Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Way of the Polios



So here’s what makes me crippled: It turns out that my body evidently doesn’t produce survival motor neuron protein at high enough levels due to a mutation in my survival motor neuron 1 gene.

Really? That’s all it is? Sixty years and counting of dragging my crippled ass around and it’s all pretty much due to a fucking protein deficiency? Well I’ll be dipped in shit. It’s kind of like the Down Syndrome people. They all just have an extra chromosome. All the shit we give those folks and that’s the only difference between us and them.

Knowing that all I have is a protein deficiency is kind of a letdown. It makes me feel so ordinary. Some of the previous explanations for what makes a person become crippled like me were much more interesting, such as demonic possession or excessive masturbation.

And now, who knows, but maybe they’ll be able to treat my protein deficiency to the point where my species of cripple will soon become extinct. Because last December, the FDA approved a drug called Spinraza, which showed some positive results when tested on people who are crippled for the same reason I am.

So maybe someday there won’t be any new cripples like me in the pipeline and once all the old farts who have what I have die off we’ll all be gone. We will have gone the way of the polios. When I was a kid 50 years ago at the cripple school, there were polios all over the place. You couldn't spit without hitting a polio. But the only polios you see in these parts these days are old farts. And once they die off, the only place you’ll see polios anymore will be in old black-and-white photos. It’s true, however, that the polios could always make a comeback because, technically, they aren’t extinct.

But the sliptos are an extinct species of cripple. Back in cripple school about 50 years ago, there were these kids who’d show up one day walking on crutches with one leg tied behind their backs. They walked that way because they’d fucked up their hip somehow and their condition had some weird medical name that sounded like Slipped Hippy-feces. So we just called them sliptos. Gradually, these kids got better and returned to walking like regular kids walk so they were allowed to return to the schools for regular kids. You never see sliptos anymore. Either kids no longer fuck up their hips that way or if they do there’s a better way to fix it that doesn’t require them to walk around on crutches for a year with one leg tied behind their back.

Knowing that cripples like me could soon be extinct is kind of a letdown too. It feels weird to picture everybody looking at black-and-white photos of us and being glad we’re gone.



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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Jimmy the Badass Bleeder

There were some kids back in cripple elementary school that even I felt sorry for. I felt sorry for the bleeders, better known as the hemophiliacs. I mean, all the kids who were sent away to cripple school were considered to be “fragile,” but they were the fragilest

Nobody wanted to even come near those kids because we all feared that if we touched a bleeder the wrong way they would gush blood from the nearest orifice like a geyser. Nobody had ever actually seen one of the bleeder kids gush blood, but nobody wanted to be the first to find out if it was true.

The bleeders weren’t allowed to play any rough games like dodgeball in PE. That’s another reason I felt sorry for them. The fun games in PE were the rough games. But the bleeder kids were only allowed to keep score or play checkers with the brittle bones kids, who also weren’t allowed to play any rough games.

One of the most legendary kids at the cripple elementary school was Jimmy the Badass Bleeder. He was an older kid, like a seventh grader, so he mostly hung around the other end of the school which was fine with me because I was afraid of him. It seemed like every week a buzz went around the school about how Jimmy was sent to the principal’s office again for trying to pick a fight with someone. It was a win/win situation for Jimmy. He knew he could be any kind of asshole he wanted to be to the other crippled kids and nobody would fight back because imagine the kind of trouble you could get into if you punched out a bleeder and he gushed blood all over the place. You could probably get sent to the electric chair for something like that!

Legend had it that Jimmy was a punk who tripped kids and snatched away their lunches and stuff like that. If everybody was going to be afraid of him, he wanted it to be for the right reason, dammit! It was gonna be on his terms.

Well then one day Jimmy was gone. I don’t think he graduated so he must’ve gotten kicked out. That made him even more legendary because it was pretty damn hard to get kicked out of the cripple school. You’d have to be a super badass to make that happen. I don’t know what became of him. I imagine he’s dead because he could only successfully pull off his particular badass bit if everybody he picked a fight with first knew he was a bleeder. So unless he always wore a t-shirt that said CAUTION: I’M A BLEEDER, no doubt somebody punched him out. Did he gush blood all over the place?



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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Amazing Longevity of a Clam



I can definitely see the appeal of having an emotional support dog. A dog can go a long way toward cheering a person up, relieving stress and loneliness, etc. They’re a lot more of an organic treatment than drugs and alcohol.

But I don’t think I’d sign up to get an emotional support dog, or any kind of service dog, because I imagine there are big downsides. First off, having an emotional support dog probably greatly increases a person’s need to have an emotional support dog. Because the purpose of the dog is to relieve your stress but I bet a lot of that stress is caused by all the people who give you shit for trying to bring a dog into a public place.

That’s why if I was going to have an emotional support dog I’d get one of those pocket-size dogs like a Yorkie. And then I could just stuff it in my backpack and go in and out of public places all day long and nobody would hassle me because nobody would know the difference. I might have to put a little snorkel mask on the dog inside my backpack so it can get enough oxygen to stay alive and keep cheering me up. But that’s a small price to pay.

The biggest downside to me though would be that emotional support dogs have the same big problem that regular pet dogs have. They die. It sucks enormously when your regular pet dog dies so it must suck a million times worse when your emotional support dog dies, especially if it gets hit by a car or something. So if I was going to get an emotional support animal it would have to be an animal that has a long lifespan. Maybe a turtle. I hear turtles can live a hundred years. But I think that mostly applies to huge sea turtles, not to pocket-size pet turtles. The animal with a long lifespan that would best fit in my shirt pocket is a clam. A quahog clam can live 500 years. I know it’s a lot harder to form an emotional bond with a clam than it is with a dog. But I would derive comfort from knowing that my little buddy, whatever its species, isn’t likely to die on me soon. And the odds are very slim that a clam will get run over by a car, unless I get run over by a car while it’s in my shirt pocket. But I would never keep my emotional support clam in my shirt pocket anyway, for the same reason I never keep money or keys or anything else in my shirt pocket. I forget it’s in there and it ends up in the laundry. And I wouldn’t want to hear something rattling around in the dryer and come to the horrifying realization that it’s my emotional support clam.

So maybe if I want to try out an emotional support animal. I’ll start with a clam and see how it goes. If it doesn’t work out I could always eat it.





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Monday, July 17, 2017

And Then There Was That Time Winston Churchill Almost Got Punched Out in the Parking Lot of the Waffle House

Whenever I travel, I like to go to exotic places. That’s why I went to the Waffle House.

There aren’t any Waffle Houses in these parts. I don’t know why. I guess we’re just not part of the Waffle House’s key demographic up here.

But anyway, I was caravanning with some other guys to a cripple protest in Atlanta. There were four or five of us wheelchair cripples and a few verts (which is short for verticals, which is slang for people who can walk.) We spent the night somewhere in Tennessee. There was a Waffle House across the parking lot from our hotel. The lure was too much to resist, though I must admit that I felt some consternation about going there with a flock of cripples. I wasn’t sure how welcome cripples would be at the Waffle House. I didn’t think we were part of their key demographic.

But there was a ramp on the front entrance of the Waffle House, and a reasonable one at that. It wasn’t one of those steep and winding Evel Knievel ramps. Inside, the Waffle House was pretty much the Formica palace I expected it to be. And I survived the breakfast. I don’t remember what I ate, but I have a vague memory of it being greasy and fried.

So all in all it was undramatic, until we left and discovered that someone parked a pickup truck so that it was completely blocking the ramp. The truck was rusty and dusty and had an NRA bumper sticker. We were pissed. One of the wheelchair cripples rolled back inside. I shall refer to this cripple with an alias. Let’s call him Winston Churchill. So Winston Churchill rolled back inside and asked who the hell parked blocking the damn wheelchair ramp. This guy got up from a stool at the counter. He wore a cowboy hat and a Jack Daniels belt buckle. He walked outside and moved the truck away from the ramp. Winston Churchill and all the other cripples rolled down the ramp, except me. I stopped to look at the front page of a newspaper in a vending box by the front door.

And then the Jack Daniels guy put his truck right back where it was, blocking the ramp. Winston Churchill was really pissed now. When the Jack Daniels guy got out of his truck, Winston Churchill got all up in his face and said something like, “You’re still blocking the ramp, douche bag!”

The Jack Daniels guy was pissed now, too, and he said something back like, “Ain’t nobody who needs that ramp gonna be coming here before I’m finished eating!”

“What about him?” Winston Churchill said, pointing to me.

The Jack Daniels guy stomped back to his truck and backed it away from the ramp. I rolled down. When the Jack Daniels guy got back out of his truck, he slammed the door and got all up in Winston Churchill’s face. He said, “You know what, boy? Someday, with that mouth of yours, somebody’s gonna knock you out of that wheelchair. They ain’t gonna care if you’re handicapped!”

“Oh yeah?” said Winston Churchill. “Go ahead! Punch me!”

“It ain’t gonna be me! But someday!” said the Jack Daniels guy. His face was red. He shook a finger of warning at Winston Churchill and stomped back inside the Waffle House.

But at least his truck wasn’t blocking the ramp anymore.



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Friday, July 7, 2017

My Mother's Only Spa Vacation

My chair is tilted back into the full reclining position. Soft music plays. A young woman approaches me. Her smiling face hovers above. She asks if I’m comfortable. I say yes. She places sunglasses over my eyes. I close my eyes and try to relax. For the next half hour or so, I’m letting everything go. I’m not going to worry about how the governor is fucking cripples over. I’m not going to worry about Medicaid. For the next half hour, I can’t do anything about those things. I am going to treat myself to some sweet disengagement.

I’m settled in and comfy. I’m even getting drowsy. “Are you ready?” the young woman says. I say yes. “Open your mouth,” she says. I open my mouth. And then she starts scraping my teeth. This is the part I don’t like. A trip to the dental hygienist would be like a trip to the spa if I could skip the annoying dental hygiene part. I love the submissive recline position and the sunglasses. (That lamp that illuminates my face so the hygienist can see what she's doing sure is bright.) But I could do without her poking around in my mouth. I wish she was feeding me grapes instead. I wish the water she was squirting in my mouth was a pina colada in a ceramic pineapple.

And now I know how my mother felt. When I was about 10 years old, she sent my sister and me off to a neighbor’s house for a couple weeks while she went to a spa. She packed up her nightgowns, novels, crosswords puzzles. She told me how much she was looking forward to lying in bed and being pampered, not doing any cooking or housework, having meals brought to her room.

Except the spa was the hospital. She was going in for foot surgery. She was raising two crippled kids pretty much by herself and working as a waitress at the Kozy Korner diner. So not much time for herself. This was a good excuse to relax. Respite. Guilt-free detachment. Painkillers. Women like her didn’t get many opportunities to go to spas. They had to create their own. Too bad foot surgery was a mandatory part of the package.

My phone rings. The hygienist abruptly withdraws her fingers from my mouth and asks if I want to answer it. I look at her like she’s nuts. She resumes scraping my teeth. Is she serious? Do some people actually stop to answer their phone in the middle of getting their teeth cleaned? I feel sorry for those people. Don’t they ever relax?




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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Driving in Cripple Mode


Most people don’t naturally drive automobiles in cripple mode. It’s a very specialized thing. Whenever somebody drives me for the first time in my cripple van, I always instruct them thoroughly on how to drive in cripple mode. I tell them since I don’t have good trunk strength or balance, I can be a very floppy passenger. If they start or stop too hard or whip around on turns, I might flop around like a rag doll on a roller coaster. Therefore, until they get a good idea as to exactly what sort of g-forces my body can combat, they should drive as slow as an old lady on barbiturates. Don’t be intimidated by all the other impatient drivers blazing past us at the speed limit.

This is why all this talk about how someday soon there will be nothing but self-driven cars makes me ill. Once again, cripples like me will be left in the dust. It’s only within the last 10 years or so that cabs that are accessible for wheelchair cripples have been appearing with some frequency on the streets of some big cities. When a cripple cab arrives, the driver gets out and deploys a ramp. The cripple boards and then the driver secures the wheelchair to the floor with clamps and straps so that, in the event of an accident, the cripple isn’t catapulted through the windshield, wheelchair and all. And all the cab drivers are trained in the finer points of driving their cabs in cripple mode, though some appear to have resoundingly flunked.

But what happens when all the cripple cabs are self-driven? The invisible chauffeur with be just a warm and welcoming voice coming from the dashboard. It will have a warm and welcoming name such as Emmett. But who’s going to deploy the ramp and tie down the wheelchairs? Okay, maybe all that stuff will be automatic, too. But will I be able to say to my virtual chauffeur, “Emmett, please drive me in cripple mode?” Will it be programmed to do so? I really don’t think so. Emmett will probably go all 2001 on me. He’ll probably say, “I’m sorry, Mike, I'm afraid I can’t do that,” as the cab bolts away from the curb, tires squealing.

And there I’ll be, trapped in a self-driven cripple cab, flopping around like a rag doll on a roller coaster.




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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Thinking About Frankenstein

Whenever I see Barry, I think about Frankenstein. Because Barry walks like Frankenstein. I don’t know if he had a stroke or someone hit him in the head with a hammer or what. I don’t ask. It’s none of my business. But his gait is very heavy-footed, plodding. And when I see Barry struggling to walk down the sidewalk I think about how much happier Barry would be in the long run if he would just ditch the walking bit and get a motorized wheelchair In a motorized wheelchair, he’d be merrily zipping all over the place, his hair flying in the breeze.

And that’s the same thing I think when I think about Frankenstein. Because Frankenstein is crippled, whether he cares to admit it or not. Because the Americans with Disabilities Act says you’re crippled if society perceives you as crippled. And when someone walks like Frankenstein, society sure as hell perceives them as crippled. Therefore, if Frankenstein was alive today, he would be crippled, at least in the U.S.

And if Frankenstein was alive today, I picture him zipping around in a motorized wheelchair, just like I picture Barry, except Frankenstein is zipping around in motorized wheelchair naked. Because let’s face it, even though Frankenstein wasn’t born the same way the rest of us were born, he still must’ve been born naked like the rest of us. So where did that shabby suit come from? Did a tailor come in and fit him? I doubt it.

So that’s why I picture Frankenstein naked. And what sort of shlong would Frankenstein have, you say? Well, it depends on whom you ask. According to cherished stereotypes, some populations of men automatically have enormous schlongs while others automatically have tiny ones. And whereas I don’t believe enough of a consensus has been reached to establish an official stereotype of crippled men vis-à-vis our schlongs, I believe that when the average Joe or Jane secretly wonders about the genitalia of cripples, they picture us having no genitals at all. So that’s how I think most people would, by default, envision naked Frankenstein in a motorized wheelchair. But if you ask me, he has a sturdy, formidable, no-nonsense schlong, thank you very much.

I picture a pivotal moment in the life of Frankenstein where he’s forlornly plodding through the city, naked, and then he passes a store that sells motorized wheelchairs. A light bulb goes off in his head. He tries to open the door but it’s locked. It’s after business hours. So Frankenstein shatters the window with a nearby brick and enters the store. The alarm blares. Soon the front door flies open and naked Frankenstein exits the store riding a motorized wheelchair. He whoops and hollers, pops a wheelie and zips off into the sunset.

And he lives happily ever after.


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