Thursday, June 30, 2011

Almost All Gone

Old photographs can be haunting even when you don't know anyone in the picture. Change is the murderer of all things. When you do know the people in the photograph, you can be left feeling powerless and sad. I look at the picture above and think, my god, was the world ever really like that?

There are only three people in that picture who are still alive: My sister the wolf, my father, and me. It's funny that we three are sitting together while everyone else outside of the car is waiting to be swept away by Time and Motion.

My grandmother Agnes, far left, was the first to go. This picture was taken before she suffered a stroke while weeding her garden on a sweltering hot day. It didn't kill her: it robbed her of herself and her memory. She became first a wordless, frustrated child, and then, slowly a vegetable confined to bed. She died of choking while my Aunt was feeding her.

And the auto moves on.

Next was her husband, my grandfather Adolf, the first alcoholic in the family, standing on the runner board to my right. He was coming out of an antiques show when he was struck by a car driven by a young idiot with a girl in his lap. He was hit so hard that his body was thrown clear across the street. Grandpa had a hard life, had a lot to cope with, including the loss of most of his tongue to cancer. He was a very matter-of-fact guy. I didn't know about most of his troubles.

So my father was the first one of my parents to become an orphan, while I was still quite young. The auto had a chance to speed forward some few years before the next one dropped away, the man holding the camera, my grandfather Claude. He died at home, in my grandmother Melvina's arms, I believe of an aneurysm.

Grandma (sitting on the running board) went steadily downhill after that. She was already frail. I don't think that she ever forgave Grandpa Claude for dying first. My mother and her brother got her into an assisted living facility, a better place than many I've seen. I was there to help move her from her house into her new apartment. She tried to get along, but I could see she was bitter. I came back home to Maine and never saw her again. On her deathbed she told my mother, "Is this really all there is? What's the point?" and early last year Mom said she was starting to feel the same way about life.

The car didn't last long. Dad loved old cars, but he kept switching them out. The one I remember was a big black enclosed car the size of a small house.

The picture was taken at our house on Edgcombe Road. Even though I was very little, I have many memories of my life there that I can "see" as clearly as when they happened. My father didn't believe me, but I was able to describe the house to him in detail. Sometimes my memory is so vivid that I feel like I'm looking into an alternate universe. Can see into it, but can't go there. The black automobile carried the three of us away from all that. It is far, far in the distance.

Sometimes I don't think I understand the world or the way it works any better than I did when I was that little kid behind the wheel.

-- Freder.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Internet May Indeed Be a Playground. . .

. . . but David Thorne's book with that approximate title is more like the paperback equivalent of trowelware. This is why the world needs editors, and why the world is a little bit worse off without them.

I'm one of those people who found Thorne's website (which I will not name or link to here, because I'm afraid that Mr. Thorne would follow the link back with dire consequences to myself) really hysterically, laugh-out-loud funny. But the book, which contains a complete archive of the site plus, seemingly, everything else Mr. Thorne has ever written, is a classic case of not knowing when to stop.

I can hear the publisher thinking "We have to give them a reason to buy the book. We have to give them lots and lots of stuff that they can't get for free right on Thorne's website. Let's jam-pack the thing with everything David has ever written, even if it's just a laundry list!"

This is like a dump truck being emptied onto your front lawn.

To be fair, I was ill yesterday and I turned to the book for cheer. Instead, I grew increasingly depressed as I realized that this was the same thing over and over and over again, and that I could predict pretty much exactly how each piece would go. "He's going to go into a deliberately ridiculous digression with a story from his youth now," and yep, there it was, right on cue. I began skipping over whole sections, in search of the good stuff, and finally I just had to stop about a third of the way short of finishing the thing. I'd had more than enough.

Thank goodness I didn't pay money for my copy -- it was an Advance Reader's Edition that I got through the bookstore. In the end, I didn't even want the thing in my house. I brought it back this morning and put it on the shelf with the other Advance copies. Let someone else enjoy it, if they can.

By all means go to Mr. Thorne's website and enjoy the mischief there. The internet is the perfect vehicle for him. If the book brings him some income, then good on him. But I can't recommend it to anyone who isn't, almost literally, a glutton for punishment.

-- Freder.

Monday, June 27, 2011

"Exactly, Brigadier, Exactly!"

A friend on Facebook left me a message asking me to post EXACTLY how I am (capitalization his). Well, that's exactly the thing: exactitude is not exactly a strong point of mine in the best of times. As exactly as I can express it, this is exactly how I am: I am somewhat like The Doctor.

I'm an eccentric non-neurotypicical who has just been through an explosive, year-long regeneration, and I'm not done yet. "Still cooking." Unfinished. I have good moments and bad ones, and the good can change to the bad in the blink of an eye.


Been away from the computer for nearly the whole week-end. Sunday last I had my father and his wife over again for what I thought was a very successful Father's Day. It came off well enough that I felt up to managing company again this weekend. D_____, a friend that I haven't seen in, what, a decade or more? came by in the afternoon. It was fantastic to see her again, I'd nearly forgotten why she was one of my favorite people from the old bookstore days. She could only stay about forty-five minutes, but even so it was a bit like no time had passed at all.

Then around six, S_____ and C____ came over to dinner. I'm afraid this was a bit more like a visit to a local museum for them than it was a relaxed social outing! I forget that although the house is, for me, uncluttered and open, to others I think it must be a bit like the stepping into a TARDIS.

Yesterday I spent almost the whole, entire day reading. I cannot tell you when was the last time I did that. No, really, I can't tell you, because I don't remember, it was so long ago. Used to do it all the time. I took an hour or two at three o'clock to mow the lawn and clean up after -- the rest of the day I was out on the porch sofa, stretched out with a varying array of quats sitting on or around me (at one point I had all five on the sofa with me!), nose buried in a book. Nothing high-toned, mind you. But I was determined to finish Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children just on principle, just so that I could say that I'd finished something.

It's a bit derivative -- X-Men wrapped in a fairy-tale setting, and pocketed with isolated lapses in taste and careless writing, but on the whole it's an entertaining diversion with its own flavour. At least it's not another Harry Potter knockoff, although it does revolve around the old saw of a so-called normal kid discovering that he has a special ability.

Of course it ends, not so much in a cliffhanger, but in a clear set-up for another book to follow. I enjoyed reading this one, but not so much that I need to pursue any further installments in the series.

I wish that I had a special ability, I mean other than making friends with animals (which is also my Indian name: "Makes Friends With Animals.").

During my dinner break I watched a vintage Doctor Who show with William Hartnell, and then I went right back onto the porch, where I started in on something even lighter-weight: David Thorne's The Internet is a Playground. I still haven't decided for certain if his stuff is for real, or if he's made it all up. It's a lot funnier if it's real.

And just before bed I returned to a favorite, King Aroo. Have I burbled about King Aroo on this blog? Do yourself a favor and follow that link. Then follow this one. I don't care where you buy it or even if you buy it -- get it from the library if you prefer; after all, it's pricey; but King Aroo really is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Nothing makes me smile inside like King Aroo. I'm so glad that I decided to nibble a few pages before sleep.

Other than mowing the lawn (and I wonder what my neighbor thought about that after I'd already done the side facing them early on Wednesday morning, just after midnight!) I did nothing more productive. I've decided not to beat myself up about not working on the new website as I should be doing. After all, I'm still cooking, and I've decided that's all right. When it's ready to happen, it will happen.


Friday, June 24, 2011

That Persistent, Extremely Large, Dedicated-to-his-work Black Dog

This is one of those mornings where the Prozac doesn't feel like it's working at all, one of those mornings where it's a good thing I'm not the sort of person to keep a loaded gun around the house. There are moments every now and then when if such a thing was within my grasp I would absolutely use it. Fortunately, those moments pass. Mostly, I think of my kitties. It doesn't end the depressive spell to think about snuggling with Honey or the way they all gather 'round and "bump" me when I'm putting on my shoes, but it does bring the thoughts of doing myself harm to a sudden halt.

The only reason I mention it is, I can't be the only one who sometimes feels this way, and some of the others who sometimes do are the sort of people who keep loaded guns around the house. This is the reason why we have tragedies like the one we had recently here in Maine, where a young man killed his wife, his children (nobody knows in what order) and then himself.

Anyone who believes that gun control wouldn't save a significant number of lives every year is living in a dream world. If you don't have access to those sorts of weapons, you can't harm yourself or others. I also believe that people who would turn a gun on themselves or others in the heat of the moment are far less likely to use other methods, because, as I've already typed, the moment passes -- and those other methods are slower and far more intimate. I have actually cut myself on occasion, just enough to know that I could never go deep enough to do the job. I'm not saying that gun control would put an end to all suicides, murders and accidental deaths. Humans are far too venal and inventive for that. If someone really wants to do harm, they will find a way. But we stand a better chance of stopping them if they can't just pick up a gun and start pulling the trigger.

My favorite line in the original X-Men movie comes when Sir Ian McKellan as Magneto says to a large assembled force of police officers, in tones dripping with contempt, "You homo sapiens and your guns!" -- just before using his powers to rip the weapons from their hands and turn them on the cops.

Guns bring no good into the world. But I'm realistic about gun control, because there are too many idiots out there like Charton Heston with his cold dead hands.

If we can't have gun control, I wish that others would be like me and practice self gun control. Don't give money to the gun industry, don't give in to the kind of illogical thinking that having a gun in your house will make you safe. There are better ways to "protect" yourself, including not owning one of the things.

This is also one of those mornings where it feels like a good thing to have started this blog in the first place. Sometimes it helps just to type things out.

-- Freder.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Neighbors is the bunk

When I told C______ at work today that I was wakened this morning at seven AM by my neighbor mowing her lawn under my bedroom window, she laughed and said, "You're not used to living in the city!"

But I don't think that's the problem.

This tank town does indeed call itself a "city," but I say it has delusions of grandeur. The postcard above was taken sometime near the beginning of the last century, and Main Street has barely changed since then. This isn't a city, it's a blot on the landscape.

And I'm finding its people to be sickeningly provincial. It's barely an exaggeration to say that they roll up the sidewalks at five o'clock. At nine PM I can walk around two blocks in my neighborhood and never see a car and most of the lights in the houses are off, but at seven AM on a Saturday morning everyone is out there driving around, who knows where they'd be headed at that time of the bloody morning.

This is not "city" life as I know it. I have spent some time in cities, including New York, Boston, San Francisco, London, Edinburgh and Glasgow, and city people do not behave like this. Real cities are alive all night and quiet on a Saturday morning. This is the way a Sane and Civilized Universe works. W_______, you are populated by hicks!

I'm not sure what action I'll take, but Action Will Be Taken. I've watched too many Bugs Bunny cartoons to let this go. The Elmer Fudds who live next door to me are going to get a taste of their own medicine.

Perhaps I'll mow my lawn under their windows after midnight. Perhaps I'll point my CD player directly at their windows and play loud music until All Hours.

But I don't want to punish the whole neighborhood (or get them all mad at me for that matter). The next time I'm wakened by my neighbor's lawnmower, I could douse her with a bucket of cold water. That might do the trick.

Mustn't be too hasty. The punishment has got to be subtle, and fit the crime. Time to get out the books on Dirty Tricks and do a little research. . .

I'm reminded of a Warner Brothers cartoon where Daffy and Porky are trapped in a hotel room by the manager. They try everything to escape, then in desperation Daffy says: "I know! Let'th call Bugth Bunny! He alwayth knowth what to do!" The call is made, and soon the familiar voice is on the other end of the line. "Did'ja swing across on de rope?" "Yeth!" "Didja try. . ." "Yeth! Yeth! Yeth! We tried all of thoth thingth!"

Cut to Bugs. He's in a similar hotel room, shackled to the wall. "Ehhhhhhhh, don't woik, do they?"

End of cartoon. I can tell that mine is just beginning.

-- Freder.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

It's Duck Soup

At the height of the Bad Stuff that was going down both publicly and privately surrounding the anniversary of my mother's death, my friend Donna G___________, known to some of you as a frequent commenter here on this blog, made a beautiful gesture and sent me a copy of Roy Blount Jr.'s latest book, Hail, Hail Euphoria!: Presenting The Marx Brothers in DUCK SOUP, The Greatest War Movie Ever Made.

I never saw the box that it arrived in (so Donna, if there was a return address, I never got it). I came in to work one morning, and Stephen, a student worker, had just opened it. There was a general level of mystification, as there always is among the receiving crew when something arrives that has no discernible paper trail. Stephen handed the book to me, and I noticed there was a card, which I opened. "Oh!" I muttered in surprise. "It's from a friend." And then I beat a hasty retreat out of there so that they would not see my tears.

The D__ sisters and I (the initial can stand for their first names or their maiden names, you take your pick) go way back. But it's not what you think, although a part of me wishes that it were. Donna's sister D____ wrote in my senior class yearbook, "I'll let you know. I love you." Should have been a clue, right? But hey, I had Asperger's and didn't know it, it wasn't even a real diagnosis yet; anyway, I didn't have a clue and wouldn't have known where to start. Dating in High School? For me, beyond the pale. The closest I came to having a girlfriend in High School was a girl named Deanna who had sat in front of me in home room for four years without ever saying a word to me or even, to my knowledge, looking at me, suddenly wanted to hold my hand in the hall between classes. I liked her -- but I didn't understand any of it. My efforts to understand included talking to classmates -- and that was the end of that.

When I played the John Travolta part in Grease and it became very much a grafted-on part of my make-up, that was the first time I really started to have any kind of a real social life. The whole company went out together -- to MacDonald's, where we were in full character and were very nearly arrested; to the Hukilau, where, cash-poor, I drank water while the others feasted on Chinese; to the famous Cape Elizabeth Lobster Shack, where, in full Danny Zuko mode, somehow it came about that I had to kiss every girl in the place, and the third D__ sister, D___, was the only one who demurred. I thought she hated me.

The book is neat, and I knew after the first few pages that I had to get my hands on a watchable copy of the movie, which, believe it or leave it, I didn't have. That was OK. I needed to read my books about Asperger's first anyway.

The main title of the book is based on a pun made by Gummo at the Algonquin Round Table, wrapped around the word "euphoria." I'll let you work it out for yourself. It's the last line in Blount's book, so I'd hate to five it away. Clue: although there are five Marx Bothers, only four of them are in Duck Soup.

The book is a self-proclaimed DVD Commentary track, but on paper. It's good fun to read, and full of good information. Like, did you know that the director of Duck Soup, Leo McCarey, a flawed great who worked with the best of them including Laurel & Hardy and Charley Chase, so deeply DEEPLY did not want to work with the Marx Brothers that he actually left the studio? Only to find himself, through a circle of events worthy of Duck Soup itself, having to work with them anyway.

Well, I mean, think about it. You're a movie director. Would you want to work with the Marx Brothers?

Quoth McCarey, "They were madmen!"

Blount has done his research, but he still makes one glaring (to me) mistake. Of course Woody Allen's Hannah and her Sisters must come into the narrative, because Woody's character in that picture is actually saved from suicide by watching this movie (a fact which Blount finds extraordinary, but which I understand completely. Feeling suicidal? Put on Duck Soup and you will know that you have to stay). Anyway. Blount refers to the Woody Allen character in Hannah as "Alvy Singer," and that's just wrong. Alvy Singer is Annie Hall. Sorry Roy.

But that's a nothing, really. That's just me showing off -- Ha ha! I've got something on the expert!! Blount's book is full of Good Stuff, and a delight to read in conjunction with a viewing (or multiple viewings: Duck Soup really is a picture that demands repeated exposure) and I can't do either the book or the movie justice in just one blog post.

On the whole, I find actual DVD commentaries to be distracting and annoying. I can only do one thing at a time: listen to a discussion about a work of art, or experience the work of art itself. This is absolutely perfect, and I wish that more DVD commentaries came in book form.

Duck Soup may not actually be my favorite Marx Bothers movie -- but I'm working backwards through time, so I won't make the call as yet. The thing is, Chico doesn't get to play the piano and Harpo doesn't get to play the harp, and I can't regard a Marx Bothers movie as being complete without at least a glimpse of the soulful Harpo, the spiritual Harpo, the Romantic Harpo -- that side of my favorite of the Brothers that actually made his character complete. Harpo was in no way "on the spectrum" -- all of the Bros. Marx were perhaps more neurotypical than your average neurotypical -- but he played someone who was. . .

Thank you Donna! I have to stop typing now, but I'll have more to say in the time ahead. . .

-- Freder,

Friday, June 17, 2011

David Copperfield, David Copperfield

While I was in the early stages of the move, before DirecTV was installed and I had no television at all, one of the best DVDs that I watched was one that my father had given me of the 1999 version of David Copperfield produced by the BBC. I took it in approximately hour-long bites, and given how I feel about all remakes (and Dickens in particular: The Beeb did a version of Oliver Twist in 1985 that was wretched with a capital Retch, and another one in 2007 that I'll never watch -- Nancy played by a black woman? I don't think so!), it came as a surprise that I liked it so well.

At its exact center is Maggie Smith as Betsy Trotwood. I'll watch Maggie Smith in anything, but her performance here is just delightful. Miss Trotwood is one of Dickens's best female characters, and Ms. Smith really shakes the trees to bring her to life. And she's not the only one. Just look at the cast list over at imdb. But, in particular, Trevor Eve as Murdstone and Zoe Wannamaker as his sister, Sir Ian as Creakle. . . and more. On the whole, I don't think that any version of Copperfield has ever been this well-cast. Plus, the producers didn't mess around with Dickens, instead focusing on what the Beeb used to do better than almost anyone: faithful realizations of classic British dramas that look and sound gorgeous.

At well over two hours, the 1935 MGM version of David Copperfield is an extraordinarily long movie for the period, and even then there's much compression and shortening. It aired on TCM a few days ago, and I hadn't seen it since I was a Young Thing -- and then not from the beginning. On many levels I found it disappointing. I've loved many other of George Cukor's movies, especially including Gaslight, but, I suppose necessarily, this one left me feeling exactly the way the film version of The World According to Garp did. Too much novel crammed into too little film real estate.

When it's good, it's very good. Davey's slow walk and his reunion with Aunt Betsy are terrific. But there's a distinct feeling that we're getting the Classics Illustrated version of the story.

And to a great extent the casting compares unfavorably to the BBC version. Oh, Edna May Oliver as Miss Trotwood was probably the best they could have chosen at the time, and she has great fun with it, but she's no Maggie Smith. And Basil Rathbone gives, I think, one of the worst performances of his career as Murdstone. Good casting, or so one would think: but Rathbone is a scary enough guy when he's being subtle, and there's nothing of subtlety to what he does here. Snarl, rage, chew on the draperies: it's a big performance in a part that's more effectively played quietly.

Jesse Ralph as Peggotty is kind of scary and artificial compared the genuine qualities Pauline Quirke brings to the role in the British version. And in the 1935 version we don't get to see Creakle at all: Young Davey's school years are brushed past with a line of dialogue. This is particularly damaging to the story, as Steerforth isn't introduced until he's all grown up -- and without knowing the details of their school years together, it's frankly hard to understand why David thinks so highly of Steerforth in the first place.

But there are three actors here who, imho, blow away the cast of the BBC version like so many toy soldiers. First, someone named Lennox Pawle as Mr. Dick. He would die just a year after this film was made. There's nothing wrong with what Ian McNiece does in the BBC version, but I can see him acting. By comparison, Pawle has the genuine appearance of good-natured simple-mindedness. You all know what I mean.

Then there's Roland Young as Uriah Heep. I simply can not believe this is the same man who played Topper. It can't be possible! But it is. Nicholas Lyndhurst is good casting in the British version, but there's a trick to playing Uriah Heep that Lyndhurst didn't work out: Heep must be, in equal parts, sickeningly smarmy and unsettling, but also nonthreatening. Too insignificant to be taken seriously. Young actually appears to be sincere in certain of his kind words towards David. You can see why David (and the others surrounding Heep) could be put off-balance by this person. The magnitude of his villainy needs to come with at least a measure of surprise. Lyndhurst doesn't succeed at that. His Heep is slimy all the way, from the get-go.

Last, but certainly not least, is W.C. Fields in the role he was born to play, Wilkins Micawber. Fields was a great fan of Dickens in real life, Micawber was one of his proudest roles. Now, I like Bob Hoskins a lot, and I even liked his Micawber -- but Fields is The Man.

He is good for the role and the role is good for him. It's nice to see Fields playing someone who doesn't hate women and children, someone with a little bit of the hero about him, who is both a protector and someone who needs protection; someone who pays his debts when and how he can, and who for all his lesser qualities is nonetheless fiercely loyal. Nobility looks good on Fields, and so does Micawber's Fancy Dress. It's almost as if Dickens had Fields in mind when he wrote the part.

The pairing of these two Great Men, the one real and the other fictional, is a high-water mark in movie history. If the 1935 David Copperfield had nothing else to recommend it (and it does), W. C. Micawber would be reason enough to call it a classic.

-- Freder.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Say "Wensleydale!"

Smile, though your heart is breaking. . . Does everyone know Charlie Chaplin wrote that song?

With the current season of Doctor Who going on hiatus until September, I knew it was time to get the DVD set of last year's episodes and get myself caught up. It arrived day before yesterday and I dove right in. I've watched two episodes in two days -- that's got to stop or the set will never last long enough!

But it's been my Drug of Choice while I wait for the Prozac to finally kick in, and thereby hangs a tale.

For the last four days, whenever I haven't been a) at work or b) watching Doctor Who (and sometimes even then -- Stephen Moffat's scripts are very much character driven and when all the plot points finally come into focus they generally add up to an emotional exclamation point) I've pretty much been in tears, all the time, over nothing at all, over a general sense of loss that doesn't have a particular name. I know why it's happened: last week I cut my dosage of Prozac in half.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, on a number of levels. Prozac takes the edge off of the lows, but it also takes the edge off the highs -- and I want my highs back. When I was on the high end of the curve, that was when I felt juiced and creative, that was when I could get writing and drawing and good stuff like that to happen. I don't feel creative anymore, and it's becoming an issue. If nothing else, the way Stephen Moffat has turned Doctor Who around encourages me to want to turn myself around. But the adrenaline isn't there anymore.

Last night's Who introduced The Smilers. They look like those old fortune-telling machines. When you behave yourself, they show you benign happy wooden faces. When you do something to displease them, the whole head swivels around and you get the un-happy face. Keep up the bad work and the head swivels a third time, and you don't want this to happen. Not only do you get the very unhappy face pictured above, but you get a one-way, all-expenses paid trip straight down into the belly of the beast. You might say that they've gone off their Prozac, and if you encounter one in the above mood, you're going to be very anxious to get them back on the stuff.

You'll still be shit out of luck, because it takes days for the changes in dosage to take effect. I thought that I was fine for the first three days. Then all of a sudden one night -- bang! -- sobbing. It was only after two days of this that I thought: You think. . .?

"The Beast Below" isn't the best script Moffat has turned out for the show, but, you know, if this is the worst he can do then Bring It On. The first episode of the season was so good that I watched it twice the same night -- with subtitles on the second time, to be sure I caught the dialogue that got past me the first time. I've been a fan of Doctor Who since the old days when the monsters were made of rubber, and special effects consisted of cardboard spaceships danging in front of a blue screen, since the days when the stories often went rambling on about nothing for much too long ("I know! Let's split up the Doctor and his companions and have them run around aimlessly for two episodes!") and sometimes the only thing holding Who together was the actor playing the part. I think most longtime Doctor Who fans will know what I mean when I say that we loved the show without reservation, but were often quite embarrassed to admit it. There's no need for embarrassment anymore. The show is as good as anything on the air, and better than most.

My own Beast Below is still somewhat on edge. Last night there were fewer tears, but I wandered about and sat out in my back garden in a haze of sadness, unable to appreciate what a beautiful evening it was, until looking at my jailhouse reminded me of the TARDIS and decided me on going back inside to swallow another episode whole.

Well, it's better for me than some other drugs I could be on.

-- Freder.

Monday, June 13, 2011

An Open Letter from a Derelict Corespondent

This is going out to everyone I owe correspondence to in one form or another. The list is getting fairly long.

Don't think that it's personal; I haven't been getting back to anyone lately. So that makes me an Equal Opportunity Procrastinator.

The only issue is me. I seem to be in full Greta Garbo mode, crawling into my hobbit-hole and pulling it in after me. I haven't even paid my mid-month bills yet because I don't want to think about it.

The anniversary was hard, and two ten-day work weeks out of the past three didn't help. Also, I think there's a bit of a let-down now that the move is over. Right now, it's taking everything I have just to get through a normal work day. Oh, there's a quote I'm dying to insert here, but I'm trying to quit that. Let's just say that my steampunk difference engine is chugging away full bore, but my coal supply is low.

I've established a workday / weekday routine that's working fine, but the weekends and off days are another thing. I actually haven't had enough off days to figure out a routine. It's got to involve chores in and around the house, but I also have to mandate specific time for reading and for doing something in the creative realm. If I don't specifically schedule those things, they won't happen. Yet there has to be some flexibility in there as well -- not something I'm good at. I feel like a normal person wouldn't have to work so hard to manage their free time.

I also feel like a normal person would be all settled in by now and be ready to take on social activities such as entertaining friends. I worry that C___ and S____ are going to be angry at me because I've had dinner at their place twice already, and I haven't reciprocated yet. But, see above, I'm still feeling very much un-settled and un-ready. Until I know what life is going to be like, I don't want any more distractions than I already have.

That's it, really. Back to the seed metaphor. The prep work has been done, but I'm still waiting for a shoot to break the surface. It's taking longer than your average flowering shrub ought to. But then, it's been a cold spring, and I haven't been allowed much in the way of free time in which to germinate.

I'm ready for that week off, now. I've got a leaky valve in the basement that needs attention from a professional (ah, no, that one is NOT a metaphor!), and there's still the fan in the gas fireplace that needs replacement. But my boss scares me.

Oh, here's an amusing little story against myself: the other night I wanted to cook a pizza (I make it myself, piling it deep with hamburger, mushrooms, broccoli and bacon), and couldn't understand why the oven was taking so long to heat up. My pizza was ready to go and the oven was still only at two-fifty. Well, I'd cooked chicken the night before, and instead of washing the pans I filled them with water and put them back in the oven to soak overnight. Then, of course, I'd promptly forgotten they were there. By the time I opened the oven to see what was taking so long, the pans full of water were steaming hot. I spilled a bit of the chickeny water inside the oven taking them out, and steam boiled out.

The next thing I knew, the damn smoke alarm was sounding off, and surprise! It wasn't the one in my head. Doing more than one thing at a time is not one of my strong points under the best of circumstances, and I was getting pretty rattled. I climbed up on a chair and tried to turn the alarm off, but the bloody thing would not stop. I finally ripped the cover off and yanked the battery out of its socket. By then I was cursing loud enough for the neighbors to hear, I'm sure. What kind of a moron puts a smoke alarm right outside a kitchen where smoke happens all the time?

I no more than got back to the stove when the smoke alarm in the laundry room decided to shout at me, too.

Gah! I gave it the same treatment. And guess what? I'm not putting the batteries back in!

Dinner was quite late that night.

Hope all is well with you. Hope that your work week isn't as bad as you anticipate. Hope that your various ailments are not troubling you. Hope that sunny skies are in your future.

Best wishes as always, brothers, sisters and parental figures;

-- Freder.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


I had ideas for this weekend, but the weather pattern and ten consecutive days on the job (including a horrific day of enforced social activity, see below) necessitated a change of plan. Besides that, I really wanted to finish reading The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome. With a grisly, drizzly day to accommodate me, I parked myself on the porch and spent most of the day on that goal. From time to time I had Patches on the back of the sofa up by my head, and Whitey and Honey on my lap. It was chilly enough that I needed a blanket, and the quats liked the extra padding a lot.

I wish you could see my copy of the book. Every fourth of fifth page has a corner turned down, book darts adorn the edges, many, many passages are underlined or highlighted. Whatever doubts I had got smaller and smaller as the reading progressed, and now they are completely gone. Autism, no. Full-blown Asperger's, oh yes. And not a mild case.

If I fooled anyone, it's because I'm a good actor. I should have followed my own instincts and desires and pursued theater as a career. It's what I wanted. But I had no support from my parents, and lacked the courage and the social skills to proceed on my own. When it came to college, my parents' style was to say "If you need any help, just ask!" They should have known me well enough by then (and perhaps they did) to realize that this was the exact same thing as saying to me, "You're on your own."

And it's just like now with the car situation. When there are too many options before me and no clear answers, and every option comes with its own set of problems or modifiers, and I'm frustrated and don't know what to do, nothing gets done.

I am going to quote just one segment, because it speaks to how I've lived my entire life:

When the reaction to Asperger's syndrome is to achieve social success by acting, using a pre-determined script and a designated role, people with Asperger's syndrome may camouflage their social difficulties but not be true to their real selves or understand who they really are. Their personality is determined by the role they take in a particular situation and imitating those who are successful in a particular situation. An adult with Asperger's syndrome who is a retired professional actor, said to me that, "It was only in my adult years I developed my identity." During his childhood through to his young adult years, he did not know who he was, other than a repertoire of roles.

To  this day, the happiest time in my life was the year that I played the John Travolta part in Grease back in high school. This was before the movie came along and watered-down the material forever. The part stayed with me when I was away from the stage. I became more confident, even popular. I became a different person.

But you can't hide in a romantic relationship, and my girlfriends, if they didn't know the cause any more than I did, certainly all figured out that a relationship with me would be far more challenging than anything they were willing to put up with. The longest I ever lasted with any of them was a year. Now I've given up trying. It seems the better part of valor. Or, as W. C. Fields so wisely put it: "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No sense being a damn fool about it."

If anything, my behaviours and signs have grown more pronounced (aiding the self-diagnosis but making daily life that much more distressing) since I stopped drinking like the proverbial fish. I was masking an awful lot of anxiety, hypersensitivity and social unease with alcohol, not to mention depression, which I see now is not the source of my troubles, but merely a symptom, and not even the most profound symptom at that. With the alcohol taken out of the picture, the behaviours came roaring back, stronger than ever.

Now that the shock is behind me and I have some knowledge about what it is that ails me, I'm much more relaxed about it. It can't be changed. All I can do is continue, knowing what I now know.

Well, I started this post going in one direction and ended up going in another. That's me all over.

-- Freder.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Chill wills in Mule Drag

I actually have an original copy of this poster hanging in my living room. I figured, if I have a poster for Francis in my living room, I should have at least some Francis on DVD. Anyway, I haven't seen a Francis movie since I was a very little kid, growing up in a time when local stations had lots of time to fill and often filled it with packages of old movies. *Sigh* It was a great time to grow up in.

Francis Joins the WACS is unfortunately a later movie in the series that didn't make it onto Universal's Francis the Talking Mule, Volume One DVD release -- and there hasn't been a volume two. Well, the price was right, and I had a hankering to revisit something from my very distant past, and I figured I'd be doing my part to encourage an eventual release of Volume Two.

It's been sitting here waiting for my attention for a couple of months, and last night I finally cracked open the one that started it all. Although it's popularly known as Francis the Talking Mule, the actual onscreen title is simply Francis, so that's how I'll refer to it from here on.

I don't think I've actually ever seen this one before. I don't remember Francis as having a military connection right from the beginning. But there it is: Donald O'Connor is a hapless Second Lieutenant version of Elwood P. Dowd, but this being wartime there's little room for subtlety. Talking animals always seem to take a fancy to the disingenuous type, the ones who won't be believed when they try to explain what's happening to them (although, alas, never to me. I could use a sensible, Animal Sprit advisor). Francis comes close to the delirious whimsy of Harvey, but falls short the minute it becomes clear that Francis must indeed "come out" to the authorities, and, indeed, the whole U.S. government, if this thing is possibly going to have a happy ending.

I suspect this didn't play as well in the cities as it did in the sticks -- but I have to confess that I enjoyed it completely. How old was O'Connor when he made this? He looks like a baby. But the guy is so naturally talented and funny that he holds down this nutty fruitcake of a movie just as if he was a Seasoned Pro. Such confidence in every movement of his eyes. The only person I can reasonably compare him to is Ray Bolger -- another hoofer who knew how to sell an act.

Without computers to whip up a Wholly Artificial Mule, Universal's effects crew use some very basic techniques to get Chill Wills appear to speak through the long-eared title character -- and y'know what? It's not only perfectly satisfactory, but it registers on my brain as being notably more genuine than a modern bits and bytes version of the character would be. At least you know that you're looking something real.

All the supporting cast is worth watching, especially the delightful Zazu Pitts as a mental-ward nurse who takes a more than possessive attitude towards O'Conner when he keeps being returned into her care. This was back in the day when we had Character Actors -- and what a loss it is to the movie industry that this type of player is no longer cultivated or cherished.

It's not, you know, The Maltese Falcon or High Sierra or even Duck Soup -- but it would be wrong to expect that. This was also back in the day when we had movies that wanted nothing more than to charm and entertain. Now, with access to a hundred gazillian channels, I can safely say that this is another thing Hollywood has forgotten how to do. Francis is the professional product of a machine that confidently knew how to make a perfect cupcake from scratch using real ingredients. When they try to do this now, the result is inevitably a Twinkie.

-- Freder.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Marvel's Menagerie of Miscreant Martyrs!

Benjamin J. Grimm of The Fantastic Four, crotchety hero inside, monster outside. It's
all about appearances. Or is it? From FF #51, arguably Lee and Kirby's finest moment.

My friend Donna G., who has been awfully nice to me through all of this, sent me the following extract:. I've edited it slightly for brevity:

Paul Collins, author of Not Even Wrong: A Father’s Journey Into the Lost History of Autism, interviewed on the public radio program Speaking of Faith: “[Star Trek's Mr. Spock] has one foot in the human world, and the other one isn't. He's trying to figure it out and trying to somehow reconcile this. That's one of the reasons that a lot of autistic people find him to be such a sympathetic character, because his situation mirrors their own. They are very much part of our world. And yet, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to them. And particularly ... there is so much to social interactions that can't really be explained very logically. You just have to intuit them. And when you actually try to sit down and explain it to someone, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.”

Oh, my. I never thought of it that way. But 'tis true. And the list of heroes for people like me does not begin to end there.

A lot has been written about the not-so-deeply hidden "gay agenda" in the X-Men movie series (and people like Brian Singer and Sir Ian McKellan don't deny it). . . but that "agenda" is really nothing more than a new wrinkle grafted onto an already existing subtext in the original Marvel comic books. Teenage angst comes in many forms, and Stan Lee was probably the very first to exploit it on a grand scale as the Editor-in-Chief and Global Mastermind behind Marvel Comics.

The Marvel heroes were socially awkward, but secretly powerful. Not every Marvel fan has Asperger's Syndrome, but now I understand why I was drawn to a particular "spectrum" of characters in the Marvel Universe: the Freaks.

I started reading comics in the first place thanks to a brief piece in The New Yorker's "Talk of the Town" section that focussed on the late Steve Gerber's best-known creation, Howard the Duck. This cigar-chomping, endearingly grouchy waterfowl who referred to humans as hairless apes was stranded in our reality when the Cosmic Axis shifted and dragged him through a wormhole from another dimension. The tagline printed on the cover of every issue could not have been more specific: "TRAPPED IN A WORLD HE NEVER MADE!"

That was just how I felt. Still feel.

Few writers in the Marvel stable really understood The Incredible Hulk; even Stan the Man himself had a hard time figuring out how to use the character at first. For my money, Rascally Roy Thomas was the first one to get it right, essentially portraying Ol' Greenskin as a full-blown Autistic, which underscores the character's dangerous element: imagine all that power literally in the hands of a five-year old with a deep set of communication and emotion-management issues. In later days, Roger Stern was the only other writer who "got" it.

Up to a point in the early eighties, I own every issue of The Incredible Hulk ever published. He was my absolute favorite. I knew all about meltdowns and their consequences. Doctor Robert Bruce Banner, who could devise the nation's first and only Gamma Bomb, can't handle basic interpersonal relationships -- and when he gets mad, you'd best be moving out of his way quickly. Banner could be the poster boy for Asperger's Syndrome.

My absolute favorite issue of The Incredible Hulk is still the one in which Roy Thomas introduced Doc Samson, a neurotypical scientist who, in the name of curing Bruce Banner, steals the Hulk's power, pumps himself up into an Adonis, and then moves in on Banner's girlfriend, Betty Ross. This pisses off Banner so much that he sneaks back into the lab and re-exposes himself to gamma radiation in order to become the Hulk again. The Green-skinned Aspie and the pumped-up neurotypical square off against each other, with the over-confident Samson not realizing that he has all the power of the Hulk -- when the Hulk is calm. But Jade-Jaws isn't calm any more. He's pissed. And, as was expressed in almost every issue, "The madder the Hulk gets, the stronger the Hulk gets."

The ehm, "disagreement" ends with the total humiliation of that sand-kicking Doc Samson. Unfortunately, when Betty goes running out onto the scene of battle, it isn't the Hulk that she goes running to. We last see Ol' Greenskin standing alone in the street, looking on at Doc Samson cradled in Betty's arms, knowing that he's lost something, but, for the life of him, not being able to figure out what that something is.

*Choke* Gets me every time.

I used Benjamin J. Grimm for my graphic this time because the image came readily to hand, and because the message reflects how Autism and Asperger's children feel. But The Thing is really a very different case -- which is perhaps why the fabulous Fantastic Four were an acquired taste for me. Ben Grimm is a 100 percent neurotypical, a jock, to be honest, who happens to be trapped in the body of a . . . well, a rocky orange thing. He doesn't represent Asperger's or Autism because he totally gets the neurotypical world. But his physical appearance is so severe that he feels humiliated and shies away from social contact. Consider it a really, really bad case of acne.

You see, Marvel Comics was an Equal Opportunity exploiter of the fears that Young People have. If you know of a child who is suffering from anxieties of any sort, I would suggest identifying a corresponding character in the Marvel Universe and putting the stories in their hands. NOT the current stuff -- the classics, Marvel circa 1962 to 1969. It's all out there.

Discovering comics, in the years after I graduated from high school, when I had already read "serious" writers like William Faulkner and George Orwell and James Thurber and Anais Nin, really opened some doors in my head. But that's for another post.

-- Freder.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Nightmare of Hell

Oh My God!! Today was "Staff Gathering" day at the college; after three years of attending these things, I have finally come to realize that I detest Staff Gathering Day from the depths of my soul, and now I understand why.

It is 100 percent pure unadulterated torment for me, from the time I step into the Diamond atrium to find it packed with bodies, all of them talking at once, sometimes at the top of their lungs, an utterly incomprehensible wall of babble that goes right through me and makes me want to run screaming into the metaphorical night.

I literally spent the day wishing that I had a gun in my pocket so that I could blow my brains out. It was that bad. Essentially, I revert to the behaviour of my childhood and retreat to the quietest, least-populated area on the playground and hope that no one notices me there.

Strange people use my name when they speak to me, and I don't know who in hell they are. It is a horrible feeling being trapped in a room jam-packed with people, most of whom I don't know, and to whom I have nothing to say. I got my name tag, went straight to the buffet, grabbed a bagel and some wedges of melon and then beat it for the door to the picnic area outside.

At nine-fifteen everyone filtered into the auditorium; I took up a standing position at the back. Then began the annual interminable ordeal of passing the microphone along to every single person in  the room, so that they can give their name, rank and serial number. I sometimes dream of doing my Judge Judy impersonation into that mike ("You put a microphone inta my hands! NAWT SMAWT!!") or something equally silly, and in my younger days I would have done it -- but I've learned to just act normal and color inside the lines when the spotlight is on me.

A little after ten, just as the President was getting started with his speechifying, I slipped out. Thank the powers that be, I had a ten-thirty sales call with my overly perky Random House rep. It felt good to get away from that mob, good to slip behind my desk and do something more or less productive.

But by eleven-thirty that was done, and I had to return to the event. Classroom sessions in the morning, activities in the afternoon, divided by a lunch like something out of Dante's Inferno, once again the packed room, the bodies too close for comfort, the incomprehensible buzz of hundreds of people yammering all at once.

It is just exhausting for me, the last place in the world I want to be. Plus, the food was lousy. The Eggplant Lasagna was both overcooked and cold, served in a big tray like slop, and the steak was pretty much raw.

I forced down as much of it as I could than again beat a hasty retreat back into the bookstore.

My afternoon activity was a tour through the Museum, which is world-class -- but I like to go there in the summer when it is empty (ditto the campus libraries) and today it emphatically was not. There were a couple of galleries that I literally had to excuse myself from because there were too goddamn many people in there. The information provided by the museum staff was good, but I would have preferred to read it. I was reminded of why I never learned a single thing of value in school. All the great books I've read have been on my own hook, every skill of value that I have I taught myself.

At 2:30 the event was to wind down with an ice cream social out in back of the Roberts Building. I moseyed on down there knowing that I wouldn't eat anything, because by then I was feeling physically sick. Anyway, I had a plan.

I stayed just long enough to be seen, just long enough to exchange a few words with a fellow bookstore employee, just long enough so that it would register that I was there. Then I snuck into the building's open dining hall and out the side door. Every nerve in my body was twitching. As I walked fast towards the parking lot, I kept on repeating "Oh my god, oh my god, I am getting out of here!"

I'm much better now, chilling here at home, typing into my blog. . . and planning on being "sick" next year when this Day of Torture rolls around again.

-- Freder.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Interconnectedness of All Things

Oh my -- so much to write about tonight, but where to start and how to make it interesting and how to convey that it's all connected. . . (seeing connections in things is something I'm good at -- or hadn't you noticed that all of my posts strive, whether they succeed or not, at going Full Circle?).

This has been a wonderfully relaxing evening. Even having to move constantly from my deck (where I was grilling a burger) to the kitchen (where I was boiling a couple ears of corn) was somehow relaxing.

The weather was just perfect. Not too humid, not too hot, not too cold. I was cooking late enough so that the sun was just beginning to set. Although I had Topsy Turvy queued up to watch and would normally have et dinner in front of the telly, it was too nice a night. I let the TV play to an empty room while I ate out on my deck and occasionally put my feet up on another chair, and occasionally put my head back, and occasionally looked around at my yard, which is Transforming Nicely from something that somebody else did into something that is the product of MY intents.

In the midst of all this, I happened to notice that the paint on the very top of the railing is peeling a bit, and thought I might need to repaint sometime soon, and then noted that the only thing I really don't like about the deck is its bland, middle-class blue-grey color.

I thought, I could repaint this thing Red, White and Blue. I could repaint the stairs and that section of it leading up to the back door a deep midnight blue with yellow stars.

Then I thought, dagnabbit, first thing Saturday morning I am gonna go somewhere where they sell paint and get the colors that I need and a scraper and a brush and I am just gonna DO that little thing. Or start it, anyhow. It won't happen overnight. Wonder what the neighbors will think.

This is connected to the fact that I've been spending money like a drunken sailor ever since I moved into this place, money that I don't necessarily have, but, you know, it's a quality of life issue. It's also connected to my mother's love of the American Flag as a piece of graphic art, and to all the flags I retained from her house -- at least one of them made from wood -- that I don't currently know where to put or what to do with.

The reason that I was grilling a burger on the deck tonight was that I can't do it inside anymore, because after years and years of Noble Service, the Farberware Open Hearth Indoor Grill finally burned out last week.

Let me tell you about the Farberware Open Hearth Indoor Grill.

It is the greatest thing since sliced bread, and it's no longer being manufactured. I snagged a picture of it today on the web to post here, but I won't be using it because Krazy Kat is Konnected to the fact of All Things Being Konnected.

Am I boring you?

It consists of a heating coil contained by a metal framework and an open grill top, with a drip pan underneath. Most models also came with a detachable rotisserie unit. We never used that bit. It's not the same as grilling over charcoal, but it comes pretty darn close, and does it indoors.

My fraternal grandmother and grandfather Melvina and Claude, were the ones to discover this Remarkable Appliance. They liked it so much that they gave one to EVERYONE in the family.

Mom and I agreed with them. We used it all the time, for everything. We used it so much that by the mid-'80s, our unit finally burned out.

My sister, who as all of you know by now is an Evil Idiot, did not share our feelings for the Farberware Open Hearth Indoor Grill, and never used hers. Mom and I stole hers, and have been using it ever since.

Well, it outlived Mom, but it finally died. rather dramatically, I must say, with flames and all.

I've known for some time that this was going to happen and, on occasion, have scoured the internet looking for replacement heating coils. But this is a bit of culinary tech that has gone the way of T. Rex.

In the short term, I took it philosophically. I pulled out my mother's Mickey Mouse toaster for making toast, and for meats -- hey, it's summer, I bought some charcoal and have been bringing the little Hibachi into play once or twice a week.

But --

The toaster plays "It's a Small World" in really obnoxious electronic tones when it pops up the bread. It goes right down my back at a time of day when I don't need that obnoxious input. And -- what to do when the temps go down and winter begins to call? Give up eating meat? Get one of those really inferior George Foreman thingummybobs? I've looked at them several times. They're nowhere near as good as the Farberware Open Hearth Indoor Grill.

Long story short: I turned back to the internet and just as I was about to declare this problem unsolvable, there was someone selling an original unused Farberware Open Hearth Indoor Grill on eBay, minimum bid $19.99.

Did I mention I've been spending money like a drunken sailor? But this is one of those Quality of Life issues. EVERYONE should have a Farberware Open Hearth Indoor Grill and I was not about to let this one get past me. I saw, I bid, I won.

And soon I will be able to toast without "It's a Small World" riding down my spine, and soon I will not have to grill a burger outdoors (although it was lovely to do so tonight).

It was just as lovely to lie out on the couch on my porch and read once the dinner was done and the shower taken. To some extent, I felt transported. With all the screened windows open, it didn't seem to matter that there were cars going by in the street outside. Looking around me at the porch lit by paper lanterns and christmas lights, I was powerfully taken back to the summers that my family spent in the cabin on Ludlow's Island in Minnesota. The feelings were the same.

I have Home movies of those summers that, over the years, I transferred from 16mm film to VHS to DVD.

Here we are on the Elephant Rock. Here we are playing The Game of Life on the porch, with Taffy, our cousin's dog, long gone, looking on. Even my cousin Brian, who suffered what I now recognize as a severe case of Autism, and who is seen at the picnic tables with us, flapping his hands excitedly over dinner, even he has now been dead longer than he was ever alive.

And so on. One of the symbols that George Herriman used over and over and over again as a design element in his Krazy Kat Komic Strips was a Wheel of Life: a circle with an X drawn through its center and a Native American lightning bolt shooting out of its side.

You would do well to read a bit of Krazy Kat, iffn you haven't.

The Road Goes Ever on and on. . . (oh, wait, that's Tolkein. . .)

-- Freder.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Meeting the Challenge

Patches, the Hypersensitive Quat. Yes, this is really kind of what it feels like.

This morning the Anxiety was more like an amlulance wail than a smoke alarm, which was confusing, because I didn't have to be in to work until 11:30, and so I was able to sleep in. Usually those mornings are the better ones. On the other hand, the quality of my sleep this morning wasn't very good. In and out of consciousness, half asleep, half awake, crazy dreams that made no cognitive sense, you know the drill. Perhaps that had something to do with it.

Whatever the reason, I could feel it on my back like a physical thing. Knowing what it is (at last) helps to deal with it on an intellectual level -- but nothing dulls the hypersensitivity itself -- except alcohol, and I'm not going there.

I've started to make some changes, though. I've gone back to shaving and showering at night, instead of straight out of bed in the morning. As soon as I read back the post in which I described the effects of morning showers on me, I felt like I was living the old joke:

-- Doctor, it hurts when I do this!
-- Well, don't do that.

It means that I have to take more frequent showers, but this morning I was able to remind myself of the benefits: today would definitely been one of those where my morning shower felt like assault & battery. I patted myself on the back for that one, and thanked whatever it is we're thanking when we thank the Powers that Be.

I'm making the time to read; not every day, but that's the goal. Much more so than any other activity, including watching a good movie, this is calming, aids in decompression, soothes the spirit and fills up the empty places. Reading is a pleasure that I had mostly forgotten over the last six years and longer. The books piled up, but there was never the time for them. I've determined that has to change.

And, just today, I've begun making lists. In my current job, the only way I have been able to survive for the last four years has been to write everything down, make lists of every task that needs to be accomplished, sometimes with details of how to do it. If I didn't have these lists in front of me, work would be hopeless. If it's not on a physical sheet of paper, it falls out of my mind and doesn't get done. I really botched up a special order for a customer last month because I neglected to write anything down while I was on the phone with her. I ordered the book, but as soon as I'd done that some other thing popped up that needed my attention, and the mental note was gone the way of the Dodo. When the book arrived, we thought it was stock and it got shelved. No paper trail is the easiest way for me to get into big trouble.

And I found that, here in my new life, some of the same things were going on. I'd spend heaven knows how much time every day spinning my wheels, trying to think, for the third or fourth or fifth time, what it was I wanted to get accomplished.

Today at work, before my short shift ended, I took some scrap paper, made my first list for home, and tucked it into my pocket.

I've only checked off one and a half things so far, but it's more likely I'll get there if I don't have to waste time re-thinking the same stuff over and over.

If Asperger Syndrome is in part about making order out of chaos, the best thing I can do is try to live more "mindfully." I'm sure that I won't make it all the time, that there will be lapses. But the past year has been all about putting one foot in front of the other, and that I can mostly do -- even on a godawful morning like the one I had today.

-- Freder.

Friday, June 3, 2011

One year on...

This may be more than a little bit disjointed tonight. Maybe it'll coalesce into something. Maybe not.

I did not entirely want to stay in the old house, but still and all I wouldn't have moved from there if I hadn't been so forcefully pushed. It's a personality characteristic that I hate being pushed out of my routine, but looking back on it from here, as difficult as it was, I think leaving was the thing that needed to be done.

The anniversary was hard enough to get through here in my new world. Had I to endure it in the old house, in a place that was only a ghost of my home, with her gaping, empty room to walk into every day, it might have been unendurable.

This does not mean that I let my sister off the hook for her crimes. But I feel a lot like how I imagine Tiger Whitestockings does in the photo above, still taking in her New Surroundings: "Huh. Look at that. It's Interesting. It's Nice. It's my Home now. But it's still so new. I hate new."

I see now with a lot more objectivity what a very bad place I was in a year ago today. A dangerous place, within touching distance of death by alcohol. In some ways it got a little bit better after my horrible experiences in the hospital, but my emotions did not begin to truly heal until after the move reached the stage where I didn't have to go back out to the old place every damn day and sometimes twice or thrice on the weekend. Now that it's truly done, with the "cooler" installed here, now that I know for certain that I will never see the old house again, that page not just fully turned but ripped out of the book forever, a strange mood just exactly like what a writer or cartoonist feels when staring at a blank piece of paper is full on me.

At the same time, there's my creative self wondering if I can still hack it. A part of me wants to get back to writing and drawing, but I guess that I'm still in transition: I want to get to work, but a deeper part of me dreads it and fears that I may be washed up. Anxiety being the anathema to doing creative work, I know what has to happen. The desire to work is not enough. The fear of failure needs to be stepped over like a crack in the sidewalk. Step on that crack and the bears will get you. My foot is metaphorically raised and extended over a very deep and wide crack that, when I look into it, as I cannot seem to avoid doing, seems insurmountable.

Today at work, I received my performance review for the year. It was perhaps made better by the fact that in my self-assesment prior to the event, I did not hesitate to tell the truth that this has been less than a stellar year on the job. I gave reasons, and offered specific examples, but did not make excuses. Was I just being honest? Or did I manipulate this scenario perfectly?

In any case, my boss was uncharacteristically generous in her comments, Much more so than in prior years when I actually deserved more generosity than was forthcoming.

It's Reunion time at the college. One  of my biggest weekends of the year. In this time I will work another eleven days straight in a row, without a day off. For me, this is a little bit like Sleep Deprivation, even though I won't really be missing much (if any) sleep. Time Alone, Quiet Time, Solitude -- whatever you call it, that's sleep for me. I know that I'll get through this all right because I'm in a better place now than I have been in well over a year. It's just One More Milepost that will be smaller in my rearview window than it appears now.

Today, an elderly alum who seemed desperately confused and sad looked me in the eye and said, "Have you seen my wife?"

It was the kind of question that makes every potential response into a lie.

How could I possibly know if I had seen his wife?

"Maybe" would have been too ambiguous a response. "Yes" could well have been the truth, but how could I answer the inevitable question that followed?

I said "No," -- and felt as if I was lying.

-- Freder.

Pass the Cheese, Please!

AH-nold hess bin ein bit off a bed BOY, laitly! Yah! Ziss is pROBE-ably vy ze zo-cahlled "AMAIRican Moofie Klessics" (vich hess been running esspezially un-klessic moofies zince ziss pairsson started heffing eggsess to it ziss yair) chose to run ze CONE-an Ze Barh-BEARian moofink pickchair ze naght beffor lest.

Ach! Vhat ein peace of shitzen! I vas most aztonished to remembair zat I did not hate zis moofie vhen it vas fairs releazed. I sink zis vas becows zis vas ein comic book movie vich took idzelf SAIRieously in ein time ven zis vas not ze commonplaize zing. Alzo, zair vas ze teeny leetle beets off Robairt E. Howard zat made it to ze screen, unt ze nize photograffink pictzairs.

Gross gut! Vhat a zilly azz I vas! Ziss mooffie is ein stinking peas off KARbage! Vy vood eenyvun try to make ein zumtink prrrrrr-VOUND outten nize zimple Vantazy Adventure like COH-nan? Vuld heff been a verrrry zimple ting to make ein gut COHnan moofie, but Milius und Shtone had ein HEADS uppen zair ashholes!

Ah! So tonight on TCM, see opportunity for humble Aspie blogger to catch up on Japanese Monster Movies not seen before today, though much read about. It is chance not to be passed up. Imagine sinking feeling descending on humble servant as evening progresses. Early scenes of all movies are well shot and dramatically sound. There is compelling relationship to catastrophic happenings both then and now to small island of good and honorable Japanese people. 

Then, rubber monster suits begin trouncing matchbox cars and cities made of humble popsicle sticks! Unlike honorable mister Kong of Skull Island, monsters have no personality to save them from special effects for which perpetrators must surely have committed hari-kari! Scales on back of Gojirra actually wobble! Rubber wings of Rhodan remind honorable reviewer of something horrible to come from German sex-toy factory!

Much time spent on Wonton -- no, sorry, honorable excuses made here -- wanton destruction, no characters of interest to cling to anywhere! Horrible dubbing with the voice of honorable Paul Frees playing every other character and the voice of honorable Keye Luke (all very recognizable to humble Aspie movie fan) playing two-thirds of remaining characters. Movies start out Most Well, but rapidly descend into such deep mines of boredom that force humble reviewer into depths of sleepishness, from which he is forced to rouse himself, shake off sleep, to crawl to computer and type hopefully offensive lines about movies which never deserved all of the typing which they have received over humble years!

O! For a chance to cleanse the humble palette with the pureness of something genuinely good! But seven AM comes quite early upon the dawn, and time does not exist for humble Aspie reviewer to do anything but mock, snort, and retire to comfort of bed to dream away bad taste in mouth of films most distressingly overrated.

-- Freder.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


It's here! The jailhouse! There it is in its new home in my "formal" garden. The last piece in the moving puzzle. The final proof that home is here.

What is this thing? you may be asking. I'll tell you.

It is, literally, a drunk tank, dating back to around the turn of the last century. When a cop on the beat found some gent who was drunk and disorderly, he'd lock them in one of these things, where the person would literally chill until the paddy wagon came around to take him to jail.

That's its history. But to me, today, it looks and feels like my TARDIS.

My father had been very interested in using his truck to move the thing here. I had my doubts: he's getting on in years and has a bad back. But he insisted. Late last week, I asked if he would be available sometime over the long weekend with the provision that if it proved too much for the two of us that we STOPPED and I called in the movers.

Somehow, somewhere along the way, the plan got changed, and I didn't have much say in it. Instead of us going over together on Sunday or Monday, Dad and his wife wanted to go out there on Tuesday -- alone.

How do these things happen?

Well, thank goodness that as it turned out they had plenty of help. The new owner and his father were there, and they were anxious to get rid of the thing, and they did most of the work of loading it into my father's truck.

When I got home from work Tuesday afternoon, there was my father's truck with a hoosegow strapped down in back!

My backyard neighbor, R____, the one that I like, came out and climbed into my yard to see what the hell was going on. She was nice about it, a real sport, because she and her Significant Other will have this in full view of their back garden, and I can well imagine a lot of folks wouldn't appreciate that. Dad being the self-proclaimed raconteur that he fancies himself, he gave her the whole history of the thing.

She climbed up onto the truck and helped us unload it. We shored it up with a bit of stone paving from the garden and two stakes from the garage.

She actually laughed when I made my TARDIS comment. Sometimes I wish people wouldn't do things to make me like them.

As I was coming back from putting away the remaining stakes and the sledge hammer, I saw Dad talking to R____ seriously. I don't know what he was telling her, but she looked concerned and sad. The conversation broke up as I came down to them. I hate it when that happens.

R____ and my Dad's wife suddenly really started to hit it off. They're both gardeners -- and both outgoing. M_ went down into my neighbor's garden and she showed her the whole set-up.

Dad and his wife came in and cleaned up a bit, and then we toddled off to dinner at Ruby Tuesdays. They had a coupon. I used to take Mom there for lunch every so often on a Saturday. I'd forgotten that the first thing you have to do with one of their hamburgers is cut it in half.


On Monday afternoon I was doing what I could to recover from what felt like a minor case of heat stroke, picked up that AM working in the garden under the suddenly hot sun, when my friends from college, who live just down the block, showed up on my doorstep to invite me to dinner. This didn't sit so well with me, because it was unexpected and a disruption of my Routine, but I accepted because -- well, that's what I have to do to break out of myself, I guess.

When the time came to leave I threw the deadbolt on the back door and went out the front way. It turned out that Pandy Bear had been hiding on the front porch, so I had to get him back into the house somehow. I have no keys to any of the front doors. I went out the front, walked around to the back, tried to use my key to get in --

-- except that I had thrown the deadbolt.

"I'm in trouble now," I thought.

Thank god the downstairs windows were open, and thank god the screens aren't bolted to the house, and thank god I have a stepladder in my garage. I ripped the screen away, squeezed myself through, fell ass over head into my study here and banged my knee on the floor.

After that experience, a little bit of socializing was relatively easy.

But I must say -- as much as I sometimes get lonely and crave social contact, after two straight nights of it under these conditions I was glad to have things back to peace and normalcy tonight!

Gonna take out the trash (so I don't have to do it tomorrow morning) and scoot quickly around the block. G'nite!

-- Freder.
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