Thursday Morning on the Train With Tony

I was riding the W train on my morning commute today when a school group boarded at Knox station. A young boy in the group sat across from me, immediately put his fingers in his ears, and stared out the window.

After the train started rolling, his legs bumped into mine, which caused his mother to slide them away and apologize to me. She handed him an elastic keychain, which he quickly stretched across his lap. A few moments later, his feet were once again crowding into my space. His mother was reaching to move his feet away when I interrupted her, “It’s okay. I’m on the spectrum, too.”

Her reaction was at once shocked and full of relief. It was as if she were completely exposed, her worst secret was obvious to everyone around her; at the same time, she was relieved because she didn’t have to put on appearances anymore and constantly apologize for whatever social faux-pas was being unwittingly committed by her son. “Thank you,” she said, and we began a conversation about her son, Tony.

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On Being 1 at 34

Prune this!For my 33rd birthday, I was given a semi-professional diagnosis of Aspergers. Even though I had been Autistic my entire life, I was until that point unaware that anything was different about me. Getting a mental health professional to slap a label onto my way of thinking, thus pointing out how I veer from the norm, was quite traumatic (while also being refreshing). Those first few months were a struggle at times, trying to reconcile the whole of my previous experience within this new framing. Things finally made perfect sense, while at the same time not making sense at all… though I’d be surprised if that makes any sense to anyone else.

In my search for understanding, I wrote a thing. Looking back on that piece a year later, I’m honestly a bit embarrassed at what I thought I knew. I thought I had all the answers. Since then, though, I’ve learned more about how my brain works versus an NT brain. As such, I’d like to add to my previous post. Consider this an update on what all I’ve learned during my first year as Autistic Jeff Pickles.


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Next weekend, I will attempt to do what has only been done by a handful of people. I will attempt to play a perfect game of Pac-Man.

To date, this has only been accomplished by seven people. Depending on your criteria, though, that number can be further reduced. If you are tracking original factory speed Pac-Man – which I think is boring – there are seven individuals who have played a perfect game, starting with Billy Mitchell in 1999. If you are tracking Pac-Man Turbo, though, that number gets reduced to two people (Donald Hayes and David Race, who both have also accomplished the feat on factory speed). Since The 1up only has Pac-Man Turbo, that is the variation I play. As such, if I get a perfect game I will be the third person to ever do it on that particular variation.

Further, six of those seven perfect players did it in the privacy of their own home and sent the unedited videotape in for certification. The only Pac-Man player to ever get a perfect game in a live, true arcade environment was Billy Mitchell. If everything goes well next weekend, I will be the second ever live perfect game.

Third ever turbo perfect game and second ever live perfect game, second only to the great Billy Mitchell, at that. No matter how you look at it, those are impressive feats. It’s kind of a big deal.

Even though I will be surrounded by a community of competitive arcade gamers as I go for the perfect game, I won’t be the main attraction. That’s because I chose the Kong Off 3 as my venue, which means the focus will be on the world championships of Donkey Kong. As such, my perfect game attempt has been relegated to the lower portion of the fight card, as it were. From the Kong Off press release:

“The highlight of the Kong Off 3 is the Donkey Kong world championship but it’s not the only happening. The largest number of arcade game world record attempts, a 24-hour marathon game of Tron by a single player as well as multiple attempts at completing perfect games on Pac-Man will take place during the three-day event.”

(At least I made the press release. Take that, guy going for the Burgertime record!)

I chose the Kong Off because it was a chance to get Twin Galaxies verified without going through the hassle of videotaping the entire ordeal and the innards of the machine immediately thereafter. Those hoops are quite difficult to jump through when you don’t have an arcade cabinet of your own and are at the whim of your local arcade owner. Luckily, my local arcade is in downtown Denver and happens to be the Kong Off venue for the second year in a row, meaning Twin Galaxies referees will be on site to verify scores. Convenient! And maybe not being the focus will be a blessing, as all eyes will most definitely not be on me.

Through a variety of fortunate events and coincidences (timing, location, Aspergers-focus), I will be able to attempt a world record in my own backyard, at a bar I visit every Friday, and not even be pressured about the hoopla surrounding my attempt. In a word: Perfect.

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The Reveal

When I was six years old, my family took a trip to Florida. It was a typical summer vacation; we were setting out for a week of adventure in the southwestern part of the Sunshine State. My mom and dad were in the front seat of our rental car while I was in the backseat, the map an Alamo employee handed us upon departing the Tampa airport as my only companion. We had been driving for quite a while, but I wasn’t as restless as a typical kid my age would be. I had that map. I was enthralled.

“We’re lost,” I said in a matter-of-fact manner to deaf ears.

My parents ignored me. He’s six. How can he know where we are? We drove on for another twenty minutes before my dad finally pulled over at a gas station to ask for directions to the Tradewinds Resort.

I was right. We were lost. And the only one who knew it was the one who could barely read.

Where are we?

I open with this anecdote because it’s a lot like what I’m currently experiencing at 33. I feel lost. Until recently, I’ve been the only one to know it. Unless you’ve been paying close attention, you probably wouldn’t have even noticed.

I have Aspergers.  Read the rest of this entry »


The Best Dollar I Ever Spent

Now that I’ve moved to Denver, I’ve grown quite fond of tracking my outdoor activities to keep track of just how awesome my life has become. Consider it the natural product of being a geogeek who spent the first thirty-plus years of his life in areas that didn’t allow for constant outdoor fun. Let’s face it, Missouri and Oklahoma don’t offer much in the way of palatable outdoor activity in the winter, and summers can be a bit — how you say — unbearably hot.

What originally spurred my interest in Denver was how much it felt like home due to all of my family’s Christmas ski trips to Summit County while I was growing up. My first visit here — which was also my first Christmas — was at the age of four months. While everyone else correlates Christmas with family, gifts, and egg nog, I have always associated it with the mountains. They’ve always felt like home. Every Christmas from 4 months until I left for college, spent in Summit County. Since breaking that holiday tradition in the late 1990s, I’d been sure to take a break from the plains at least once a year, with the last ten years of ski trips dubbed, “Pickles Family Reunion,” as I brought all of my closest friends along for the ride. You can see what I’m getting at here: clearly, this move to Denver was strictly unrelated to skiing.

As I’ve grown older and nerdier, I’ve tried to capture my ski days for posterity. I need data to reflect upon to say, “hey, yeah, that was a good time.” Something to help pass the time at the office while I daydream about the best times ever. Perhaps I should step away from the PC a bit more but, alas, I am what I am. As any of my Facebook friends can attest, for the past two seasons Vail’s EpicMix has served well for this stat-tracking purpose (as shown here). For being provided to me free of additional cost, it is fairly robust, albeit limited. The RFID-driven system follows your lift pass as you board the ski lifts around any of Vail’s resorts and keeps track of the vertical feet traversed during your day. Granted, you can only see which lifts you have taken. To capture individual runs would be a monumental task, one which would most definitely take EpicMix out of the free price point. This is the major limitation of the system, but again, for a free system you cannot complain. In addition to the raw vertical foot tracker, there’s a social aspect of EpicMix and the whole thing is very heavily influenced by online gaming networks, with pins awarded for certain milestones and events. I’ve definitely been an achievement-whore more than a few times. Again, apologies for the EpicMix spam in your newsfeed, guys. You’re troopers.

It’s been a good run, EpicMix, but it’s time for me to move on. It’s not you. Heck, it’s not even me. It’s someone else. Her name is Ski Tracks for iPhoneRead the rest of this entry »

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