Passing The Anniversary

Anniversaries have power in our lives.¬†They’re a rotation around the sun, a return to where we were. We stop to check off where we are in our lives versus the last time we were here. You sit down and think about growth or, god forbid, regression. And like it or not, there will be regression at times.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014 marks 17 years since I was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. This is, of course, 24 hours away from New Year’s Day. Inevitably it becomes common for me to think back on my disorder as much as the rest of my life on this date. But then, that’s how it works when you’re in my shoes. Asperger Syndrome/High Functioning Autism is the lens of my life.

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What Worked in 2014

I was going to do a year end post where I studied the year’s harder and lighter points, a standard wrap-up where I looked at everything. Then it hit me it would be another look back in anger. Nobody is in a good mood right now and I can’t add another gripe to the pile. So I’m going to buck the mood and write an upbeat entry because things aren’t all bad or all good. Looking to the light…

The big plus this year has been my marriage. I’ve spent a nice full year as a married man. Amanda is just plain amazing to be with. Funny, clever, engaging, surprising, an amazing cook, a kind soul. I’ll never be lonely again due to her in my life. We’ve had chaos come our way in this year but we’re stronger for it.

This was a great year for me on the side job front. In June, my partner on The Film Room, Albert and I interviewed director/firebrand Lexi Alexander after two casts referencing her work. That was just plain cool to get to talk to someone who made awesome films. (1) She was an awesome guest and we’ve actually stayed in contact. She’s even hyped this site a bit.

In fact this site was a major highlight! I’m really proud of what I’m doing here. I finally feel like I have a voice for my thoughts on my disorder. This is a project I only plan on growing.

This year I rediscovered my love of writing. I’ve really caught fire again as a writer. I’ve got a lot to come and I can’t wait to share it.

It’s been a dynamite year in the arts. I’ve got a rough best of list for film with some amazing works on it. TV was solid with Netflix growing as a provider. Comics were awesome and I even got to buy 6 issues drawn by a friend.

The big theme for this year though was people. I did suffer a tragic loss in August but up until that moment, she was a constant presence. I met a score of amazing new people this year as well. So many who I’m happy to know. I’m still tight with my family. It’s been a long year but I have had fabulous people in it.

Let this year pass on. Let the dark be forgotten and the good cherished.

(1) And I do easily recommend Green Street Hooligans and Punisher War Zone. They’re badass films.

Two screenplays by Austin Shinn

I’ve lived with the comfort my writing existed in print form only so I could just SAY I stink at writing but not have to deal with the consequences. Then I found these… Both from about the same time, 23/24. Both rough. But, I feel like why not share them? Tis the season.

Fiesta Square was my attempt at a romantic comedy and it’s a work. A bit crass, hard R really. The premise is a man turns to his wife for help with his mistress. Honestly I kinda like it. It reflects a juvenile mind but there are strengths.

Fiesta Square Draft I

Aeterna is a fantasy about an immortal warrior who retires and ultimately I think I blew it having him have had a family. I started way too late. A good idea and a workable one studying the idea of heroes after the quest, but a miss.


Read and judge away!

Where I Stand 12/20/14

I figured I’d do a bit of a catch-all post today. I’m in a catch-all moment really. Do a bit of housecleaning, address a bit of what’s going on and capture my mind right at this moment.

First off, I thank all of you for your response to my high school entries. I write these entries less as completist entries and more as assembling ideas for potential projects. I have one short story set to stem from it shortly. I have a final plan for much of this writing and you’re basically reading my notes. A lot of those paragraphs could become chapters of a book actually.

My other project? Well I’ve hit a wall and I want to talk honestly and openly about it. I’m at about page 45 when I’d rather be much deeper in. At this point I’m about to start the first kill in the horror script. 45 minutes is the half way point so not bad, but I worry I’m on the brink of a rushed climax. I’m also not fully satisfied with what I’ve written. It’s frustrating to do a lot of effort and then look back and be annoyed with it. I’m not quitting though. I will see it through if it ends on page 50.

I have another project. That you’ll see. ūüôā

This has been an interesting holiday season. Last year I didn’t really have one since I was freshly married. I’m really enjoying the experience. I love giving gifts and the food. All of it really. It’ll climax with the epicness of the day in Delight. Really looking forward to it.

Had my anniversary too. Really a lovely experience. Took my love to dinner. Showered her with gifts. Just a really nice quiet experience. We’re going to the opera in a month in Memphis.

At the same time, I have to come clean that I’ve been pretty anxious lately. My anxiety levels have been rather high. Rarely spiking to a 10 but at a hard 7 most of the time. Part of that stems from trying to get everything right for this season. Part of that comes from various random things. A lot of it comes from 2014 having been a nightmare in many ways.

I’m trying to work on it though. Christmas week looms after all. I want this to be a time of peace for me and I’m hopeful it will et be.

02/24/03: A Night To Survive

This chapter marks the third time I’ve written on this night. I’ve used it for a personal narrative and a heavily fictionalized short story. At this point, 12 years on, it feels like a movie I witnessed, a surreal moment in the fog of life. It’s a favorite story. So once more I’ll tell it.

It starts on a normal afternoon in late February of my senior year of high school.¬†A number of my friends¬†(1) were headed to Memphis¬†that night¬†to see Karl Malone and the Utah Jazz play the Memphis Grizzlies. I laughed at them for going then trying to make it back to class the next day. I laughed until a ticket came open and I was invited. I initially said no, but my mom talked sense into me with three words “Live a Little.”

The night started with dinner at a McDonalds on Oak where the caravans assembled. This was a big deal! I was going across state lines without adults for the first time. I remember noticing how gray the day was. There had been some sun earlier but the weather was now that sickly gray that connoted neither rain nor sun. We fueled and left.

Of those who went, I concede the names leave me now of many. But I can confirm Ryan Pearcy, Matt Heath, Caleb Janski, and Brandon Sherwood were there. Brandon added Taylor Crockett and Craig Smith’s names to the list when I recent asked for recollections. Is this complete? Perhaps not. But I’ve never had a head for other people. It’ll work.

The drive to Memphis is the single most boring one you will take in Arkansas. The rest of the state has varied terrain or cities. The delta is flat and farmland. I’m not knocking it mind you. Agriculture is huge in AR and vital to our economy. I’m just saying don’t forget a good audiobook to keep you awake. (2)

The thing I remember most was the atmosphere of the drive in. These were people I truly liked, many of whom I’m still in contact with. Shooting the breeze, cracking jokes, hanging out with awesome people. Minor details but they set the tone. Just like the gray that followed us and quietly grew darker.

We arrived in Memphis and parked a pretty fair distance from The Pyramid. Kind of amazing how safe it was. We made our way in and enjoyed the first bit of the game. I’m not a sports fan but even I can enjoy a good experience. Athletic events are usually comfy, loud but not too annoying. If the game is good, I can get involved.

Let’s pause. Say the night goes as expected from here. We leave. We go home. It’s late. I’m tired but oh well. I still reference this as a great, fun time I had. But it joins the myriad trips around the state we took. That wasn’t to be.

Early in the game,¬†the calls started. Reports of a blizzard. I’m not overstating it. ¬†Arkansas was getting battered. I’ve read that in true crises, our bodies go into a state that calms us and keeps us sane so we can act rationally. That was proven that night because that was how I acted. I had to laugh.

We left the game when it ended. Memphis hit a certain amount of goals so there were several promotional fast food items we could grab for free. We took advantage of a few of these as we stopped off in West Memphis to fuel. No snow yet. Our mood was the mood of cavalier young men who knew we were heading to apocalyptic weather.

We made it about 30 miles to Forrest City. We got reports the blizzard¬†was there. Sure enough the snow started falling as soon as we landed. So we decided not to be stupid for a moment. A hotel was arranged for the two carloads of people. ¬†This was of course, not my idea of a good time. I sure as hell wasn’t sleeping this night.

However, it wasn’t Pearcy’s either. Ryan Harvey Pearcy is known among the students of Conway High School for being one of the boldest, goofiest people ever to have attended the school. His reaction was to go to Wal-Mart. A few of us, myself included, went. It was genuinely eerie being in an all but vacant store.¬†Sign Out

After obtaining our free chalupa from Taco Bell, the purpose of leaving the hotel became clear: Pearcy wasn’t staying. He was going to fight it out and go home. I decided to throw in immediately. I didn’t want to be there after all. A few others, I’m reasonably certain Matt Heath was in that group, decided that yes, driving 90 miles through a blizzard WAS a good idea

Pearcy drove, a good call in theory. At first things were fine. Then he decided that to call the hotel room and fake a spinout. This was his idea of a joke. A few moments later, we were kinda in a ditch. The truth was we spun a bit and the car did end up a bit off road. A helpful cop stopped to guide us out and back on the road.

What happened next became boring as hell. I’ve never gotten this story to work as fiction all that well. (3) That stems from the fact that unless you’re in a really exciting set of circumstances, you’re just driving along at 45 mph down I-40. We trucked along very slowly. Jokes aside. Pearcy killed it on the drive.

There was one moment of zen. We stopped at Burns Park and got out t walk on the interstate. I will NEVER walk on I-40 again, especially there. But to stand there at 3 AM in the falling snow was amazing. All of it was worth it for that alone. The world had stopped and I was alive in it.

We trekked back through Mayflower, the interstate closed about that area. We saw lines of trucks all lighting up the area. It truly was an eerie night. As we drove, we saw several others like us. They were travelers just trying to get home on a night fate was not on their side.

Finally, about 4:30, I was dropped at home. It had been less than 12 hour but even now it feels like more. I naturally fired my mom’s words at her. My parents had waited up for me. Then I promptly went to bed. The school day I’d expected to see wouldn’t come. In fact I wouldn’t return until Friday of that week.

I devote a full entry to this story because it deserves it. Also because it captures something great about “crazy” times. They test us, yes. The beauty is when we pass. I passed that night. If I had to do it again, I’d always do it.

(1) I had a strong social base at this moment. That’s all the relevant info you need. More to come on them tomorrow.

(2) I’ve used Snakes on a Plane the radio drama and Stephen King stories to survive.

(3) I actually created a second, rather interesting plotline for the fiction one. It dealt with a moral question. I’m proud of iit

50th Post: What School Felt Like

In writing my memoir pieces, it hit me just how little I’ve conveyed the specific experience that high school was for my Aspie (1) mind. That happens when you’re trying to convey a history. The small details get lost even though they’re really what I suspect others want to hear about. Let’s face it, autobiography is more than a little self serving. But as a bridge between the entries and as I hit post 50, why not convey the small details that didn’t fit?

School is a mix of things we love and things we hate. There’s nice lovely structure. When you’re on a 7 period, 5 day a week schedule it’s hard to be confused. Every day is much the same. At a certain time you have to be a certain place. There might be a test but that’s expected.

There’s also a certain logic to most of it. Factual classes like math (2), history, or science rule. There’s no room for interpretation. Either a fact is right or wrong in these classes. ¬†When English classes focus on the facts of the text, again, can’t argue. Right or wrong. We’re black and white minded.

We also do well with the variance. One hour you’re on one subject. Another hour something different. We are a bit flighty. ADHD is often one of our diagnoses. Our minds sharpen by the routine shift in schedule.

However school is incredibly frustrating too. The most frustrating thing would have to be the onslaught of data. I was good about doing my homework. I was awful at getting it to school. You have seven different obligations in one day. It’s hell to keep organized. You have to remember to bring all of this to all of these places. Gah!

It also sometimes doesn’t make sense. Literary analysis was hell for me at first because it wasn’t literal. Grammar was very confusing and nonsensical to my mind, logically so as the aspie brain¬†struggles with communication. I did very poorly showing my work since that laborious task physically hurt my hand.

The worst part though? The stimuli. Oh having my disorder in school could be hell. I was excused from at least one pep rally because I started to have a panic attack. School was a loud, crowded, smelly place. I hated eating lunch there especially. You could not breathe there.

I think a lot of how I managed this rested on how much help I got. In middle school I rarely if ever got much help for my disorder. I even had one teacher tell me to stop leaning on it, which she might not have been wrong on but she was still pretty awful to me. Once I got to HS, my disability plan was in effect and teachers worked hard with me because what I was had a definition. Some really fought for me like my journalism teacher.

Ultimately strategies were needed. I got good at shorthand on my notes. A provision giving me a textbook for home and one in the classroom saved me. I was allowed to write most of my in class essays on a computer. If they were highly graded, well I earned that.

I also found my sanctuaries. A quiet place in the courtyard or inevitably the library gave me a place to relax and think. It’s incredible how important a novel was to letting me block out the stimuli. The world got chaotic? Jump to the Star Wars universe.

I’ve been away far too long to say anything meaningful about how it is today, but I really would be shocked if things were much different. I think that’s why high school stories work in fiction. It’s a universal crisis we all face. I loved school. I hated it. It was.

I’ll have the final entry up along with another side entry by Sunday. 50 posts in. Let’s go for more!

(1) No other term works as well for shorthand. Aspie it is.

(2) I hated math. That is all.

On the Ugliness Yesterday

Yesterday, a rather ugly incident happened online that probably doesn’t deserve addressing. A facebook page¬†was brought to my attention by a fellow Aspie and writer that called for the extermination of autistics. I promptly reported it and put the word out on twitter about it. A friend picked it up, shared it, and it was promptly dismantled. I’m not going to say we were all responsible but I think we were crucial.

This doesn’t deserve addressing because in the end, who cares? There are a lot of harassment sites online. Autism being included in the list of groups mocked doesn’t feel extraordinary at all. I mean we have a lot of skeletons in our own closet after all. And I’m sure if you were to ask the person who put it up if they really had eugenics in mind, they’d claim they “just wanted a reaction.” We gave it. So what?

That’s the wrong approach.

I’ve tried to hold my tongue on the topic of the subtle social prejudice my group faces as adults because I hate being seen as oversensitive. Forgive me but this time, I’m going to ignore that I think that way. This site serves as a great microcosm of the prejudice we face online.

Of course no rational person would support our elimination. I’m not that stupid. At least I don’t want to think that’s the case. I think there is a definite concern about us “spreading” but look, AS/HFA runs right up my bloodline and we’ve all done fine. I’m not exactly afraid of it. But no, I certainly don’t think any sane person would actually want me or my more severe ilk dead. Even your lowest functioning still can contribute.

The thing is, I’ve seen people I greatly respect use anti-autistic language. The late Roger Ebert did it in regards to people being sticklers about detail. It shows up nonstop on humor sites to describe obsessive detail. Sperging is a casually accepted verb. I’m so bombarded by this that I don’t note it because I’m numb to it.

And this certainly isn’t limited to us. We’re so casual as a society about homophobic language. I love the guys at Rifftrax but I would love for them to cut it out. We’re increasing sensitive about racial language this year but christ what tragedies it took to get here. We’re profoundly uncomfortable with transgender issues even though I’ve found dealing with my trans friends is rather simple. Whatever they identify as, I call them. Done.

So we’re in a big boat. What can we do to change this? Simple, refuse to shut up. I’m not saying be whiny about it but try to gently point out the awfulness. Most will listen. We should have a degree of a thick skin too. Let some of it go because everybody gets mocked. But we won’t be silent. And when the line gets crossed, well that idiot forgot one accurate stereotype about the group he was mocking. We use computers majorly. We will break you.