Sunday, March 31, 2013

Those Lucky Arthritis People

Arthritis people have a lot of nerve calling themselves crippled. They sure don’t look crippled to me. They all look happy and clean and upright and smiley.


I know this because there’s a glossy magazine called Arthritis Today put out by the Arthritis Foundation.  It has a lot of articles about stuff like diet and exercise for arthritis people.  And the arthritis people on the cover are always happy and clean and upright and smiley. Here’s a sample:


I’ve known a lot of arthritis people. Hell, I’m married to one. And I’m confused because most of them don’t look like all those people on the cover of Arthritis Today. A lot of times their fingers are gnarled and spooley and thin as twigs. They can’t turn their heads because their neck vertebrae are fused. Some ride around in wheelchairs and scooters. They really do look crippled.


But nobody looks like that on the cover of Arthritis Today. I don’t know why that is. It must mean that the arthritis people have either been a) cured or b) re-branded.


Either way, those arthritis people are some lucky cripples. Some people are trapped in crippling conditions that are so grim and hopeless that their image is beyond polishing. They’re a long way from having their own lifestyle magazine. For instance, there’s no magazine called Paranoid Schizophrenia Today. I checked because you never know. But there isn’t. If there was, the articles would be like “How to Jog Away Those Pesky Paranoid Delusions.”


The world isn’t ready for a magazine like that. And some crippling conditions will never have their own lifestyle magazine just because they’re too damn hard to pronounce. Like for instance, there’s Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease. There’s no lifestyle magazine called Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease Today. I checked because you never know. But there isn’t. I’m sure glad I don’t have that damn disease. It’s hopeless. You can’t even make a decent acronym out of it. There are a ton of diseases out there clamoring for attention and it’s hard to get a jump on the competition. You need more than just a sad story. Everyone has a sad story. You need an easy-to-remember acronym, like AIDS. If possible, the acronym should be catchy like a jingle. Some diseases have managed to get noticed without an acronym, like PTSD. PTSD doesn’t work as an acronym because it makes people laugh. It sounds like you’re trying to get someone’s attention by whispering.


But maybe it’s not so weird. Maybe the arthritis people are like every other population. There are a dozen or so magazine cover models and there’s everybody else.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Three Finger Brown's Crazy Cripple Curve

Mordecai Peter Centennial Brown was one of the greatest baseball pitchers of all time. He’s in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Between 1904 and 1912 he won 186 games for the Chicago Cubs.

His nickname was “Three Finger” Brown because he had three fingers on his right hand. That’s kind of weird, nicknaming somebody after what makes them crippled. That’s like Bill “Broken Neck” Smith or Sally “Traumatic Brain Injury” Jones.

And actually, Three Finger Brown's right hand had four and a half fingers. His right index finger was cut off when he was a kid and he caught his hand in some farm machinery. But all his fingers on that hand were fucked up because he supposedly fell while chasing a rabbit as a child and broke them all. So, technically, his nickname should have been Mordecai “Completely Fucked up Right Hand” Brown.

But being crippled is what made Three Finger Brown a great pitcher. Ty Cobb said Three Finger’s curveball was the most devastating pitch he ever tried to hit. Because of the way Three Finger gripped the ball in his fucked up hand, his curve jumped and dipped like no one else’s.

That was long before pitchers were paid a zillion dollars. Suppose Three Finger was twirling his crazy cripple curve today. At first, all the other pitchers would see his fucked up pitching hand and laugh and call him names and not let him join in their pitcher games. But soon they’d all be struck by a bad case of cripple envy. Soon they would lop off their index fingers and beat their other fingers with hammers, all in an attempt to fuck up their hands enough to develop a crazy cripple curve of their own. Wouldn't that be cool?

 Hell, giving up a finger is a small price to pay for a zillion dollar contract. And ballplayers will do any crazy ass thing in the name of “performance enhancement.” But it's not just ballplayers.  Lots of guys are obsessed with “enhancing” their own “performance,” if you know what I mean.  The most obsessed are those who perform the least. They attribute their lack of performance opportunities to a lack of “enhancement.” Guys who get trapped in this frame of mind might try any crazy ass enhancement scheme, too. So suppose Mordecai Brown had another nickname derived from some other freakish feature that made him perform better than the rest in another arena—something like Mordecai “Hung Like a Horse” Brown. And suppose, according to the legend, he became so enhanced as a result of mangling his right hand. Cripple envy would be rampant. It would be commonplace to see guys without index fingers, wild-eyed with rejection, out chasing rabbits.

I like to tell myself that I’m more evolved than those guys because I refuse to let others define my manhood. But I don’t know. I begin to doubt myself whenever I encounter Lady Grey tea in the grocery store. Lady Grey is kick-ass tea, but I can’t bring myself to buy a whole box off it because, you know, it’s called Lady Grey. I must be worried that the cashier will wonder what enjoying Lady Grey tea so much says about me. I know I should be much more worried about what giving a crap about what a stupid thing like that says about me says about me. But I can still only comfortably buy Lady Grey in the variety box where she’s surrounded by other butch teas like Irish Breakfast. This is much less conspicuous.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Smart Ass Cripple Spreads a Little Sunshine

Sometimes, in my role as a cripple, I am called upon to bring a little sunshine into the lives of those who are not crippled.

I’m happy to do it. I feel as if it’s my duty to brighten up their day. One such opportunity to spread a little sunshine arose not too long ago when I went to the drug store to pick up some condoms. The condoms were beyond my reach so I looked for a store clerk to assist me. I looked around. Whom would I select to have their day brightened? I chose a young woman stocking shelves in the next aisle. I led her to the condom rack. I pointed out the pack of condoms I wanted and she took it down off the hook, all while maintaining her professional poker face. But I knew that deep down inside she couldn’t wait to go home so she could tell whomever she goes home to, “Guess what! Today I helped a crippled guy buy condoms!”

So now I look forward to buying condoms for more reasons than one. Next time I think I’ll really give some lucky clerk an exciting story to tell by selecting the extra-jumbo size condoms or something exotic like the mint-flavored French ticklers. Or maybe I’ll buy a dozen condoms and come back the next day and buy a dozen more.

By doing this, I am not just spreading sunshine. I am also spreading cripple awareness. Some cripples say everything a cripple does in public spreads cripple awareness, even buying condoms. We can’t escape it. We are always representing cripples whether we like it or not, so we have to be on our best behavior. But sometimes I feel I can best spread true cripple awareness by acting like an ass hole. I do this not on behalf of myself but on behalf of those of my crippled brethren who happen to be ass holes. Their rights are often overlooked.

But true freedom for cripples will only be achieved when crippled ass holes have the same rights as ass holes that can walk and talk and see and hear. This doesn’t only apply to cripples. Take gay marriage, for example. The gay people who speak up in public and file lawsuits for the right to marry seem to always be in devoted, long term, supportive, committed relationships. But why can’t any of them be ass holes? I mean, ass holes of every shape and size that are heterosexual have the right to get married, right? They don’t have to reassure everyone that they are wholesome and upstanding before they can get a license. So why should gay people have to do it?

It’s like when the ACLU stands up for free speech for the Nazis. Free speech means free speech, even for the ass holes. So it goes when you let all the cripples in. It’s a guarantee, as with every other population, that you will let some ass holes in, too. It’s good to remind everybody of that every now and then. And I’m the perfect guy to do it.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Federal Definition of a Broke Ass Cripple

I just read something pretty hilarious. It’s called "Supplemental Security Income Modernization Project: Final Report of the Experts." 

It has 21 authors. They were the “experts” assembled by the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration to make recommendations on how to “modernize” the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.

SSI is the primary means of income for about 7 million broke ass American cripples. And I do mean broke ass. The average monthly SSI payment is $519.

And like I said, the report is quite a laugh riot in spots. But if I were you, I wouldn’t run out and buy a copy. You should just wait until "Supplemental Security Income Modernization Project: Final Report of the Experts" is adapted into a blockbuster movie. Because you have to machete your way through acres of tedium in order to find the best comic gems.  For example, there’s a big belly laugh in chapter III, which has the whacky title of “Needs-Based Issues-- Including the Elimination of In-Kind Support and Maintenance and Raising the Resources Limits While Streamlining the Exclusions.” The following uproarious phrase is found on page 70:  “A majority of the experts supported increasing the resources limits to $7,000 for an individual and $10,500 for a couple…”

I almost peed my pants when I read that! Because this report came out in 1992, when the SSI resource limit was $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple. That meant that was pretty much all the money someone getting SSI could have to their name without getting kicked off the program. Guess what the resource limit is today. If you guessed that it’s still $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple, you win our grand prize!

So not only do SSI cripples have to be broke ass, they have to be broke ass in 1992 dollars! And here’s an even funnier line from the report: “All of the 19 experts who expressed a view… support an increase in the current $30 payment limit applicable to certain residents of medical institutions.” Those “certain residents of medical institutions” are SSI cripples who live in places like nursing homes. They are the broke assiest of broke ass cripples. In 1992, they were only allowed to keep $30 a month from their SSI checks. The rest was turned over to the nursing home.  So guess how much “certain residents of medical institutions” get to keep today. While you think about it I’ll go pour myself another shot. Okay I’m back. And the answer is------------ (drum roll)------------------ $30 a month!

Here’s one more knee-slapper from the report’s cover letter, written by Arthur Flemming, the leader of the panel of experts and former Secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.  Flemming acknowledged that “modernizing” SSI costs money. “We are, however, the richest nation in the world,” he wrote. He then cited a Congressional Budget Office study that said the after-tax income of the upper one percent of Americans increased by 70 per cent between 1977 and 1989 while the income of lower 20 per cent declined nine percent. Flemming wrote, “I believe that it is only fair to ask the upper one percent to share a small portion of their wealth with the poor.”

Isn’t that priceless? How preciously naïve!

Nothing has changed because the broke ass aren’t a lobbying force. Oh there are noble liberals who lobby on behalf of the broke ass. But it’s not the same. The broke ass need to speak for themselves. A name like Broke Ass Disabled Activists on Social Security makes for a good acronym (BADASS). But I hate to use that “d” word—disabled. It’s much too polite. Cripple has so much more punch. And besides, cripples aren’t the only ones who are broke ass. You don’t have to be crippled to be broke ass, but it sure gives you a good head start.

A more inclusive and thus powerful lobbying force would be something like the National Association of the Broke Ass. Some cripples like to point out that everyone should care about what happens to the cripples because anyone can become crippled at any moment. The same can be said of the broke ass.

It wouldn’t take much for the organized broke ass to shake things up. All they have to do is show up where politicians hang out.  There’s nothing politicians fear more than being confronted by hoards of the broke ass.  They'll take swift action. They’ll demand that the Department of Homeland Security build an alligator-infested moat around Capitol Hill.

Chasing politicians is fun and its good exercise. It beats sitting around waiting to be modernized.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Quest

I spent the majority of my adolescence pissing into a mayonnaise jar.

There were two reasons for this. First, I was raised in the frugal “babushka” culture. The American babushkas, primarily of eastern European extraction, were the earliest recyclers, long before recycling was fashionable. Thus we reuse everything that can be reused until we reuse it to death. But we do it not for environmental but for economic reasons. So if after you eat all your mayonnaise you then put the perfectly good and sturdy jar to work as a urinal, you can then take the money you would have otherwise spent on a urinal and spend it on something else or, better yet, put it in the bank! That's the babushka way!

But the other reason I pissed into a mayonnaise jar was because even if I did have money to burn purchasing frivolous things like urinals, it was hard to find a person or place to purchase one from. They didn’t even sell them at drug stores. You almost had to turn to the black market. For some reason urinals were among the most unmentionable of the unmentionables. I don’t know why. They’re just cripple chamber pots.

A good pisser was hard to find. This is not the case today. Today’s cripples have it soft. If they need a urinal, they can find a wide variety of them on Amazon. And unlike many items on Amazon, none of the urinals are used.

This has done a lot to improve the quality of life of the modern cripple. We no longer have to devote a large portion of our time and energy embarking on the great pisser quest. Finding a pisser used to be like finding the holy grail. Once, not too long ago, my wife came home and proclaimed that she had a special gift for me. She proudly presented me a urinal she found at a drug store. She knew I’d be thrilled. It was still in the box and everything! It had that brand new urinal smell!

And a few years before that, still not long ago, I was extra excited on the day I was to visit the FDR memorial in Washington, D.C.  Maybe, I thought, just maybe, I might get lucky and find a pisser at the cripple-themed FDR memorial gift shop! Of course by the end of the day I came to the brutal realization of just how naïve I was to believe that the gift shop would stock souvenir pissers. FDR was the leader of the free world so he must have felt great pressure to stand up and piss like a man.

I admit that even I used to feel uneasy about gratuitous displays of pissers. There was this guy who always went around with his pisser hanging right there plain as day on the back of his wheelchair. He rolled around the state capitol with his pisser on the back of his chair, shaking hands with Senators. He’d put on a suit testify at committee hearings: “Because of this state program I am able live with dignity!” And there was his pisser. It made me cringe, but what a hypocrite I was. Would confirming that cripples had bodily functions really ruin our credibility with the Senators?

 I’m glad I got over it.