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.