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The Psychiatric Salad Bar is a knife in the heart, and a poke at your funny bone. It is a free fall into the abyss of despair or the exhilaration of the acceleration and then the fear of what comes with terminal velocity. It is that hopelessly romantic notion that there is something better, trying to make that happen, and then watching that slowly slip away. It is about Sam and his high functioning autistic son, Jack.
As we find Sam we soon realize he has not personally visited the Psychiatric Salad Bar, but his son, Jack has and took it very seriously when he saw the sign “All you can eat” It was as if he got a hold of the DSM IV (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition) and felt it was a personal challenge to get as far down the alphabet soup menu as anyone else ever has. He has succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.
For Sam, a typical day might start out with Jack appearing downstairs, with the hale and hearty morning greeting,” I am so f’ing pissed that no one got any milk for my cereal.” And good morning to you too.
Sam, really does feel like he is free falling.. Nothing makes sense. He believes he has far exceeded terminal velocity, which is, I guess, not possible, and clearly not necessary to get the job done.(termination). Even cats don’t survive a fall from more than three stories. So if it were possible to achieve Bonneville Flats kind of stats, what’s the point?
For Sam, denial, and a continuous state of being comfortably numb are pressed into action and demonstrate how these fine underrated dodges can be effective strategies for dealing with bizarro world. While this may be true, there is the down side: that wonderment which occurs either the next day or the one after that. “ Huh? I did what?”
For Sam that came during one of the many times that he was not putting his whole heart into recalibrating his consumption of adult beverages. Apparently he hit the friend me request button on Facebook. His condition, blurred by his lack of resolve, resulted in no recollection of having done so. Several days later he received a reply, which startled him. “Um Hi. This is a surprise.”
What the hell have I done? I have opened up the past which many others have done with regret. A forty year old scab has been ripped off, but yet, it is too compelling to ignore.” What ensues is a real time exchange between Sam and his presumptive daughter to catch up and reconcile something that never was. They do this through emails over the course of eight months.
For Sam, it represents , the possibility of forging a new and alternative reality to the one which he must slog through everyday…caring for Jack whose mantra is, “life sucks and I want it to end”, usually followed by,” I want a new video game system and “f” you Dad” when Sam says no.
The intersection of Facebook, autism, alcoholism and the quest for normalcy make for one helluva trip. This is not a book about experts, pundits, theorists positing the latest flavor of the month “How to book….”. This is boots on the ground, and grunts like Sam trying their best to help a son or daughter and to somehow survive.