"The symptoms of this developmental disorder include early precocity, a great ability to maintain masses of information, a lack of ability to mix with groups in age-appropriate ways, ignorance of or indifference to social norms, high intelligence, and difficulty with transitions, married to a preternatural ability to concentrate on the minutia of the task at hand.
"The Asperger’s spectrum ranges from people barely more abstracted than a stereotypical “absent-minded professor” to the full-blown, albeit highly functioning, autistic. Symptoms of Asperger’s have been attributed ex post facto to successful figures, but these are the fortunate ones—persons able to invent outlets for their ever-welling monomanias. Many are not so lucky, and some end up institutionalized or homeless. (In the late nineteen-seventies, I saw a ragged, haunted man who spent urgent hours dodging the
As it happens, I may or may not mix well with other children in age-appropriate ways (can I give you my card? can I form yours into a paper plane and hurl it across the street?) and I certainly get down and dirty with the minutiae of pointless tasks (let me show you my mandala art work sometime), but I have never been homeless or institutionalized (not even close) (unless you count college as an institution) (or the Democratic Party and that joke was old in Will Rogers' day) but that was definitely ME back in the late 70s scrawling the genealogy of the Habsburgs, the Capets, the Hohenzollerns and the Comneni on the blanker spaces of the New York subway walls.
Hey, man, this was the age of Keith Haring.
Well the point of all this is that I can relate to people (unlike Aspies) and much as I would like to blame certain unsuccesses in my life on a mental affliction, those friends of mine (usually teachers and parents) who have studied the thing say I just don't make the grade: I am alive to signals from those with whom I attempt to relate. Sometimes I'm even good at it, though it took a while to emerge from adolescent isolation. I once related the complete history of the Byzantine Empire to a girlfriend in a Greenwich Village coffeehouse. Took six hours. She put up with it. Women are terrific that way. Why did I ever switch to men? (Digression; ignore.)
Another event that comes up in the Tim Page article is the world premier of Steve Reich's "Music for 18 Musicians" at Town Hall in 1976. As it happens, I was there, too. Everyone tranced out, stoned or unstoned. I was impressed, but preferred (and still prefer) his "Music for Mallet Instruments." (Always liked Reich better than Glass anyway.)
What I recall more fondly is a later performance of "Music for 18 Musicians" at the former New York Customs House (now the Museum of the American Indian). On the ground floor of this beaux arts confection is (or used to be) a huge rectangular room with a huge oval in the center of it, walled off by a low balustrade-railing. The musicians set up there and played, and the fans lined the walls, trancing out. Except for one, who spent the time dancing around and around the central space, happily oblivious of looks (but most people had their eyes closed), just doing what seemed to him the right thing for that music and that space and that time.
Yes: It was I. The self-conscious, can't perform on a stage or improvise a ritual to save his life, quasi-Aspie me.
I've always remembered it as one of the great moments in my life, a time when I just didn't give a hoot what anyone else thought or did: I did it my way, and all was right with the world. Don't know where that guy went, or why I cannot access him at will, or why he so rarely appears, but -- there you have it. He's part of me, too. He can still reel off the Habsburgs if you are interested. (No one is interested.)
I've always wished the Philharmonic or Carnegie or the Met would install a mosh pit but so far they have ignored my suggestions. I'd enjoy the experience so much more.