoke some more German and Alexander the Great spoke German back but he was convinced that soon Maurice would realize that he wasn’t as fluent as a German citizen should be and he would be busted. But then Maurice apologized in English and said his German was rusty since he hadn’t lived there in 17 years. Alexander the Great said he’d happily converse in English from now on. He could use the practice.

Every time Alexander the Great came back to the store for more liquor, Maurice followed him around and engaged him in conversation, meaning Alexander the Great had to listen to him complain about everything. Americans are terrible drivers. The mayor is useless. But the thing he complained about with the most frequency and vigor was Muslims. They’re all evil, without exception. They’re ruining so many countries with their immigration.

Alexander the Great didn’t know how to respond to that one without getting on Maurice’s bad side. So he said, “Yes well it’s true immigration is a problem in Germany.”

And then Alexander the Great turned 21, which meant he was able to shop at all the liquor stores in his own neighborhood without pretending to be German. So he never went back to Maurice’s store, leaving Maurice and Faheed to wonder what became of their German friend.   

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Sunday, November 29, 2020

Purple Haze Blasting From the Playroom

When I was a teenaged inmate in the early 1970s at the state-operated boarding school for cripples, which I affectionately refer to as the Sam Houston Institute of Technology (SHIT), I resided on the Alpha Beta unit. A unit consisted of two adjacent corridors with rooms that each contained two hospital beds. Each corridor bore the name of a letter of the Greek alphabet. Adjoining the corridors were community bathrooms and the houseparents’ station. The people that did stuff like help us inmates get dressed and out of bed were called our houseparents.

At the far end of each unit was a playroom. The playrooms were large community rooms with a television mounted on the wall, board games and puzzles and crayons in the closet and stuff like that.

Well one day I heard the song Purple Haze blasting from the Alpha Beta playroom. And it was loud as hell, too, as if Hendrix and his band were playing it live. But what it really was was John Robbie, one of the inmates, got his hands on the record Purple Haze and played it full blast on the playroom stereo. I figured one of the houseparents would d go down there and put a stop to it right quick, but none of them ever did.

So John Robbie blasted Purple Haze over and over, sometimes playing it 20 or 30 times in a row it seemed like. And it also seemed like this went on every day for about a month but the houseparents just ignored it and went about their business as if they were all deaf. Rumor had it that everybody was afraid-- even the houseparents—to disturb John Robbie when he was immersed in Purple Haze because he was wild-eyed like a crazy man and he’d throw something at you, like a lamp. People said John Robbie was all hopped upon acid when he was blasting Purple Haze.

I doubted that any of this was true because I never saw any evidence to back it up, such as a shattered lamp in the playroom.  And otherwise John Robbie was a pretty cordial and easygoing guy.

But all this plunged me into a whirlwind of adolescent self-reflection. Maybe that’s what happens to a guy when he gets all hopped up on acid, I thought. So maybe I should get all hopped up on acid, too, because it was so cool how John Robbie got away with blasting Purple Haze. There was no way I could get away with anything like that. If I blasted any of my records, a houseparent would immediately rush down to the playroom and put me on restriction, which was like being on house arrest in my room for a week or so.

Now of course the records I had at the time were infinitely more annoying than Purple Haze, like The Carpenters. (Ouch! I can’t believe I just admitted that!) But that was a moot point because I would never have the guts to blast my records because I was terrified of being restricted.

But John Robbie didn’t seem to give a damn about being restricted while he was blasting Purple Haze. When he blasted Purple Haze, he was taunting the houseparents, daring them to restrict him. Maybe if I got all hopped up on acid I’d overcome my paralyzing fear of being restricted and free myself up to become so cool that even the houseparents would be afraid to mess with me.

But then John Robbie suddenly stopped blasting Purple Haze. My guess is he wore a hole in the record from playing it so much. And the houseparents quietly removed the stereo from the playroom.

Consequently, I never got hopped up on acid, nor did I ever overcome my fear of being restricted. But at least I stopped listening to the Carpenters. 

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Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Those Fancy-Ass Indy Car Drivers



How about those fancy-ass Indy car drivers?

I have two things to say about them. First, can we even refer to those things they drive as cars? I suppose they’re cars in the sense that they have four wheels and a steering wheel and an engine. By that loose definition, a go-kart is also a car. So are some lawnmowers. But those Indy cars are more like wheeled rockets than cars. I feel the same way about those wheelchairs that wheelchair racers use. It’s hard for me to think of those things wheelchairs. Yeah, they’re chairs with wheels, but hell, the frame is triangular and when you sit in one your ass is about an inch above the ground. Nobody rides around in one of those unless they’re trying to go 500 miles an hours and win a race. No sane cripple would use a chair like that for a normal activity, like going to a drug store, unless they were some kind of super pretentious show-off.

And here’s the other thing I have to say about those fancy-ass Indy car drivers.  Put them in a motorized wheelchair and then let's see how fancy they drive! They’ll end up capsized in a ditch straight off! It’s especially true if it’s a sip-and-puff chair, where you drive the wheelchair by blowing into a tube. I have one of those sip-and-puff attachments on my chair. I call it my blower. And when I was first trying to figure out how the hell to drive with it, oh man, I wildly zigzagged all over the place like somebody trying not to be shot by a sniper. You should have seen all the gashes and scrapes I put in the walls of the hallway outside my apartment.

 And so I picture a fancy-ass Indy car driver trying to drive my wheelchair using the blower and I laugh my ass off. I wish there was an Indianapolis 500 for blower wheelchairs.

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