Fun Times With Spatial Pragmatics: travel notes fom Spain

Getting lost in Seville is like getting lost in a dream. Especially at night.

Drifting by people and stone, steeped in the verbal footfall of echoing voices. Restaurants folded into impossibly small spaces, yet expelling, into the passageways, a rich bundle of sensory clatter: meal-scents, more voices and the ceaseless clinking of glass.

Lost in that hand-crafted wilderness, wandering illegible streets.

Seville, like a dream, at night.

More specifically: Thursday, last week.

9 p.m.

I need food.

I leave the hotel…cobblestone roads curl off in multiple directions. (Technically, it’s not cobblestone, it’s some other kind of pieced-together, stone-making thing.) I turn around…stare at the hotel entrance, try to burn the memory of how it looks into my brain…then choose a path and start walking.

The stone paths are narrow, people-filled. I look up: a strip of sky sits high atop the endless, patchwork buildings. I walk past bakeries, cafes, restaurants, clothing shops, more bakeries.

Every now and then the paths empty out into big, rectangular plazas filled with outdoor restaurants and towering statues…sometimes cathedrals, sometimes fountains.

I walk, alternate between the paths and plazas, keeping an eye out for a suitable place to eat.

In one plaza, I stumble across a large, seasonal book fair: 2 long rows of stalls filled with a huge variety of books…antique printings, rare editions, old maps, popular novels, retro kids books, etc.

I’m moth-to-fire drawn to it, spend a stretch of time looking around. I slowly circle the entire thing three times, people watching, periodically picking up books, hefting them, squeezing them, putting them back.

Before leaving, I purchase a pile of French comics (translated into Spanish…I only speak English) from the 1970’s; weird, futuristic, druggy stuff. Moebius, Jodorowsky stuff.

Then it’s back to snaking around between the buildings of Seville. I make an effort to head back the way I think I came, but things are already looking unfamiliar.

New plaza…I sit at an outdoor restaurant…I choose something from the menu that I don’t recognize: solomillo. Fingers crossed for something strange to come out, but solomillo ends up being comfort food: pork, potatoes. It’s nice, but I was hoping to see something uncomfortably weird on the plate.

I page through comic books while I eat.

Food, drinking, plaza-watching. Plazas are fun at night because they’re filled with dozens of screaming, free-range kids. Parents hang out on the sidelines, chatting. The kids stick candy into their faces and make games out of noise and frenetic movement. It’s just high volume, high energy kid time in the plazas. Running, jumping, glee-screaming.

When I’m ready to leave, I try to choose the right way to go, but my brain never gives me that kind of information.

This is the relationship between my brain and directions: to me (at all times), everything just looks “straight ahead”, like a permanent, one way line that reality is constantly fitting itself into. Because of this “straight ahead” thing: visually, I can’t see direction. I look around and at no point does the world organize itself into map spaces…instead, it just floats incoherently around the fixed point of my eyes.

Most people are able to see the difference between “here” and “there”. I just see stuff revolving in a never-ending kaleidoscope (only instead of glitter or gems, the kaleidoscope of my perception is filled with reality).

So, plaza in Seville, at night…I slowly look around. Cobblestone paths kaleidoscope away in all directions. I randomly choose a path and start walking.

Two hours later, I’m still wandering through new, unfamiliar, not-my-hotel places. Lost.

It’s infuriating and embarrassing, but not scary. Some places, getting lost is scary…woods or driving on unfamiliar roads. Some places will kill you for getting lost. But Seville is a world of people and stone, all inscribed with warmth…there’s none of the green death-chaos you’d find in a forest.

Eventually, I just take the hotel key card out of my pocket (which has the name of the hotel on it)…flag down a taxi…and show it to the driver. (This is a trick Girlfriend taught me after she noticed my tendency to get lost inside of familiar grocery stores. Before traveling, she usually devises tricks for getting me unlost.)

I show the taxi driver the hotel card…he speaks in Spanish for a bit. I don’t understand. He points at the card, holds up three fingers. Apparently, there are three of this hotel in the city. He needs more information. I don’t have it. He points this way, that. I stare at my feet. Eventually, we both shrug, I hop into the taxi and he just drives around to each of the same-name hotels, until we find the right one. I’m relieved.

I go to my room, crash out. I breathe heavy, sleep and sleep.

I dream about comic book taxis and cobblestone wine and a phantom exhaustion named Seville.

Related posts: the strange case of autism and proprioception, friends and lint filters, Aspergers vs. Christmas.  And join spectrum discussions at the Invisible Strings Twitter and Facebook page.
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Self-unemployed: the Ignominious Job History of M. Kelter

An Odyssey of Social Confusion, Sensory Issues and Paychecks


I lived at home during my college years. I was beginning to struggle with depression…it wasn’t a full thing yet, but I was too spacey and low-energy to both take classes and hold down a job. But by my junior year, it was becoming a challenge to pay for gas, meals, stuff like that, so there was no avoiding it. I had to find work.

So, the employment thing: it started in 1995. I was 20 years old.

These are the jobs I’ve had.

[Read more…]

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When You Hate Your Diagnosis: Autism, Aspergers and Depression

The question I receive the most: “A family member who is on the autism spectrum is also experiencing severe depression. What can I do to help them?”

I offered some initial thoughts in a recent post, but this time around I wanted to focus on a very specific facet of this issue.

One of the recurring themes in these questions is not just depression; it’s that the person is having a hard time accepting the diagnosis. The individual is described as hating their spectrum traits to such an extent that they refuse to accept the diagnosis or even discuss it. Those writing in about this frequently report that they have tried to offer positive, practical descriptions of the spectrum, yet find that this approach is only making things worse.

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M vs. The Teeth Whiteners (stories from the autism spectrum)

The holidays can be fun for a lot of different reasons. But it’s an aggressively social time of year- celebrations, gatherings, parties, events, reunions- as mentally exhausting for some as it is enjoyable for others.

Personally, I can handle an obligatory social event…I can stand in a corner and wait it out with the best of them. I don’t want to brag or anything, but wallflowering? It’s an art; I’ve mastered it.

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Autism and Depression: managing self-hatred (Aspergers, ASD)

(This is part 6 in an ongoing series devoted to the topic of autism and depression; use the “depression” tab at the top of the site to find previous posts.)

As a kid on the autism spectrum, I received a lot of pressure to blend in and hide differences. As an adult on the autism spectrum, I now know what the consequences are for that kind of pressure.

When you are young and traits that are part of who you are receive negative reactions from people- especially from parents and teachers- it can very quickly erode your sense of confidence and well-being. This, in turn, creates a perfect storm for self-loathing and depression.

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The Boutique Situation (volunteering on the autism spectrum)

When I was 32 years old, I found myself facing a dilemma.

After socially isolating for a about a decade, I began therapy and was diagnosed with both depression and autism spectrum disorder.

The psychologist said that, in addition to managing the depression, we needed to spend a fair amount of time just talking…simply sitting around, conversing…so that we could begin to map out how my mind was processing social data. Once we had a better understand of that, we could then make a game plan.

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Descartes’ Lantern (the curious case of autism and proprioception)


I went to a psychologist one time and said, “I don’t have body language.” We spent about four years hashing that one out.

One time she asked if we could talk about my gait. She said, “When you walk, your arms never move.” And they don’t, they just hang there like pointless, arm-shaped curtains. Sometimes when I’m walking, I mentally kick at them, will them to seem lifelike. They don’t care. It’s like someone took the batteries out.

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Q and A Tuesday: child therapy overload + homeschool fears (autism spectrum discussions)

Two great questions from parents this time. For kids on the autism spectrum, how much therapy is too much? And is it true that homeschooled kids are missing out on social skill development?

Here are the questions and responses in-full. Please comment with your own thoughts and reactions; the discussions that grow from these topics are always helpful.

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Why Fictional Therapists Suck

Despite a long history of undiagnosed neurological issues and depression, I waited as long as I could before trying therapy.

Waiting to get help: I can honestly say it’s the most self-destructive thing I’ve ever done. I slowly deteriorated over a period of years- years that I could have spent rebuilding my life, finding more constructive ways forward had I only been willing to swallow my pride and admit that I needed help.

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The Lunch Box Maneuver (ASD, Aspergers and school anxiety)

Growing up, August was traditionally the month that I was knocked flat with school anxiety. The last few weeks of summer, I was reliably a train wreck of fear and frayed nerves.

Today, in my late 30’s, I still feel echos of that as August sets in. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been out of school for a long time now; July gives up and some animal part of my brain tells me to hide, to run…from nothing specific or real, just the predatory talons of memory. (I’ve written before, in this post, about my teen habit of avoiding peers by literally climbing walls and hiding above ceiling tiles. I did that.)

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