Adventures in Autistic Parenthood

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

War of the Words:

This one I had to swipe.
     For a time, Dave and I stayed in Lawrence Kansas, home of the University of Kansas Jayhawks. If you're not from Kansas, and you don't know what a Jayhawk is, don't be alarmed. Almost no one in Kansas knows what one is either, except as a description of a KU Alumnus. Historically, it's the derivation of 'Jayhawkers' a term for the Kansas version of the Missouri 'Bushwacker' before and during the Civil War. The Jayhawk mascot is said to be part 'screaming Bluejay' and part 'stealthy Sparrowhawk'. All I know is that it's blue, red and yellow and looks like the technicolor cousin of Heckle and Jekyll. Quite a number of my family (including my oldest son) graduated from there, and that description will probably start trouble. Oh well.
     While we were staying in Lawrence, waiting downtown for my son Tim and his wife Abby next to their favorite coffee shop. Dave had something of an 'encounter', which led me to believe (once again) that Dude is actually a representative of an alien race.
      I love college towns. They have the amenities and infrastructure of a town three times their size without the crowding, barring the occasional weekend pub-crawl. What college towns have in abundance is an eclectic and tolerant population of fairly intelligent, if slightly naive individuals who are actually out to prove what they care about before they become jaded capitalists like the rest of us. In Lawrence the one thing that goes along with all this relaxed tolerance is a selection of some of the most relaxed and colorful homeless people you'll ever encounter. (I've been to LA, Orlando, NYC, Berkeley, Chicago, Miami, and every other Major Metropolitan area in the country, so I've seen some stuff) Most of these people seem to have little areas staked-out at various points along the main drag, where they hang out, speak in a friendly manner to just about anyone, some of them play an instrument or dance to CD's. All of them have a small, unobtrusive cardboard sign marked with Sharpie and some sort of receptacle for donations. Dave talks to each and every one of them, asks them if their ready for Vegas, or just to hit a Casino, or just to say, 'Hi buddy! That's some good music!' or 'Way to go, buddy! You're the best!' or even, 'That's some good dancing! I love to dance!' He is a one man support group. The thing is, these people are known to the students and people that frequent Downtown. Most know their names, some of their story and often stop and talk, or give them a little something, or even just to let them pet their dogs. (Lawrence is one of the most dog-friendly towns I've ever seen. It's like a giant PetLand) Sometimes, however, economic or personal choice aren't the reason for homelessness. There's always a group, within the group, that just can't seem to... well... stay on their meds. Some of them are easier to deal with than others. There's no good way to say this. Some of the Clinical Schizophrenics  just won't shut up. And if you know who I live with you'll realize how big that statement actually is. Schizophrenia is a disorder designed to make people nervous. Schizo-effectives talk too much, too loudly, never stay on topic for more than a few seconds and generally leave your 'personal space' lying on the floor bruised and gasping in pain. The thing is, while they're avoided a bit more than the other indigents I never saw any of them harassed or antagonized in any way while I was there. It was also obvious that they were consistently directed, or taken, to shelters, counselling, or some sort of outreach program to get them help.
     This leads us to Andrew (not his actual name). Andrew's stated purpose for hanging around the coffee shop was to wait for opening of the bike shop next door. I know this because in the first 4 minutes of meeting Andrew I knew his name, why he was there, how long he'd been waiting, how many times he'd had to wait, every name of everyone he'd ever dealt with in the shop (and why), what he'd had for dinner, lunch, his opinion of the efficacy of his semi-current outpatient treatment, several of the best places to 'crash' in town, and the last time he'd thrown up. Also I learned more about Government (Local to Federal) conspiracies and alien intent and biology than is probably healthy for any one person to be aware of. I also had time to notice that Andrew didn't appear to have a bicycle. Or a helmet. Or any of the other things that go along with riding a bicycle. I'm not afraid of crazy people, and they seem to know that, so I just rode the conversation out, commenting as seemed to be necessary or required, but it didn't take me long to figure out that Andrew, my new and bestest friend, was never, ever, ever going to shut up. Not only did I figure it out on my own, but it was written on the faces of the three or so students sitting in the patio area of the coffee shop. Andrew would never stop. He would never quit. He would follow me (his bestest friend) to the ends of the earth, protecting me from Aliens, Government Agents, Outreach Nurses and Rude Bicycle Shop Associates. Talking continuously the whole time. Since I already had one of those, and had thus reached my quota, I started looking for a way out that wouldn't involve physical violence or hurt the feelings of my new 'bestest friend'. About that time, Andrew carved his own conversational tombstone, thus saving me the effort. Dude had been preternaturally indifferent to my plight, or even our conversation until Andrew mentioned the word, 'Vegas'. (Cue: Meaningful Music) Dave immediately birddogged into the conversation with 'It's only the Casino Elevators in Vegas!' Here is where Andrew met his match and Master. Andrew kept trying to guide the conversation along his lines. Lines that Dude blithely ignored, continuing to talk about Vegas and Hospital elevators. Games and movies, dogs and cats. I could see that Andrew was used to having the upper hand, probably because most people are nervous around him, and talking to someone who not only had the upper hand, but frankly, the upper dump truck, discussion wise, was unnerving him. Dave continued to talk about just about.. well, everything, inviting Andrew to Vegas, complimenting him on what a good job, he was doing (?), asking him if he'd seen his tour bus, and extolling the virtues of nurses everywhere. It was like watching avalanche racing. Except without the St. Bernards.
     Coming around the last corner, you could see that Andrew just didn't have the heart to finish the race. He looked confused and hesitant, and he started shooting looks at Dude full of Fear and Awe. It was like watching Indigo Montoya fighting the Man in Black after that man had switched to his right hand. It was a thing of Terrible Beauty.
     Andrew finally broke off and walked away without ceremony. Dude, ever gracious, said, 'See you in Vegas on June 21st!' Andrew didn't reply, he just kept walking. When he shot a nervous look over his shoulder to 'check his 6' for Dudes, David yelled in a friendly voice, 'See you at Kansas University this June!' That was evidently too much for Andrew, who ducked his head and scurried off around the corner. Never to be seen (by us) again. I mean  never. I looked over at the students. Their reaction can be summed up in one word. Stunned. The blond looked at the not-blond and said, 'Did you see that shit? He just walked off!' The blond, who somehow looked sage and stunned at the same time, replied, 'He never just leaves like that.' The two looked at Dude, suitably impressed and maybe even with a little awe. Dude responded like any true Warrior of Words would... 'Hi guys! You ready to go to Vegas?' I pulled Dave away for a walk up to the corner in back. You know, so he could save his Awesome Powers for when they were truly needed.
     When Tim and Abby showed up I told Tim what had happened, kind of laughing it off. He immediately knew who I was talking about and was seriously impressed with David's Kung-fu Dialogue skills. I promised that he'd only use them for... all the time. I mean, seriously. He can't be contained with mere mortal force. Even Dude-dad force.

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