Friday, July 24, 2009

A crip left behind, again

What will they think of next? Or not think of?
Forgive me, but I sometimes think that people try to make things harder for me. I know, I know - this is most probably not so, and people are simply not thinking. They are just not aware. But there are times when I feel that people come up with new ways to make my life harder. I can’t help it. Sort of like when I get mad when passing drivers honk their horns, making me jump. Why does everyone always have to make so much noise? Do they like to see me jump?
Take last week, for instance. I wanted to purchase tickets for a play. An attendant wasn’t around to make a phone call, so I thought I’d buy the tickets on-line. Cool! I like doing things for myself! Trouble was, it turned out I had something like four minutes to do the order before getting timed out. With my slow typing and with all the information they wanted, this was a tall order and ultimately, after two very frustrating attempts, impossible. I had an attendant call later, and luckily there were still tickets.
This was unfair. It would have been even more unfair if the tickets were cheaper on-line, as is sometimes the case. But I think whoever came up with this program just wasn’t thinking of my disability and slow typing. The same with those who designed the automated phone services, like when I call the newspaper to stop delivery while I’m on vacation, that ask one to speak their selection. This is handy, albeit maybe frustrating, for most people but impossible with impaired speech.
At least they’re not sneaky and evil. Not like Motel 6.
I’m about to go out of town, and I’ve been thinking of Motel 6. For years when I traveled, I stayed at Motel 6s quite happily. They were more or less affordable on my fixed income and provided what I need, and some, like the one in Morro Bay, were quite nice. Then, two or three years ago, all their wheelchair-accessible rooms had only one bed (no roll-away beds available). This meant I had to get two rooms for me and my attendant. Sure, there are disabled people who can travel alone and take care of themselves, but there are many who can’t, and I doubt many of them sleep with their attendants.
This is more than unfair. It is more than discrimination. It is making money off the disabled.
That stinks.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Lives on hold

I contacted my case worker. I had to. I had seen a report on the News Hour on PBS the evening before about people getting IOU’s from the state of California. One of them was a developmentally disabled man who has to pay the people who come every few days to help him with things around the house.
I couldn’t stand it. I had to know if I’d be getting a check, and not an IOU, on Saturday, so that I can pay my attendants who I rely on to come every few hours to assist me each day.
After all, I had an attendant literally walk out on me several years ago when a check was a couple days late. Not to mention that I hate owing anyone anything.
I was assured that I will be receiving a check, not an IOU. Good, but what about that guy and all the other people on the News Hour?
It is terribly wrong that I (not to mention that guy) should worry about being able to pay for the have I must have to survive. Yes, a judge did rule years ago that the state must provide cash for attendant care, but everything seems to be breaking down and going out the window in this state budget crisis.
What is even more wrong is that, the nation-wide News Hour report notwithstanding, I have seen very few stories in the newspaper about what’s going on in Sacramento concerning the budget. There have been days in a row without a report that I’ve seen. Last Saturday, there was a story about how it was business as usual in Sacramento, with lawmakers talking about other things, not the budget. Earlier this week, there was a small item - on page 9 - saying that legislators were almost at a deal, and then I saw no news for two days.
With the state doling out millions of dollars in IOU’s, and with me stressed out over whether I’ll be able to pay my attendants, shouldn’t this be front-page headline news everyday?
Meanwhile, there was a report about a week ago on the Episcopalians’ triannual meeting this week in Anaheim, saying that the thorny issues of gay bishops and gay marriage would come up, with some advocating that more time and study is needed. Then, two days ago, there was a front-page story saying that the conclave has okayed gay bishops and that same-sex marriage may well be approved before the meeting ends this weekend.
Talk about action - needed action - being taken!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Oh, please - spare us!

O.K - so, I saw Bruno. It wasn’t like I was dying to see this new movie with Sacha Baron Cohen playing a flamboyant, gay, Austrian fashion icon out to be a Hollywood celebrity. It was more like doing homework, a chore. (At least I went on bargain day and didn’t pay $10, and sitting in the cool theater was nice on a hot day.) I had heard so much about the film and wanted to see if I’d be offended, especially as a gay man.
I wasn’t.
I was bored. And embarrassed.
Nearly everything in the movie is so yesterday. Cohen’s first film, Borat, was better (relatively, at least), because it was so new and fresh, and the people in the encounters appeared to be truly duped and shocked. Big swaths of this film felt scripted and acted out. Cohen is clearly trying to be shocking just to be shocking, and it ends up terribly labored and unfunny.
This is bad and silly - yes, boring and embarrassing - enough, but what’s worse is that pretty much all of the gay stuff, which is just about all of the movie, is at least as old and stale. Significantly, the few funny parts of the film have nothing to do with homosexuality.
Too bad this regurgitation of tired gay stereotypes isn’t just boring and embarrassing. If Cohen’s intent is to satirize homophobia, as has been stated, he bombs big-time. I think I can safely say that, for the most part, the people who find this film truly funny and/or shocking are those who are homophobic, and by pandering to and titillating them, Cohen is only feeding and reiterating their homophobia. This supposed satire goes right over the head of those it is aimed at and ends up making fools of the rest of us who see it. (Oh, well, like I said, at least I went on bargain day...)
Unfortunately, this isn’t the end of the story. Shortly after seeing the film, I read in the paper that Britain will release a second version of Bruno next week. This version will be "tamer," with a few seconds of the more explicit sex scenes snipped out, so that 15-year-olds can see it.
That’s just swell. Just what we need - hordes of 15-year-old loaded up with gay jokes. Now I’m getting offended.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Heat wave

I went to the beach on Saturday. Good thing. Not only because it was the first time this year, and I was reminded of how wonderful and refreshing it is to sit on the sand, look at the waves, read a Carl Hiassen novel, check out the eye candy (if there is any - never a sure thing at the beach I go to) and forget about everything else, the rest of the world, for an hour or two or four. This weekend also happened to bring on the hottest weather of the year so far.
It seems we’ve been lucky here. June was cloudy and downright cool. We’ve had some pretty warm days, but even the fourth was almost comfortable. Now, in the high 90's if not the low 100's, our luck is running out, and it’s just hot, with not much relief even when I go to bed at night and when I get up in the morning.
On Saturday, I once again marveled at how much cooler it is on the coast and lamented that it’s 40 miles, as well as well over a trafficked hour and plenty of precious gas, away. It also reminded me of when I once went up north to Berkeley in August years ago.
My attendant and I were running late, and I had him stop at a gas station and call the hotel to say we’d be late and to hold our room. The guy at the hotel told my attendant with some alarm, "It’s 85 degrees! You don’t want to come here!"
85 degrees! If only! I did - and do - want to go there!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Passing (parade) thoughts

Like almost everyone, I love a parade. What’s more, as I was reminded last Saturday, I love being in a parade.
The Fourth of July is, by far, not my favorite holiday - I hate the noise from fireworks, and I’m not big on national pride - but I had a blast being in Claremont’s Fourth of July parade this year. This is a typical, beloved, small-town affair, with kids on decorated trikes and bikes, the high school marching band and neighborhood groups twiddling their thumbs in synchronization. It’s the kind of thing out-of-towners find downright dorky. I was in it once when I was growing up, with my dad pushing me in my wheelchair, which was strewn with red, white and blue crate paper. Later, I was in the Doo-Dah Parade, Pasadena’s spoof of the Rose Parade, tooling down the street in support of the legalization of marijuana, but that was some fifteen years ago.
Last Saturday, I was part of a contingent of about 15 advocating the legalization of same-sex marriage in defiance of Proposition 8 banning it here in California. In addition to my tie-dyed rainbow overalls, which perhaps stood out more than I intended, I wore a tiara with a red, white and blue veil and had a sign on the back of my chair. There was a bit of a risk in stepping out like this in a small-town, family-oriented parade (even in left-of-center Claremont), and we did get a few boos and one "go home" that I know of, but, in general, the clapping and cheering was tremendous, literally buoying us, pushing us forward. The sense I had along the long route was of riding a great, great wave.
Two other things struck me about this experience.
One is that, in our contingent, three of us were disabled, in wheelchairs. Wow! It reminded me of the times I’ve been at yearly meeting when all the people in wheelchairs there were queer. More than that, it reminded me of the theory I’ve had for years, since before I came out, that queer and disabled people have much in common with each other, more than with other minorities. I should and probably will do a separate post on this, but, very roughly and briefly, I feel that the disabled and the queer are both shunned, shamed and discriminated against because of our bodies and how they function or are used in different or limited ways. (I said this was rough!)
The other thing that struck me was that, as we passed the judges’ stand, our entry was announced as part of the California "Let Freedom Ring" campaign. Same-sex marriage and, more significantly, "gay" wasn’t mentioned. This was a mistake, which I feel the No-on-8 campaign made and why the proposition won. By not mentioning "gay," the No-on-8 campaign reinforced the idea that it is a shameful thing, which - surprise, surprise! - the other side picked up and ran with.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Can't trust those disabled

I hope I get a check with which to pay my attendants and not an I.O.U. (Or, if I do get an I.O.U, I hope my bank will cash it, so I can pay my attendants.)
After the last time, in the early 1990's, that the state issued I.O.U’s in a budget crisis, as it is starting today, a judge ruled that the disabled have to be given the money when it is for paying for attendant care. So hopefully, despite end-of-the-world talk regarding California’s finances this time around and at least until the 27th when it is said the state will be "out of money" if a budget isn’t in place, I will get a check and be able to pay my attendants.
That is, if I’m disabled.
Which I am. Really, I am!
From what I’ve been reading in the paper, it turns out that one of the reasons the state is billions of dollars in the red is that the In-Home Supportive Services program, which gives out money for attendant care, is riddled with fraud and abuse. It turns out there are people still getting money to care for people who died years ago. There are people paid by the state to provide attendant for family members who aren’t disabled.
I had no idea. I knew about Medi-Cal abuse - why it has been paying for less and less (for example, I have to pay for the not-cheap adhesive wipes for my catheter condoms) - but I didn’t know about the I.H.S.S fraud.
No wonder I get threatening letters, demanding to know if I’m still disabled and what my income is. No wonder I keep getting calls and forms inquiring about every aspect of my life and requesting copies of my bank statements. It was only last week that my I.H.S.S called to ask what my income is. (That she was shocked that I was out at the time and that my attendant wasn’t with me and didn’t know where I was and what my income is is another story.)
It is like earning money is a crime. Not only that, but it is like these people think - or wish - that I’ll get up one morning and not be disabled.
Damn it - that’s my wish! And it doesn’t help when I keep having to prove I’m not Homer Simpson playing the system - woo-hoo! - and getting on disability.
And making it harder for people like me.