Long ago, it seems like in a different life now, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to nature. Though I got to enjoy nature, I didn’t understand anything about respecting it and why. That’s a whole other story, and I won’t get into it now as I’m just learning, but it has morphed into a love of wildlife and birds.
Since my amazing wife Lee Hiller-London (Lee Hiller) who is founder of Hike Our Planet and Lee Hiller Designs started taking me on her hikes, I’ve found an amazing new relationships with wild birds. Many of these are birds that fly to South and Central America. Some come back to our forest, stay for awhile and move on. Most of them are very affectionate and talk to us from low branches.
They show off their snacks (usually caterpillars or insects) etc. and sing long songs for us. Many of them follow us along our hikes singing all the way.
Mockingbirds and I have a special relationship and I’ve been known to sing with them for 30 minutes at a time within feet of each other.
A lot of the tropical birds know Lee well and pose for her camera. The robins often “escort” us to and from the forest. It’s really magic and quite healing.
Someone who wants to enjoy nature need not live in the mountains or next to a National Park (though it doesn’t hurt). They can live near a park in their town and just sit on the park bench and look around or at a table, or just take a hike around. Some live in a wooded isolated area or next to a large tract of undeveloped land. Nature is everywhere, and if you watch it with patience, you’ll see a type of drama, comedy and every other “movie genre” that actually is not available in the media; no, not even Animal Planet or Wild Kingdom.
Before long one realizes, as Emerson and Thoreau taught us, we are a part of this wonderful thing called nature. It changes just like we do. Watching it change makes our own human changes much easier and we look forward to it. Though there was plenty to love about NYC, Washington DC and L.A. this is a whole new ballgame; and a healthy one. Lee and I have the “been there got the tees” on the others, and this will do just fine, thank you.
You’ll may find that the birds are not as foreign to us as we’ve been brought up to believe. In fact we learned today that sparrows have the same DNA as humans. No wonder they like us. At least seems that way.
You can see my funny bird gifts at RickLondonGifts.com. I am the founder of Londons Times Offbeat cartoons and funny gifts which have been Google #1 ranked since 2005. I am blessed to have married nature photographer and gift designer Lee Hiller-London who has taught me a great deal about nature (and life).
Today is Valentine’s Day.
For many years that day didn’t mean a lot to me, whether I was in a relationship or not.
That may sound like a “call for pity” yet it is just the opposite. I know now how blessed and lucky I am, not just to have my wife Lee in my life, but both of us understanding with what we deal; autism as well as building our lives together.
Some think I talk about autism too much, and that’s too bad and their issue. Autism is very much who I am, why I do what I do, and how I do it.
For numerous years professionals wondered how I “lived through what I lived through”, and there are times when I did too, yet they never told me what it was in which they were amazed about.
More than one psychiatrist I told I was hidden away in an attic at age five which lasted my entire youth up until age seventeen and then thrown to the wolves. I am sure most of them knew what that meant, but maybe most of them felt it was best to tell me I had been severely abused, simply by the act of “residential segregation” and the very different rule structure set for me as compared to my siblings.
They also felt it best that my siblings were quite abusive as well, for the most part of their own survival. That part I understood and even forgave. One extremely well-versed very well educated therapist told me, “If they’d had a backbone, if they’d had an ounce of good in them, they would have turned off the “hate Rick campaign” and done the right thing, as adults after your parents died, but they were too ambitious to “have their name in lights”. I could easily see them given that I’d had my name in lights several times (and it was highly overrated). I’d never scapegoat a sibling to do so, nor did I ever.
So given the abandonment (and even abuse) combined with the autism, it is beyond comprehensible to most that I survived. I did have the wherewithal to continue seeing professionals in an extreme effort to find out what had happened to me. Remember, I didn’t know I had autism, nor that I’d been severely abused until I was 61. I was programmed not only to fail but to die young.
And that’s probably why I decided I was not going to die young. In spite of two major heart attacks 3 surgeries and stents, I was determined to discover what had happened and who did what.
Then came Lee. She loved me and loves me unconditionally. She helped me in my quest, so that I might not dismiss abuse when it came my way.
Remember, I never even knew I was “at war with my siblings” (I just felt they didn’t care for me) until age 61. At age 60 I decided to write one of them to let them know of my autism diagnosis. Also of my vanus diagnosis; an extremely painful form of flat feet, also congenital. As always, I was dismissed by one sibling by email with a line that read “My spouse’s niece had a bit of autism but is fine now. What will you do for symptoms”. (In other words people live with autism all the time. Get used to it).
Truth be told, most autistic children do not get hidden away in an attic, scapegoated by their entire family, and never diagnosed. The difference is apples and oranges (than simply “being autistic”. I survived a pre-meditated war against me, one I never knew I was in, only to find the real truth, and that the perpetrators of that war were rancid cowards, bigots and haters, and still are. Now they will coddle their autistic niece to show “their goodness”. Educated people expect that and are not impressed…in the least.
I lost it. I was livid. Symptoms? Autism does not have symptoms. Autism is who someone is. It is not something to cure. It is something with which to have compassion because the tools to teach autism are just now coming into fruition.
I told the sibling a thing or two about symptoms (the only true symptoms of such a condition are hate, prejudice and fear) projected by ignorant people, and I made certain this sibling knew what that meant. I never heard from that sibling again and if I’m fortunate I never will. I know it sounds erudite but these siblings do not deserve to be a part of my life.
I am not perfect, in fact far from it. But the torture of another person, especially a child who later becomes an adult, to me falls in the category of serial killers and such. Before you say, “how crude”, so do a majority of the members of the autism groups which have at least 3.2 million diagnosed members not to mention even more than that that are un-diagnosed.
This feeling is real, and the experience/torture is very much of a similar sociopath nature. Those people need help and need it today. They will within a few years, most likely, find themselves way on the fringe, at least that is what is being reported by knowledgeable scholars acting within the mainstream autism communities. I believe it wholeheartedly.
And I don’t regret writing that. I do not want that kind of “person” in my life, ever. And though I know they cannot help that they are that sick, they do have the responsibility to get professional help. After all, I did, and I was not even the one who needed it most. In fact, I am quite at peace with myself most times, knowing that I finally know what really happened to me, and not the “family press release”.
Yes, I still get the occasional PTSD that I used to get often. But PTSD is not a character flaw or weakness. It is a healthy response to something very bad that someone experienced or saw. I can remember having it since age 5 (the year my first attic isolation tank) aka bedroom was built). Why would a five year old have PTSD? Child abuse is the reason about 99% of the time. I was part of that 99%. I survived it and am very proud of that. Not all do. And that is why I write these blogs. I don’t believe any of my family will change. They have too much invested in “the lie”. But I know others might read it and see hope. I know NPD parents might read it and seek help. If just one reads it and seeks help, it’s a success. Torture is torture and if it prevents just one, it proved to be a good thing.
I merely ask you to imagine a 5 year old child alone, isolated in an attic, for 12 years. The first 4 years crying every night to no response (they couldn’t hear me in such a large home and made sure of that). This causes all sorts of psychological problems, the worst of all chronic insomnia (which is not even allowed in the most brutal wars by the Geneva Convention). Neither is that sort of isolation. Some parents truly need not be parents. They are forgiven (by me). They are also forgotten (by me). I survived that and I am tougher than I thought. They are more cowardly than I ever knew. Sadly, they knew what they were doing.
The rest of my life went downhill from there. Until age 58. That’s when God presented my wife, and there was a definite curve upward. Beautiful things began to happen.
I realized rather rapidly I was the lucky one by not scapegoating anyone. I was the lucky one for “taking the fall”. I was the lucky one for letting them cast aspersions and tell lies etc.
I look at my life and I look at theirs. I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone else. God made certain I would not only enjoy but cherish my 61 year old Valentine’s Day. We have wonderful friends, most married who share the same affection for their spouses.
I now am learning how to navigate life with autism. I realize I read and saw and thought everything differently. I also know that was not my fault. I was not diagnosed purposely for nefarious reasons. Now I am diagnosed for decent reasons and have a beautiful chance to enjoy my life. Lee and I will only associate with good people who support our relationship. If you are one of those who find you are not, do not try to be a trickster. We’ve seen it all, and we fight back. We will defend our love no matter what.
If you and I have been friends in the past, in real life, but you are frightened to express it due to NPDs and their “flying monkeys”, might I suggest those days are over, and they turned out to be wrong. Very wrong.
And if you don’t believe me try contacting one of the major Autism associations. Most of them know me now, know the dynamics happening, and are not happy with it at all. It’s very nice to have that support.
They will assure you that abuse and prejudice against autistics will be a dark part of American History. Please, consider siding on the right side of history. Not the side in which someone might throw you a few nickels or “property one day”, or if you’re really lucky “be a part of their popularity circle”. Just remember how they obtained that popularity. With torture. I will not tell you not to be a part of that. We all have to answer to our God. You know best.
You might look at my life and think it was quite unfair. The real facts is that I was dealt a very bad hand of cards (by humans). When I let God take over, things changed. Suddenly my offbeat cartoon of which I’d worked on for 8 years was the Google #1 ranked offbeat cartoon and a few years later my designer offbeat gifts also became #1 ranked. They have maintained that ranking through hard work all the way up until now (2016). That is 11 years. I am proud, very proud, but I clearly understand now it is from a Hand Above and from the loving Support of my Wife Lee. I couldn’t have dreamed of this.
That may not seem like much, but given there are 100,000+ offbeat cartoons and gifts on the net on any given day (am told), I feel pretty good about that. Had I been treated fairly, that would have never happened. So I do have the culprits to thank, and thank them forever and ever. Nobody has been as good to me (but surely not on purpose), and of course my Angel wife Lee who willfully has been good to me, and has showed me the world in a whole different manner. I will always push to look at it correctly, and not as a “mean ol’ place”. It’s not a bad place at all, and most the people in our circles are very very decent.
Scapegoating toddlers who become children who become adults, with a pre-planned “program” to make them the bad guy and then “buy their friends” is not even considered humane in the very worse cultures and societies.
Sadly, it is done quite often in these United States, and most children/later adults never knew what hit them. My parents never figured I would have the photographic/date/time memory that gave them away the first time they committed such a crime. They were busted. They just didn’t know it. It took me this long to figure out just what the abuse was.
It was so subtle, so professional, so well done in privacy with me; not when other siblings or friends were around, you would have thought it was an Alfred Hitchcock film. But most Hitchcock films offer a bit of grace and negotiation. Mine offered neither. I believe with the help of God and amazing friends, I lived long enough to figure it out, and have enough life in me to help others who find themselves in similar situations.
I am able to vocalize to them they are not alone. I am able to shout to them to hook up immediately with autism legal programs, autism support groups, and the like. They can then safely tell their story and if someone interferes, it can easily become a civil rights matter and that interfering person may just find themselves on the wrong side of history, not where they want to be.
Scapegoating humans and torturing them is horrendous. Doesn’t work nor should it. It’s hate. It’s prejudice and it’s fear. It’s masochistic and brutal. To support it is as cowardly as the act itself. That’s not you I hope, and pray.
Love is truly the answer
The Beatles were right. Money can’t buy that. It can’t even buy “like”.
Rick London is a writer, songwriter, gift designer and cartoonist. He is best known for his Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts “Londons Times” LTCartoons.com. He is married to popular nature photographer and gift designer Lee Hiller-London who owns nature blog Hike Our Planet and brand store LeeHillerDesigns.com.
Am very excited to announce “Anti-Emotional Coercian” laws have passed in the UK. Bullying and abuse are more often than not, not about physical damage, but about “financial/emotional slavery”.
For instance hiding a child away in an attic or basement (or anywhere away from the family core and treating them very differently to make them dependent is some of the most severe abuse imaginable).
I was a prisoner of war in my own family home for 12 years in an attic with tiny frosted slit windows overlooking tall hedges in the back. The abuse actually “looks kind”. It is not. The NPD (narcissist personality disorder) parents make the (usually) weak, disabled child dependent so that a short leash and guarantee of bad public behavior and skills results.
NPD parents want perfection or nothing at all. Trust me, an autistic child is not even close to perfect in their eyes. It is “a curse from God”, evil, characteristically bad, etc. Those are bad parents and siblings (who go along with that); not a bad autistic child.
That child develops PTSD which is a healthy response to such abuse. It is if the child did not have it, that there would be a worry. That generally means the child thinks it is okay and passes it on another generation. No thank you.
This PTSD is absolutely no different than returning veterans who have witnessed or been a part of such atrocities. War is hell. So is isolation.
The room was decorated beautifully so as not to give away the ruse. I was also autistic and that abuse began at age five. I cried for 5 straight years to no answer. Then I was “numb” and did whatever I was told the best I could. But isolation is isolation and has been studied to be the cruelest form of punishment on the planet. That is why it is not allowed in any war and is policed by the Geneva Convention. But it still exists at home.
The Geneva Convention does not even allow that kind of cruel and unusual isolation confinement and hasn’t for years. The damage it does is too monumental and inhumane. Sometimes reversal (I got lucky) but sadly more often than not, not.
I (truly) don’t ask for sympathy. I got through it and am quite happy with a loving wife, community and friends. My life is very blessed.
I mention it (the newer stricter laws) as an alert, it is now coming to the U.S. and if by some change you’ve found yourself as an abuser or enabler of one, please re-evaluate that relationship.
This is a very big day for those of us on the autism spectrum who had no rights (other than basic human/civil ones) but nothing beyond that and often not even that.
I understand the sentence in the UK can be about 14 years but more often than not 5 years. So think about it, parents, especially NPD parents before putting a child/later adult through such a cowardly act.
Now things have changed, and as it turns out, we were “the good guys” after all, just being ourselves. God bless America.
Thanks to my beloved wife Lee Hiller-London who recognized the whole thing. After that, with a bit of research and therapy, all the pieces fell into place. Chances are very slim I might be here otherwise. And it gives me a chance to purvey this important message to others in need. There is plenty of help. Lots and the law is on your side now.
You never have to go through this. Autistics: “Stim, rock, scrape paint”, whatever you have to do for release. It is now allowed (and even encouraged) in public. Public and private school officials are aware of it, as are most advanced workplaces.
When we discovered this, I was sure my beloved wife Lee would run off. I thought to myself “Who could blame her?” Not Lee. She dug in deeper and studied ways to make this work. I will be forever grateful to Lee and to God who sent her into my life.
Rick London is a songwriter, author, designer and cartoonist. He is best known for his Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons and Funny Gifts he found in a tin shed in 1997. He is married to his beloved wife Lee Hiller London who owns Hike Our Planet, a popular nature and wildlife photography blog.
I want this blog to reflect how important it is for a loving married couple to work as a team. I won’t do it justice but I’ll report what I witnessed. I have what could be the smartest, kindest, and talented wife on the planet. And I don’t say that lightly. Here are some reasons why.
We can all work toward this kind of interaction skills that show love, way beyond mouthing the words “I Love You” which we all know how to do. This is real. It can be for everybody if they want it. We’ve spent 7 years working and playing on our relationship and 6 of it has been in marriage. We’ve grown, changed, and are growing up. I like that. Always wanted it. So did Lee.
So much self-discovery has gone into the past 5 years. I learned the importance of veganism, not just learning to mouth the words but taking action and doing the right thing. It was not as difficult as it seemed.
Lee and I had been hiking in Hot Springs National Park, the most beautiful forest I’ve ever seen, abundant with plenty of wildlife, birds, etc. Many have gotten to know our names. Squirrels and rabbits don’t run from us. Mocking birds make a special trip over to land at arm’s length and sing with us. They know who we are. They don’t do so with everyone (as odd as that sounds). We talk to the trees. Not all of them but the ones who like to listen “and talk back”. 🙂
Then I used to go home and make some kind of chicken or fish stir fry staying in complete denial I was eating my friends, literally. Lee had figured it out a year before and was busy putting together new recipes for her new life. She did not know if I would transition or not, but finally I did.
Two things helped facilitate that. One: Watching Paul McCartney’s “Glass Houses” video on YouTube. Paul is a former carnivore who, with Linda McCartney had a sheep ranch. They were busy eating their lamb chops and watching the sheep gaze out of their window. Some of them they named, and each animal would come running to them upon hearing it. It occurred to him they were eating their friends.
Linda came close to becoming a vegan but stayed vegetarian eating some vegan dishes. At the risk of angering some, best tell the truth. Vegetarianism is not a whole lot healthier than meat-eating. Veganism is what clears the body of it’s horrendous toxins over the years from animal proteins.
Also watching Lee in her vegan regimen and watching her skin clear up; her scowl turn into a smile, her weight dropping off like nothing I’d ever seen. I said to myself, “I want what she has”. She told me how to get it, and she was right. Lee is 58 years old. She does not mind that fact being known. Some women do. Lee wears no makeup. Her face is natural beauty like I never knew existed. She does tai chi, has taught it to me, and together we are learning to take care of our bodies. This is a lot better than the old destructive ways which were handed us from a prior generation. Again, I am very blessed. She is the best, by far.
Also, upon discovery of my autism and lifetime punishment for being born with it, Lee declared 2016 (in our home), the “Year Of Rick”. She said I have helped her (not sure if that is true) but now she was/is going to make sure I get through this. She is (doing so).
I had to go to the hospital yesterday due to an undiagnosed severe kidney infection. My pain level was past a ten. I didn’t take any opiates but I took about 20 more per month of my vagus nerve medicine. This is not enough to kill me, but create a vicious cycle in which it seems it would never end.
They now have my meds straight. I am fine; and am driving to the grocery tomorrow. They thought it was be 2-3 weeks. They thought wrong. Not to worry. It was never enough to kill me, but it was enough to add to the toxins of the untreated kidney (antiobiotics and herbal tinctures are healing that). I will be most likely hiking with Lee again next week.
One funny thing. The hospital, as they do most patients, attempted to manhandle me in and out. Not this time. Lee stood by my side and put her elbow up in front of her when they tried to push her out of the way to get to me to drag me away. She let them know she was/is in charge and nothing is going to happen here without her knowledge or permission. Talk about patient advocacy. It was something out of a very good movie. We both smiled and the hospital had a change of heart taking as much time as I needed, with Lee by my side. She left them with a cold stare (all of them) that clearly stated, “You are treating Rick in a dignified manner or not treating him at all”. (They seemed to get the message. I wanted to applaud her. Everyone and I mean everyone deserves that kind of medical advocacy whether from a wife, significant other or family member. Otherwise, treatment might be less than par (at best). It was good. Very good.
Lee told me anyone can do that, take charge of their medical rather than leaving the whole thing to hospital staff. And they hopped to it. We heard one young nurse outside our door near the x-ray room yell, “Dam she is GOOD, Brilliant”. LOL. 🙂 And she is.
I have learned a lot, a whole lot. I don’t think I would have learned much of any of it with Lee’s assistance. She is magnificent. I am the most blessed man in the world, to hell with the “most interesting”; I’d rather be blessed any day, and I know I am.
I am no guru, but please take care of yourself. Eat right to the best of your knowledge. Find doctors you trust and follow their orders. If you don’t trust your doctors, find others. There’s plenty of good ones out there.
Don’t scapegoat people. Don’t isolate them and make them feel different. Karma often comes knocking one day along that dreary path.
Be good. Be good to yourself and others. Laugh a little. Do something good for someone who cannot (at this time) do anything or much back. Maybe they never will be able to do so. God smiles upon that kind of thing you know.
Rick London is an author, songwriter, designer and cartoonist. He is best known for his launch of Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts from a tin shed in rural Ms in 1997. It has lured nearly 9 million visitors since that time and has been Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoon since that time. He is married to the love of his life Lee Hiller London founder of nature gift store LeeHillerDesigns.com and popular nature blog Hike Our Planet.
By Rick London
As the years go by, we all have stories of our favorite artists; and our occasional brushes with fame. One of my favorites in my life is that of whom I considered one of the greatest recording artists of my lifetime, David Bowie.
I was in Los Angeles taking screenwriting courses and selling magazine advertising. I had written two screenplays and gotten my foot in the door of a few large studios but no luck yet.
I got out early in the day and spent most of it pounding the pavement. I stopped at a little restaurant (cedar wood) but can’t remember the name of it. It was mainly for breakfast and was just north of Beverly Hills and Studio City on Santa Monica Blvd. My guess is it is still there as it was one of those old “local family establishments” when I was there for breakfast that morning in 1994.
It was several months after the Rodney King Riots, and several months before the Northridge Earthquake.
I walked in with a few friends and to my left at a large table full of people was David Bowie. There was no mistaking him. I had run into numerous “stars” while living out there, so that was not a big deal. I can remember though the only other time I started shaking was when I met Bob Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo).
I found myself staring at David Bowie as was everyone else in the restaurant. He suddenly blew out a lot of candles atop a birthday cake in front of him and his table all applauded. I said to myself, “You’re either going to meet my favorite artist now, or probably never. I walked over and wished him happy birthday. The rumors I’d always heard was that he was cold and aloof. Not the case at all. He smiled a big smile and said, “Have a seat. It’s my birthday. Here, have some cake”. I took the slice and found myself not saying a word.
He said, “I’m 51…and we’re celebrating and now you are too. Welcome to our celebration.” He asked my name and I told him “Rick” and he introduced me to his friends.
I finally conjured enough courage to ask him about his 51 years and he started talking (from as far back as he could remember); mostly stories of concerts and being on the road.
I told him that though I love most of his songs if not all, “Ziggy Stardust” probably was my all-time favorite. There was a slight pause. I thought he was angry. Not so. He smiled and said, “Mine too”.
I tried to think of something funny to say and I blurted out, “Bet you’ve been through a lot of ch-ch-ch-ch changes.”
He laughed aloud and asked me to sit down and have breakfast. I did.
For the first few minutes I was quiet for the most part, just to see what kind of group of friends this was. They clearly were not his band members and it had been years since he’d had his “Spiders From Mars” band; and had been working with studio bands when he recorded.
They were just regular guys (and women) who were his friends. No big Hollywood glam, just regular everyday people. That felt comfortable. All were very friendly to me as was David.
I was truly curious and wondered “what drove” David and asked (not as a journalist but as a curious fan. He expressed that he’d wanted to “do something different” since he was a little kid, and the more crystalized vision of what different was manifested when he was about 14 or 15. He was not sure if that drove him, but he constantly wanted to do better and loved anything to do with the arts; in fact acting in films was every bit as fun to him as music.
I got him to talk about his travels and concerts. Well actually I didn’t get him to do anything. I asked and he was generously open and told me a lot of “his oddities” (No pun intended) that had occurred on the road. It had all been exciting but he didn’t truly enjoy it until he cleaned up his personal life. That made sense to me.
About an hour later they all decided it was time to leave. The waitress left us all separate checks. Before I could look down to pick it up, David had grabbed it and by the time I could put my hand out to take it back, he’d already taken it to the register to pay it.
We all convened in the parking lot (which was a big spread of gravel) and stood there a few minutes talking about the weather, music, and such. He patted me on the back and shook my hand and told me how wonderful it was to meet me. Aside from The Beatles, he probably was my favorite original musician I’d remembered for many years.
I went home and told a few friends what had happened. My Los Angeles friends were not very shocked given that running into such fame was fairly common there, and David had been known to be very caring and nurturing. But when I told friends and/or relatives back home nobody believed it.
I wrote that incident down and put it in my “creative box”. My creative box was a large shoebox that had literally thousands of ideas that I would one day put into a film, a cartoon, or whatever it was I was going to do later in my life. I was/am a late bloomer.
When I sat down 5 years later to begin creating Londons Times Cartoons, I did a series called “Panel Hollywood” which included my brushes with fame.
I realized I had looked at David as one who helped “keep us afloat” no matter what. He was not about money or fame or all the trappings he had. He was about helping those struggling to make it.
Hence my cartoon, “David Buoy” came to be. RIP David Bowie. I’ll never forget your music and films; and most importantly the morning we had breakfast on Santa Monica Blvd.
Rick London is a writer, cartoonist, songwriter and designer. He is best known for his offbeat cartoons and funny gifts, Londons Times Cartoons which have been Google #1 ranked since 2005. London launched the project from a tin shed in 1997. London has designed cartoon David Bowie tees and gifts that make wonderful collectibles.
When I was about 19, I left home to “greener pastures”….Dallas Texas; and landed at a community college in Richardson, Tx called Richland. I enrolled for no particular reason than to be away from home and see the “big bad dangerous world”. With Autism and Asperger’s, I hadn’t a clue why I was attending anyway.
Though I was taking a full load, and retaining nearly nothing due to my Autism which had never been diagnosed, I also went to Dallas Fashion Merchandising College. Though it was not an accredited school, it was great fun, and for the first time allowed me to express myself creatively. I was told by my parents and others close to me that it was a waste of time; I’d never learn how to design, and I’d do best to throw in the towel there and focus more on my studies (business) at Richland. I tried but something kept me going to both.
I was unable to do lesson plans (at either school) but learned as much as I could from lectures. Fortunately there were some good professors at both and I retained a bit. 35 years went by before I had an opportunity to design. But everything had changed. In those days, one was to graduate and take their portfolio to a well-known designer. I was much too shy for that and my portfolio was an embarrassment.
I was older now, and there was something about electronic designing that appealed to me. I went through three major surgeries while back in college in my late 40s and mid-50s not to mention a major heart attack I’d suffered before becoming a student. I was determined to learn something before I left this planet.
As time went by, I learned the process of digital designing. I created gifts and clothing bearing my cartoon images, and also learned I could take old public domain images of famous people and their quotes and create designs with them, something I still enjoy doing.
In 2007, I was approached by a POD (Print On Demand) that they’d made a deal with U.S. Keds and wanted me to design some shoes using both my cartoons and public domain famous people and their quotes. At first it was fun. Then like so many Aspies it became an obsession and I felt I had to design at least 3-5 pair a day. It remained fun but grueling. Lee can tell you when I get started on a project my focus is there and remains there until it is finished or stabilized. There is almost no tearing me away from it. But she laughs as she is the same way with hers. As Gary Larson once said, “These little images in a way become our children”. And he’s right. We groom them, we help develop them, we show them how to behave in public and private. They’re just kids.
I married my beloved wife Lee who had had a much more positive experience with academia and also family members growing up who could sew beautiful clothing. When I shared digital design with her, I hardly had to tell her anything. Within 3 months, she had created about 700 pairs of shoes not to mention Tshirts, mousepads, eco-friendly bags, etc. Today she has about 30,000+, one of the most beautiful lines I have ever seen of both her nature and wildlife photography and her amazing artwork, much of it reminding me of Peter Max from the 60s but with her own flair. It’s a lot of fun and we’ve got a lot of it hanging in our place.
I guess I had about 3000 or so pairs of my “ShoesThatAmuse.com” when Keds and the POD had a falling out. I woke up one day and every one of Lee’s and my pairs were gone. No explanation, no apology, just a short note on their blog that said, “We’ll be back with another brand that will knock your socks off (no pun intended). It would be another 6 years before that happened.
In a lot of ways I’m glad it did happen the way it did. Though the brand we use now ZIPz is not as flexible in designing as Keds, the quality far outweighs them, and I like knowing that our lines is going to be something people will be able to enjoy for a long time.
I’ve received emails and mail from all over during that time of people telling me how much fun they’d had meeting people who simply asked about their shoes. Word of mouth was my best advertising.
After the trauma of hours/years of work on designing the Keds shoes, I changed the name of the store to RickLondonDesigns.com which encompassed all my wisdom, spiritual, motivational, political, etc quote gifts and the store does okay.
Now, I have just purchased the domain AmusingShoes.com which is what I’ve decided to name them.
My Autism Signature Series Shoes will be part of my Signature Gift series. 10% of profits will go to non-vaccine/non-cure Autism/Asperger’s causes. As time goes by and we see a real profit, that will be raised. For now it is the most I can do to keep the lights on. Bear with me, please. Thanks.
Time will tell how they will do. Generally, when I enjoy creating something, it sells. If it is a pain in the butt, it is as if the public knows and won’t buy it. There’s no fooling the public. They know if something is a labor of love, or just an item to put up to make money. I’m at a point in my life where I don’t need to waste my time making those type items. If it is not a labor of love, I’m simply not going to create it. Lee feels the same way with her LeeHillerDesigns.com. I don’t blame her in the least.
I hope you will drop by some of our shops and find items that you can’t find anywhere else. We’ve done it that way on purpose. We’ve found ways over the years to keep prices affordable, yet make the items as rare as hen’s teeth. People generally enjoy them. And for those who don’t there is a 30-day 100% refund, no questions asked. Can’t beat that.
Rick London is a writer, cartoonist, songwriter and designer. He is best known for his Offbeat Cartoons and Funny Gifts “Londons Times” which have been Google #1 ranked since 2005. He is married to “his better half” Lee Hiller-London of Lee Hiller Designs who is a popular nature/wildlife photographer and artist as well as hiker and photo poet. The Autism Signature Series Of Gifts is part of his collection.
One of my favorite things to do is create things (from nothing) that make people laugh. Though WebMd doesn’t list laughter or humor as a medicine, folklore has, of course, called it “the best medicine” for several centuries.
And though of course technically that might not be so, it has been proven from studies at University Of Md Medical School that laughter does boost the immune system which can often ward off disease and help people tolerate pain better.
On June 13th, 2015 at age 61, I received my diagnosis for Autism (well into the spectrum). This was not a huge surprise. I guess my big surprise was my wife saw it before anyone else did; or at least she had the guts (and caring nature) to tell me that might be something into which to check, so I did. And I’m glad I did. It explained so much from my life. It explained why I was put away in an attic while my siblings lived in the “core part of the family”. It explained to me why I was “always in trouble”. It explained to me why it was so difficult for me to focus on a job. It explained my life.
As I began talking to others with a late or very late diagnosis, I learned that the majority of diagnosis today happens past the age of fifty; though I was glad to hear that one candidate, Hillary Clinton plans to change that with early screening for all students. She seems to be the only one, thus far, with the consciousness of how common it is, and how important it is to get an early diagnosis so that students can learn. Everything I ever learned was “out on the street” and my return to college at age 47, though I had to drop due to health issues.
After the diagnosis I had to decide whether to keep it secret, or be vocal about it. After talking with my beloved wife Lee about it for several weeks, I decided to be vocal. I am so glad I did as another new chapter in my life opened.
I learned rather rapidly who had been my friends all along, and who just smiled real big. So many abandoned me, which was a good thing; hurtful but good. I didn’t need that kind of deadweight in my life. I love people a lot, but fake people can be complicated and hurtful. I much prefer to have less friends, but quality friends, than so many who hate just because something or someone is different. It makes life much simpler, and enforces that I enjoy my true friends that much more. They are very decent people as is my wife Lee who stood by me through this. It would have scared a lot of people away.
One thing I taught myself about two decades ago was the cartoon business. I did so by contacting masters in the field. I am not that great an artist, but most recommended for me to recruit good artists and I write the cartoons and create the concepts, “blueprint them” and assign them to the team artists. That was a big struggle for the first decade and now has stabilized into a very nice collaborative effort. I am proud that my Londons Times cartoons and gifts have been the #1 offbeat cartoons & gifts since 2005. I launched them from a tin shed in 1997.
I like to joke that I learned cartooning “by default”. It’s actually not a joke, it’s true. I was fortunate enough to have Charles Schulz as a “phone mentor” and friend, and he told me he got into cartooning “because he tried everything else and couldn’t do it very well”. That too, was the story of my life. I don’t think anyone wants to go into cartooning. They do so because nothing else worked out so well. I’m okay with that and actually enjoy the creation process quite a bit.
Finally, I have decided to open an “Autism Signature Line” of cartoons which benefits non-vaccine/non-cure Autism causes. The cartoon themes are our regular offbeat topics; not about Autism or Aspergers or neurodiversity. The thing that makes them different is that each images features the familiar colorful puzzle in the corner of the cartoon plus Rick London’s signature and his acknowledgement of being Autistic.
The Autism community does need support. It is one of those rare conditions that is both a disability and an ability. The disability is that our modern society is not catered to the way our brain fires. Our ability is that the way many of our brain fires, gives us the vision to create and do jobs that many others are not able to do. This is known as neurodiversity. The same is true of those without Autism, neurotypicals who can do tasks that we are unable to do.
Most experts agree that the world needs both type of thinkers. Autism is nothing to cure or correct. There are traits that can be modified behavior-wise if one wishes, and I do so I participate in therapy to learn that process. It is never too late to learn.
And it is never too late to help others from ones experience, even if it had been a tragedy. That is one of my major goals for however long God decides I should live. I will always do my best to make others feel better via laughter, and support Autism causes. I never want a child (or adult) to go through what I did (out in the world without a diagnosis). So many don’t make it, in fact I’m told most. That is no longer necessary with the knowledge we have today. Over 3 million Americans have now been diagnosed and it is estimated 2-3 times that many who have not been diagnosed are also on the Autism Spectrum. Please join me in working to solve issues in this vital arena.
Rick London is a writer, songwriter, entrepreneur and cartoonist. He is best known for his offbeat cartoons and funny gifts (Londons Times Cartoons), and now has launched a line of Londons Times Autism Series Line which includes the colorful familiar Autism Puzzle plus his autograph and acknowledgment of being Autistic.
Friends ask me “how are you funny on a day like today?” Generally they are talking about terrorism or a natural disaster in which people are hurt or killed.
The answer is simple. “I don’t.”
“You don’t”, some ask rather inquisitively.
“No, not even a little bit.”
“But you’re a humor writer and designer and such and you just leave all that alone?”
The point is, I, like everyone else have feelings. And my sadness over what happened in Paris, though certainly not heroic, is no different than yours.
I feel. I think. I am conscious of events around me. Today is not only a day I do not plan to “be entertaining, I am going to attempt to lose myself in a book or movie, spend some time with nature, and anything I can do to help stop the hurt.
Hurt? Yes, it hurts when innocent people are gunned down or blown up, in any case, murdered for no particular reason other than some twisted ideology in which nobody wins.
I know there are parents, spouses, boyfriends and girlfriends, cats and dogs all wondering what happened to the person whose life means everything to them.
There are people who run small businesses nearby who don’t even know if it is safe to go in to simply make a living to feed their families. Maybe it is, maybe not. I am sure the law and military is doing all they can to prevent another such tragedy but there are no guarantees.
All the while, I also realize this is out of my control. As an “Aspie”, I will reel the whole scenario over and over in my mind to see how it could have been prevented, all the while, knowing that is just an exercise in futility.
I take it personally. In the days of WW1, WW2, etc., even though it was also taken personally, sometimes our ancestors didn’t know for a long while the condition of their loved ones.
Today with social media, many of us have friends in France and other friends here in the states that have friends and relatives there. It’s a global village. And the global village is grieving. It will be for a long time.
Rick London is a writer, designer and cartoonist. He is best known for launching Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons in 1997 which have ranked Google #1 since 2005. He also founded Rick London Funny Gifts in which he creates products showcasing his cartoons.