Monday, February 27, 2012

Begging on Easy Street

There’s this guy in a ragged wheelchair who sits on a street corner about a block away, shaking a Starbucks cup full of coins. His left leg and right arm are missing, which makes him a curious sight indeed. I’ve know many double amputees, but they’ve always been more symmetrical.

He’s out there every day rain or shine, in the brutal heat and blustery wind. Whenever I see him, it hardens my determination to find a way to liberate him and all the other crippled beggars from the indignity of begging on the harsh city streets. This is the 21st Century, for God’s sake. There are much more sophisticated, efficient, high-tech ways for cripples to beg. Cripples should be begging on the internet, from the comfort and safety of their own homes.

Internet begging is pretty much what we do here at Smart Ass Cripple. We sit here on our virtual street corner, telling jokes to passersby. Sometimes they toss coins into that virtual Starbucks cup known as PayPal.

But I want to set up a website, an online community, a one-stop shop for people to give to crippled beggars. It’ll work sort of like a dating site. Crippled beggars in search of benefactors will post a picture and profile: “Hello. My name is Marvin. I’m a Sagittarius and I have leprosy.” (Disclaimer: Benefactor beware. Crippling conditions have not been authenticated.)

Benefactors can choose a beggar from this dazzling gallery. Or they can search for their ideal beggar by entering the essential characteristics of the type of beggar with whom they would be most compatible: age range, crippling condition, religion, level of education, acceptable number of missing teeth. And the computer will pick the perfect match. There can also be a NAME YOUR PRICE feature where the benefactor offers up a bid, say like 50 cents, and it goes to whichever crippled beggar snatches it first. Or they can adopt-a-beggar, where they set up an automatic transfer of funds to go to the Starbucks cup of same beggar every month.

One hundred per cent of all funds donated go directly to the crippled beggars, minus my modest processing fee.

Internet begging will dramatically improve the quality of life for crippled beggars. They’ll just roll out of bed and check their PayPal. They won’t have to deal with the dangers of street begging, like extreme weather and mafia shakedowns. And best of all, the police won’t chase them off the street when the Olympics come to town.

I’ll call it I could make it but screw that. I think I can make a lot of money off of this thing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Area of Rescue Assistance

It reminds me of the time I went to the ballet and caused a scene. This was way back before there were wheelchair sections in theaters. The usher escorted me to my seat and said I’d have to transfer out of my wheelchair into the theater seat so he could take my wheelchair away and store it in a distant closet for “safety reasons.” A wheelchair in the aisle was a fire hazard, he said, because it interferes with people escaping a fire. I asked how I was supposed to escape a fire without my wheelchair. He said don’t worry, if there’s a fire my wheelchair will be brought right back to me, as soon as everybody else gets out. With a crazy emergency plan like that, it seemed to me like this guy was suffering from some form of smoke inhalation. So I said there was no way I’d give up my chair. He said I must. I said no way. He said I must. And back and forth it went until the ballet patrons looked at us like we were causing a scene. It’s not hard to cause a scene among ballet fans.

The usher placed my party and me in a secluded recess of the ballet house, where he felt confident I could stay in my chair without selfishly impeding those legitimately trying to escape burning to death. But that’s the way it still is on the airlines. Cripples have to sit in regular airline seats and they stow our wheelchairs with the damn baggage. And the flight attendants reassure us that if all hell breaks loose, they’ll come drag us to safety, as soon as everyone else gets out.

It’s an age old question that still baffles the sharpest minds of today: When everything bursts into flames, what do you do with the cripples? Because the first thing that happens when there’s a fire is the elevators shut down, which isn’t the most cripple-friendly move.

But what else can you do? The best idea anyone’s been able to come up with is putting up signs that say AREA OF RESCUE ASSISTANCE. This instructs cripples where to find “safe harbor” where we can calmly wait to be saved. Safe harbor? In a burning building? If it’s so damn safe why doesn’t everybody wait there, instead of stampeding to get the hell out?

The only way I’ll ever feel completely safe is if I have a dedicated security goon with me 24/7, ready to scoop me up and carry me out of harm’s way in case of fire. I know this will never happen. I can’t afford to hire security goons. But why not a gorilla? Fuck service monkeys. I need a service gorilla. If they can train service monkeys to pick pencils up off the floor and shit, why can’t they train a gorilla to carry me? Gorillas are smart as hell. They’re almost people. And because they’re not quite people, they don’t complain about working all day every day.

My gorilla will wear a windbreaker that says SECURITY across the back. I may never need my gorilla’s help, God willing. But just knowing he’s right by my side will make it much easier for me to enjoy myself at the ballet. We’ll relax in our seats on the plane, my gorilla and I, drinking Bloody Marys. But at the first sign of pandemonium he flings me over his shoulder like a potato sack and delivers me to true safe harbor, swatting down and trampling any poor sap who gets in our way.

As a cripple, I deserve this accommodation. I have a right to be safe. I’m going to write my Congressman right now. There ought to be federal funding for this.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lorenzo Milam review of Smart Ass Cripple's Little Red Book

I'm delighted to post this review of Smart Ass Cripple's Little Red Book by the great Lorenzo Milam, author of Crip Zen.

Please check it out:

Smart Ass Cripple's Little Red Book is available at

Or just click the lulu button to the left.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Hard Bargain

I’m depressed. I’ve been depressed before but this is for real. Up until now, I’ve been able to temper my bouts of depression by self-medicating with Cheetos.

But I must have built up an immunity. Because these days I’m constantly worried that something terrible is about to happen to me and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m going to have to face one of my worst fears. I dread what will happen to me if I don’t get cured. The only thing I dread more is what will happen to me if I do get cured.

My fear of being cured goes way back to when I was a tiny kid. Here we were, my sister and I, poster children. We were the human face of tragedy. They put us on television, broke us out at banquets and bowl-a-thons and parades, all in the name of cure. But the whole thing felt creepy because I never wanted to be cured. Hell no! Why should I? Why strangle the golden goose? The only reason I got to go on TV and eat pheasant and wild rice at banquets was because I was crippled. If I got cured I’d be shooting myself in the foot. My sister got to ride on a parade float once. The only difference between her and me and the other kids in the neighborhood, who would never in a million years get to ride on a parade float, was that they weren’t crippled.

The older I’ve gotten, the deeper my fear of being cured has taken root. Nothing terrifies my inner smart ass more than the prospect of me suddenly not being crippled. It’s the same reason so many comedians were terrified at the prospect of losing George Bush as president. There goes an endless source of rich joke material, which is a precious natural resource. Being crippled also gives me something that every human being longs for: a gimmick. It’s a shortcut to the spotlight. Why would anyone want to give that up? If I’m not crippled, what am I? I’m just another white guy, just another smart ass.

But lately I’m worried that if people like me don’t hurry up and get cured soon, there will be hell to pay. Because I’m starting to figure out that in attempting to come to terms with the phenomenon of cripples, the rest of uncrippled society goes through stages (sort of like the Kubler-Ross stages of grief). The first stage is Denial. This stage began right around the time of the appearance of the first cripple. RX: lock the cripples in the closet or smother them or turn them over to the nuns.

Then next stage is Bargaining. That began about 50 years ago. In this stage, cripples get to come out into the sunlight as long as it doesn’t go on forever. Cripples have to work hard at someday not being crippled. That’s our end of the bargain. The Bargaining stage is characterized by telethons and other such extravaganzas of the Charity Industrial Complex.

But I wonder how long it will be before the good will of the Bargaining stage deteriorates into the next and final stage of Anger. This charity stuff’s been going on for more than half a century and there are just as many cripples around as there ever were, except for the polios. Why can’t the rest of the cripples be like those nice polios?

How long before the uncrippled villagers get sick of waiting for us to deliver and start burning cripples in effigy? How long before they feel suckered and kick down our doors, throw us out of the wheelchair they bought for us and take them to the pawn shops in an attempt to salvage some return on their investment?

Charity is not a thing to be trifled with. So I don’t know what to do. I feel like I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t. I wish I could just be crippled in peace.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Once again this year there were no commercials selling wheelchairs during the Super Bowl. I assume this is true. I don’t know for sure because I only saw about one third of the Super Bowl. I can’t bring myself to watch the whole Super Bowl because so many zillions of people are watching it and I’m a knee-jerk contrarian. I like to defiantly zig when the others zag, even if it doesn’t make sense. If I see a NO PARKING sign, I say to myself “Screw you I’ll park here if I damn well please.” If I see a NO SMOKING sign, I say to myself “Screw you I’ll smoke here if I damn well please,” even though I don’t smoke. This powerful contrarian impulse is why I’m tormented by DON’T WALK signs.

The last time I saw a commercial selling a wheelchair was while I was watching Bonanza. True confession: Last winter we had a blizzard in Chicago. I was so utterly snowbound, physically and emotionally, that I gave up and watched Bonanza. This is another sad story of the tragic human consequences of climate change. There were all kinds of other commercials aimed square at the cripple demographic during Bonanza. There were commercials for lawyers who will get you a big settlement for all your pain and suffering and commercials for other lawyers who will take the structured settlement the lawyer in the previous commercial got for you and turn it into a lump sum. There were commercials for incontinence pads with empowering names like Poise and Prevail. But they’re still delivered in discreet brown wrapping so your mail carrier won’t know you piss your pants.

But there were no commercials for any of this stuff during the Super Bowl, which shows what Madison Avenue really thinks about cripples. They think we sit around and watch Bonanza. They think we’re eternally snowbound. You’ll never see a commercial for a wheelchair or incontinence pads during the Super Bowl for the same reason you’ll never see a coffin commercial during the Super Bowl: it’s too goddam depressing. People want to relax and enjoy the game. They don’t want to be reminded about shit like death and wheelchairs and pissing your pants. (The closest thing I ever saw to a coffin commercial was when I was in college in southern Illinois. There was this company that sold gravestones. In their TV commercials they frequently offered a limited-time special deal: buy a gravestone now and when you die you get a free erection. I swear this is true. I clearly remember the words FREE ERECTION flashing on the screen.)

You won’t see a wheelchair commercial on the Super Bowl ever though the wheelchairs you see in the commercials on Bonanza have cutesy names to make them palatable, like LI’L RASCAL. God I hate those fucking names! What can’t a wheelchair have a badass name, like THE BADASS? Motorcycles have badass names but wheelchairs have to be cutesy. This double standard says something quite profound about our collective psyche, though I have no idea what.
What more do cripples have to do to be validated by Madison Avenue? If cutesy doesn’t work, it seems like nothing will. It makes you want to throw up your hands and go watch a Bonanza marathon.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Doggie Style

There was this cerebral palsy kid at the state-operated boarding school for cripples. Sometimes we called him “Doggie Style.” He didn’t mind that nickname. He thought it was cool.

This kid couldn’t feed himself. At mealtimes, the kids who couldn’t feed themselves were assigned to the same table so our adult keepers could double up, feeding one kid with the right hand and one with the left. But one day there was a perfectly good plate of food on the table in front of him and the keepers were busy doing something else. The kid was hungry, so he leaned forward, stuck his face in his food and ate it right off his plate without using his hands.

Doggie style!

Now of course when the other kids saw him do this, we hooted and hollered and gagged. And of course the adult keepers admonished him never to do it again. It was degrading! Be patient and wait for one of the keepers to come!

The kid seemed perplexed by the reaction, but he stopped eating doggie style and waited for someone to feed him in the proper, socially-acceptable way. But there were other times when if the keepers weren’t around to give him a hard time about it, he wasn’t at all ashamed to eat doggie style. I saw him eat an entire bologna sandwich doggie style once. There was no one there to feed him so what the hell. Fuck table manners. And he was quite adept at eating doggie style. He could clean his plate in no time. And we all watched with adolescent fascination, the same way we might watch a guy swallow a bug or put out a lit match with his tongue on a dare.

I don’t know whatever happened him. But if you’re still out there, Doggie Style, I want to say I know now that you were a pioneer. I could learn a lot from you. My life could be a whole lot easier if I could just relax and let myself do it doggie style, like you.

And I hope, Doggie Style, when it’s all said and done, that you will get the last laugh. That is the great reward of being a pioneer. I hope, when need be, you still do it doggie style. Because why not? When a man’s gotta eat, and man’s gotta eat, right? So take charge! Assert your autonomy! Liberate polite society from its stupid hang up about doing it doggie style. A lot of us are counting on you.

I know you probably got thrown out of a lot of public places. You may have even been arrested for doing it doggie style. But I hope you persevered and still keep doing it . I hope you go to great lavish banquets, sit up on the dais in your tux, and do it doggie style. I hope you stick your face in the punch bowl and gulp, like bobbing for apples.

Because a lot of us look to you for hope and inspiration. We know the slings and arrows you suffer will make it easier for others like us to proudly and openly do it doggie style. I can no longer feed myself so well, at least not using my arms. But often I can feed myself easy, if I do it doggie style. I find myself in your situation. There it is right there, delicious food, but no keeper to assist. The food heckles me. I could conquer it easy, lean forward and lick that plate sparkling clean, if I wasn’t afraid of what others might think if they saw me doing it doggie style. So instead I mourn.

But I’m getting better. Sometimes when I’m home alone, I do it doggie style. And I find it quite satisfying. Someday soon, I hope, I’ll come out of the closet.