A Tribute to a wonderful friend… a repost from last year

(Writer’s note: As of now, it’s been twelve years since my dear friend and late mentor passed away, but the feelings in this previous post rung just as true today as when they were written, so I share this again with all of you. Enjoy this repost and as always..

Shine On!!)

Eleven years have gone since you left us and life has never been the same without you…

To say that I miss you, my friend, would be a huge understatement.

But there is hope, even in sorrow and grief, but maybe I’m getting ahead of myself…

Today marks the 11th anniversary of the passing of my dear friend, the Late Larry Berk and in his life, he was called impresario, dynamic and someone who had great foresight, many times doing what was right for the Library, not what was popular.

For me, he was all that and more, but for someone on the Spectrum, he was kind, caring, compassionate and he was a dear friend, one who always believed that community college grads had as much of a shot of making it as the Ivy Leaguers.

Perhaps, though, I should start at the beginning…

Years ago, when I was just starting my college life, the social scene was a mystery to me, new people and places made it hard for me to make friends and find where I belonged. All that changed, however, when I saw something on the bulletin board letting people know that there was going to be a poetry club starting up and to go to the Library for more details. I thought that if I was going to make friends, that was as good a place as any to start.

That’s where I met Larry…

He was sitting inside his office, at first glance he was kind and welcoming; yet here I was, shy, modest and almost walking on eggshells, worried I’d make a bad impression on him. I introduced myself and sheepishly showed him my work and as time went on, I disclosed my autism to him, and to my surprise, he was happy for me, since he had two sons who, like me, are on the Spectrum, he saw them in me and saw what they could become. In time, he introduced me to his family and friends (both those who worked with him and some personal), reintroduced me to Dr. Temple Grandin and instilled in me hope and optimism about my poetry, which were crucial in a time where people thought my publishing my work was considered a pipe dream.

Most importantly, he helped me develop an appreciation for the arts, from paintings to dance, to both the written and spoken word, whatever appreciation I have to this day about the arts are all thanks to him. It makes what happened next so sad for me to write. Sometime later, he was involved in an accident with a driver and shortly thereafter, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. I remember the day I met him in the hospital for the last time, how I’d written a poem for him and how I couldn’t help but cry as I recited it, though he couldn’t hear me.

Eleven years ago, at the Library he had worked at, his secretary told me the sad and tragic end for my friend. More than anything else, I remember how numb emotionally I was, how I cried because of it for several weeks after that. In time, I wanted to give back to my community, to pay it forward, as a friend who knew Larry phrased it, for all he had done for me, helping others like me learn to read. I figured that doing at least that would be a way to show others that you can do anything you put your mind to. I can only hope that I’m making him proud of me in a small way.

This is just a post to say thank you so much, Larry, for what you did for me, believing in me and by doing that, helping me help others to always…

Shine on!!!

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Poetry Packed Out: A Treasured Tribute to a Fallen Poet

I’ve always been one to consider quality over quantity in my blog posts, wanting to focus on the details since it’s part of my Autistic tendencies. That said, in light of the tragic shooting in Pittsburgh, I thought that I might dedicate this edition of Poetry Packed Out not only to the victims and their families but also to a recently deceased local poetic treasure: the late Donald Lev, whose biography I’ll let the great people at AlbanyPoets.com explain: https://albanypoets.com/2018/10/donald-lev-1936-2018/.

I can only speak to my own experiences with Donald but I can say that there was an expression among the local poetry scene: “Don’t go after Donald Lev, he’s a genius” and after hearing his work, it’s not hard to understand why. He had such a quick wit, was always wanting to help other poets get published, most prominently in his Home Planet News, http://homeplanetnews.org/AOnLine.html.

Another thing he did was listen to all the poets, drinking in; absorbing every single word like it was fine wine. He was a cab driver for a while, which much like a bartenders son, might have something to do with his wisdom and his ability to listen to others. My only regret is that I didn’t know him as well as my poetic compatriots and I can only hope to be an equal in some way, which is where this brief haiku comes into play:

Treasure

-for the Memory of Donald Lev-

Bravery becomes

Us all, even as we age.

You were like fine wine.

Let’s treat each other like we deserve to be treated as a treasure that deserves to always….

Shine On!!

The Pencils of Life..

“My Pencils outlast their erasures.” -Vlad Nobokov

Fairly recently, I’ve discovered that, despite the happy-go-lucky personality I showcase to the world, I’m damaged goods. There are times where, like Jean Luc Picard, I’m found myself thinking of my own mortality and thinking of those timeless questions philosophers greater than I have wrestled with, all to little avail.  I know that I’ve mentioned “masking” before on my blog before, but now I feel the need to tell my own story.

It happened when I was first diagnosed, when I was very young. Through ABA or applied behavior analysis, I was taught that conforming was the “norm” that I needed to emulate, to suppress my stimming habits and attempt to be “normal.” It vividly reminds me of an episode of Spongebob Squarepants where Spongebob tries to be “normal” to Squidward’s irritation, ironically since it was his idea in the first place.

I’ve often wondered recently why I can’t act goofy and silly at times, like my NT friends (and even some fellow Spectrumites.”It makes me really appreciate my friend and fellow author Jesse, who despite his status as a published author, can be silly and funny when he wants to. As a result, a reoccuring habit that I have is saying sorry for even the smallest thing, even when it’s nothing major; when it wasn’t my fault.

It’s something I wish I could change, honestly…

Recent talks with my parents make me feel that-given the results, which include improved manners, improved social ability and my ability to mask in the world- they don’t regret the decision at all, even as they do see my social awkwardness at family gatherings, a challenge that I’m still trying to overcome.

That said, I think it’s important to put this note in: I grew up in the 1980s, where Nintendo would make its mark on gamers as it still does today, where Apple was just starting out to grow its massive empire, where the luxuries of technology and information were not so widespread as they are now.

In light of this, I’ve made a decision..to forgive my abusers. They didn’t know what would happen or how good I would turn out.

I can’t even imagine what I’d do in their shoes, under the pressure of cold stares; whispers and decisions from people who (quite honestly) didn’t understand what it’s like to be a young Spectrumite who doesn’t know any better. My parents were trying to find answers, to find relief; to not “cure” me but only to understand and to help me….

Shine on as only I (and we by extension) can!!

Poetry Packed Out: A Somber Start to the Month

Well, it’s that time of year again, the first of October, a month that creates bittersweet memories for me, one of which comes at the end of the month when I like to commemorate my late mentors passing, which will be 12 years this year.

To start off the somber month, I’d like to share my recent poem that I wrote in my mentors character, Charley. I like to think of it as me carrying on his memory, a small way (but not the only) I can do to honor him and give others the hope he gave me. I wrote this poem because of videos his son has been doing to talk about depression and his hero growing up…

But more on that later this month…here’s the poem in question:

9.21.18

-in memory of the Late Larry Berk, and for his family and son, Jonah, who inspired this piece-

Charley looks

Outside studio window,

Sees Paris-

His home

Brightly lit

In spite

Of scars

History leaves

On it-

On us all,

Good or bad.

He can’t

Help muse

On history’s

Lessons-

One we learn

Others need time

To grow;

Take root

In all of life itself.

We all face

Battles-

Even Paris

Isn’t exempt

In history’s

Blood soaked

Pages,

Tears,

Suffering;

Joys all

Embedded

In long historic

Tomes.

Through everything,

Charles sees

Resilience,

Fortitude,

Light in

Darkness,

Even as

Conflicts

Arise,

Paris will

Always

Survive.

Let’s help each other and show each other how to always…

Shine On!!