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:

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:

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.

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:


Lisa said…
Great observation on the trees. And you know, I had the same thoughts about your work with KISS when I read the books. I was betting you should have charged more :) Sounds like a great trip. Merry Christmas to you and your family John.
Trish Ryan said…
Your tree idea is fabulous. NYC could do a whole "go green" campaign around it.
Polly Kahl said…
Totally agree with the "charging more" thing, but you can't put a price on great memories, and you sure have those. Love the pictures of NYC, esp Radio City Music Hall. I've taken lots of pictures of it but yours is the best I've ever seen.
Michelle O'Neil said…
Thanks for taking us on this adventure with you John! It's great fun to read about.

Happy Holidays!

Add tree advocate to your long list of credentials!
Holly Kennedy said…
Wonderful pictures, John!

Happy holidays to you and Martha and your family. I hope you get some rest before launching into 2008 with further promotion for Look Me in the Eye :)
Samwick said…
At the Q&A, did you explain that Asperger's is a "difference, not a disorder?" Did you give the empowering version?

Or did you tell them that it's a crippling condition and should be included in the American Disabilities Act? That people with AS quote you..."social handicapped spaces"?

Hmmm. I wonder which Robison showed up.
John Robison said…
I always give the empowering version, as you say.

But I am also aware that there are employment situations where consideration under the ADA may apply.

I have met a number of Aspergian people who have employment problems, and it certainly worth determining what people's rights are in this regard.

One view does not exclude the other.
Samwick said…
"I have met a number of Aspergian people who have employment problems"

But you generally present your experiences as typical of the disorder. Do you, John Elder Robison, want disability status?

You discuss get attention regarding let's be very clear about how it should be thought of by the general public:

If it's a "difference, not a disorder", then we don't want to give it a disability status. It would be contradictory to tell people "hey, we just think and act differently, that's all; oh and we also need you to think of us as handicapped".

Conversely, if we want to define it as a handicap, then it doesn't make sense to call it a mere "difference". It would be more than that.

"One view does not exclude the other."

But one can confuse the other if we're not beginning with clear distinctions.

A distinction to throw out there, right or wrong: autism, full blown...where a person cannot speak or use the bathroom correctly...that sounds like a disability. Being picked on in high painful as it is...does not.
Jonesy said…
John, please visit my new blog and consider answering the questions here. I'm trying to put together a variety of profiles on all kinds of people with some form of autism spectrum disorder (including Asperger's). I hope to increase awareness about what people with autism have in common, what they don't, which therapies work, which don't, and in general what it means to be autistic.

Samwick, I don't agree with your distinction. A disability (in the legal sense) doesn't have to be something that totally disables you, just something beyond your control that makes life harder for you. Asperger's syndrome can't and shouldn't be "cured" with magical pills that make the person "normal". Still, it certainly makes functioning in neurotypical society a challenge. Some people might want to just try and blend in, but others may not be able to. Those people might need some help.
Samwick said…
(between the two of us, I don't buy my distinction either. It's sort of a starting point for approaching it. "Socratic irony", let's call it. shh.)

It's a difficult topic because, on the one hand, there is a spectrum, meaning that different people will be affected in different ways. But on the other hand, I think it's confusing for people learning about Asperger's when those inter-spectrum differences are carelessly associated with one another, referred to with identical terminology. It's not possible to over-emphasize the importance of correct labels when discussing these issues. "Autistic" can be used in reference to someone who has autism...someone whose functioning is severely impaired. Or it can be used in reference to a high-functioning, "Aspergian", corporate executive who finds small talk to be problematic. And so, it's difficult to educate people about the condition when careful distinctions are not being made.
ORION said…
Happy Holidays John!
I'll be thinking of you trudging through the snow as I sip my bloody mary in 80 degree heat on my aft was that mean or what?
John Robison said…
Well, Pat, I wish I had a snappy comeback for that 80 degree heat. At least the days are getting longer. And we have warm bearskin coats.
Tena Russ said…
Merry Christmas, John.

My auto-erotic husband has just informed me that our "next" car will be a '34 Ford.

In his dreams.
Thanks for the book, I just read it. Made me laugh so hard I cried.

Ben is in an "Asperger's" program, the second one started in the state of SC. Regular ed, the whole 9 yards...but in the 8th grade it's getting pretty shaky. He could give a sh*t about homework. I keep threatening him with home-schooling to get his grades up. He likes your Harley...the only "real" motorcycle.

Anyhow, what makes me laugh so hard I cry is your ability to B.S. So remniscent of my own family. The way you pick on your son seems you think, too, children are for entertainment, not raising!!! (OH, that look in their eye when they try to figure out if we are full of it this time or not!) It's they who raise us, anyhow.

Thanks. I hope he reads your book someday, but if he thinks I want him to, he won't.
Debbie said…
Dear John,

I stumbled upon your book while browsing in Books A Million one day, and I yanked it up real fast. My oldest son, who is 14, has not been diagnosed with Aspergers, but I believe he has it. His father and I have been divorced for 7 years and he has custody of my boys. At the time that happened, I was already aware of Aspergers, but was unable to do anything about it because his father doesn't believe he has Asperger's--or any other problem at that. He is very close-minded to the thought. My son struggled in Kindergarten. He had problems socially amongst other things. The school wanted him to repeat Kindergarten, but his father got angry at them and yanked my son out of school about a week before the end of that year. Today, at 14and in 8th grade, he seems to mix well with other children, but struggles with his school work. Unfortunately, he doesn't have a knack for math at all, and also struggles in other classes. He is a very intelligent young man, and is very, and I mean very, obsessed with cars. I could write a book explaining that. He hopes to one day have his own car company and design cars. He draws his own version of his "ideal" vehicle, and wants to figure out how to make it more fuel efficient. I hate having to watch him struggle in school, and it's very hard to watch. I can't get his father to entertain the idea of having him tested, and I don't know what to do to help my son. Some of the characteristics of Aspergers that I see in my son are his facial expressions, he doesn't always look you in the eye when you speak to him, he talks loudly and in a monotone, calls his younger brother by a made-up name, his obsession with cars, and he talks in his "own language" using some words out of context. On the way home from picking him up one day at school he said to me, "Mom, am I dead to you?" That instantly alarmed me, but I told myself to find out what he meant by it. He didn't mean "dead", but was asking me if I was upset with him because of bad grades. I'm telling you all this because I am hoping you might be able to help me during the times that I have him. Since my hands are tied on actually having a diagnosis, I feel I might be able to help him while he's with me. I don't know if I should try to tell him why he struggles so much, or just try to let him "breathe" while I have him and make sure I relate to his idiosyncrasies. His father is literally "passing" him through school by actually doing his assigned projects and homework in a round-a-bout way, and a teacher actually busted my son last year on a project he turned in knowing that "dad" had done the work. I picked my son up from school that day, and when he got in the truck he was near tears not understanding why he had to do the project all over again. These incidents break my heart and it's very hard to watch my son go through it not understanding why... Do you have any advice on what I might be able to do to help my son?

I am sorry that I used your New York in December blog to ask you this. I just want you to know that your book has helped me tremedously, and I appreciate you telling your story. And something that I have been dying to tell you..."Hi, I'm Milton. Hey hey hey pick your play! How many want to play? Two to play, ok baby! I had that game. I thought it was absolutely cool that you had a part in developing it.

Well, I'll leave you with that. I hope you will be able to help me with any advice or comments. Again, thank you for sharing your story.

John Robison said…
Debbie, there's a good chance that other moms will respond to you if you hang around the blog . . . .

Your son might benefit from reading my story, because I present the gift side of Asperger's as well as the handicap side. And some of the behavioural explanations might make sense to him.

You might also check to see if there's an autism or Asperger society in your area. Around here, we have the Asperger Association of New England and they are great.

best wishes
Anonymous said…

For a while a parent of mine didn't believe I had AS. I had to prove it to them. Later I found out that that parent has AS, as does one of said parent's parents.
Debbie said…
Thank you for your comment. I am so frustrated right now. My son is absolutely unaware about AS and I don't know if I should try to explain it to him or what. His dad doesn't have it.....he's just another very long story. How did you prove your AS?
Anonymous said…
AS is hard to "prove" because it is like a phantom.
Debbie said…
Kev, was there anything that you did in particular that helped you prove your point?
Anonymous said…
No, there is no one thing I did. It was a combination of logic, persuasion, and maybe something else.
Debbie said…
Look Kev, I'm a desperate mother of a 14-year-old who's life is being systematically destroyed by a father who chooses to neglect him. If that matters at all to you, I would appreciate anything you might want to share about your struggles.
John Robison said…
Debbie, there is no "proof" of Asperger's. Do you see your son in my stories? Would he?

That is probably enough of an answer, in terms of thinking about what to do.

Remember Asperger's is a continuum. It's not a digital thing, like a brokwn arm, where you have it or you don't. There are a million different shades.

Did you get Tony Attwood's book? The one with the sea shell on the cover?
Debbie said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Debbie said…
If there was no proof of AS how could one be diagnosed with it? To me a diagnosis is proof. If I cannot prove it, then I have no basis to even be here or reading your book. I would have no reason to be worried about my son or even think there might be a reason to seek help and support. The many people who have told me he has Aspergers, professional and others who know about it, would not have been able to back their suspicions. Did I see my son in your stories? If I didn't see something of him in them, again, I would not be here. No, he didn't live your life or have any of the same experiences, but what blew me away about it were the parallels in behavior that I saw. Somehow I am being very misunderstood.
John Robison said…
Debbie, to me and many other Aspergians, words like "proof" have a distinct ring of skepticism or disbelief.

Most of us don't much like that.

The resources to test your son are widely available. You can find tests online, and draw your own conclusions. You can pay a madical professional to administer the same or different tests. You can read the diagnostic criteria in a DSM manual and make a judgement. You can pay a mental health professional to do the same.

When I read statements like "I'm a desperate mother of a 14-year-old who's life is being systematically destroyed by a father who chooses to neglect him." they sound to me like inter-parent struggles.

That's about you and dad, not Asperger's.

If you believe your son has Asperger's, you should act accordingly. There are plenty of resources to test your son, and plenty of ideas for action in my book, other books, AS support groups and elsewhere.

If he dad is no help, that's sad but it's also common. I left home when I was 2 years older than your son. I ended up OK.
Debbie said…
John, thanks, you did end up fine. I appreciate your comments. No one here will ever know why I cannot have my son tested, but I can hold on to the hope that he will turn out to be everything he's hoping to be.
Andrea said…
Hi Debbie,
My son is 21 y.o. & has Aspergers. He graduated h.s., went to college for two years, is 'on a break' and working full time. Bought his own car. He has no friends, he talks to no one. But he's functioning in the world.

As far as 'proof' and a 'diagnosis'-here's how it went with my son. After countless visits to drs and counselors, I found an article in a magazine while standing in line at the grocery store. I took it in and said, "look, my son has this thing called Aspergers" (this was when he was about 15 or 16 y.o.). The drs and therapists read it and said, 'huh, you're right' and that was that. He was never tested. We all knew he had Aspergers.
He has had no 'treatment', no special school (he graduated from a regular public high school). He has never been treated any different. No support groups in our area, nothing. (After he graduated, I found out he could have been tested for free and had many other resources-legally the public high school would have had to do it but I had to request it and I did not)

I am sorry, I don't mean to sound harsh in any way. I mean no disrespect. I am just pointing out that getting an official diagnosis often doesn't change things a whole lot.

I wish you the very best with your son.
Anonymous said…
Hi Andrea:

You should try getting him involved in an "extracurricular" activity.

I am a member of a local bowling league, and at least half (if not everybody by now) knows I have Asperger's Syndrome. Not only that, but I've identified three other members of the league with undiagnosed AS - two at the same 'level' as me, and one with a milder version of it.

Aspergians are everywhere. Those who are 'depressed' should look into whether or not they have Asperger's Syndrome.
Debbie said…
Hi Andrea, and thank you for sharing. What everybody seems to be misunderstanding is that I'm not really looking for "proof" of my son having Asperger's. I know he has it. There's no doubt about that. What I'm trying to ask for is advice on how to help him --(like with school or just relating to him)--during the times I have him. I had asked Kev, since he shared his story, how he was able to "prove" to his parent that he had Aspergers. I'm just trying to digest all the information and help that I can from people who have been there to help me better relate to my son. Right now it's all just a shot in the dark for me, and I only get him on Wednesdays and every other weekend. I appreciate everyone who will share their stories and give me insight on what I may be able to do that will have a positive effect on my son.

Thank you again Andrea,
Yellowjaquet said…
I am the same person who has posted as Hank Pym , etc. B4 .
I hope that this identity will stick this time !!!!!!!!!!!
Yellowjaquet said…
...Double-checking (chequing) it...........
Yellowjaquet said…
...Now , I've been having trouble agian .
Let's see if this !!!!!!!!!
Yellowjaquet said…
...John , speaking of Kiss...Did you work with any other national-level bands other than Kiss in your 1970s period ???????????
What was the name of the local band ( And , their Web site . ) that you mentioned working with before Kiss , and still being to-gether , in your book ????????? ( I bought the book about a month ago , read it in one night , liked it , but , I don't have it near to me now . )

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