Saturday, April 23, 2016

A Report on the Ponderings of the Distinguished Fellows of the Smart Ass Cripple Institute

Recently I convened the first official meeting of the distinguished fellows who are members of my think tank, the Smart Ass Cripple Institute. My distinguished fellows are all distinguished, but they certainly are not all fellows. What fun would that be?

My fellows and I did what think tank thinkers do. We thought about stuff. But first, in order to get our minds in the right mode, we passed around a bong.

And soon we wondered if anybody ever stuffed young Helen Keller into a steamer trunk and dragged it out to the barn. Because in the movie The Miracle Worker, Helen Keller sure was an enormous brat. She threw flailing tantrums that could set off a tsunami. Now maybe that tantrum stuff was “literary license." That’s what they call it when writers make shit up about the lives of famous people to make them more interesting. Maybe Helen Keller was an angel. But probably not. Chances are a kid who’s deaf and blind will throw a few tantrums. And everybody wants to cut a kid like that some slack but you can only take so much. Surely somebody was tempted to stuff her into a steamer trunk and drag it out to the barn. But did anybody actually do it?

Being the distinguished fellows that we are, we researched this question. We googled up Helen+Keller+brat+steamer+trunk. Our search yielded no definitive answer. So one of the distinguished fellows made a motion that we think about something else. It passed unanimously.

And then we found ourselves thinking about think tanks and how they don’t mean anything unless there are “do” tanks. Thinking about stuff is all well and good, but what’s the point unless somebody does something about it? Maybe the way things are supposed to work is those of the thinking class think and don’t do and those of the doing class do and don’t think.

But that line of inquiry was getting way too heavy, so we switched to the topic of how illiterates must get sick and tired of eating hamburgers all the time. We acknowledged that it’s probably no longer acceptable to refer to people who can’t read as illiterates. But we also acknowledged that it’s hard to know what to call them because they haven’t organized as a political force with strict new etiquette rules to follow when speaking to or about them. But if they did, we surmised that maybe they’d call themselves something like nonreading Americans or, for the sake of journalistic brevity, nonreaders. Whatever you call them, when they go to restaurants they must order hamburgers all the time because they don’t want to let on that they can’t read the menu. But then one of the distinguished fellows offered a solution: when nonreaders go to restaurants, they should carry white canes and fake like they’re blind. If you can’t read a menu because you’re blind, there’s no shame in that. You have a good excuse. It’s okay to ask the server or someone to read it for you. You can be forgiven.

We also thought about a whole bunch of other stuff that was really interesting at the time but I can’t remember any of it anymore. And then we ordered pizza.

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

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Joy of Trespassing

Nothing beats the feeling of satisfaction and purpose that comes from being someplace you’re not supposed to be, doing something you’re not supposed to be doing. In other words, trespassing.

If you don’t know what I mean, try rounding up a few friends and going to the office of your representative in Congress. Issue a demand at the office and say you refuse to leave until that demand is met. It doesn’t matter what the demand is. You can demand free pizza if you want. And if they try to ignore you, make some noise. You can chant or sing or blast a boom box or whatever. I’m sure, like me, you’ll find this exercise to be very invigorating. It’s like breathing in fresh mountain air. And the beautiful thing about is, anybody can do it. Not everybody has the time or means to take a trip to the mountains. But everybody has a Congressional rep. And sitting in their office and being obnoxious costs nothing. It’s extra fun if you’re fortunate enough to have a rep that’s a sniveling little weasel, like Paul Ryan. Who wouldn’t enjoy slapping that guy around? But even if your rep is a decent human, it’s good to get in their face sometimes just to remind them who’s the boss. If everybody did this, imagine what a wonderful world it would be.

I am blessed to have reached the point in my life where I am somewhere I am not supposed to be every day. I’m not supposed to be alive. Or at least not according to pretty much every cripple doctor my mother took me to see as a kid. Their prognoses about my lifespan were so gloomy, it’s a wonder my mother didn’t put me in hospice.

I am perpetual trespasser. But I’m not unique. Oh Lordy no. I’d wager a lot that there’s not one crippled adult who was crippled as a child who wasn’t told the same thing. During one of my stays in a rehab hospital when I was a kid, there was a boy there who didn’t appear to be crippled at all. But according to the whispers of the other crippled kids on the ward, this boy was about to have surgery to remove an extra toe from each foot. I don’t know whatever happened to that kid. I imagine he went on to live happily ever after with the normal number of toes. But I bet even that kid's parents were told that because he had 12 toes he wouldn’t live too long.

But I'm okay with all this. I’m not bitter at all. As a matter of fact, I’m grateful. If need to feel the joy of trespassing, I don’t have to exert any energy or even spend a dime. All I have to do is wake up.

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

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Hope on Wheels

The Wounded Warriors Amputee football team is composed of amputee war veterans and they go around playing against fully-limbed former athletes and other celebrities. And guess what? The amputees always win!

Yep, the Wounded Warriors are undefeated, which for me poses two questions:

1). Did other oppressed populations have to do it this way?
Is this really a necessary step on the long, arduous road to liberation and emancipation? For instance, when women were fighting to win the right to vote, did some employ the strategy of forming a goodwill barnstorming basketball team and challenging men to games? And did the men chivalrously reciprocate by rolling over and letting the women win every time? And if so, did that somehow get across the message that women are full and equal humans worthy of suffrage? And what about gay people? Did some of their activists challenge straight people to friendly wrestling matches? Did the straight people flop and get pinned every time? And did that eventually lead to marriage equality? Maybe so. I don’t know. I’ll have to look it up.

2) Does Las Vegas take bets on this kind of stuff?
Because if so, I want in on the action right now! Because there is no more of a sure bet than wagering the mortgage and little Billy’s college fund on the Wounded Warriors winning their next game. The opposition doesn't stand a chance because it’s a double whammy. Imagine if the other team played for real and whupped the crap out of the Wounded Warriors. How awful would that look? It’s bad enough to stomp ordinary cripples, let alone cripples who became crippled defending the precious freedoms we all take for granted.

So if Vegas takes bets, I’m going to start my own feel-good cripple barnstorming basketball team. And I’ll call it something like Hope on Wheels. And I’ll make sure my players are the most godawful basketballing cripples that ever breathed air, like me. Because the more inept and pathetic we are, the more pressure the opposition will be under to purposely lose to us, which greatly increases the odds of us going undefeated. And once we’ve got the odds up to about a zillion to one I’ll quietly place a bet against Hope on Wheels and we’ll lose that game at the very last second. And I’ll cash in big! How will we accomplish the impossible feat of losing, you ask? It's simple. I’ll have one cripple on the team who can actually shoot a basketball. But I won’t bring him/her into the game until the very end. And as time expires my sharpshooter sinks the only basket of the game--- in the wrong basket!

Hope on Wheels loses! Hope on Wheels loses! Break out the champagne!

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

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Ward of the State

This happened back in the days when I still used the cripple dial-a-ride bus service, which seems like it was in the in the mid to late Pleistocene, give or take an epoch or two. Yep, I decided a long time ago that one of my top goals in life was to never ever again ride that goddam miserable cripple dial-a-ride bus service and so far I’ve managed to live that dream. But that’s a long and harrowing story for another day.

On this particular day, it was sunny and warm. I had a lunch date downtown with a friend. I boarded the dial-a-ride bus. Another guy in a wheelchair was already on board. He was a black guy about my age. He was bundled in a black hoodie, his hands stuck down deep in the pockets. He said hello and he called me by my name. I must have looked startled or bewildered or something to that effect because he said, “Don’t you remember me?” I had to make a split-second decision. Do I pretend I remember him and hope for a clue to emerge that would help me really remember? Or do I just fess up?

I fessed. So he told me his name. I will give him a Smart Ass Cripple alias to protect the innocent. “I’m Archbishop Desmond Tutu,” he said.

Wow! I remembered Archbishop Desmond Tutu very well. Long ago, we were both inmates at the state-operated boarding school for cripples, which I affectionately refer to as the Sam Houston Institute of Technology (SHIT). But I never would’ve guessed it was him because he didn’t look anything like he did back then. I didn’t hang out with Archbishop Desmond Tutu at SHIT. He one of those ward of the state kids. They were of a caste that was mysterious and unsettling to me. They never went home on weekends or holidays or anything. They never had visitors. I knew not what sort of solemn ritual kids were put though to officially make them wards of the state, but I pictured it to be a dead man walking sort of procession culminating in the kid being branded on the chest with the letter W. Some of the other inmates called these kids "awards" of the state. That seemed like it involved an even stranger ritual, where the kid is handed over to the state with great fanfare, like the grand prize on a bizarre game show. I wondered what would become of wards of the state once they were too old to be wards. I figured they were probably whisked off to a home for old wards, never to be heard from again.

But here we were years later, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and I. We exchanged pleasantries. He asked what I was up to. Not much, I said. Writing. I asked what he was up to. Not much, he said. Living on the south side. Hanging out, looking for a job.

We arrived at my destination. I exited the cripple bus. I bade Archbishop Desmond Tutu Godspeed. He bade me Godspeed back.

I had lunch with my friend. And a fine lunch it was. And then I took time to just take in the day. I rolled leisurely up Dearborn Street toward Madison. About 20 yards ahead, I saw a crippled panhandler on the corner. Holy shit! It was Archbishop Desmond Tutu! I froze in my tracks. My first instinct was to quickly run hide behind the nearest pillar before he saw me. What should I do? Roll right past him and pretend I didn’t see him? No! That’s rude! Roll right up to him and offer to put him in touch with resources that can help him get off the street? Oh hell no! That’s even ruder! He’s not a fucking heroin addict! Give him money? No, he might be insulted! Don’t give him money? No, he might be insulted! I was so torn and confused!

So I retreated. I went back to Monroe Street, crossed Dearborn there and proceeded toward Madison on the opposite side of the street from where Archbishop Desmond Tutu was panhandling. I managed to successfully avoid him, just like back at the cripple school.

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