I read the other day that the old Greyhound bus station in Seattle is being torn down. I can’t remember the last time I saw it, or went inside it (definitely not in the past decade), but it certainly holds some memories for me. I spent a fair amount of time passing through that cavernous eyesore as a boy in the late 70’s and early 80’s as a side-effect of my parents’ divorce. When I saw the news article about the building’s impending destruction, it immediately brought back one particular memory - a very strong one, and what could have easily become a starkly pivotal moment in my childhood.
Bad things happen to the kindest people
God and the Devil are kind of hard to tell apart
And I feel like my soul’s been crippled, slowly
After the tornado, when everything is wrong
When I decided to uproot my family back in 2003 and move from Seattle to Orlando for the benefit of my autistic son, there were some immediate side effects. One was that I was propelled into proposing to my then-girlfriend, because I was not comfortable asking her to move to the opposite corner of the country without “a ring and a promise”. Another was that I needed to move my retired, disabled mother cross-country along with us so that I could remain nearby to care for her.
In the dozen years since we moved to Florida, I have had the good fortune to meet and befriend any number of amazing Disney cast members. I have, of course, met several Friends of Snow White. I hang out with the original Belle from the Studios back in The Day. And most importantly, relevent to this story, I have gotten to know the legendary Billy Flanigan. He has been a fixture among the performers at Walt Disney World for more than three decades now, doing everything from Broadway at the Top to the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review. If you got your picture taken with Ken back in the 90's, it was probably Billy. These days he is in the cast of Finding Nemo: The Musical, and back in April he invited Ben to come and see the show, and to meet the cast afterwards.
NOTE: This is not a post about Ben, autism, or Disney. It is a post about why I haven't written about any of those things in the last nine months. I promise I have plenty to write on those topics in the future.
Hey! How are you doing? Long time no see! What happened to me? Ah, well, I got kinda busy with my day job. See, what happened was...
As of last weekend, Benjamin is now an adult. I had intended to write a lightly humorous blog post about the absurdity of celebrating a 21st birthday with someone who has literally no concept of adulthood, perhaps contrasting it with my own awkward 21st birthday spent with my father so many years ago. After today, however, I am not feeling especially humorous about Ben’s current situation.
So there it is - my new ad that is going in front of more than 7 million readers this week.It took a real leap of faith to give this a shot, I hope it pans out.
Ben had his wisdom teeth out yesterday morning. Short version: it went well and he's doing fine. Long version: Having even a common, simple procedure done with an adult autistic is never easy. It was kind of a stressful day....
There's a new review up for my book over at DisneyAutismBlog.com, from the father of an autistic child who shares Ben's affection for Disney. It is well worth a read. Here's a brief excerpt, follow the link above to check out the whole thing.
True story: Just this afternoon I was at the grocery store with Ben. Bear in mind that, left to his own devices, Ben would subsist entirely on chicken nuggets, french fries, and red Gatorade. That is not even an exagerration. So we were in the produce department where I was shopping for some fresh fruit. Out of the blue Ben walked over to a bin of apples, spent a few moments carefully selecting one, and then held it up to his nose and sniffed it like he was checking to see if it was fresh. Then he put it in the shopping cart like it was the most normal thing in the world.
Ever since Snow White's Scary Adventures (SWSA) closed and the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (SDMT) was announced, one of the most common questions that I have had from people is whether or not I thought Ben would enjoy the new ride as a replacement. For more than two years we watched the New Fantasyland expansion play out, with SDMT as the final piece to be completed. Month after month, visit after visit, we saw the different pieces fall into place and then the new mountain slowly rise and take shape. For the first half of 2014 the ride was surrounded by construction walls, and Ben would occasionally walk by and look at the paintings to see what the ride was about. Once the walls started coming down and Ben got his first good look at parts of the ride exterior, he looked... nervous. Particularly once they started cycling the empty mine carts, he viewed the ride with more trepidation than excitement. Finally, finally, on May 24th of 2014 the attraction was open to the public and Ben took his first ride.