Friday, December 28, 2012

Crippled Messiah

When I was an adolescent, my mother told me something that paralyzed me with fear.  “Someday,” she said, “you will get a job. And when you do, you’ll have to prove yourself by working twice as hard as everyone else.”

Holy shit! Really? And she wasn’t the only one who said that. I heard it all the time.

So if I fail, I fuck it up for all future cripples who enter this realm? I felt like the crippled messiah. Everything was riding on me. It was a punch in the gut.

I already was fighting off a big time messiah complex as it was. I was named after St. Michael the Archangel. That’s a lot of pressure. That dude was God’s chief of staff and commander of his army. He slewed dragons and shit. He kicked Satan’s ass and threw him out of heaven. St. Michael was God’s enforcer. If God was a loan shark, he’d send St. Michael to break the legs of deadbeats. That’s a lot to live up to, being named after him.

And being a white guy wasn’t even going to earn me any breaks from being the crippled messiah, which sucked most of all. Because other than being crippled, I was white and male and heterosexual and all that stuff that usually counts for something. Nobody would tell me if I fucked up on the job I would ruin it for all other white guys or heteros.  So if I fucked up, instead of blaming it on the crippled part of me, why couldn’t it be blamed on the white guy part of me? Then everybody could just shrug and move on. Apparently the cripple part of me trumps everything else, at least when it comes to fucking up on the job. I don’t know how the rules of that game work. It’s all very confusing, like rock-paper-scissors.

So then I thought maybe I just had to accept my unfortunate lot in life and work real hard and succeed for the benefit of future cripples. But then I realized that if I succeeded I’d fuck it up for future cripples, too. Because if I was a brown-nose goody-two-shoes, then the same would be expected of them. I’d be pissed at any cripple who did that to me.

So then I thought maybe the best thing I could do for my fellow cripples would be to fuck up in some grand fashion. I would proudly and defiantly assert my right and the right of all cripples to fuck up as much as everybody else. But that might have just the opposite effect. The cripples in line behind me would probably be denied their right to fuck up out of fear that they might fuck up.

After all these years, I still don’t know what to do. Maybe I should get a job at a place where a bunch of white guys work half as hard as they should. Then I can work at a normal pace and seem like I’m working twice as hard as them. That might be the only safe way to get out of this whole crippled messiah thing without anybody getting hurt.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Middle Finger on a Stick

Everybody has their limits. Some people say that if they become crippled to the point where they can’t wipe their own ass, they no longer want to live. Hell, some people say if they can’t play tennis they don’t want to live.

I don’t know about all that.  I haven’t wiped my own ass since about 1972, but I always figured out a way to get it done. You just have to plan ahead. It takes a little of the spontaneity out of life, but it ain’t worth dying over.

But I’ve come to realize I also have my limits. You can pull the plug on me if it gets to the point where I can no longer give the finger. I like to express my emotions and if I couldn’t express that particular emotion I don’t think I could bear it. On those occasions in life when the only appropriate response is to flip someone or something off, if I had to bottle all that up inside I would probably explode.

Thank God I’m not a literal person, or that dark moment would almost be upon me. I’ve just about lost the ability to physically flip the bird, especially in winter, when my hands are cold and it’s harder to move my fingers. But I know cripples are resilient. Where there’s a will there’s a way. I derive hope from crippled role models who can’t move their arms but still flip people off with facial expressions. They’ve mastered a variety of dirty looks that make it unmistakably clear to the intended target that they have just been flipped off, cripple style. It’s inspiring to behold.

The more crippled up your body is, the more you rely on your face. So I know that even if my body becomes nothing more than a pedestal for my animated head, I’ll still be able to give the finger in my own unorthodox but equally effective and satisfying way. I’ve already started practicing dirty looks in the mirror.

 But what if I have a stroke or something and I can’t move my arms or my face? How does a guy like Stephen Hawking flip people off? He can’t even shoot somebody a raspberry. It must be hell.

So I’m working on a piece of cripple assistive technology I call middle finger on a stick. It looks like those foam hands goofy sports fans wave except it’s a different finger sticking up and it’s made of plastic so as to be more durable an easier to clean (dishwasher safe). And it’s on a stick. Middle finger on a stick comes in an array of colors and sizes so a cripple can carry around a quiver of them and display whichever is most appropriate for the occasion.

The vexing question that remains, however, is how does one who cannot move their arms deploy their middle finger on a stick? If you’re accompanied by an assistant with whom you are simpatico, that person can be your middle finger on a stick caddy, so to speak, and help you select and wave around the proper middle finger on a stick. But I fully understand the deep desire of some cripples to be able to fully utilize their middle finger on a stick independently. So I’m trying to design a deployment system where middle fingers on a stick dwell inside cylinders mounted on a wheelchair. And when the need arises to flip someone off, the occupant activates the system by pushing a button with their nose or tongue (or maybe by using brain waves) and the middle finger on a stick pops up. That part is still on the drawing board.

But once I figure it all out, middle finger on a stick will give cripples new hope that no matter how bad things may get, they’ll never completely lose their autonomy. They’ll always be able to give the finger.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


I hope you'll do some shopping at the Smart Ass Cripple store at

Please spread the word to everyone you know who can read.


The Clown Prince of Crippledom strikes again! More humorous (and short) essays about being crippled and other stuff.

yellow book.jpg

And don't forget (as much as you may want to) 

Everybody loves a cripple but everybody hates a smart ass. 

book cover.jpg

I Was Forcibly Sterilized by the State of North Carolina and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt

If a cripple who was sterilized by the state without their informed consent collects financial restitution from the state, it will put everyone else in an awkward social position. We won’t know how to react to them.

My first instinct would be to congratulate that cripple, maybe throw them a party. Maybe even a surprise party. They come home after picking up their restitution check and we all jump out from behind the furniture.

But maybe that’s inappropriate. I don’t know. How would one decorate for such a party? Balloons and streamers? It just doesn’t seem right. Should there be cake? What would one write on that cake? The party store consultant would be stumped.

This isn’t clear cut. It’s not like winning the World Series. I don’t think when you finally receive your sterilization restitution check the first thing you do is pour champagne all over your head. It’s not like winning the lottery. The lottery is free money. There’s no ambiguity to spoil it all.

Maybe the party should be a somber affair, something with black armbands. It’s like those stories we hear where a guy goes in to get his wisdom teeth pulled and somehow ends up castrated. Even if a jury awards the guy $10 million, it’s hard to feel envious.

Well, the state of North Carolina went berserk sterilizing cripples from 1929 all the way up to 1974. About 7,600 people were sterilized by “choice,” force or coercion under the authority of the N.C. Eugenics Board. The program was originally intended to keep cripples like those with epilepsy and “feeblemindedness” from reproducing more of their degenerate kind. A lot of the victims lived in state institutions. But eventually the program was expanded to include other undesirables, a lot of whom were poor women of color.   This tells us that the N.C. Eugenics Board surely was composed of white, uncrippled males with money.

There was a time when these cripple sterilization campaigns we going on in a lot of states. About 10 years ago, surviving victims started speaking up in North Carolina. In 2002, the governor apologized on behalf of the state. Earlier this year, a task force created by the current governor decided each living victim should receive $50,000. So the governor included $20 million to pay for restitution in her budget and the republican-controlled House concurred.  Ah but then the dear republican-controlled Senate shot it all down. The victims get squat.

Republican Senator Don East said, “It doesn’t change anything — if they’re sterile, they’re still sterile.” He said, "I'm so sorry it happened, but throwing money don't change it.”

Money doesn’t make any difference? Let’s take a quick poll: Which would you prefer?
a) Be forcibly sterilized and have $50,000
b) Be forcibly sterilized and not have $50,000

Who chooses option a? Need I count hands? Can we just call it unanimous?

So anyway, the rest of us dodged a bullet there. We won’t have to figure out the proper way to react to restituted victims. We don’t have to add a new chapter to our social etiquette books just yet.

I don’t know what’s next. Maybe the state Senate will at least appropriate enough to buy each survivor a t-shirt. We all know what the shirt will say.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

That Which Comes From a Horse's Ass

I’ve met a ton of blind people in my life. (But actually, when I stop and do the math, I realize that statement is quite untrue. Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that every blind person I’ve met weighed, on average, 150 pounds. It would only take 13.3333333333333333333333333 blind people of that standard stature to compose one ton of blind people. I’ve met a helluva lot more than 13.3333333333333333333333333 blind people. So let me start this again.)

I’ve met several tons of blind people in my life. I believe I can safely state without fear of contradiction that there’s one thing they have in common with the sighted majority: When they go to restaurants and other public establishments, they don’t like there to be piles of horse shit scattered about.

But then again, I could be wrong. Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) seems to know something about blind people that nobody else knows. Perhaps he’s conducted some independent research.

Over the past decade or so, some blind people have started using trained miniature horses rather than dogs to lead them around. These horses are usually about the same size as guide dogs. One of their advantages is that these horses live up to three times as long as dogs.

So last spring, the U.S. Department of Justice issued rules under the Americans with Disabilities Act stating that those with guide horses cannot be denied entry into restaurants and other public establishments. Chaffetz was outraged and slapped onto the DoJ appropriation bill an amendment “to prohibit the use of funds to implement a section of the Americans with Disabilities Act which allows miniature horses to be used as service animals.” Chaffetz wrote that DoJ stuck small businesses with this job-killing regulation “despite the difficulty (some would say impossibility) of housebreaking a horse…”
Chaffetz is protecting us all from those blind people who are so selfish and full of disregard for others, so warped by bitterness and their wanton sense of entitlement that wherever they go they brazenly leave behind a trail of road apples. Now logic would conclude that if horses couldn’t be housebroken, blind people wouldn’t use them. Because logic would also conclude that however deep Chaffetz’s aversion to encountering piles of horse shit may be, blind people feel that same aversion 10 times deeper. At least Chaffetz can see an upcoming pile, which gives him the option of sidestepping. Blind people may not discover such landmines until it’s too late.
But, like I said, maybe Chaffetz is privy to shocking new information that redefines America’s image of blind people. Maybe he chaired a Congressional hearing on horse shit, where he heard heart-wrenching horror stories from victims of unhousebroken guide horses
So I asked Chaffetz’s press person to please send me any evidence on which he based his claim. All I received was something from quoting one Angelo Amador as saying, "You cannot train a horse ... housebreak them like you would do with a dog."  Amador is vice president of the National Restaurant Association. 

Now I know what my wise old grandmother meant when she told me, “Always remember that there are two kinds of horse shit. There’s the kind God creates, which comes out of horses. And there’s the kind humans create, which comes out of some politicians.”

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Socializationing Roger

I can’t look at centerfolds anymore. It makes me all nostalgic and misty-eyed.

Centerfolds remind me of those heady days right after the revolution. It was in the 1970s and 80s, when the cripples around here seized control of the means of partying.

 As a lad slowly transitioning from teens to 20s, from high school to college and beyond, partying was at the top of my personal civil right agenda. And it was painfully evident that if cripples were ever going to party in a satisfying manner, we would have to throw our own parties. It seemed like when the verticals organized parties for us, they turned out lame ass.

There were several warning signs of a lame ass party. First and foremost were clowns. Clowns all over the place. And the entertainment was lame ass, too, like an accordion player or a magician or a ventriloquist or mimes! Oh God! Mimes!

And cripples were referred to as patients. “Bring those patients over here.” And one time at a lame ass party at a VFW hall, Sullivan and his friend Danny Martin went to the bar and ordered beers. The bartender gave Martin his beer no problem because Martin is a vert. But not Sullivan. “I’m not allowed to serve alcohol to patients,” the bartender said to Martin.

Shit like that prompted some folks around here to form a non-profit called Horizon, with the mission of “socialization of the handicapped.” Socialization was a handy word to use since you couldn’t really say your mission was to organize cripples to throw parties that weren’t lame ass. Horizon had parties in VFW halls, too. But there was no way we’d allow in any damn clown, unless, as the evening's entertainment, we planned to chloroform him, tie him to a car bumper and drag him through the town square just to make an example out of him. The entertainment would be like a garage band or something—still lame ass but in a much better sense. And nobody called anybody patients. And most of all, the bar was open to all adults.

A Horizon “socialization opportunity” might go on for several days, as with “winter camp,” where we rented out a summer camp venue and threw a New Year’s Eve party that began days before New Year’s Eve. Or a “socialization opportunity” might just be a night out with the boys. Roger was a guy badly in need of this sort of socialization. He was a truck driver just a few years earlier but Lou Gehrig’s disease was kicking his ass pretty bad. He sat ridged in a manual wheelchair, strapped in at several points. He couldn’t move his arms. He sometimes wore a cervical collar to hold up his head.

So sometimes we’d pick up Roger in my cripple van and go to a bar or a pizza joint or a gentlemen’s club. Roger gave us all great insight into what it’s like living with Lou Gehrig’s during a conversation about our wangers. Whenever guys go out socializationing, inevitably they talk about their wangers. Someone issued a challenge for everyone to name their wanger after a poet. Naturally, I chose Longfellow. Jim Liptak chose Pound because that’s what his weighs, he said. Sullivan couldn’t think of a poet name for his wanger so we assigned him one: Doolittle. Roger couldn’t think of a fitting poet name either, but he said he would never disparage his wanger because he appreciated its undying loyalty. “It‘s the only thing that still works,” he said, gasping out a laugh.

When we brought Roger home his dad greeted us. I remember Roger's dad as dressed in a wife-beater undershirt, beer-bellied , burly arms all hairy and tattooed. To show his appreciation, Roger’s dad insisted on handing us an armload of raunchy centerfolds. “ I get ‘em for free,” he said. His job, for the last 30 years, was working at a printing company. Some of their best clients were publishers of raunchy magazines.

We tried to tell Roger’s  dad thanks but no thanks. But it was clear that we would hurt his feeling if we didn’t accept his token of gratitude. Centerfolds were his currency.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Smartass Cripple Appreciation Month

I’m delighted to announce that December is the first annual Smartass Cripple Appreciation Month, by executive order of none other than the President these United States of America.

I can hear you asking how the hell something like that came about. It wasn’t easy. But the president was determined to make it happen. Let’s just say that after he was re-elected, he knew he owed me big time. At first he tried to do it the old fashioned way. He tried to get a bill establishing Smartass Cripple Appreciation Month passed through Congress. He tried a shrewd trick. The bill established December as Boy Scouts of America Appreciation Month. And once the bill got to his desk his planned to invoke an obscure Constitutional provision empowering him to cross out every mention of Boy Scouts of America and write in Smartass Cripple instead. The president chose this strategy because he knew that about the only bill that could possibly win the approval of the staunch republican opposition was one declaring the nation’s undying gratitude for the Boy Scouts of America. But he was wrong. The bill was filibustered to death.

So the president circumvented Congress. He took the exact language (except with every mention of Boy Scouts of America crossed out and Smartass Cripple written in instead) and issued an executive order “declaring the nation’s undying gratitude for Smartass Cripple.” So every December beginning this year, all citizens are called upon to “remember and honor the indispensible contributions Smartass Cripple has made to the enrichment of American society.”  Thus, “government agencies, community organizations, schools, museums, cultural entities, institutes of higher learning , houses of worship and ordinary citizens are urged to organize  displays, parades, exhibits, school assemblies and other events that honor Smartass Cripple.”

I had to make one small compromise. It seems that the Acronym Clause of the U.S. Constitution requires the title of every law and initiative of the federal government to form a catchy acronym, such as the PATRIOT Act. So I agreed to be known as Smartass Cripple instead of Smart Ass Cripple so that Smartass Cripple Appreciation Month can simply be referred to as SCAM.

This SCAM is a dream come true for me because I suffer from severe attention deficit. In other words, I can never get enough attention. I’m ragingly insecure. I need constant reinforcement. I’m almost as insecure as Jesus. I mean hell, that guy’s got a whole genre of music dedicated exclusively to proclaiming how wonderful he is. And he still wants more praise.

This is all the result of how my mother raised me. She must’ve somehow known in her bones that because my sister and I were crippled, our egos would take a helluva lot of body blows. We’d be told all the time that we couldn’t go here and there and we couldn’t do this and that. So she  figured that in order to cancel out all that bullshit and give us a chance of breaking even emotionally, she’d practically have to raise a couple of narcissists.

She always told us we were the best. She made us homemade Halloween costumes, measuring us like a tailor, so we’d win the best costume prize. She thought making a kid wear a store-bought Halloween costume was akin to child abuse. One year I was a prize-winning robot. My clunky, flat, metallic robot shoes were two shoe boxes wrapped in aluminum foil.

My mother laughed at my kid jokes. And that’s no small task. Just ask my wife. I’m still a laugh whore, hurling jokes at the wall and hoping some will stick. It’s sad. My wife is looking for some kind of respite service where someone can come into our home even if just for a few hours a week and politely pretend to listen to my jokes so she can take a break. I must have driven my mother to a state of exhaustion with my incessant knock knock jokes, which demand audience participation.

My mother is gone now and it takes a whole lot of people to stoke up my battered crippled ego as well as she did. So I’m anxious to see the many ways in which my fellow Americans rise to the occasion. If you’re inspired to put together a SCAM activity but you’re overwhelmed by the myriad of possibilities, I urge you to just listen to your heart.

But if you still need ideas, one SCAM thing you could do is form a humanitarian organization called Habitat for Smart Ass Cripple and mobilize volunteers to build houses for me. That would prove you love me.

Or if you’re a music composer, you could create a new genre of music dedicated exclusively to proclaiming how wonderful I am. That would give me enough confidence and affirmation to hold my head high and carry on proudly, for a month or two.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Born Again

I’ve studied all the great philosophers and I’ve decided my favorite philosopher is Henny Youngman. And my favorite Henny Youngman quote is,I once wanted to become an atheist, but I gave up - they have no holidays.”

Professor Youngman makes an excellent point. How come the atheist activists you see on the news fighting against stuff like public nativity scenes always seem so dour? Atheists ought to have parades and celebrations just like everybody else.  Atheists have a lot to celebrate. Being a born again atheist feels quite liberating. It’s like finding yourself suddenly debt free. And you can stop worrying about silly shit like whether or not life is meaningless. Who cares? Even if you determine that life itself is meaningless, that doesn’t mean your life therefore has to be meaningless, too. It’s not an undertow. If staring at a piece of concrete all day gives your life meaning, then your life isn’t meaningless. You’re free to find meaning in whatever you want.

And who says born again atheists can’t believe in miracles? Inside my skull is this grayish glob. It looks like a head of cauliflower or a hunk of putty sent through a meat grinder. Inside this glob there are constant thunderstorms going on.  This glob barks out orders all day and all night. It never takes a break. It’s telling me to write this right now. And this glob is so damn demanding. It insists on a constant supply of oxygen and if it doesn’t get it, even for a few minutes, it will shut this whole operation down. There’s this other blob of membranes in my chest. It beats and beats and it never stops, all in the loyal service of pleasing the tyrannical glob. The beating blob is the slave shoveling coal into the furnace. Someday it will become too fed up or exhausted to continue.

The point is, all that is a fucking miracle.

And there’s also a certain sense of relief that comes with acknowledging the indifference of the universe toward humans. Suppose a tornado blows away your hometown. If you are the center of the universe and the point of all creation, then you have to wonder what you did to piss off the universe so bad that it blew away your hometown. But if the universe is indifferent, you don’t have to torture yourself like that because you know that whatever happens, it’s nothing personal. It’s all just business.

But what if atheists did come out to the point where they had some kind of big atheist holiday celebration on the scale of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, balloons and all? It might be dangerous.  I’ve always been tempted to conduct an experiment. First I’ll buy a battered, rusted wreck of a car. But I won’t drive it anywhere. I’ll park it and put vanity license plates on it that say ATHEIST of even 8THEIST.  And then I’ll see how long it is before the windows are broken or the tires are slashed.

An atheist holiday might cause a riot.

Friday, November 16, 2012


We were riding in my van down Lake Shore Drive late on a summer night—Sullivan in the passenger seat, me in back and I forget who was driving. We hear this buzz, growing louder. A buzz like a swarm of mad hornets. Suddenly, we’re surrounded by motorcycles—engulfed in a wave of Harleys. There must have been 100 bikers. And they looked like they meant business. Badass Hell’s Angels types.

We were worried. Were they headed for a rumble? Would a rival gang approach from the south and then we would find ourselves trapped in the middle of a bloodbath? This was a dangerous situation

Everybody stopped for a red light. Sullivan couldn’t help himself. He rolled down the window and said to the biker next to us, “Hey! What’re you guys doing?”

And the badass biker replied, “We’re raising money for Jerry’s Kids!”

The light changed and they all sped off.

 I see now that this brief moment in time was a golden networking opportunity that I will never get again. I blew it. I should have had Sullivan get that biker’s business card. Because if they’re all so disposed to helping cripples, I sure as hell can keep them busy.

Hell, I could wear their altruism down to a frazzle in Washington alone. There’s not a session of Congress that goes by without somebody trying to fuck with the cripples. I think the bikers would be excellent lobbyists for us. Picture some cocky little weasel like Paul Ryan sitting at his desk and all of a sudden in walk a hundred bikers. They wouldn’t have to do anything overtly intimidating. Just sit down like every other citizen and have a cordial policy discussion with a legislator: “We want to talk to you about your plan to convert Medicaid into block grants," says the leader of the pack.  "That makes the cripples unhappy. And when the cripples are unhappy, we’re unhappy.” 

That ought to do the trick. And we could also use their help with the Supreme Court because they always seem to have a case on the docket where the cripples are in the cross hairs. The bikers would just have to sit quietly in the gallery during arguments and at some point hold up a sign that says DON’T FUCK WITH THE CRIPPLES. As plan B, in case their sign is confiscated by security, they each paint a letter on their chest, lineup in order, remove their shirts in unison like morons at a football game and spell out the same message: D-O-N-. They can skip the apostrophe.

It might be harder for the leader of the motorcycle pack to mobilize the underlings. It will take a lot more explaining:

LEADER: All right listen up. The Supreme Court has granted cert in the case of Maxwell v. Weisenheimer, in which the state of North Dakota contends that the integration mandate of the Americans With Disabilities Act doesn’t apply to individuals being served under the 1619(b) waiver. And that’s bullshit! So we gotta get out there!

UNDERLING: Can’t we just do Jerry’s Kids again?

But wouldn’t that be a beautiful world? Someone rolls down the window at a red light and asks a biker what’s going on and he says, “We’re going to the state capitol to tell the Attorney General to sign on to a fucking amicus brief! Because the Supreme Court has granted cert in the case of Maxwell v.Weisenheimer, in which the state of North Dakota contends that…”

But that will never happen. First off, in order to be effective these days, your message has to be succinct. Our attention spans are as short as our red lights. And second off, I never got that biker’s business card so I blew it.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Smart Ass Cripple's Legislative Agenda

Here’s my legislative agenda:

Item 1: Outlaw sports where the only point is to do something stupid and dangerous and survive.

The best example is motorcycle jumping. If you jump over 50 cars on a motorcycle, what have you proved? You proved you’re dumb enough to jump over 50 cars on a motorcycle. Maybe the audience appeal of such stunts is that this is a clearly-defined world, where the line separating winners and losers is sharp and distinct. Nothing is open to interpretation. The winners are those who jump over 50 cars and walk away. The losers are those who jump over 50 cars and wind up either a) dead or b) crippled.

And so some other stupid and dangerous sports would have to be outlawed, too, like luge.  And cliff diving and surfing and car racing and boxing, to name a few. Golf almost qualifies as a stupid and dangerous sport, except it’s not dangerous.  And don’t tell me that there’s more to these sports than just surviving, since you have to also beat the competition. Big deal.  All that means is that you did something stupid and dangerous faster or more artistically than everybody else.

People with vulnerable minds watch stupid and dangerous sports and they say to themselves, “Wow! That was real stupid and dangerous. How coooool! I need to do something even more stupid and dangerous!”

And that’s how more cripples are created. I’ve got nothing against all the self-made cripples coming through the pipeline. But when these daredevil/thrill-seeker types become crippled, they tend to be the most annoying cripples of all, especially the ones who can’t let it go. They’re obsessed with getting back on the horse. A guy wipes out trying to jump over 50 cars and is crippled to the point where can only drive his motorized wheelchair with his tongue. So he spends every waking crippled hour designing a specially adapted car-jumping motorcycle that he can drive with his tongue. He dreams of the day when he makes his triumphant return and shows the world how he refuses to let being crippled stop him from still doing stupid and dangerous stuff.

People who have to drive a nail into their skull just to feel like they’re alive don’t usually do well as cripples. They’re tone deaf to subtlety and cripples need an appreciation for the thrills derived from more subtle sources. In may case, that would be pizza. Pizza is an endless adventure. Thick or thin crust or stuffed? Anchovies? Pineapple? The topping permutations are infinite. Pizza is a miracle.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Mr. Impossible

That’s me. Somehow I manage to do the impossible, without even trying. When I was only 20 years old, I did something no cripple had ever done before. I got kicked out of the Jerry Lewis summer camp.

For a cripple, it’s nearly impossible to get kicked out of Jerry Lewis summer camp. It’s as hard as getting kicked out of heaven. Except it’s a whole lot harder to get into heaven. To get into heaven you have to be righteous, virtuous, humble, charitable, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. To get into Jerry Lewis summer camp you just had to be one of Jerry’s kids. You didn’t even have to be a kid. There were crippled campers in their 60s. Once a Jerry’s kid, always a Jerry’s kid.

And because some of the operators of Jerry Lewis summer camp saw their mission as bringing one week of happiness and light into the otherwise sad and dark lives of cripples, a crippled camper could get away with just about any behavior. You could be the most demanding tyrant in the western hemisphere and they’d humor you because this was your one special week.

So naturally, I took this as a challenge. I aspired to be the first cripple to be kicked out of Jerry Lewis summer camp for the same reason other determined men have aspired to climb Mt. Everest: because it’s there.

But when it really happened, I wasn’t even trying to get kicked out. All I did was get caught drinking with the other crippled guys in my cabin. Somebody smuggled in a six pack. The only cold and concealed place we could store it was in the lake, tied to a leg of the pier. We broke it out on the last night. One of the tight ass camp staff caught us. We were banned the next year.

And this is why I’m especially terrified of ending up in a nursing home. Because I know I’ll accidentally do the impossible there, too. I’ll be banned from the TV room. It seems to me like getting kicked out of the TV room is almost as hard to accomplish as getting kicked out of Jerry Lewis summer camp. The TV room is the room of last resort. It’s where they put the inmates who are most out of it. Sad and slumped, they huddle around reruns of Columbo.

Survival in this environment shouldn’t be difficult. All one has to do is shut up and watch Columbo. But I couldn’t do it. I have this bad habit. Television is so ridiculous that before long I heckle it. Especially commercials. I can’t help it. I just blurt shit out without thinking. It’s like Tourette’s. Like for instance, let’s say there’s a commercial for Swedish Formula 29 men’s hair dye. And there’s a guy about my age proudly proclaiming that when he got rid of his gray, young women flocked to him in droves. “I’m sure glad I tried Sweedish Formula 29!” he says. And I say, “Yeah, or you could try dating women who aren’t so GODDAM SHALLOW!”

Such outbursts cannot be tolerated in the serenity of the TV room. So I’ll be exiled. And if there’s a political campaign going on, oh Lord, they’ll probably sedate me as well. Campaign commercials set me off worst of all. There’s a dumbass republican saying, “Government doesn’t create jobs.” And I shout back, “Oh no? Well then why the hell are you running for a government-created job, you certified moron?!”

If there’s a campaign going on, sedation might not even be enough. They might lobotomize me.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Inept Verticals

I’ve always wanted to start up a barnstorming basketball team that is the cripple equivalent of the Harlem Globetrotters. But I’m afraid that plays right into the hands of The Oppressor.

My cripple team’s mission would be a variation on the tried and true box office formula that is the essence of the enduring appeal of the Globetrotters: beating up on inept white guys. Anybody who has ever felt squashed under the thumb of The Oppressor knows what I’m talking about. We find therapeutic relief in some form of fictional entertainment where an inept and bungling symbol of The Oppressor gets a pie in the face from someone of our kind. We laugh at what a fool The Oppressor really is! Tables are turned! Justice prevails!


Wouldn’t it be great, I say to myself, to tour the world with my crippled basketball team, providing cripples with this same sense of political relief from The Oppressor’s suffocating bureaucracies and charities? Except instead of beating up on inept white guys, our team would beat up on inept verts (which is short for verticals, which is slang for people who walk). It’s ridiculously easy to find inept verts to be our comic foil. Take any NBA All Star team, put them in wheelchairs and shove them out onto the court against any wheelchair basketball team. The cripples will make those most breathtaking of athletic specimen look like helpless little trembling lambs.

But then I remind myself that the one thing the ever-paranoid Oppressor cannot and will not tolerate is being mocked. So then why hasn’t The Oppressor shut down the Globetrotters, declared them all terrorists and thrown them in the brig? In the McCarthy era, why weren’t the Globetrotters dragged, in their full uniforms, before HUAC?

It must be because the twisted logic of The Oppressor perceives Globetrotteresque hijinks as somehow serving His evil purpose. It’s all part of His bread-and-circus appeasement strategy. If indulging in such crude amusement is what it takes for the unwashed masses to endure their lot another day, let them have their fun. Let them release spurts of steam from the pressure cooker so the lid doesn’t blow. Let them entertain the fanciful notion that at least for a fleeting moment they are the ones in charge. It is fiction, after all.

And so, for our slapstick amusement, The Oppressor offers up a sacrificial army of pawns, in the form of the Washington Generals or the New York Nationals or any of the teams the Globetrotters routinely humiliate. They are His stand-ins in the political dunk tank. And He writes it all off as collateral damage.

So I won’t fall for it. I’m here to tell The Oppressor that if He’s reading this, and I’m sure He is, I’m on to Him! I’ll not be used to advance His sinister agenda!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Crippled Weathermen

It’s around this time of year that I start thinking about the cripple state of the union. Have American cripples made any progress in the last year?

So I spend a lot of time watching weather reports on the news. Because everyone knows that the best way to analyze who’s who among American minorities jockeying for higher social status is to analyze our television weathermen/women.

Because for some reason, weatherman/woman seems to be the entry level pop culture celebrity job for people who aren’t your standard, automatically-trustworthy, white males. I mean hell, in America, even an overweight person can make it big doing the weather on television. Let me rephrase that: In America, even an overweight MAN can make it big doing the weather on television. I’ve seen overweight weathermen but I’ve never seen an overweight weatherwoman.

But there are weathermen who are overweight and not even white to boot. Wow! Talk about tolerance! The only other time you see overweight people on the news is when there’s a story about obesity. And then we see them on what’s referred to in the technical language of television news production as “the fat ass B-roll montage.” Every television news operation seems to have one of those, just in case a story pops up about obesity. It’s so rude. And how is this montage created? I guess a producer barks out to a camera crew, “Go out and shoot a bunch of pictures of people with fat asses!” Are those whose asses are shot then asked to sign a release? And why is this montage even necessary? Stories about republicans aren’t accompanied by B-roll of white guys lighting cigars with $50 bills.

Anyway, America has evolved to the point where we trust overweight people to bring us the weather report. Sometimes you see overweight sportscasters, but usually they’re former football players, in which case they have a good excuse for being overweight so we forgive them.

But I’ve yet to see an openly crippled weatherhuman. I check back this time every year just to see if anything has changed, but so far nada. I even watch The Weather Channel. I hate watching The Weather Channel because it seems like every time I turn it on there’s a show about tornados. I don’t know who the hell these people are who enjoy watching shows about tornados. They must say to themselves, “Boy it’s been a rough day! All I want to do is pop open a brewski, put my feet up, kick back and be reminded of the random viciousness of the universe.”

The weatherhumans on The Weather Channel are black and white and male and female and some are a tinge overweight. But there’s no trace of a cripple. Not even a whiff. Now granted, there might be a don’t-ask-don’t-tell thing going on. It’s possible one of them has a wooden leg but they aren’t the type that goes around shoving it down people’s throats.

But as far as my naked eye can see, there are still no crippled weathermen. Some say cripples have made enormous strides. But I say show me the proof. Show me a weatherman.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Liver Wind

Back about 20 years ago, Anna went to see a Chinese herbalist. Why not? It was worth a shot.

She came home with a small, brown, paper bag full of what looked like twigs and pebbles and dried leaves and dirt.

The Chinese herbalist said she was suffering from “liver wind.” Too much wind in her liver. His prescription was a special tea. That’s what was in the bag.

So Anna boiled up a pot.  So I tried some, too, in solidarity, even though I didn’t have liver wind. Or maybe I did. Only a Chinese herbalist could tell me for sure.

The tea was as black as shoe polish. And it smelled like shoe polish as it boiled up. And it tasted like shoe polish—shoe polish infused with cigar ashes and dirt. It was unforgettably hideous. Not even dumping in large quantities of honey helped. All that did was make it taste like shoe polish infused with cigar ashes and dirt and large quantities of honey.

And the tea didn’t do any good either. Or at least it didn’t make either one of us jump up out of our wheelchairs and do a leaping Russian dance. We were just as crippled the next morning.

But what if the tea had worked? What if the reason I was crippled all these years really was just because I had too much liver wind and the instant, miracle cure was to drink three cups a day of that tea?
That would have sucked big time! Because then I would’ve faced this big dilemma. Was it really worth not being crippled anymore if it meant drinking another drop of that putrid tea? I don’t think I could’ve done it. That was a too heavy of a price to pay.

 I’ve never been a good “compliant” cripple. That’s what doctors and therapists call them. Compliant. Those are the cripples who spend eight hours a day in a physical therapy gym for years and years, hoping they’ll be cured. They get hooked up to a body harness that hangs from the ceiling above a treadmill. The harness hoists them up out of their wheelchair into a standing position and holds them upright as they lumber on the treadmill. After that they lift weights and play catch with a medicine ball.

And after all that they’re still crippled. But even if it did work, I still couldn’t do it. If I had to spend all day suspended above a treadmill in order to spend the rest of the day not being crippled, screw it. I’d rather be crippled all day.

The whole compliant cripple routine looks so damn tedious. No fun at all. The daily routine of a regular old cripple can be tedious enough as it is. Why would I want tedious free time?

And being a compliant cripple is expensive, too. How about Lourdes, huh?  People save up for years so they can travel to Lourdes and drink the water and come back just as crippled. If I had enough money to take a trip to Lourdes, I sure as hell wouldn’t spend it on a trip to Lourdes. I’d buy my own island or something.

Maybe I’m lazy. Maybe I’m too much into instant gratification. Whatever. I’m having fun.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Cheering for the Wildebeest

My self medication of choice for depression, as I’ve said before, is Cheetos. But I’ve learned that Cheetos alone aren’t enough, not even if they start making them prescription strength.

I’ve learned that I have to avoid all those things that can trigger a spiral of despair. Thus, I can’t watch any more nature shows. Because I always cheer for the prey. That’s just the kind of guy I am. It really sucks sometimes. There’s the grazing wildebeest. The lion lurks. My delicate sense of justice is offended.  I want so badly for the wildebeest to defy all the odds and kick that damn bully lion’s ass! Sometimes the wildebeest actually wins the battle. Maybe it comes up with a ruse and scares the dumbass lion away. (Thank God lions are stupid or we’d all be fucked!) Or maybe the wildebeests organize and lion realizes it’s outnumbered.

But even if the wildebeest prevails, I still get depressed. Because I know it’s not that morally cut and dried. Prey is such a relative concept. One species’ prey is another species’ predator. There’s no idealizing it. I have a Chihuahua that hates chipmunks. She despises chipmunks with every fiber of her 11-pound being. She sees a chipmunk and she breaks into a psychotic, barking rage. To a chipmunk, my Chihuahua looks like a tyrannosaurus. But a chipmunk looks like a tyrannosaurus to a gnat. And a gnat looks like a tyrannosaurs to an amoeba. Etc.

I can’t rejoice for long even if the wildebeest lives to graze another day because it is only a temporary stay of execution. Sooner or later, the wildebeest with fulfill its inevitable destiny as a food source for lions. Because isn’t that why the universe bothered to conjure up the wildebeest—to be a food source for lions? 

And then I’m reminded that this is why all living, earthly beings have been invited into the universe in the first place. The universe brought us here to be food sources, if not for another species then for the earth herself. And then I’m reminded that this includes me.  In the grand plan of the universe, I am but a future food source for earth. That is why I’m here. I am prey.

This is where the spiral reaches its nadir.  Even Cheetos won’t help.  I grab my psychological bootstraps. I give myself the old Knute Rockne halftime speech: “Okay, so your ultimate universal purpose is to be a lowly food source. Big deal! Welcome to the club! That doesn’t mean you have to act like a food source! You’re not a food source today, are you? And you probably won’t be tomorrow, either. So get out there and go go go! Don’t just quiver in the corner! Who says food sources can’t have fun, huh? Get out there and boogie with a female food source! That’s the best way to get even with the universe! Have fun! Don’t let the universe push you around! Fuck the universe!”

And so I get out there and try to have fun, motivated by those three little words: fuck the universe!

I know I’m all screwed up in the head. You don’t have to tell me.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Boogie Man Tour

Remember back not long ago when some people swore up and down that certain vaccines caused autism? I thought I also heard something about autism being caused by too much heavy metal in the brain chemistry. I don’t mean heavy metal music. I mean heavy metal.

It all turned out to be bullshit, which is great news for people with autism. They can just relax and be who they are. Because if it was true, they’d be morally obligated by our culture to go around warning everybody not to get vaccinated or not to French kiss aluminum foil or whatever, lest you or your children become one of them.

They would’ve been obligated to embark upon a boogie man tour, starring them as the negative example. Shirking that responsibility is tantamount to child neglect. The message of a boogie man tour, whether stated or implied, is always the same: "Don’t be like me. Don’t do (fill in the blank)." Don’t cross the street in the middle of the block. Don’t get stoned and bungee jump.

If you’re a cripple due to something with a direct, preventable cause, you’re screwed. You’ll never find peace. You’ll be under a lot of pressure to go on a boogie man tour. It doesn’t matter who you are. If science ever proves you can get what Stephen Hawking has from a dirty toilet seat, he’ll be dragged into making public service announcements that say: “Don’t be like me. Think before you sit.” His boogie man tour will be sponsored by the company that makes those rotating plastic covers on airport toilet seats.

So I’m really grateful I’m not that type of cripple. There’s nothing you can do to keep from being like me. I’m crippled because one or both of my parents had a mutated survival motor neuron gene 1, which they passed on to me. So the best I can do is urge you not to be evil’s accomplice by unwittingly creating more mutants like me. Here’s how my PSA would go: “Hi, this is Smart Ass Cripple reminding you that before you have sex with someone, know their history. If they have a mutated survival motor neuron gene 1, for God sakes, use a condom!” My boogie man tour sponsor would be Trojan.

I don’t think I would perform very well on a boogie man tour. I mean, I can think of a ton of reasons why parents wouldn’t want their kids to be like me, but they don’t have anything to do with me being crippled. And I wouldn’t want to give the impression that if I wasn’t crippled, everything would be lollipops. Most of my problems aren’t because of being crippled. Most of my problems are because of republicans. If you really want to improve my crippled existence, get rid of them.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Legend of Crippled Clint Eastwood

It has been almost 40 years since I busted out of the state-operated boarding school for cripples, aka the Sam Houston Institute of Technology (SHIT). And I must admit that even today, being a SHIT graduate inspires me to strive to achieve great things.

I want to win several Nobel prizes, a Pulitzer and an Oscar. I want to become the world’s greatest cellist, cure cancer and wrestle a rabid alligator into submission on live television.

I’m still holding out hope that I’ll be able to check all these things off of my to-do list. I’m working on it. Don’t count me out because I’m super motivated!  Because I want to hear people say that this guy who wrote the novel that transformed human civilization, invented the life-saving method for irrigating the deepest regions of the Sahara and brokered the permanent peace between Israel and Palestine went to a fucked up little state-operated boarding school for cripples. I don’t know why I’m dying to hear that. Just for a laugh, I guess. There’s something irresistibly ridiculous about it. People who pull off big time feats like these go to Harvard or Oxford or whatever. They never go to a place like SHIT. The more I achieve the more ridiculous it is.

But no matter what I do, I will never be the most legendary inmate in the history of SHIT. That distinction, at least in the eyes of the other inmates, will forever belong to a 1960s inmate named Clint Eastwood (Smart Ass Cripple alias).  

Every conceivable shape, size and breed of cripple passed through SHIT at some point. But Clint Eastwood was the one cripple everybody talked about. By the time I arrived at age 13 he was long gone. His stay was brief, but his legend endured.  What the inmates all vividly remembered about Clint Eastwood was how he always jerked off. It didn’t matter where he was, the veteran inmates said. He could be at breakfast, in class, in the middle of playing Chutes and Ladders. If he felt like doing it, he’d do it, on the spot.

I don’t know what made Clint Eastwood crippled. Maybe it was what we now call TBI (traumatic brain injury). Those folks can be pretty whacky because sometimes they have no inhibitions about some things. They might take a dump in the middle of the Sistine Chapel and not think twice. They don’t mean any harm. It’s not contempt. It’s just that the etiquette regions of their brains don’t fire up in the way the rest of us want them to.

Who knows? But according to the legend, Clint Eastwood simply disappeared one day, like a political dissident. He was discharged to some place even more dark and mysterious and punitive than SHIT.

And that gave all us young boys great pause because, well, you know how young boys are. You can’t hold out forever. You may be able to resist until such time as you were snug up under your bed covers, but sooner or later you would give in. And what if one of the houseparents uncovered evidence of your indiscretion? How many indiscretions would it take before they sent you off to the same place they sent Clint Eastwood? And you sure as hell didn’t want to find out where that place was.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


I hate when people say I have a disease. To me the diseased are people who have stuff like bubonic plague. That ain’t me. Please don’t get me wrong. I’ve got nothing against people who have bubonic plague (so don't leave me indignant comments). I’m sure the vast majority of them are fine, hard-working, loyal, patriotic citizens. Like all the rest of us, they raise families, pay taxes and perform community service, when they’re not coughing up blood. But that ain’t me. If I had bubonic plague, I wouldn’t be ashamed to acknowledge it. But I don’t.

Condition. I don’t like when people say I have a condition either. Condition. That word’s too heavy.If you have a condition it sounds like you are or should be hospitalized. “His condition is listed as serious.” My condition would have to be listed as absurd.

Syndrome? That word confuses me. I don’t know when a disease or condition becomes a syndrome. Cripples started having syndromes just within the last few decades or so. Remember the Mongoloids? They didn’t get cured. They’re all still here. But now they have Down Syndrome.

Situation? Someone actually asked me that once. “So, what’s your uh… situation? “ I suppose that’s a better word than disease. “That poor guy has Lou Gehrig’s Situation.”

Quirk? Nobody has ever asked me what my quirk is. But I guess that word applies to me more than disease does. I’m crippled because of what could be called a genetic quirk. And a genetic quirk is way different from a disease, dammit! Nobody says, “Hey look at those two over there. They’ve got conjoined twins disease. “

Abnormality? Malady? Defect? Defecit?


Disorder? That’s the word I like. Disorder. Some cripples hate that word but not me. I think it best expresses what cripples are all about. Cripples are disorderly. We’re a great big monkey wrench. We gum up the works. We fuck up the grand  plans. Just when rational humans  think they’ve  finally  got everything all figured out and everybody all neatly groomed and shaped and ordered and categorized, here come those surrealistic cripples to blow it all to hell.

Being crippled makes you subversive, whether you like it or not. You don’t fit. The more crippled you are the more disorderly you are. Your perpetually discombobulated existence discombobulates the intricate combobulation. 

 And that’s what I love most about being crippled.

Someday I’ll probably be arrested, just for being crippled. I’ll be charged with disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace.Or maybe with possession of a disease

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Fabulous Flying Commode

Sometimes slogging through life as a cripple can be so disheartening that I just want to give up.

I felt one such dark moment of resignation recently in an airport bathroom. I had to piss. There was only one cripple stall and of course, as is always the fucking case, the door was locked and there were two feet inside the stall. And the feet were pointed away from the bowl, which meant that the person attached to those feet was settled in. He wasn’t just taking a quick piss. He wouldn’t be in there pissing with his back to the bowl. And if he was in there pissing with his back to the bowl, that would be even more disheartening.

When I see two perfectly good feet in a cripple stall, especially when they’re pointed away from the bowl, I feel a great sense of futility. I wouldn’t even mind if all I saw was a single foot in the stall or one shoe and one cast or two feet wearing goofy-looking, corrective cripple shoes. But when I see two perfectly good feet in perfectly fine shoes, I say to myself “What’s the point in going on?” I mean, even after all these years, some people don’t know or care enough to save the cripple stalls for the cripples.

Ours is a cold, cruel, insensitive world sometimes. Thus, cripples need to make contingency plans for everything, even a simple thing like taking a piss. Like one time I was on the mall in Washington D.C. I had to piss. No worries. There was a line of port-a-pots yonder. But when I got there, all the double-wides with the cripple symbol on the door were locked! I’ve heard other cripples complain about this situation before. The city fathers think homeless people will sleep in the spacious cripple stalls. So they lock the doors. And if a cripple has to take a shit, tough shit!

And don’t even get me started about the airlines! You know how cramped airliner bathrooms are. It’s like trying to take a shit inside a chimney! So if you’re a cripple, forget it! No potty breaks for you! Your contingency plan is to dehydrate the hell out of yourself until your innards turn to dust.

It’s no wonder I had this wonderful dream where I was riding around in a motorized commode. Yep, it was a fancy motorized wheelchair, just like the one I ride in now, but it was also a commode! And this commode could fly, too! It was beautiful!

I’m sure the fabulous flying commode was a symbol of my fantasy of living in a paradise where cripples can take a piss whenever they so desire! I felt so powerful in my fabulous flying commode, so in control of my destiny. It was so liberating!

But alas, I woke up and realized it was only a dream.