My family and I were having breakfast at the haven that has been part of my life for the past four years. The Daily Planet. – a popular landmark and high school hangout in Lagrangeville, NY. I’ve also talked extensively about the Daily Planet’s magic in an essay called, “Fractured Fairy Tales.” Some people turn to church, synagogue, acupuncture, AA meetings, or expensive psychotherapists to regain their bearings and find their higher power. But I prefer one particular restaurant. I glance across the street at my old high school, which harbors a vacillating mixture of fantastical experiences and demons. But mostly the latter, which briefly invaded the Daily Planet a decade earlier as I look behind me at the section where I once met a young lady off the Internet. The Daily Planet inadvertently became a host for what would immediately turn into a six-month case of Cyber Bullying. The horror of that half-year is not nearly enough to fully contaminate the Petri Dish of Fantasy. The walls are so infested with nostalgia that you can visit one hundred times and always discover something new.
“The Daily Planet quickly became a sanctuary where I could depend on the quirky ambience and its perpetually cheerful staff. The walls were festooned with antique radios, 1950s movie posters, and New York Times articles chronicling major events of the last century, such as the moon landing and Nixon’s resignation. Television sets, suspended from the ceiling, played grainy commercials from an era when owning a TV was a luxury enjoyed by affluent Americans. And if you spent enough time at the Daily Planet, you would probably catch Ronald Reagan hawking dishwashing detergent or a leathery cowboy advertising cigarettes.”
I accidentally catch myself looking at a young, attractive waitress and our eyes meet. I sharply jerk my head in the other direction like a Pavlovian, conditioned reflex. Women have been unforgiving when I accidentally stare at them and in some extreme cases, three seconds of staring have resulted in many months of dirty looks or irrational fear. Someone once asked me in a condescending tone, “Is staring part of your autism, too?” I should have answered, “Non-autistic people stare, too. It’s just that individuals with Asperger’s syndrome have more trouble not making it so obvious!” Like the fart simultaneously muffled with a precisely-time fart, staring at beautiful women is an artform of not getting caught. By now, I should trust the Daily Planet not to permanently condemn me for such a benign, social error.
My stare-ree immediately walks over to my family, “I am sorry to disturb you. But are you Jesse Saperstein? I am reading your book!” If I had consumed my morning caffeination I could have remembered her exact words, but they were complimentary. For sure, they lifted me to the stars as the Daily Planet has done for years. A Composite Beacon of Self-Nourishment.
I wonder how many first-time authors have thanked a diner in their Acknowledgements Section But I have. Check the last page of my book if you do not believe me. I’ve also talked extensively about the Daily Planet’s magic in an essay called, “Fractured Fairy Tales.” Some people turn to church, synagogue, acupuncture, AA meetings, or expensive psychotherapists to regain their bearings and find their higher power. But I prefer one particular restaurant.
The old adage, “It takes a village to raise a child,” never ends for someone with a social disability like autism. My life has dramatically changed over the past few months. Instead of calling me a stalker…individuals are calling me up to do radio interviews and lecture at their institutions. After the book was published on April 6th, I had my first online date where the woman was still interested in going out with me after the second date. Life is now an alien reality compared to most of my peers who are inundated with the constant social and professional failures synonymous with Asperger’s syndrome. What people sometimes forget is that I am almost the same person I was in college when the student body sometimes treated me like a social pariah and peppered me with monikers such as “Sketchy Jesse, Scary Jesse, Running Jesse, etc. There is obviously more self-confidence lately, but I have not changed that much since those days when I was calling up a construction company in desperation…hoping they would pay me to sweep up wood chips and other miscellaneous debris. My success is what sometimes happens when there are enough Daily Planets in the community. People and places with the capacity to gaze beyond the superficial film of weirdness. Where the realities of living with Asperger’s syndrome have a divine obligation to just “back off” and human kindness is never atypical.