Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas, 2007

We closed Robison Service at noon today. I packed Cubby and Martha (Unit 2) into the Rover and headed east. Here we go:





















We went to Annie (Unit 3)'s house in Sherborn.

In this photo, you can see (from left) Annie's sister in law Titti, her kids Alice, Alva, and Arvid, Martha, Cubby, Magnus (Unit 3B) holding sign, and his brother Thomas (married to Titti), and Santa.

As some of you know, Santa has had some trouble with the law lately, but we bailed him out so he could make his appearances today. Santa arrived in a pickup truck. There was a very unfortunate mistake over at the game farm where Santa boarded the reindeer. They have promised to raise Santa a new deer team in time for Christmas 2009.






















I wonder how many people will be opening copies of Look Me in the Eye tomorrow? It's hard to believe, but I'm now into my fourth month in Amazon's list of top selling biography and memoir
http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/books/2/ref=pd_ts_pg_2?ie=UTF8&pg=2

Check back . . . I'll post more Christmas pictures, and I'm announcing some new events. The first one is coming January 7th in Boston . . . . stay tuned . . . .

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

New York in December

Well, here I am, back from the big city. I’d never been to New York at Christmas, and I didn’t really know what to expect. I took too many pictures to fit here, so I put them on Pbase. Check them out here: http://www.pbase.com/robisonphoto/newyork

Most places, Christmas is distinguished by displays of light. In New York, Christmas is heralded by statuary and sculpture. Huge Christmas balls in front of buildings. Storybook figures, and giant Santa figures. Personally, I’d have preferred more light and less statuary.

And the trees . . . .

Back home, we put Christmas trees inside homes and businesses. In New York, they put cut trees on the canopies in front of their buildings. I don’t understand why they do it that way. It would be much more efficient to simply plant Christmas tree seedlings on top of the canopies and prune them to size. The trees could live there all year, and they’d only have to remove and refit decorations for holidays.

The people at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue seem to have gotten this idea. The folks at Rockefeller Center haven’t. They sacrificed a large tree when a permanent tree could have been planted in the same place.

Here are some reasons New Yorkers should use live trees year round:

Fewer trees would be sacrificed.

The load on New York landfills would be diminished. Trees are biodegradable, but it all takes time and space, and it’s needless.

Cut trees do not renew the city air as live trees would

The practice of removing and refitting trees to building canopies clogs the streets with cranes, and pollutes the air as the engines struggle to hoist the trees.

Dead trees are a fire hazard. Live trees provide shade and reduce fire risk.

Live trees provide permanent homes for squirrels, birds, and certain people.

But I didn’t go for the trees. . . .

I stopped at bookstores all over the city and signed copies of Look Me in the Eye. I’ve been hitting some stores every month, and I was thrilled to see all my signed books from last month were gone. I signed 383 books this trip.

I was particularly proud to see my book on the front tables at so many bookstores. And that’s all thanks to you readers, who continue to recommend Look Me in the Eye.

On Monday afternoon, I went on WNYC radio with Leonard Lopate. We had a good show, which is available online here: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/lopate/episodes/2007/12/17

That evening, I met Jennifer Venditti, director of the new film Billy the Kid. I had a great time with her and the crew, doing Q&A after the shows at the Independent Film Center on 6th and 3rd.
http://www.billythekiddocumentary.com:80/

Between shows, I went to dinner with Jennifer, Chiemi Karasawa (the producer), Vicky Wight (from Elephant Eye films), Bridget Stokes (also Elephant Eye) and Melissa Auf der Maur, bass player of HOLE and SMASHING PUMPKINS and now recording solo.

In Look Me in the Eye I wrote about the instability of the music business. I talked about being on top of the world one week, and flat broke the next. Melissa, in a brilliant flash of insight, provided the reason that happened: I gave my work away too cheap. The guitars I created were a cornerstone of the show. They were the “million dollar deals” of their day. I should have charged ten times what I did, and KISS would’ve paid it.

Oh well. Older and wiser. At least she figured it out for me. That was really great. I’ll use those thoughts in my next book, when I talk about making a creative life.

And there’s more . . .

I also went to the Random House building, to say hi to all my friends at Crown. Random House is closed next week, and the floor looked deserted, with all the folks on vacation. Still, I caught a few with my camera and you can see them here:
http://www.pbase.com/robisonphoto/newyork&view=slideshow

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A trip to New York, winter arrives, and my bear killing wife

I’m headed to New York in the morning. Listen for me Monday on Leonard Lopate on WNYC, and I’d love to see you at Billy The Kid at the Independent Film Center Monday night. I'll also be visiting the Crownites in the Random House building, and taking their pictures so all of you can see what the world of publishing is really like at Christmas.

I’ll be doing a Q&A after both Billy the Kid shows, so I’ll be there all evening along with many other interesting people.

As you may have heard, we had a foot of snow up here in Amherst. Here’s a quintessential New England winter scene.

An old Dresser bulldozer rests under a blanket of freshly fallen snow.





















Here is Sal, one of the valiant Robison Service crew, clearing blown and piled snow in our Springfield yard:





















After the storm, I took a ride to the Deerfield rail yard, where the wreck train sits waiting. Here's Springfield Terminals Railway's 250 ton salvage crane, taken in the dark. Nikon D3, ISO 19,200. That's right . . . pictures in the dark.















Now for the story you are all waiting for . . . My Bear Killing Wife.

In the dark of the night, Unit 2 called me.

I’m in the Land Rover, she said. I just hit a bear! I think I killed it. She sounded upset.

Don’t get out of the car, I said. It might be wounded. I’ll be right over. Stay in the car. Shut the windows.

OK, she said. I’ll call the police.

I grabbed a pistol in case the bear was mad, not dead, and headed for Granby.

When I arrived there was a police car there. I was relieved to see the Land Rover intact, with Unit 2 securely inside. The cop joined me as I walked to the car. Wanna see him, he asked? He’s over there, dead. He pointed to the edge of the road.

We walked over just as two pickup trucks pulled up. They’d heard the call on their police scanners.

Where’s the bear, they asked? Over here. They got out, armed. We all gazed over the guard rail at the dead bear. He was a small bear, bigger than any dog but small enough to have an angry mom across the street. I was particularly alert because I’d almost hit a MUCH bigger bear in the same spot a few weeks back.

Luckily, we did not see a second bear and a shootout on School Street was averted. You know you’re in the country when five guys with guns can stand gazing into the dark and the law on the scene takes in all in stride.

So, you want him? The cop asked me.

In Granby, as in other rural towns, beasts killed by a wife become property of the husband. No, you can have him, I said.

I don’t want him, the cop said quickly. Hearing that, the crews from the pickup truck shouted in unison: I have a bear tag! They both shouted it out at the same time. I’ll take him, they said.

Most times, when someone hits a deer or bear out here in the country, they don’t call the cops. They toss him in back and head on home with fresh dinner. Remember my childhood friend, Road Kill Phil? And people wonder how strangers just vanish out in the hill towns . . . .

What are they going to do with him, Unit 2 asked nervously from the car.

Skin him and eat him. Coats and steaks.

That’s horrible, she cried. We should take him home and bury him.

We drove off as the cop and the guys in the truck bargained over the bear’s disposition.

Amazingly, the Land Rover was undamaged. It was just a freak thing, I guess. She hit the bear a glancing blow and broke his neck.

Somewhere in Granby, a bear steak is grilling. See you in New York Monday.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

From the mailbox . . . a letter and poem from a dad

I get quite a few letters from Aspergians and moms. Letters from dads are somewhat less common. I was touched by this note I received from Ray, the father of an Aspergian teen in South Carolina.

I have reproduced it here with his permission.

* * *

Thank you for your wonderful book. “Look Me in the Eye” has really opened my eyes to the thought process and the world of Asperger’s. My 14 year-old son was diagnosed with Asperger’s about five years ago. I’m sure you would have no trouble seeing the Aspergian traits in my son, James. I never noticed the way he walked until I read your book, but he does have the “typical” gait of an Aspergian.

By the way, thanks for the term “Aspergian”, it sounds so much better than “Aspie”. Aspie brings to mind a breed of dog or a award of some kind. Aspergian shows respect and dignity to all touched by Asperger’s.

I must be honest with you, Mr. Robison, I have had a hard time accepting my son’s Asperger’s as a blessing or light that shines in him. We have had many frustrating times with James, he has struggled mightily in middle school and now High School with teacher’s and administrators who do not understand fully what a day with James entails and how to keep him on track and keep him from being disruptive in class. We must have had hundreds of notes, e-mails and call from schools since James entered Kindergarten using the word disruptive.

I wrote a free poem (of sorts) about my son, I had thought I would pass it along to you as small thank you for your book.

My Son

2nd child full of brash and fire

Walking early, reading and writing at 4 years of age

Smart as a whip, maybe too smart

Obsessions come and go

Cars, Looney Toons, Nascar and Police chases

There has been no envelope not pushed, no button not pressed

Love conquers all, but frustration, irritation come close

Social graces not understood, politeness and manners are foreign at times

Friends are few and far between, "Quirky" kids are not easy to befriend

Inappropriate behavior commonplace, reason for behavior never explained or maybe not known.

Charming boy, loving boy (but not always)

Obsession becomes depression in an instant, self-esteem flies away.

Hatred of face, hair, braces and life in general changes by the day

Fear of him doing harm to himself is ever present

Any question asked of my son is received with rolling eyes and groans of dismay

A simple yes or no answer is never heard

School is a daily nightmare

Work not done, assignments missed and extra credit opportunities never attempted

Life Skills class they call it, self-contained class (in my time it was Special Ed)

Mainstream classes are scheduled to get a real diploma, so far not a great success

4 years may turn in to 5 or 6

every school day is a struggle

Normal is not in our vocabulary, your normal is not ours

Asperger's Syndrome, a mild variety of Autism

My son lives it everyday, and so does the entire family

We endure because of our love for him

We have no choice

A child full of challenge and potential hopefully realized.

My Son, I love him

* * *

I can certainly see myself in his poem. I imagine a few of you can see yourselves, too. It's nice to see we have dads like Ray out there.

You should know that I read all mail personally, and I do my best to respond. I also read all the comments you write in to the blog, and I value them all. I've received a lot of knowledge, insight, and guidance from those of you who take the time to write in.

Asperger's and autism are everywhere, it seems

It's interesting to see how Look Me in the Eye is spreading now that it's been on sale a few months. I have not mentioned reviews in a while, so I thought I'd highlight a few in this post.

Yesterday, BookReporter.com published a nice review:
http://www.bookreporter.com/reviews2/9780307395986.asp

A few weeks back, the Vail, Colorado newspaper had nice things to say:
http://www.vaildaily.com/article/20071129/AE/71129029

And before that, a thoughtful piece appeared in The Standard, a conservative magazine where you would not expect to find a non-political book reviewed.
http://www.weeklystandard.com/Check.asp?idArticle=14361&r=ejuxx

I continue to be surprised and pleased at the way people connect with my story. In addition to the reviews, I've received so many wonderful letters from readers in the past three months.

That's all great, but we still move inexorably toward the shortest day of the year. I just wish it didn't get dark so early nowadays. Oh well; the days start getting longer soon.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Me in The New York Times, upcoming events, and other interesting stuff

Tara Parker-Pope of the New York Times called me a few weeks ago to talk about a story she was doing on Aspergian model Heather Kuzmich. We talked quite a while about the definitions of Asperger’s, what it’s like to be Aspergian, and the ideas in my book.

She quoted me in her story on December 4:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/04/health/04well.html?ref=science

Tara kept thinking about our conversation, and the result was today’s story,
http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/12/10/books-seeing-yourself-in-autism/

Her title, Seeing Yourself in Autism, was particularly meaningful to me. For the first step in understanding and accepting someone different is seeing yourself in that person. Her article makes that clear.

We may seem different, but deep down we have the same emotions; the same hopes, fears, dreams, and insecurities. Looking or acting in non-standard ways does not rob us of our essential humanity.

I would wager that the vast majority of autistic people (myself included) want more than anything to be accepted, liked, and appreciated for what we are – people. Not Autistics, Aspergians, or some kind of freaks. Just people.

To me, phrases like “he’s autistic but he’s still pretty smart” sound about the same as, “He’s pretty smart, for a black guy.” Yet, the second phrase is universally condemned and the other is (unfortunately) still widely tolerated.

But not for long, I hope. At four o'clock, Tara's story was on the list of the NYT's most emails stories of the day. So people are reading and learning.

In the 1960s high school kids told jokes about black people. By the 1980s those kids had grown up, and they knew they’d lose their jobs repeating the old jokes at work. In the 1980s high school kids told jokes about gay people, and today . . . not only can you lose your job, your company may well get sued.

It’s our turn now. We’re tired of (being on the receiving end of) pointing and snickering. We’re ready to be accepted into the fold of society. Just as we are. Sure, we have our differences. But so do you. Deep down, we’re all the same.

I hope articles like this, my words (in my books and at my public appearances), and the words of others will go far toward gaining all of us who are a little different the respect and acceptance we deserve.

*

Last week I talked about the new documentary, Billy the Kid. As promised, I’ll be in New York City next Monday, December 17, to lead the Q&A after both evening shows at the Independent Film Center. I hope to see a big crowd; come by and say hi!

Here are the details:

Billy the Kid Special Screenings and Q&As – December 17th after the 6:25pm and 8:25pm Shows! The Q&A will be led by Special Guest Speaker John Elder Robison, author of LOOK ME IN THE EYE (NY Times Best Seller) and, director, Jennifer Venditti!

Tickets on sale now at www.ifccenter.com or at IFC CENTER 323 Sixth Avenue at West 3rd Street.

Discounted group tickets are available for groups of 10 or more at any show Mon-Thurs, and Friday before 5pm.

Tickets are $8/person, and need to be paid for in bulk. Groups should arrange discounted tickets by calling in advance.

The phone number is 212 924 6789. Please speak to Harris or Katy.

Friday, December 7, 2007

News of the week - The Elms, Lincoln Sudbury High, Billy the Kid, and more

Last Sunday, I spoke at The Elms in Chicopee. I’ve been working with Elms to develop and promote a graduate concentration in autism, and this talk was a part of that. Billed as “Inspiration and hope for families with autism,” the program featured presentations from Professor Kathy Dyer, four moms of autistic kids, Aspergian Michael Wilcox, and me.

The weathermen had forecast snow that afternoon, and we were into the Christmas season, so I wasn’t expecting too many people. We scheduled the Alumni Library auditorium, which seats about 100 people. I thought we’d be doing well to fill half the seats.

I arrived early so I could talk with the other presenters. I knew Kim, Michael, and Kathy, but the other moms were new to me. As I stood there, people began streaming in. Soon, the auditorium was full. Several of us walked to the meeting room next door, and we began carrying chairs into the auditorium. Soon, the aisles were full too, and people lined the walls. The college later reported that the foyer was full too, and they estimated we drew 275 people. The place was packed.

“Once we get everyone seated,” I said, “we’re going to have a fire drill.”

Each of us told stories about our life experiences with autism and Asperger’s. I spoke last, and then led a Q&A session. Each mom told of her struggles and ultimate triumph. Michael talked about learning to tie his shoes, and how to operate a left-hand can opener. Hearing about those simple things made me realize once again that things that are obvious to one person may be a complete mystery to another. I thought back to the day I first realized that I could tie my shoes all by myself. I was in a Greyhound bus, crossing the Cascade Mountains. We went into a tunnel, and I leaned forward, and tied my shoes quickly. All by myself, in the dark. I was so proud. The event ran into overtime, and was a big success. The size of the crowd certainly spoke to the interest our society has in autism. Before we began, I asked the crowd who had a personal connection to autism, and every hand went up.

Look here and at www.elms.edu/news for more events in 2008.

A few days later, I did a reading at Amherst Books. Amherst Books is a small store, and we had a more intimate reading with about 30 people. Even that small crowd was touched by autism, with several parents, three teachers and two psychologists.

Yesterday I went to Lincoln Sudbury regional school where I was scheduled to speak to students and staff. L/S is a very upscale school; one of the top rated public high schools in Massachusetts. Just before lunch, I spoke to 750 people in the main auditorium, including several families who’d driven in from surrounding towns. I did my best to be both entertaining and inspirational, but I knew I was talking to high school students, so I had a sack of eggs hidden behind the podium. To my surprise, though, not one egg was needed. The audience listened with rapt attention, and they did not throw a thing. It was not even necessary to sweep up after. I wish they were all that good, I said to myself as I reflected on some of my earlier performances, behind chicken wire screens in rowdy bars. Afterward, the special ed staff received a ton of emails from enthusiastic students.

They were a great audience, but the real highlight came before the talk, when I met Nick. Nick is a ten-year-old Aspergian who came all the way from Stoneham. I met him in the conference room, where New England Mobile Book Fair was selling up the book display. He was a little comedian, dressed in snappy blue jeans, white shirt, and tie. He was so excited he couldn’t sit still. After watching him circle the conference room 19 times, I suggested a walking tour of the school.

I don’t know if you’ve ever toured an upscale school like Lincoln Sudbury. It was a remarkable place. First, it’s all clean and new. It’s got a beautiful library, with new computers everywhere. It’s built on three levels, with atriums, like a mall. But instead of stores, they have classrooms. I saw all manner of specialty classes, including jewelry making. Nick and I went into the jewelry classroom, where we saw jewels piled on one side, and money piled on the other. Out back, we examined the air conditioning plant, and the bottle and paper recycling. I was impressed, and so was Nick.

Before I went there, I’d been told that today’s schools have driver ed training. People said L/S goes driver ed one better, with jet aircraft and helicopter training. I’d hoped for a ride on the Bell Jet Ranger but I could not find the helipad.

What a contrast. At my high school, we opened the windows for air conditioning, and we played with sticks and dirt. There was no dirt in evidence at Lincoln Sudbury.

After my talk, I met with about 20 faculty members, and we ended with a q&a session with IEP students in a conference room. We covered such diverse topics as Asperger’s around the world, jobs, medieval history, dating, and writing novels.

I had a great time, and I think the students did too.

After that, I headed ten miles down the road to the Barnes & Noble at Framingham Shopper’s World. After the huge crowd at the school, I didn’t expect too many people at my 7PM reading, but once again I was surprised. 100+ people arrived, overflowing the seats into the aisles. Once again, my talk ran into overtime with a 1-hour line after the reading.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all of you at the end of the line. Those of you at the beginning of the line . . . you should thank the people at the end too, for being patient. We could have had a riot, but everyone was remarkably well behaved. I've been lucky that way. I guess that makes up for the riots like Savannah, when I was in the rock'n'roll business.

The evening crowd was older, with a mix of families and individual Aspergians. Once again, I said, “How many of you have a personal connection to autism?” Every hand went up. After my reading, several Aspergians in the front row made short statements of their own. I met a 76-year-old Aspergian who did not get diagnosed till age 72. There were younger Aspergians, too, and many moms and teachers. I met many several members of the Asperger’s Association ( http://www.aane.org/ ) and recommended AANE to a few more. I signed 103 books. Yes indeed – I kept count.

At B&N the last question of the night came from a female in the second row. She said, “How do you deal with the crowds? All the people?”

“I was scared at first,” I answered. “But the audiences are so interested, so warm, and so friendly. It’s the audiences, and their strong need to learn more. That’s what keeps me going.”

Stay tuned . . . I’ll be speaking in a number of schools right through 2008. Many of those events will be open to the public, and they’re popping up all over . . . from Groton (CT) to Houston to Cozumel.

And look for me at the Independent Film Center in Manhattan December 17th I’ll be there for Billy The Kid, a new documentary about an Aspergian teenager (see my previous post.) More details in the NY Times and at http://www.billythekiddocumentary.com/

And if your school wants to discuss an event, contact my speaker’s agent:
Lauren Verge
The Lavin Agency
222 Third Street
Suite 1130
Cambridge, MA 02142
800-762-4234 x 307

lverge@thelavinagency.com
See all of our fascinating personalities at : http://thelavinagency.com/

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Billy the Kid - an Aspergian movie you should see

I’d like to tell you about a new movie – Billy the Kid. It’s a documentary about the life of Billy, a teenage misfit in a small town in Maine. They don’t say anything about his condition in the film, but to me it was obvious that Billy is a young Aspergian, one with many similarities to me as a kid.

The first time I watched it, I didn’t enjoy Billy the Kid, but upon reflection, the reasons I didn’t enjoy it are reasons many of you (parents and educators) should watch this film. There’s a lot of real stuff here that people who raise Aspergians should see and ponder.

Before I begin, though, I’ll describe a few key differences between Billy and me, at age fifteen:

1 I was better looking. He has more zits.

2 He wears a bicycle helmet. I never did.

3 He cut his hair with a rat tail. I wore mine long.

4 He wears Truck Stops of America shirts. I liked sports cars, not big trucks.


OK, having spelled out the differences, let’s move on to the similarities. I don’t like films that cause me to relive bad experiences from my own past. And this one did.

First of all, he’s a total dork. Even now, a day later, I still can’t decide who was the bigger dork in high school – me or him? The realization that I can’t decide, and the degree of dorkiness shown – it’s very troubling. I sure wish someone had been there to tell me how I looked. Billy’s mother tried to do that at many points in the film, and I think she helped and guided him a lot. Seeing her, I wish I’d had more of that parenting.

Billy has a good mom. And he might have better kids in his school, but I doubt it. I just suspect they minded their manners because they didn’t want the humiliation of being caught on camera doing something reprehensible.

Do you all remember how teachers told me I’d end up as a serial killer or sociopath?

{If answer = NO, go buy Look Me in the Eye, read, continue}
{If answer = YES, continue}

Well, he must feel the same way, because he checked out Serial Killers in History and the librarian called his mother. Yes. Watchful librarians. I remember them well. Billy is wary and nervous all the time, as he should be. Seeing him, I remembered the degree to which I was always on guard, and the level of relaxation I exhibit today is in comparison truly remarkable.

Like me, he wants to understand people like that, to decide if he’s one, and if he’s not, how to identify and avoid such people. Recognizing, of course, that most of the world is out to get us, too. And that is the reason he’s a karate expert. I too learned self defense at an early age. He and I were the same . . . wanting to be peaceful, but prepared to resist attackers at any moment.

Billy’s got the same love of music I had back then, and the same lack of talent playing a guitar. Why the lack of talent? He’s probably not coordinated enough (like me.) Watching him walk, he’s got the same clumsy gait as me and other Aspergians I’ve observed.

One thing I did not see in the movie was his special talents. What are they? Either Billy hid them, or he has not yet found them. He’d better get going . . . he’s fifteen, the age I was when I was developing my own talents. That made me wonder . . . would any of you, watching a film of me at fifteen, foresee anything I subsequently accomplished? I doubt it. I wonder what Billy will do.

Billy and I shared a few other things . . . we both had drunk and violent fathers which left us with personal aversions to violence and drugs, and a resolve to do better with our own kids. Hopefully, Billy will follow my own example in that regard, as he gets older.

There’s only one point in the movie when Billy looks truly relaxed and happy. That’s when he’s standing in snow covered woods, talking to the camera, and shaking snow off a dead pine tree. That moment of relaxation lasts perhaps ten seconds. Every other moment of this film he’s anxious and on guard. It’s sad, but it’s real. I lived that too.

You can just see it in Billy. Wanting to fit in, and have fun. Wanting to have friends. But always on guard because and attack could come from any quarter, at any moment. For me, having lived it, it’s a very real film. No one could have made this up.

Some of you may squirm too, reading my description. Why should you go see this movie? I’ll tell you. Billy the Kid is a real first person account what it’s like to be an Aspergian teenager. Just as my book is described as a groundbreaking work, this is a groundbreaking movie. Parents and teachers – it will worry you, and make you squirm. But that’s what it’s really like for us. And you parents with more autistic kids . . . you may watch it and say, “I wish my son had it that good.” But let me assure you, having lived it: It does not generally feel good, being an Aspergian teenager.

That is why I go out to deliver my message of tolerance and understanding today.

The director – Jennifer Venditti - and crew deserve praise for making this movie. I was particularly impressed with the way they were able to blend into the background and film ordinary life without people "hamming it up." I saw a few instances of people playing for the film but mostly they (the camera operators) were just there, unobtrusive. That's commendable. Billy and his mom . . . they deserve to get a little older and get better lives. A good husband for the mom, and a good life for Billy. Will it happen? Look in again in 20 years.

I wonder what the broader public will say about this movie. Will they understand Billy?

Look here for more info and locations: http://www.billythekiddocumentary.com/

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Predators, autographed caps, and The Elms event tomorrow

It was cold and windy in Amherst today. Traditionally, this is the weekend I pull the mower deck off my little tractor so I can attach the snow blower for winter. Just before dark, I realized the wind had knocked down enough leaves that I should clean the yard one last time.

Walking out back, I cranked up the tractor and sat there until it was warm enough to spin the mower. By then, it had gotten dark. I’ve already talked about the technique for leaf cleanup – counterclockwise circles – so I won’t go into that again.

As I circled the house, I saw tonight’s blog topic, gazing back at me. Tonight, I’d like to talk about food. Specifically, us as food.

As I ran the tractor around the house there was a spot where the headlamps swept the woods, and every pass I saw the same set of eyes, glowing green at me. Those of you who live in the city may ask, “Did you go back inside?” My brother was recently featured in a NY Times story about life in the country, and Things with Eyes That Shine in the Night.

Those of you who read my bear story – a few weeks back - may wonder if I got my shotgun. I did not, because tonight’s visitor was not a bear. I continued leafing, unworried. Why? Because I am secure in the knowledge that around here, I am at the top of the food chain. Not the thing with the green eyes. Me.

Thinking about the Thing, my brother, and the Times article, I realized that city dwellers do not have my assurance, for they are not at the top of the food chain, and they know it. To them, being observed from the woods instills panic and fear. In a city, the residents are #2 on the food chain, above dogs (#3) and pigeons (#4) The top of the food chain is occupied by Predatory Criminals (#1).

We do not have many predatory criminals in the Amherst woods, and many law abiding residents of our wooded lands are dangerous if attacked, so the environment is generally hostile to Predatory Criminals. And that’s why they remain in cities, where the residents are by and large unarmed.

It’s actually a mystery to me. So many animals have been hunted to extinction. Why haven’t city dwellers hunted Predatory Criminals to extinction? Perhaps generations of city dwellers have lost the hunting instinct, or perhaps cities have too much abundance of food and shelter.

* * * *

Now, lets more on to Shameless Commerce. Jan – our Robison Service event support person – has listed a bunch of my Free Range Aspergian caps on eBay. Go on over if you want a signed Aspergian cap for a holiday gift.

I hope this huge link works:
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=190178858264&ru=http%3A%2F%2Fsearch.ebay.com%3A80%2Fsearch%2Fsearch.dll%3Ffrom%3DR40%26_trksid%3Dm37%26satitle%3D190178858264%26fvi%3D1

Woof.

* * * *

And tomorrow . . . Elms College. I’ll be part of a panel discussion on life with autism. Come on by if you’re in the area. Two to Four, in the library.

http://www.elms.edu/news/

* * * *

For the motorheads among you, this is the current version of what I clean and mow the yard with:
http://www.deere.com/en_US/ProductCatalog/HO/servlet/com.deere.u90785.cce.productcatalog.view.servlets.ProdCatProduct?pNbr=SKU22280&tM=HO