Monday, January 24, 2011

Through the Looking Glass: Yesterday at the Rotary Meeting [12/22/10]

From Mission of Complex by Jeff Katz  

Nate is on Christmas vacation from SUNY-Cobleskill.  He’s been hanging around, watching TV and drawing.  Karen was also free yesterday, so they both met me at The Otesaga Hotel, the official headquarters for the Cooperstown Rotary Club’s weekly lunchtime meeting. Nate put a black polo shirt on over his red Duff Beer tee and looked quite presentable.
During the opening ceremony, Nate held up fairly well. The invocation was a bit lengthy, and in a low voice I heard him say “When is this dumb thing going to be over?” He put his head on Karen’s shoulder to rest. The Club always sings a couple of old chestnuts, and Nate put up with that with great fortitude.
Small town living has its plusses and minuses, but a big plus is that most people know or have met Nate and accept him. But yesterday, I had a very hard time; Nate really stuck out and it bugged me. His constant humming as he ate his usual starchfest – three rolls and a heap of mashed potatoes – seemed excessively loud to my ears, though no one paid any mind. As usual, Nate spent much of the time talking to himself, his monologues punctuated by uncontrolled giggling at the nonsense notes he created on his iPod touch.
He left for the bathroom during the presentation on Cooperstown Holiday history as seen through one of the Village newspapers, The Freeman’s Journal. He was at the dessert table by the dining room entrance when the crowd laughed at an old-timey anecdote. As is his habit when he hears laughter, Nate raised his right arm and blew a Bronx cheer on his forearm, followed by a yell.
Our Rotary is by no means a solemn group; there’s always lots of kidding and joshing going on, often quite funny, but I was unnerved. I kept checking in with him (“Nate, you doing good?”) but in my mind I could see myself in an alternate universe dragging him out of the meeting with him screaming “I don’t want to go.” I kept under control, though always at a tense simmer.
After another trip to the dessert bar, Nate returned with a slice of peanut butter pie. I watched transfixed as he pantomimed eating with a strange series of fast dips of the fork, coming up with nothing. He soon got down to the serious task of finishing up.
When the bell rang signifying the end of the gathering, Nate exclaimed, “What the hell was that?”
“It’s over Nate,” I exhaled with relief.
“Yea, Cooperstown Rotary Club!” Nate chimed happily.
Though he  was his usual self, full of offbeat, harmless, actions, I was pleased that he wasn’t rude. This is not a group that appreciates off-color material and Nate can curse a blue streak or say the most vulgar things. He saves that for home and this morning he came up with a classic. (Don’t read further if you’re sensitive to inappropriate subject matter).
Nate sat next to me at his computer and perked up upon hearing a Marc Bolan tune, “Dandy in the Underworld.”
“Hey, what year did zees come out?” he asked in the German accent he occasionally uses. T. Rex was still playing in the background.
Now, Nate does a lot of word replacement games, and one involves substituting the number seven with a certain bodily fluid.
“You mean, nineteen-sementy-semen?”
Nothing out of the ordinary there, at least for Nate, but he must’ve realized the bonanza of his double usage.
“The year for ejaculation,” quickly followed.
Completely hysterical and I love him for his facile wordplay and humor, but I was very glad he didn’t blurt that out at Rotary!

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AutismWonderland - written by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez - is a personal blog chronicling a NYC family's journey with autism, while also sharing local resources for children/families with special needs.