Love the Detour (#600)

…. love the detour. Take the longest route between two points, since the journey is the thing, a notion to which, contaminated by the Zen-fascist slogans of advertising (“just do it!”), we all pay lip service but few of us indulge.
Trainrider
I read those words—part of a book review in the February 11th New York Times by writer Will Blythe, the former literary editor of Esquire magazine—while looking over Jim’s shoulder as we took New Jersey Transit late this afternoon—-the three of us “indulging” ourselves in that “longest route between two points.”

Charlie does love to be in motion, and the kind of motion provided by the networks of trains and subways and the PATH around New Jersey (where most commuter trains lead to New York) seems almost too well-suited for his “loco-motive” proclivities. If the two points today were “home house” and a certain restaurant in Hoboken where, last April, Charlie had had to be loaded, screeching and banging, into the car after we were told that the restaurant was closing early, then the obvious route was not the train-ride tour we embarked on today.

There are more than a few train lines here in New Jersey—-some going down to the shore, some going northwest, some moving through central Jersey and near to Philadelphia—and we first had to drive to another town, climb the stairs past some dried-up weeds and a lot of litter, and take Train #1 down to central Jersey, and then a two-car shuttle (Train #2) that takes you to the edge of a university campus. We got out, and walked up to the library; I returned some books and noted that Charlie was sitting on the shiney lacquered square bench that I used to walk past several times a day, twenty years ago. I realized that the return train left in fifteen minutes and we walked briskly back. We took the shuttle back (Train #3) and then, on Train #4, Charlie sat up stiffly on his knees and looked out the window at a landscape of office buildings and suburban houses.

We ended up in Newark and Jim–“Now we’re clicking!”—sighted what would be Train #5 awaiting us. Charlie nudged his way into the window seat and looked out earnestly at a network of steel bridges towers, the Pulaski Skyway, the vistas of shipping containers and cars awaiting their journeys to the hinterland, the Benjamin Moore plant, downtown Newark and—farther off—a church steeple and some business towers over in Jersey City, and then into Hoboken. The mile-square city is where On the Waterfront—directed by Elia Kazan and starring Marlon Brando as a broken down boxer and Karl Malden as the waterfront priest—-was filmed; the book that Jim has been working on for much of Charlie’s life starts with the real person, Fr. Pete Corridan, who was the model for Malden’s role, and we walked down a cobblestone alley that appears in the movie, Jim recalling elements of the plot.

The yong Polish waitress looked surprised when we told her that Charlie needed a regular–“adult-size”—burger. After he had eaten every bite, munched his pickle, and requested “ketchuppp” several times from Jim, we walked back to the train station, just catching a glance of the Empire State Building across the Hudson. We had just missed a train so Jim directed us to the PATH. Train #6 took us to Journal Square in Jersey City and a long wait in the cold (there was no point in going up to the station, which is not heated). A young father, the back of his drooping jeans brightly embroidered, pushed a sleeping infant wrapped in fleece bunting, sleeper, hat, blankets, and a plastic covering over his stroller. Three Indian men in dark jackets and knit caps talked in a circle. Beside the graffitied wall, group of teenage girls each held a single flower (some looked as if they were made of paper) while one young woman checked her cell phone and jumped up and down to keep warm. Charlie started jumping too and grinning and I joined him (Jim didn’t). The PATH (Train #7) finally came and we all pushed our way in.

Back in Newark, we got tickets for the final train, #8, while Charlie admired a display of cakes and cheesecakes. I reminded him that we had to go home “for blue blanket” and, pulling a long face (and after several requests from me), he followed us up the train platform, and then to the black car and back home to his own bed, well-provisioned with blankets, pillows, the calendar, the snowman. He pushed his feet and legs into Daddy’s blue blanket which I had folded so it resembled a sleeping bag, all while humming Yellow Submarine.

It was a great Saturday trip, and a great day with Charlie.

Not that the trip, or our Saturday, came without its moments of anxiety (the garbage, where the blanket was), sticky fingers and misplaced mud. I am sure I will be writing more about these in the very near future—because isn’t it all just part of the total experience of life with autism, which (for me) is a life full of detours, and dead-ends, and astonishing discoveries?

You travel, you come home.

In Autismland, the journey is the thing.

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