Another Excerpt From “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”

 

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I wanted to show another illustration of what it was like for me being a high school kid with Asperger’s while going to a regular high school and interacting with neurotypicals.

This is a blatant illustration of how bad things were for me, as these pair of excerpts describe my trips to Disneyland with my high school’s marching band during my junior and senior years and a particular incident that happened on both occasions.

These pair of excerpts are from Chapter 5 of my book, “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, the chapter being called “ROUGH TIMES AT SAMOHI, PART ONE”.

Yes, I know I have posted excerpts from this chapter on this blog already, but seeing as these incidents were particularly traumatic and happened during the holiday season – thirty-something years ago this month – I thought it would be a good idea to write this.

OH, BY THE WAY:

I’m in the home stretch of my final editing and print-outs of the chapters to “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”; I have just three chapters to go before I can have it self-published.

In other words, this odyssey of mine is starting to get close to being done.

OK, here are more excerpts to “ROUGH TIMES AT SAMOHI, PART ONE”…

 

The performance went well enough, but in the grand tradition of deja-vu it was what happened afterwards, when we were sorting out who would have the glorious times with whom, that once again induced the type of trauma that I remember to this day…

I had found myself with a bunch of guys from the trombone and tenor saxophone sections. On the surface, they seemed friendly enough, and I was looking forward to having a crew to run around with in Walt Disney’s Original Magic Kingdom.

There we were, following the red line on the ground that led us from our buses to some back door that opened onto Adventureland when a couple of my so-called “crew” said to me, “Let’s check out Main Street! We need you to do a man test!”

So off we went, landing at an arcade that was reminiscent of those penny arcades that were all the rage around 1900. We came upon this Zoltar-type machine with these two metal handles, which was essentially the “man test” as the object was to grab those poles and see how long you could stand the electric shocks that ran through them.

“Go ahead Derek, you go first,” the guys were saying, goading me in that “Come and join the big boys and be part of the group” way, which of course I was more than willing to do because what average teenager doesn’t want to be part of something?

Most unfortunately, however, what ended up happening was something that was eerily similar to that bird poop sandwich episode that was put upon me in the 5th grade six years before, showing  that with the naiveté that characterizes much of the young Asperger’s population, things often stay the same as far as the way non-aspie youngsters take advantage of them.

At least such was the case with this Aspie.

To get to the point, I was badly duped, dumped, and taken advantage of in a very cruel fashion by those fellow band members I was with.

I know this is so because as I was grabbing onto those handles, I saw out of the corner of my eye those so-called “friends” sprinting away, desperately hoping to ditch me and leave me to my dorky self, which I’m sure they thought of me as because if they didn’t think of me that way, they wouldn’t have ditched me the way they did.

I gave chase like some little kid being teased on the playground – deja-vu there, too – before I gave up and found myself standing there all by my lonesome, feeling the same way I felt the year before at that very same park when that alto sax player and bass clarinet player told me (not in so many words, but you know what I mean) to sod off, me sobbing inwardly at the reminder that I wasn’t liked too much.

Looking back, I understand that being someone with a high-functioning form of autism, I was too weirdly different for my peers to tolerate and be around with any more than they had to. They were forced to interact with me at school and in the band but when it came to the Happiest Place On Earth I’m sure that they saw being there as a sort of vacation from me and how I was, which due to the difference in how my brain was/is wired I simply could not help.

That was no excuse for those guys doing what they did to me, however; I don’t care how dorky someone seems to be, no one deserves to be treated the way I was at Disneyland – or anywhere else for that matter.

Ever.

For ANY reason.

 

 

Main Street in Disneyland, including the very arcade where I was ditched, dumped, and humiliated by some of my high school band mates two years running on the right. Photo courtesy of dreamstime.com

 

 

 

FAST FORWARDING A FEW PAGES TO ANOTHER EXCERPT, WHICH DESCRIBES WHAT HAPPENED TO ME AT DISNEYLAND A YEAR LATER…

It was after our performance, when we changed back into our band shirts and jeans on the buses and headed back into the park, when the ultimate deja-vu came to pass and the proof of at least this aspie – I can’t speak for others with Asperger’s – having a tendency to be gullible showing itself in what happened.

I found myself with the same group of trombones and tenor saxes what duped and ditched me at that penny arcade and the previous year. They seemed to welcome me along as we went back to that same arcade on Main Street, asking me to take that same “Man Test” with the same electrical poles on that same Zoltar-like machine.

Like the naive kid on the autistic spectrum that I was, I took the boat and grabbed the poles.

Out of the same corner of my eye as approximately 365 days before, I saw those guys run away, taking a hard left onto a side street. After I gave chase for a few steps I gave up and stood there, once again dumped and duped, feeling al kinds of negative feelings, particularly at the thought that I was such an undesirable to too many of my band mates.

If I were a neurotypical, I would have told them to go fuck themselves and their “Man Test” and walked away.

But that was neither here nor there as at that moment I once again found myself all by my lonesome on that Disneyland thoroughfare; because I so wanted to be accepted as part of a “cool” group like roughly 90% of all teens, I ended up in the same sorry situation as twelve months before.

It was an innate gullibility that led me to be taken advantage of like I was at that penny arcade those two years as I didn’t want to face the fact that those group of guys thought of me as too much of a social undesirable to want to hang with me. For me to think that would have been yet another albatross among the many that I had built up inside of myself not only during my Samo days, but pretty much throughout my life up to that time and afterwards.

I know, those guys who ditched me for two years running at what to me in those days was Dismal-Land had no idea that I was on the Autism Spectrum, and I also know that we were all just immature, non thinking insensitive kids at that time, but even though I (of course) forgive them that doesn’t take away the pain of what I went through as if those incidents had happened ten years before, I would have been crying my eyes out over the hurt that was put upon me at Disneyland.

To be fair, the guys involved in that cruel deceit had no idea of how hurtful they were being, and I’ve only had contact with two of them (there were five) since graduation, so if they read this I’ll bet they would be surprised, if not shocked, at the amount of mental and emotional hurt that I suffered at their hands.

That’s why it’s only right to forgive them.

 

Flip the gender, add about ten years, and this was me in high school – at least that’s how I felt. Photo courtesy of myaspergerschild.com

 

 

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“Work Is Not Supposed To Be Enjoyable”: AN EXTREME REBUTTAL

An illustration of someone who evidently enjoys her job. Photo courtesy of teflonline.teachaway.com

 

WHO SAYS YOU CAN’T ENJOY WHAT YOU DO FOR A LIVING?

I remember a few years ago reading something online about people who were stressed out, burned out, and generally unhappy in their jobs, the article offering suggestions on how to cope with that.

I also remember reading one particular comment in that section by someone who apparently was a miserable jerk because he wrote that those who were miserable in the workforce were nothing but whiny crybabies who need to understand…

A. That work isn’t supposed to be enjoyed, but is supposed to be difficult, which is why it’s called work, and,

B. People who feel otherwise are losers who need to get over it and feel lucky they’re earning a paycheck.

If I ever came face to face with this guy, I would tell him in no uncertain terms that he is nothing but a mean bully who a firm believer in misery loving company.

And who is just plain wrong.

Bluntly put, a career need not be eight hours of hell following orders from bosses who are essentially schoolyard bullies or supervisors with the mind of and who behave like slavery-era overseers.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that sometimes a person has to do whatever is necessary to survive, and to keep a roof overhead and the family clothed and fed if he or she has one.

I know this because like probably 98% of the world’s working age population, I worked at jobs l absolutely hated, ranging from telemarketing to working in retail, particularly at a luggage store in the early 1990s that felt much like a prison sentence, I hated it so much.

The minimum wage salary I made peddling luggage and handbags felt like blood money, as I felt that the only difference between me and a slave on a plantation was that I got a paycheck.

Those dark days were the product of me believing that making money however possible was the most important thing, and I eventually learned that nothing can be further from the truth – at least as far as I am concerned as I can’t speak for everyone else.

That luggage salesman gig taught me once and for all that you have to like what you do for work, else it’s just not worth it in the long run, and especially when you factor in mental health as I suffered from a couple of nervous breakdowns and some suicidal thoughts stemming from my unhappiness in some of the jobs I had.

There’s an old saying…

Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.

No statement can be more truer than that.

 

Here’s my point:

A person needs to have a passion for whatever job or career he or she may be involved in.

Happiness, enjoyment, and work satisfaction are essential or else bitterness and depression will set in; I know this because that’s what happened to me.

It was wanting to enjoy my work – as well as being able to work without some bully or overseer, I mean boss or supervisor, micromanaging me and telling me how much I need to improve or flat-out suck, looking for faults and reasons to fire me – that is the reason why for almost ten years I’ve been an online writer with two blogs (including this one) and working on a book about my life and struggles as someone with Asperger’s Syndrome in mainstream society called WALKING ON EGGSHELLS.

Which is getting closer to being finished and ready for (self) publishing, by the way.

While it hasn’t been the most lucrative venture, I can safely say that I very much like what I do and am pursuing my passion.

My message for all you folks who are hating on their jobs is this…

Unless you would definitely be on the street if you quite your hated job today, you don’t have to suffer through misery, because life is too short.

Go paint or work with kids.

Write a book like I’m doing.

Or anything else that you have a passion for.

Find your happiness.

It may the thing that will restore your mental health and save your sanity.

 

It’s my hope that everyone can find this. Photo courtesy of idealistcareers.org

 

 

I’m A Lifetime Resident of Los Angeles and I’ve Never Had A Car: Why?

A common occurrence in America’s second largest city for the past sixty years: parking lots that are supposed to be freeways, this one the 405 in West Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of  la.curbed.com

 

THE VARIOUS REASONS I NEVER HAD AN AUTOMOBILE IN A CITY WHERE THE AUTOMOBILE IS KING

 

I know that in the City of Angels, I’m something akin to a freak of nature, a space alien who’s on the wrong planet.

Or seen by at least a few people as a “loser”, or someone who is somewhat less of an adult, because of this:

I have lived in the greater Los Angeles area for over forty years, and I’ve never owned a car – nor do I ever plan to own one.

Let me go right into the reasons why…

 

1. TRAFFIC, AS IN L.A. HAVING THE WORST IN THE U.S.

Of the over ten million people who reside in Los Angeles County – and in neighboring Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties – no one enjoys the gridlock traffic jams that have been part of the Southern California landscape and culture since the 1950s, when the automobile became the virtual symbol of L.A.

For me personally, it’s more than merely being annoyed while stuck in parking lots that are supposed to be streets.

A personal part of this Asperger’s Syndrome that I have is that my anxieties grow to a pronounced level, a 12 on a scale of one to ten, whenever I feel like I’m in a hurry to get someplace (which is much of the time) and the bus I’m riding in – my main form of transportation – is either stuck somewhere in traffic or stops because the driver is ahead of the bus route’s time schedule.

Yes, I know that plenty of aspies drive cars just like neurotypicals, but If I were driving a car, those anxieties could lead to me doing something that’s not good, like get into an accident because I’m trying to go somewhere too fast, or get into a road rage situation.

For me, it’s just easier and simpler to let the bus, Metro Rail, or taxi driver do the driving; it would save me and everyone else some potentially bad disasters and incidents.

As for Uber and Lyft, that’s an option that I’ll probably be using in the near future.

2. DWB – DRIVING WHILE BLACK

I’ve heard too many stories in the news about how African-Americans like me have been stopped, searched, handcuffed, arrested, and killed while driving by white police for no other reason besides the color of their skin.

Getting racially profiled like that has happened to me more than once while riding my bicycle in Santa Monica when I lived there in the early 1990s; while I wasn’t handcuffed, I would be stopped by motorcycle cops and given tickets for reasons I don’t know to this day.

Experiencing what those fellow blacks have experienced is something I want absolutely no part of, which is why for me, driving my own car is not worth that risk.

 

 

A major part of driving a car as a black man that I want NO part of. Photo courtesy of justicenotjails.org

 

 

3. AFFORDABILITY

I don’t want get into any details about my income as I feel that’s no one’s business, but suffice it to say that it’s not at the level where I can afford to buy and (particularly) maintain a decent car.

And as for financing and monthly payments, that’s likewise something that would induce a level of stress in me that I do not need at this point in my life, as I want to live more simply.

Worrying about money for gas, and fixing my car if it broke down and needed new parts like an engine or transmission is something that I don’t want to do.

4. BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

I definitely don’t need to contribute to the dirtying of the air (despite changes to cars that have offset that) that the exhaust from cars brings.

One can say that by not driving, I’m doing my part to improve the environment and slow down the global warming that’s getting to be more and more of an issue.

 

THE BOTTOM LINE…

It’s just simpler for me to take public transportation, an area where Los Angeles has improved as there are things like the various Metro Rail lines and a planned “Subway To The Sea” going from downtown to Santa Monica that didn’t exist twenty years before.

Besides, when I had my bicycle I recall crashing and wrecking it at least three times in a twelve-month span, scraping myself fairly badly on one occurrence.

I can only imagine the ramifications of going through the same thing while driving a car.

I know that having never had one has led at least some folks to see me as a loser, or something less of an adult.

If you are one of those who are of that opinion because I don’t drive and have never had my own mode of transportation other than a bicycle, go ahead and think such.

It’s OK.

I have to do what’s right for me, no matter what.

 

A part of Los Angeles culture that I likewise want no part of. Photo courtesy of abc7.com

 

 

 

 

Some Personal Thanksgiving Thoughts

Photo courtesy of people.howstuffworks.com

 

Just Being Honest Here:

While I like Thanksgiving as much as the next person, what with all the comfort food, the various parades and football games on TV, and being thankful for all the blessings that I have,

Which I am very thankful of and always will be, don’t get me wrong,

Thanksgiving Day – one of the three days out of 365, along with Christmas and Easter, that the homeless and others down on their luck are guaranteed a full meal, by the way – has never really given me the same exact type of warm, fuzzy feelings that Christmas Day has.

As much as anything else, it’s been a welcome four days off from the routines of school as a kid and work as an adult.

The fact that for the Native Americans, Thanksgiving is a day of mourning, has influenced these opinions as while if not for Squanto, Samoset, Massasoit, and the rest of that Wampanoag tribe from New England, Thanksgiving Day would not exist, has contributed to my feelings about this holiday that Abraham Lincoln officially designated as such in 1863.

It was particularly Squanto who saved those Pilgrims from dying at Plymouth Rock by teaching them how to fish, plant corn and hunt turkey after half of that Plymouth colony died off in the winter of 1620-21.

And what did those Native Americans got for their kindness and generosity?

Let’s put it like this…

While plenty of folks can claim ancestry from the Mayflower, there are absolutely no descendants of Samoset and the rest of the Wampanoags.

In other words, that tribe was completely wiped out, the Pilgrims eventually showing that those Wampanoags were no friends of theirs.

 

Linus telling Charlie Brown and the rest of his friends about the significance of Thanksgiving. Image courtesy of disneyabcpress.com

 

 

As for personal memories,

My three main Thanksgiving memories as a kid were:

1. Watching “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”,

2. Watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and the CBS All-American Thanksgiving Day Parade, where they would broadcast different parades from across America; I especially remember them showing a parade from Hawaii that I thought was cool.

and…

3. Watching the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving morning as a high school and college kid, and a few years after that.

And I wasn’t , nor am I now, a Lions fan; it was just something to do for a young guy who liked football, I guess.

As far as watching the parades, I stopped watching Macy’s, or any other parades on TV, years ago; the only parade that holds any interest from me is the Tournament of Roses Parade from Pasadena on New Year’s Day.

In fact, I think the “Up With People”-like presentations that dominate the Macy’s telecasts are lame and unwatchable.

And in my view, you can only see giant Underdog balloons so many times before they get old.

 

And as for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving…

While it has its merits,

And while it was one of my favorite things to watch as a youngster, particularly during my elementary school years as it premiered in 1973 (I was in the first grade),

It doesn’t hold as much appeal to me as its Christmas counterpart does as a middle-aged guy. And I’ve felt that way for most of my adulthood.

I still watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving as Peanuts will always be the greatest comic strip of all time in my book, but I can’t help feeling that Charles Schultz sort of mailed it in compared to A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

I mean, Peppermint Patty was just being rude to just invite herself and her friends Marcie and Franklin to Charlie Brown’s house, not even caring that that round-headed kid and his family weren’t going to be home.

And it would have been all I could do to avoid smacking her, grabbing her by the scruff of the neck and throwing her out of the house when she complained about the spur of the moment meal of popcorn, pretzels, toast, and jelly beans that Charlie, Snoopy and Linus put out, as she expected them to cook a full Thanksgiving dinner of turkey and the works.

I think you can see why I don’t get the nostalgic, “Greatest Animated Feature of All Time” feeling over A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” the way I do over “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.

 

 

I can’t write a post about Thanksgiving without including a picture of people preparing dinner for the homeless, as these folks are doing in Boston. Photo courtesy of gettyimages.com

 

 

Speaking of turkey…

Because of my gout condition and the fact that turkey has the purines, which turns to uric acid, which causes the extreme pain in my foot area,

I haven’t eaten that delicacy in nearly seven years, opting for roast chicken, which has fewer purines.

So I can’t even partake in the food that makes Thanksgiving the national holiday that it is.

But that’s OK; chicken is a good substitute.

And of course I eat plenty of mashed potatoes, stuffing, and the other dishes that are so part of this holiday.

As such, I’ll do some relaxing and vegetating tomorrow, like I pretty much have done on this day.

And oh, before I forget…

 

Photo courtesy of midlifecrisishawaii.com

 

 

 

 

WALKING ON EGGSHELLS: Excerpts From Chapter Six

I can certainly relate to scenes like this, because it happened to me many times throughout my school days. Photo courtesy of wisegeekhealth.com

 

My experiences as a high school kid with Asperger’s were so many, I had to divide them into two chapters.

These two excerpts of my (hopefully) soon to be self-published book, WALKING ON EGGSHELLS, is from the chapter I call “ROUGH TIMES AT SAMOHI, PART TWO”:

 

It was like there were so many areas of my life where I was behind seemingly everybody else: kids were partying up a storm complete with the obligatory drunkenness and debauchery with me never being invited to any of those shindigs. Kids were getting driver’s licenses and cars and God, seemingly, was telling me no to doing that same thing.

Not to mention kids, particularly in that moment in time, pairing up and hooking up like crazy…

In my mind at least, people were leaving me out of things because they generally didn’t see me as cool, which I fully admit I wasn’t, and that hurt. Every time I found out about some kegger bash which I was obviously not invited to, like this one huge blowout that the band had in my junior year in the Santa Monica Mountains, I felt humiliated, degraded, and like my peers regarded me as nothing but a waste of space.

But getting back to the prom:

There I was, without a date and feeling more than ever like a dorky loser.

Mom, who was dead set on my attending this rite of passage, made a call to one of my cousins who was not only a teacher, but the coach of her drill team at her high school.

The next thing I knew, I had a date to the Samohi prom.

Just in case you’re going “Yay, that’s wonderful!” right about now…

Don’t even bother.

This date was the classic nerd-getting-fixed-up kind, complete with a girl who, looking back, I suspect was compensated by my cousin either with money or in some other way; I sensed the why-did-I-agree-to-go-with-this-goofy-mark vibe when I talked to her on the phone a couple of days beforehand, and again when the big night arrived.

She wasn’t very outgoing or friendly; it was as if she was working a shift at McDonald’s, particularly as we rode in the town car on the freeway back to her house. As I tried to tell her what a good time I had and to hug her goodbye, she kind of pulled away from me, her body language saying “Yeah, whatever, just let me out you goofy-ass mark!”

At least, though she may deny it, that’s what I’m convinced that she wanted to say to me.

After that big soiree, I told everyone that I had a fun time, essentially lying to myself as I quickly saw the light of my situation and faced the reality of it all, which was this:

I should NOT have gone to the 1985 Santa Monica High School Prom.

 

 

Except for the gender, skin color, and hair texture, this was me in high school. Photo courtesy of  yourlittleprofessor.com

 

 

EXCERPT #2 FROM CHAPTER SIX: One Last Rejection and Humiliation

It was a couple of weeks before school ended, a gorgeous late spring morning…

That previous evening, the phone rang. Mom answered it, and a few minutes later she was in my doorway telling me that I was going to be “kidnapped”, along with all of the other band seniors, at around 6:00 a.m. and taken to breakfast, which was an apparent tradition, Mom telling me, “be sure you’re ready for when they come.”

As I went to sleep later that night, I thought, “This will be fun!”

So when I woke up at around 5:30 the next morning I made it a point to shower, shave, and put on some sweats and a t-shirt to look like I was in bed as it was supposed to be a surprise “kidnapping”.

As it turned out, the surprise was on me as 6:00 came, then 6:30, and no kidnappers; by 7:00 it was clear that they weren’t coming as I got dressed and walked to school as usual, feeling mighty low as one can imagine, this being the latest humiliating rejection in a series of humiliating rejections, three years’ worth to be precise.

When I got to school, in fairness to the “kidnappers” I was told that there was no time to pick me up, which was why I was stood up, but I was told that in a matter-of-fact was like they felt that it was no big deal to do what they did. I don’t remember hearing an “I’m sorry”, and they definitely could have called me and told me to meet them at whatever restaurant they were at if they really wanted me to hang with them.

That was what hurt more than anything else.

It was like when they realized that there wouldn’t be time to pick up everyone, they saw me as the easy odd man out, a case of “Well, we don’t really like Derek anyway, so why should we do something for him or spend any more time with him than we have to?”

Not that I was the simple helpless victim as over the course of me and my band mates’ three years together, my aspieisms, verbal and otherwise, aggravated too many of them more than they would have liked and certainly turned too many of them off to me as far as friendship was concerned; I wanted to be fair in emphasizing that.

So to quite a few of my music mates, I was seemingly nothing but a geeky jerk that did and said inappropriate things, consequently not deserving to be given the time of day.

The worst part of it all was that thanks to my autistic tendencies, I often thought that people were being mean to me for no reason, just like at Will Rogers and John Adams, and just like it would be throughout college and beyond as whenever somebody reacted badly to something I did or said, my first reaction would almost always be,

“What did I do?”

I sometimes still react that way.

 

This was likewise me in high school; just change the color of the hair and the skin, add a few inches, and take away the glasses. Photo courtesy of mysaspergerschild.com

 

My Favorite Halloween Memory

Some forever images of Halloween. Photo courtesy of urbanmatter.com

 

LOOKING BACK AT A CERTAIN PERSONAL MEMORY OF ALL HALLOWS’ EVE

October 31st, 1981.

I was a 14-year old ninth grader at John Adams Junior High (now Middle) School in Santa Monica, CA.

The Dodgers had just won the World Series – being that they’re going for another championship now, I felt that it had to be mentioned – and my mother was pregnant with a boy who’s now in his mid-30s, who she would deliver two weeks before Christmas.

Being a 14-year old boy, like all adolescent boys one could imagine the hormones that were doing their thing.

Well, they were particularly doing their thing with me that Halloween day as the school was celebrating their annual “Hobo Day”.

Which ironically had nothing to do with hoboes as in the three years that I was a junior high school student, I don’t remember seeing one kid dressed like what we would now call a homeless person, complete with the bag tied at the end of a stick.

Indeed, as far as the girls were concerned, particularly the 8th and 9th grade girls,

Like what Lindsay Lohan narrated in the movie Mean Girls, Halloween was the chance for the girls to dress like, well…

I won’t call them sluts as that’s far too derogatory a term, but let’s just say that many of the female students were in costumes that were rather titillating.

I saw quite a few girls dressed as Playboy Bunnies, French Maids, and other various outfits that involved leotards, which I had a weakness for; showing much leg, a bit of bosom, and leading us guys to exclaim,

“Did you see what so-and-so is wearing today?!”

 

 

A scene from the Peanuts classic, “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” Photo courtesy of chicagonow.com

 

 

They were wearing stuff that would definitely get them sent home today.

And would make any adolescent guy’s hormones go nuts.

As for me, there was one costume that, which not as provocative as the others, led me to get a huge crush on this one girl for the rest of that school year; I won’t mention her name, but let me describe what she was wearing…

She had on a superhero-type outfit, complete with a cape, tights, and a skirt that was short enough to show some upper thigh.

She was in my gifted English class, and I also had a history class with her, so I got to see her quite a bit.

She was my type anyway, as she had olive skin and a sort-of ethnic, non-WASPy look about her, with round features, not fat but not bony-level skinny, either.

Plus she was nice, definitely not a “Mean Girl”.

And I made a fool of myself trying to get her to go out with me the rest of that year, doing silly things that I reckon many adolescent boys with Asperger’s (I didn’t know I had it at that time) would do when they get a big crush on a girl, doing things ranging from picking her on my lunchtime intramural co-ed softball team to using some coupons from a nearby Burger King to ask her for a date.

No, the crush didn’t come to fruition as (of course) she turned me down for that Burger King outing; like every other girl I had a crush on during those formative years she definitely didn’t see me as attractive in any kind of romantic way.

But it’s a good Halloween memory all the same, because that crush started on that day.

Along with putting in my copy of the Peanuts classic, “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!”, and going to a couple of parties in subsequent years,

What happened on that All Hallows Eve in 1981 will always be a significant memory and part of that holiday’s experience for me.

 

 

John Adams Middle School in Santa Monica, site of my significant Halloween experience in 1981. Photo courtesy of filmsantamonicaschools.com

WALKING ON EGGSHELLS: The Fifth Excerpt

A good illustration of what my times in high school was like…

 

UPDATING MY PROGRESS WITH MY BOOK, “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”: 

I’m beginning to make the final edits and printouts of my descriptions of having Asperger’s in a non-Aspie world; I still hope to have it (self) published by the end of December.

For now, here’s another excerpt of “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, this one from Chapter 5, which is a pretty significant chapter as it focuses on my MANY social struggles in high school;

It’s called “Rough Times At Samohi, Part One”…

 

My alma mater is impressive in many ways and for a kid who is properly motivated and whose social skills are on the ball, Samohi (the first two letters of Santa, Monica, and High) is an excellent place to go to school offering everything that a student could want; strong in academics, sports, the arts, and a great place to launch yourself in whatever passion you choose to pursue.

Most unfortunately, as much as I’d like to say that the high school I graduated from in 1985 was great to me and I had the kind of wonderful time that you see on TV sitcoms, I simply can’t say that, largely because of what was – at least at that time – the root of Samohi’s academic and social philosophy and culture:

SWIM OR DROWN

Let me elaborate…

At Samo during the time I was there, sophomores – it was a three-year school in those days –  were expected to quickly catch on to the rigors and expectations of high school from Day One.

Being an Aspie (without knowing it), I had no knowledge of that as my mindset going in was that high school would be a simple continuation of my elementary and junior high years, where I was really successful – at least in the classroom.

I do NOT blame Samohi for the bad times I had there, the way I was such a misfit as I eventually understood why my alma mater’s environment was the way it was. Samo’s attitude was “Swim or Drown” because the powers that be wanted to teach us students what it took to succeed in the real world, how to thrive and survive after the high school days were done.

All right, now that I’ve gotten all that out-of-the-way, It’s high time for me to begin my detailed description of the hell that my high school was for me, socially and otherwise, from late August of 1982 to June 21, 1985 – the day I received my diploma.

My primary extracurricular activity during my three years at Samohi was the Santa Monica High School Viking Marching Band. Band camp (preseason band practice) started two weeks before school did, hence my stating that my high school hell not only began two weeks before I set foot inside of my first high school class, it began that very first warm, sunny morning of band camp on the multipurpose baseball/soccer/football field on campus that late August of 1982.

Any chances of being thought as “cool” by the rest of the 10th graders, by and large, were dealt a HUGE blow when during a break in band camp rehearsal one day, I was introduced to some fellow sophomores in the band by an ex-junior high band mate who had joined the band with me as someone whose “…brain was absent most of the time.”

Another unpleasant memory that stood out for me that first band camp was the senior that played baritone sax along with me, someone who was, for all intents and purposes, my designated mentor who from my way of thinking was supposed to be a good friend and have my back.

He will go by the name of Boyd*

Unfortunately, as much as I understand now that Boyd was trying to help me and as much as his intentions were good, it was the way he went about mentoring me that gave me such trauma. Combine that with my then-unknown aspieness, my need of nurturing and friendly support, and the way my mind subsequently worked in inappropriate ways due to my high-functioning autistic tendencies, and you had a match made in – I’ll go ahead and say it – hell.

One really warm afternoon on that North Field, when during a marching exercise I made a mistake on some maneuver, Boyd said to me – and I remember his exact words all these years later…

“You’re stupid, Derek.”

Real sympathetic and supportive, don’t you think?

I must emphasize that my struggles in that band were not all due to Boyd and others who were giving me such hell.

I completely recognize that there was crap on my end as I – because of my autism spectrum trait of not doing well with change – was lazy and for a long time felt that ability alone was the difference between success and failure in anything. Due to my particular aspie trait of digging in to what I believe and sticking to my guns no matter what, it took a long, long time to understand the notion of needing to work hard to achieve anything, and that made my name mud among a lot of people in that Samohi band…

One instance of this social ineptitude due to my autistic tendencies comes to mind;

One gray, overcast afternoon I was hanging out in the back room of the music building. There were two other kids in there with me, one of them a girl who played french horn and had, at least in my eyes, the total 80s look going on, complete with her hair cut in a sort of junior grade Flock of Seagulls way. It was her hair that I was looking at when I said, in a friendly way that was not intended as anything negative or insensitive whatsoever, “You sure look trendy.”

I’ll never forget the dirty “How dare you speak to me like that!” look that that girl gave me as she responded to what in my Asperger’s mind was a compliment with a solid and sturdy “Fuck you!”, as she walked out of the room in a very pissed off fashion.

Being the high-functioning autistic teen that I was, I was flabbergasted in a what-did-I-say-that-was-so-terrible kind of way. I asked the other kid there, “Why is she so mad?” as in my mind I wasn’t trying to insult her at all. That other kid told me:

“You just called her a poseur. Trendy means the same thing.”

Which I didn’t know.

Not even in the minute slightest as among us kids at that time, being called a poseur was akin to somebody Black being called the “N” word.

 

 

Change the gender and add a few years, and this largely describes me in high school, or at least the way it seemed…

 

 

THIS LAST EXCERPT DESCRIBES A TRAUMATIC VISIT TO DISNEYLAND WITH MY HIGH SCHOOL MARCHING BAND DURING MY SOPHOMORE YEAR:

I believe it was safe to say that no one wanted me along with them to play in the Promised Land that Mr. Disney built that day as seemingly none of the different “band buddy” cliques wanted me to hang with them; the only thing that saved me from being at that theme park all by my lonesome was a decree from the band director: “No one goes around the park alone.” When I brought it to the director’s attention that I didn’t have a group to go with, he went to some band mates who clearly (at least to me) wanted no part of me and ordered them to “take Derek along.”

So there I was, trailing along, seemingly three or four steps behind as I recall. The one place which I particularly remember going with this group to was the iconic Haunted Mansion.

We entered that Old South style house and walked along the hallways with the other patrons, hearing all about how there were 999 ghosts and how there was room for 1,000.

Near the end of the ride we all got into these big circular comfy-type chairs, which would take us around the rest of the house.

As we were passing through a mirror, the one which showed ghosts riding in the chairs with us, sitting in a chair all by lonesome of course – who wanted to sit next to a big dork? – I saw a reflection of myself, with a ghost putting his arm around me.

Let’s just say that I hated what I saw as what was looking back in the mirror at me was the most pathetically lonely African-American teen that I has ever seen in my life; I had never seen a teenager look that lonely since, it was so bad.

So much so that if I had a gun or a knife on me that day I probably would have come out of that ride as a dead 15-year old boy due to the fact that my depression and feelings of rejection in that nobody-likes-me way would have compelled me to off myself in that seat, blood pouring out of either my head or my chest with the ambulance and paramedics waiting for me at that ride’s exit to rush me to the nearest hospital, sirens blaring and no one knowing whether or not I would see the next day.

That’s the numero uno memory I have of that day at Disneyland; suffice it to say I did not have any fun in the very place where everyone else who visits it cannot help but have the biggest kind of fun.

 

COMING NEXT MONTH: An excerpt of Chapter Six, “Rough Times At Samohi, Part Two” as my mostly bad experiences of that place was so many, I was forced to split them into two chapters.

* = not his real name

 

 

 

How I saw myself much of the time during much of my mid-teens…