Memorable refusals // That tapioca, though 

10 November, 2019            Memorable refusals // That tapioca, though 

People with classic autism have difficulty expressing emotions clearly. But they’re good at deciphering other people’s moods, and they imitate the expressions others use to communicate their own feelings. I’ve heard some memorable instances in the years I’ve worked with people with autism. I’ll relate a handful of them at the end of this post. 

Also – read several paragraphs down – unrelated to either “memorable refusals” or “tapioca” – about Petersburg’s former “Central Lunatic Asylum.” It was actually called that.

The tapioca is unrelated – I just had some today and included it here (below) because it was so good. And so unexpected.

But I got a pretty Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) half a mile from my house on the way to the river this morning. I will always use a nice Red-shouldered hawk picture when they appear: 

Red-shouldered hawk at 7:56 this morning

Also – in wildlife news from today (birds specifically) I saw my first Buffleheads (Bucephala albeola) of the winter season at Pony Pasture just before 9:00 this AM. I’d expected them closer to Halloween but they’re a pleasant sight whenever they appear. Summer is really, truly over for sure when the first Buffleheads arrive in the Fall, and Spring is 100% imminent when the last ones fly off the river in late Winter. Their arrival/departure dates (here in Richmond) are consistently within a few days of the first autumn frost and the last Spring frost. This pair was one of a dozen. That flock will get bigger and bigger between now and the end of December. It is really difficult (for me) to get close to them. The male is on the left: 

Bufflehead pair at Pony Pasture this morning

Plus Evelyn and I had brunch today at the Farmer’s Market Bistro in Petersburg, VA in the Historic Farmer’s Market Building, 9 E. Old Street. Here are pictures I took of the outside then the inside: 

Outside the Farmer’s Market in Petersburg today

Inside that building looking up (when I wasn’t looking at my food):

So I looked it up online. The original structure was built 1878 – 1879. I think this is the third incarnation of it. I found four old black and white pictures of it on the Library of Congress web site. I didn’t investigate as completely as I should have. But this picture is black-and-white and it shows the building with horses and buggies pulled up outside. Here’s the link: Old Market House. The picture is mildly interesting, but more interesting still was the text beneath it. Click on the link and read it yourself, but this is what the first paragraph says: “The dummy line begins at the western terminus of the electric line and runs out to the Central Lunatic Asylum.” My best guess is “the dummy line” is a dead end railroad or trolley track. As far as the “Central Lunatic Asylum” I suspect that refers to what is currently called Central State Hospital in Dinwiddie. I went on their web site a couple minutes ago and clicked on “about.” You can click that link and read it too if you want. In the “about” section I scrolled down to “the early years” and read this second paragraph. Cut-and-pasted in here: “In December 1869, a former Confederate Facility, known as Howard’s Grove Hospital, was designated as a mental health hospital for African-Americans. The name was later changed to Central Lunatic Asylum. In June 1870, the General Assembly passed an act incorporating the Central Lunatic Asylum as an organized state institution. When the Commonwealth of Virginia assumed ownership, there were “123 insane persons and 100 paupers, not insane” housed at the asylum.” I learn the most unexpected things when I research this blog. “Paupers, not insane.” Who even knew. 

I’m a terrible food photographer. But boy do I know how to eat. I think the bacon might have been the best I’ve ever eaten – and I’ve eaten a lot of bacon. It tasted like an actual pig, which is how bacon is supposed to taste. Add hash browns, fried chicken, omg, check this out: 

Best bacon I’ve ever eaten. Awesome hash browns too. And the remains of omg fried chicken.

And that tapioca – do not even get me started. It is so, so, so good. Smooth and creamy and cold and sweet-but-not-too-sweet and it’s perfect with black coffee. Do you eat tapioca? Do you get the opportunity? Run down to Petersburg and have some of this – preferably with coffee: 

Tapioca on the left. Almost like ice cream only not as cold, and with “pearls.” Try some if you haven’t.

I got a white squirrel (I still think the only white squirrel) at Deep Run this week. But no stellar images. A gray squirrel posed for a few minutes in better light. I knew exactly what this squirrel was doing, since I was wearing shorts and doing the same thing – trying to stay in the sun. It was really cold and the wind was whipping off that lake: 

Gray squirrel keeping warm in the sun on a blustery morning

I got to spend some time with a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) at Bryan Park this week. For some reason my heart is never in these Great Blue Heron images. I always enjoy seeing them, but images I enjoy are rare. My favorites are when I photograph them in trees. That’s always an unusual image. This one is adequate: 

Great blue heron stalking something at Bryan Park this week

Speaking of adequate – this bluebird perched on my feeder Tuesday and watched me while I photographed it:

Bluebird holding its head just so, so I could capture its best angle

Facebook offers up a lot of old crap regularly and I delete it in short order and try to keep it from happening again. But Friday morning (11/8) it put in a ten year old (that day) picture of my mom and me that my dad took. It was at the finish line of the Beach2Battleship Iron Distance Triathlon in Wilmington, NC in 2009. 2009 was my seventh Ironman finish in seven years. I would continue doing an Ironman a year through 2013 when I finished my eleventh and final (at least for the time being) Iron distance race. I’ll keep doing the short ones for the foreseeable future. Here’s mom (RIP) and me ten years ago, photographed by dad (RIP): 

Screenshot of a Facebook image of mom (RIP) & me from 10 years ago, taken by dad (RIP)

I’m going to finish up there on the picture part and include a little writing here. And come back next week! All best, 


Wait! I got a picture of Mackey and Turner and Yuki at the river at Pony Pasture at 8:30 this morning: 

Mackey, Yuki and Turner on our wonderful James River this morning

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Memorable refusals

People with real classic autism have a difficult time expressing their emotions clearly. For many years I’ve offered options to people I work with, and been refused in unusual terms. I wrote several of these about seven years ago in a blog post called Echolalia

Years and years ago I was walking at Pony Pasture with a young man who has true classic autism. He likes to be outdoors walking around (or at least doesn’t complain about it) so we do that a lot. He can mutter short sentences about what he wants to do or not do, but he only says things he’s heard before. He’s never known who the president is – or what a president is – or even the name of this country. But he’s charming and likeable and never – ever – whines or complains. On the day were walking in Pony Pasture, a person was coming toward us walking a large, clean, friendly dog on a leash. My friend and I stopped and the person walked up to us and smiled and said “Do you want to pet the dog?” My friend stood ramrod straight and clenched his fists tightly at his sides and shouted “It’s not gonna’ happen!” That’s effective communication! 

A year or so later I was working with another young man with autism. His parents were going through a contentious divorce and I know he’d heard some memorable expressions of frustration. He loves to watch trains from nearly anywhere, and so do I. This particular day we were deciding whether we’d watch them from Brown’s Island or from a hill in the park at Maymont. I knew he wanted to go to Brown’s Island (you can get really close to the trains, which he loves) but I wanted to go to Maymont since we were pressed for time. He’d indicated clearly he wanted to go to Brown’s Island, but I told him we were going to Maymont instead. He leaned forward and furrowed his brow and said “Lord God JESUS!” 

I worked for several years with a guy named Thomas who was in elementary school. He didn’t seem to have even a vague idea of how to make his emotions clear, but his parents and the staff at his school were working hard to help him understand and communicate his emotions. We used to swim at a big outdoor pool in the summer and he never even wanted to get out of the water – he was free and happy all the time when he was swimming. One day we’d done about half our usual swim when I told him we’d have to get out early since he had to go to a doctor’s appointment. He stopped in mid-splash and frowned in a complete caricature of a frown you might normally expect to see on the face of a person his age. Every feature of it was overdone, from the downturned corners of his mouth to his downcast eyes to his knitted brow. He wasn’t sure if I understood how he was feeling, so he immediately informed me: “Thomas is making a sad face.” 

These guys – and most of the other folks I work with – are honest. They don’t say one thing while they’re thinking another. I never wonder where I stand with these guys – they always tell me, in clear, unmistakable language. It may be the thing I love most about my work. Everybody’s so honest 100% of the time, they spoil me! I am so grateful. 

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About Jay McLaughlin

I am a rehabilitation counselor. I have many friends with autism and traumatic brain injuries. They help me learn new things constantly. I hike with dogs at the James River in Richmond - a lot. I've completed an Iron distance triathlon a year for 11 years. My most recent was in Wilmington, NC in November, 2013. I currently compete in mid-distance triathlons. And work and hike and take pictures and write and eat.
This entry was posted in Birds, Bryan Park, buffleheads, Dogs, Endurance, Fun, James River, love, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, red-shouldered hawks, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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