Saturday, April 2, 2016

Autism and the National Month

All my life, I've known people on the Asperger's side of the Autism spectrum. I just didn't know it. I didn't even know there was a thing until maybe early in this century. I don't even know if it's such a good thing that I know it now. We can all be shoved into one syndrome or another. 

Me, I dress very carelessly. So carelessly apparently, that people, shocked, will say, "What the fuck are you wearing?" Their shock shocks me. Someday my wardrobe blindness will get slapped with a name, and a syndrome.  Which will make me less me and more that.

I've had friends throughout my life who displayed some classic Asperger's traits -- wouldn't look me in the eye, for example. But I just learned, when we talked, to look at some other corner of the room. Of course, I'd always slip up;  still do -- and find them looking at me and our eyes will lock, and his (usually his) focus will fly to some other place, ceiling or floor, and mine back to my corner. No big deal.

And other stuff. I had a friend, Mr. M, who would do anything on my behalf. Look after my house when I was away on business, take care of the plants, pick me up from the airport, tend to the animals. But when I brought up my feelings after my father died, he immediately changed the subject to one of his Caltech projects, or tennis. 

At first, that one bothered me. But later, I reconsidered. Maybe he was right -- I shouldn't dwell on the death-thing so much. And the tennis did make me feel better.

Sometimes we played doubles. He hated to be on my doubles team. Because while Mr. M just wanted to get in a serve well enough to start the rally and secure the point, I wanted to hit a serve that left everyone stunned and amazed. My serve often missed.

And again this just relates to Mr. M, because I'm sure this varies with anyone categorized with Asperger's, but he didn't have a sense of irony. Not my irony, in any case; and would take what I said way too literally. So then I'd find myself trying to explain something I said and get all tangled up in it and end up with, "We're down 40-Love, M, but watch this."

And he'd be like,"Well, if you must." 

Today is either National Autism Acceptance or National Autism Awareness Month, depending on which side of the controversy you fall. It is a controversy, in case you don't know. Some Autism advocacy groups have a problem with what you call it.

On my side -- I guess I prefer acceptance; but what's to accept?  We're good. We always have been.


Sunday, March 20, 2016

Into the madding crowd



I believe it was in the early 2000s that LA Times journalist Jill Leovy first started reporting on the murders taking place in South Central LA.

Not from the aggregate, the usual statistical perspective that keeps murder and violence at arm's length (unless your arm can't escape the thick of things), but she took on the murders, one individual victim at a time. She wrote about his background, his life -- because it usually was a man, though sometimes, of course, a woman or a child. Who killed him and how, and the possible reasons why. Then the response from police to EMT to coroner. Notification of next of kin, the effect on the next of kin and friends, the funeral, the grieving, the aftermath and possible retaliation.

Gut-wrenching is a term that gets tossed about a lot, but maybe that's just because so many things in life do that to the gut. Her stories certainly fit the bill. 

When I still worked at The Times, a small group of us met with Leovy, and we asked some rather typical questions, you know, how did you research each story, gather information, meet with the families, that type of thing. And then one guy asked, "Writing these stories, week after week, does it take it's toll on you, personally?"

And she rubbed her arms nervously, up and down and up and down, and finally said, "Oh, I'm a wreck."

This Sunday's LA Times has Leovy's review of a book about the history of murder in LA from 1840-1870. Before it was a city at all. And like today in LA and the world over, sometimes violence is gang against gang, tribe against tribe, ideology against ideology, and sometimes it's got nothing to do with any of that at all. 

Apparently, the book also delves into the various concepts of justice. Something of immediate fascination since the internet has already proved to be the most successful instrument of mob justice mankind has ever known.

The book is titled "Eternity Street." Even if you don't read the book, read her piece. It's something more than the parts of its sum -- better than a book review; more than a discussion of LA's history, more than just really, really fine writing. 

http://www.latimes.com/books/la-ca-jc-frontier-los-angeles-20160320-story.html

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

It's a Boy!



For the past couple of days the cat had been sneezing and choking on her food, so I took her to the vet. It was time anyway, as I figured a year had passed and she needed to get vaccinated for whatever it is cats get vaccinated for. I know nothing about cats.

I was rather worried that perhaps I'd put off the vaccines too long. Maybe the vet would say, "You are a horrible, evil person; if only you'd bothered to come last month. But now, thanks to your lassitude, your cat has rabies, AIDS, and pneumonia."

The vet took her temp, listened to her heart and lungs, checked her ears and paws, asked if I'd given her flea preparations (yes), then picked her up and hugged her and asked, "What's his name?"

"His?"

"His name."

"Uhm, it's ..."

"Yes?"

"Billy. His name is Billy."

And the vet and her vet intern looked like they'd heard worse. 

Then they showed me how to give Billy his pills for the next seven days. Tilt the head back and the mouth opens naturally, so pop it down the gullet.

I suppose now I have to retire certain nicknames  -- Swiss Miss, Miss Peepers, and Sweet Girl. Though Jujube swings both ways, in my opinion.

Back home, I broke it to Albert that his best girl is actually his best boy. He doesn't seem to have a problem with that. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Me and Harper Lee

I wrote this a few years ago, but, To Kill a Mockingbird -- well, as Dill said about something else entirely -- "oh yes, it's in my blood."

IThere’s an axiom that’s been floated for a long time (how long? A century or two?), that the act of reading, in and of itself, is somehow intellectually nutritious. A noble pursuit.

I wonder how many books I’ve read. How many I’ve cracked for a one-night stand, with plots hell bent for leather, salivating to a destination.

I’ve read many books, not beginning to end, but beginning and end, skipping over the middle. From the here to the  there.

I’ve bought books based on the covers alone. Pretty, pretty faces. I’ve read parts of books that have been passed along, for my consideration. Just to get them off the shelf.

I’ve read cereal boxes, comic books, toilet paper wrappers, junk mail, license plates, the labels on my fruit.

Not instructional manuals, I never read instructions. I feel I’m the only one who can write them well. I could be wrong, since I never read instructions.

But I read and re-read stories. For their incidental music.

Miss Maudie, Miss Maudie, in your flower print dress. Eternally watering the roses. Atticus will never notice, I can tell you that now, as I told you ten years ago, and twenty.

But you still call out to him – it is to him, isn’t it? “Your father can make a will so airtight no one can break it!” He doesn’t turn around. He never will. He’ll just raise a hand and say, “You be good, children.”

Maudie will dress up again tomorrow, and fill her pitcher with water. The plants won’t wilt and flowers will bloom.