October 28, 2007

Insufficient words

As I'm writing this, Schuyler is sitting in the seat next to me on the flight from New York back to smelly old Texas. A few hours ago, we left the home of my agent who, after being charmed by Schuyler and hearing about our interesting lodgings in a part of Brooklyn apparently untouched by the hipster invasion, invited us to stay with her. It was a beautiful home at the top of a charming building in a perfect little neighborhood, and we were made to feel like family. Schuyler loved my agent and her husband, and if we've ever had a better time than we had on this trip, I can't remember when.

There are all the actual events to report on, of course. Schuyler loved the American Museum of Natural History, as we figured she would. She abducted my agent's assistant to be her personal plaything while we explored the museum. Schuyler also managed to lose her mind in FAO Schwarz for a good three hours before picking out a toy that she saw during her first five minutes in the store. The friends of mine that she met on this trip were instantly her own best friends, and while she became a little wild and overstimulated by the city now and again, she nevertheless remained cheerful and wickedly charming. I've never been prouder of her, and that's saying a lot.

Our meeting with St. Martin's Press went very well, as I figured it would. Schuyler charmed everyone at what ended up being a very well-attended meeting, including an appearance by the publisher herself, who shook Schuyler's little hand like she would any professional author's and expressed her own personal interest in and excitement for the book. Those of you who have asked about a book tour may be disappointed to learn that there are not presently plans for an actual tour, but there are other possibilities afoot that might land me in your town at some point. Besides (and this is probably shameless even for me), publishers are known to quickly put together a tour if a book has strong early sales and good word of mouth. So, you know, I'm just saying.

I also got to see an actual bound galley of my book. Which was, to be totally uncool, very cool.

Another thing that I think I can mention now (and enough people at SMP admitted to reading the blog that I assume I'll get a quick, frantic email from someone if I'm not supposed to say anything yet) is that in February or March, it looks like Schuyler's Monster will be featured in Wondertime, a fun and really well-written, hipster-y parenting magazine that I've liked for a while. (The first four issues they put out a few years ago included a series of articles about a little boy with a similar speech disorder as Schuyler's, and it was well-done enough to catch and keep my attention.) Wondertime is published by Disney, so it should be easy enough to find. I'm in league with The Mouse now. I assume they won't pick a part where I sound like a vulgar yokel. Good luck with that, Wondertime.

I had some fancy pants author moments, but mostly, I was a dad on this trip. More than that, I think Schuyler and I became better friends this week, sharing experiences that required few words. After our meeting at St. Martin's, I took her for a walk towards the Empire State Building, site of her hero's last stand against pesky bi-planes. About half a block away, I told her to close her eyes. I led her to the corner, got my camera in place, and then told her to open her eyes and look up. I thought I'd get a photo of her look of amazement. Instead, I captured a moment of pure, unbridled joy, a full-throated howl of recognition and challenge, as if she were ready to take up the battle herself. She did the same thing the first time she saw King Kong, when he leapt out of the jungle to save his girl from the dinosaurs. It is easily my favorite photo of the trip. It might be my favorite ever.

I watched Schuyler as she took in the city, observing as she attempted to make friends with other riders on the subway (with admittedly mixed results) and as she yearned to help a man passed out in the street, sadly telling me about him for the next three blocks. She told me all about what she was seeing, things that amazed her such as looking down on buildings with gardens on their roofs. During the many uninterrupted hours we shared, she asked me questions about my own father that she'd never asked before, and listened earnestly as I tried to explain what it means when someone dies. We became closer than ever, closer than I thought possible, in ways that the parents of neurotypical kids might take for granted but which felt like gifts to me.

I saw the city through Schuyler's eyes and was never bored, and if I thought this trip was going to be about what Schuyler got out of it, about what she stood to learn from the experience, I was as wrong as I've ever been in my life.

I'm trying to explain what this trip meant to me, and to Schuyler, but I'm failing miserably. And perhaps that's okay. The best parts, the ones I can't explain very well, they belong to us anyway.

October 23, 2007

New York, Old Navy

Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
So is it real irony or Alanis Morissette irony that Mister Fancy Pants Author forgot to pack his pants for his meeting with St. Martin's Press?

Huh. I guess I know what our first stop is going to be, once we get out of Brooklyn...

October 19, 2007

A question and a chuckle for you

UPDATE:Okay, I closed the poll a little early since I needed to print up the results, and they were running pretty consistently. Thank you, and just to let you know how much I appreciate your help, here's an amusing and wildly unattractive photo of me.

(And before you feel inclined to say anything "helpful" about my new Ahab look, I did in fact finish shaving it off after taking this photo. And, you know, after cracking myself up. I am easily amused.)

October 17, 2007

Eagerly awaiting the revolution

Sometimes I get email from old skool readers asking why I don't write about politics anymore.

I don't know. I guess I usually just find it easier to stick my finger down my throat...

October 15, 2007

A Father's Journey with His Wordless Daughter

On the bumper with Dad
Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
In a week, we head off to New York City, and Schuyler is getting excited. She took us shopping for a nice outfit for our St. Martin's meeting and had me add some terms to her Big Box of Words (like "sea monster", "mermaid" and "New York City"). We even stopped by the still-frightening Libby Lu for another set of the little face jewel sticker thingies so she can dazzle the big city.

I'm a little nervous about this trip, of course. Despite the positive experience I've had all along with St. Martin's Press, I still worry about making an ass out of myself. It's a silly fear for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that they already read my book, which is full of stories that don't necessarily make me look like the nicest, smartest or most emotionally stable person in the world, and their response was "Let's publish this, by golly!" They already know the embarrassing parts.

I also worry about dropping the ball and losing Schuyler on the streets of New York. This is also sort of silly since anyone who has ever spent time with the two of us can tell you that I am a fussy and twitchy father when I am flying as solo parent with Schuyler. When Julie is there, we spilt the freaking out duties, but Julie is entering her busy season at the book store (where, by the way, she has gotten permission to hold my very first appearance, which feels exactly right) an won't be with us. It's just me and Schuyler and all my worries.

When she was a baby, I had an irrational fear of taking her on the second floor of a mall, after all. I was convinced that some lunatic was going to run up to her stroller, grab her and toss her over the railing. I also thought big dogs would run up in the park and run off with her, wiggling sadly in their big slobbery jaws. I don't expect any New York misadventure to catch me off-guard, although just typing that sent a little wave of anxiety through me, heightening the spaz factor up another notch or two.

For Schuyler, this trip is about building memories for her. I have no idea how she'll feel about this book when she's older, although from what I know of her personality so far, I suspect she'll be more interested in the possibilities of helping other people than in whatever privacy issues might arise from the book. She's excited about it now; ask her about the book, and she'll either refer to it on her BBoW as "my monster" or "schuylers monster", which is especially fun since I don't believe I've ever referred to it by name to her. She's picked that up on her own.

But no matter how she feels about it down the road (perhaps she'll write the sequel, Schuyler's Dumbass: The Stuff My Father Got Wrong), at the very least, she will one day be able to look back and remember that her father's book gave her the opportunity, however brief, to step out of her monster's shadow and walk the streets of Manhattan like she owned the place. She'll have memories of the museums and the energy of the city and seeing the site of King Kong's last stand. She'll be able to remember going into the Flatiron Building to talk to fancy pants publishing folks about HER book like the literary figure she is.

She's earned this. Well, I think we both have, really.

October 10, 2007

My voice is my power...

This was put together by a tenacious group of teenagers who are much more significantly impaired than Schuyler but who use similar speech devices.

Produced by an AAC advocacy group in the UK called 1 Voice.

October 9, 2007

These should be Schuyler's monsters

A number of you have written to me to let me know about this, which is coming to Dallas at the end of the month. I saw a commercial for it on television this morning, and it looks amazing, in a "watch Schuyler's head explode" kind of way.

Tickets are not cheap, and this is one of those things that I suspect is much more effective when you're not sitting in the nosebleed seats. I'm trying to decide if we can afford this, especially coming off a no-doubt expensive trip to New York, but I suspect I'd kick myself for the rest of my life if I didn't take Schuyler to this, with her dinosaur love.

I mean, come on. Look at that.


UPDATE: We're going, woo!

When I showed Schuyler the video, her eyes got huge.

"Are they scary?" I asked.

"Yeah," she answered.

"Do you want to go see them in person?"


She's a thrill junkie.

October 8, 2007

Transfiguration, at the mall

Small amazement
Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
Schuyler was recently invited to a birthday party by one of the girls in her Box Class, and since Julie had to work, I was flying solo. No big deal, I do it all the time. The two of us are taking Manhattan like Muppets in a few weeks, after all. Birthday parties are cake, so to speak.

It wasn't until this morning, a few hours before the actual party, that I took note of the fact that this party was to be a Club Libby Lu party.

How to explain Club Libby Lu to the uninitiated? And unless you are a parent of a little girl between the ages of maybe five to twelve, or you're actually a little girl yourself (in which case you shouldn't be reading this blog, the creepy old fat man uses dirty words sometimes!), you are almost certainly uninitiated.

"Club Libby Lu. A special secret club for super fabulous girls can get makeovers parties, play games, get advice, and find really cool princess paraphernalia. It's a girl thing!" That's the company line.

There are plenty of dissenting opinions, such as this sort of horrifying article called "Glamour Babes" from the Washington Post. That's a scary article, and it left me with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach all day.

Despite my misgivings, I took Schuyler to the party anyway, because the time she spends with other kids outside of school is precious to her, particularly when it's with other kids with disabilities. Also, I would be there scowling menacingly at anyone who tried to dress my daughter as a crackwhore.

I'm not going to dispute the issues of Club Libby Lu as a concept, and I am sure that a lot of parents have a different experience than I did. But today, when the local Club Libby Lu found itself host to five little girls with varying degrees and types of disabilities, not a one of them capable of unassisted speech, the gum-smacking Hannah Montana clones working the party did something I'm not sure I was expecting.

The long version is that they dressed Schuyler and her friends in sassy glam rock outfits and put up their hair in trendy, hairspray-shellaqued styles. They made up the girls' faces and assisted them with creating bubblegum-smelling lip gloss and let them shower each other's heads and clothes with sparkle dust. (Schuyler took particular joy in putting a generous handful in my hair, too. Every time I move my head, the world in front of my face becomes a Disney movie special effect.) They ended the afternoon with a little dance party and a group photo. The Libby Lu staff laughed with these kids and listened to them jabber excitedly along every step of the experience, and if they were put off in any way by the fact that almost none of what was being said to them was intelligible, they did not let on even for a moment.

The short version? Club Libby Lu transformed five broken little girls into absolutely normal tween pop culture princesses, if only for an afternoon. And for that, I will never speak a word against them.

October 3, 2007

Stalker tip

Schuyler in NYC, 2003
Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
If you find yourself wandering the streets of New York City any time between October 23rd and 27th, and you see a fat old man with a questionable beard and a cute little girl who talks like Stephen Hawkings, it just might be us, by golly.

Schuyler is excited, although I don't think she really remembers much about the city. She was only three years old the last time she was there, after all. That feels like a lifetime ago.

Aside from our date with monsters, our meetings with the fun folks at St. Martin's Press, and a visit to the Empire State Building (where, she informs me that unlike her hero, we shall ride to the top on the inside; she apparently understands that contrary to popular beliefs, it IS the planes that will get you), our plans are pretty wide open. Suggestions are always welcome.

Incidentally, hotel prices in New York City? Not funny. Not funny at all.

October 1, 2007


The end of a relationship can be hard, but it can also feel like a fresh, cool breeze on a sweltering day. Sometimes you get to the end of a relationship and wonder how it ever went on so long in the first place. Complacency is a powerful force, but when its bonds are finally shattered, the happiness you feel makes you realize just how bad things had become.

I got out of an abusive relationship this weekend. I broke up with Bank of America.

I received a check from my publisher on Saturday and took it to the bank to deposit it. I braced myself for trouble because it was an out-of-state check, and sure enough, I was told that there would be a hold on it while the funds cleared, and those funds wouldn't be available for TEN DAYS. Apparently Bank of America doesn't cotton to that new-fangled electronic gizmo banking, but instead prefers to put my check in a leather satchel and hang it on a post outside, to be picked up by the next Pony Express rider as he heads north through Indian Country on his way to New York.

I explained how this was uncool since any royalty payments I receive for this book (shut up, it could happen) will come this way, but the bank manager shut me down, and not even fake-bank politely, either. When I said that I was considering closing my account and opening a new one somewhere else, she said that these rules were FDIC regulations and would be the same at any bank I went to, so don't bother. Furthermore, if I used this particular check to start a new account somewhere else, there would be a 90-day waiting period before those funds became available.

"There's nothing you can do, little man," she said. (paraphrased) "Submit and go home."

So I walked out to my car, drove down the street to another bank (one that had come highly recommended by another writer for just this reason), and thirty minutes later, I had a new account. The funds will be available tomorrow or Wednesday.

I'm not going to kid myself. My new bank doesn't do business in order to help the common man and make the planet a nicer place to live. But I feel like I just broke up with a girl who was narcissistic and hateful and liked to stab me in the eye with a fork. If my new girlfriend turns out to be a crack addict or a boogereater, at least it'll be a new kind of anxiety. It's nice to change things up from time to time.

Have a nice life, Bank of America.


UPDATE, 10/3 - As good as their word, my new bank came through with my funds, and I even got a call just now from the bank manager to let me know. The funds actually became available before I've even received a debit card in the mail. Fancy!