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.