Sunday, November 29, 2020

Purple Haze Blasting From the Playroom

When I was a teenaged inmate in the early 1970s at the state-operated boarding school for cripples, which I affectionately refer to as the Sam Houston Institute of Technology (SHIT), I resided on the Alpha Beta unit. A unit consisted of two adjacent corridors with rooms that each contained two hospital beds. Each corridor bore the name of a letter of the Greek alphabet. Adjoining the corridors were community bathrooms and the houseparents’ station. The people that did stuff like help us inmates get dressed and out of bed were called our houseparents.

At the far end of each unit was a playroom. The playrooms were large community rooms with a television mounted on the wall, board games and puzzles and crayons in the closet and stuff like that.

Well one day I heard the song Purple Haze blasting from the Alpha Beta playroom. And it was loud as hell, too, as if Hendrix and his band were playing it live. But what it really was was John Robbie, one of the inmates, got his hands on the record Purple Haze and played it full blast on the playroom stereo. I figured one of the houseparents would d go down there and put a stop to it right quick, but none of them ever did.

So John Robbie blasted Purple Haze over and over, sometimes playing it 20 or 30 times in a row it seemed like. And it also seemed like this went on every day for about a month but the houseparents just ignored it and went about their business as if they were all deaf. Rumor had it that everybody was afraid-- even the houseparents—to disturb John Robbie when he was immersed in Purple Haze because he was wild-eyed like a crazy man and he’d throw something at you, like a lamp. People said John Robbie was all hopped upon acid when he was blasting Purple Haze.

I doubted that any of this was true because I never saw any evidence to back it up, such as a shattered lamp in the playroom.  And otherwise John Robbie was a pretty cordial and easygoing guy.

But all this plunged me into a whirlwind of adolescent self-reflection. Maybe that’s what happens to a guy when he gets all hopped up on acid, I thought. So maybe I should get all hopped up on acid, too, because it was so cool how John Robbie got away with blasting Purple Haze. There was no way I could get away with anything like that. If I blasted any of my records, a houseparent would immediately rush down to the playroom and put me on restriction, which was like being on house arrest in my room for a week or so.

Now of course the records I had at the time were infinitely more annoying than Purple Haze, like The Carpenters. (Ouch! I can’t believe I just admitted that!) But that was a moot point because I would never have the guts to blast my records because I was terrified of being restricted.

But John Robbie didn’t seem to give a damn about being restricted while he was blasting Purple Haze. When he blasted Purple Haze, he was taunting the houseparents, daring them to restrict him. Maybe if I got all hopped up on acid I’d overcome my paralyzing fear of being restricted and free myself up to become so cool that even the houseparents would be afraid to mess with me.

But then John Robbie suddenly stopped blasting Purple Haze. My guess is he wore a hole in the record from playing it so much. And the houseparents quietly removed the stereo from the playroom.

Consequently, I never got hopped up on acid, nor did I ever overcome my fear of being restricted. But at least I stopped listening to the Carpenters. 

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Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Those Fancy-Ass Indy Car Drivers



How about those fancy-ass Indy car drivers?

I have two things to say about them. First, can we even refer to those things they drive as cars? I suppose they’re cars in the sense that they have four wheels and a steering wheel and an engine. By that loose definition, a go-kart is also a car. So are some lawnmowers. But those Indy cars are more like wheeled rockets than cars. I feel the same way about those wheelchairs that wheelchair racers use. It’s hard for me to think of those things wheelchairs. Yeah, they’re chairs with wheels, but hell, the frame is triangular and when you sit in one your ass is about an inch above the ground. Nobody rides around in one of those unless they’re trying to go 500 miles an hours and win a race. No sane cripple would use a chair like that for a normal activity, like going to a drug store, unless they were some kind of super pretentious show-off.

And here’s the other thing I have to say about those fancy-ass Indy car drivers.  Put them in a motorized wheelchair and then let's see how fancy they drive! They’ll end up capsized in a ditch straight off! It’s especially true if it’s a sip-and-puff chair, where you drive the wheelchair by blowing into a tube. I have one of those sip-and-puff attachments on my chair. I call it my blower. And when I was first trying to figure out how the hell to drive with it, oh man, I wildly zigzagged all over the place like somebody trying not to be shot by a sniper. You should have seen all the gashes and scrapes I put in the walls of the hallway outside my apartment.

 And so I picture a fancy-ass Indy car driver trying to drive my wheelchair using the blower and I laugh my ass off. I wish there was an Indianapolis 500 for blower wheelchairs.

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Monday, November 9, 2020

There's More Than One Way to Get Your Shoes Tied


Here I am 64 years old and I don’t know how to tie a shoe. I never learned. It’s not that I never had the opportunity to learn. I remember some occupational therapist trying hard to teach me how to tie a shoe back when I was a teenager. But I never learned.

 It wasn’t that tying shoes was too complex of a concept for me to grasp. I just resisted learning. While the OT was demonstrating the proper shoe-tying technique, I remember saying to myself, “Fuck it, I’ll just get slip-ons.”

I think the reason I refused to learn was that the OT told me that learning to tie my own shoe was an essential component of my “rehabilitation.” In other words, if I was going to have any chance of making it in the big bad world as an adult, I’d have to physically do as many things as possible for myself, such as tying my shoes.

But I guess back then, even though I was just a dumb kid, something inside me didn’t like the idea of independent shoe tying ability being considered a legitimate predictor of my future success. I’d gotten this far without tying my own shoes, with my mother and other people doing it for me. And it seemed a lot more efficient that way. It would probably take about 10 minutes or more for me to put on my own shoes because of my crippledness, whereas it took only about a minute for someone else to do it for me. That would leave me about nine minutes more time and energy each day to spend doing more important things. That’s nearly 55 hours a year. It really adds up.

So I probably decided subconsciously to roll the dice and gamble that I could get by without ever putting on my own shoes. And here I am 50 years later, not having wasted at least 2,750 hours trying to put on my own shoes, which is more than seven years. My shoes are put on my feet by the members of my pit crew, which is what I call the people I hire to come to my home and do stuff like that for me. Their wages are paid through public funds like Medicaid.

I suppose I’m supposed to be embarrassed that I don’t know how to tie a shoe. But actually, I’m kind of proud of it. It makes me a role model, in way. I show future cripplets that there’s more than one way to get your shoes tied, so to speak.

I’m content to go to my grave never knowing how to tie my shoes. In fact, that’s my goal.  

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