Monday, September 30, 2013

Comfort in Fantasy

Whenever I fly on the airlines, I have to choose the pants I will wear carefully.

First, my pants must be sturdy, because at some point the lowly private contractors airlines hire to haul cripples on and off planes will be dispatched. I call them the cripple wranglers. They look like theater ushers in their maroon blazers. One of them will grab me by the back of my pants and slide me from my wheelchair into the boarding chair. So the pants must be able to withstand a good manhandling and not rip. Otherwise I’ll end up on the floor while the horrified cripple wrangler is left holding two fistfuls of fabric.

Second, the pants must be snug. Because there are always spellbound onlookers, be they pilots or flight attendants or passengers. And when you’re a cripple being pawed by strangers attempting to separate you from your wheelchair, your potential for mooning a spectator is high. So I avoid wearing pants that are loose or droopy.

The rigid boarding chair is shaped like a lower case letter h on wheels. Sitting in it is about as comfortable as lying on an x-ray table. The cripple wranglers strap me in tight across my chest and waist and knees. Then they roll me through the plane aisle, through first class, to my seat in coach. It must appear as if I’m some mass murderer fugitive who has been captured and bound and is being brought to justice by a crack team of specially-trained security forces who look like ushers.

And so the question arises: How do cripples cope with being made into a spectacle? Because it happens to all cripples sooner or later. We suddenly find ourselves involuntarily starring in street theater. It feels like that dream everybody has when you’re in a bustling public place and you realize you’re the only one who’s naked. Everybody else is pretending not to notice, but you know damn well they all do.

Whereas as I cannot speak for all cripples, I can say that when starring in the plane-boarding spectacle, I ward off humiliation by retreating into fantasy. I imagine as I’m being dragged through first class that the passengers are secretly seething because I, the rabblest of all the rabble, have been allowed to penetrate their gated community. I fantasize that the sight and scent of my passing carcass has totally ruined the precious daily quality time they spend alone with only their Grand Marnier. I delight in picturing them all storming the counter at our destination city and demanding refunds. I tell myself that any day where I use my crippledness to disturb the peace in a gated community—whether it’s first class or a country club or a spa or Congress-- is a day well spent.

Of course I know it's bullshit wishful thinking. The first class passengers probably didn’t think twice about me passing by. I didn’t really ruin any elitist snob’s day at all. But I can dream, can’t I?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

An Everyday Boob off the Street Goes to See a Play about Alzheimer’s

I should have known better than to go see that play about Alzheimer’s. Because ever since then, every time I turn around, I see symptoms. Like for the life of me, I can’t remember the last name of that quarterback in Seattle. Russell………… Something. Russell Martin? Yeah that’s it! No wait! Russell Martin is that catcher in Pittsburgh! That quarterback in Seattle is named Russell…………. Dammit!

I wrestle with myself like that all the time since I saw that play. The protagonist was younger than I am but she was starting to forget stuff left and right. She went jogging and forgot her way home. She tried to cook a turkey and forgot to turn the oven on. And now I can’t remember that quarterback’s last name, which is a sure sign my mind is losing its elasticity. The next thing you know, I’ll be looking all over for my sandals and I’ll find them in the freezer. But then I tell myself to get a grip. I remind myself that I can instantly recite the full name of that Russell from Pittsburgh every time I call upon myself to do so,  can’t I? That trumps forgetting some stupid quarterback’s name. So my mind is still way sharp. And it’s all just sports trivia anyway, just useless brain clutter. It’s better off forgotten.

I should be above all this. I’m not an everyday boob off the street who can’t be around cripples without getting super depressed because they’re always worried they’ll become one of us. If they’re exposed to an autistic person, every time something weird happens after that they say to themselves, “Oh shit! I’m becoming autistic!” So they avoid cripples like we’re radioactive.

But I should be able to withstand a relentless barrage of depressing stories about cripples and keep coming back for more. Maybe I’m getting too old to watch depressing cripple stories in my free time. I’m not like some of my hard-core lefty friends, bless their souls, who spend their two-week vacations with the rebels in the mountains of Swaziland. It's called Lefty Club Med.

So I don’t think I’ll go see another play about Alzheimer’s unless it’s a comedy.  There could easily be a comedy about Alzheimer’s. It might even be a hit. The title would be An Everyday Boob off the Street Goes to See a Play about Alzheimer’s. It’s a play within a play. Our protagonist is an everyday boob off the street. In Act I Scene I, he watches a play about Alzheimer’s. And throughout the rest of the play, whenever he’s the least bit confused or forgetful, he’s convinced it’s Alzheimer’s. I’d go see that play. It’s a fun way to learn about Alzheimer’s.

Wait a minute! Wilson! That’s the quarterback’s name!  Russell Wilson! Wilson Wilson Wilson Wilson Wilson Wilson Wilson!

See, I remembered! Wilson! So fuck you, Alzhemer’s!

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Katie Couric and Her Pussy Politics

I finally saw Jesus. For real. He boarded the number 22 Clark Street bus at North Avenue. He wore his signature white gown and rope belt. The weather was chilly, so he wore tennis shoes instead of sandals. He had a beard but he looked much darker than the Jesus in my old catechism books. Maybe he was Puerto Rican.

And it wasn’t Halloween.

Jesus even had a cross flung back over his shoulder. It wasn’t a very big cross. It was big enough maybe to crucify a three year old. If he carried a cross as big as Jesus’ real cross on the bus, he’d bop other passengers in the head every time he turned around and the driver would have to tell him to get the hell off the bus.

Jesus stepped up and paid his fare. All heads turned. Some greeted him. “What’s happenin’, Jeeesuus?” One guy held up his hand like he was taking an oath. Jesus obliged him with a half-hearted high five. But then Jesus just sat, slumped, trying to avoid all eye contact. He looked like he had a hard day at work and just wanted to be left alone.

This was a big moment for me because I’d heard many people talk about seeing Jesus on the city bus before. And now I finally got to see him for myself. And I remembered the days, not too long ago, when cripples who couldn’t climb stairs couldn’t even get on public transit buses. And thus we were deprived of so many opportunities. We were deprived of opportunities to work and to go to school and to socialize. And most of all, we were deprived of opportunities to see all the strange characters you see when you ride big city public transit. I felt so inadequate back then when I heard people entertaining each other for hours with crazy stories that began with, “I was on the bus/train and I saw this man/woman…”

So when I saw Jesus on the bus, I remembered those lonely days and I felt more righteous than ever about how we cripples rose up and demanded access to public transit. Because cripples deserve to fully experience like everybody else the Fellini movie that is life in the big city. We deserve to be able to tell crazy stories that begin with, “I was on the bus/train and I saw this man/woman…”

You aren't officially a resident of the big city until you have at least one story about a passenger on a bus or train who spontaneously launches into an unsolicited Samuel Beckett monologue. Here’s mine:

I was on the bus and I saw this man board at Oak Street. He looked like your average white businessman in a suit. Maybe he was a banker. He paid his fare. He pleasantly wished the driver “good afternoon." He sat down in front of me. And then, loudly addressing the empty seat across from him, he said, “Fuuuuuck you! You are not getting all of my possessions! Not you or my mother! So fuck you and fuck Katie Couric in New York, her and her pussy politics!”

And he went on and on about Katie Couric’s pussy politics. And there was a woman in back who must not have lived in the big city long because she didn’t know that the first rule of survival when encountering a Beckett character on public transit is to try to ignore them at all costs. She asked the guy to please be quiet. And he responded, “Fuuuuuuuuck you! You don’t tell me what to do, you and your pussy politics!”

And he went on and on until we reached his stop. Then he stood and pleasantly wished the driver a “good afternoon” and he got off the bus.

On big city public transit, every day is Halloween.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Those Miscellaneous Types

I must say it causes me great anxiety whenever I have to replace a member of my pit crew. Because first off, I never know how to word the want ad. I’m always tempted to go straight to the point. No pussyfooting: “Crippled man needs someone to wipe his ass.” That’s like posting a manifesto. It’s a clear and concise statement of what it’s all about. It weeds out the weak and squeamish.  Only those with a certain fortitude will answer the call.

And then the ad should say,  “No experience necessary.” Because  when it comes to ass wiping, sadly, most people are virgins. And so the ritual you go through with  someone who's getting ready to wipe your ass for the first time is pretty much the same ritual you go through with someone who’s getting ready to have sex with you for the first time. You start off with an icebreaker. You say something like, “So have you ever done anything like this before?” And they say something like, “Only to myself.” And so you reassure them that you will be patient and gentle and nurturing. And then  they take a deep breath and do it and soon it’s over and they realize it wasn’t that bad at all. And they never forget that you were their first

And I never know under which employment category to place the ad. I hate the “c” word: caregiver. I hate it because what then does that make me? The caretaker? Isn't a caretaker someone who takes care of someone? But isn’t that what a caregiver is? It’s all so confusing. And the “c” word sound so custodial. And it’s so unreciprocal.  On one side it’s all give give give give give. And on the other side it’s all take take take take take. But I like to think my pit crew people get something out of their time spent with me besides their paltry paychecks, even if it’s just a good joke or two.

And so I end up placing my ad under the category of miscellaneous. Those are the people I’m looking for to join my pit crew—those miscellaneous types.

The job doesn’t pay much. No benefits. No time and a half. No paid vacation.  No 401(k). But the best thing about working in my pit crew is that it’s about as far away as one can possibly get from working for some soul-crushing corporation.

That's another thing I should put in my ad: “You may have to wipe my ass, but you’ll never have to kiss it.”

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Amazing and Astounding

I, Smart Ass Cripple, have fooled the doctors. Just about any cripple who ever lived can make the same claim. Back when I was just a wee Smart Ass Criplet, the doctors said I wouldn’t live to be 10 years old. When I got to be 10, it was adjusted up to 15. When I got to be 15, it was adjusted up to 20. When I got to be 20, those doctors were dead.

And here I am. But I must admit that I, Smart Ass Cripple, have even fooled myself. I have seen some truly amazing and astounding things that even I, in my wildest imagination, would have ever dreamed I would live to see.

In fact, just the other day I saw something that left me breathless with astonishment. I saw a vendor selling cans of beer for $9 each. It was one of those outdoor concert venues where you’re captive. They practically give you a full cavity body search as you enter, just to make sure you’re not smuggling in anything "dangerous," like a six pack of beer. They confiscate everything but your wallet. And then they say, “Enjoy the show!” So the vendors have a monopoly.

Now when I was a criplet the doctors didn’t scare me. I figured I live to be 90. But I would have laughed if some fortune teller told me I would see with my own eyes a can of beer selling for $9. And here’s something even more unbelievable: I bought one! Actually, I guess that’s not so unbelievable.

I wish I was visionary because I probably could have made some nice money off of all this underestimation. I should have bet the doom-and-gloom doctors that I would last long enough to see the day when the president of the United States would address the nation to admit he got a blow job from an intern. Impossible!  I probably could have gotten 5,000 to 1 odds on that. But I’m far past that milestone and bearing witness to yet more mind-boggling phenomena, like professional hot dog eating competitions. Who could have predicted that this frail criplet would grow up and live in an era where humans make big sport out of cramming 50 hot dogs down their throats in 10 minutes? And the heroic winners of these competitions strut proud and flash their medals as if they were Olympians. And they ride in limos stocked with champagne and babes. It reminds me how utterly stupefying life can be.

If you can judge a man by the stunningly overpriced beer, commander-in-chief hummers and disgusting celebration of gluttony he has seen, then I have lived a long and rich life. So suck on that, doctors.

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Monday, September 2, 2013

Smart Ass Cripple as a Role Model

I know I’m a role model, whether I like it or not. So I have to constantly be conscious of how I behave because some people who don’t know much about cripples will base their opinion of all other cripples on their opinion of me. I may not agree with this reality but I accept it and I always try to conduct myself with that in mind.

For example, I know how important employment is to my people so I have tried hard when in the workplace to debunk the misconceptions employers have about cripples. I’ve done this by quitting many jobs. Because those who try to convince employers to hire cripples always cite research that shows what loyal employees cripples are. We come in early, we stay late, we never call in sick, we never take vacations, we never ask for a raise. Isn’t that pathetic? It makes us sound so desperate. It makes it sound like if we ever get a job, any job, we’ll never ever let go no matter what. So whenever I get a job, I immediately feel this strong obligation to quit so the employer won’t get the wrong idea about cripples. Because if I work twice as hard as everybody else for the same pay and never complain and never call in pretending to be sick because I feel like staying home and watching the ballgame, then my boss will expect every other cripple to do the same.

I also felt great pressure to be a role model when I lived in government-subsidized public housing for cripples. So I threw parties featuring adult piñatas. Adult piñatas are full of adult stuff like condoms and joints and those little airline bottles of booze and cigarettes and furry handcuffs. I did this because cripples living in government-subsidized public housing aren’t supposed to throw parties featuring adult piñatas. They can maybe throw Tupperware parties, but that’s about it. Cripples are supposed to be as desperate to land an apartment in government-subsidized public housing as we are to land a job. When we get it, we’re not supposed to do anything that might remotely fuck it up. Throwing parties featuring adult piñatas probably could have gotten me kicked out of government-subsidized public housing for cripples. I’m sure there was something in my lease to that effect.

In my lifetime I’ve consumed shitloads of beer because I feel I must. Some people have this idea that cripples are the only adult humans ever with no desire to be intoxicated. Abstinence. So it’s my duty as a role model to drink beer by the metric shitload. And if I'm ever hauled off to a nursing home, that sense of duty will intensify exponentially. Because cripples in nursing homes are absolutely forbidden to drink beer. So, as a role model, drinking beer will be the first thing I have to do.

But I feel I have let my fellow cripples down as sexual role model. Sexuality is the area where the most devastating myths about cripples endure. Some people have this idea that cripples are the only adult humans ever with no desire to get laid. Abstinence. I guess you could say I’ve gotten around. I’ve been married twice. But in order to counteract the cripple asexuality myth to the fullest of my potential as a role model, I should be a raging omnisexual hedonist, fucking everything that isn’t nailed down. I have failed in this regard, though it wasn’t from a lack of effort or desire. I just couldn’t keep up. I leave it to future generations of cripple role models to pick up where I have fallen short.