“Millennials are so in tune with causes.” NYT, Jeanne Bonner

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Dear Millennials,

First, let me start by apologizing for my negative thoughts about you. Specifically, for saying things like, “You’ve had so much smoke blown up your ass by your parents you have no concept of humility.” The truth be told I was fearful I would have to someday work for you. I realize now having to work for anyone makes me nervous because only I have my family’s best interest at heart. Sure I wished unschooling/freelance writing/grant writing/authoring/retail worker paid more— but the upside is I’m free. Generation Xers need freedom (or maybe it’s just me).

Second, I read with great interest the story in The New York Times: In Toy Ads and on the Catwalk, Models With Down Syndrome. I was shocked—and I’m not easily shocked as a Gen X’er—by the fact:

“…advertisers say that using models with Down syndrome or a physical disability allows them to communicate their values and connect with customers, particularly millennials, who respond to inclusiveness and are looking for “authenticity” in advertising.

Millennials “expect to see a broad cross-section of families, couples and individuals, including people who are developmentally disabled as a matter of truthfulness,” said Bob Witeck, a former executive with the public relations firm Hill & Knowlton and a communications strategist in Washington, D.C., who tracks ad spending.”

Hello Millennials! I love truthfulness, inclusivity and authenticity! L-O-V-E -T-H-E-M! I had two thoughts upon reading this article: We are not so different after all! And, you control a shit ton of money— in an awesome way. If I have to really work for someone again, I think I could work for you. (But, honestly yuck to working for anyone.)

Third, if you truly feel this way there might be more people with Down syndrome coming into the world. That thought gives me great hope for my son and the world. Your parents must have told you freedom is important. If I had a child when it was prescribed you would be my children. Instead I became a parent to a boy who had Down syndrome at 49 years of age.

thorin-two

Generation Z

 

Lovely Millennials, we get each other. I’m grateful to you. I’m proud of you. Let’s embrace this beautiful world of everyone.

Sincerely,

Thorin’s mother

What Down Syndrome Looks Like

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Thorin doesn’t want to talk about Down syndrome. I don’t know why– he doesn’t say. I did ask if he would draw Down syndrome. He said: “Yes.”

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What Down Syndrome Looks Like- by Thorin

I said, “Can you tell me what’s going on?” Probably the worst question ever for an abstractionist. But I’m convinced Mrs. Pollack was constantly asking, “Jackson, tell me more, Son.”

Thorin’s answer was: “Squirt guns on the beach! Water. Waves! Bubba, You, Daddy, my sister Jade, Aunt Betty and Uncle Matt, Walt, Coco, Smudge, Aunt Sally, Ella, Johannah, Evvy, Shone, Jimmy, Liz Peck, Aunt Nancy, her Amy, Johnny Boy, Uncle Bob and Aunt Amy, Pop-Pop, Nanna, Aunt Carolyn, Uncle Phil, Spencer, Addie, Ben, Uncle Andy, Mada, Fiona, Maggie, Henry, Caleb, Kelly and Al. Baseball!”

“Wow. That sounds awesome!”

“Yes.”

“You blow me away.”

“I know, Mommy.”

 

The Blob: the Film and the Threat

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Thorin and I watched The Blob starring Steve McQueen last week. It’s a 1958 cult classic available as part of the Criterion Collection on HULU. If you have never heard of the film or Steven McQueen or Criterion Collection I encourage you to broaden your horizons.

It was raining buckets. The day begged for an indoor activity. I’m not that Maine mother who says, “Grab your galoshes!” I’m like Doc in Cannery Row—I can’t stand getting my head wet.

Thorin and I came to an agreement. He picked the genre: Scary. I picked the film: The Blob. My other condition was we engage in an after-film discussion.

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Spoiler alerts ahead:

First let’s pause for a moment to acknowledge the brilliance of Steve McQueen. McQueen was a troubled, abused and incarcerated youth who became a major film star with great character actor tendencies. His past brought a vulnerability to his tough guy roles onscreen. That said he did The Blob to pay rent.

The title song was composed by Burt Bacharach and Mack David. The swinging lyrics, “Beware The Blob!” threw both Thorin and I into a state of the giggles. The Blob takes place in rural Pennsylvania.  Brief aside: Pennsylvania is generally considered a battleground state.

A 28-year-old McQueen stars as teenager, Steve Andrews. Think Luke Perry in 90210. His girlfriend, Jane Martin, is played by 25-year-old Aneta Corsaut, who you may know better as Miss Helen on The Andy Griffith Show. Thorin recognized her immediately!

The film opens with our co-stars at lover’s lane. While chastely kissing they see a meteor crash. Thorin asked if they were married. First I said yes and then I said, “Actually they’re dating. Did you see the meteor?”

A guy who looks like the actor John Carradine (but isn’t) pokes the meteor with a stick unleashing The Blob which looks like clear goop. He gets it on his hand. It weakens him and causes a lot of pain. It’s hard to muster sympathy for a guy who pokes a meteor.

Soon Steve and Jane come across the guy and they take him to the doctor. This first victim takes forever to consume but the next one goes quickly, screaming the whole time. After that it’s a real feeding frenzy plus the once clear goo is now a pulsating red Jello blob that grows with each ingested body.

Steve and Jane have a heck of a time convincing anyone that there is a disgusting and vile threat to their community. The police think Steve is a pulling a prank and wasting their time. Remember about a year ago when we thought Donald Trump was basically doing the same thing?

Later Steve and Jane investigate the local grocery store because they see the front door is unlocked. Steve explains his concern to Jane with something like: “Mr. So-and-so closes at 9:00pm but he always stays until 10:00 doing blah, blah, blah.”  It’s unnecessary and confusing dialogue that makes Steve seem like a stalker. Once inside, The Blob is hot on their trail. They lock themselves in the store freezer. The Blob begins to penetrate their hideaway through the bottom of the door but suddenly retreats.

The Blob moves on to the movie theater pouring into the audience through the projectionist window ruining everyone’s movie watching experience with the fear of being wolfed down by insatiable red blob. In some lights it looks maybe dark orange. Quick reminder: Tomorrow is Election Day!

Our stars later become trapped in the diner along with the owner and Jane’s little brother who would win both the worst-child-actor and most-annoying-movie-character-ever awards. I just wanted The Blob to teach him a lesson. Thorin commented: “He’s very stinky.”

The Blob starts devouring the entire diner. The fire department instructs all of them to seek shelter in the basement so they can try to electrocute The Blob, but it doesn’t phase it one bit. However the live wire they dropped on the diner starts it on fire. You can tell the fire chief didn’t really noddle that one out. Now Steve, Nancy, the owner and the brother are threatened by both fire and The Blob. FYI, 5 days ago the KKK’s newspaper the Crusader endorsed Trump.

The owner grabs a fire extinguisher to put out the incoming flames and The Blob. “What the heck! The Blob retreats again!” It also retreated in the freezer! Steve looks at the canister seeing it is a CO2 extinguisher! He posits: The Blob doesn’t like cold! He calls—shockingly the phone line still works—the fire chief instructing him to get as many CO2 fire extinguishers as possible.  The young people rally to gather fire extinguishers from all over the town to defeat The Blob. I’d like to pause to offer my opinion on voting for either Jill Stein or Gary Johnson— and I’m speaking directly to Millennials here. It is selfish. Voting your conscience is sometimes a privileged position. Sometimes you must vote for people who aren’t quite as lucky as you.

Once The Blob is subdued with CO2 — an Air Force jet flies it to the North Pole. The film ends on a cautionary note when the words “The End” transform into a question mark. Only if you have time but The New York Times Editorial Board published a piece titled Imagining America on Nov. 9.

The overall message of the film is that people pulled together, putting aside their skepticism to combat a being whose only motivation was to devour everything for it’s own gratification. In other words: “We’re stronger together.”

Although the filmmakers do not agree with the following analysis it has been suggested The Blob is really about the fear of communism and The Cold Ward. I don’t know about that but I bet Putin has Donald Trumps email.

A note from our after-film discussion:

I asked what else they could have used to get rid of The Blob. Thorin offered: “Mr. Freeze and Elsa.” That’s my, boy!

My source: The Blob

Boots on the Ground: Canvassing for Clinton with Thorin

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Ward, Thorin and myself canvassed together on Sunday for Hillary Clinton and Maine democrats. Thorin and I went out again on Monday—yes, Halloween. Clinton volunteer-by-day and Shrek-by-night!

The major challenge:

Thorin was for Donald Trump. Not because he’s such a fan but because I’m for Hillary. He said things like: “You marry Donald Trump!”

“I’m about a million years too old, okay!”

“I Donald Trump bride!”

I bit my tongue. Obliviously I was thinking: “That would certainly clenched the vote in Hillary’s favor!”

The strengths of our endeavor:

Canvassing is civics unschooling style. Thorin being with Ward and I as we talked to strangers’ about issues and candidates was real world learning.

We met a couple – one was a Republican and the other a Democrat. They were awesome! I wanted to become their best friends. When they asked where we lived I wanted to say: “Why? Do you want us to come over for movie night?” It helped that the Republican was abstaining in voting for President.

People were surprisingly real in talking about politics— from the worried voters to the voter who got a little upset. One woman said: “I don’t want to make your job tougher, but it isn’t any of your business.” She reminded me of my dad. He thought voting was sacred and private. I told her I was just happy she spoke to us. I’m glad Thorin got to hear that exchange.

Canvassing isn’t about swaying votes. It’s about connection. Engaging with people you don’t know in a civil way who you may or may not agree with your point of view is important. We are actually in this together.

Bonus:

Thorin is now for Hillary Clinton! When I asked why he said: “I like girls.” I’ll take it.

When I cast my vote next week it will be for me and Bubba who never got to vote for a girl.

 

 

Close Encounters of the Third Kind –

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This post is four years old but still relevant today. Oct. 3, 2016, Kwp

When we are in a hurry to pick something up at the grocery store Ward will wait outside with car running and he is apt to instruct me:

“Just go to the _______ aisle, grab the __________ and go to the check out.

When I get back in our car and immediately point to some older gentleman loading his groceries in his car and say something like:

“That poor guy lost his wife and his son lives in Ohio and doesn’t call him.”

Ward asks me “How could you possibly know that?”

“Which part?”

“The whole thing. How do you know any of that?”

“Well, this lady and I were talking to him and…”

“Lady? What lady? You talked to more than one person in there?”

“The lady who just had a hernia surgery and has a daughter who could care less. Her daughter lives…”

“Stop, I don’t care where the daughter lives. Is it possible for you to go in a store and not strike up a random conversation?”

“Probably not.”

Sometimes these encounters go beyond a fleeting conversation and sometimes they don’t. This week I found myself in an intimate conversation with a woman I met on the beach about our son’s strengths – hers with autism and mine with Ds. I gave her my email.

Ward can’t fathom these chance encounters of mine and I can’t understand this thing he calls ‘gardening’.

When we first moved in together we lived in what could only be described as a hovel – for Hobbits. Everything was slightly built – rooms, doors and windows. About a hundred years before, it had been a stable where I imagine freakishly small and likely disgruntled horses lived.

The yard wasn’t more than a patch of dirt. Over the course of several months Ward built a curious arrangement from the dirt. The process began with weeks of sifting the dirt, which he accomplished by setting an old window screen on the discarded cast iron legs of a sewing machine. For hours at a time alone in the yard he moved dirt across that screen.

Prior to this, I had never heard much less seen dirt sifting. I didn’t delve too much because we were newly living together and there seemed to be bigger things about Ward I was trying to decipher that sifting dirt became low on the list. Plus as my mom and I watched him from the porch one morning she said, “He seems content. I would focus on that.”

Overtime the sifted dirt joined rocks and plants becoming an organized pile in the center of the yard not unlike the structures Richard Dreyfuss created in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Dirt sifting and combing the neighborhood for rocks and bricks has mutated through the years ending up in more recognizable things to me such as re-built patios and lovingly made garden supports.

Ward will never understand how I end up in personal conversations with complete strangers and I will never understand his gardening.

Thorin has embraced both of our endeavors as valid and normal. He engages with people in the check out line, kids on the beach and he likes to work alone outside moving rocks and dirt from randomness to meaning.