Sunday, September 29, 2019

To Bitch, or Not to Bitch

I want to write a cripple version of Hamlet, where Hamlet says this:

To bitch, or not to bitch, that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to bitch
And by opposing end them. Or maybe not.

Because the thing is, although I bitch all the time, I never set out intending to bitch. I never say to myself, “What a gorgeous gift of a day. I think I’ll go find something to bitch about.” Lord knows if finding something to bitch about was the goal of each day, my ambition would be easily fulfilled. Every day I pass some place I can’t get into. Each day would be as challenging as playing tic-tac-toe.

So if I stopped to bitch about every little thing that deserves to be bitched about, I might not ever make it off my block. And fruitful bitching, beyond the token bitching that we all do at some point to some poor powerless boob on the front lines of customer service, requires investing a lot of time and energy. Like for instance, the last time I went to the convenient store downstairs, the aisles were so crowded with cardboard pop-up displays that I couldn’t fit through without knocking a bunch of shit over. I bitched to the clerk, who shrugged. I demanded contact info for the manager, which the clerk wrote down and handed to me. But did I ever follow up? Hell no! Who the hell’s got time?

If I bitched every single time I should, I’d be super stressed out all the time. But when I don’t bitch every single time I should, I’m still super stressed out. Because I know that if I don’t bitch, when someone in the future bitches, the person they’re bitching to may well say, “Nobody ever complained before.” And I fucking hate when that happens to me. Like for instance again, I went to this lefty political event a this bar that hosts a lot of lefty political events. I heard this venue had two whopper steps on the entrance so I called but they told me don’t worry, there’s a ramp they put down and wheelchair cripples roll right in all the time.

But when I showed up the ramp was just two planks that were way too short so it was steep as hell. How any cripple got up that ramp without popping a vicious wheelie and wiping out was a mystery to me. So I bitched. And the owner of the venue said, “We’ve been doing this for 18 years. Nobody ever complained before.”

That’s what I mean. That’s why I feel an obligation to bitch. Sooner or later, somebody’s gotta do it.

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Friday, September 20, 2019

Asshole Judges

Yeah yeah I know I know. Lawyers and lawsuits are important. Cripples have gotten a lot of good things out of suing for our rights. Hell, I’ve been involved in a few of those lawsuits myself.

But the big problem with suing is a lot of judges are assholes. Yeah yeah I know I know. It’s not just judges. There are assholes in every population and every human is, by nature, as asshole to some degree. Assholishness is like racism. We have to view it as a spectrum and recognize that we are all positioned on it somewhere. Nobody can honestly say they are never in any way an asshole. Assholishness is too ingrained in our culture for any of us to be unsullied by it. The best we can do is acknowledge our assholishness, humbly recognize and learn from those times when it manifests and try to adjust our behavior.

But judges seem to me to have a higher percentage of abject assholes among them. Maybe it’s all that “your honor” shit. When everybody has to call you your honor all the time, even if you’re pretty much an asshole, it’s gotta be hard not to get full of yourself.

Or maybe it’s just that asshole judges stand out more than your average Joe Six Pack asshole because they have so much power. There’s nothing worse than a powerful asshole.

Whatever it is, the problem with lawsuits is you can do everything right and still lose. You can hire the most brilliant lawyers and employ the most brilliant strategy. But if your case ends up in the lap of an asshole judge, you’re screwed. And it can easily happen. History is full of court decisions that are so monumentally boneheaded that the only conceivable explanation is the judge was a colossal asshole.

So when it comes to my rights, I’m not ready to settle for letting some asshole determine what they are. I’ll join in a lawsuit or legal action because why not? Sometimes they actually work. But I prefer street protests because I feel much more in control of the eventual outcome. In a street protest, you call an asshole an asshole. You mock, challenge and defang false authority rather than submit to it. That’s the way to wear the bastards down. You don’t have to call some asshole your honor.

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Friday, September 13, 2019

Viva Marca Bristo!

Once in a very great while, there’s a disturbance in the force that’s so significant that it compels us here at Smart Ass Cripple to take a brief break from our incessant smart assery in order to pay homage to one of the greats. It then becomes our task to attempt to convey, in our own feeble way, the magnitude of this person’s greatness.

Such is the case with Marca Bristo. First, let’s get the resume' stuff out of the way. She founded and was President and CEO of Access Living, the center for independent living (CIL) in Chicago. Marca served as the chair of the National Council on Independent Living for many years after co-founding the organization in 1982. President Clinton appointed her as chair of the National Council on Disability. She was given the Distinguished Service Award of the President of the United States in 1992. Etc.

When she died September 8, her obit appeared in publications all over the world. Statements of condolence were issued by the mayor of Chicago, the governor of Illinois, both Illinois U.S. Senators, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and whole bunch of others. Barack Obama put out a statement that said,
"Marca had a remarkable way of bringing out the best within us. For me, she was a trusted voice and a persistent, buoyant spirit."

But what does all that mean for mopes like me? Well, let’s start with Access Living. It was one the first CILs in the U.S. when it opened in a cramped storefront in 1980. It was the kind of place cripples like us hadn’t seen before. Just like the first CIL, which was founded a few years earlier in Berkeley, California, it was operated by cripples and they set the agenda. They pushed for things like accessible public transportation. Holy shit! We were used to dealing with, or should I say trying to avoid dealing with, behemoth cripple charities like the Muscular Dystrophy Association that were practically useless. There were never any cripples anywhere near in charge of these charities. They never asked you what you needed and they would never do anything to rock the boat. If they decided to give you a fucking pony, you were expected to take it and be grateful.

Soon, some of us who hung around Access Living began doing wild shit like organizing actions where we blocked streets and city buses and disrupted meetings of the Chicago Transit Authority board with bullhorns and noisemakers to demand public transit access.

The point is, all of us who did this stuff found each other at Access Living. We realized we shared many of the same frustrations and a desire to do something about it. When cripples acted uppity like this, especially in the 1980s, it often put Access Living in a tenuous position. It sometimes pissed off elected officials and funders who could make life hard for Access Living if they wanted to. I’m sure Marca was tempted to forsake us, but she never did. She never joined in our street actions as far as I remember, but she always let us use Access Living’s office to gather and plot. We used the phones and copy machines to communicate. Access Living staff often joined in our actions. And in later years, some of us got jobs at Access Living and we were actually paid to organize! Holy shit again!

I can’t say I knew Marca well personally. We only hung out socially maybe four or five times, though I always thoroughly enjoyed it when we did. Our relationship was mostly business, but the nature of the business made it an intimate relationship to me. I guess you could say we were teammates. We spent nearly 40 years on the same team that started off as laughable underdogs but slugged it out with the big boys and won enough to be taken seriously. When you lose a teammate like that, it really hurts.

But the team plays on, largely because Marca introduced so many incredible people to this incredible team and signed them up to be a part of it. She was wise and humble enough to not make it all about her so the team could take on the complex and vibrant personality of the thousands of people that propel it. Because of that, the team can somehow survive her loss and be stronger than ever. That’s exactly what she wanted.

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Sunday, September 8, 2019

I'm a 99 Percenter!

They took my vital signs. They put that clip on my finger to measure the level of oxygen saturation in my blood. It came up 99 percent

I had no doubt that that would be the outcome, but for some weird reason I felt a strong sense of vindication. I felt arrogant and defiant. I felt like going outside and shouting out, to no one in particular, “I got 99 percent oxygen saturation so fuck you!”

It was sort of like I felt after I aced my latest colonoscopy. The doctor said I wouldn’t need another one for five years. And I said to myself, “There you go all y’all mofos! Look at me! I’m cleeeeeeeeeeeean as can be!” But that buzz didn’t last too long because then I said to myself, “Now you only have to worry about the other nine million types of cancer you could have.” I swear to God, sometimes I’m such a fucking party poop.

But my oxygen high lasted all day. The first thing I wanted to do was call all the doctors who said I’d be lucky to make it to age 30 and leave a message saying, “Guess what? I’m 63 years old and my oxygen saturation level is 99 percent! So suck it!” But, sadly, I couldn’t call any of those doctors because they’re all dead.

Later on I watched a baseball game and I said to myself, “You players think you’re so goddam superior to me because I’m crippled. I know how you guys are! You visit cripples at the local children’s hospital with camera crews following you. You give the cripples autographed balls and pat them on the head and when the cripples are out of earshot, you say stuff to the camera crews like, 'Geez, when I see what these kids are going through, I feel so lucky.’ Well let me ask you this, superstars. What might your oxygen saturation level happen to be? What’s that I hear you say? Somewhere around 99 percent? Hah! Who’s so superior now, bitcheeeeeeeees!”

I never found watching a baseball game to be more satisfying.

I ought to have my oxygen saturation level tested every day.

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