Saturday, August 29, 2009
Why? Because N. is high-functioning autistic. Don't tell him that. When you mention it he protests, with a bit of a whine. Recently, when he heard someone says he was autistic, he rebutted, "No, I'm authentic." And he is.
When we got his acceptance letter in early October last year, it was, in itself, enough. N. had been accepted to college, completely on his own merits. There was nothing on the application that would have given anyone at the school a glimpse at his, as they say, "special needs." What a great moment.
In December, he and I went to Cobleskill, and met with the Dean of Liberal Arts, the head of disabilities and one of N.'s possible Graphics professors. She got him right away, giving him a tour of the computer building, pointing out the bathrooms (which he loves) and bringing him in to a senior lab. He studied what the older kids were doing and, as I watched him intently look at their work, I felt that he could make a go of this.
This past Thursday he checked in, got his freshman T-shirt and lined up his support network - note takers, test accommodations, etc. On Friday, N. and his entourage (meaning his parents and his aide) sat at the orientation speech. He didn't listen; neither did most of the new students.
We marched to the School of Liberal Arts meeting and he had a group picture taken. N. went missing for a bit after this. He was found sitting in the back of a study hall with a large group, where his mom found him quite at ease. That's it. Classes start Monday.
He's got all the fixins - new Mac Book laptop, an iPod touch, a Go phone - he's only mildly interested in what other kids would go crazy over. Homework is becoming a worry - he likes doing it at school and maybe he will.
Everything is falling in place. We have a one on one aide situation set up, replicating his public school experience. We have all the on campus support lined up and have made good connections. The professor we met back in December will be his adviser. We've done our part, now it's up to him. Can he succeed? Can he graduate from college? Damned if I know, but we've always set the bar high for him and he hasn't let us down yet.
He calls college his "Cobleskill adventure." We're all on board for the ride.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
One of the life-changing courses I took was Russian lit with Rima Salys, a name that is awfully hard to forget. (There's one other professor I had, Otto Ulc, who had been a judge in Communist Czechoslovakia and had crazy stories about the KGB and mainland China. I'll write about that some day). Salys also taught Russian language, which I took for a semester before it became too hard.
Russian lit hit me hard. That depressing outlook couldn't have been more in line with my world view. Dostoevsky, Lermontov, Gogol - wow! I can recall taking the Staten Island Ferry to work, letting all the tourists get a good view of the Statue of Liberty, as I sat on an outside bench thinking how I would never be able to read all of these books. Dostoevsky's novels were so huge, I could never get through them all.
Commuting for the next 20 years allowed me to read voraciously, nearly one book per week. I look back at how much I've read. Yes, I've gone through almost all the Russian novels I wanted to read at 21 years old, all of Dostoevsky. Not Tolstoy though, I hate that bore. And I think of the 20 or so Graham Greene books I've gone through, and my lengthy Jame Joyce phase, when I read Ulysses twice and Finnegans Wake once. In fact, after reading Ulysses and a companion criticism entitled The Argument of Ulysses (by Stanley Sultan). I contacted the author of the latter for guidance on approaching Wake. He gave me some handy tips and later told his class that Joyce had relevance to the real world using me as the example. All I could think was a lecture hall full of teenagers thinking, "What kind of dork reads Ulysses when he doesn't have too?" That'd be me.
Having run the campus record store, Slipped Disc, for two years, I was immersed in music, but just starting to get into jazz. I had a decent record collection and hopes of steady growth even though I now had to pay for my platters. It's ridiculous the changes in music possession in the last 25 years and between CDs, free CDs at the library to burn on iTunes, huge record collections that were dumped on my doorstep by people who no longer had any use for them and the joy of eBay, where my LP and CD lot buying binges can be satisfied, I now have thousands and thousands of pieces at my fingertips. I look at it as another learning experience, like books only shorter. In researching my other blog, Maybe Baby or, You Know That It Would Be Untrue), I hit on bands that I may have not known of (like The Pretty Things) or have little of (like The Small Faces). Determined and patient searching of eBay brought me a pile of CDs of each and, voila, instant coverage of groups I had no experience with.
Movies were also a passion but, as I tell my kids to their utter disbelief, there was a time when a movie came out and, if you missed it, you were shit out of luck. Maybe it would hit the second run dollar theater, or end up on TV a few years later. Maybe not. Videos were beginning and it was becoming easier to see older titles.
In the mid-'90's I found a Pennsylvania video dealer, Home Film Festival, that had a vast catalog of silent, foreign and art films. Pretty expensive, about $7 a movie to rent by mail, but it was a prehistoric Netflix that allowed me to dive headfirst into the oeuvre of Truffaut, Fellini, Kurosawa and others. I can't believe that I've seen nearly every film directed by those giants. To be honest, I would never have considered a full time move from the Chicago suburbs to Cooperstown if Netflix didn't exist to satiate my movie jones, or if Amazon and eBay weren't there for me to buy all my books and music.
Last week I was at the Village library and saw a recent high school graduate. This kid is great - smart, curious, hungry to learn. We've talked before about movies (he would bring up DeSica) and I've always been impressed by his knowledge at his age. I went on the Senior Trip to DC and caught a glimpse of him reading Raymond Carver. Very nice.
We were talking in general about the relative merits of video games; I was pro, he was con. Then he vented his frustration at how little time there is to read all the things he wanted to, see all the movies he wanted to. It brought me back to that guy on the Staten Island Ferry, contemplating the futility of ever getting through all the great works he wanted to. 25 years later, the 21 year old me is 46 and progressing just fine. So, don't worry kid, it'll happen.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Wilco (the album) - Wilco
Unknown Pleasures - Joy Division
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
What bugs me lately is the lack of respect shown to other people, particularly people with some sort of title that should command civility, if not deference. The town hall meetings I watched today, those of Arlen Specter (R, no wait a minute, D-PA) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) were appalling.
It's not that I have a problem with the angry folk opposed to the President's health care plan. The idea that these are false protests is a tricky analysis, as it applies to every movement. Did the masses wake up on August 28, 1963 and spontaneously decide to congregate on the mall to fight for civil rights? Well, no, it was an organized event, but the people were very real. Has there ever been a mass protest without some organizing force behind it - March on the Pentagon (Norman Mailer wrote a whole book about the people who put the protest together), the Million Man March. You get the picture. It would help if the people attending these town hall meetings knew what the hell they were talking about, but without a real bill to reference, anything can be assumed and is.
It troubles me to see men and women threaten and taunt Senators of the United States. They're office deserves better. I don't say this as an elected official myself. I have a friend who hates George W. Bush (actually, I have a lot of friends who hate George W. Bush). This friend was in a position to meet the President and, when face to face with his nemesis, my pal was overwhelmed by the aura of the office and was humble as pie. As he should have been. It's the President of the United States!
We all end up in situations where we don't believe who we hear, or don't like the surroundings we're in. I'm not one of those "in my days it was different" relics, but it WAS different once upon a time. I'll give you a personal example. I was at a Catholic Mass last week. Now, I'm not Christian, and, in no real way other than birth am I even Jewish. At Mass, I didn't sit there and roll my eyes, or laugh at things I found hard to believe. Why? Because you're not supposed to. You're supposed to mind your manners and be respectful, survey your surroundings and act appropriately. In the presence of a Senator, even one like Arlen Specter, people should behave better. In fact, it's more effective than wearing "Proud Member of the Mob" T-Shirts, or carrying a pistol on your belt to an anti-Obama rally.
It's impossible to respect anyone's opinion on any issue when they carry on so despicably.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Soon after, I read that a DVD had been released of the concert itself. For those not in the know, The Plastic Ono Band, composed of John, Yoko, Eric Clapton, Klaus Voorman and Alan White, headlined the 1969 Toronto Rock 'n' Roll Revival in Varsity Stadium. It was a one-off show for the POB - they'd never played together.
The DVD is D.A. Pennebaker's film Sweet Toronto with a prologue of Yoko interviewed in 1988. Although Cat Mother, The Doors and other contemporary acts played the 13 hour event, the movie focuses on the '50's stars. Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard, are killer, ultimate pros who put on top notch shows. Then comes John.
The crowd on that sunny September day was enthusiastic about the oldies, who were not that old (Lewis was 34, Richard 37 and Bo 40), but went nutty for Lennon. John made it clear that this ensemble had not rehearsed and they would do songs they knew. They slogged through "Blue Suede Shoes", "Money", "Dizzy Miss Lizzy", "Yer Blues" and "Give Peace a Chance" with moderate success. And there's Yoko, standing next to John the entire time, mostly holding lyric sheets, occasionally crawling into a bag and, during "Yer Blues", shrieking away. Was John embarrassed at being party to this catastrophe in front of his rock heroes? He sure looks that way.
John was ill, and maybe that's why he looks like a deer in the headlights, totally out of his element. But remember, The Beatles hadn't appeared live since 1966, and he was nervous. It doesn't help at all that Yoko, though an intriguing artist perhaps, is a no-talent as a singer. Her vocalizing is apart from the music. There's no sense that her actions are remotely connected to what the band is playing. Her clapping during "Give Peace a Chance" is memorably detached from any sense of rhythm.
The DVD package refers to the show as the "second most important concert" in rock history. Hmm. Is Woodstock first? I would guess so, but there are so many other shows of import- Beatles at Shea, Stones at Altamont, Clash at Bond's, I could go on and on. It is a shock to see John performing with long hair and bushy beard. That John is a still picture to me, as on the covers of Abbey Road and Hey Jude.
The looks are priceless. The staring that Clapper directs towards John may be in anticipation of musical cues, but so many coincide with an animal howl from Mrs. Lennon, that's it hard not to read disgust. Interestingly, John shoots Yoko similar looks, especially as she warbles through "John, John (Let's Hope for Peace)" a cacophony of violent screaming that is as far from peace as one can get. I may be projecting, but John seems as if he's wondering how he got to this point, playing on stage with a crazy Japanese lady instead of his peers. It's so bad and neverending that John and band finally exit as Yoko stands alone, still "waaahing" alone at centerstage. I couldn't help but think that, in that instant, John sought out his mates, rather than Yoko. If only there had been an intervention.
The show is a lifeless endeavor. For all who have seen footage of The Beatles at Shea Stadium, and watched the Fabs laughing hysterically and having a great time, it's a tragedy that bySeptember of '69, John Lennon could perform his favorite songs from his youth with nary a smile or laugh. Towards the end, he goes into a forced jig, a feeble attempt to show that he's having a ball. His face betrays his feet. In the parlance of the times, a real bummer.