Archive for the ‘aspergers’ Category

The golden age

Posted: February 21, 2017 in aspergers, Uncategorized

So my friend, Moshe, and I went for a walk recently. He asked, slash pointed out. Adam you write a lot about our past and your current situation. Why don’t you do something different and write about the future. What will having Aspergers or Autism look like in twenty years?

The Future? What is that going to look like? It gets scarier all the time. Before, it was just a concern about hoarding goods and Al Qaeda striking us. You know when the coasts become over flooded and the terrorists try to take over the rest of the world. Now, there is a completely new threat I didn’t see coming in Donald Trump. What is that going to look like, an Atomic wasteland?  In that kind of environment, it will be a battle for survival, people won’t be as concerned about the rights about disabled people. Black lives matter? Only if it improves your chances of survival. You’re in a wheelchair. You can’t read body language and tell when the person across from you is going to decide to stab you with a knife. Sucks to be you!

Right now, during my lifetime we live in a golden age where people care about the plight of those who are different than themselves. The bullying that happens now? A spit in the bucket compared to what will come with the giant killer bee overlords. That’s why, I can’t think past the current moment. Which is improving all the time, so all I can do is ride the wave =)

People with Autism have such narrow interest. Growing up I only played four different sports because I simply had no interest in cricket or Polo. I didn’t even compete in diving, talk about a narrow focus. This is probably to my detriment and I would be a more well-rounded person, if my interests were more diverse say La Vie. In addition, I only write creative non-fiction and stand-up comedy. All the other writers are like “Would it really hurt you to write a poem every once in a while or even a sketch, you are so boring!” Someone could argue that we don’t have narrow interests we have tastes and preferences, but that is merely a sign that we are denial of our Autism.

The DSM 5 list is also bang on when it says that we like engaging in repetitive behaviors. Fortunately, Society can be so accommodating to our need. Every day we wake up, go to work, come home, and go to bed. I couldn’t imagine what life would be like, if sometimes, I came home and didn’t go to bed, or if I only had a job to go to some of the time while the rest of the time I just got up and watched television all day. I mean would it kill me to dinner at 4pm or 4am instead of being so darn predictable? I mean PLEASE! I even catch the same bus to work and never really vary my routine by doing something different like, you know hang-gliding or dogsledding to work.

Another hilariously autistic characteristic is our poor-hand-eye-coordination. While it may be hilarious to us, it can be a real nuisance to the people around us. I am so glad that giant industries have been created surrounding us such as the Velcro industry. A heartfelt thank you goes out to the shoe industry for giving us so much choice. Phew I thought that we would be stuck with Velcro and slippers, but, boom out comes another kind of slip on shoe called Crocs I don’t know what we did to deserve all of this. I mean, they do realize that we probably make up less than a tenth of the shoe market, don’t they? Either way, I’m not going to complain. There are a million and one other products designed for us that if I had to handwrite a thank you card to each of the inventors or heads of industries it would take me years. Fortunately, someone anticipated how long it would take to write each card legibly with my poor-hand-coordination and designed first the type writer and then the computer and if that wasn’t enough Graham Bell designed the telephone so I could thank each of them personally.

One characteristic that I personally struggle with more than most, is social interactions and communications. I am constantly observing other people to know how to interact. I have been doing dating wrong every single time I go on one. I always put my cellphone in my pocket instead of just putting it on the table and answering texts all night. I have also been watching videos on Youtube wrong. Instead of trying to find videos that I will actually enjoy, I should be trolling around the internet to find videos that I can write hurtful messages about. Trolling and shaming don’t just happen naturally you constantly have to be working at it if you don’t want your skills to get rusty.  Another observation is that it’s almost rude not to slap your waitress on the ass. No matter how old you are, whether your wife or children are there or not, when she walks by your table midway through the meal you just need to reach out and touch her on the ass. Also it is super important to always let people know how busy or tired you are, or people will think you are slacking off and not getting the most out of your day. Thank goodness for my opportunities to observe these individuals, hopefully one day I will be as socially adept as they are.

A symptom of our poor social skills is our struggles with making sustained eye-contact. At the Autism games in a staring contest Kevin Willis once stared his opponent in the eye for a whopping ten seconds. Our plight, however, has received very little sympathy from women. They are constantly making snide comments like “My eyes are up here!” or asking if we are staring at their chests when it is obvious. Don’t they realize the person they are talking to has Autism? They just don’t just realize how prevalent it is and how sometimes every single guy at a party is on the spectrum. The most recent statistics, 1 in 57 people, totally underestimate how big a percentage of the population has Autism I think its closer to 1 out of every 2 people.

 

There has never been a time in history better than now, to have Aspergers. Not only are they able to diagnose it more frequently and therefore provide more assistance, but, equally important is the rise of the nerd culture. In the past, things like adults playing Nintendo games or reading comic books used to be frowned upon and were not something that people could talk about or engage in openly without fear of being considered dorks and nerds and without facing potential reprecussions, including but not limited to, the loss of respect. As a result, people had to pretend that they were either into sports or cars. Comic books and video games are activities that people with Aspergers have typically been drawn to. Video games provide us with an escape, and helped us feel some control, in a world that we often find too confusing and crazy. The fact that people now are more open about sharing our interests in video games, instead of restricting these activities as only appropriate for teenagers and children, means that we can have conversations and come across as less weird and more social. In addition, with the rise of the nerd culture it is no longer considered strange to be really, really into something like animated television or historical battles. I am not sure what brought about this rise in nerd culture making it into the mainstream culture as thus being more accepted, what I do know is that there has never been a better time than now to have Aspergers.

Recently, I was offered an oppertunity to be a regular contributor to the Jewish post. The articles for the newspaper will have to be tighter, shorter and more succinct than the ones I will be writing for here. I have had lots of fun writing on here about anything that has crossed my mind and from post to post the topics have been quite sporadic as I write about whatever I feel like letting my brain take me whichever direction it wanted to go as it was as free in the wind, while for the newspaper it will be much more focused as I will have to take one topic and write as much as possible on it, thus making the transition easier to follow. For that reason, I will still try to keep this blog up as an outlet of letting my creativity just flow out, which has allowed me to afterwards cherrypick the posts for stand-up comedy material. I have always had a hard time writing comedy material for its own sake, but, a blog usually has a point or a story which I am trying to tell; and therefore, are much easier to write. Also, blogs provide less pressure to be funny because they don’t need to be a laugh-a-minute. A perfect example, is this blog which is really, really, not that funny at all.

Moving out #2

Posted: September 14, 2013 in aspergers, life
Tags: , , , ,

The worst part of moving out is not the loneliness or the fact that I will have to cook for myself, no the very worst part is that I will have to shop for the place and I detest shopping. It is the bane of my existence. I mean, I have no problem with grocery shopping but when it comes to shopping where there is choice such as clothing shopping or furniture shopping, I suddenly freeze up when faced with decisions because I think I am going to pick the wrong one. I mean they are both good choices but if I pick the one on the left maybe I should have picked the one on the right. Maybe with the one on the left life will be fine and normal with work and comedy and everything but maybe if I choose the other one I would have gone down a magical path filled with candy lollipop trees, girls who want to spend time with me and self-respect. However, if I go with door number 2 maybe all of that stuff was really behind door number one. I will never know. Therefore, I am stuck with indecision and I don’t want to keep trying out more options because that just makes it harder to pick the right one and know which path will have led down to self-enlightenment.

Now, when you are furnishing a new place you dont need to simply make one decision, now you are stuck with a million little decisions just ready to overwhelm you and eat you alive.

Once you get back to your place all you can do is question every single one of those decisions because clearly you did something wrong because there are no lollipops and no girls.

These are not in any particular order.
1. Libraries are a place of order. Unlike the rest of the world which is chaos, libraries organize information by subject, author and year. There is no reading between the lines for information like there is in the rest of life.
2. I feel like a computer expert when I am able to answer computer questions, like how do I book a computer. Where can I find a computer with microsoft word. (Although, there are some times that I can’t figure out how to fix the computer or format on microsoft word but these questions are few and far between.)
3. Libraries are quiet and never give me sensory overload which sometimes happens in unknown crowded places. Especially when I am very hungry or tired.
4. There are always people to watch who never end up letting me down with their off-the-wall antics. Therefore, it is a good place to learn about human behaviour and what to do and what not to do in social interactions.
5. It is a good place to read the newspaper and catch-up on the daily going-ons.
6. There is usually treats to eat in the staff room.
7. I get to learn about where a good place to nap is from the professionals. These people are amazing they can fall asleep anywhere anytime and they usually choose to do it at the library.
8. I learn how to deal with rude people or hecklers as I like to think of them. This is good training for when you are on stage performing comedy.
9. There is time for day dreaming or analyzing social interactions and kicking yourself for them not going well.
10. Finally but not leastly, I am able to check out books, cds and DvDs in a convenient location for free.

I often talk about Aspergers the problem; how it makes life harder socially because frankly that is what I am often focused on. Nevertheless, there is also a whole different side to Aspergers. There are trade-offs and while sometimes the trade-offs do not seem fair Aspergers can also be a beautiful thing.
In school my memory was always amazing. I was always able to engage with any material that I read or studied in university in a very deep personal way and was often able to connect with it. There are some people in university and life who are able to sail by, getting great grades with very little effort. I know several of these people who were able to get great grades but, and its a major but, they never seemed to really care about what they were learning. For them school was a formula you do A+B and get C where C is a high mark. For these people the things that they were studying were completely irrelevant and they had just mastered the formula.
I on the other hand, because my social life was not the greatest had time to really engage with the ideas that I was reading in the books. The information was not something to learn by rote but something to try and understand and engage with.
There are some people who can never remember what they read five-minutes after they put the book down. My memory has always been glorious. I have been compared to an elephant in my family, since an elephant never forgets. I don’t know if I would say I never forget but my memory is pretty darn good. My problem has always been putting down these ideas in a way that everyone else could understand. As a result of having Aspergers, I have never been the most organized of thinkers I have also been at times careless and not focused enough on fine details. I mean even though, I was not getting the best marks I was always able to know the material as well as anyone else. In addition, while I always worked hard I don’t think it was always as necessary to read many things more than once before the information was stuck in my long-term memory bank.
All of these aspects, the ability to appreciate what I was learning, the time to focus on it and appreciate it as well as the memory to hold onto this information are all aspects of having Aspergers and I am grateful for all of them.

The majority of the audience are 40 plus.
Therefore, keep the jokes relateable to this age range. Talking about things such as Mortal Kombat, Pogs or Boardwalk Empire may not go over with this audience so well as when doing stand-up comedy in a bar with young people. Young people will understand the references because they were there as well. Also, keep the material clean as older people do not gratuitous dirty jokes. Which is okay, because my jokes are generally clean most of the time regarldess who I am performing for.

One good rating can make your show extremely successfu.
My review from CBC was medicore and it while it can still be argued that I could still have had a successful fringe without a great review, getting 5 stars from the Winnipeg Free Press, allowed me to relax and enjoy the festival more. People do not take a balance of the two scores and go based on the average, instead a great review will run wild and drum up business better than one could possibly believe. Other groups had to work much harder, handbilling and promoting their show than I had to simply because I got lucky. There is both skill and luck in being lucky as I am not going to say I didn’t deserve the good score but the score from CBC shows that not everyone thought as highly of my show.

While Fringe festival can be lucrative, it may not necessarily help your social calendar.
This one is pretty self explainatory. There is no arguing that my fringe festival was a success and yet, after it was all said and done no girls flirted with me because I was a star of the fringe-festival and I still felt as uncomfortable talking to people my own age as ever.

Not every show is going to be equally strong, but that doesn’t mean you should beat yourself up over it.

Do not rush yourself, it only makes it that much harder to get back on course if you start off badly because of rushed lines.

If you say your show is going to be 45 minutes if you go under 35 critics will not like it.

Well, the fringe festival is over so I am now going to reflect on this amazing experience.
Pre-fringe I sent out all the emails to all of the contacts that Fringe suggested, which was like 4 weeks ahead of time. I thought that everyone would be interested in my story because I am egotistical like that. I have a hard time taking the perspective of others, therefore, when things go badly its because of something I did and when things go well it’s because I got lucky. Nevertheless, in my head the world revolves around me. Therefore, when I did not hear back from anyone other than the Jewish post and Shaw at first I got really discouraged. (I still think the Jewish post, had the best article of the bunch =0 ). Maybe, I had miscalculated and it turned out no one would be interested in the message that I had to say. Maybe, only people with aspergers would care and everyone else would prefer something lighter. This was a stand-up comedy which is light, but also about a weighter topic Aspergers. My blog never had the biggest audience after all. Therefore, I began worrying that my fringe show would be a flop.
Slowly, however, three weeks after I had sent out all the emails, two weeks after I stopped thinking anyone cared and four days before the fringe festival started. I started hearing back from CBC and the Winnipeg Free Press. When CBC first contacted me I was in a hurry and had just woke up from my nap so wasn’t really coherent about what was going on. Therefore, when they interviewed me for the website I was just confused and thought that was that. Then they contacted me again to do a radio interview, at the radio interview they also talked about doing something for tv but when nothing happened that day I moved on. The television department actually contacted me the day before I was performing. On top of that I was still writing my fringe festival show because the original script was too darn negative.
My mom was still convincing me, however, that not everyone would be interested and only people impacted by the disorder would come to my show. On top of that people with Aspergers rarely like to leave their house so I thought my audience would be tiny.
In addition, I had got my tech time wrong and only out of mercy from the tech guy steve who waited late were we able to practice at all. I only knew, I got my tech time wrong because my mom called me on my cell-phone I had been out that day with some people putting up the great posters that Cory Falvo made for me.
The first night of my show I knew was going to be huge because it was all my parents friends who had read the article in the Jewish post and therefore, had come out to support me. Therefore, I figured I’d have at least one packed house and only one packed house. I was okay with that, because frankly I was not that comfortable with my material after writing and learning it all in a week. Granted it was based on my five years of stand-up comedy but everyone told me stand-up comedy doesn’t do so well in the fringe festival. Also, it wasn’t like I was on the pinnacle of Winnipeg stand-up and had already been looked past for many big shows like the Winnipeg Improv festival. As a result, I had every right to be concerned. Forunately, for me there were lots of people who came out to support me. My brother’s friends parents all the way-out in the country even drove in to support me that night.
The next day, was Friday. I was very nervous because my show started at 5:45 and my shift at work ended at 5:15. Forunately the two were very close to each other. Nevertheless, I was very nervous about not having lots of time to prepare, mentally that is, as my show had no props. I was flabbergasted when I got there and there was a huge line-up. The place had sold-out. The show is very strange for an audience member to know when to laugh because at the heart of it, the jokes are about something really sad therefore, it was hard for them to know when it was okay to laugh and not feel like they are laughing at the person with the disability. It is made tougher by my pedantic speech as a result of my disorder. I have faced this challenge often as a stand-up comedian and I didn’t know how this would fare for my show. This ended up not being that big of a problem. Nevertheless, I wasn’t thrilled with how my show went. My general awkwardness at the end of my worked in my favour, however, as the audience loved it. I wrote this off as a freak occurence and that my audience sizes would normalize for the rest of the shows. That my third show no way would anyone come out I mean it was at a god-awful hour of 11pm on a day that had been raining hard and was still coming down hard. Nevertheless, lo and behold this show almost sold-out as well. There were 5 seats still available.

I was a bit worried how, the critics would take it, however, as my show was barely 35 minutes at that time and I said it was a 42 minute show. One critic hated this and gave me a medicore review a 3. The other big critic, however, loved my show and gave me a 5 stars. Which is a miracle, since five star reviews should only be reserved for the best shows like the Hot Thespian Action one or Crumbs. You know, shows that would sell out automatically whether or not they got 5 stars.
After hearing both shows complain about my show being short. My brother and I stayed up late the Saturday before the Sunday show, my 3rd show, and worked really hard to add 5 more minutes. One of the jokes that came out of this session actually became one of my best jokes.
After getting the 5-star review I also got two super generous reviews from complete strangers in the Jenny’s which is the unofficial fringe newspaper. My shows now started selling out really quickly. I could only hope that the message that I was trying to send about people with Aspergers being just as capable and worthy as anyone else, despite having our shortcomings socially was getting through. One show sold out 5 minutes after tickets going on sale I’ve heard.
The final hurdle came after I won patron’s pick. I was going to be going up against the best shows from other venues in the exact same time-slot. Amazingly enough, the press and word of mouth was good enough that it was the only show that sold-out in advance.
The most rewarding part of the festival, however, was not selling out shows but having strangers who I did not know come up and talk about how they could relate to the show and how they too had Aspergers and appreciate what I had done. Some of them even shared their own stories.

In September, the show will air for one night only at the purple room as a fundraiser for Aspergers Manitoba.

Everyone remember the bell-curve from high school and university?? Good. Just in case I have included one below.

bell_curve

Any spectrum is sort of like a bell curve where there is always someone who is better or worse than you are, however, when that spectrum is invisible there is questions of where do fit into it? I always thought I was on the higher end of the spectrum, however; the diagnosis of people being Autistic is much more frequent these days with one in 54 males having it. Therefore, many people who would have been on the border of not being autistic and would not have been considered in the past are now being diagnosed with it. Let’s not discuss whether that is a good thing or a bad thing, because, that is a different debate for a different time. What is relevant, however; is that many of these border cases will be more socially able/gifted than I am. They will have had a rich dating life and will eventually get married and no one would be able to tell the difference between their lives and anyone else’s. I have met several people with Autism but not nearly enough to back up these statistics, therefore, I don’t truly know where I stand anymore. Has the bell curve moved the other direction so that I would be on the lower end of the spectrum? The less independent end? Or has there simply been more people born on the lower end of the spectrum, therefore, my relative place would not have changed so much. I doubt if this latter is the case. I think, instead of the prevalence of most disabilities increasing the only thing that has changed is our ability to recognize and diagnose mild cases. There is also more reasons to come forward or diagnose someone as being on the spectrum since this means that they will receive more funding in the classroom and other areas of their life where they may need extra assistance. In addition, the stigma of being different or having a disability has decreased over the last 10 years than it was before. Do not get me wrong, it is not easy being different as society is not perfect. There are still many ways that life is harder for anyone who is different.