Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Most Disturbing Thing I've Learned While Protesting Outside of the White House

We were protesting outside of the White House. The police moved in with bolt cutters, unshackling those who handcuffed their wheelchairs to the gate. The rest of us lined up along the fence.

People think protesting is constantly exciting but it’s a lot like baseball. There are spurts of action between long lulls. You spend most of the time either plotting your next move or waiting for the other guy to make his move.

You get bored. You need someone to talk to. So I turned to the cripple next to me and asked him a probing question.

“So where are you from?”

“Utah!” he answered.

Long pause.

“You know what the Utah state bird is?” he asked me.

I’m not well-schooled on state birds.

“It’s the seagull,” he said.

Long pause

“And do you know what happens when you feed a seagull Alka-Seltzer?” he said.

I’m even less schooled on the effects of indigestion remedies on state birds.

“It explodes! You know why? Because birds can’t burp!”

Hearing this made me want to ask him a thousand questions. But I was afraid that whatever I asked, he might very well give me the answer. It’s like when I see people on street passing out pamphlets and wearing t-shirts that say JEWS FOR JESUS. I really want to ask them how someone can be a Jew for Jesus. But I’m afraid they’ll tell me. So instead I avoid all further eye contact.

But I really wanted to ask the cripple from Utah how the hell he discovered that seagulls explode if you feed them Alka-Seltzer. Is blowing up your first seagull a rite of passage in Utah? Do they feed seagulls Alka-Seltzer at school science fairs?

Or was this something he discovered as a result of being crippled? Because being crippled can be really boring sometimes, too. Boredom does strange things to the mind. When not anchored, the mind meanders off in all kinds of directions. Like for instance, it was deep within the throes of a severe bout of cripple boredom that I learned: “Researchers at Brandeis University have discovered that the right blend of fats can help support healthy cholesterol levels by improving the ratio of ‘good’ HDL to ‘bad’ LDL. Only Smart Balance uses this special patented blend of natural oils in its delicious, creamy-smooth buttery spreads. And, Smart Balance Original Light is an excellent source of Omega-3 ALA and a good source of Vitamins A & E, and has no hydrogenated oils or trans fats -- so it's the better choice for all your family's meals.”

I never would have known this had I not pulled under my kitchen table in such an awkward manner that I accidentally turned off my wheelchair’s power and I couldn’t reach the button to turn it back on. So there I was, stuck. Nobody home and nobody due for an hour. Searching desperately for sources of existential distraction, I read the Smart Balance container on the table. I realized that whereas I’d looked at the Smart Balance container thousands of times, I’d never taken the time to really read it. Such is life when you’re caught up in the big city rat race.

I also discovered that afternoon that the cushions on my kitchen chairs “meet all flammability requirements of California Bureau of Home Furnishings technical bulletin 117." This brought me a sense of comfort knowing that the California Bureau of Home Furnishings was watching my back or my butt or whatever.

So I really wanted to ask the Utah cripple outside the White House if that’s how it happened with him. Was he similarly stranded one day and a seagull landed on his windowsill? Was he taking Alka-Seltzer at the time? Did it suddenly occur to him that he’d never heard a bird belch?

But instead, I avoided all further eye contact.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mind Control

It’s amazing what cripples can do with the sheer power of our minds. There’s been some research going on for several years at Brown University where scientists implant a pea-sized sensor into the brains of various cripples. One cripple was then able to move a cursor around a computer screen just by thinking about it. Recently, a thirsty cripple used her mind to command a robotic arm to pick up a beverage bottle and give her a drink.

I’ve heard about stuff like this before. Not too long ago there was a story going around about a mind-controlled wheelchair. A cripple wore this high-tech, wired-up yarmulke and through it he could drive his power wheelchair with his mind. I’ve seen cripples drive power chairs with everything from their toes to their chins. But I’ve never seen anybody drive with their mind. I suspect the mind-controlled wheelchair never made it out of the lab because of a fatal design flaw. The scientists failed to take into account that in order for cripples to successfully operate mind-controlled wheelchairs, they have to first to be able to control their own minds.

Cripples are only human. So picture a gorgeous summer day where a cripple is out happily motoring along in his mind-controlled chair. But then, across the street, appears a woman in a skimpy sundress. The inevitable, abrupt reversal of blood flow occurs. In that tragic instant, a mind-controlled wheelchair transforms into a penis-controlled wheelchair. The chair pops a wheelie. The tires squeal and burn rubber. The chair shoots through the oncoming traffic, hurdling toward its object of desire. The cripple tries frantically to free the barreling chair from the grip of the maniacal influence of the penis by thinking about baseball. But there has never been a more single-minded creature than the agitated penis.

I don’t trust guide dogs for this same reason. I know their raised from pups to follow human orders and never succumb to any natural doggie impulses. But guide dogs are still dogs. Surely there have been cases where one took off after a squirrel, dragging the blind person behind like tin cans on a wedding car. I’m sure it’s happened thousands of times. We just never hear about it because a) the blind people never live to tell about it and b) there’s been an elaborate cover-up orchestrated by the powerful guide dog training school lobby.

There’s an infinite range of overwhelming human impulses that can potentially seize control of a mind-controlled wheelchair. For instance, if I’m ever in a mind-controlled wheelchair and I happen to find myself in the same room with Newt Gingrich, that sonuvabitch will be flattened. No questions asked. Before I know it, my wheelchair will slam itself into high gear and steamroll his sorry ass. I’ll be powerless to stop it. Newt’ll have a permanent tire track tattoo across his ass.

I hope I’ll be exonerated by a jury of my peers (if there is such a thing). “Sorry but I saw a loud mouth republican and I lost control of my mind. It was a case of temporary sanity.”

If I can flatten Newt and get off scot-free, a mind-controlled wheelchair would be a pretty sweet investment.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Getting Kinky in a Hospital Bed

I don’t use much cripple equipment or “assistive technology” as the professionals call it. It’s not that I can’t find the proper equipment to meet my needs. Au contraire, mon cheri. You name a task and there’s some piece of cripple equipment to perform it for you. If you need your pencil picked up, there’s a robotic arm built with state of the art fiber optics that can grab it for you. If you need your ass wiped, there a bidet that shoots Rocky Mountain spring water.

And whatever technology can’t do, there’s an animals that can. There are highly-trained dogs and monkeys that will be by your side 24/7, ready to spring into action if you drop your pencil. And if you’re anything like me, you’ve known some crazy-ass dogs that would be more than eager to perform the same function as a bidet.

The array of assistive technology for cripples is so vast and dazzling that it depresses the hell out of me. It’s like those shows on public television where a bunch of bearded guys gut rehab a 14-bedroom Victorian house on Martha’s Vineyard. That’s all peachy, for everyone who can afford a fucking 14-bedroom Victorian house on Martha’s Vineyard. All those shows do for me is make me feel really really broke ass.

So it goes with all the cripple gadgets. You can have your house fully-equipped with gadgets and a menagerie that will do everything from floss your teeth to sing you a lullaby, as long as you’re Trump’s sugar daddy. Either that or you have to want that laser beam eyebrow plucker so bad that you’re willing to jump through all the flaming bureaucratic hoops it takes to convince Uncle Sam to buy it for you.

Which brings us to the subject of hospital beds. I could probably use one, but I just can’t bring myself to go about getting one. It’s beyond money. When I envision a hospital bed in my room it scares me, not just because it looks like a horizontal torture rack with a mattress. I feel like when you get a hospital bed you consequently give up all hope of ever doing anything kinky in bed ever again. I’ll never resign myself to that dark reality.

When you think about it, hospital beds can be excellent kink vehicles. They contort into all kinds of positions. Some have trapezes. And some hospital beds even give vibrating massages. But a hospital bed is designed to look like a deathbed. You can’t have a swinging bachelor pad with a hospital bed. You’re not supposed to do anything in a hospital bed except sleep, eat, shit in a bedpan, peruse Reader’s Digest and/or die.

I see they’ve starting making double and queen-size hospital beds. So at least we’re getting away from the silly notion that people who need hospital beds always want to sleep alone. But there still aren’t any heart-shaped hospital beds. Or why not a heart-shaped hospital waterbed? When I can have a heart-shaped hospital waterbed with leopard skin sheets, that’s the day I’ll be officially in the market.

I still won’t be able to afford it so I’ll have to beg Uncle Sam. That’s sure to be a demeaning exercise. I’ll have to persuade a bureaucracy that kinkiness is an essential ingredient for a healthy, well-balanced life. You’d think any living soul would find that to be obvious. But you know how bureaucracies are.

Monday, May 14, 2012

No Kong Shins on the Southwest Side

A friend introduced me to her friend Jill. Jill was a tall and strapping lass with a five o’clock shadow.

Jill wore a dark gray women’s business suit, like an assistant principal. Her ruffled blouse was of the style my mother wore.

Jill’s voice was a man’s voice. Baritone. “You don’t remember me, do you?” Jill asked me. I decided not to even pretend I did. She said a few years back I interviewed her for a position as one of my pit crew.

Funny how I didn’t remember her at all. I wanted to ask Jill if she was Jack at that time. Because surely I would remember her as Jill. And I would have been strongly inclined to hire her. Because I’m partial toward hiring the kind of people that I never would have met on the southwest side of Chicago. I feel like those who’d shake them up on the southwest side are of my tribe. I meet someone like her and I place myself in the living room of my boyhood home in the 1960s and ‘70s, looking out the window. Would anyone like Jill walk by? Hell no! And if she did walk by, somebody would have called the cops! Because the southwest side was fiercely homogenous. Only sturdy, common-sense people lived there in sturdy, common-sense houses. They were people that could be trusted, like firemen and cops and butchers and upholsterers. They were all Christians and carnivores. The southwest side was like an elephant’s tusk—pure white through and through.

Cripples were even too skewed to fit in completely on the southwest side, or on any side of town for that matter. We couldn’t go to the school around the corner like everyone else. So they bused us out to one of the cripple schools, where white kids like me were only about 20 percent of the student body. My sister came home from her first day of cripple school kindergarten stunned and perplexed. “I saw a chocolate girl!” she declared.

So in that one regard, my segregated education was accidentally liberating. It forced me to mingle with the chaff. It unintentionally taught me to feel solidarity with the skewed.

I do remember when a guy named Kong Shin answered one of my pit crew ads. He showed up for the interview wearing a somber, gray robe. His hair was cut sort of Hare Krishna style. But other than that he looked and sounded like your basic white guy American in his mid 20s.

His real name was Bob, he said, and until recently he was in the advertising business. It was vicious and cutthroat and he was in up to his chin, he said. So he chucked it all and joined a Buddhist monastery. Chicago is peppered with such “monasteries,” which are basically like just three-flats mixed in discreetly with all the other three flats on the block.

I never saw anyone like Kong Shin on the southwest side either. Somebody would have called the cops on him, too. He might have gotten beat up.

Kong Shin said he needed a part time job that wouldn’t cause him any moral conflict. I really wanted to hire him. But apparently his monastery was of the hard ass, Buddhist boot camp variety. There was a strict 10 p.m. curfew. So screw that. In order for him to get back to the monastery in time to avoid turning into a pumpkin, I’d have to live my life on central standard nursing home time, going to bed before sundown.

He said he changed his name to Kong Shin because it means “empty mind.”

“That’s a compliment, right?” said I.

“Yes,” he said. “It’s the highest state of consciousness.”

“A lot of people accuse me of having an empty mind,” I said. “But I don’t think they mean it as a compliment. “

Kong Shin didn’t laugh.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Smart Ass Cripple’s Strict Dress Code for His Pit Crew

Sometimes I place an ad when I need to hire a new person for my pit crew. My pit crew is the group of people that pull my pants on me in the morning, wash my armpits, change my light bulbs, haul my ass around, etc. When some people answer the ad, they are quick to proclaim that they are a CNA (certified nursing assistant). And in response, I’m quick to proclaim, “I’ll try not to hold it against you.”

And then I tell them that I have a strict dress code for my pit crew. I’m like Puff Daddy. I have a certain image to uphold and I expect my posse to dress accordingly. So they can wear anything they want except a damn nurse’s uniform.

And when I say they can wear anything, I do mean anything. I had a pit crew member who often wore skirts that he made himself. He was neither gay nor a cross-dresser. That was just how he felt like dressing some days. He also wore colorful tights so he looked like a character out of Robin Hood.

All that was cool with me. Just so he didn’t look like a nurse. I know nurse’s uniforms aren’t what they used to be. They aren’t pure angel white and they no longer wear those funny origami hats. Today they wear surgical scrubs, sometimes decorated with teddy bears or smiley faces or Smurfs. But that’s even worse. I don’t want my posse wearing Smurfs!

I hate to be so rigid but it’s necessary. Because there’s no stopping some people. Back when I lived in government-subsidized housing for cripples, one of the cripples who lived upstairs hired this woman named Toni to wash her floors and dust and do laundry. And Toni shows up for work with a stethoscope hanging from her neck.

My Aunt Gerry complained to me the other day over lunch about her pit crew. Aunt Gerry's pit crew is sent to her by a home health agency so not only do they wear Smurfy scrubs but they’re also obsessed with taking her vitals. A woman comes over just to help her take a shower and the first thing the woman does is take her vitals and write them down. It’s irritating as hell. I mean, how would you like it if every time somebody came to your home they immediately took your vitals? You order a pizza but before the delivery guy hands it over he whips out a thermometer and blood pressure cuff.

Aunt Gerry is hesitant to refuse to give up her vitals because she’s afraid the agency will consequently refuse to serve her. But hell, it seems to me her right to sit on her vitals if she feels like it is protected by the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Aunt Gerry ought to be able on any given day to say she’s securing her person and if anyone wants to search her and seize her vitals they’ll need a damn warrant.

This is why I’m such a hard ass about my dress code. Otherwise, look how easily things get out of hand.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Would Stephen Hawking Ride a Stupid Mule?

So I’m about seven years old. I’m at cripple summer camp and I’m riding a mule. My balance is perilous. I didn’t want to do this. Riding a mule is a whole lot shakier than riding a wheelchair. So a spotter walks along beside me just in case I teeter. Another adult leads the mule. We head down the shady, rutted path. It’s a fine summer day. But you know how mules are. We get about 20 yards down the path and it goes on strike. It decides we’re going neither forward nor back. It won’t budge.

And there’s my empty wheelchair 20 yards back. But neither adult can leave me to go fetch it because what if the mule decides to move with me still in the saddle? And besides, the rutted path is foreboding terrain for a wheelchair. The spotter shoves the mule’s ass like she’s pushing a car stuck in the mud. Nothing. So there I am, a criplet marooned on the back of a stationary mule. My ass is getting sore. Why the hell did I ever let the adults talk me into this?

Cripple summer camp moved on to bigger and better sites in future years where there were horses instead of mules. So my equestriphobia, deepened by my mule trauma, increased exponentially.

And there was also the apocryphal cripple summer camp legend of the horse and the hornet. As the story went, the adults finally convinced this one stubborn crippled kid to go for a horseback ride. And this kid was way more crippled than me. He couldn’t sit up in his wheelchair without being strapped in. He was floppy like a ragdoll. So of course he had a fear of riding horses. For kids like us, sitting on a moving horse is like sitting on a one-legged stool in an earthquake. Hell, even just mounting a horse can leave you with PTSD. It takes practically the whole damn 5th Battalion to hoist you up onto the saddle, one team of guys passing you up to the next team of guys like the bucket brigade. But some adult probably convinced the poor defenseless cripple not to worry because the biggest, strongest guy in all of camp, an ex-marine, would ride up there with him and hold him tight. What could possibly go wrong? But just as they embarked on their stroll, a hornet stung the horse right square in the ass. The horse shrieked and bucked and launched the cripple and the ex-marine into orbit. I heard various endings to the legend: 1) they landed in a ditch with broken collarbones 2) they landed in a tree 3) etc.

But either way, the story is probably more or less true, at least up to the hornet part. Because at cripple summer camp, whatever activity terrified you the most (be it horse riding or swimming or playing checkers), that was the activity adults felt most compelled to pressure you to do. I don’t know why. Maybe they wanted to teach us to overcome our fears, no matter how rational. They were determined we were going to have the fun time of our lives whether we liked it or not. So I could always count on a steady barrage of good cop bad cop from adults trying to convince me to ride a horse. “Don’t worry buddy, Johnny here is an ex-marine!”

And I was powerless to resist for long. The heat of the slow and steady grilling was eventually too intense. I’d surrender, take my terrifying horse ride, and get it over with.

But today’s criplets have role models to give them strength of conviction. They can ask themselves, “Would Stephen Hawking ride a stupid mule?” And the answer is laughably clear: Hell no! He’d fire up his talking box and tell them all to fuck off!

This gives modern criplets the validation it takes to have the confidence to tell everyone to fuck off, too. Today’s lucky criplets don’t have to be afraid to be afraid.