Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

A terrible bout of tears at 5 AM on Memorial Day when I should have been asleep.

The realization that I am "on the spectrum," so to speak, brings with it a lot answers to the questions of what a lot of "normal" people would -- and have -- judged as being an unhealthy relationship with my mother and an unhealthy reluctance to leave home.

But there was nothing Freudian about it. I had Asperger's. No one in the family had a name for it, but we all knew that something was wrong.

Mom was my Protector. Home was my Safe Haven in a world that I could not begin to understand.

How difficult, then, to suddenly have the roles reversed when, six years ago now, she had to have her right leg amputated due to diabetes, and I was suddenly thrust into the position of being the Support Person -- physically, emotionally, financially. . .

Coping, coping, coping, my life and hers became a landscape of dealing with things that were a horror to us both.

And still how much more difficult to lose her so suddenly, without significant (to me, anyway, although a neurotypical might have picked up on the signs more easily than I did) warning -- and then to be assaulted by my sister, entering My World and stealing from the estate, turning things upside down; by the legalities of death; by the auctioneers coming into my home and tearing it apart into a horror, a ruin, literally, for me, ripping my Reality into shreds, turning a rich world of organized clutter into a Depression-era state of Chaos --

A year ago today, we laid her remains to rest around the  old house. This was made necessary because Memorial Day was the only day that I could  get off from work. I was drunk, of course, as I am drunk now typing this at 5:30 AM, for the same reasons.

I gave everybody a chance to say what they wanted to say, and then I said my piece, and then in deference to my hypocrite sister, who wanted Jesus present in some form, I recited the following verse, the only verse that I know by heart, because it's from a favorite movie of mine, and as an Aspie I am good at remembering these things, even drunk --

My name is known: God and King
I am most in majesty in whom no beginning may be, and no end.
Highest in potency I am, and have been ever!
I have made the stars and the planets in their courses to go
I have made a moon for the night
And a sun to light the day also..
I have made Earth, where trees and grasses spring.

Beasts and fowl both great and small
All thrive, and have my liking

I have made All of Nothing for Man's sustenation.
And of this Pleasant Garden that I have Mostly Goodly Planted
I will make HIM gardener for his OWN re-creation.

There was a pause. Then my father said something along the lines of Amen -- and, I do not exaggerate, everyone RAN for their cars. ZOOM! There was dust in the air in the wake of their tires tearing up the driveway.

I was left alone.

I thought, Why did they all run away and leave me?

Then I went inside and poured another drink.

-- Freder.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Too many brains at the Breakfast Table

I'll be back with a real post before the holiday weekend is out, but for now I just wanted to type this interesting passage verbatim from the back end of Nick Dubin's book about Aspergers and anxiety. It comes as part of a conversation about aligning the head and the heart. Take it away, Nick:

In recent years, there has even been evidence to suggest parts of the body, other than the brain, register emotions the same way that the brain does. Dr. Paul Pearsall (1999), a respected psycho-neuroimmunologist, suggested the heart also thinks and feels like the brain. This seems like a radical notion, but he showed many of the same neural cells that are found in the brain are also found in the heart. In her 1997 book, A Change of Heart, Claire Sylvia described what happened to her after her heart transplant. According to Sylvia, after she received her new heart, she experienced a major change in her personality. Further, new memories and sensations surfaced out of nowhere. She ultimately sought out the family of the young man who had donated his heart. To her utter surprise, she found out she had seemingly acquired some of his personality traits. Even more surprising, her story is not unique. Apparently, reports of this phenomenon of a personality transfer are not uncommon among heart transplant recipients (Pearsall 1999).

Oh, great! Bad enough that all men have two brains, usually with conflicting desires -- now there's a third with a voice of its own! No wonder I always feel conflicted!


-- Freder.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Of Weeping Angels and Weeping Chefs

My two current televisual obsessions are Doctor Who (no surprise there) and Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares (perhaps a little bit of a surprise?).

Of the latter, I go into it without delusions. I know what's going on. Every single frame of it is nothing more than a commercial for Gordon Ramsay, and I'm sure he wouldn't have it any other way. But its ostensible conceit -- the producers find restaurants that are on the verge of collapse, then bring Ramsay in to fix them over the course of four days, a process which usually involves fixing the owners as well -- is oddly compelling to me.

The foul-mouthed Ramsay generally finds disgusting food and even more disgusting kitchen conditions, on a level that make one think twice about setting foot in any restaurant, ever again. He also generally finds owners who are either apathetic, or deluded, or have lost their way in the daily grind. One, I would swear, was an undiagnosed Asperger's patient. He kept wandering around with a "deer in the headlights" look on his face, completely lost, while his father-in-law constantly berated and insulted him -- the opposite of a productive atmosphere. The show pays to have their kitchens cleaned and refurbished and the dining rooms redesigned, while Ramsay works over the menu, the chefs, and everyone else who gets in his way.

Except that sometimes he's been really nice. He seems to be a good judge of character, and a lot of what he does here is a combination of pyschotherapy and motivation. Sometimes the owners just need a good swift kick in the pants or a slap across the face, and he does not shy from delivering that. Other times they need support and a renewed sense of self-worth, and he delivers that as well, insofar as anyone could within the timespan allotted.

It doesn't always "take." Ramsay returned to a British Pub one year latter to find that the owner had reverted to his old ways and was alienating the staff and customers.

Regardless of the results, I can't seem to stop watching the damn thing. I keep seeing myself in the owners, and wishing that someone like Ramsay would come along and give me some motivation -- or a kick in the pants, or a sense of self-worth.

As for the Doctor, BBC America has been stripping the Russell T. Davies seasons at 5:00 PM weeknights, and I usually get home in time to catch most of it. It's a real mixed bag. Davies deserves kudos for getting the show back on the air, getting it a real budget, changing the format, transforming the show from a half-hour soap to a real prime-time contender. But also for hiring Stephen Moffat to write one story a season.

I don't like the Davies years well enough to spend $50 and up for the DVDs, but I have started going to Amazon, picking out the episodes that Moffat wrote and watching them full-screen on the new computer for just 98 cents a pop.

I've watched two of them now, and have been really blown away both times, actually applauding after last night's episode, "Blink." I'm sorry, but Davies isn't half the writer that Moffat is. I haven't seen writing this good on TV since the early days of Northern Exposure.

"The Girl in the Fireplace" is a virtual template for themes that Moffat would explore in greater depth when he took over the show. While checking out a seemingly abandoned spaceship, the doctor finds an 18th century fireplace that is actually a gateway into a little girl's bedroom. That little girl is being terrorized by clockwork automatons who scan her brain, declare that she's "not ready" and then leave. The automatons (and, now, The Doctor) reappear at various times throughout her life, and as the young girl grows to womanhood she finds herself falling in love with the curious stranger who reappears every time to protect her from the automatons. (and who never gets any older). As it turns out, she grows up to become France's Madame de Pompadour, and the automations want to use her adult brain to repair their ship. They've been building time portals into her life, and at last they've caught her at the ripe age. But if the Doctor closes down the time portals, he'll be stranded forever in 18th century France.

You see, it takes a long time to describe one of Moffat's plots.

If "The Girl in the Fireplace" is a thematic Statement of Principles, then "Blink" could well be the Pilot for Mofat's tenure on the show. It's remarkable in that the Doctor hardly appears at all. We're in the present day, while he's trapped in 1969 by  new series villains The Weeping Angels. This time, it's up to a girl from the present day who's never met the Doctor to get information to him in 1969 so that he -- get this -- can record a video that will one day be inserted as an easter egg onto 17 DVD titles; a video that will get information to the girl in the present day that will allow her to defeat The Weeping Angels and free up the Doctor's TARDIS.

Are you following this? Trust me, it doesn't even begin to cover all the wrinkles that Moffat gets into this story.

It is brilliant and clever and it takes the show to a whole new level. The original Doctor Who was not for everyone. It was cheaply made and eccentric and sometimes long-winded. I loved it without reserve in nearly all its incarnations, but could completely understand why lots of folks walked away.

This is different. If you've never seen the show, or if you've seen it in the old days and had enough, get your hands on a copy of "Blink" and start there. It's been many moons since I've seen something that made me want to grab people by the shoulders, push them into a chair and say, "Just sit down and Watch."

Blah-blah-blah, burble-burble-burble. Had enough? I don't blame you.

-- Freder.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Why So Serious?

On Moonlight Bay is just the sort of picture that my mother had in mind when she complained about modern movies back in the 'seventies and eighties as being so serious and self-important.

Back when she and her family went to the theater most every Friday night, the movies weren't about proving anything or making a point or even about exposing the dark underbelly of any damn thing. They were all about entertainment, and having a light, refreshing, relaxing time, and enjoying yourself for a couple of hours. They were about songs and color and Romance. You didn't go to the pictures to have the weight of the world thrown down on your shoulders -- you went to have it taken off.

On Moonlight Bay (which just aired on TCM) does all of that good stuff. As movies go, it's strawberry sherbet.

I must say that I love the way that directors and photographers used color in those days. On Moonlight Bay is a good deal more pastel than other Technicolor movies of its day, but it's still vibrant as an Easter basket full of eggs. You knew you wren't looking at black & white, and you knew you weren't looking at Reality.

I guess that's what my mother really meant by those comments, all those years ago. The movies she enjoyed weren't about Reality at all. They were about wafting you away on a dream: of a Reality that was close enough to touch, but so very far away.

For my part, it's hard not to like the Homey Charm of this picture (it was Beyond Nostalgic even in its day, and today it presents a completely Alien World through its shocking pink rose-colored glasses), and there are some real laugh-out-loud moments, and the songs are great fun, and the Art Direction really settles you back in your easy chair, especially if you have Quats to sit on you.

And that Doris Day! Va-va-va-VOOM! How long has it been since I saw a Doris Day movie?

Let's just say that my hormones had not yet kicked in, and at this point in my history they have not yet completely died off.

I liked Doris better as the Tomboy than as the lovesick gal (don't think anyone else could look better in an oversized sweatshirt and jeans), but I must admit that if a lovesick gal like that threw herself at me I'd roll over on my back and wag my tail (a line I steal now and then from Raymond Chandler).

After the picture, Robert Osborne's re-telling of a Vincente Minelli remark ("I knew Doris Day before she was a Virgin") really pointed up the dichotomy in her image, and probably in her personal life. I'm reminded of a song that I think was cut from the egregiously bad movie version of Grease:

Watch it, hey, I'm Doris Day
I was not brought up that way
Won't come across
Even Rock Hudson lost
His heart to Doris Day!

Anyway. It's been a few weeks since I curled up with an old movie, and this was a good one to curl up with. It's deceptive: because a lot of skill and craft was thrown at it from every which direction, but it wants nothing more than to please.

-- Freder.

Pick Your Metaphor

The four boys from Liverpool in their Sea of Holes.

Yes, I know that I typed just yesterday that my posts would be getting fewer and farther between and here I am today back again "just like a bloody great opera star always making her Positively Final Appearance" (I think that's from Fawlty Towers, but I could be wrong), but this is actually pretty big.

Call it a lightbulb or a road map. Call it anything you like.

I was reading last night about cognitive behavioural therapy as a means of helping control anxiety, and although I could understand the principle all right, it wasn't really connecting with me on an emotional level (which is how I need things to connect if I'm ever really going to fully comprehend them) until the author, who is a diagnosed Aspie, came out with a metaphor of his own.

Imagine if you had a smoke alarm that was going off all the time, even when there was no smoke.

That one dropped into my emotional understanding like a ten ton weight! Suddenly the constant morning anxieties I have had, especially in the last six or seven years of my life when I became responsible for absolutely everything, are comprehensible to me. I thought once again, as I have thought so often recently, Oh my god, that's me!

Friends and readers of this blog will know that I am emphatically not a morning person, never have been, never will be, and that it sometimes goes a lot deeper than that. Now I understand why.

My smoke alarm is going off. It's not overstating things to say that mornings are an assault on my senses at a time when I have not had a chance to gather myself and prepare for the onslaught.

I've learned to wake before the alarm rings, because it shatters me.

Even something as simple as taking a shower when I first get up can sometimes have me weeping and begging for mercy. The water beating on me, sometimes too cold, sometimes too hot, the necessary scrubbing, it all feels like I'm being worked over by two big orderlies. Now, I don't have a problem taking a shower in the afternoon or evening, or even a couple of hours after I've gotten up. But first thing in the morning it is a shock to the system, and as I go through my morning chores and think about the day to come it sometimes feels like shock after shock is being piled on, jolting through me when I am not adequately prepared to receive or cope with that input. In fact, I'm in a state of hypersensitivity.

Within an hour or sometimes 90 minutes, it starts to get better: I have been able to gather myself, calm down, my senses begin to dull somewhat.

This is THE REASON why I drank heavily in the mornings from the moment I got out of bed: it was my way of numbing my senses to a dull roar, to a point where I could cope with the onslaught of that damn smoke alarm going off constantly in my head!

See, I told you it was big.

This morning was better than normal, but, as usual for me, I started feeling a deep sense of panic and anxiety during the short drive to work. I started moaning. Then, for the very first time, I was able to think to myself: It's that damn smoke alarm going off again.

Look around you. Is there any smoke?

No. No smoke. No smoke at all.

I took a couple of deep breaths. The panic didn't go completely away, and I expect that it never will -- but the alarm turned off (or at least was reset for the next time) and I was able -- my god, as they say -- to feel like I was in control of it, not the other way 'round.

[Insert metaphor here]

-- Freder.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Here's to Stillness

I have much less to blog about now that life is becoming, thank goodness, less "interesting" -- as in the old Eastern curse "May you live in interesting times." Even though my disease sometimes causes me to dread what may be lurking, unknown, in the months ahead, it feels good to metaphorically bury the last twelve months. I'm going to try not to look back on it for at least a while.

This means my blog posts will most likely grow fewer and farther between as my focus shifts somewhat to things like reading and working on the new website. I'll still be here when I feel like Mister Ed and have something to say, but I'm not going to add to the internet's White Noise by just typing in search of a subject.

But I'll make an exception today.


The rain this week didn't just slant the skies with non-stop gloom: it created jungles of grass in the yards along W_______ Avenue, and probably frustrated the hell out of homeowners who care about this sort of thing. I hadn't mowed my yard in two weeks, so I can sense my neighbors seething and obsessing about the grass -- The grass! The GRASS!! It's two inches high! Must -- mow -- NOW!

Whatever the reason, on this Sunday morning when it would have been my pleasure to sleep in, instead the pent-up compulsion to mow that must have been building up in my neighbors over the past few days caused them to fire up their mowers on both sides of me at the ungodly hour of 8:30 in the morning, which in turn caused me to drag myself, rumpled and fuzzy-headed, to the computer and fire off an Indignant, venting post.

With no other option, I fed my cats and surrendered to the suburban mores and went out there to tackle my own lawn.

It seems so awkward and phony to smile widely, wave loudly back at my neighbors just because that's what they do to me. Especially when I am thinking such dark thoughts about them and their lawnmowers, usually something about throwing them under one. It's a part of the life-long game of "Let's Pretend" that I've had to play.

Another thing: Both couples on the two sides of me seem to spend a lot of time sitting on their porches or standing in their yards, talking to each other.

It seems to me that, if this is normal, it's probably the reason why I've never been able to sustain a relationship.

What can they find to say to each other? What can they be talking about for an hour? What language are they speaking?

I've always been pretty quiet and in my relationships I have been the listener. I never know what to say; if I do I never feel at ease saying it. First, I have to determine what she's really saying, or, if her words are clear to me, what she really means. Then I have to decide how I feel about it. Then I have to think about how to frame it back into understandable words. This can take a while. Sometimes, she has gotten indignant by then, and is saying something like, "Why can't you tell me what you're thinking?"

Well, I'm trying, but you're making it harder by stressing me out with your impatience for a quick response.

Oftentimes, whether I am with women or with my small circle of friends, the conversation moves on without me. I'm always finding the perfect words when the time for them has come and gone.

Shortly before she dumped me, my next-to-last girlfriend Lorna complained to me about our relationship. I could see that she was really upset, but I didn't know what to say to her about it. She said, "All we ever do is go to the movies and have sex!" -- as if that was a bad thing.

To me, she was describing the perfect relationship!

Looking at the normal couples that now bookend me on two sides, I begin to understand for the first time. Oh -- you have to be relaxed with each other, and you have to talk.

But those are the two things that I'm desperately bad at.

Looks like it's me and the quats, and my books and DVDs, for the indefinite future.

-- Freder.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The End is Nigh!

Ah, so tomorrow there is to be Rapture.

I didn't learn about any of this until just this afternoon. Yeh, it's true -- The Rapture is coming tomorrow and millions of Christian Bible Thumpers are going to be taken to Heaven, leaving the rest of us down here in an Apocalyptic setting to duke it out with the Devil and his Minions.

Who decided this?

I did a little (and I mean a little) research and discovered that it was decided by some evangelical cracker who plans on watching the whole thing tomorrow as entertainment on the telly.

Well, you know, if he's right, then I'm fine with that. In the year just past, the year that began for me on 14 May, my world has come to an end at least three times. There was losing Mom, then having the auctioneers come into my house over a period of three days and freakin' rape the place, then having it sold out from underneath me just when I was restoring some order.

So, you know, for me this would be just One More Thing.

In fact -- it would be good, because it would mean that I wouldn't have to make any more decisions about work, about the car, about the plumbing problem in my basement that I made worse by trying to fix it myself, about ANY damn thing. All I'd have to do is duke it out with Demons, and Baby, that is something I feel that I would excel at.

My message to God and the Devil at the End of the World would be, you guys have been feeding me shit for so long, and you expect me to go quietly into that not-so good night? You got a little bit of a surprise on your hands, you Cosmic Bullies! I've been bullied by the best of 'em, and you clowns have created a Right Angry Dude! Bring it on!

Unfortunately, the world is not going to come to an end tomorrow, and I'm going to have to focus and make some decisions sooner or later. I'm going to have to come to grips with the future and try to make a new life.

One of the posts that I haven't written, because I've been avoiding it, is titled "Gifts my Mother Keeps on Giving Me."

One of those gifts was a sign that she painted to hang outside our home at Turkey Hill Farm in Cape Elizabeth, all those years ago.

It was hung outdoors for a long time and is badly worn. It hangs inside my back entry hall now. It reads "D. Thornsjo" under a picture of a Phoenix being reborn. Of course the D. Thornsjo that she painted it for was my father, and she could never have imagined the significance that the sign would one day have for her then eight-year -old son.

There's a reason why the Phoenix is reborn in flame.

Starting over again hurts.

Thanks, Mom.

The end of the world? Been there, done that. Bring it on. I'm ready.

-- Freder.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Lurking Fear

I was spending my second night in a row out on the couch on my porch, with Honey sitting on me and Pooky trying to, reading Asperger's Syndrome and Anxiety by Nick Dubin, and thinking, how could I possibly convey the deep connections and revelations that I'm seeing here without just quoting passages to the point of copyright infringement, when I suddenly had an insight.

Quoting, quoting, quoting. One of my biggest problems, first pointed out to me by an old ex-girlfriend, is that I'm almost incapable of expressing myself in normal conversation without quoting,

But, quoting someone who is not exactly a friend, but whom many of my oldest friends will recognize in the words:

I would bet you "Serious. Folding. Cash" that Charles Schulz, the lamentably late creator of Peanuts, was an Undiagnosed Aspie.

It's in almost every strip that he ever created for the series, and it's also in the sheer dedication of will whereby the strip was his life and his life was the strip, to the point that his first wife divorced him over it, to the point where the notion of anyone else taking it on or continuing it after his death was almost physically repellent to him.

It's especially in the classic strip, later adapted for one of the television specials, in which Lucy, below her sign reading "Psychiatric Help Five Cents," diagnoses Charlie Brown as having "The Fear of Everything" -- and Charlie Brown literally blows her over with his cry of:


Furthermore, I would bet you that the number of adults walking around out there with undiagnosed Asperger's is potentially astounding.

It wasn't an accepted diagnosis until something like 1993 -- no one was making that diagnosis when I was a little kid, and it wasn't even a glimmer in Mr. Asperger's head until, I think, the early fifties. Something like that.

Peanuts could be a rallying cry that more attention needs to be brought to the diagnosis -- not just to improve the lives of children who suffer with Asperger's, but to explain the lives of some us who always knew that something was wrong -- but never had a word for it.

-- Freder.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Introducing the Quats of the Duck Haus: Part Three

Pooky (short for Spooky, but also the POO being very Apropo to what she perpetrates upon me and my house every day of her life) -- came very close to dying yesterday. I had finally decided to take her to the vet, and I knew that if I did she probably wasn't coming back.

But I just couldn't do it.

It's true that she's so incontinent that I have to cover every piece of furniture. She leaves gooey "presents" behind her everywhere she sleeps. It's true that I have to clean dribs and drabs of the stuff off of the floor, wherever she goes, all day, every day. It's true that she's taken to sleeping on my bed and all the guest-room beds, and even in the sheets, so that I have to wash tons of linen every weekend (or close doors and spoil it for everyone). She knows that she's not supposed to. But in her never-ending quest to find Comfort she is refusing to confine herself anymore to the sofas. Once I found her on the quilt in the Halloween room, actually hiding under the Lion mask so that I would not see her and kick her out. I got so upset and frustrated about it a few nights back that I called the vet in the middle of the night to make an appointment, thinking, "Either they'll cure her, or they'll put her down, and I don't care which anymore. . ."

But it's not her fault.

She's a member of the family, and you don't kill family members, do you, although sometimes you want to. The cats are a trust left to me from Mom. I have to protect them and love them, much as this one sometimes makes it hard. I was crying about Mom the other night, and then I thought of Spooky and started crying even harder about her and knew that I wouldn't go through with it.

This morning, Spooky was hollering at me as usual while she waited for her breakfast. She does that every morning, because the food plate never gets set down fast enough to please her and I guess she thinks that screaming at me will make it come faster.

This morning I was in a bad enough mood that I hollered back at her, "Don't make me regret my decision! I could still change my mind, y'know!"

She seemed to understand what I meant. She shut up and calmly walked out of the room.

Poor Pooky.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Once Upon a Time. . .

I now pronounce the new Doctor Who pretty danged good.

Well, I call it new because it's new to me -- but as it turns out Matt Smith and the cast, crew and writing staff have been doing this for a whole year already. This is their second season.

I had my worries, in part because Smith looked so very damn young. He is the youngest actor ever to take on the character.

But he's really, really good. His youthful looks work well against the way that he somehow manages to evoke the character's true age (which depends on what part of Episode One you're watching!). He sometimes goes a little far with the manic thing, but it's balanced by a real sense of wisdom, experience and gravity.

I like him much better than what I saw of David Tennant. I also like the scripts better than what I saw of the latter Tennant years: it seemed to me that the people in charge of the show during that run were more interested in getting TORCHWOOD off the ground and that whole agenda than they were in the Doctor. By the end of their run, there were so many supporting characters that the balance had shifted too far.

When Stephen Moffat took over as head writer and Matt Smith took over as the Doctor, a RESET button was hit, and the show took off in a whole new, and inspired, direction.

It's not that it's any less complicated than the end of Tennant's run; it's that it's complicated in the right way.

Moffat is doing things with the show that have never been done before, things that someone really should have thought of sooner. Like, the whole concept is time-travel, right? So why has the Doctor never used time travel within the context of a single story? He's doing it all the time, now, to the extent that we sometimes see him a hundred or more years apart in his own timeline within one episode. He's killed: then he's back. He's met a lady time traveler with whom he clearly has a relationship -- except that even he doesn't know yet what that relationship is, because she's traveling backwards through time while he's traveling forward. They just kissed: it was his first, her last.

In a Christmas special from the end of last season, he hopped into his TARDIS and popped into a crusty old gent's home movies while the guy was watching. Changed his whole past right out from underneath him.

His current lady traveling companion is someone that he first met when she was a child. She grew up thinking he was a dream: then he came back. By that single move, Moffat has cast the whole series as a fairy tale.

Genius, really.

Sometimes the talk, in the manner of most modern teevee shows, comes at too fast and furious a pace for me to follow. This is just one reason why I watch the reruns the following week. I'm able to pick up a lot that I missed the first time 'round. And there's a lot to miss: the scripts are dense and shrewd.

One way or another, I'm definitely going back in time myself, to check out Matt Smith's first season on the show. But not right away. For now, I'm good with my weekly Saturday night dose of the Doctor. Like all good things, this season won't last forever.

-- Freder.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The End

I don't know what time it was when I left the hospital. It had to be around two-thirty, going on three AM. I was in a dazed state, the tears had not yet begun. The building seemed completely empty. I was carrying my mother's prosthetic leg and a shopping bag full of her things, including a Babar book that I'd bought on Friday to cheer her up and which she never got a chance to see.

I can't believe that it's been a year. Sometimes it seems like that much time cannot possibly have passed, and other times it seems like too much has happened to possibly be contained by just one year.

The parking lot was deserted. I drove home through a dead world and somehow made it in to work the next morning, and every morning after that. It was graduation time, I wasn't allowed to take any time off. The falling apart happened gradually.

Mom and Mickey Mouse were born the same year. She grew up on Disney animation, and her whole house was filled with Disneyana, among other things.

It still doesn't seem real. Go figure. Nothing seems quite real to me anymore. All something I dreamed. I go through the motions, pretend to be a Real Boy. That's what life has become.

Goodnight, Mom. Goodbye.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Baby Steps. . .

Eddie Fox and Buster Keaton at the graveside of Roscoe Arbuckle.
From chapter eight of "Tinsel*Town."

Today I took the bull by the horns and began assembling content for the new website. Instead of just re-posting the same old files, all of my comics are going to be "remastered" to a significantly larger size, and reframed to reflect a whole page of story instead of the original 3/4 page serial installments. The computers are faster than when I started doing this, the screens are bigger, and I think the new sizing is pretty darn nice. When I post an update, it will be an entire chapter of each series, instead of just a page at a time. It will still take a while to get everything online, so I'm not in danger of having to create anything new for a while. That's a good thing. I need to take this slow.

In order to do all this, I had to un-stuff the original files from my old computer, and while I was at it I burned them onto CD -- the first time I've ever had a really proper back-up of this material.

I dreaded starting on the work, but it was time. Once I got into it and started seeing the new results, it became enjoyable. But it sure is hard to work with graphics when you have a persistent pussyquat determined to sit on your lap!


One year ago tonight, I was at my mother's bedside in the hospital, holding her hand,  while she seemed to get farther and farther away. I refused to accept what was happening, was still hoping for the best. That's what I do.

Around seven o'clock my sister came in. She stood at the foot of the bed and started talking. With one thing and another, her usual "wonderful" bedside manner and the fact that she didn't have any trouble at all accepting what was happening and was determined to "help" me reach the same stage, I ended up having a not so small meltdown, and was politely asked by the hospital staff to leave.

At home, I fed the cats and poured liquor into myself, repeating as necessary until I fell into bed.

Shortly after one AM, I woke and could not get back to sleep for thinking about Mom. I decided to get up and go back in there to be with her. I took a quick shower first, which I needed badly.

As I was getting out of the shower, the telephone rang.

One of my mother's favorite songs was "Somewhere," from West Side Story. She kept the lyrics by her side in the last years of her life.

I was going to play it at her Memorial Gathering, but I goofed somehow, or there was a technical glitch, or something, and that one never got played.

So I'm making it up to her tonight. She never heard the version that I'm going to post here (performed by Tom Waits, of all people), but I feel certain that she would have liked it, maybe even loved it.

-- Freder.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Time Marches On

It's so ironic that the virtual end of the move and the transition falls, almost to the day, on the anniversary of my own personal Hiroshima.

Exactly one year ago today, I came home from work to find that my mother was not sitting in her usual place, in her cat chair in the kitchen.

(You can't see it very well, but my cat Patches, self-proclaimed Queen of the Universe, is sitting in it in the photo above, taken in the old house at the height of its clutter.)

This would not have been such a distressing thing, had it not been for the scene I'd experienced that morning, described a few posts back.

There were empty cat food tins overturned on the stove. The kitties had not come to greet me as usual. The television was playing to an empty room.

I ran into my mother's bedroom hollering, "Are you all right?" and heard, faintly. . .

"no. . . I think I'd better go to the hospital."

I found her sitting on one of her stools at the end of her bed, slumped against the bedpost, breathing hard.

I called 911 from the phone that sat in the pile of dolls and stuff at the foot of her bed. They stayed on the line with me, and I stood with the receiver in one hand held to my ear, holding my mother's hand in my left, until the ambulance arrived.

It took half an hour, and when they came, unfolding their massive stretcher in the yard, I hollered at them, "There's no way you're going to get that in the house."

They ended up walking her out to the stretcher, and I ended up kicking myself and kicking myself and kicking myself.

Damn. I mean, I could have done that. I could have walked her out to my car, and driven her to the Emergency Room, and I could have saved half an hour, and maybe that would have made the difference.

Damn it. Damn it all. Oh, god, it could have made all the difference.

That night, she and I both believed that she was still going to survive this.

That night, a small part of me, something that the rest of me could not bear listening to, knew something that I could not bear to admit.

I'm going to post some music over the next few days, Highly Illegally.

So, let them sue me.

Here's the music for tonight, Let me know if it doesn't work.

To my knowledge, my mother only heard this song once, and it moved her to tears.

My first thought was to play it at her Memorial Gathering, but I made the decision early on that there would be No Sad Songs at that Event.

It will already be known to some of you. It's one of my favorites.

Take it away, Van!

Journey's End?

Blogger's recent crash has coincided with a couple of milestones for me. It may take a couple of longish posts to catch up.

Plus, I just had a bad spell of tears. It's hard to organize my thoughts.

Last night I was so full of clarity. Tonight, not so much.

Just overnight, the first nasturtiums that I planted going on three weeks ago started poking their way out of the ground. Just overnight, the leaves on the trees finally popped and have started to enclose the house nicely.

This evening after work, I was staring into the flower bed to see what was what when a couple of young boys went by on their bicycles. I wasn't paying them any mind. The youngest one actually called out, "Good evening, sir!" and I turned and smiled and said hi. The older one said, "I like your mailbox!" -- meaning my Mechanical Man. I thanked him, and then they were gone.

Last night, some paper lanterns that I ordered arrived, and I wasted no time in hanging them along my front porch. I could hardly wait until dark to turn them on and see how they looked.

When darkness came, I was so happy with the effect that I wanted to see what it looked like from the outside. I put my shoes on, walked around the block, stood in the dark and admired my house.

Then I realized that this was exactly the same thing that I did all though the sad summer of last year.

The old house had been irrevocably changed by the loss of my mother. I used to take a drink out into the yard, sit at the garden table in the dark with all the lights on inside the house, and look in at the world that was.

Last night I stood in my yard outside the new house, and looked in on the world that is.

I realized that, although there is still some unpacking and work to do, it doesn't really amount to much compared to what's behind me, and it doesn't have to be a priority anymore.

I realized that, if life is divided into chapters like a novel, and if the last chapter of my life was titled "Transition" -- that chapter has drawn to a close.

I'm no longer in transition. I'm here. And everything that happens from here on in is, trite as this sounds even to me, a lot like my nasturtiums.

The seed's been planted. Now I just have to hope that something will come up.

-- Freder.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Evil in Plain Sight

This afternoon I was both shocked and saddened when a Facebook friend -- and not just a Facebook friend, but someone that I went to High School with, all those moons ago -- posted a link to a YouTube video making the outrageous claim that President Obama's birth certificate was a fake. He not only posted the link, but made a personal comment calling for an investigation.

I was all over that. By the time I was done with that fool, he had deleted the link from his Facebook profile.

I don't care what party you belong to. This is nothing but racist bullshit. No other president has had to endure this kind of treatment.

It's time for the right wing to pull its head out of its own asshole and come to the table with REAL issues and REAL arguments -- instead of just Making Shit Up and getting the gullible members of their class to fall into lock-step with it.

Hmm. I guess it's time that I revealed the shocking secret that Donald Trump was actually born in Pakistan, is a secret terrorist, and had a major part in the planning of 9/11.

I mean, if I say it's true, it must be true, right?

What's so disturbing is not so much that some cynical, evil person would put this pile of crap out there before the public, but that so many people, people who appear to be otherwise rational and functional, would actually swallow it.

I can't even take reassurance in the fact that, without exception, the people posting in support of this "theory" are obvious fruitcakes and morons who are incapable of spelling even simple words like "lemmings" correctly. Every single angry post that I read calling the President's birth certificate a fake looked like it had been typed by a monkey with one hand tied behind its back.

This comment is quite typical:

Anyone that thinks it is NOT PLAUSIBLE for the Whitehouse to do such an amaturish job at forgery must first realize that this man as shown that he is an Incompetent Fool , Second that he beleives that all us non-elitists ( normal people ) are too stupid to catch it and thirdly that anyone not realizing this to be an Obvious attempt at Fraud that he is Complicit in makes you nothing more than a Leeming ….

I followed the link to this cracker's website. There the ravings grew worse. At the same time that he is claiming that the death  of Osama bin Laden is a fraud, he publishes a picture -- I don't know how or where he got it, but it is very grisly and convincing and I deeply regretted scrolling down -- of bin Laden's bloody corpse with its left eye shot out, with the following caption underneath it:

Dead! Dead! DEAD!

I know that it takes all kinds, but these Lunatic Fringe Nut Jobs are getting louder and louder and people are listening to them. The very fact that the President released his birth certificate to the public -- an unprecedented and, I think, ill-advised event, because it kowtows to people whose opinions should not even be acknowledged -- is proof that this culture is being drawn down into The Way of the Wacko.

Longtime readers of this blog know that I take pains not to name names. This one time, I will make an exception. William Higgins, my schoolmate, you should be ashamed of yourself. There are real issues out there that deserve discussion, debate and resolution.

This is nothing more than what Justice Thomas called (although I disagreed with him at the time) a "High-Tech lynching."


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Further Adventures of That Wacky Aspie Guy

I haven't posted lately because I've been , , , well, busy on the one hand and mentally at sea on the other. But something happened just now that's too idiotic not to type, so I'll start there and work my way backward.

I had a premonition about watching The Wrestler that I should have taken to heart. It's well-done and fascinating, and, good lord, Mickey Rourke looking like he's been dragged through a cactus-infested desert behind a Jeep. But I had to turn it off when the staple gun and the dinner fork and the barbed wire came out. Who thinks of this stuff? Who are those people in the crowd who can watch it as entertainment?

That wasn't the idiotic thing.

With the telly shut down as quickly as I could possibly shut it down, I meandered into the kitchen and decided there was no way I was going to hand-wash all those dishes. I loaded up the dishwasher, and went to put the detergent in. . .

. . . and it only halfway filled up the cup before it ran out.

So, I grabbed my bottle of Ivory, squeezed some into the cup, closed the lid, and squeezed some more into the "pre-wash" slot.

As with all of my Finest Moments, I have to type: "You can see it coming, can't you?"

I should get a tm on that line.

I went into the bathroom, and while I was in there the dishwasher suddenly got really quiet.

By the time I came out, water and soap suds were boiling out around the door, looking just like something out of The Blob, flooding the length of my kitchen floor.

Long story short: After two more attempts and two clean-ups and lots of begging with the powers that be for mercy, I got it going again with, to coin a cliche, No Soap. It's happily chugging away as I type this.

On Monday night, I found a ginormous box sitting on my deck. I thought: What the  -- ?? I didn't order another computer while I was drunk, did I?

It was my three lilac trees from White Flower Farm. My first inclination was to wait and plant them on Saturday. Then I thought -- Nah! I've got light!

I planted all three of them around the house, and named them Monica, Nicki and Kristine.

Bet you can't guess, and I'm not going to tell you.

While I was planting Monica, someone from the house of Kaspar the Mad Aryan Gardener crept up on me from behind. It was the woman of the house, R____, who as it turns out works in the Health Center at the same college where I plug away my days. Of all my neighbors, I like her the best: having the common workplace gives us something to talk about, and she was just right: not Forcibly Friendly, if you get my drift, and knew when to end the chatter. She was happy that I have outside cats, and she likes all the stuff in my yard, so that was a plus, too.

The Old Me would have imagined that she flirted with me, just a little bit. Now I understand that this is a delusion of Asperger's Syndrome: we misinterpret the signs, and when a woman is just being Ordinarily Friendly (something we have a hard time understanding in the first place) we mistake it for Interest and Openness to Something More.

Are you out there, L____? Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.

On Monday at work, I was just coming to terms with how deeply swamped I was under Purchase Orders and a six-page newsletter that needs to be done, like, now (and which, as it turns out, my Student Worker had only been pretending to work on for me), when my boss came by and handed me a sixteen page order of sale books, hundreds of titles that each need an item card before I can do the PO, and they're going to be here by the end of the week.

They call it Job Security, I guess.

My father and his wife are back from Nevada, and for Sunday I invited them over to my house for dinner. During the two weekdays after I invited them, I looked closely at the house and came to understand what a Horrific Pit it was. I thought about putting them off until next week, but then I looked at the calendar at work and realized that the next solid month is going to be Hell Time. So on Sunday I bit the bullet and gave this place a beating to make it look halfway presentable.

I don't know if anyone else has Anxiety Attacks while cleaning, but I sure did this time. The vacuum cleaner was acting up, I kept tripping over myself, I was agitated about this, that and the other thing, had to keep telling myself to calm down, calm down, but it didn't work.

The actual dinner came off all right, and maybe a little bit better than all right. It was good having them at my place rather than the other way 'round; I felt like I had a degree of control over the situation that I never feel when I have to go eat lunch with them. I cooked chicken and corn on the cob and spinach, and it all turned out well. M_ seemed a little perturbed with some of my methods (like, you have to put salt on corn before you cook it; it brings out the sweetness), but I was able to shrug it off -- my house, my dinner, my cooking. I've been subjected to Salmon (which I hate) at your place -- now it's Your Turn!

Sunday might have been easier if I had done a lick of work on Saturday. But, after five months of pushing, driving, pushing, driving, I think that I hit the wall on Saturday.

I tried to write a post about this and deleted it. The sixteenth of this month marks a solid year that I have been Coping and Dealing, Coping and Dealing, Coping and Dealing.

I'm burned out. It's the reason why I'm in denial about the car, it's the reason why, when I walked into the Studio on Saturday afternoon to work on it, I just avoided bursting into tears and said to myself, out loud, I can't do it, I can't do it.

I said, "What I really want is to just go out on the porch, flop on the couch, and spend the afternoon reading."

Pause. Then I thought, "So, let's do it."

It wasn't all reading. I dozed a lot, too.

-- Freder.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Nothing White or Black

Alcoholism is one of those things that you wish was as simple as everyone says it is.

What I'm about to type is not self-justification. If it were, then I wouldn't feel as conflicted about it as I do, going so far against the grain of what's accepted as it does.

I used to get up in the morning and go to the kitchen before I even went to the bathroom. I used to show up for work with anywhere between three and five strong drinks inside of me.

And the actual fact is, I was a better employee when I showed up for work half-cocked than I am now and have been for the better part of a year, since I started showing up for work completely 100 percent sober.

I knew the policy. If they caught you drunk on the job, you were out, no questions asked.

And so I had to focus. I had to accomplish things. I knew that if they knew the state I was in, it was all over -- so I made myself the best damn employee that I could. I did my best and I got a lot done.

Now that I show up for work 100 percent sober -- honestly, I'm lousy.

I can't focus on anything, It takes me DAYS instead of hours to get things done. My mind wanders here and there, I waste time on the internet, the past is oftentimes much more in my eyes than the present. . .

If I were my boss, I would fire me, and re-hire the guy that I used to be.

The same thing is true about my driving. The stigmata about Driving Drunk in our culture is so intense that I am certain I will catch a lot of heat for this, one way or the other, but the fact is that I was a better driver half-cocked than most people are sober.

I was a better driver half-cocked than I am sober!

I think the reasons are the same. I was aware that I was impaired -- and so I was aware that I needed to focus, be careful, and not do anything that could harm anyone.

This morning, completely sober, I tore out of my driveway at about Mach Nine and swerved across the lane and put the pedal to the metal because I was running late. I shouted at the car in front of me: "Get the hell out of my way, asshole!" At the intersection, when the opposite car did not move when it was clearly his turn, I shouted, "Come on! What are you doing, idiot?! Are you a moron? Go, stupid!"

I'm not saying that the Emperor doesn't have any clothes on and that alcohol isn't everything that common sense says it is. Even Rodney Dangerfield wrote in his bio-book that he couldn't understand why pot was illegal and alcohol wasn't, because he saw alcohol ruin many people's lives, but he never saw the same thing among pot users.

I'm just saying -- nothing is as simple as anyone makes it out to be.

Alcohol may have hastened my mother's death -- we drank together, when I wasn't drinking alone -- but it also took a lot of pain and anxiety out of her life. Even now, knowing everything that I do, I would not deny her any of the drinks that she took in the last five years of her life, including the ones that I poured for her on the last morning that she spent at home.

On the morning of Friday, May 14, 2010, by the time she made it into the kitchen she was exhausted and in terrible pain. These situations were not abnormal. . . just maybe a little worse than usual. By the time she had had a chance to relax in her chair, and had a couple of drinks inside of her, she said, "Oh, I feel so much better now."

That changed while I was away at work.

The end was near. I knew it. And I kept on throwing alcohol down my gullet because I desperately wanted not to know it.

It didn't work.

-- Freder.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Much-Needed Smile

Bathing Beauty is just the sort of movie that my mother and her best friend Joan Betty used to ride the trolly into downtown Minneapolis to see on a Saturday afternoon. In fact, Ester Williams was one of the stars that she remembered fondly. I'd lay you odds that that pair saw this picture on the big screen in its first run.

They would have been sixteen years old, and I can well imagine that this is the kind of picture that a couple of teenaged girls of that period would really enjoy. Hell, I enjoyed it. What's not to enjoy?

It's nothing more or less than a big party of a movie, one of the more successful examples of its genre, with great music and genuine fun and a little bit of awkward romance, and lots and lots of dancing.

Some of the musical numbers are presented in a way that is heavily influenced by Walt Disney and Fantasia. Others go a step further, driven by a jazz heartbeat.

Particularly memorable is Harry James seeming to float over his band, lifted by the riffs of his own trumpet, thanks to early (and really effectively used) blue screen techniques.

In the earliest scenes, Red Skelton really seems like a fish out of water as the Romantic Lead and playing it more or less straight. But once the initial Water Ballet is over (Esther selling this odd duck of an act like there is no tomorrow), it becomes Red's movie, and once again I am moved to type that he must have been the hardest working clown in Hollywood at the time. He comes across as genuinely likable, although it's never far from the surface that he's really Giving His All for it.

The silly plot is not important -- although one wonders how something like six writers need to be credited for something that is so very exactly In The Mold as this thing is -- after all, the college swing comedy is almost a genre unto itself, and the details rarely change. What matters is that this one works. I stomped my feet to the swinging beat of the music, I laughed out loud at the jokes, I thought, "Red is a guy I'd like to pal around with," I thought, "Who is that Swinging middle-aged babe at the organ and how does she make it sing and dance the way she does?" and "Who is that cute little brunette that's stealing so many scenes?" and all in all this is that rarest of Rare Beasts -- a party that I wish I could have attended in person.

I work at a college. So I know what college is like. I can only imagine what College Life was like in 1944, when this picture was made -- but, you know what? I bet that, in spirit, Bathing Beauty is just exactly what it was like.

-- Freder.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


I really should be doing something in the area of securing new wheels.

I am now driving a 100 percent illegal vehicle; it's more than a month past its due date on the inspection, so even the grace period has passed, and it's got an ugly flapping cardboard box taped over the rear passenger side window, which ought to act as a beacon for cops.

But I just can't deal with it now. I'm in Denial. Sorry. There are Limits, and this is one of mine.

For one thing, I can't make a decision like this overnight. . . and by "overnight" I of course mean that if I can't have at least six months to figure this thing out, then I'm not going to figure it out at all. So, give me a ticket. Fine me. Whatever. Had I been left to my own devices I would still be in the old house, crumbling ceilings and all. Change is hard enough, but having to make decisions about change is something I can't do.

Beyond that -- in order to buy a car you actually have to walk onto one of those lots.

I hate those places.

It seems that you can't buy a car the same way that you would buy absolutely anything else, that is, you walk into one department store, look at the options, you walk into another department store, look at the options, then take what you've learned online and search a bit and get some more information and then make your decision.

You get to make an unemotional decision based on needs, desires, information, and, most of all, clearly established prices.

But when you buy a car, Jesus Christ, the minute you step on one of those lots some damn salesman is in your face trying to get all Social on you, and you know that he has Ulterior Motives. He's trying to be your Best Friend and you don't know him from a hole in the ground. You can't trust him about ANYthing, because every single vehicle he shows to you is something that he wants to get rid of more or less badly.

And who knows about the price? Sure, there's a sticker price on every vehicle, but what does it mean? What's the REAL price? They sure as hell won't tell you.

I don't LIKE those people. I don't want to talk to them. I ABSOLUTELY don't want them talking at me, trying to pretend that they are my best friend.  Okay, I am developmentally disabled, but I can still tell who my real friends are.

I think.

Everything that comes out of their mouths is a lie. I don't even want one of them to come within twenty feet of me. As soon as they begin to approach I feel physical discomfort and want to be Away From There.

Not very conducive to buying a car.

A car dealership lot is the stuff of Nightmares for me, and the websites are just as bad. So many options that my brain literally shuts down on the very first page of results, and anyway to buy something like a car sight unseen on the internet seems really stupid to me on a lot of levels.

Everything about buying a car -- especially including the cost at a time when when my finances are uncertain at best -- seems especially targeted at every one of my anxiety factors.

So -- I'm thinking that when cops drive around looking at the inspection stickers on cars, that they have, in most cases, just enough time to look at and process the COLOR of the inspection sticker. They can't possibly have such super-human eyesight as to be able to see, in motion, which MONTH is punched out.

My sticker is blue, and blue is still legal until the end of the year (although decreasingly so as the months go by).

I'm thinking that Denial is just the state I want to be living in for right now. In any event, unless someone is willing to step up to the plate and Hold My Hand through the process, it's the only state I'm going to be in for the near future.

-- Freder.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Were You Dancing on Paper

For the past few days I have been sad, anxious, depressed. The routine at work has helped, but in the evenings I hardly know what to do with myself. A part of me is glad that I'm not still at the old house now that this horrible year is coming to an end. I had to look through a lot of pictures of the old house in order to find the right one for yesterday's post, and it was distressing to go there.

The new house is such an odd mix of old and new, combining many features that I've seen in other houses and other places that I've lived in, while still evoking my mother's house. It had to feel like home, after all. Sometimes I wonder what I'm doing here.

Reading the Guide to Asperger's, I see my life mapped out, and wonder if I wouldn't be better served by a book that told me how normal people think. I mean, I've been like this all my life, I was Normal for me, even though I couldn't understand most anyone else. If I could have a Travel Guide to the world they inhabit, with some good maps, maybe an itinerary of a couple of daywalks, some pictures of the key attractions so that I would recognize where I was when I got there -- that might be a good thing!

In the early days back at the old house, I would spend whole afternoons listening to records. I'd put one on and stalk and pace all along the upstairs landing, oftentimes singing, learning the song by rote even to the intonations of the singers, sometimes playing the same song over and over until someone came along and told me to knock it off.

I was never a good singer, but I was pretty good at imitating real singers and performers.

The music created pictures inside my head -- and I built the pictures into elaborate stories that were shaped by the themes I was listening to. I thought some of them were pretty good. Sometimes I wrote some of them down.

Some of them were good enough, I thought, to entertain the possibility of turning them into screenplays. I always wanted to make movies. (I'm so mad that I'm not in New Zealand right now!) Until just recently, there were two stories that I reserved to some day commit to paper.

But with one thing and another, I have a better understanding of myself now. Suddenly, I know what those stories were saying to me, and why I told them to myself, over and over.

It was nothing more than wishing to be normal, wishing for someone who could be my guide in the world that everyone else inhabited.

I'll never write those stories. My inner world was like a stage set: colorful and romantic, but also flat and hollow.

It's the reason why I didn't so much read books as inhabit them. Intellectual tricks (such as the Unreliable Narrator) were lost on me: the purpose of reading was to pour the void inside of me into a character that would take me into a world that was more real to me than the one I actually lived in.

Until now, my whole life has been a game of Let's Pretend. People sensed it about me. On the playgrounds they called me terrible things. Things that I knew I wasn't. Now I know why.

Caring for Mom gave my life a purpose and a focus for the whole last decade; I sometimes hated it, but it was a reason to persevere. Now all that's changed.

My friend BC read some of my posts on belief and religion, and "said" to me, "Believe in yourself!"

It was awfully nice of him, but that's the one thing I can't believe in. Turn me sideways and I disappear.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sensory Overload

You're looking at a photo of the Living Room in the old house, taken after my mother's death, but before the auctioneers came to pillage, plunder, and destroy.

The whole house was like that, almost.

This is going to seem choppy and disjointed, but it's going somewhere, really, it is.

For the Store, I ordered Temple Grandin's latest book, The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperperger's. I was all over it as soon as I could decently do so (i.e., as soon as I was not on camera).

This may be the next step that my reading will take. Where the reading that I'm doing now is all still in the area of diagnosis and description, this is focused on living, and is overwhelmingly positive.

But for now, I'm still in the realm of basic learning. The Guide, as I've written here before, is eerily descriptive of my life. I keep seeing scenes from my own childhood, and explanations for my behaviour as an adult.

I've written about mornings in the old house before. I've written that I had to get up earlier and earlier in order to beat my mother into the kitchen, so that I could get my morning chores done before she came into the room.

It's true that this was made necessary because the house was so impossibly claustrophobic, so fully packed with Stuff, that it was hard enough to get from the sink to the refrigerator to the front door, hard enough to sponge the floor, when I just had to step over her chair. But when she was sitting in the chair, and I had to climb over her in order to get everything cleaned (sort of) and everyone fed -- well, that was just plain Too Much.

But there was more to it than that. I needed some quiet time, some alone time, some peace and solitude in the morning, in order to gather myself somewhat before I had to start Being Social.

And yes, I was drinking as a coping mechanism then -- I needed to get a couple of shots of vodka and orange juice into my system in order to cope with the assault that was about to come, the Daily Bludgeoning that is life as I know it.

As soon as my mother struggled into the room and sat down, the television came on. Some mornings, this was like a brutal slap across the face. The volume was always too loud, the insipid Morning Shows that she wanted to watch were intolerable to me with their huge casts of Preening Idiots all yammering to each other at the same time about Nothing At All. For some while, the local CBS affiliate ran Guiding Light in the morning, and that was barely tolerable, because it had a discernible storyline; but once Guiding Light was cancelled, morning television was just a daily ramming of nails into my forehead.

For my mother, it was her connection to the outside world, the only connection that she had. For me, it was an almost unbearable onslaught of White Noise. In my mother's world, the television was on 24/7, there was never any quiet, and I coped by retreating to my own end of the house, and by learning to block it all out when I could not escape.

The combined task of doing my morning chores, filtering out the noise of the television, and interacting with her in what I hoped was a meaningful way was, many mornings, more than I could cope with, an emotionally exhausting Chinese Water Torture without the actual cachet of Asian Spies gloating over me while I suffered.

I learned to fear the distant sound of her canes in the front hallway. Clack, clack-clack. Oh, god, I would think, she's coming., Have to hurry up and get this done.

And so I kept getting up earlier and earlier, in order to beat her there and get some of the basic things done, so that I would have a few less things to deal with when she came in.

The problem was, as soon as she found out how early I was getting up, she'd come in that much earlier, in order to be with me. She was desperate for some social contact, and I was desperate for some peace.

One morning I absolutely snarled at her: How freakin' early do I have to get up to beat you in here?!

She balanced herself on her crutches, and said, "I didn't know it was a contest."

I was wiping the floor under the cat food dish clean with paper towels. I think that I bowed my head and just sighed. I thought, she doesn't get it, she doesn't understand, but I didn't have the words to say that to her.

The next thing I knew, she was turning in place and struggling back out of the room.

"Well, for god's sake, don't go now that you're here!" I said.

"I'm going," she said.

Are you wearing shoes right now? Cross your legs, look at the soles, notice the Heel.

That's what I felt like.

And yet there was another part of me. The part of me that closed my eyes and closed my ears when the television came on and splashed over me like a bucket of ice-cold water every morning, the part of me that shouted inside Oh my god! Oh my god! Why does she have to have that so freakin' loud?!

As my mother laboured her way painfully back down the stairs, through the narrow and claustrophobic front hall, to sit on the padded stool in her own room, in front of her own television, most likely resentful, most likely not understanding why her son was "being so mean to her," -- as she said to me several times -- there was the part of me that gathered myself in silence, and sighed, and inwardly said:

-- Thank God. Thank God. Thank God.

-- Freder.

Don't Dance on this Grave

So -- Osama Bin Laden is dead, and I am disgusted with the way some of my fellow Americans are acting.

Death is never a good thing, never something to celebrate, not even when it happens to someone as bad as Bin Laden.

By dancing in the streets and chanting "USA! USA!" you are only fanning the fire of hatred. By being jubilant you are only demonstrating your own ignorance. By celebrating, you are only showing that you don't abide by the tenets of the religion you profess to believe in.

The Bible is pretty specific about this: Love your enemies, and pray for your persecutors. Thou shalt not kill. It doesn't say, Thou shalt not kill, except for the Bad Guys.

If nothing else, think of what we could have learned from the man about his operation had he lived.

I'm against the death penalty and I feel the same way when people stand outside a state penitentiary and celebrate when someone is put to death. I don't care what he did. We are taught that vengeance is not ours, but we sure as hell don't practice it, and some hard-core Bible Thumpers are some of the worst offenders.

It seems to me that all this stuff should be obvious. We are rightly upset and outraged when our enemies celebrate the deaths of our fallen soldiers or drag their bodies through the streets. It's just common sense that if our cause is just, we ought not to behave in the same way.

Grow up, get a conscience, get a clue, and stop singing Ding Dong The Witch is Dead. The war isn't over. There's still more than enough Death to go around.

-- Freder.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Flowers for the Dead

I know that other people are thinking this, because I think it myself sometimes: It's been a year. Why aren't you over this? You should be over this by now.

In just a couple of hours, it will be -- would have been -- my mother's birthday. She was no worse off than she had been for some time. I thought she had a few years still left in her. Instead, she was gone in two weeks.

For the past two mornings, and tonight, this evening, I've had much more than the usual amount of tears.

I can't believe that it's been a year. My perception of time has been even more whacked-out than usual.

A year ago, the largest problem seemed to be my mother's financial troubles and the way that they were tapping me out, too. Every couple of months she'd come crying to me to ask for another thousand dollars. I didn't mind the drain on my finances so much, because I'd sold a piece of art for a lot of money and I could afford it. What I did mind were the waterworks.

She was so dependent on me for everything -- most especially for company -- and it was emotionally and physically exhausting. She used to complain that I stayed in my end of the house too much. But with the job and being responsible for absolutely everything around the house, I desperately needed my Alone Time to recuperate.

Now I know why. My senses were completely overwhelmed. No wonder I kept myself well pickled pretty much 24/7. Life was demanding the very things out of me that were the hardest for a Probable Aspie to give.

Last Spring was a good deal warmer and sunnier than this one. The weekends that began the month of April were sunny and hot. On Saturdays, we made our errands run into town. It took the whole damn day. Mom would walk out to the car, and then at every stop we made, I would pull her wheelchair out of the trunk, set it up, and she'd wheel herself through the various stores. It was a lot of work for her, and she performed like a champ.

Until we got home. Somehow, somewhy, the walk from the car back to the house hit her like a ton of bricks. The sun was high and bright and hot. She would collapse into a chair just short of the door, and I would have to stand over her with an umbrella to shield her from the heat. I'd plead with her to do what she could to get into the house where it was cool and she could rest -- because the umbrella wasn't helping much. A couple of times I ran into the house to get her a glass of ice water.

That walk from the car to the house was a real point of concern. On Friday the fourteenth of April, I was looking ahead to Saturday and worrying about that walk.

We never got that far.

On Friday the fourteenth of April, just a year ago, she walked out of the house for the last time.

That's another post. For now, there's nothing left but to cry and cry.

I spent the bulk of today planting more and more nasturtiums. . . in pots and planters, along the edge of the side back garden. I'm done now. I hope that they come up. Some stupid atavistic monkey stuporstitious part of myself still imagines that I can bring her back if I plant enough nasturtiums.
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