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Mitch Greene

 

 

THE NEW STYLE

by Mitch Greene

 

I'm not going to do it.

I could do it,

but I'm not going to.

Wouldn't it be unethical

or wrong

or something like that?

But it's the only way I'd be able to go.

Ok, ok. Let me explain. My favorite group of all time, the always-changing chameleons of music, the Beastie Boys (or as I'll call them from here on out, "the Beasties"), were coming to Chicago to perform at the Rosemont Horizon on Wednesday, August 12th. By the time July was making its way out of the calendar, I finally decided to call for tickets. What was I thinking? Sold out. As it had been for weeks, the show was sold out. And I was S.O.L. I had never missed a Beasties show since their "Raising Hell" tour with Run D.M.C. back in 1987-88. That was the one with the giant hydraulic penis, girls in dancing cages, Budweiser o'plenty, and my first great T-shirt love, the black one with the Beasties logo on the front and "Get off my dick" on the back. The same shirt my mom, in the throws of her first and only ethics bear hug, threw out.

 

If a pirate had a Def Jam shirt she'd be hard on his tip...

I even went to their 1992 Chicago show, leaving straight from my college graduation ceremony and arriving just in time to catch them take the stage. That was the one where I handed MCA my favorite customized Oakland A's hat, only to see him wear it for, oh· 27 seconds and then throw it into the crowd. Hey, that's my hat.

I knew I couldn't miss them this time around. I had to get into that show.

 

Well you can't, you won't and you don't stop·

While on my way to the welfare office to give them yet more paperwork that I could've given them weeks ago for a car accident (another story entirely), it hit me. The idea was simple: I would go to the concert in a wheelchair. They had to still have handicapped seating. And technically I was handicapped. The paperwork I was bringing to the welfare office supported that claim. But was it decent? Was it right? Was it a good thing to do? Who cares·it's the Beasties.

 

You gotta fight, for your right·

(I cheat and steal and sin and I'm a cynic)·

Ever since I got into them, back as a senior in high school in 1987, I've loved their music more and more; the more I listen to them and the more they put out. I won' t argue that the whole frat boy mentality of "Fight for your right (to party)" was the initial attraction. But it was the following efforts that fostered our relationship. I think "Paul's Boutique" is the greatest album of all time, more conceptual than "Sgt. Pepper's", more lyrical than "Blonde on Blonde", more energetic than "Led Zeppelin 4" (or whatever you choose to call that album), and more eclectic than "The Wall". I even taught my nephews to finish rap lines with me; for my nephew Josh it was ME: Knucklehead deli tried to gyp me off the price so I clocked him off his turban with a· HIM: bag of ice. For Jacob, it's: ME: Who is the man walking down your block? HIM: It's me you see with a funk in my walk. (I make sure he says funk, not·) My whole family's worked there way into my act now by prompting him with "Jacob, why do dogs love you?"

They know he'll reply:

 

Dogs love me cause I'm crazy sniffable·

I tried numerous ticket agencies, with the lowest price $95 for standing in a giant mosh pit on the Horizon floor. Not only was the price too high, the standing wouldn't work. Since my auto accident, I can't stand for more than 20 minutes without having to sit. I used this as my justification to myself: I tried to get tickets other ways, but fell short. Handicapped was really the only option left. I had to see every Beasties show if they came to Chicago. Many a night I spent listening to the Beasties to raise my spirits; their music made me feel invincible, ecstatic, and even loved. I was not going to miss this show.

 

I've been through many times in which I thought I might lose it, the only thing that's saved me has always been music/ If not for my vices and my bugged out desires, my year would be good just like Goodyear's tires·.

Working with a cohort who shall remain nameless, let's just call this person "K", we discussed our plan of action. K was just as big a Beastie fan and would do as much as I to get into the sold-out show. Our plan would be a two-pronged attack: K would take care of actually purchasing the tickets via telephone, dealing with the lovely Ticketmaster ($11.00 in surcharges? You guys suck.), while I went on a mission to locate and secure a wheelchair.

 

Out on a mission, a stolen car mission·(I'm wheeling, I'm dealing, I'm drinking not thinking)·

As soon as we finished the final details I took the Kennedy out to my new place, passing the dreaded Horizon. I stopped into the box office for one final desperate attempt to get tickets. The woman at the window started shaking her head as soon as I approached. "There are no tickets available", she said. It was like I was Grandpa in that Simpson episode about the town's burlesque house where Bart ends up as bouncer: I got out of my car, saw the woman and turned right around. A giant u-turn, never stopping. That was it, it was set. "Let's get it on", I thought.

 

Time for living ...

In my family, we've had the unfortunate luck of many medical conditions. Whether my sister's many fusion surgeries (neck and back), my mom's knee-replacements, my herniated discs courtesy of an over-anxious Des Plaines driver, or my dad's battle with cancer, we've gathered and collected many medical supplies. So many, in fact, that people come to us whenever they need equipment for a recovery. Whether it be crutches, walkers, braces, commodes, or yes, even a wheelchair, we have it. I looked in the garage for the chair and realized we had loaned it, along with a set of walkers and canes, to our good family friend's, the Brinley's in a battle against cancer. I put a call into Mrs. B and asked her to call me back about borrowing the wheelchair. I looked at the clock. 11:30. The concert started at 7:30. I had to pick K up from work in the city at 6:30, and that would give us just enough time to get to the show, park, and get inside to find our seats.

If.

If we could get the tickets.

If I could get the wheelchair.

If the security would believe us.

 

Once again, I'm all wrapped up in me·

Now, it was waiting time. The minutes turned into hours. No call from K about the tickets. No call from Mrs. B about the wheelchair. Time kept passing and my plan was slowly crumbling and dissolving into another angry chapter of 1998, a year in which I am more upset than usual because on top of everything else, I can't see the Beasties. What could I do? I thought of going to the city early, before picking up K, and just plain stealing a wheelchair from one of the area hospitals. What about that one in Ravenswood ö the one where the boy was killed from a gunshot wound because rules prohibited the staff from leaving the grounds to assist him. I could frantically run in, asking for a wheelchair because my mom/sister/girlfriend was pregnant and needed one. Or because my friend was shot. Any excuse would do. Or no excuse at all. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Tick tick tick. Minutes passed into hours. I could feel my options closing up. I looked at the clock: 2:45.

 

Phone is ringing. Omigod·

"Hey honey. How are you?"

It was Mrs. B. She had the wheelchair. Repeat, she had the wheelchair. "Of course you could borrow it, it's yours," she said. Great. I told her I'd be down in an hour to pick it up. I started packing for the show. Wearing shorts, a T-shirt and sandals, I decided to bring a bag full of clothes I thought more appropriate for a wheelchair-bound concert lover. A pair of black satin jogging pants. A tank top. A bandanna. One of those hats worn backwards that you see Samuel L. Jackson wearing every time he's anywhere (except this cap was my grandpa's and it was made by London Fog and meant to be worn forwards.) A sweatshirt, just in case. And my hi-top Nikes. I was set. Except for one thing: the tickets. I still had no idea if K got them or not. I had to call to see. "Here's our confirmation number" were all the words I needed to hear. I left by saying I'd be there by 6:45 at the latest. I grabbed my gear and hit the road. Next stop: the wheelchair.

 

It's time to turn the page in a brand new chapter, setting my sights and you know what I'm after·

I rushed out the door to find my mom's minivan blocking my car. (Living with her until my back surgery is yet another chapter from the aforementioned story.) I could feel my blood start to boil because of another set back: moving her van to get to my car. Impatience has always been my Achilles heel. But I had an idea which officially would start the adventure. I asked to and was granted use of the minivan. I was excited. Why? Not only did it have amenities such as air conditioning and turn signals which my Oldsmobile (unda) Achieva lacked, it sported the most coveted of all license plates: handicapped. Another affirming detail I needed to ease my mind and assure the plan's success. I hopped in the van and moved out. 3:30.

 

I'm doing 120 plowing over mail boxes, radar detector to tell me where the cops is·

Speeding, like life, is not really a bad thing as long as you're able to maintain control. One of the best things my dad ever taught me was to only drive as fast as you can handle. Swerving in and out of lanes, exceeding the speed limit by at the very least 25 m.p.h., I knew I would have to make up for time I'd spend sitting on 294, stuck in traffic, trying to get that damned chair. Damn you, infernal chair. I actually thought: "If only the chair were at my place, it would make things so much easier." I am a moron. I was worried about the inconvenience and hassle of getting a wheelchair so I could pose as a handicapped person to get into a concert!!! It almost seemed ironic, but only if it was in that Alyanis Morrisette song. There was no irony about it; this was just plain ignorance on my part.

 

What goes around comes around, what comes around goes around·

I sailed along 294 for a few miles until I hit the wall of traffic. The clock laughed 4:45 at me. I tried to figure out my time table. I had to leave the Brinley's with the chair no later than 6 in order to meet K by 6:30 and get to the show by 7:30. It was still at least 30 minutes if the roads were completely empty, not like they were, clogged with single-passenger gas-guzzlers. And my gas gauge was nearing the red "danger" zone, which added another 15 minutes to fill up the tank. Plus, I couldn't just pick up the chair from Mrs. B and say "Thanks, gotta go" without shooting the breeze and catching up with my other "mom". There goes another 30 minutes. Boy, was time getting short. I was cutting it close.

 

Only 24 hours in a day·

Although I had thought of the Brinley's as second parents, I had only been to their house four or five times. I had to peruse my mental filing cabinet to find directions. I got off the expressway and managed to somehow fumble my way to their house, amid many a one-way street and back alley. I pulled into the driveway, leaving the minivan running to signify that I was strapped for time. I knocked on the door. Once· twice· three times. No answer yet. My mind started to pick up speed: Why was I getting angry? Mrs. B, of all people, had never angered me in any way. She was always there for me. I realized I was just getting impatient. Slow down, cowboy. You'll make it. There's always the opening act. But this time, it's A Tribe Called Quest. I don't want to miss them. I'd seen them before at---

"Hey Mrs. B! How are you?!?"

Thank God, she's here.

 

My brain is flowin' honest like Abe Lincoln...

She opened the garage and amid the mess and chaos was my Holy Grail. I swear to you there was this sparkle the gleamed off the wheel like in one of those dishwashing soap commercials signifying a clean plate. I even heard a triangle sound. We threw the chair into the back and she motioned me to sit on the porch. "You have time," she said. I really didn't. I looked at the clock in the minivan: 5:58. My insides waged a war, one side good and decency and the other impatience and fear. I didn't want to be rude, so I sat.

 

Lighten up, gotta lighten up, gotta lighten up right now.

 

We shot the shit about life, death and fate. Not long after I lost my dad to cancer this year, her husband Garry succumbed to the same disease. My dad and Garry were best friends, brothers, and coworkers. Their lives and subsequent deaths ran strangely parallel. It seemed like she was one of the only people who understood the whole ordeal I went through with my dad (Another story altogether. See "shitty 1998", above.) It was one of those conversations I'll remember long after the Beasties show fades from my memory.

 

My noggin is hoggin all kinds of thoughts·

She looked at her watch and wished me well, making an excuse that she was too dizzy to sit any longer. I just knew she understood how much this show meant to me. I hopped into the van and backed out of the driveway, trying to go as slow as possible so I wasn't just speeding away. 6:17.

 

The sweat is getting wetter than the ring around your collar (Foot on the pedal never ever false metal, engine's running hotter than a boiling kettle)·.

I hit the Bishop Ford Freeway headed north with the pedal to the metal. The good thing was that traffic was behind me. The Bishop Ford, which turns into the Dan Ryan headed north into the city and then the Kennedy (I-90), was usually clear this time of the evening, with most of the city heading the other way. I cruised into the city, passing Pullman Bank, the I-57 merge, the Robert Taylor homes and Comiskey Park, connecting to Lake Shore Drive north. This would be another test. For any reason, L.S.D. could be packed with cars or free as a bird, depending on any number of numerous contributing factors: construction, McCormick Place, foot traffic, accidents, stupid people, etc. This day, the Lord blessed me with a fairly open road. 6:37.

 

Well the man upstairs, I hope that he cares·..

I pulled up to see K with hands full of White Hen food for the final leg of the road trip. As always, I-90 was packed most of the way. We finally pulled into the parking lot. For those of you who've never been to the Rosemont Horizon, you have no choice but to park in their lot and pay $10 or $15 for the privilege and receive expressionless directions from the sterile help. As I was being herded into a parking spot suburbs away from the venue, I rolled down my window (which appeared to frighten the mustached-attendant/off duty cop) and asked for handicapped parking. "Oh," he perked up, "around the building to the south entrance." I pulled around to find a spot right in front of the building. All right! This is more like it. My plan was paying immediate dividends. I looked at K and we both laughed. "Are you ready?" I asked. "Are you?" came the reply. 7:37.

 

Who is the man coming down your block? It's me you see with the funk in my walk·.

I hopped out of the minivan and used a cane to hobble around to meet K at the wheelchair. I plopped down, placing the cane on my lap, and locked the minivan. I left my note of incapacitation from my doctor in the front set of the van. If anyone wanted proof, they'd have to go with me to get it. I kept trying to convince myself that I was merely pulling this stunt to·.write about it. That's it, this was just an experiment for a future essay about people reacting to those in wheelchairs. Yeah right. Bullshit. This was for the Beasties and nothing else.

 

I've got a hole in my head and there's no one to fix it, gotta straighten my thoughts I'm thinking too much sick shit·

Our adventure continued. We gave each other serious looks and headed for the will call window, which was on the other side. I had to wheel myself around the building to get the tickets. The was no other way. But I decided to be handicapped, if only for the night. That eased my mental struggle so very little.

Besides, I had always figured my back surgery would go horribly wrong and I would actually end up paralyzed. A constant nightmare of mine.

 

I'm going through the limits of my ultimate destiny·.

It was during the trip to will call when we met the first of many dipshit players to enter our game. As I was struggling to wheel myself, trying to understand how hard it must be to do this every day and how strong arms must get, some tool, exhaling his fifth bong hit, held out his hand for me to slap and patronized me with "All right, give me some love, man." "Fuck you, dude" came my reply. I don't know why I chose those three words. They just seemed natural. Also, I felt the sting of what many countless people must have put up with for many countless years before my pathetic experiment. Why would anyone want a hi-5 from a guy struggling to wheel himself in a chair? Are people that stupid? Oh yeah, let me stop my flow and slap you some skin, giving you cause to think you're down with the "handi" peeps, somehow purging your conscience. I rolled along with K laughing at that initial idiotic fella. 7:48.

 

Cause things is wack and that's a fact·.

We turned the corner and I could see will call. I could also see people's stares. Fuck that, that's putting it too nicely. I could feel them. They felt like laser beams. It was just like you see on TV, as if I was the camera passing through a crowd, capturing the stares and whispers of narrow-minded and never exposed teens looking at the gimp in some warped after-school special. The same crowd who minutes later would be singing along to lyrics about tolerance, (one) love and togetherness.

 

That's wrong y'all, over the long haul, you can't cut the mustard when you're fronting it all.

As we approached the window and I was still wheeling myself along, a strange thing happened. As if the singular voice in some sort of crowd mentality, a young blonde man no older than 18 foolishly opened his mouth and yelled (for everyone) at me in a state of surprise, "All right! You like the Beastie Boys? You here to see the B Boys? Yeah!" As if I filled a quotient of exposure to handicapped people for his lifetime. (No man, I know this handicapped guy. Met him at the Beastie Boy show.) The same kid who'll brag to his buddies "yeah, I have a black friend/I know this black dude". Then I really got pissed. Wasn't I allowed to see a show? Did the chair prevent me from attending? I wanted to get on a loud speaker and address the crowd. "Sorry everyone, I'm just rolling along here to get through to the street so I can beg and sell Streetwise. See, I lost my enjoyment of music when I lost use of my legs. I used to like the Beasties, but I can no longer listen to music of any type anymore. And a concert? Forget it, they have no use for me at those places." People were continuing to show their ignorance. And there were many more who felt what that tool said. Amazing.

 

Shit, if this is going to be that kind of party I'm gonna stick my dick in the mashed potatoes.

We grabbed the tickets and headed back around to the entrance. I became angry and just wanted to get inside and avoid all the pity stares. We finally made it to the front of the line. Obviously I couldn't just roll through the turnstile. It was tough, but finally security figured out how to open the door outward to give me enough room to get inside. I could tell they were thinking "Ok, remain calm. We learned about these people at orientation. They need to get in. THEY MUST GET IN!! STAND BACK, EVERYONE."

 

Jump the turnstile, never pay the toll·

Upon entering, K and I looked up to see a gigantic sea of people, most of whom would be a touch slow or too stubborn to allow us the room needed to get through to our "CHR" seats, which I assumed stood for "chair". And on top of it all, we both had to use the toilet. We decided at this point it would be better if K pushed me through the crowd. If I tried to wheel myself, I was liable to end up with plenty of bloody and possibly broken knuckles, from unnoticed kicks to my hands. I was placed against a wall while K used the john. Then, it was my turn. There was no way I was going to get a chair in there, even though there were clearly marked signs for a handicapped entrance. Everyone just ignored that and thought "Cool, a quicker way to get in."

 

I can't stand it, I know you planned it·

I labored out of the chair and grabbed the cane, looking at K as if to say "this is bullshit, these people" and stood in line. I slowly made my way to urinate and exited to a chorus of "come on, hurry up" stares. Who cares about me and my disability, they had to piss out their Rolling Rocks. I plopped back into the chair and K pushed me along, stopping frequently for people who cut us off or slowed down in front of us or just plain didn't care. Sentiments by this time were either "Sorry, didn't see you" or "fuck it, I'm not giving you any special treatment. That's why you people want, right?" Oh boy. K even told me of overhearing people say "Man, did you see that fucking guy in the wheelchair", like how dare I come to their show and ruin it like this. Morons.

 

Punks in the hall, man I should've oughtta hit Îem·

But I have to give credit to the handful of people, usually led by the fairer sex, who would see us and clear a path like they were parting the Red Sea, holding their arms out to give us room. There were even these three guys, who I misjudged would never help us out, who formed a flying-V and led the blocks we needed to get through. I send positive energy their way. 8:15.

 

But we're here to work it out in one way or another, to find a mutual respect of ourselves and one another·

We made our way to our seats but saw no other handicapped people there. We were stuck in the back of the first floor and when Tribe came on, I could no longer see with everyone standing in front of me. The sounded great. They rocked it and cut out after almost an hour. 9:10. We needed to move. I saw a place on the floor open near the sound booth with no one around. I coaxed K into asking if we could move down there to gain visual access. Security directed us to where we should've gone in the first place. Seems as if the tickets were mislabeled. And from Ticketmaster, no less. Imagine that, a Ticketmaster screw up.

 

ÎCause suckers like you just make me strong, when you're popping that bullshit all day long·

So we wheeled over to the real section, which appeared full of normal people. As we hit the ramp, a wave of dread overtook me. The handicapped ramp, the one a person in a wheelchair should easily be able to wheel up, was about three inches thick and 45 degrees steep. There was no way I could get up it myself. No way I could get up it with K. We started and kept sliding back down because there was no way K could get traction to help push me up. I thought of just getting out and pushing the chair up the ramp then getting back in. It was that bad.

 

You reap what you sow when you planted the seed·

It was only due to the gracious help of three large fellas that we were able to get up that ramp into the booth. And that kind of help should be status quo, not highlighted as gracious. But by this time in the night, any help was gracious. I pulled into the corner, with K next to me, and made some general introductions and meetings with the others in our section. There was one guy who wiped out on his motorcycle there in a wheelchair and the rest of the people there, I guess, were his friends. About twenty in all. K made small talk with most of them as I waged a murky verbal battle with the kid next to me. As the night progressed, he turned out to be the coolest cat to me, even if he was in the middle of his second of three six packs for the night. He told me to nudge him if he got in my sightline., which was refreshing. We both just wanted to groove. 9:28.

 

Now, here's a little story I gots to tell about three bad brothers you know so well·.

The Beasties took the stage and everyone took their feet·.well, everyone sans me and the Evil Knievil a few feet away; we were the only wheelchairs in the section. Throughout the show my wasted friend to my left would turn to me and hi-5 me or rap with me to some of the songs as if we were just two people enjoying a show, not one guy and his handicapped burden for the evening. Throughout the show he kept smoking Marlboro Lights and throughout the show they kept getting closer to my leg. I didn't know what I'd do if he accidentally rested the butt on my quadricep. There was no way I could scream -- it would give away my secret identity as a truly functioning biped. But fortunately, my friend possessed that "drunk motor skills control" that I've seen and experienced myself on many occasions. You know, swaying to and fro but never losing a single drop of beer from your cup or one centimeter of cherry from your smoke. Even though he would sway or appear passed out, the smoke never touched me. Came close, but just as it appeared to find my thigh, he'd raise it up to his lips for a pull. Whew. My secret identity is safe.

 

What could it be, it's a mirage, you're scheming on a thing·.

The show ended after a rousing rendition of "Sabotage". Getting out was a bit easier, as four guys helped us down the ramp while K and I yelled out: "Excuse us. Pardon us." over and over and quickly made our way out the building. Being somewhat timid entering, not wanting to bring attention onto ourselves for fear of being exposed as handicapped frauds, we never attempted this form of clearing the way to get into the place. But by the time the show ended, we just wanted this experience to end. So we zoomed out the building and around to the car, ignoring any further ignorant comments in the parking lot by these teenagers. Not only was I handicapped, I was old. A double whammy. We reached the car, got out of the chair, put it in the back seat, and sat inside. After we locked the door, we turned to each other. We sat there in silence for a moment. What a weird fucking evening. "You should write about this", K said, not knowing I had already formed some words about it from the beginning.

 

I'm a writer, a poet, a genius I know it·

11:57. Our adventure was complete. We finally escaped the parking lot after 40 minutes of waiting.

K an I expressed so many feelings silently that ride into the city, getting lost but not caring because it meant getting away from people. We had had too many portions of people for the evening. We were full. It was now bedtime. But that was just one day.. .not even a full day, one four hour concert. I still shudder thinking of people who have to do that every single second of every single day; not only wheel themselves around their house and world, but also enduring the looks, remarks and unwarranted pity of millions of pairs of eyes. This experience gave me the smallest, teeny-tiniest taste of what that world could possibly be like. I'm not saying in any way that I understand or can relate. I'm just saying I caught a glimpse into that world from the outside looking in. And I thank God for everything I'm able to do. I don't have the patience or tolerance to put up with that kind of world.

 

I'm not preaching bullshit, just speaking my mind, Îcause I'm here now and it's about time·

So what makes me any different than those I loathed at the show? All those ignorant, unexposed, undereducated people? Not much. I'm sure in the past I've done many of the things that pissed me off that night. I've probably been such an asshole that I openly mocked handicapped and disabled people. Hell, I may be offending them now, not knowing if the term "handicapped" is P.C. I just think·.hope I'll be more tolerant In the future. And all y'all will too.

 

So peace out now, and just keep peacing out, full throttle to the bottle with full full clout and I'm out.

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