Thursday, December 30, 2004

Idiot Girl at Inn N Out

I've been reading the new book by Temple Grandin, "Animals in Translation." Grandin is interesting because she is autistic and has enough language and ability to generalize to talk about what it is like to be autistic. My daughter Bevin is not autistic. She belongs to that broad spectdum of disabilities that autistic belongs to, however. And I learn more about her when I read about autism than anything else. Autism is diagnosed on a spectrum--it's like you get points and so many points add up to autism, a few less to autiistic like, and a few less--you have my daughter. Little language. Profoundly out of it.

Grandin is a gift because she can talk about what it is like to be inside a mind that must be something like my daughter's. As she talks about her experiences, I often feel a sense of recognition.

One thing that she focuses on is the way that she thinks in pictures. That she doesn't have memory or thought stored away in language. She has that memory, that experience, that wisdom stored away in pictures.

An instance yesterday that reminds me how profoundly--and weirdly--visual my daughter is. (My fondly named "Idiot Girl"--the source of my name.)

I took her driving yesterday. Left to sit at home, she'll either cover her head with a blanket and sleep. Or roam the house, clearing off surfaces, stuffing things in closets, beg for soda. Driving, she is amazingly engaged. She looks around, at the cars, at the scenery. And she will not fall asleep. It doesn't matter how far or how long you drive.

But to the incident of yesterday. And to the visual memory. We were driving yesterday. And we stopped for lunch at Inn N Out Burger--a popular chain in California. I set us up at a counter with high chairs and a view out onto people waiting for their burgers. She thought it was great fun. We ate our burgers, fries, and she took her drink along. When we returned that evening we went out for a drive to visit friends with my husband and his son. They decided to stop for a burger at an Inn N Out Burger. All of these chains are set up in exactly the same way. Bevin trounced in with great confidence (she is great for ritual, repeated experience). Before I realized what was happening, she recognized her chair--the second chair from the right in the middle bar with the high chairs. She threw her self into the chair with great gusto. And greated the three teenage boys sitting in the remaining 3 chairs (of the four) in the group. "Hi," she smiled.

She had remembered her place, the pattern. The three teenage boys were beside the point. This was her place, her chair. The place she gets good food and has great fun.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Mr. Deeds goes to the Blue City

Last night my husband and I watched the Gary Cooper movie, "Mr Deeds Goes to the City" (is that the title?). Mid-way through the movie my husband commented, "This movie has a lot to say about the world today. Red states and blue states. The urban, the blue. Elitist, without heart." I lost it. "You've always lived in a city. You've never lived in a rural area in your life! Does that mean, you're blue." I was furious. He had turned this lovely movie into a tale about who voted for George Bush.

I shouldn't have screamed at him. That doesn't help. But this alarms me. My husband is semi-retired. Works out of our house in California (that's another story). He has a great deal of time he can use as he will. He spends hours each day listening to conservative talk radio--Rush Limbaugh in the morning, Michael Medved in the afternoon. And later in the day the likes of Michael Savage and others. He watches Fox News. And he reads books that tell about the elitist bias of the news, books written by the likes of Ann Coulter. Listening to his comments on the movie, made me think about the world he is inhabiting these days. It is so polarized: red and blue, democrat and republican, conservative and liberal. There is a moral struggle that falls along these lines. The good and the bad, the moral and the not moral, the duped and the wise.

I could definitely see a moral for our age in the Gary Cooper movie. But I don't see things falling out along these smooth, easy lines. And it is disturbing, alarming to see my husband stuffing the world into these categories. He is a kind and good man. An odd duck I love. He escaped Vietnam as a conscientious objector.

I wonder how many others live in this either/or kind of world. I hope not so many.

By the way, I've let the flag fly over my house over the past year. I make what I will of symbols. I love America. It's my flag too. I won't let him make the meaning of that.

Monday, December 20, 2004

I listen to audiobooks. I started this when I had a 140 mile-3-hour commute every weekend. It kept me awake while music put me to sleep. Just enough engagement of the mind to fight off exhaustion from the week and sleepiness. Last year I asked for an iPod for Christmas. And that device and have been my friends for the past year. Now I can listen to audiobooks without fighting with multiple cds or tapes and finding a place to store all the boxes. I still read. But this extends my ability to read.With my iPod, I broadcast books through all the radios in the house. So I can "read" while I clean or cook or just sit in front of the fireplace and watch the fire. I can listen in the car. I can listen while I walk around Greenlake (yes, I do live in Seattle).

It's luxurious to be read to. It slows the experience down. I read too quickly. And I cheat. I skim. I skip backward, I skip forward. This way I must concentrate and be in the moment with the story. With a very good reader, it is a wonderful experience. And with a good book, a bad reader is tolerable.

My best listen of the past few months. Rohinton's Mistry's "A Fine Balance." Devastating. Hopeful for people, if not for society. I recently listened to his second novel, "Family Matters." More later.

Monday, August 30, 2004

It's been a long time. I had forgotten I did this. I navigate most evenings to my son's blog. It's pretty entertaining--and impressive. He and his friends are mostly lawyers, very opinionated, and very verbal. I like the fact that he has a good sense of shape for what he writes, and mostly he understands that more is less in a good essay. I'm impressed by blogs that have a public shape and a bit of thought to them. Not that impressed by blogs that sound like journals, personal musings that don't face externally, don't have a sense of audience. So what is this? Not entirely sure. I'm so caught between multiple worlds. I often think it's a good place to see things. But I don't seem to have the patience to write, to stick to something long enough to explore in depth and shape what I have to say. I flit from thing to thing.