November 26, 2022

On being a friend to autistic people

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 2:20 am by chavisory

In case you missed it, I recently contributed to “How Non-Autistics Can Be Good Friends to Autistic People” from the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, along with three other autistic adults and advocates, about what non-autistic people might need to know in order to be good friends to the autistic people in their lives.

You can read the post here!

November 21, 2022

The Lincolnshire Poacher

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 7:57 pm by chavisory

for M. Kelter

I stalk a ghost through the internet now.

A post of yours I had bookmarked in my “best goddamn writing about autism” folder, but which, off of the top of my head, I can remember nothing whatsoever of the content or subject matter anymore. The entire contents of your blog, thankfully, made it into the Wayback Machine, but not, for some reason, that one entry. (And I find it darkly funny that an otherwise entirely searchable index page for your blog now appears titled “404—Page Not Found.”)

I should’ve asked you for a copy of it sooner. I think you took this one post down before the rest of the blog. I’d noticed the broken link before but wanted to respect your decision if you’d taken it down deliberately for some reason, and now here I am hoping against hope that someone else didn’t and either saved or reposted it without your permission.

A cursory Google search doesn’t give me any lead on the document itself, but still illuminates, tangentially, something of its spirit, of its substance. Like a planet or a particle that can’t be observed directly, but becomes detectable by its effects on the space or bend of light around it. The pull it exerts on the orbits of other nearby planets.

It’s like the inverse of that. I can’t see the thing itself anymore, but I can guess at some of the matter it revolved around.

A numbers station. A folk song of hunting. A band in England.

Mysterious, opaque, or maybe purposeless communication.

October 27, 2022

Postcards from Arizona

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 11:46 am by chavisory

Tucson is lovely in a way I didn’t know how to expect. It’s greener than I thought it would be. It feels a little bit stuck in time, in a different way than parts of upstate New York do. Part of it is the weather, and part of it is the quiet, and part of it is almost literally being in a time zone unto ourselves (since Arizona doesn’t observe Daylight Savings, it’s part of the Mountain Time Zone for part of the year, and part of the Pacific for the other part).

One of the strangest things is how early it gets very dark. The clouds are astonishing every single night.

New Yorkers kept talking about this place as if it were a Republican hotbed, but there are Support Ukraine and Climate Action Now! yard signs everywhere.

Trains, both freight and Amtrak, run close by my loft all night and it reminds me of a friend’s place back in Athens. Radio towers remind me uncannily of the ones in the Selenetic Age in Myst, where I’m still stuck in a game I haven’t played since February.

There are a lot of tattoo studios, a lot of ice cream parlors, and a lot of feral cats. A fluffy black one seems to be the night patrol of our block, and a green-eyed tabby crosses my patio wall in the mornings. There are wind chimes somewhere I can hear but can’t see. There’s a bird with a strange, complaining call who’s always too fast for me to glimpse.

The grasshoppers are enormous.

Browsing in a local head shop, I find the “I Want to Believe” poster in their stacks. The Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin” comes up on the shop playlist, and I want to tell my 14-year-old self things she wouldn’t understand or believe.

It’s a beautiful fall day, and you’re in a hippie shop in Arizona. The Moody Blues are playing and people still love the X-Files. You’re 40 and you’re here for work because you have a career in theater. Also you just survived your first global pandemic. There’s a café that will make you an Irish coffee. Everyone here has tattoos, and so do you. There’s a bar that doesn’t treat you like you’re strange if you go there to watch baseball and write letters.

A plaque says Jascha Heifetz played at the dedication of the theater here. The church downtown has a mosaic of the lyrics to my favorite hymn, and the bookstore carries my preferred brands of planner and notebooks, which is good because I should’ve but I didn’t bring a spare one.

Hallelujah.

A young man approaches me on the sidewalk one night. He sounds German or maybe Dutch and he’s asking me where the Old something-or-other is, and at first I say “Sorry, I just got here, I don’t know anything!” before I realize exactly which establishment he’s looking for, and luckily, it’s one of the three or so things I do know.

October 1, 2022

The meadow

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 8:17 pm by chavisory

The last few years I’ve been going home to the Midwest more often in the summertime, as various factors have made it the easier time to have large family gatherings, and the pandemic has made it the safer time, too. But almost never is it the case that I see anything that makes me happier about new development in the area where I grew up. There’s always a new subdivision of identical-looking houses in yards without trees. Another cheap-looking strip mall of chain restaurants and mobile phone stores on former grassland or woodland. Almost all of the woods along Highway 9 into Parkville are strip mall now. A local shopping development turned a patch of grassland into parking decks and chain stores and restaurants, and the pandemic subsequently turned most of it into a ghost town.

My old school district, last I checked, was planning to put a new elementary and high school complex on the site of some of the very last original forest in the city.

But this year when I was back for the 4th of July, as we turned off the highway on the way home from the airport, a corner plot of land that had been a usually-fallow soybean field for as long as I could remember, and then untended scrub that I was increasingly afraid was about to become another barren housing development any minute, was, somehow, forest. Extremely young forest, probably not more than four or six acres, but forest. It was a variety of shock I’ve never experienced before in my life. Somehow the opposite both of turning a corner to see a building where there wasn’t one before, and of turning to find a patch of sky where last you checked there was a building. For a second I was so disoriented I doubted where we were, even though I’ve driven that way probably hundreds of days of my life.

A friend said that apparently there’d been an agreement made to leave the plot undeveloped as flood control. Another roadside plot a little ways down is now a monarch butterfly preserve full of wildflowers and milkweed, and a sparse patch of woods across the street is protected watershed.

I’ve seen buildings both appear and disappear seemingly in the blink of an eye. I’ve come back to the city from summer stock to find apartment buildings where there had been a parking deck or a vacant lot. I’ve seen buildings demolished and natural habitats destroyed for buildings, and buildings long since decayed and abandoned and the land they occupied gone feral. I know of places this has been allowed to happen, though mostly long before I was born, like North Brother Island or Doodletown. Earlier this year as I returned home from a hike via a subway station I hadn’t used much in recent months, I emerged onto the sidewalk to a patch of sky I’d never seen before in my life where an older building had been demolished to make way for a new mixed-use development. The new building rose and eventually blotted out the sky again, but for a few weeks, a patch of sky existed that hadn’t been seen for decades.

I’d never seen a piece of land restored to something approaching wildness within such a shockingly small amount of time.

And I didn’t think I was going to see such a thing twice in one summer, either, but back in NYC, I was out walking in Central Park one night and took a turn up a trail I don’t follow much because it only led to a scraggly hillside along the road dividing the Ravine and North Woods from the ballfields. But I did, and rounded a corner to find a landscape I’d never seen before.

Signs on nearby fences said that the Central Park Conservancy was restoring a plot of native meadow.

There were plants I’d never seen before, insect sounds I’d never heard before, a kind of light I’d never seen, about half a mile from the apartment where I’ve lived for 18 years. Clouds of chimney swifts darted across the sky above.

As I stood and just looked at it, I watched probably half a dozen people stop and do the same. I like the idea that for people who are kids now, this is just the way it will have always been.

[Three photos of an urban meadow with tall grasses and purple and yellow wildflowers under a deep blue sky]

September 13, 2022

My letter to my Senators regarding #StopTheShock

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 10:45 pm by chavisory

As many of you probably know, the autistic community has been working for many years to oppose the use of an electrical shock device, known as the GED, employed as punishment and behavioral control at the Judge Rotenberg Center, a residential facility for autistic and intellectually/developmentally disabled people.

(It should be noted that the type of electric shock employed at the JRC is not ETC, or electroconvulsive therapy, which has an immensely troubled past but also legitimate and ethical uses, notably for treatment-resistant major depression.)

While the FDA banned the use of the GED device in 2020, the ban was later overturned on appeal. The autistic community is now advocating to #StopTheShock by asking the Senate to pass the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Landmark Advancements Act of 2022, including language as passed by the House of Representatives that would once again ban use these devices on autistic and intellectually disabled students. Below is my letter to my Senators on this issue.

***

Dear Senator Gillibrand/Schumer,

I am an autistic New Yorker, and I’m writing to ask you to vote to pass the FDASLA Act, including the language banning the use of electric skin shocks as behavior modification, as the House has already done. This is a practice the U.N. has found to constitute torture, and I think it is shameful that this kind of mistreatment is still being practiced on autistic and disabled students in this country. There are far more effective and ethical ways of helping autistic people with the most intensive needs.

Thank you so much for your time.

Sincerely,

{My Name}

July 21, 2022

The strange loneliness of liking too much

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 4:53 pm by chavisory

A Facebook memory from about four years ago popped up in my timeline recently; I’d been looking for someone, anyone, else to talk to who’d been listening to both the Rabbits and Point Mystic podcasts. Rabbits was another podcast by the creators of TANIS, a mystery involving a missing woman and something that might be an elaborate role-playing game or might be something much darker or might be all in the imagination of the narrator. Point Mystic in its early days was kind of like if Ray Bradbury and Neil Gaiman had teamed up to write a family-friendly horror podcast for old Millennials (and if that sounds like something you’d be into, well, I highly recommend it).

Two friends had heard Rabbits. None had heard Point Mystic, and so obviously none had heard both, and I was just helplessly desperate to find someone to talk about common themes and symbols between them with, and I was completely out of luck.

To the best of my knowledge, I still am.

Or I saw a slightly older horror movie a few years ago called YellowBrickRoad, and wanted someone to talk to about its parallels to both LOST and Limetown, and there was just…no one. Or no one interested enough, anyway. Even though Limetown had been hugely popular at the time, and the movie had come out the same year LOST had ended, it was an indie release that just not enough people had seen, I guess. Or they did, but no one saw what I saw.

Lately I’m really into the relationship between ghosts and time travel, and that’s a hard one, even though it seems like it shouldn’t be. I was reading a book called Ghostly Matters by Avery F. Gordon last summer and I’d love to see someone discuss Twin Peaks in light of that work, and it seems so obvious to me, like they were written for each other, but no one really has, as far as I can tell.

I was also stewing about this in relation to question about what the things are that you feel are chronically under-appreciated. And the problem for me isn’t quite that, although those things do exist for me, being autistic and all. I do have a lot of favorite media that not very many people are familiar with, but the people who are love it a lot, even if they’re few and far between.

But the thing that really gets me, that leaves me feeling alone in what I love so often, is seeing relationships and parallels between my niche interests—or sometimes even between things that aren’t really niche phenomena but that just don’t tend to share a common audience—and the combination of uncommon interests and uncommon pattern recognition is what will really leave you without anyone to talk to, going “I can’t be the only person who’s seeing this, right?”

Take for instance Amazon’s Outer Range, which, with its initial appearance of being more of a Western family drama, seems somehow to have captured an audience that overwhelmingly doesn’t watch any other fairly popular television sci-fi. Reviews mentioned superficial resemblances to Stranger Things occasionally, but there should’ve been people yelling about the ways it was invoking tropes from the X-Files, Fringe, and Doctor Who.

And I half suspect that the rise of binge watching (and the production of much shorter seasons more suited to binge watching) might actually be accelerating the phenomenon. (A recent Tumblr post confirms that at least I’m not the only person perceiving this to be the case.) Where even shows that become massive smash hits are a flash in the pan as far as how long they really stick in the popular consciousness, as opposed to building a presence in the public awareness over time, so that a story’s language becomes our language. Instead, a show that’s a year or two old, let alone five or seven, seems to just have no grip on public memory anymore. And things don’t build followings by word of mouth over time, so that there are fans in various different stages of engagement. Everybody saw something when it came out a year ago, and now nobody has any sense of its connection or relationship to anything else.

I think there’s an aspect of age to it, too. When I was a teenager, you couldn’t really be too sincerely enthusiastic about much. Now you can, a whole lot more, but younger people watching the same things as you just don’t have the same background knowledge. So I watched the first season of Good Omens a couple of years ago, just constantly going “So we’re really not going to talk about the whole dialogue with the Screwtape Letters happening here? We’re really not going to talk about that at all?”

Anyone?

Bueller?

And I feel like there’s an inclination lately to ask whether an experience like this is ~an autism thing~ but I hesitate about that, because I don’t think it’s something just intrinsic to that or something other people aren’t capable of experiencing. Although I think it’s probably more likely to be a corollary of having a fairly broad range of somewhat niche interests, a stronger than average attention to detail, and a much longer than average memory.

There’s a loneliness to having too narrow a range of interests, to being in love with something that nobody else is, or that’s very displaced in time compared to the rest of your social circle (being obsessively in love with the music of Buddy Holly when you’re eight, or the Moody Blues when you’re 13 will not get you any conversation partners). There’s another kind, ironically, in having too broad a range of enthusiasms.

I want to talk about Radical Face’s “Family Tree” album cycle and Ray Bradbury and “The Nevers.” And Ray Bradbury and Tales from the Loop. And even though JK Rowling is totally canceled, I want to talk about all the X-Files easter eggs in Harry Potter. I want to read about time travel and trauma, about time and memory and the precise relationship between the Austin and Murry O’Keefe families. Sometimes I go searching fanfic archives, sometimes academia.edu or JSTOR for the kind of meta-discussion I want to be reading, though rarely to much satisfaction. Lately I really want to talk to somebody about Josh Ritter’s The Great Glorious Goddamn of It All and also Willa Cather’s My Ántonia.

I know entirely too well that what a lot of people would say is “Well, you could write about all of that!” That you have to write the things you want to exist in the world if no one else is going to do it. I am borderline afraid that this is what finally drives me into grad school, just for the opportunity to pick a topic no one else is ever going to and spend several years writing 200 pages about it.

But I could spend the rest of my life writing essays about this stuff just to placate my own restless brain, and it’s still not the same as getting interpretive feedback with people who can also see what you see. As getting to have a conversation.

“Is this something no one else has noticed and that’s why no one is talking about it?” I spend a lot of time wondering. “Or is it actually so obvious it doesn’t bear mentioning?”

In most cases, it’s a question I never get an answer to.

July 12, 2022

Blogging “My Ántonia”

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 4:21 pm by chavisory

Hi all! I don’t have a clue how many people may be interested, but just in case, I am going to be blogging my reread of Willa Cather’s My Ántonia over on my Tumblr (where I tend to keep more of the photography, random thoughts, and early drafts of things than I put here).

My Ántonia is a book I read far too young to really appreciate it, and though I have a sense of having liked it, I truly remember almost nothing about it. My curiosity was rekindled when I ran across this essay, and when the local high school that hosts my polling location was having a library book giveaway this past election, I snagged a copy of an old Cather anthology (as well as a replacement for the copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe I lost in college when the neighbor I’d lent it to dropped out three weeks into our freshman year and took it with her).

Not promising any particularly deep or organized analysis (though you never know!) or even necessarily a schedule) as opposed to thoughts and observations as they occur. Relevant posts will be tagged “my antonia.”

June 18, 2022

Visible mending practice

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 7:37 pm by chavisory

Near the beginning of the pandemic, I had one decent pair of jeans that was on its last legs, having had fraying holes in the inner thighs patched twice. I bought two more, with the intent that one pair, I’d wear then (I had a personal policy of always putting on jeans or a skirt for the day, not just living in my pajamas), and one that I’d keep for returning to work and civilization.

And the pandemic outlasted them both.

And I’ve been working, but something about not being able to do theater right now, probably, has made me crave the ability to feel good at making something again. Even though as a stage manager, I’m not an actor and I’m not precisely a member of the creative or design teams, when a show opens, I get to say “Look, I helped make that!” and I’ve been missing it. I don’t have a lot of space at home for doing very involved arts and crafts, but one thing I can do while I’m watching TV or movies at my desk is sew. And so when my latest new pair of “good” jeans started fraying (and me getting pissed off at constantly replacing jeans that don’t last), I started trying out some visible mending.

The basic idea is that by not trying to hide or disguise clothing repairs, you add artistic character to clothes in addition to extending their life.

These jeans still have a lot of work worth doing on them, but here’s one of my favorite patches so far:

A dark blue patch with a floral pattern attached to a pair of jeans with pink stitching. Yes, that’s Old Navy mask fabric.

Patch on a blown-out elbow of my favorite flannel shirt:

Burgundy-colored patch with a pattern of pink and white blossoms on a pink and burgundy plaid shirt. Yup, also a former Old Navy mask.

Some not-so-visible mending on an older t-shirt I love but whose front had worn full of tiny holes. I stitched squares of light cotton on the reverse side to reinforce particularly damaged areas, and also since the original t-shirt fabric is so delicate, to prevent new stitching from just ripping out:

A moss green t-shirt with an elaborate embroidered front has a whole bunch of tiny green embroidered stars hidden in the original pattern to close small holes.

Detail of crossed heart on sleeve where there used to be a hole:

A heart stitched in cream-colored thread on sleeve of green t-shirt, with a green star stitched over a small hole in the center.

I have to say, it’s definitely made it conspicuous that after 12 or so years of zombie apocalypse, no one in the Walking Dead is wearing significantly repaired jeans…

June 9, 2022

Not Everything We Value Needs to Be “Compulsory”

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 11:39 pm by chavisory

Hi everyone! I’m happy to have a column in OnStage Blog again this week, addressing the issue of mandatory arts education.

You can read it here.

April 17, 2022

A small visual poem (not by me)

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 2:07 pm by chavisory

From my evening walk in the park last night.

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