I woke up this afternoon and... sorry, I just can't do it like that. I've read too much Anais Nin to think of a journal as a day-to-day almanac. I've seen too many of yours to think anybody'd give a shit about what I had for dinner or who I ran into down on Berry St. tonight. The few of you who live in Fort Worth might be somewhat interested in who's going to be playing at the Aardvark on Friday but I doubt it goes beyond that. Most importantly, I don't really feel the need to explain the ins and outs of daily life rolling around in a wheelchair. If you want to know about that, go down to your local vet's hospital and volunteer; they need you more than I do.
No, what's important to me is the unique view I get from this chair. I get to see people in ways I'd never considered before. Men don't see me as a threat to their relationships, so I get to talk to them and their wives/girlfriends without suspicion. They don't see me as a threat to their money or their jobs either, so I get to shoot the shit like we've known each other for years. Women don't see me as a sugar daddy, jock, or potential rapist, so I get to talk to them as a friend from the beginning. Police don't see me as a troublemaker, homeless people don't see me as their benefactors, and children don't see me as the hated Authority. The only enemies I have are the ones I make-except, of course, for the few people out there who insist upon being assholes to everyone including me. There are indeed some good parts about being in my position.
I've found that people of all kinds, upon seeing the chair, somehow equate it with wisdom. Funny thing, that. I'm a different person than I was before, but certainly no wiser; yet people respect me for it. They call me sir; they invite me into their confidences and their circles; they even trust me with their money, their homes, and their kids-after we've just met. No matter that I wear a leather jacket and am regularly seen hanging out in dens of ill repute; People think I am harmless. Let me tell you folks, it's a helluva temptation sometimes. TCU kids invite me into their parties, offer me their beer, and let me have the run of their houses then get wasted and pass out, leaving me with all the opportunities I need to take their music, rifle through their purses, take compromising photos, or just generally wreak havoc. Believe me, the fact that I don't is what surprises me the most. When I was 19 or 20, I might have resisted such freebees once or twice but I was no saint and eventually would have succumbed.
And yet, I don't feel as if I've matured. I don't take advantage of people in these ways, but not because I'm a good person; rather because I don't need to. Because I don't need their money, or their CDs, or their secrets. What I need is for them to give me a ride home when it's raining, a lift up over a curb, or a couch to crash on when I'm too drunk myself (which, fortunately, is getting less and less as the years race by). I'm too smart to chuck that away on petty indulgences. Is this maturity? But I still take things when offered, even if I don't need them. I'm still a rude, crude sonofabitch to people I don't know when I'm in a good mood. I sure as hell don't wait in lines anymore and take whatever advantages I can get in stores and restaurants, not to mention bars. It's easy to rationalize these things when I still can't use half of the restrooms, go through their front goddamn doors, see over counters, and am generally ignored by clerks of all kinds (once, they never ignore me a second time!). Yet these things aren't excuses, they are my landscape; just as two o'clock closing times are to most drunk Texans and cops waiting behind overpasses are to speeders. Isn't it still wrong to use my chair to park in a handicap place if I regularly push a mile just to get to my favorite hangouts?
I'm definitely not a moral saint; but from this perspective, at least I can say I'm not as bad an asshole as most people I see. Did I say people let me in on their confidences? Ohmigawd, girls tell me about how they screw around on their boyfriends one night, when on the next, I get to see their boyfriends picking up someone from the bars. Potheads love to share, it's a part of the culture of which I myself am known to indulge, but sometimes it seems everyone wants to show me their stash, give me their connections, and generally trust me with their freedom. Do they hold back from telling me about how they fuck over their customers or their best friends? People offer me the full variety of contraband no matter how much I protest that I only smoke pot (and that less often in the winter), introduce me to all their nasty habits as well as their dealers no matter how much I'd rather not know these things (for everyone's good), and never ask questions like why don't I ever give them my phone number or tell them where I live (I live with my republican mother who knows city counsel members and judges-you do the math). Why? I've met some of the most paranoid, misanthropic druggies in the Metroplex and they all treat me as one of the family-because they don't see me as a threat. Good thing for them that I'm not, because the cops love me even more. To them I seem to be their mascot or their man-on-the-street; they think I'm on their side or, at least, that I'm somehow an acceptable risk. They love to regail me with colorful anecdotes about their misuses of power-beating the shit out of people who they stop for routine traffic violations, flaunting their own ability to drive however they want, 'not reporting' (ie stealing) various things they find on people they search, and generally being exactly the racist/homophobic/classist fucks you think they are. To this extent I use them to stop bar fights and robberies in the area and to get rid of large stray dogs, stuff I don't tolerate regardless; still, I'm anything but on their side. If I were, half of this neighborhood would be in jail.
Anyway, that's some of what happened to me tonight. If you'd rather I give a minute-to-minute accounting, too bad. The rest of you can go ahead and tell me about what you bought at the mall or how much of a dick your boss is at work, I'd probably be better off if I still had that kind of life anyway; but I don't, and in my lifestyle naming names and putting places together with times is the last thing I want to be doing in what amounts to the perfect advertisement to the Powers That Be. I don't consider myself a morally good person (you have to believe in the dogma underlying those morals first) but I do have a lot of friends, and I want to keep them.