Photo Credit Brett Folske
“The story isn’t being told by folks with disabilities, because we aren’t being invited to tell it. It’s constantly that same story about being an inspiration.”
Born without legs, the 31-year-old Lind is already known around Seattle as the pianist who won the Pianos in the Parks video contest last summer, a singer-songwriter and leader of the now defunct band Inly, and a journalist. She’s also a publicist for Hearth Music. Now she’s about to embark on acting lessons and the creation of a comedy series. Calling her driven is an understatement.
“As long as I’ve known that I had no legs, I’ve known that I had the ability to talk about it, and a responsibility to tell it in an interesting way,” she says over bourbon at Café Racer. She talks in rapid fire, describing how the world fails to live up to her expectations with a heady blend of humor and sarcasm. “I’ve always been the class clown. It’s a really fun, short, accessible way for people to get at these experiences that are really kind of tough, and may be boring to talk about.”
And what are the complexities of which she speaks? Well there’s dating (“The novelty wears off after about three weeks.”) and how to deal with people blindly asking her if she needs help, even if she’s cruising town on her skateboard just fine thankyouverymuch (“Conditioned responses are so irritating, mostly because it’s boring.”). But there’s more.
Take, for instance, a trip last fall to the Moore Theater to see Nas. “I will say that I smoked two blunts before I went in there, because it was Nas,” she says, shrugging. She was with a friend, and after they found seats, he went to find a place to stow her wheelchair. He came back and told her, “That guy up there says you have to sit in your wheelchair, and you have to sit up there.”
Lind rolls her eyes. “Up there was the backest, furthest, shittiest seat, so I say, ‘No, I don’t. Sit here and save these seats.’” She wheels back and argues with the usher, saying, “No, we have seats over there, so I’m going to sit there. Where can I put my wheelchair?” He yells at her for 15 minutes, saying, “If you show up in a wheelchair, you have to sit in a wheelchair.”
“Obviously this guy doesn’t know shit about my rights,” she says. “Wheelchairs are mobility devices – they’re not something you’re confined to. There was no way I was going to sit and watch Nas and be oppressed.” After writing a letter to the Moore, “which I don’t normally do,” they admitted they needed to train better. She had similar problems on a recent visit to the Doug Fir in Portland to see Prom Queen and La Luz. “They had never seen a wheelchair in their venue before, and they had no fucking idea what to do, which is crazy, because it’s an extremely popular venue.”
Lind says it’s the way cripp stories are being told by the non-disabled media. “People don’t know what they’re doing is fucked up, and I get that,” she says. “The story isn’t being told by folks with disabilities, because we aren’t being invited to tell it. It’s constantly that same story about being an inspiration.”
She’d like to change that with her comedy series, which she wants to start as 2 to 5-minute web shorts. One will wrap around the aforementioned subject of being indiscriminately asked if she needs help. “We have a socially conditioned response to ask people, primarily who use wheelchairs, if they need help before we even look at the situation,” she says, and she finds that frustrating.
“If we were going to talk about the help situation,” she says, “I think it would be really funny, instead of saying, ‘Don’t help me,’ hash out me saying yes to all the things that people ask me if I need help with. ‘Yes, you can get me a glass of water that I can totally reach. Yes, I would love it if you would help me go to the bathroom right now.’ We have another about access that’s just called ‘VIP’ in which all this stuff that looks like access is just a lot of privilege. And sometimes it’s really amazing.” Take the Doug Fir situation. “I had a really fun time,” she says. “We got to go backstage and see where the party happens.”
Heightened creativity is one of Lind’s favorite parts of being a cripp. “If you go out into the world, and the world’s not made for you, you have to be creative,” she says. “I think it’s provided me a very clear path to the stuff that I want to be making. It’s definitely shaped my voice. Because these experiences are so rich, and they happen every single time I go outside, there’s no choice for me but to be creating art around them.”
She’s not done with songwriting, but would like to incorporate it into the comedy somehow. “Even while I still think those songs are great, and I do like the music I create, I probably still have a lot to learn about how to encompass really complex situations into a 2-minute song.” She did a perfectly fine job with “Mississippi Misfit,” a song that’s video was produced by Ryan Jorgensen. He’s shot all her videos and she’s talking to him about the comedy, as well. “Ryan Jorgensen is amazing,” she says. “He’s sharp, and he never thinks I’m snappy.”
Lind recently interviewed journalist, disability advocate, and fellow cripp John Hockenberry, for The Stranger, and he called Seattle a disability nirvana. I asked her if she agreed. “In a lot of ways, I think it’s one of the best examples that we have in the United States right now,” she says, “because there is this general openness in Seattle, like that everyone’s invited. And with that said, what a goddamned shame that this is the utopia. There are still so many problems.”
Even though the Americans with Disabilities Act happened 25 years ago, things haven’t changed as much as one might think, Lind says. “Legislation is so slow. That’s why I’m so hip to pop culture’s take on the cripp experience, because I think that shit moves so much faster. As soon as people’s personalities and people’s stories get heard in a way that other folks can retrieve that information, it’s like, “Well no fucking duh the person who uses a wheelchair who has a bunch of talent should be able to get into this venue.”