Thursday, July 11, 2024

The Battle of the Street Beggars

There are a lot of those Latin American immigrants who are seeking asylum in the U.S. hanging around the city here. When they first started showing up here about a year ago, I was pissed. I wasn’t pissed at them.  I was pissed at the guy who put them on a bus and  dumped them all here, Governor Greg Abbott of Texas. I figured he was trying to pull some racist bull shit, like guys like him love to do. I figured he was trying to make everyone up here believe that these dirty Spanish speakers were invading our country and taking away our jobs.

At first, the more I saw of those immigrants, the more I felt sorry for them.  They looked like regular folks who were just seeking decent work so they can take care of their families and enjoy their lives.

But now I ‘m thinking maybe Abbott was right. Maybe they really are invading our country and taking away our jobs. They’re taking away cripple jobs. Because what’s the job most closely associated with cripples? Street beggars, right? I’m not basing that on data from sociological research or anything like that. I’m just going by how I think cripples are viewed by verts (which is what I call people who can walk because it’s short for vertical).

Anyway, it seems like a lot of the Latin American immigrants are going for those jobs, probably because those are the only jobs they can get. You don’t need a permit or a license or anything. All you need to do is go sit on a corner with a cup. And you don’t really need a cup.

When I have personally encountered these Latin American immigrants., it has usually been when I passed them as they were being street beggars. I know it’s them because they usually hold a sign scrolled with black marker on a sturdy hunk of cardboard that identifies them as such. They are wise to do this because it gives them a marketing advantage. Let’s face it, if you’re walking down the streets of Chicago and you’re feeling generous enough to toss a few coins at a street beggar, you can’t do that with every street beggar you see, or you’ll go broke. You must be discerning. You have to give your money to the beggar that you feel will give you the best bang for your coins, so to speak.

 That used to mean that crippled beggars had the marketing advantage because, all things considered, most people found it doubly satisfying to toss their coins at a crippled beggar rather than some begging vert.  I’m not basing that on data from sociological research or anything like that. I’m just going by how I think cripples are viewed by verts.

But now it seems like the Latin American beggars are undercutting the crippled beggars. My suspicions were confirmed recently when I was walking around downtown and I came across a family of begging Latin Americans. It looked like their cup was pretty full. But around the corner was a forlorn-looking crippled beggar. He shook his cup and it sounded pathetically empty.

I can’t blame people for wanting to give their money to Latin American immigrant beggars. It’s like giving a big middle finger to Abbott, which makes it feel extra good.

But if cripples can’t beg anymore, we’re screwed!

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Saturday, June 29, 2024

The Best Medicine is Medicine

 

 

I took some medical diagnostic tests and went to see my doctor to get the results. My doctor entertered the room with a glum look on his face. He wrote something on a  piece of paper and handed it to me.

On the piece of paper it said: RX one comedian. “What's that supposed to mean?” I said to my doctor.

And my doctor replied, “That’s the only treatment that  your insurance company will pay for. You see, your insurance company believes that laughter is the best medicine, probably because it’s a whole lot cheaper than giving you real medicine. The idea is to make you laugh.”

So I called the 800 number of my insurance company and I told the person who answered the phone that I had a prescription for one comedian. And the person who answered the phone said that my insurance company would dispatch a comedian to make me laugh. But, she said I couldn’t just pick any comedian. She said that they would send me one of the “in-network comedians“ that has been approved by my insurance company.

I should’ve known that any comedian thar would work for the little bit of money my insurance company must’ve been paying them couldn’t have been very good. The sent  me Las Vegas rejects who probably emceed in sleazy lounges in the Catskills. It was the comedy team of Tommy and Seymour. Seymour was a ventriloquist dummy. He sat on Tommy’s lap. Tommy said. “We just flew in from L.A.” And then Seymour quipped, “And boy are our arms tired.” They proceeded to tell a bunch of jokes about Seymour’s mother-in-law and what an old battleax she is.

I never even cracked a smile. I was just mad the whole time they were doing their schtick. I kept thinking about how much I pay my insurance company in premiums every month. 

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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Linguistic Milestones

 

 I am not a multilingual person. I am one of the many tragic victims of that stupid mentality in this country that proudly proclaims, “We don’t speak no foreign languages in America! We speak English!”

  But I am  a multilingual person when it comes to cussing people out.

I believe that I can say kiss my ass in Spanish. But I don’t know for sure. My translation might be too literal. When I was a high school freshman and I was taking a Spanish class, the first thing I did when I got my hands on a Spanish/English dictionary was look up how to say kiss my ass. (You know how adolescent boys are,) I looked up those three words separately and then put them together and came up with beso mi asno.

My dad spent a good deal of time in Germany and spoke some German so one day I asked him how to say kiss my ass in German. He said it was lick mish mosh. I don’t think that’s true but it’s funny so I go with it.

This was before computers were a thing. An adolescent boy these days can learn how to say kiss my ass in a bunch of different languages much easier than I could. He can use Google Translate or something like that.

 It’s been a long time since I was an adolescent boy but in some ways I still think like one. And so the next linguistic milestone I have set for myself is to learn how to say kiss my ass in American Sign Language. Whenever there’s someone on stage and they say a swear word and there’s an ASL interpreter on the stage with them, I quickly look at the interpreter to see if I can catch the sign they use to translate the swear word so the deaf may enjoy it. I’m confident that if I am diligent enough, by applying this method, the triumphant  day will come when I Iearn how to say kiss my ass in ASL.

I bet that’s something you can’t learn on Google Translate.

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Saturday, June 8, 2024

Do-it-Yourself Excommunication

 

I remember it as a very liberating moment of my childhood. All of us Catholic kids were told that if we didn’t do the things a good Catholic was supposed to do, like go to church every week and put money in the basket, we could be excommunicated.

Excommunicated! That word sounded so scary and painful. I pictured a ritual where I am marched out blindfolded into a yard with my head hanging in shame and my hands tied behind my back, like a prisoner headed for the gallows. A priest rips open my shirt a uses a hot branding iron to tattoo the letter X on my chest. I am then drawn and quartered by four horses.

But then I found out that when you’re excommunicated, all that means is that you’re kicked out of the church and thus you can’t take communion anymore and stuff like that. And I remember thinking, “Is that all that big scary word means? If I don’t do the things a good Catholic is supposed to do, is that all they can do about it? Big deal!”

 You mean, I won’t have to go to church every week? I won’t have to  put money in the basket every week? That sounded more like a reward than a punishment.

 I always resented giving money. I understood that the church needed money to pay for stained glass windows and shit like that. But why did it have to be my money? I mean, if Jesus could turn water into wine, couldn’t he also turn anything he wanted into a pile of cash? So it seemed to me that any priest who could pray worth a damn could persuade Jesus to make it rain dollar bills.

And I never cared much about taking communion either. I thought the wafer tasted like notebook paper.

If I was excommunicated, I wouldn’t have to think about stuff like that anymore. That’s another reason why it suddenly seemed like a pretty sweet deal. So I just stopped going to church, which is how I quietly excommunicated myself.

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Thursday, May 30, 2024

My Adolescent Expertise

 

As I recall, they pulled me out of class one day at the state-operated boarding school for cripples, which I refer to as the Sam Houston Institute of Technology (SHIT).

I was worried that I did something wrong. But what?

“Miss Joyce wants to see you in her office,” I was told. But what could I have possibly done wrong that would make them send me to  Miss Joyce’s office? Miss Joyce was the head of recreation. Her office was right next to the gym.

I was escorted to Miss Joyce’s office. She greeted me with a big smile. “Its so great to see you!” she said to me. And then she said, “I sent for you because I’m going to a costume party. My costume is going to be Poland.” She said she wanted to cover her costume, which would be a hunk of papier mache shaped like the country of Poland, with Polack jokes. “I understand that you know a lot of Polack jokes,” Miss Joyce said. “Can you tell  me some?”

 For those of you who weren’t around back then, there was a genre of jokes known as Polack jokes. And the point of each of these jokes was to illustrate how incredibly stupid all Polish people were supposed to be.

And it’s true that I had a million Polack jokes in my repertoire and I told them every chance I got. This was my adolescent expertise. I remember some of my Polack jokes  but I won’t tell them  anyway because they’re all pretty dumb. But on that day I regaled Miss Joyce with Polack jokes and she took copious notes. I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t come through for her that day. Would I have been punished? Maybe I would’ve been restricted to my room until I came up with some good Polack jokes.

As far as I know, my encounter with Mis Joyce was not video taped or recorded for posterity in any way. I’m grateful for that. That was a simpler time when a guy could make jokes about how incredibly stupid all Polish people are and get a big laugh. But now I would be ostracized, as if I was helping Miss Joyce put on black face.

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Friday, May 17, 2024

The Unintended Consequences of Cripple Awareness Campaigns

 I still assume that maybe it’s safe for me to wear  a red shirt when I shop at Target, because I ‘m crippled. But I’m not so sure anymore.

If there’s anybody out there who has never shopped at Target, you need to know that all of their employees wear red shirts. Thus, if you wear a red shirt to Target, it’s quite likely that another shopper will flag you down and ask you where they can find motor oil or yogurt or whatever. The most foolproof strategy for avoiding this annoyance is to never wear a red shirt when you go to Target.

But I always thought that wearing a red shirt would be no problem for me because even more conspicuous than my red shirt would be the motorized wheelchair I’m always sitting in. I figured that that would cancel out my red shirt because most people would see it and think that cripples aren’t capable of doing anything as lofty as working at Target. So I must just be some random crippled  old man whose nurse put a red shirt on him this morning.

But the last time I went to Target I went to the men’s department and there were various pictures posted around that featured young men smiling big and really enjoying their lives while wearing the items of menswear that were for sale. And one of those young men was in a wheelchair.

That means that Target is trying to convey the message that cripples are people, too. And if enough people who shop at Target come to believe, as a result of this cripple awareness campaign, that cripples are people, too, then they might also come to believe that therefore, cripples must also be capable of working at Target.

And if that happens, I’ll probably have to  think about whether or not I might end up at Target, before I put on a red shirt.

Sometimes cripple awareness campaigns have unintended consequences.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Cripple Spaz Fights

 You could find just about every genre of cripple at the state-operated boarding school from which I graduated 50 years ago. I refer to this school as the Sam Houston Institute of Technology (SHIT).


There were bleeders and polios and amputees. You name it. There were spastic kids. We called them spazzes. Every now and then their arms and or legs would suddenly start flailing around involuntarily and uncontrollably, especially when they got agitated. When that happened, you’d  better stay away from them or you might accidentally get punched in the face and/or kicked in the crotch.


One of the spazzes was particularly big and strong. His name was Arnie. One day Arnie was being fed by one of the housemothers. (The men and women who helped the cripples get in and out of bed and wiped our butts and stuff like that were called our houseparents.) And, right out of the blue, Arnie spazzed and his fist came down like a hammer right on top of the housemother’s head. Arnie didn’t mean to do it. But he knocked the housemother right out of her chair and she said she saw stars.


I wish I had an entrepreneurial spirit back then. I could have seized the opportunity to make a lot of money. I could have organized Cripple Spaz Fights. Just roll two spastic cripples into a ring, set them side by side, lock their wheelchair brakes and let them have an t it. Someone in corner crews for the spastic cripples might have to do something from afar to get them agitated, like tickling them with a really long feather.


But people probably would have come from far and wide to watch these fights and place bets. Hell, people come from far and wide to watch roosters and dogs fight to the death and place bets. So why not cripples?


Arnie would have been the champ.

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Tuesday, April 30, 2024

The Joy of Sinning

  When I was a kid, I really wanted to be a sinner. That was the first time I felt something resembling ambition. 


This was brought on by the fact that even though I was a Catholic, nobody pressured me to go to confession regularly, like they did all the other Catholic kids in the neighborhood who weren’t crippled. 


I should have just left well enough alone and accepted this exemption as the blessing that it was. And for while I did. But as I got older I asked myself why I was excused from confessing regularly. And I came to the conclusion that the reason must be that the Catholic church didn’t think cripples were capable of being sinners.


I was insulted by this. I felt it was my duty to prove them wrong by sinning, regularly. But what kind of sinner would I be? Which of the Ten Commandments would I break? I didn’t want to kill or  steal from anybody. Those Commandments made sense to me. Coveting my neighbor’s wife didn’t seem like such a bad thing to do. But one of my neighbors was a burly fireman and the other  neighbor didn’t have a wife. And even if I wanted to covet the fireman’s wife, I didn’t think there was any chance that she would covet me back.


Another problem was that the Catholic church had a much broader definition of sin than I did. The Catholic church thought everything from jerking off to belching at the dinner table was a sin. But I thought if you wanted commit a sin you had to commit murder. That was pretty much it


But that turned out to be a good thing after all because if I went with the Catholic church definition, that meant that nobody  could go a week between confessions without committing some sort of sinful infraction. Not even a cripple could do that.


To be human was by its very nature, to be a sinner. So I embraced that premise, even though I knew it was bull shit, because if that was the case I would automatically sin regularly without even trying. All I had to do was live my life.. That made sinning a lot easier to do.


It was true that by taking this approach, I wouldn’t experience the full joy of sining. Much of the time, I wouldn’t even know that I was sinning.


But I was a sinner nonetheless.. I cloud look back each week and feel confident that I had done something the Catholic had previously thought I was incapable of doing.


Just because I didn’t feel like a sinner didn’t mean I wasn’t one.


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Monday, April 22, 2024

The Cripple School Color Guard

 Here’s another way you can tell if a crippled adult went to segregated high school for cripples only, like I did. If that crippled adult was in their high school marching band, or if the high school they went to even had a marching band, then it most likely wasn’t a segregated high school for cripples only. Because segregated high schools for cripples only don’t bother to have marching bands.

No, the closest thing to a marching band I ever saw was at the segregated elementary school for cripples only. We had a color guard there. And every school assembly began with the presentation of colors. Three of the crippled students marched up the aisle of the assembly hall. The first two carried the flags of the city and state and the last flag was the American flag. The color guard kids marched up onto the stage and mounted the colors. And then they all put their hands on their hearts and Ied everyone in reciting The Pledge of Allegiance.


I really wanted to be one of the color guard kids. I thought it was so cool. But I didn’t know how to go about signing up. There weren’t any auditions or anything that I knew of.  I knew that the gym teacher organized it all. But other than that it just seemed like certain kids were randomly selected to be on the color guard and they were sent to the gym teacher and he took it from there.


As I recall, all of the kids in the color guard were the cripples who could walk without crutches or anything, like the hemophiliacs (aka the bleeders). Maybe the gym teacher was afraid that a wheelchair cripple might drop a flag or something and that might start a big commotion. There were definitely no spastic cripples in the color guard.


But the color guard kid I was most envious of was the one who didn’t even join in the marching. He sat off to the side behind a snare drum and drummed out the solemn, steady beat to which the color guard marched. I thought it would be so cool to have that job. I bet it made the chicks swoon. That was the closest thing we had to a rock star at the cripple school.


But it’s probably a good thing that I didn’t get to be a drummer at the segregated elementary school for cripples only. Because after I graduated from there I went on to an even more segregated boarding school for cripples only that was operated by the state. I refer to it as the Sam Houston Institute of Technology  (SHIT). They didn’t even have a color guard at SHIT, let alone a marching band. So would have been sitting there all alone with my drumsticks, frustrated that I didn’t have a creative outlet.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2024

An Essay Comparing and Contrasting Abandoned Dogs and Abandoned Cripples




I saw one of those television commercials where they try to convince everyone to donate $19 a month to an organization that saves the lives of abandoned dogs. And it occurred to me that abandoned dogs have a lot in common with abandoned cripples.



The abandoned dogs in this commercial ended up in some place that looked like a puppy mill. The sad voiceover of the narrator said these poor dogs had been dumped there. Indeed, it looked like the mustache-twirling villains that ran the place had vamoosed in a flash because they got a tip that a raid was coming

And it hit me that a lot of abandoned cripples are also dumped in sinister places that are very much like puppy mills. They’re called nursing homes but maybe we should call them cripple mills. Puppy mills profit off of their hostage puppies by selling them. Nursing homes profit off of their hostage cripples by taking away their Social Security and Medicaid money. The nursing homes send the bill to Medicaid for the room and board of the hostages and the hostages also have to sign away all but about $30 a month of their Social Security income to the nursing home.

The narrator in the television commercial spoke with urgency how the poor dogs are trapped in overcrowded conditions and get very little freedom of movement. The same is true of cripples trapped in  nursing homes. They might have three or four strangers as roommates and none of the hostages can leave the grounds without a doctor’s permission.

But there are some ways in which abandoned dogs and abandoned cripples don't have much in common. The narrator for the commercial said there is still hope for dogs like these. There was a video of several people coming to rescue the abandoned dogs. All the people wore windbreakers and on the back was the acronym of the organization that was trying to get everyone to donate $19 a month.

I’ve never seen a television commercial that tries to convince everyone to donate $19 a month to an organization that saves abandoned cripples. There must not be any organizations that raids nursing homes and frees all of the crippled hostages.

It looks like abandoned dogs have a whole lot more going for them than abandoned cripples do.

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Sunday, March 31, 2024

What the Hell Were They Thinking?

 I have a friend named  Al Pacino (Smart Ass Cripple alias). He has a brother who has autism. Let’s call him Bill  Pacino. 

Both of their parents are dead so Al Pacino is Bill  Pacino’ legal guardian. That means Al Pacino makes Bill Pacino’s major life decisions for him and watches out for him. He keeps a sharp eye out but sometimes weird stuff happens to Bill Pacino anyway 


Bill Pacino lives in a group home with four other guys. One of Bill Pacino’s great passions in life is food. He gobbles it up. Al Pacino says this gets Bill Pacino in trouble sometimes at the group home because he eats other people’s food. He’s not trying to be a jerk. He just doesn’t understand the concept of food  belonging to certain people. He opens the fridge and sees something  he likes and he eats it.


And because he lives in a group home, Bill Pacino also participates in a day program. A lot of cripples who live in nursing homes and group homes are sent to day programs whether they like it or not. The idea is  to give them something to do besides sit around the nursing home or group home with their thumbs up their butts. A bunch of not-for-profit organizations have popped up to provide these programs. The website of one of those organizations, which operates in the area where Bill Pacino lives, says its day programs offer participants “the opportunity to engage in their community, develop support groups outside of the family, as well as provide an environment to cultivate personal interests and vocational skills.”


Some cripples who have taken part in day programs have told me that the problem is that instead of sitting around the nursing home or group home with your thumb up your ass, you’re taken to some facility where you sit around with your thumb up your ass. And one day, Al Pacino says, somebody at one of the facilities decided that the vocational skill Bill Pacino was going to cultivate was putting labels on bags of pot gummies that were to be sold in the state-certified dispensaries of recreational marijuana.


I suppose you can figure out how that turned out. Yep, they put a bag of marijuana gummies in front of Bill Pacino and he ate them all.


What the hell were they thinking?

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Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Turning Down Free Food

 My late sister was crippled, like me. She also had a wheelchair accessible van, like me.

She often got carry-outs and deliveries from her local Chinese restaurant, which was located in a strip mall. One day my sister and her husband went to pick up their carry-out order. There was only one parking space reserved for cripples in the strip mall parking lot and the striped area next to the parking space was being occupied by the strip mall’s dumpster.


This pissed my sister off, like it always pisses me off when I see someone parked in or something cluttering up the striped area next to a parking space reserved for cripples. Because that striped area means NO PARKING, DAMMIT and it’s there because many cripples enter and exit our vehicles via a lift or ramp that comes out of the sliding side door. We need that extra space in order to get in and out of the vehicle so if it’s cluttered up it renders the parking space unless.


And that happens a lot. I’ve gone to shopping centers where the striped areas next to the reserved cripple parking spaces are occupied by metal corals for shopping carts.

My sister called some state agency that’s in charge of enforcing cripple parking laws and reported the strip mall. When she returned a few weeks later, the dumpster had been moved elsewhere and the striped area was clutter free, as God intended. Apparently her phone call actually worked!


Shortly thereafter, the Chinese man who owned the restaurant rang her doorbell.  He was carrying a brown paper bag. My sister and her husband were confused. Neither of them ordered a delivery. What was he doing here? 


When they opened the door the smiling man said he was also very upset that the dumpster had been moved to right in front of his business because he hired feng shui experts to remodel his place so as to attract more customers. But he was afraid that having that dumpster there would  fuck up the vibe they created. So he wanted to give them this free food to express his appreciation for doing whatever she did that made them move the dumpster.


And the next night, the man returned with another bag of free food. And he did the same the night after that and the night after that and the night after that until finally my sister and her husband kept the lights off and pretended like nobody was home every night when the Chinese man rang the doorbell until, eventually, he stopped coming. They didn’t mean to be rude but they didn’t know what else to do. Their refrigerator was overflowing with leftovers from all the deliveries of the previous nights.


Being crippled will take you on many adventures. But I’ve never been on one that made me turn down free food


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