Dear Damien, Tim, Dan, and Andy:
I know you by name. I watch your videos all the time. Your pictures hang in my living room. But I’m not a creepy stalker. I’m simply the mother of Martin, who has made you and your music the subject of what I call “autistic devotion.” His past devotions have been United States presidents and maps of Africa. These devotions include intense study as well as creative elaboration. And while your own work is already elaborate, let me list the ways Martin riffs on you:
1. Martin has built you out of legos. The lego figures wear different outfits that correspond with the costumes in your videos.
2. He uses Dungeons and Dragons figurines to recreate the marching band formations from the “This Too Shall Pass” video.
3. He learned the xylophone part to the same song and plans to play it at an upcoming church talent show.
4. He built the car from the “Needing/Getting” video out of legos. He drives it all over our house singing. He would also like to build a machine that includes all the instruments from this song so that he can play them all at once.
5. He has drawn the parts of the Rube-Goldberg sequence from the second “This Too Shall Pass” video on a roll of paper. He can draw it from memory.
6. He has planned your visit to Austin and designated sites for you to sing your songs. He wants you to recreate the “Here It Goes Again” treadmill sequence at our nearby YMCA. He’s still figuring out how to procure the dogs necessary to recreate “White Knuckles.” He’s stumped about how to get marching band uniforms. He’s hoping Goodwill might deliver.
7. I could keep going.
On the one hand, I would love for him to meet you. To that end, we are taking him to your upcoming concert in Austin. On the other hand, he would be paralyzed by the fact that you are real people. In his mind, you are only what he has seen on the screen and heard with his ears. In his perfect world, he would use you like real-life figurines to recreate all the scenes he loves. He would not know what to do if you expressed ideas of your own or if you resisted his plans.
This is why I never attempted to get him a handshake with Obama, even though everyone we know has said it would be great. “He loves presidents. You should do it,” they say. It’s true that he loves presidents and that his autistic devotion has led him to learn more facts about presidents than anyone else I know. But I also know that Martin would want to tell Obama what to do. To ask only questions that interest him. Martin would not follow Obama’s directions. He would not answer Obama’s questions. And my guess is that a president would not appreciate that.
So Martin dreams of meeting you, but not a real-life meeting. He envisions a meeting that fulfills the dreams of his autistic devotion. In that sense, he loves you like teenagers love. Intense, but not really grounded. The stuff of great love letters, but perhaps not real-life encounters.
In conclusion, I love your music and crazy videos. But my kid loves you more and with a kind of purity and energy that we adults can only remember fondly from our youth. If you’d like to meet your biggest fan and can accept him on his terms, we’ll be at your concert in October.
All the best,