Friday, April 27, 2012

Backlash

I wish I was the kind of guy who could just sit back and enjoy his sweet parking space. I mean, look at it. Ain’t she a beaut? She’s extra wide, clearly demarcated with bright yellow lines. The diagonal stripes warn the noncrippled to trespass at their own risk. It’s even got a sign with my picture on it. That chalk-white stick cripple in the stick wheelchair looks just like me, except he’s much skinnier and has a smaller head.

I’m a privileged character. I’ve got more parking privileges than his Royal Douchebag Highness Trump. He has reserved parking spaces all over the world. But in this McDonald’s parking lot, I don’t see any signs with his picture. He has to scramble for one of the every-man-for himself spaces like every other workaday schlump.

I count my blessings. I know my parking space is a monument to tolerance. I am crippled yet I am tolerated.

But whenever I park, I feel guilty. My sense of injustice is stirred. I can’t help but think of my misunderstood brethren on other points of the cripple spectrum who are not as tolerated as I am. Take, for example, those with irritable bowel syndrome. When it comes to the need to be parked as close as possible to the entrance of a building, they can make a far more compelling case than I. But will this alone qualify them to receive a license plate with the stick cripple on it that grants them that status? Not necessarily.

But even if it does, they will still be the object of resentment. When Joe or Josephine Pedestrian witnesses the driver of a car with special cripple plates park in a special cripple parking space and then sprint from the car into the Mc Donald’s, that’s when the backlash begins. If that person’s crippled, then who isn’t? Where does it end? Give those cripples an inch and they’ll take a mile!

It’s like how my mother felt about signs in Spanish in public places like city buses. There are tons of Polish people in Chicago, she said. Why no signs for them? Why not the Lithuanians? If you put a sign up for everyone who speaks a different language in Chicago, the bus will be 13 miles long!

So it goes with the Pedestrians. Even if you explain to them the finer points of IBS and the urgent need for reserved parking it potentially poses, that’s not likely to help. What’s next, they’ll think? Will we have to have special parking spaces for those people too? And oh God, what will the picture on those signs look like? What other kinds of cripples will then demand parking supremacy? Pretty soon the parking lot will be 13 miles long!

So the mundane act of parking throws me into moral turmoil. For as much as I feel deep solidarity with cripples who don’t wear their crippledness on their sleeve like me and thus still have to prove themselves worthy of toleration, I fear speaking up for them. I don’t want to fuel the backlash. I don’t want the exasperated masses to mourn the demise of the well-defined days when everyone knew exactly whom the cripples were. Cripples looked like the guy on the sign. But today, anybody who’s missing a big toe can claim they’ve got a right to prime parking, they might think. So maybe we’ll just take the privileged parking away from them all! That’ll teach them!

I wouldn’t want that to happen. So I don’t challenge the status quo. We wheelchair cripples were the first to penetrate the parking frontier. We stuck our flag in it, the blue flag with the white stick cripple. We claimed it for ourselves. If we open it up to all the less obvious cripples, we run the risk of that being too much of a mindfuck and we’ll all end up with nothing. Only so much can be tolerated.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Lazy Cripple Sits on Ass for Entire Graduation

Ah springtime. A round, smiley-faced sun embedded in a wreath of rays beams high in the sky. Birds twerpy-twerp-twerp in the trees. All is fresh and new.

God how I dread this time of year. Because, in keeping with the cruel irony of life, along with the warmth and wonder of spring comes the inevitable, ruthless outbreak of news stories about graduating cripples who rise from their wheelchairs and walk across the stage to receive their diplomas.

Standing ovation!

I don’t get it. Where’s the shame in rolling up to get your diploma? I can’t escape the month of May without being mugged by these stories. I keep hoping every new spring will finally be the spring where this narrative reaches the clich√© saturation point and thus becomes no longer newsworthy. But in fact, the walking crippled graduate stories are popping up more and more. I don’t get that either. Maybe it’s another of the bizarre consequences of global warming. What else could it be?

But then again if the rising cripple phenomenon become so commonplace that journalists yawn, might there be an equal and opposite reaction? Might the converse become newsworthy? When graduating cripples don’t feel compelled to prove whatever the hell those other cripples are trying to prove when they lurch across the stage, I wonder if there will then be headlines like LAZY CRIPPLE SITS ON ASS FOR ENTIRE GRADUATION. And when that happens, how will graduation audiences react when cheated of their chance to give a standing ovation? Will they boo and throw tomatoes at said cripple?

That’s the problem. When a cripple takes a notion to get up and walk at graduation, they’ve got nothing to lose. If they make it they’re a hero. But if they fall on their ass they’re still a hero for trying. Either way they get a prize. It’s like the damn Special Olympics.

But what if there was some risk involved? Suppose if they fell they were booed and pelted with tomatoes. That might make them think twice about trying to pull that walking stunt. It’s only fair. Cripples should be treated like everyone else. Success brings rewards and failure brings consequences.

Maybe this would put a stop to this nonsense once and for all! Because if it doesn’t stop, it’s clear what will happen to a graduating cripple who won’t even try to walk. The principal will dangle a diploma tantalizingly above their head, just high enough to where they have to stand to reach it.

May is the longest month of the year. I swear it’s 427 days long. And when it finally finally finally passes, then comes June, which is also 427 days long. Because June is wedding season and with it comes the ruthless outbreak of news stories about crippled brides or grooms who rise from their wheelchairs and walk down the aisle.

Again, I prescribe the same antidote. Arm all wedding guests with tomatoes. And if the bride or groom doesn’t make it to the altar they pay the price. Because if it this doesn’t stop, when a crippled bride or groom won’t even try to walk down the aisle, the minister will dangle the wedding ring tantalizingly above their head, and you know the rest.

Lazy Cripple Sits on Ass for Entire Graduation

Ah springtime. A round, smiley-faced sun embedded in a wreath of rays beams high in the sky. Birds twerpy-twerp-twerp in the trees. All is fresh and new.

God how I dread this time of year. Because, in keeping with the cruel irony of life, along with the warmth and wonder of spring comes the inevitable, ruthless outbreak of news stories about graduating cripples who rise from their wheelchairs and walk across the stage to receive their diplomas.

Standing ovation!

I don’t get it. Where’s the shame in rolling up to get your diploma? I can’t escape the month of May without being mugged by these stories. I keep hoping every new spring will finally be the spring where this narrative reaches the clich√© saturation point and thus becomes no longer newsworthy. But in fact, the walking crippled graduate stories are popping up more and more. I don’t get that either. Maybe it’s another of the bizarre consequences of global warming. What else could it be?

But then again if the rising cripple phenomenon become so commonplace that journalists yawn, might there will be an equal and opposite reaction? Might the converse become newsworthy? When graduating cripples don’t feel compelled to prove whatever the hell those other cripples are trying to prove when they lurch across the stage, I wonder if there will then be headlines like LAZY CRIPPLE SITS ON ASS FOR ENTIRE GRADUATION. And when that happens, how will graduation audiences react when cheated of their chance to give a standing ovation? Will they boo and throw tomatoes at said cripple?

That’s the problem. When a cripple takes a notion to get up and walk at graduation, they’ve got nothing to lose. If they make it they’re a hero. But if they fall on their ass they’re still a hero for trying. Either way they get a prize. It’s like the damn Special Olympics.

But what if there was some risk involved? Suppose if they fell they were booed and pelted with tomatoes. That might make them think twice about trying to pull that walking stunt. It’s only fair. Cripples should be treated like everyone else. Success brings rewards and failure brings consequences.

Maybe this would put a stop to this nonsense once and for all! Because if it doesn’t stop, it’s clear what will happen to a graduating cripple who won’t even try to walk. The principle will dangle a diploma tantalizingly above their head, just high enough to where they have to stand to reach it.

May is the longest month of the year. I swear it’s 427 days long. And when it finally finally finally passes, then comes June, which is also 427 days long. Because June is wedding season and with it comes the ruthless outbreak of news stories about crippled brides or grooms who rise from their wheelchairs and walk down the aisle.

Again, I prescribe the same antidote. Arm all wedding guests with tomatoes. And if the bride or groom doesn’t make it to the altar they pay the price. Because if it this doesn’t stop, when a crippled bride or groom won’t even try to walk down the aisle, the minister will dangle the wedding ring tantalizingly above their head, and you know the rest.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Pervert Van

And as soon as a boy gets to be about 12 years old he starts thinking about his dream car. He pictures himself cruising in his brand new Corvette or whatever. He’s the coolest thing on wheels. He’s the hottest thing on wheels.

My dream car was a pervert van. That was as big as I could afford to dream.

George had a pervert van. He was my transportation role model. Because he was way more crippled than me but he really got around. Pervert vans, everyone knows, are those vans without windows. Inside they are just bare metal. No carpet. No flooring. Bare metal walls. At the height of summer, it’s like an oven inside a pervert van. There were only three kinds of people who would buy such a vehicle: 1) small business operators hauling stuff like lumber or drywall, 2) perverts, 3) cripples without a lot of money.

I’m sure these bare-bones vans were never intended by their creators for use by perverts or cripples. But right around the time I turned 12, crafty cripples like George figured out that pervert vans were a cheap and efficient way to get around. Riding in a big old van like that, you could stay in your motorized wheelchair. You didn’t have to dismember your chair so it could fit in a car trunk.

Pervert vans were sort of like these new vans that were recently put in service to take cripples like me to school. They were school-bus yellow. The driver slid open the side door, deployed a sturdy metal ramp and I rolled up and in.

Of course there were windows in the school bus vans. But since pervert vans didn’t have frills like windows, they had much lower price tags. It was also expensive as hell to have one of those metal ramps installed. But never fear, because you could do like George and use a couple of 2 by 4s as a makeshift ramp instead: side door slid open and 2 by 4s lined up the exact distance apart as the width of your wheelchair’s wheel span. You roll up. You hear the 2 by 4s moan and feel them bow and you pray like a mofo that they won’t snap or shift out from under your wheels before you make it to the top.

In the school bus van they firmly secured my wheelchair in place so that if they hit the brakes I wouldn’t turn somersaults, wheelchair and all. They tied the chair down with heavy-duty straps bolted to the floor.

But those straps cost mucho dinero, too. So George employed the 2 by 4s again as poor-man’s securement devices. Lay one on the floor across the front of the wheelchair, wedged under both front wheels and do the same with the other across the back. In the event of a sudden stop or swerve this will hold you in place, sort of.

I never figured that when grew up I would ever have pockets overflowing with money, like the school district. But that was okay because I would still be able to get around as long as I could scrape up enough to buy a pervert van and couple 2 by 4s, like George. He was so damn cool. He was such an inspiration.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

My Smart Ass Heritage

Being a smart ass writer is not a hard job. A hard job is a job with high stakes, like an emergency room doctor. At any moment a customer might burst in with an axe in their head and it’s your job to remove it. And you can’t just wrestle the damn thing out like it’s lodged in a tree stump. You have to remove it with precision or it could be lights out for your poor unhappy customer.

There is no chance anybody will burst into my workplace demanding that I remove an axe from their head, unless they’re mighty delirious from blood loss. Therefore I don’t have a hard job. That’s why when I hear writers whine about how we’ve got the hardest job in the world, I want to give them a good hard slap, brother to brother. There’s nothing at stake for writers but our egos. If we write something putrid, the worst that can happen is we are embarrassed. Nobody dies, or at least I hope not. I certainly hope I’m incapable of writing something so hideous that people read it and die.

Having said that, I think it’s nevertheless important for me to honor and commemorate my smart ass ancestors, whose contributions and sacrifices in all walks of life have done a lot to advance civilization. They have often fled persecution in search of a better life. A lot of celebrated figures have been smart asses. For instance, did you know that Albert Einstein was a flaming smart ass? It’s true! And people who were in Florence Nightingale’s inner circle will tell you she was one super sarcastic dame.

I’m proud to have come from a long line of smart asses. I’ve so far traced my smart ass family tree back to my great grandfather, Stanislaw, who, back in his homeland of Poland, was known as Stanislaw the Smart Ass. Stan was a sturdy, hardworking man who dropped out of school so he could fulfill his dream of opening his own gag store. There he sold hilarious items, such as whoopee cushions, squirting lapel flowers and fake puke and poop.

Life was sweet for Great Grandpa Stan. In his heyday, he had gag stores all over Poland. But it all came crashing down when the Nazis took over. The generals immediately issued orders closing all gag stores. Such stores were considered to be a threat to the Third Reich. When the communists took over, they also kept the gag stores closed. And so the only place the people of Poland could buy fake puke and poop was on the black market.

Stanislaw fled to France where he once again set up shop. But he still felt stymied by the government because in the socialist dystopia that is France, there are tons of burdensome regulations that smother free enterprise. For example, there was a law requiring a seven-day cooling off period after someone purchased a whoopee cushion.

Great Grandpa Stan finally came to America, where whoopee cushions and squirting lapel flowers are protected by the First Amendment since they are considered to be a form of free speech (see the U.S. Supreme Court case of BoBo the Clown v. Richard Nixon, 1971). And here Great Grandpa Stan thrived. He never achieved his dream of someday triumphantly returning to the old country and opening another gag store. But he was so full of gratitude for the new life he found in the land of opportunity that all the products he sold in his stores were American made. He could have made a lot more money had he sold the cheap knock-off fake puke manufactured in China. But the only fake puke he stocked was that which was made in the USA.

Great Grandpa Stan was an entrepreneur, a job creator, a family man, an upstanding citizen and a great American success story. And he was a smart ass.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Smart Ass Bucket List

I don’t have much of a bucket list. About the only thing I’m absolutely determined to do before I die is live to celebrate my 1,700th birthday. Up until then, I’m cool with just going with the flow.

There may be things on my bucket list I don’t realize are there. There was that time about three years ago when I got kicked off of a red carpet in Hollywood. A bunch of us were there protesting Jerry Lewis receiving a humanitarian award at the Oscars so we crashed one of the Oscar parties. I was sitting outside chanting when a security guard said to me, “Sir, you’ll have to leave the red carpet!” Somehow I felt an unexpected great swell of pride when he told me that, as if by getting kicked off of a red carpet in Hollywood I’d accomplished a life’s goal.

My fuck it list is much longer than my bucket list. These are the things I hope I never have to spend another second doing, like shopping for insurance. Everyone has a fuck it list. To determine what’s on yours, try this little exercise. Imagine you’re on your deathbed, reflecting back on your life and saying to yourself “Dammit, I wish I’d spent more time (fill in the blank)!” I know I’ll never say to myself “Dammit, I wish I’d spent more time shopping for insurance!”

But there are some things I’d really like to do sometime in the next few centuries. I’d really like to start a big ass pie fight. But it can’t be orchestrated. It has to be one of those naturally-occurring events, like on the Three Stooges, where there’s a stuffy party with a ratio of 10 pies for every guest. It could be a combination presidential debate/bake sale. I’ll be proud to fling the first pie.

I’d also love to get White House press credentials and attend a presidential press conference. Because before I ask my question, I want to hear myself say, “Mr. President, I’m from the Washington Bureau of Smart Ass Cripple.” I don’t even care what question I ask. I just want to hear myself say that. It has a certain smart ass ring to it.

But most of all, I really really really would love to be knighted by the queen of England, just because I want everyone to have to call me Sir Smart Ass Cripple. I was worried that in order to be considered worthy of knighthood, I’d have to live up to some impossibly high standard. But I was gratified to learn that Rudy Giuliani has been knighted. So how high could the standards be? And you don’t even have to be British to be knighted, though if you’re not British you’re not allowed to call yourself Sir. But screw that. Once I'm knighted, I’ll call myself Sir whenever I damn well please! What are they going to do about it, arrest me and haul me up to The Hague? And after I’m knighted, just to be a smart ass, I’ll get sex change surgery. Then I’ll be the first to have been both a Sir and a Dame

What a fine and glorious day at Buckingham Palace. Her Majesty knights me, then I start a pie fight. It’ll be the most satisfying day of my life. My bucket list fulfilled.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Pain and Suffering

Dr. Pearlman, as I recall, was built like a snowman. His round, bald head was stacked neckless on his spherical trunk.

A snowman wearing a shirt and tie and white doctor’s coat. But he still scared the hell out of me. Because even though I was a kid, I had his number. I just knew he couldn’t wait to get his grubby paws on my heel cords.

Mother was ecstatic that Dr. Pearlman agreed to take us on because he was “a leading expert” on muscular dystrophy. And that’s what scared me because when others MD kids I knew went to see experts, that's when weird things started happening to them. Like I knew some kids whose ankles contracted so their feet curled inward. Their soles faced sideways. So in order to flatten their feet back out again, the doctors surgically cut their heel cords.

I wasn’t sure what and where the heel cords were. I figured they were some kind of cords somewhere near the heel. But that whole business about cutting them sounded gruesome so I was determined to keep mine intact. My heel cords became a symbol of my manhood.

Dr. Pearlman’s massive wood office desk seemed to be as big as the whole kitchen of our home. He sat in a massive leather throne of a rolling office chair. Behind him was a massive bookshelf, packed tight with medical books. I’d sit in his office for a few minutes and then I was dismissed to the waiting room, while my mother and he discussed my case. But they couldn’t fool me. I knew he was plotting to get my heel cords. And I told my mother flat out that I didn’t want anybody messing with my heel cords. She wondered how I knew about such things.

Well, I won. Nobody came after my heel cords. Maybe I scared them off or maybe it was because my feet never curled inward. Whatever. I still have my heel cords and it’s a great symbolic victory for a kid who grew up when I did. I may not exit this life with much, but I’ll have my heel cords.

There is one scenario under which I might regret my steadfastness regarding my heel cords. There are those personal injury lawyer television commercials where they say stuff like, “Do you have cerebral palsy? Then you may be entitled to damages!” You can sue the doctor for making you crippled. But hell, the pain and suffering most cripples endure doesn't come so much from being crippled as it does from the stuff they do to you because you’re crippled, like slicing up your heel cords. Why can’t we sue for that, huh?

And the non-surgical interventions are even worse when you’re a kid. Like for instance, they made a lot of us wear funny-looking shoes. There was one crippled girl who had to wear these prescription shoes that looked like a cross between sandals and combat boots. They were supposed to brace her ankles or keep her from becoming pigeon-toed or something. And funny-looking shoes always came in somber colors, like black or brown. They could never be chartreuse or hot pink. Always the color of mourning.

Maybe someday our notion of justice in America will become so fine-tuned that I’ll hear commercials that say, “Are you crippled? Were you forced to wear funny-looking shoes? Then you may be entitled to damages!” Then I’ll regret not letting them hack up my heel cords, because I missed my chance to cash in.