Tuesday, August 27, 2013

An Essay Comparing and Contrasting Cripples and Spiders

People are afraid of spiders for the same reason they’re afraid of cripples. They think they’re ugly.

It’s silly to be scared of spiders. Most spiders pose no physical threat. A very tiny percentage of the vast population of spiders is venomous and lethal.

The same is true of cripples.

Contact with a spider will not turn you into a spider, not even if it bites you. Spider Man is fiction.

 The same is true of cripples.

When suddenly confronted by ugly spiders, humans have historically reacted by a) running the other way b) trying to kill the ugly spiders (which is what my dog does) c) studying the spiders and writing research papers about their behavior and mating habits. Coincidentally, humans have historically reacted in the exact same manner when suddenly confronted by an ugly cripple. However, in addition, human have also tried to round up all the ugly cripples and lock them away out of sight and out of mind. Humans have never done this to spiders.

Humans fail to realize that all the ugly spider eradication strategies do not work. Humans can win the battle against ugliness, but they can’t win the war. You can stomp an ugly spider to a pulp, but soon there will be more.

The same is true of cripples.

Humans who are afraid of spiders are incapable of understanding the perspective of the spider. Imagine how scared the spider is of you. You’re 900 feet tall! Imagine how terrifyingly ugly you look to the spider.

Cripples feel the same way.

There is, however, a fundamental difference between cripples and spiders. Spiders lack self-awareness whereas cripples, or at least most of them, do not. Consequently, spiders have no idea how ugly humans think they are. Thus, the spider has no concept of the power of its ugliness.  But at some point every cripple becomes aware of how ugly some people think they are. This gives the cripple the distinct edge over the spider because when this moment of chilling awareness occurs, the shrewd cripple can see how to use his/her ugliness to their advantage. Many cripples waste this opportunity.  Some go into self-exile so as to spare themselves and others the pain of future encounters. Some try hard to become more aesthetically pleasing. (Would spiders do this, even if they could? Would spiders put on wigs and makeup and jewelry and prosthetics just to put humans more at ease?  I suppose they might, if they thought it might save their save their lives.)

But some cripples stand their ground. And they remain as unflinchingly ugly as anybody wants them to be. And they laugh at the absurdity of it all. And they plant their flag. And they stake their claim to wherever and whatever they are. And the shrewdest cripples use their ugliness to extract political concessions. They show up at the country club. And they won’t go away until their demands are met. They know their ugliness is what gives them the power to make demands.

These are the cripples most fit to survive and thrive and to propagate the species.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Viva Cheryl Marie Wade

Cheryl Marie Wade died yesterday. She was a radical artist and a big influence on me. Please take a little time and check out her great work.



Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Eddie the Centaur

On a crowded city sidewalk, I heard someone call my name. I turned and there was a centaur, waving and smiling at me.

Oh my God, I told myself. That must be Eddie the Centaur! And look at him! He’s all grown up. 

“How the hell are ya?” the centaur said. Eddie was one of my fellow inmates at the segregated school for crippled children. Back then he was just a boy/colt. But I figured this had to be him because, well, he's the only centaur I ever met. In those days, any kid who was born a centaur was sure to be banished to the cripple school. That’s where they sent all the freaks.

Eddie gave me a great big hug. I felt deeply embarrassed, not because I was being hugged in public by a centaur but because I remembered how shabbily I treated him. We all shunned Eddie at the cripple school, except to play jokes on him. Like onetime, one of the bully crippled kids pulled a secret switch-a-roo when the lunch trays came up on the cart. Everybody else got baked chicken but when Eddie lifted the lid off his plate all he had was a pile of hay. I laughed real hard like everybody else because I wanted to be cool, even though I knew it was mean.

And the adolescent Eddie of the cripple school days was hardly the huggy type. In fact, he was cocky and arrogant. You’d think that somebody born a centaur would at least be humble about it, but not Eddie. He swore he was going to become a pro football superstar. “And when I give my Hall of Fame speech,” he’d say, “I’m gonna personally name every last one of you and tell you all to kiss my ass!”

Indeed, the only time anybody wanted to be around Eddie was when it was time to play cripple Whiffle football. He was the first one chosen when we chose up sides because with Eddie on your team you couldn’t lose. Just hand Eddie the football and it was a guaranteed touchdown because, being a centaur, he galloped to the end zone and flattened any tackler in his path. I guess Eddie never fulfilled his football dream. I don’t follow football  much but if a centaur was elected to the Hall of Fame I imagine I’d have heard about it. Poor Eddie was probably never given a chance to play football beyond cripple school because people are ignorant and he’s a centaur.

“You’re looking great, Eddie,” I said. “Do you work out?” And then I noticed standing next to him was a gorgeous woman. Eddie said, “This is Deirdre, my wife.” Eddie beamed and put his arm around her. She was supermodel gorgeous. I always felt sorry for Eddie because I figured the only girl that ever would be interested in him would be a female centaur. But there was nothing about Deirdre that was even remotely horse-like.

Another reason I felt sorry for Eddie back in cripple school was because he had a rough childhood. Once, when he was in a melancholy mood, he confided in me that his mother went to her grave blaming herself that he was born a centaur. She wondered if it was due to her reckless behavior in college, like the time she got super wasted and, on a dare, she ate horse meat. Of course researchers have discovered that Eddie’s condition is caused by an extremely rare genetic quirk that turns human fetuses into centaurs. But this knowledge came too late to be of comfort to Eddie’s mom.

I said to Deidre, “Your husband was the greatest cripple school Whiffle football player ever.”

Eddie dismissed that with a wave of his hand. “Aw screw football. I work for Disney now. I pull down seven figures. Ever heard of Outer Space Giraffe?”

“Oh course I have,” I said. “It’s the biggest blockbuster Disney movie hit of all time.”

“Well I’m the voice of the giraffe,” Eddie said. “The producers heard my voiceover demo CD and signed me on the spot. And my agent didn’t tell them I was a centaur until it was too late!” Eddie held up his hand for a high five! I slapped it hard.

“That’s how I met Deidre,” Eddie said. “She’s the voice of Queen Bee.”

I felt so proud of Eddie. I was overcome with a great swell of justice.  But I couldn’t help but notice all the passersby gawking intensely at Eddie. It made me angry. It was all I could do to keep from shouting,” What the hell’s the matter with you people? Haven’t you ever seen a man who pulls down seven figures doing the voice of Outer Space Giraffe, is married to a super model and just happens to be a centaur?”

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Feigning Incontinence in the Name of Love

If I’m ever crippled up to the point where I’m homebound, that will be one miserable situation. I’ll be a sad and lonely old man in a musty, cramped apartment. And piled high all around me, like haystacks in a barn, will be hundreds of unopened packages of incontinence pads.

I’ll look like a fucking hoarder of incontinence pads. Because if I’m homebound, I’ll spend all day watching old black-and-white comedies on television. Because what the hell else is there to do when you’re homebound? And when you spend all day watching old black-and-white comedies on television, soon you’ll see commercials for incontinence pads.

And the star of the commercials for incontinence pads is my “personal incontinence consultant.” There she is. Isn’t she lovely? Look at her warm, welcoming smile. Look at her telephone headset. She’s standing by, waiting for ME to call. And it’s toll free!

I know I can trust her with my secrets. I can see it in her eyes. She’s a trained personal incontinence consultant. (Is that what it says on her business cards?)  I’ll be quite nervous when I call because this is my first time. But she understands . She’ll be gentle.

I’ll feel an irresistible infatuation. So I’ll call. She’ll break the ice with small talk. And then, when the mood is just right, she’ll ask if I’m incontinent. I’ll say yes, even though I’m not. But I’ll say I’m incontinent just to impress her. I know that’s the kind of man she’s looking for. I’ll say I’m incontinent just to keep her on the phone.  She’ll ask me if I want her to tell me all about her full line of incontinence pads and I’ll say yes yes oh please yes. And when she asks if I have any questions I’ll ask her a whole bunch of stuff about absorption or whatever. I’ll do anything just to be having a conversation with a woman. I’ll do anything to bring something into my day other than old black-and-white fucking comedies.

And then my personal incontinence consultant will ask for my Medicaid number and I’ll surrender it gladly. And I’ll order a ton of incontinence pads because I love her and I want her to know it. When I fall I fall hard.
And I’ll call back the next day and the next day and the next day and the next just to hear her sweet voice. And I’ll order more and more incontinence pads. All this wouldn’t be so bad if I was incontinent because I’d use the stuff up. But I’m not so it’ll all just pile up because what the hell else can you use incontinence pads for besides their intended purpose? Placemats? I suppose I could stitch a bunch of them together and make a tablecloth.

My friends will hold an intervention. They’ll form a circle around me, sitting on unopened packages of incontinence pads.

But it won’t work. I’ll get in deeper and deeper until my story ends tragically in one of two ways.  I’ll wind up either:

1) In jail, after someone at the Medicaid office notices I’m ordering shitloads of incontinence pads and launches an investigation, or...

2) Dead. I’ll be buried under an avalanche of unopened packages of incontinence pads. 

(Contributing to the tip jar, purchasing books and subscribing through Amazon Kindle keeps Smart Ass Cripple going. Please help if you can.)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Call in the Marines

Apparently, back about 40 years ago, there used to be an elite team of specially-trained U.S Marines whose mission it was to carry cripples up and down flights of stairs.

Because I remember being an adolescent and becoming so bored and restless that I broke down and attended what were known as “muscular dystrophy parties.” These were parties for people with muscular dystrophy that were organized by wealthy uncrippled people as community service projects. Muscular dystrophy parties were always children’s parties, even though they weren’t always for children. There was always a cameo appearance by Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. I remember some square dancers came to entertain us once.  Jugglers and clowns. You get the picture.

Muscular dystrophy parties were held at this fancy banquet hall where the narrow bathroom stalls weren’t wheelchair accessible. But never fear because the muscular dystrophy party organizers made an accommodation!  Nurse Connie was on duty! At the beginning of every muscular dystrophy party the emcee made a formal announcement that if anyone needed to go to the bathroom, just raise your hand and Nurse Connie will help you. Nurse Connie sat on a stool back against the wall, wearing her bright white nurse uniform, arms folded and a no-nonsense scowl on her face. She was built like a lumberjack. I never had Nurse Connie help me go to the bathroom. I was too afraid. I pictured her flinging me back over her shoulder like Godzilla, carrying me into the bathroom and ripping the stall door off its hinges.

And the banquet hall was also at the top of about a zillion stairs. But never fear because the muscular dystrophy party organizers made another accommodation!  They called in the marines! Lined up outside the banquet hall was a pack of marines, dressed in their formal blue coats with the red trim and their flat-topped white hats. And when the cripples arrived we were swarmed by marines who immediately hoisted us up like  the winning coach, wheelchairs and all,  and carried us up the stairs. It was a precision drill.

I assume this marine unit has since been disbanded. When I see marine recruitment commercials and they show the montage of all the cool and exciting stuff marines do, I never see them carrying cripples up and down stairs. So maybe the Pentagon determined that with all the damn access laws that have passed since the heyday of the muscular dystrophy parties, this unit is no longer necessary. Or maybe they consolidated operations and hauling cripples up and down stairs is now the job of the Navy Seals.

Saturday, August 3, 2013


What the hell was I thinking?  I must have forgotten where I came from?

Here’s what was on my to-do list for the day:

1. Go to the Social Security office and get information about applying.
2. Do a bunch of other stuff.

My to-do list should have read:

1. Go to the Social Security office and get information about applying.
2. Take a number and get in line.
3.  Read War and Peace.
4. Move up two spots in line.

I arrived at the Social Security office and there was the loooooooong line. It was so long, you’d swear Jesus himself must be at the other end passing out free $100 bills. Autographed.

Cripple Comrade Curtis was in the Social Security  line.  He said he was holding number 37. He’d been in line three hours. They were up to number 25.

So I left, feeling a bit embarrassed about my naiveté. What the hell was I thinking? I guess it’s been a long time since I’ve waited in a public service office waiting room. I should have remembered that in the waiting rooms of public service offices it’s not uncommon to see a cobweb-covered skeleton sitting in a wheelchair. Or you might see a skeleton wearing sunglasses sitting in a chair and at its feet is the skeleton of a guide dog.

Cripples spend a good part of our lives waiting in waiting rooms. A cripple’s life is like a Bataan Death Wait. It’s a test of endurance. Cripples wait on waiting lists, too. But we only wait on waiting lists for good, valuable stuff, like affordable, accessible housing. There’s no waiting list for stuff like a poke in the eye. You can step right up for that. Waiting on a waiting list is like waiting in a waiting room where you won’t get served until everyone who entered the waiting room before you dies. And you pray you don’t die first.

Here’s another thing I could have added to my to-do list on the day I went to the Social Security office:

1. Go to the Social Security office and get information about applying.
2. Take a number and get in line.
3.  Read War and Peace.
4. Move up two spots in line.
5. Become an expert on the life and times of the late U.S. Congressman Ralph Metcalfe.

 My local Social Security office is located in the federal office building named after the late U.S. Congressman Ralph Metcalfe. And on the wall outside the Social Security office is a photo essay chronicle of his life. There he is as a young man, dressed in his track and field outfit, standing next to Jesse Owens. Metcalfe won four medals sprinting in the 1932 and 1936 Olympics. There he is later, his hair dusted with white, standing next to famous 1960s politicians.

And so I bet everyone who waits in line at this Social Security office becomes an expert on the life and times of the late U.S. Congressman Ralph Metcalfe. They wander over and read. It’s a brief but merciful respite.

How could I have forgotten the crushing boredom of waiting in line? To pass time you read anything in sight. You read all the signs in the waiting room. You memorize them. It must be like being in solitary confinement. If someone drops an American Girl catalog through the slot, you read it voraciously.