There’s a lovely essay in yesterday’s New York Times by our friend Joe Blair who coyly describes himself in the bio line as a pipe fitter from Iowa City. That Joe is modest is certainly a fine thing–we who have no modesty recognize that it is a virtue. As a person with a disability modesty might have killed me in days of yore. But I digress. Back to Joe’s essay. Joe’s son Michael is autistic and when Joe and his wife Deb discovered that Michael loved the ocean more than anything (and that’s a “real” “anything”) they decided to get out of Iowa and move to Massachusetts. They’re in the very process of the move having found a place in Newton, hence a 30 minute drive to the sea. Iowa City is a 30 minute drive away from the Mississippi if you drive like a state trooper with Montezuma’s Revenge.
The poet Hokusai had 947 changes of address during his life. (See the post below. I should add for the sake of full disclosure that Joe Blair, essayist, alum of the University of Iowa’s graduate workshop in nonfiction writing has made his living in Iowa these past years by running his own heating and cooling business. Pipe fitting is a part of that enterprise but if you’ve ever looked an electronic furnace in the eye and rearranged its petulant circuitry, well I rest my case. Joe, back in town for the purpose of “finishing up” following his family’s move came over and fixed my furnace on the day of first snow. May the gods of Vesuvius bless Joe for many reasons. But I digress.
Joe has moved to Newton, in effect taking a risk in a depression (for that’s what this is, let there be no mistake) and I know that such faith is the right stuff. To quote old Joe Campbell, it’s always best “to follow your bliss” and Lord knows the ocean is the greatest bliss factory on earth.
Out here in Iowa you can blindfold yourself and stand in a corn field and sometimes in the wind it sounds like Cape Cod.
But Joe’s son Michael knew the difference. And Joe and Deb did too. “Look! Toto got away! He got away!”
Take a look a Mr. Blair’s splendid piece on autism as a form of knowing.
Pipe fitter, indeed.