Tyler Dykema is an author, artist and advocate for accessibility at music venues for people who aren’t able-bodied. Dykema has a unique and special relationship with his favorite thing, his electric wheelchair.
When you asked me to be a part of the Favorite Things column, my mind raced around which item to talk about? Maybe my dad’s Testament “Souls of Black” tour T-shirt I inherited, maybe my 4-foot sword, maybe my refrigerator that’s covered with about a million drawings by my nieces, nephews and my friends’ kids. Nah, it had to be my electric wheelchair. Outside of conversations about it with my friends, my chair is rarely seen the way I see it.
I’ve used electric wheelchairs since I was a kid — it’s all I’ve ever known. My current one is the most special to me so far. Not only is it the most comfortable — it’s a perfect fit for my body — but it’s also been with me for some of both the toughest and coolest parts of my life. I’ve had it for just over four years, and the other day the odometer on it rolled over 1,312 miles. That’s so much adventuring together. There’s a very real bond in that.
It’s weird to me how outsiders will medicalize my chair when it honestly just looks so cool. It’s undeniable. It’s custom black on black-on-black paint and wheels. It’s adorned with stickers and pins of all my friends’ bands and brands and is entwined with fake flowers from my partner and best friend. While acting as my legs, it doubles as an extension of my daily expression of both my personality and interests. And it has a name, Marquis, after one of my favorite basketball players.
I sit in and roll with Marquis for nearly 16 hours a day, seven days a week. I have made literally hundreds of pieces of art on this wheeled throne. We’ve been to over 200 shows together, ranging from house venues and stadiums to weekend tours with buds. That’s more than most people’s shoes will last.
The scuffs in the paint and the squeaks of the suspension are a testament to what Marquis and I have been through together. In this seat I’ve experienced deep love and brutal loss. I’ve had quiet nights in, and reckless nights out spent raging. I get tattoos, Marquis gets coffee spills or new sticker slaps.
To live in an electric wheelchair, it’s impossible to not build a relationship with it. It, Marquis, is my friend. We look out for each other. I maintain it with regular cleanings, new tires and batteries. It gets me where I want to be, helps me reach the things I need and supports my body where it can’t support itself. For all of that, this divine, punk rock, adaptive object deserves endless love, respect and a shift in how it’s viewed. My wheelchair is my favorite thing.
Interview edited and condensed by Skyler Ashley. If you have a suggestion for Favorite Things, please email Skyler@Lansingcitypulse.com