something special

We Tardly Knew Ye

I've hinted at my attraction to the differently abled on more than one occasion. Well, it's true. It's not my main fixation or anything, but I have had my run-ins. I first realized I had a problem when I was in college. It was a bright spring day, I'd just signed up for food stamps for the first of what would be many times. Things were good. I caught a bus I'd never ridden before and was taking in the scenery. Then a form near the front of the bus caught my eye. I could see messy blonde hair with dark earpieces from glasses poking through, and a crazy sweater--those kinds that are like a semi-suede jacket, but have weird sweatery cable stuff on the front. He would sort of turn his head, but never in full profile. It was driving me mad. I wanted to see this hottie head on. My heart was all jumpy. He seemed like he'd be the sweetest loner in the world, all pink-cheeked and dorky. Of course you already know the end. I was trying to decide if I should walk past him when I got off, but then he got off first and yep, he was a tard, alright. I couldn't believe what had just transpired.

A few years later I was working in a Nordstrom's factory putting price tags on make-up. I was exposed to the typical trashy temp types. You know, everyone smoked menthols and they were bewildered that I was childless at the age of 23. Well, one night I spied a tall, lanky gent a few conveyor belts down. He was heading towards the time clocks with a group of people. He had nice posture and an attractive pair of old Levi's on. As I moved closer to get a better look, I started realizing that these people weren't exactly typical. At first I thought just one was a retard, then I realized a bunch of them were. Well duh, the whole group was retarded. To be truthful, the guy I liked didn't look terribly handicapped, but if he wasn't then what was he doing hanging out with them? It was very suspicious and made me worry about myself a bit.

Obviously, I've had some moments of tard attraction, but more often than not, my tard experiences have been less than lovely. It's certainly more fun to talk about the ills of the world than what's right and good so allow me to reminisce about the retards who warped me.

You Don't Know Jack
This was my most scarring tard experience ever. Now I've got abandonment issues. In second grade I had to go to this creepy daycare after school called, "Stepping Stone." Their cake was always wet on the bottom and they sprinkled powdered sugar on top instead of using frosting (that's just as inexcusable as parents calling graham crackers cookies. Graham crackers are not cookies.) At some point they got shut-down for violating health codes or something like that (it could've been for ritualistic satanic abuse and I wouldn't be surprised).

The little kids were housed in the main building, but the grade schoolers got to hang out in "the cottage" like this was some sort of privilege. The cottage was pretty much a shack in the middle of an overgrown lot. We were watched by an aging, mouthy broad much like Flo off of "Alice."

Well, there was this tard about town, Jack, that you'd always see walking up and down Powell Blvd. Jack was a genuine tard, in the Down Syndrome tradition. He was a Gresham fixture. This road happened to be in the same neighborhood as this daycare. I got scared when I overheard two workers talking about Arnold (his real name--the kids just called him Jack for some reason) and how he was harmless, but sometimes tried to bite the kids. This sort of thing puts fear in your heart when you're a youngster (actually, the thought of an M.R. chasing kids and biting them still doesn't sit all that well with me).

Around Easter, Flo decided to hide eggs around the cottage. She locked the doors and said she call us back in when everything was ready. This was when Jack decided to come out and play. The boys were loving it, taunting him, sticking out their tongues and running around just out of his reach. The girls were screaming and crying. My solution was to run and hide behind a shed. I stayed there for what felt like an eternity in kid time (probably 45 seconds), and then finally popped my head out to see if the coast was clear. Of course Jack was right there, caught my eye, and started lumbering towards me. I can't even convey the sheer terror of that moment. I took off running in a panic and in true horror movie fashion, I tripped and fell after a few steps. Just as Jack was about to swoop down, Flo opened the back door and called us back in. Somehow I mustered the strength, jumped-up and high-tailed it out of there unscathed.

Later that same day, the boys were opening the door and daring Jack to come inside (Have you ever seen the movie "Over the Edge"? My neighborhood [and hence this daycare] was full of trashy hooligans. These would be the same types of boys who would be sporting mustaches and smoking [or chewing] by the age of ten.) I ended up hiding in a closet with two other girls. That entire day was pretty rotten. Who the heck knows where Flo was during all of this. Probably kissing someone's grits.

Oil Can Henry
When I was 12 or so, one of the houses in the cul-de-sac on our street (we didn't live in the cul-de-sac, only freaks would) was turned into a home for retarded boys. They were mostly of the not-quite-right, but semi-o.k. looking, with crew cuts and really thick glasses variety.

One of the boys was named Donald. He used to really upset teachers and good students because he'd hang out across the street with the bad kids and chain smoke. Once he got into a loud fight on our street over his Mickey Mouse watch. From then on, my dad would do incredibly un-P.C. imitations of Donald crying over his stinky watch. He'd probably still do it. But this is not a story about Donald.

This is the tale of Eric Erickson, the double-named freak. Other than being like 4 ft. nothing, he didn't appear to have anything too terribly wrong with him. I think he was what they call "emotionally disturbed." There was some rumor that he was a firebug, but I can't remember where I heard that. It's quite possible that I may have started it myself. He used to talk about how he was going to run away to Las Vegas and be a singer like his dad. Was this not asking to be tormented?

My favorite memory involves my sister and I stopping him on his BMX bike and telling him he was under citizen's arrest. That's right, citizen's arrest for having hair that was a grease-fire hazard. We dubbed him Oil Can Henry. Was that mean? No, we were kind enough to provide him with Monopoly money in order to pay us imaginary fines for committing his hair-don't. He'd just throw it at us. I can't imagine why.

Since he was such a pip-squeak, I always figured he was younger than me. But when high school came around he was in my grade (and still living in the home for wayward youth). By then he'd sprouted some scraggly facial hair and a shlong (or a mullet as it's more popularly known) and started wearing a leather jacket with fringe. He found a place with the rockers in school, which isn't surprising as heshers have always more accepting of the differently abled than any other clique. I don't remember Eric Erickson graduating with me. Maybe he was busy creating grease fires in Las Vegas.

Todd Kirnan: Super Tard
The entire Kirnan family was inbred. The sisters, Michelle and Suzette were just sort of fat and slow-witted, but Todd really stood on his own. He wasn't like Down Syndrome retarded. I don't know what was wrong with him. Nobody did. Todd was one of those guys that given any time of day could be seen walking up and down the same street. All small towns have their pacers. Gresham, OR had way more than its fair share (there was also an inordinately large percentage of gay teens for such a redneck community, but that's a whole other topic) He'd always be wound up, sweaty, and spitting when he talked (yelled).

And since he was social, he became quite the character around our high school. Everyone knew him best as "Retodd." He was obsessed with the World Wrestling Federation and heavy metal music, which didn't make him that much different that 90% of the boys in town, yet he was one of a kind. He walked around school huffing and puffing and spitting with WWF finger puppets yelling, "We're number one!" If you asked him where he bought his Motley Crue jean jacket, he'd growl, "I got it from the devil." He was entertaining and told me and my female friends that we looked like rock 'n' roll stars and should be in Vixen.

My friend Lema (who if you ever read s.c.s. #1 you'll remember is the biggest liar on the face of the earth) gave him a ride home once after a football game and she insists he stunk up the car. Maybe he did, but she claims it was because he had a "dirty foreskin." (I don't even think she knows what a foreskin is.) This same liar friend swears she sees Retodd downtown delivering mail and that he has a shaved head and a goatee. I know it's the 90's and all, but come on, Todd wouldn't buy into all that "alternative" facial hair nonsense.

Actually, I saw him twice right before I moved to New York and he did have a shaved head. The first time was with Lema on an excursion to Gresham. I didn't even recognize him, but she insisted it was him. He looked about 35 and not too retarded and had a Tower records bag in his hand.Then I saw him at Lloyd Center and he seemed a little crazy and dysfunctional, but not extremely retarded. I mean, he was by himself and seemingly self-sufficient. Maybe this is a happy ending.

Butt Pirate vs. Palsy Pirate
When I was a sophomore my gay boyfriend, Jeff (who thought he was really wild because wore acid washed jeans, clear nail polish, and mascara-damn, I love the suburbs) befriended this mute, freaky senior named Wendy who was all into Kate Bush and the Cocteau Twins like he was.

But Wendy had an inappropriate boyfriend of her own--Jim Choi. Jim Choi was this Asian guy who drove a Cadillac, dressed like a pirate, and happened to have cerebral palsy. Supposedly, Wendy went out with him because he had money and would buy her stuff. Jim was very possessive of his gal and was none too thrilled that Jeff paid attention to her.

One afternoon we were sitting with a group of friends in the cafeteria when Jim Choi stumbled over. If you've only watched a handful of teen movies then you know that the cafeteria is where confrontations always go down. In his own special way, Jim started yelling (and slurring and spitting), "You leave Wendy alone!! She's my girlfriend!" All eyes turned our direction. I was trying not to laugh because Jim was actually being pretty scary and who knows if he'd turn on me next. And it was doubly funny because Jeff was like so incapable of stealing girls, even a cripple's.

Not long after this, Jim Choi told my sister that he "liked" me. His words: "she wears red lipstick." Yup, what more could you want in a woman. It made me a bit nervous since he frequented the Chinese restaurant I worked at, but nothing ever transpired. I was never mean to him (I'm really not a hateful person), but it's hard to take a shining to a guy with palsy in ruffled shirts, leather pants, and a sash.

A Groovy Kind of Love
I said the Jack experience was the most scarring, but that was before I remembered this one. I was never the same after this. Around '93 I was taking the bus from school to work. It was rush hour and crowded. I found a seat in the back. One of those kinds that faces sideways so you're forced to look a people's faces instead of the backs of their heads.

Yes, well, in my direct line of vision was this couple. As you may or may not know, I'm not terribly fond of couples. I have a hard time with P.D.A.'s. But there they were, a down syndrome twosome who couldn't keep their mitts off each other. They were both portly and red-faced. The man had thick glasses, the woman wore sweats and donned a New Kids On The Block fanny pack. Adorable, no? Really, it was just the male who had the roving mouth and hands and that's what made it so creepy. The woman was sitting still and her head was flat back at a 90 degree angle looking at the roof while the guy licked her and slobbered everywhere and felt her up. This wasn't a pretty sight, in and of itself, but the truly disturbing aspect was that while the man was performing all his moves he was locking eyes with me.

The way I was seated made it hard for me to avert my glance. It was torture. I just wanted to get to my destination and get the hell out of there. Of course the bus was running early and decided to pull over to the side of the road to get back on schedule. Lucky me, I got to spend even more quality time watching the groper in action. Thankfully, it was only one afternoon out of my life.

In '97 I was working in a library. One afternoon I was pushing my little book truck into the children's library when I heard a commotion. A man's voice was bellowing, "Help her! Help her!" and at the same time I could hear high-pitched squealing coming from who knows where. It was unsettling because no one seemed to be paying any attention and I was like, "what the hell is going on here?!" (actually, such outbursts were all too common at this library, but it still grabbed my attention). I tried to deduce what the problem was and who needed this help and all I saw was a retard standing in front of a small row of books that were sagging due to one of their bookends being moved. This woman was staring with horror at this shelf of lop-sided books and shrieking like a banshee. The man was all frantic and demanding help. Then I realized that it was those lovebirds from the number 4 bus. Why I even remembered or recognized them four years later, is beyond me. And do you know what bothered me even more than the fact that they were being irritating and disruptive? That they were still together! I could never hold someone's interest for more than like 8 months. So despite all my knocking, maybe all these retards are on to something. (Or maybe not-have you ever noticed how ugly and/or poor and/or stupid people are always married?)

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