Saturday, April 30, 2011

Let Them Eat Royal Wedding Cake

You’ll be happy to know that Smart Ass Cripple turned down his invitation to the Royal wedding. I did so proactively and preemptively. When I heard the royal news of the royal engagement I wrote the royal family and told them I would not be able to attend so don’t waste royal postage sending me a royal invitation. So they didn’t.

I said I was royally sorry. I said I had a previous commitment. I can’t remember whether I said it was jury duty or a root canal. It’s not that I don’t admire the royal family. I aspire to be just like them. Who wouldn’t want to live a life where you can sit on your ass all day in a palace while servants bring you caviar, paid for by the taxpayers? But I know being royalty is not all wall-to-wall bliss. Their spectrum of acceptable behaviors is so limited that they can’t even fart without it being turned into a scandal. I’m sure they often envy the freedom of those of us whose farts are far too common to warrant publicly scrutiny.

I declined my invitation because I was royally intimidated by the prospect of buying a royal wedding gift. These are people who have sapphire-encrusted nose hair trimmers. My budget for a royal wedding gift would be about 25 British pounds. So the entertainment at the reception was sure to include me being knighted with the title of royal cheap ass.

But then the royal couple announced that in lieu of gifts they wanted donations sent to a list of charities selected by them. They set up a website to accept contributions. I was royally pissed. What an idiot I was to turn down my invitation. This charity bit would have given me the perfect cover for showing up empty-handed. And since contributions could be given anonymously on the website, nobody would ever know that I was the cheap ass who only contributed 25 British pounds.

But the charity I want to give to wasn’t on the list, probably because it doesn’t yet exist. But it will soon and it will be called something like the Victims of the Purge of the Independent Living Fund. As an austerity measure, the British government announced a few months back that it will be phasing out the Independent Living Fund by 2015. About 21,000 significantly crippled up English people receive about £300 a week from the £359-million fund, which repients use to pay people to help them in their homes so they can stay out of institutions.

So pretty soon they’ll be among the growing ranks of charity cases scrambling for the royal table scraps. Cripples who are charity cases have an extremely limited spectrum of acceptable behaviors too. The competition is stiff. You’re up against heavyweight heart wrenchers, like starving children and elephants being poached for their tusks. So you’d better be all sunshine all the time, like the Special Olympics, or people will give their money to more deserving victims. Being a crippled charity case is as stifling as being royalty, but without the palace and servants and caviar to ease the pain.

As soon as the Victims of the Purge of the Independent Living Fund is established, I’ll donate my £25. Then we’ll only have £358,999,975 million more to raise. It will be up to you and me to give because I doubt the British public will be able to help much. They’re pretty tapped out after paying for a royal wedding.

The royal family has their plate full too, what with so many exemplary victims vying for their charity. But maybe they can find it in their hearts to send these victims some leftover wedding cake.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Smart Ass Cripple’s Advice to Youth

If anybody out there is looking for a commencement speaker, it’s not too late to hire Smart Ass Cripple. Perhaps you got stiffed at the last minute by Condoleezza Rice. Don’t worry! Smart ass Cripple is ready, willing and able to step right in!

Smart Ass Cripple delivers an inspirational message that resonates especially well with young adolescents, those who are at the age where they might be considering smoking marijuana for the very first time. Smart Ass Cripple has been there and can speak to them with sobering frankness about the pitfalls of the cavalier use of marijuana. Before they decide to take their first hit, I would implore them not to do something they’ll live to regret. Don’t make the same mistake that I did. DO NOT get stoned for the first time at Jerry Lewis summer camp.

I was 14 years old. I was a camper at Jerry Lewis summer camp. My 24/7 attendant assigned to me for my week at camp was a hitchhiking hippie. He offered me my first joint. So we slipped away in the dark of evening down to the secluded camp parking lot. And there we got stoned. And oh sweet Jesus, that pot was some wicked psychotic shit, or so it seemed to a 14 year old.

I was instantly paranoid. I imagined I saw men wearing bright orange vests, like highway construction workers, up in the trees and they were coming down to arrest me. I should’ve known that being at Jerry Lewis summer camp would be a big time buzzkill. It was way too uptight of an environment to be an appropriate setting for anyone’s first hit. We were a bunch of frail cripples out in the woods and the Muscular Dystrophy Association people who ran the camp were always terrified we might die if a butterfly landed on our noses or something. So to ensure our safety, they practically wrapped us in bubble wrap and followed us around with defibrillators. Curfews we strict.

I told my attendant I wanted to flee the parking lot and head for the Fun Lodge. The Fun Lodge was the lodge where we were sent when it was time to have fun, according to the schedule. There were board games in the Fun Lodge, art supplies like Elmer’s glue and glitter. But the lights inside the Fun Lodge were blindingly bright when I was stoned. They never seemed that bright to me before. And everybody in the Fun Lodge was looking at me! I just knew they were! They all could tell I was stoned!

I told my attendant I wanted to flee back to the cabin. Then I told him to put me in bed and I laid there hiding with the covers over my head until morning.

As you can see, my first time was a huge downer. It’s a miracle that I ever smoked pot again.

And so I offer myself as a living example of the sad consequences of willy nilly pot smoking. Before you get stoned, especially for the first time, you should take a much more deliberate approach than I did and consider the finer details, such as where you are and whom you’re with. Place yourself in a situation that minimizes your potential for feeling paranoid and guilty. This is especially important to do if you, like me, were raised a Catholic.

Because if you’re not going to enjoy getting stoned, then what’s the point?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Crippled Woman Dies in Tragic Saganaki Accident

That might have been the headline the day after the day my sister almost met her untimely demise.

We were in the crowded dining room of a Greek restaurant. The people at the table behind my sister ordered saganaki. Saganaki is a hunk of cheese flambé. The server holds the plate high like an offering to the Gods, douses the cheese with a shot of something then lights it with a lighter. And when the cheese combusts everyone celebrates by shouting OPAH!

First my sister heard the familiar hiss and sizzle of saganaki getting doused. Her face filled with fear. Then she heard OPAH right behind her and she cried out “Nnnoooooooooo!” Her husband bolted up from his seat, as if he was going to tackle the poor server. I wondered what the hell they were so worked up about and then I remembered my sister had an oxygen tank on the back of her wheelchair, right below the flaming saganaki.

No explosion ensued. All survived. But had all the matter that composes my sister been transformed at that instant into a plume of smoke, leaving behind only an empty, smoldering wheelchair, this story would have been forever enshrined in that genre of cripple folklore I call true bullshit. Every cripple has true bullshit stories about themselves or some other cripple. They always swear to God it’s true. Everybody else thinks it’s bullshit, but no one knows for sure. With all the weird shit that happens to cripples, anything might be true.

Here’s a true bullshit story told to me by Mat Fraser of England. He says there was this armless girl in Britain who was given these miracle prosthetic arms that could move and gesticulate just like for real. The arms were powered by gas, stored in a tank strapped on her back. Therein was the fatal design flaw. Every day the active girl ran out of gas, and her arms froze in whatever position they were in at that moment. This was particularly embarrassing one particular day at her Catholic school when she spread and raised her arms and they froze in the crucifixion position.

Mat swears to God it’s true. Anybody else would think it’s total bullshit. But then again, maybe not. Mat was born with short forearms and no thumbs, so he knows all about the wild Rube Goldberg prosthetics that have been foisted upon people like him in the name of making them more functional, aesthetically pleasing humans. A shiny new pair of robot arms with hands so realistic that the palms can be programmed to sweat. The arms are powered by an earth-orbiting satellite. But they hang from the shoulders like an albatross and soon end up in the trash because compared to how smoothly you’ve learned to function with your God-given crippled up arms, you feel like you’re in a straightjacket. So for cripples who live in that screwy universe, the concept of gas-powered arms is completely believable.

Here’s one more true bullshit story. It’s the story of how Randy became a quadriplegic. Lilltl Rock, Arkansas, 1992. “We were out drinking,” Randy says. Almost every crazy How-I became-a -cripple story begins with those words. It was about 3 a.m. The bars were closed. Randy and his two female drinking buddies stopped at a convenience store and bought more beer, a pack of hot dogs and buns. They were going to go back to one of the women’s houses, start a campfire in the yard and roast the hot dogs. But they didn’t have firewood.

Randy got a bright idea. It was the height of the presidential campaign. There were campaign lawn signs all over. “They were all stuck in the ground with wooden stakes.” So Randy figured they could uproot a bunch of campaign signs and steal the stakes to use as firewood. “And we decided to take down only the Bush/Quayle signs because we didn’t want to see any of those around anyway.”

So to increase the odds of finding Bush/Quayle signs, they headed for a swanky neighborhood. The first couple uprootings went according to plan. But then, a man emerged from a swanky house with a shotgun. Randy and the women ran. As Randy dived into the car, a bullet ripped into his back.

And that’s how Randy became crippled. He swears to God it’s all true. He says he still has part of a bullet in his back to prove it.

Then again, it could be bullshit. But maybe not.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Day in the Fake Tragic Life of Dick Cheney

Dick Cheney sat alone in a room, his pants down to his ankles, watching TV. There was a metal ring secured snug around his penis and the ring had sensors that recorded his level of arousal.

This was a recent day on the job for Dick Cheney (Smart Ass Cripple Alias), whose life would be among the most tragic you ever did see if it wasn’t all bullshit. At times in his life Dick Cheney has had fibromyalgia, diabetes and vision poor enough to require LASIK eye surgery. He’s been a “distressed homosexual” and the parent of a child with autism. Pretty strange stuff, but none of it’s true. But sometimes Dick Cheney has to pretend like he’s all this and more in order to make money. Everybody’s got to pay the rent, right?

Dick Cheney is one of my crew of assistants. My assistants are paid squat by the state. (I used to say they aren’t paid squat, but they got a raise recently, which officially brought them up to the wage range most economists would categorize as squat.) Therefore they need second jobs. But Dick Cheney is a self-described “aberrant character.” He’s heavily tattooed. One of his forearms is tattooed solid black. He sometimes wears skirts and tights. His earlobes hang low, pierced with gaping holes about the size of a paper clip, into which he inserts various ornamental rings.

So Dick Cheney doesn’t make a good first impression in the traditional employment marketplace. So for his extra income, he trolls through focus group ads. He calls it “looking for crumbs.” It’s quick, anonymous cash, $50 to $100 a crack. If they’re looking for a male his age and race, he applies. Any other qualifications he figures he can fake.

Dick Cheney does a lot of internet research on whatever it is he’s pretending to know something about so that he might somehow contribute something vaguely useful to the focus group discourse. He’s done hundreds of focus groups. The first one was when he lived in Philadelphia. They were looking for “distressed homosexuals” to do a smell study. Dick Cheney was only half lying when he applied. He is distressed. (Who isn’t?)

“They passed around these vials that had cotton balls that had body odor on them,” Dick Cheney remembers. “And we were supposed to take a sniff and then answer this electronic questionnaire that had really random questions, like questions about dolphins and like ‘How old were you when you first went to the zoo?’”

Everybody who’s lived in the big city has a story about jumping through similar flaming hoops in order to hustle up the rent. I have a vague memory (I’ve managed to blot most of it out) of being an emcee for a puppet show about cripples. There was a little kid puppet in a wheelchair and a little kid puppet on crutches. I think there was a blind puppet too. And there was this bully puppet who laughed at them and called them names. And I think they all went skiing or something. I don’t remember. We took the puppet show to a second grade class and they were catatonically bored. And my job was to tell the kiddies that the moral of the story is deep down inside we’re all just the same, or some annoying crap like that. Like I said, I’ve blotted most of it out. It’s too painful to recall. The point is, we’ve all had to sink pretty low.

Dick Cheney’s most recent focus group was the weirdest. “It was the only one that involved my penis.” Again he lied and said he was gay. They slipped a ring on his penis and taped a tube to his nostrils. On the screen, flashes of gay porn. Flashes of animals fucking, like on National Geographic. A voiceover of a woman with a British accent talking about fish. More gay porn. From the tube puffed scents of orange and floral. The screen went purple. Then suddenly, dolphins swimming in a coral reef! Dolphins mating! More damn dolphins, just like back in Philly! None of this aroused Dick Cheney’s penis.

Even after that, Dick Cheney isn’t considering retiring from lying for a living. He can’t afford to.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Deep, Dark Aversions

When you’ve been a cripple as long as I have, you’ve been subjected to many indignities, which lead you to develop deep, dark aversions. Like I can remember the day when you couldn’t find a sippy cup that wasn’t embarrassing.

Sippy cups have always been a great piece of cheap assistive technology for cripples. If you want to drink a rum and coke, for instance, it’s good to drink it out of a sippy cup, especially if you’re the kind of cripple that’s prone to spilling, like a quadriplegic with no grip or a spastic. You get the most out of your rum and coke if you drink it out of the sippy cup because it practically takes an earthquake to spill it.

But way back when, the sippy cup manufacturers thought their product was only for children so no matter how hard a grown-up cripple tried, you couldn’t find a sippy cup without Winnie the Fucking Pooh or My Little Goddam Pony on it. So in those dark days, if you wanted to fully enjoy a rum and coke, you had to risk ridicule.

But then Ronald Reagan was elected and everyone started running their asses off. The demand for sippy cups exploded. Joggers wanted sippy cups. People who work out wanted sippy cups. Even ordinary people who were now running their asses off from job to job wanted sippy cups. So the sippy cup industry responded and now there are an endless variety of adult sippy cups on the market. This generation of cripples can now get shitfaced with dignity.

But I can’t get over my aversion to juvenile sippy cups. Seeing one is a stark reminder of how things used to be. Powdered eggs are another aversion. Whenever I encounter or even think about powdered eggs, I’m immediately ripped back in time to my days as an adolescent in the state-operated cripple boarding school. Nothing evokes that unsettling memory more than powdered eggs, the staple of institutional cuisine. Every cripple who’s been stuck in a nursing home or some such place knows what I’m talking about. Every goddam morning you lift the lid off your breakfast plate and there they are again—powdered eggs, so cold and green.

Another aversion is sports mascots. I hate sports mascots like some people hate clowns. Don’t get me wrong, I for sure hate clowns. They’ve scarred me too. They remind me of those clown-infested, do-gooder parties for crippled children I attended as a kid. The clowns immediately swarmed you, blew up long balloons and twisted them into poodle sculptures for you to take home as a souvenir. I have an aversion to balloon poodles too. But sports mascots are as obnoxious as clowns multiplied by 5 million. A sports mascot can spot a cripple in a crowd of 80,000 like a soaring eagle can spot a fish in the ocean below. And the mascot pounces, leaping onto the cripple’s lap and planting a sloppy wet kiss. Sports mascots seem to think their calling in life is to cheer up all the cripples. I’ve has this recurring dream where I’m kicking the living crap out of that mascot with the enormous baseball for a head. And then I wake up and realize it was just a beautiful dream.

But my deepest aversion is plaid blankets. Plaid blankets are invalid blankets. The forlorn invalid always sits silent in a clunky, oversized wheelchair, a blanket wrapped around his legs. And the blanket is always a muted plaid. Plaid rhymes with sad. Even if it’s 85 degrees, the invalid’s legs are always wrapped in the invalid blanket. So don’t even think about trying to wrap a plaid blanket around my legs or I’ll break your neck. I don’t care if it’s 500 below zero and the consequence of not wrapping my legs in a plaid blanket will be frostbite and amputation. Stay the hell away from me with your plaid blankets. I’m not an invalid.

I know I should get over it. I should suck it up like I did in the old days when I drank my rum and coke out of a happy-ass sippy cup, public opinion be damned. I should do like we all do on those days when it’s so damn cold that we finally break down and wear that really warm hat that looks incredibly dopey—a stocking cap with dancing snowmen and a fuzzy pompon on top. Why do real warm hats always look embarrassingly dopey? Are the people who make them getting their sadistic jollies?

I know I’m a mess, being a prisoner of all my debilitating aversions. But give me a break. I’ve been crippled for a long, long time. It’s brutal