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.