“What I want to know,” I asked my friend and esteemed colleague, the sexy red-haired wheelchair racer boy Jeff Adams, “is why is nobody gay? Why am I it?”

“How do you know they aren’t?” Jeff came back with instantly. “Only one way to tell.”

A typical conversational gambit, shurely, at a wheelchair race?

Don’t mention they’re crippled.   Clockwise from top left:

  • Beaten-to-shit wheel hardware (yes, Spinergy chair wheels).
  • Luther and Kristine.
  • Typical cyborg of the day; curiously, the shirt wrapped around the dense musculature is emblazoned “Cruisers.”
  • Jeff’s pompadour; it’s the baldness at the sides that kills it.
  • Jennifer, one of the few wheelchair racers who can stand

Fellow standardista Mike Clarke (op. cit.; no relation) co-organized the Rolling Rampage wheelchair-cum-skate race, held yesterday under bright but not withering sunshine at Queen’s Park.

I arrived at the appointed hour of 3:00 only to learn that nobody crippled was gonna race till like 4:30. It looked as though I was gonna be doing a lot of “mingling” – and without additional standardistas, either, the other members of Webstandards.TO having failed to show. Funny, I’d go to their events.

The first thing I did was to tell Jeff his new pompadour wasn’t working any better than Morrissey’s. Then, speaker after speaker introduced the race – usually with great dysfluency and once with repeated references to overcoming adversity. “At some point, doesn’t it stop being ‘adversity’ and start being the way you are?” I asked. Kristine, wife unit of Jeff and a spokesthingy for the cops, turned around and chuckled, while Mike stagily declared that every day he faced it. Every day. (Like when he’s up in his glider, also present for inspection. Somewhere there’s a Duceppe-in-hairnet photo of the police chief seated in the glider. Will it see the light of day?)

And actually, I recognized Jeff ’n’ Kristine’s astonishing great Dane, Luther, before I recognized Kristine. Looking back, it is perhaps very 21st-century to stand nonchalantly alongside a woman police officer with a fascinating history she can tell you about, her giant dog, and a person living with wheelchair. How many more height variations and means of locomotion are there?

Red-haired Jeff fiddles with his lime-green wheelchair fork. Left and right halves of two other wheelchair seats surround the photo

Anyway, the demographics of the event changed before my very eyes – large numbers of people in wheelchairs turned into small numbers of such people and many, many cyborgs united with their rear-massive, pointed-nosed steeds. There simply isn’t a union of human and machine like a race chair. Even if you do have legs to begin with (not everbody did), they disappear into the machinery. From behind, you look like an updated centaur with cambered wheels for hooves.

Oh, and legs? A mere nine years and one day after I wrote about noncrips in wheelchair sports in the Voice, I met one! Attendee Jennifer (“an AB from B.C.” “I see”) races with a Vancouver team using Kelly’s hand-me-down chair. She reports that three nondisabled persons regularly wheel along on rides – fully 150% of the number of such racers back in the day. Jennifer was eventually willing to concede that it hurts to kneel in a chair that was made for someone with absent or insensate legs. Plus I asked her about getting a chair on an aircraft (glider, shurely?!).

I met various of the luminaries of the wheelchair-racing demimonde, though not enough of them; I think I took nonchalance too far. I corrected the CP24 girl when she repeatedly referred to Jeff’s “race bike” (“I guess I’m not as… educated as you. I’m sorry if I offended you.” “I’m not offended”). I hung around with the A-list (for once! finally!) as they variously kibbitzed, tried to scrounge up a video cable for Jeff’s THRILL-CAM!, and zipped over to the Church & Wellesley Starfux for yet another coffee. (A bit of a hike on foot, pas de problème in a chair. Were the dipshit body-fascist queens disquietened at the sight of a tall, strapping, yet visibly-imperfect specimen? One can only hope.)

Having been in one spot for so long, soon I was relegated to holding people’s purses. I guess that’s what people come to me for nowadays. (And only one of them was a girl’s.) Probably time to shove off.

I did wait for one of the wheelie races to start – “open women and quads,” which tells you a lot about the hierarchies involved. Why, Kelly had just been expounding volubly to reporters about how unusual Canada was in allowing noncrips to race, win, and collect medals and prize money. Well, yeah, great. But Kelly’s other news was rather more interesting.

Let us turn the clock back three years:

Being bald, with a superb headshape, a goatee, and blue eyes, this is a type typical grrlz wouldn’t look at twice, but a certain subsection of men would chase to the ends of the earth. Beautiful skin. Highly visible muscles in superb proportion (no surprise; wheelchair racing is a dialogue of triceps and lats). The man’s a dreamboat….

Here is what I found touching. In a crowded party, even a Toronto party ruled by tense little conversational cliques, the man spent half his time chatting up one of the cheerleaders. These two were not barricading themselves against the other cliques. They were not settling for each other. They were trying to figure out how to rearrange their lives so he wouldn’t have to jet home the next morning.

(Would one night be enough?) […]

I asked the cheerleader if the two seated right next to me fancied each other.

– Oh, I hope so.

At Jeff’s party three summers back, I witnessed love at first sight. (Well, Love at First Sight – the Straight People’s Edition.) For an additional dollop of meta, I even knew it was happening as it was happening. It turns out I had called it right: The cheerleader moved to B.C, and she and the baldy wheelie are now engaged to be married.

I ain’t got any of that.

Update (2004.06.26): I am reliably informed that one of the Webstandards.TO lads dragged his spousal equivalent out to the event after I left. I am also informed that everybody (de)camped over to Church St. for dinner afterward, pretty much taking over the place with ten or so wheelchairs plus accompanying Normals.

I suppose this means I missed out on the communal bonding experience. Wouldn’t be the first time. In any event, I had had enough sun for one day, plus I do not “hang” well. Further, this race was yet another case of a group with which I have an affinity on paper where I nonetheless felt out of place. There are only so many windmills I can tilt at.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2004.06.20 15:48. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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