Friday, August 26, 2016

The Voice of a Crippled Generation

Paul Zielinski always dreamed of being a rapper. But everybody always discouraged him. It wasn’t just because he was white and Polish. It was because he was born with cerebral palsy. He talks all slurry and people think he’s drunk. He walks funny, too, like a drunk trudging through high snow. He's even been known to drool on occasion. So who would take him seriously as a rapper?

But all that negativity didn’t dissuade Paul. As a matter of fact, it inspired him. And today, not only is he a successful rapper, he is a groundbreaking artist who is revolutionizing the genre. He’s invented a style of rap where the words don’t rhyme. His raps have no repetitive rhythm so you can't dance to them either. His raps are structured more like prose than poetry. And there isn’t any music.

Paul’s style of rap is very cerebral. That’s why he calls himself Cerebral Paul Zee.

Like every artistic pioneer and innovator, people either love him or hate him. Rap purists accuse him of heresy. New York Times rap critic Ice Pik describes Cerebral Paul Zee’s raps as “nothing more than sophomoric monologues.” But the famous rap blogger Cussin’ Cousin lauds Cerebral Paul Zee as “the Charlie Parker of rap,” referring to the revered alto saxophonist who freed jazz from the stifling constraints of Glenn Milleresque swing by ushering in the bebop era.

Cerebral Paul Zee himself seems to delight in ruffling the feathers of old schoolers. In a recent interview, he said, “Who says all rap has to have the same old rhythm and rhyme? It’s not a fucking Hallmark birthday card!”

Cerebral Paul Zee has legions of adoring fans. They packed the house for his most recent concert. Sitting on a simple folding chair on a bare stage, he delivered his most popular rap, entitled “Talk to Me, Bitch!”

I went to a restaurant with my friend Chloe. The waitress asked Chloe for her order. Chloe said, “I’ll have the poached salmon and a glass of petite sirah.” And then the waitress said to Chloe, “And what will he have?” And I said to that waitress, “Talk to me, bitch! I ain’t deaf! I ain't contagious! Talk to me, bitch!"

Cerebral Paul Zee may be an iconoclast, but his work still retains many of the elements of tradition rap. First of all, he uses the word bitch. And he writes about the alienation and anger he feels living as a crippled American. Here’s the title rap from his latest release, “Asshole Cabbie Just Blew Right Past Me!”

I was standing on the corner waving my arms like a maniac. “Taxi! Taxi!” Asshole cabbie just blew right past me! I bet he thought I was drunk and gonna puke all over his cab! If I ever see that asshole cabbie again, I WILL puke all over his cab! I’ll puke all over him too!

Also in keeping with the great traditions of rap, Cerebral Paul Zee is embroiled in bitter feud with another rapper. His arch enemy is the east coast crippled rapper Autistic Freedom. Both crippled rappers accuse the other of being responsible for the tragic shooting death of the one-legged rapper Ampu T.

Cerebral Paul Zee is a man who raps to his own unique beat. He’s the voice of a crippled generation.


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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Back in the Days When Going to Purchase Tokens to Pay for Your Dial-a-Ride Could Make You Late for Your Dial-a-Ride

This was back in the days of payphones, bus tokens and dial-a-ride. Man, did those days suck for cripples in Chicago who wanted to get around on public transit. The buses and trains weren’t accessible so the only option was dial-a-ride. Call and make your reservation at 5 a.m. the previous morning, 30 hours in advance. And when the cripple bus arrives, don’t be late! The cripple bus only waits five minutes then it leaves. And then you’re SOL. Better learn how to hitchhike. And worse yet, they marked you down as a No Show! There was great shame associated with being a No Show. When you were a No Show, brace yourself because the next time you called dial-a-ride to dial up a ride you first got the dreaded No Show lecture: “Mr/Miss (Fill in the Blank), last time you were a No Show! It’s very inconsiderate to be a No Show. You keep the driver waiting, you keep the passengers waiting…” Being a No Show earned you several thousand years in Purgatory!

So on this particular day I had my dial-a-ride pickup all scheduled and ready. But just before the cripple bus was due to arrive, I realized I was all out of bus tokens to pay for the ride I dialed up. So I hustled over to the currency exchange around the corner. I purchased a roll of tokens from the women in the room behind the service window. I was the only customer and I couldn’t open the heavy front door to leave. (This was back in the days before there were a lot of automatic doors, too.) The woman came out from the room behind the service window to open the front door for me. When she heard the door to the room behind the service window lock behind her with an ominous click, the woman stopped in her tracks, ran back to the door and shook the knob furiously! Locked! The woman ran to the front door of the currency exchange. It was locked, too! “Oh no!” the woman cried.

Apparently she forgot to push a button or something before she came out from the room behind the service window. And if you didn’t push that button, when the room behind the service window was left unattended, all doors automatically locked. It was some sort of security thing. And the only person with the magic key to unlock the door was the boss. But she couldn’t call him because the phone was in the locked room behind the service window.

What now? We were trapped! The cripple bus was due at my house in two minutes! I was going to be a No Show! But wait! A customer! He tried to open the front door! Locked! The woman ran up to the door and waved her arms. “The doors are locked! We’re trapped!”

The man looked perplexed? “What?” he mouthed. The woman held up one finger! Wait! Don’t go away! Pleeeeeeeeeeeeease don’t go away! The woman patted herself down in a futile search for pen and paper. I happened to have both those items on me so she dashed off a note: Call the boss at 555-5555 and tell him to come unlock the door. She slid the note under the door. The man read the note and then held out his upturned, empty palms as if to say he had no money for a payphone. Of course he was broke. He was probably coming to the currency exchange to cash a check so he wouldn’t be broke.

The woman patted herself down again in a futile search for change. I happened to have change. The woman slid my change under the door. The man scooped up the change and left. He returned a few minutes later and gave us a big thumbs up. After a little while the boss came and unlocked the door. I shot out of the currency exchange and scurried home. It was way past the ETA for the cripple bus. And when I arrived home, there was nary a cripple bus in sight! Dammit! I was SOL! And worse yet, I was a No Show! I would have to go sit in the No Show corner with all the other No Shows and wear my No Show dunce cap.

But I was feeling ornery. I told myself when they try to give me my No Show lecture, I’ll lecture them right back! I’ll say, “Cripples have lives, too, you know! And in life, shit happens that makes you late for dial-a-ride. Sometimes you go to the currency exchange to get tokens to pay for your dial-a-ride and you get trapped inside. So deal with it!”

But then the cripple bus chugged up to my door, arriving half an hour late.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Personal Responsibility

The problem with this country is that nobody takes personal responsibility for anything anymore. Everybody wants to blame their problems on “society.” People who take personal responsibility for solving their own problems aren’t rewarded for taking initiative. As a matter of fact, they’re punished.

I know because it happened to me. I tried to take personal responsibility for improving my own life and I was shit on for doing it. One of the things that has always bugged the hell out of me is that I can’t get into my local butcher shop. There’s a big old step on the front door. So I am reduced to window shopping, staring longingly at the sausage chains and carcasses on display within. The owner is an Italian guy named Luigi. He’s round and wears a blood-spattered white apron. I called his shop and tried to convince him to build a ramp. I said, “You are required by law to provide reasonable accommodation so customers like me can access your store. But more importantly, providing access is the right thing to do. And it’s good for business! You’ll mine a rich, untapped vein of new customers!” But Luigi just said, “It’s a notta my problem.” And he hung up.

For months I sat home and seethed over Luigi’s callous indifference. When I sit home and seethe, I watch a lot of TV. And when I watch a lot of TV I see a lot of those scolding, personal responsibility pundits who tell us to stop acting like whiny little victims. This is America! You’ve got to seize the bull by the bootstraps!

I was finally convinced! Luigi was right! If I can’t get into his store, it’s not his problem. It’s up to ME to deal with my situation without bothering him about it.

So I took personal responsibility. I happen to have a couple buddies who are really into amateur carpentry. So we gathered up some wood and hammers and nails and went to the butcher shop to build a ramp on the entrance. Well we barely got the first plank in place before Luigi appeared.

“What the hell are you doing?” he snarled.

“Don’t worry, Luigi,” I said. “I’m taking personal responsibility for getting into your store. You don’t have to do anything. I realize this is my problem, not yours.”

“Get away from my store or I kill you!” Luigi raised a cleaver and my amateur carpenter buddies scattered like cockroaches. Some friends they are!

So much for the butcher shop. But I didn’t give up. Another thing that always bugged the hell out of me is this big curb on the corner down the block. The curbs all around it are ramped but not that one. I’ve complained to city hall a million and one times. So I decided to take personal responsibility.

I happen to have another buddy who owns a jackhammer. I didn’t think it was legal for a private citizen to own a jackhammer but apparently it’s protected by the 2nd Amendment, according to my buddy who owns a jackhammer. So one fine summer afternoon we went to that corner and commenced to making our own curb ramp. My buddy was happily jackhammering away at the curb for only about two minutes when a police wagon to showed up. The cops cuffed my buddy, threw him in the wagon and confiscated his jackhammer. “Hey,” I said, “you’re violating his 2nd Amendment rights!” But did the cops care about that? No!

So I’m sitting home seething again. Whatever happened to the good old days when taking personal responsibility solved every problem?

(Smart Ass Cripple is completely reader supported. Purchasing Smart Ass Cripple books at, subscribing on Amazon Kindle and filling the tip jar keeps us going. Please help if you can.)

Friday, August 5, 2016

Rats in my Engine

The guy wore a Walgreens shirt so I figured it was okay to ask him.

“Excuse me,” I said. “Do you sell nylon stockings?”

“You mean like for ladies?” he said.

I said yes. I fought back the strong urge to explain to him that although I needed ladies’ nylons, I needed them for a very manly reason.

He led me to the back of the store where assorted packages of nylons hung on hooks. “What size?” he said.

I hadn’t anticipated that question. So I said I’ll take the smallest. And all along the Walgreens guy maintained his professional poker face as he took the package of nylons down off the hook and carried it to checkout for me. But I just knew that inside he was dying to know what this hairy old cripple was going to do with this pair of ladies’ nylons. I figured that he ruled out that I was a) buying them for that special woman in my life or b) going to rob a back. People don't give a hairy old cripple credit for being able to pull off feats like robbing a bank or snagging a woman. And he also probably ruled out that I planned to wear them myself. Hairy old cripples don’t do that kind of kinky stuff either. Or maybe I was flattering myself. Maybe he had bigger things on his mind, like how the hell he was going to pay his rent with the money he makes working at Walgreens.

I paid for the nylons and left. And never once did I publicly defend my purchase to him or the checkout guy or any onlookers in line. I could have explained it all away by simply telling the truth and announcing that I have rats in my engine. The previous day I took my cripple van in for an oil change. I’m sitting in the waiting room and it was like one of those moments when the glum surgeon enters to break the news that your loved one’s routine hangnail removal operation has gone terribly wrong. The oil change guy said the engine of my cripple van is full of rat droppings, which meant rats were regularly crawling up into the engine of my cripple van while it’s parked and having a fucking rat picnic! And I’d better do something about it pronto, he said, or they’ll chew through the engine wires and then I’ll really be screwed! I was stunned and incensed. Why those sniveling little nihilistic rodent bastards! Don’t they know how much a cripple van costs? Die vermin die!

The oil change guy said to buy mothballs and nylons. Put the mothballs inside the stockings and hang them in the engine. The smell will scare away rats.

But I didn’t explain this to anyone at Walgreens. I just left and let everyone keep on thinking whatever they were thinking about me, if they were thinking anything about me at all. And that was a breakthrough. Cripples sacrifice a lot of privacy. It’s part of the gig. If I wasn’t crippled, I could have made that purchase completely anonymously—use the self-checkout machine, pay with cash so the NSA won’t even know.

But when you’re a cripple who needs help with just about everything, lots of people get their nose in your business. Some people learn your eating, sleeping, spending and shitting habits. And there’s this tendency on the part of the cripple to want apologize or to convey a rationale that justifies your needs. The pressure is especially intense for cripples who believe they are spokescripples for all other cripples.

But that gets exhausting. At some point you just say fuck it. In the immortal words of Popeye, I am what I am. Or was that Descartes? Whatever. No need to explain.

(Smart Ass Cripple is completely reader supported. Purchasing Smart Ass Cripple books at, subscribing on Amazon Kindle and filling the tip jar keeps us going. Please help if you can.)