Friday, May 20, 2022

Typecast as a Genius


I bumped into one of my crippled friends who’s an actor. It seems he’s been typecast.

It used to be when an actor who really was crippled (and not just an uncrippled person playing the role of a cripple ) got typecast, the only roles they could get were as a smarmy little Tiny Tim or a sideshow freak or something like that.  But the last big role my actor friend had was on a short-lived television show where he played a computer genius. Now he has a role in another television show where he plays another kind of genius. They just gave him a different profession, but he's still a genius.

This is all the fault of that damn Stephen Hawking. I know he’s dead, but I won’t let that intimidate me into silence.

Because of him, now when people think about cripples, they don’t just picture smarmy little Tiny Tims and sideshow freaks anymore. They also picture geniuses.

But that still worries me. Because first off, I wonder if people are able to see us as geniuses because they think we don’t have anything better to do but sit around and become geniuses. Maybe they think our days consist of someone rolling our wheelchairs up to the window, a plaid blanket wrapped around our legs, and we sit there all day gazing forlornly at the stars.

And second off, I don’t want people to expect me to be a genius all the time in real life just because I’m crippled. I can’t even begin to humor them by pretending to be that smart, even if I wanted to. My friend can probably pull that off because he’s a good actor. But not me. If everyone's expecting a genius, I'm bound to let them down.

I suppose it’s better that people expect cripples to be geniuses instead of smarmy little Tiny Tims and sideshow freaks. But not much

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Sunday, May 8, 2022

Blind Pedestrians Versus Birds


Sometimes you can tell something is fake because it looks too real. Fake flowers are a good example. You can tell they’re fake right away because they look too perfect. They have no brown spots or any other flaws. Or how about wax fruit? You can tell it’s not fruit because it looks way too much like fruit.

There’s a street corner in Chicago where you can hear birds chirping all day and night, even in the dead of winter. But if you listen long enough you realize it’s bird sound effects because every time they chirp it’s the same number of chirps at the same cadence and the interval between flurries of chirps is always exactly the same.

On that same street corner there’s also a facility where blind people learn to walk the streets using white canes. So that makes sense. The bird sound effects come on whenever the WALK sign comes on at the traffic light so the blind people know it’s okay to cross the street.

But I wonder what happens if real birds chirp when the DON’T WALK sign is on. Blind people might wander out into traffic. Maybe whoever came up with the bird chirp idea is counting on blind people knowing the fake birds are fake because they sound too real.

But I wonder what happens if a parrot gets loose. A parrot could do a dead-on impression of the fake birds while the DON’T WALK sign is on, just so blind people will wander out into traffic. You know what smart asses parrots are.

Maybe,  just to be on the safe side, the signal that tells blind people it’s okay to cross the street ought to be something you never hear in the city, which rules out gun shots. How about a lion’s roar? If a real  lion gets loose, the blind people are screwed anyway.

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Friday, April 29, 2022

Good Reparations, Bad Reparations

 Take, for example, those parking spaces that are reserved just for cripples. I suppose that could be an example of cripple reparations

I mean, the definition of reparations is, "The making of amends for wrong or injury done."  And those parking spaces are a good symbol of how the uncrippled majority makes amends to us for being crippled.

I also get my city vehicle sticker for free and a property tax discount because I’m crippled. Those could also be looked upon as the uncrippled majority’s way  of making amends for wrong or injury done to me.

And the uncrippled majority doesn’t seem to have a problem with doing that, which is a much different reaction than a lot of people have to paying slavery reparations. They get all defensive about that idea.

One difference, I suppose, is that when the uncrippled majority gives cripples a parking space they aren’t admitting any wrongdoing. They think they’re making amends on behalf of God. It’s a lot easier to say you’re sorry about something you don’t think is your fault. Like if someone says they have cancer, you say, “I’m sorry,” even though you didn’t give them cancer. Now if they file a lawsuit accusing you of giving them cancer because you polluted their water or something, then it’s not so easy to say you’re sorry.

And that’s another thing. Cripples never got together and demanded stuff like parking spaces. Or at least that’s what the uncrippled majority thinks. Thus, when the uncrippled majority grants these things to us, it can feel good about itself. But if we demanded these parking spaces and such, then the uncrippled majority would give them to us out of a sense of guilt rather than compassion, which takes all the fun out of it for them

So maybe those demanding slavery reparations ought to try a different approach. Instead of finger pointing, which  makes the descendants of slaveowners feel like their self-esteem is being attacked, maybe they ought to try a more humble approach, like, “We know it’s not your fault, but if you could see fit to making amends for the injury or wrong done to us, we’d really appreciate it.”

The descendants of slaveowners will be a lot more receptive to the disarming charm of that message. Of course, all the descendants of slaves will get out of it will probably be some fancy parking spaces reserved just for them, but hey, it’s a start!

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Sunday, April 17, 2022

Stonewall for Cripples


As far as I know, there isn't a cripple equivalent of Stonewall. 

And that's a damn shame. But I'm still holding out hope that someday it'll happen. 

In 1969, in just about every state, it was illegal to be gay, or at least to admit it publicly. So there were underground gay bars. 

That summer, New York City police raided Stonewall, which was one of those bars. It wasn't the first such raid but this time, instead of dispersing, a lot of people got pissed off and resisted and fought back. And that freed the gay rights movement from the tyranny of operating within the constraints of politeness and civil discourse.

Cripples could sure use a galvanizing moment like that, where somebody finally says they're tired of being fucked with and they're not gonna take it anymore and that frees a whole bunch more of us to do the same. 

But the battleground probably won't be a bar, because I don't think there are any underground cripple bars, or any above ground cripple bars either. About the only establishments that specifically cater to cripples are nursing homes. And those places are like fly paper for cripples. Once they go in they get stuck there until they die.

So maybe what'll happen will be that during some quiet nursing home mealtime some cripple will knock their tray off of the table and there'll be a loud clatter and crash and that cripple will shout out, "I'm sick of this slop!" And that cripple will storm out of the nursing home and other revved up cripples will follow and pretty soon there'll be a big cripple protest outside of the nursing home. And the warden of the nursing home will call the police. And the riot squad will show up. But it won't be like  Stonewall, where  the cops tried to strong-arm, bully and drag the gay people out of the place. In this case, the riot squad will try to strong-arm, bully and drag the cripples back into the nursing home. But the cripples will fight back by pelting the riot cops with the slop the nursing home feeds them.

And then cripples in nursing homes all over world will join in the fun. It'll be an enormous, global  food fight! Won't that be cool?

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Sunday, April 10, 2022

The Social Security Hustle



Nowadays I’m doing the Social Security Hustle, which is  a dance that a lot of cripples do.

I started doing it last summer, right around the time I started officially collecting Social Security. And as pretty much every cripple who collects Social Security knows, just because you have a steady check coming in every month doesn’t mean you’re on Easy Street. Hell, if you’re one of those cripples who collects SSI, the most your monthly check can be is $841. Who the hell can get by on that?

So cripples collecting Social Security are constantly following scents that might lead to a side gig that will bring in a few extra bucks. But it’s a dance on a tightrope. You can’t bring in too many bucks because if Social Security finds out about it, your check may well get reduced or cut off altogether. But you can’t just do shit for free either because that defeats the purpose of doing the Social Security Hustle.

The first thing you have to do is make a list of what you have to offer that someone might actually pay money for. Everybody has something of value, even if it’s just an extra kidney or blood that can be the raw material for making plasma.

The thing I try to sell the most is the well of knowledge and wisdom I’ve developed from my decades of living as a cripple. Every once in a while I’ll find someone who thinks it’s worth it to pay me for a piece of that. And so I’ll end up in a focus group or being a guest speaker in a class or something like that. 

I recently hustled up a gig where I'll receive a bunch of different straws and then critique the experience of drinking through each of them. I don’t know who wants to know this information or why but who cares? If anybody knows a thing or two about drinking through a straw it’s me. I do it every day. I drink beer and martinis through a straw. I have strong opinions about which straw is most appropriate for which imbibing scenario, taking in to account the type of glass, the viscosity of the liquid and other factors. I’m probably one of the world’s leading experts on drinking through a straw. So if someone needs to hear my unique perspective on the matter, it’s only fair that they pay top dollar. 

But when you’re doing the Social Security Hustle, top dollar is about $100 because remember, you can’t hustle up too much. And a lot of times the payment for your hustle comes in the form of a gift card from Target or Amazon or someplace like that. It’s not exactly the same warm feeling you get when somebody hands you cold, hard cash, but it’ll do.

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Thursday, March 31, 2022



If you’ve noticed, I don’t like to call it ableism when cripples freak out verts (which is what I call people who walk because it’s short for vertical).

It’s not that I don’t believe a lot of verts are freaked out by cripples. Lord knows they are. But ableism doesn’t seem like the right word for it to me. It just sounds too gratingly wimpy. I prefer to call it something like crippophobia because that’s what it is. It’s fear of cripples.

And the best word I can come up with for that is crippophobia. Because I  looked it up and I couldn’t find a word for fear of cripples. There are a zillion weird phobias including fear of balloons and fear of chickens. But there is no word as far as I can tell for fear of cripples, which means that the people who come up with names for all the weird phobias must think there’s no such thing, which means none of them are crippled.

Because when verts are freaked out by cripples, it’s because they’re scared of us. It’s not the same type of fear some white people have of black people. They’re not afraid we’re going to move in next door and try to date their daughters. And they’re not afraid of us the same way people are afraid of the IRS. We can’t garnish their paychecks.

And it’s not like we’re all contagious. It’s not like if you’re in the same room with someone with cerebral palsy, you’ll suddenly become all spastic. If you breathe the same air as a little person, you won’t shrink.

Maybe people are scared of us for the same reason they’re scared of spiders—because they think we’re ugly. Most spiders can’t hurt anybody but they scare the hell out of people because they’re ugly.

But I think it’s probably more of an existential fear. The verts who don’t want cripples around them are scared because we remind them of the endless possibilities of life, and not in a good way. We remind them that anybody can be or become one of us, which we often find humorous because being one of us freaks them out way more than it does us.

 We remind them how tenuous everything is. They resent our existence because we’re a buzzkill.

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Thursday, March 17, 2022

Rollercoaster Therapy


 I’m surprised nobody has invented rollercoaster therapy for cripples yet.

I mean, somebody came up with horse therapy, right? You know what I ‘m talking about. Some people bring around a saddled-up horse and their mission is to take cripples horseback riding. And they’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen. Even if three other people have to ride the horse with you to keep your limp and floppy crippled body from falling off, they’ll gladly do it. If they have to rig up a saddle contraption that looks like a giant child’s car seat encased in steel girders to hold you upright when you ride, they’ll gladly do that, too.

And it seems like the more crippled you are, and thus the more uncomfortable and terrifying it is for you to ride a horse, the more the horse therapy people seem bent on trying to sign you up. I guess they think the things cripples miss most are the things we are least able to do. They must think that if we find that we really can do those things, sort of, then maybe we’ll believe that we can do anything.

Well, thanks but no thanks, at least not for me. I let myself be talked into riding horses back when I was a kid at cripple summer camp and all it did for me was scare the shit out of me. I was glad when it was over and I could get back in my wheelchair.  I still carry that fear to this day and I don’t wish to expend any energy endeavoring to conquer it. It’s a healthy fear. If not being able to ride a horse is part of what it means to be a cripple like me, I’m fine with that part of what it means to be a cripple like me.

 When riding a horse, I felt like a rag doll tethered to a bucking bronco. There is no fun in that. And that’s how riding a rollercoaster has made me feel, too, the time or two that I’ve tried it. The way it whips my wet noodle body around, I feel like a crash test dummy in a car that’s tumbling down a cliff. That’s not my idea of a good time.

So I’m surprised that no one has concluded that since riding a rollercoaster is probably the thing cripples like me are least equipped to do, it must be the thing we’re most longing to do. And so they’d make it their mission to arrange cripple field trips to amusement parks where they would do whatever it takes to get us all to ride rollercoasters.

Well, the good news is Medicaid probably wouldn’t pay for this kind of therapy. So we’ll have a good excuse to get out of it.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Sharing my Crippledness


I’ve met tons of cripples  of every shape and size in my day. Yessir if you name a variety of cripple, no matter how obscure, I’ve probably met one.

 But the one type of cripple I've never met are those fake cripples that are allegedly going around pretending to be crippled just so they can tap into stuff like Social Security and Medicaid. If there are any people like that, there can’t be very many of them and they aren’t too smart because you won’t get rich pretending to be crippled. It violates the first rule of successful gold digging, which is to  always dig where there is gold.

Actually, I have to take that back because you can get rich by pretending to be crippled. But first you have to be a famous actor. If you’re somebody like Tom Hanks or Al Pacino or Daniel Day Lewis you can play a crippled protagonist  in a movie and everyone will say what a marvelous actor you are and there’ll be all kinds of Oscar buzz.

 But if you’re not one of those guys, trying to mooch your way onto easy street by pretending to be crippled is a stupid idea. So I don’t worry about it. It’s like worrying you’ll be gored by a unicorn.

Maybe that’s why I don’t feel all selfish about sharing my crippledness, like some cripples I know. Whenever these cripples hear about someone with something like schizophrenia proclaiming to be crippled, they scoff and call them a fraud. They don’t want to admit them into the cripple club because they think it will cheapen their own crippled stature, I guess.

I think these cripples are listening too much to the republican and neoliberal types. When they want to cut the hell out of stuff like Medicaid, they try to tell all the panicky cripples who rely on stuff like Medicaid to stay alive not to worry because it won’t hurt them one bit. Even though they’re cutting millions, the cripples who are truly deserving won’t notice any difference. Only those make a mockery of what it means to be crippled will be cut loose.

I guess they want to start a cripple civil war. They want us to believe that there’s only so much pie to go around so the more cripples there are, the less pie there’ll be for us genuine cripples who have paid our cripple dues.

But I don’t know about all that. I’ve always felt like the more people who fit the definition of crippled, the merrier. I figure the more of us there are, the more we’ll be taken seriously.

If there’s not enough pie, then make more pie. 

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Friday, February 25, 2022

Those Amazing Telepathic Service Dogs

I’ve heard about those amazing service dogs that somehow communicate telepathically with the crippled humans they serve. The dog senses that the human is about to have an epileptic seizure and it jumps up and knocks the human to the ground and  lies on top of them until they stop lurching around so they don’t hurt themselves , or something like that. That truly is amazing. Even Lassie couldn’t do shit like that.

I wish there were service dogs that communicated telepathically with other types of cripples who don’t have epilepsy. There were times when I sure could have used one.

Like for instance, when I was a kid, I had a terrible addiction problem. I was hopelessly hooked on those claw machines where there’s a bunch of stuffed animals in a big glass box along with a crane that looks like a claw.  You drop money in the machine which buys you about a minute to operate the claw with joysticks and try to grab a stuffed animal and drop it in the slot so you could reach in and grab it and take it home.

Whenever I passed one of those machines, I couldn’t resist indulging and I’d blow all my money. It would’ve been great to have a service dog that sensed telepathically that I was about to do something stupid and stopped me by knocking me out of my wheelchair and lying on top of me on the ground until the impulse passed, or something like that.

Or as an adult, I’ve been in that situation everyone ends up in sooner or later, where you’ve broken up with someone but in a  moment of weakness you get back together. But then it doesn’t take long to remember why you broke up in the first place. It sure would’ve saved me a lot of grief had one of those amazing telepathic service dogs been around when I was about to make that drunken phone call at 3 a.m. to knock me out of my wheelchair and lie on top of me on the ground until the impulse passed, or something like that.

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Saturday, February 19, 2022

I Think I Got Away With it

 I was talking to a smart young woman who is a high school senior. She told me she's  applied to 12 colleges and is waiting to hear back from them so she can choose which one to attend. She asked me how many colleges I applied to when I was a high school senior. I said I applied to one.

People said I was a smart kid when I was a senior but my college options were limited nonetheless because I was crippled and that was 1974. That was the year after the passage of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the federal law that said entities receiving federal money couldn’t discriminate against cripples. The Rehab Act hadn’t had time to take root yet so there weren’t a lot of cripple-accessible college campuses. About the only college that was accessible enough for me to attend was Southern Illinois University so that’s where I applied and luckily enough I got in or I’d have been screwed.

I laugh hard when I hear those scandalous stories about people who are rich and/or famous doing stuff like paying bribes and cheating to get their kids into some hot-shit college, like Stanford. I laugh hard because I think about how ridiculous it would be for anybody to pay bribes and cheat to get into Southern Illinois University.

But actually, I’m lucky I didn’t have to cheat or bribe my way into Southern Illinois University. The high school I attended was a state-operated boarding school for cripples, which I refer to as the Sam Houston Institute of Technology, because it forms an acronym that conveys the quality of the education I received there (SHIT). But the real name of the place was the Illinois Children’s Hospital School, which is even worse. That’s the name of the school on my high school diploma. It hardly sounds like an elite college prep academy. And my grades were mediocre, because I was a teenager and I didn’t give a shit. And my score on my college entrance exam was mediocre, too, because I was a teenager and I didn’t give a shit.

So I’m still amazed that the person at Southern Illinois University who reviewed my college application didn’t stick it right into the shredder, after sharing it with all of their coworkers for a good laugh. But for some reason they accepted me. And it’s too late for them to take it back. I think I got away with it.

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Tuesday, February 8, 2022

When the Bottom Isn't the Bottom

According to the dictionary, there is such a word as subminimum.

I wish the dictionary was wrong about that, but, sadly, it is not. Subminimum should be enough of an oxymoron to invalidate itself as a word. Minimum means bottom and sub means beneath. So how can you go beneath the bottom? Is the bottom the bottom or isn’t it?

 I hear the word subminimum a lot, but only in reference to the wages some crippled workers are paid. There’s a provision in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 that allow employers to pay some of their crippled employees less than they’re allowed to pay their uncrippled employees. That’s why I’ve heard a lot of stories of crippled workers being paid pennies per hour.

And so when it comes to paying crippled workers, the bottom isn’t the bottom. The example sentence in the dictionary that uses the word subminimum ought to be,  The cripples starved because their wages were subminimum.

Some people in Congress have tried to change the law to get rid of that stupid provision. But their legislative efforts have died of neglect in committee. Believe it or not, there are some heavyweight political forces that make it their business to ensure that the law doesn’t change, (I suppose that’s not that hard to believe.) I won’t share with you the altruistic rationale they present for paying cripples shit. That would be like dumping a bucket of horseshit over your head and I know you get enough of that as it is. I like to think of Smart Ass Cripple as a safe space for people seeking refuge from horseshit—a horseshit-free zone, if you will.

Suffice it to say that there are a lot of greedy-pig “nonprofit” organizations that could lose big money if they have to pay cripples no less than minimum wage. Maybe the example sentence in the dictionary that uses the word subminimum ought to be, Bosses who pay cripples pennies per hour have moral and ethical standards that are subminimum.

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Monday, January 31, 2022

Stripped of My Courage Award

  If you are crippled by Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease, you could win a Courage Award.  It seems there are two organizations that give out an annual Courage Award to somebody with Lou Gehrig’s .

But as far as I can tell, no organization  gives out a Courage Award to people who have that which makes me crippled. And even if there was such an award, I sincerely doubt they would give it to me. And if they did give it to  me, I’d wonder about them. Like Groucho Marx said, I wouldn’t join any club that would have me for a member.

And I’d probably be all stressed out if I won a Courage Award because I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. Because I’d figure it would then be my responsibility to go around being the symbol of cripple courage all the time and that’s sounds like a lot of work. But then again maybe it wouldn’t be much work because it seems like cripples don’t have to do much for some people  to think we’re courageous except sit there and be crippled. That automatically makes us courageous.

That’s the problem. I don’t know what it takes to be the symbol of cripple courage. I’m not sure anybody does, not even the people who give out and receive Courage Awards. I imagine that cripple Courage Awards don’t come with an expiration date or anything like that. It’s not like you’re the symbol of cripple courage for a year or so and then you’re off the hook. No, you’re probably expected to be the symbol of  cripple courage for the rest of your life. And so I’d be constantly worried that I would inevitably say or do something that would be considered to be decidedly uncourageous. And then I might be stripped of my Courage Award. How embarrassing would that be? I bet that’s never happened to any cripple ever. 

What a disgrace.

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