We are back…Missed you All…read our latest post from Amy Gravino, DJFF Self-Advocate Leader

Time passes so quickly, and we have missed you. But now Linda and The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation are back. We have decided that our first new post should be one written by an adult advisor to our organization, Amy Gravino. There are a couple of good reasons for this:
1) The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation mission is reliant on the thoughts, needs, ideas and issues that affect adults on the spectrum, and all we do is guided by this;
2) Many adults living with Autism have certain preferences for activities, interests, pursuits that make them experts in that area and that inspire them to live fulfilling lives—in short, they find enjoyment doing these things;
3) From time to time we will highlight examples of these activities, pursuits, interests etc. that bring joy to an individual on the spectrum to hopefully inspire others to find their own “joy in the journey” (which is a raison d’être for our blog).

So without any further comment by us…here is Amy’s unedited by us, blog about something that brings happiness to her life—-

“I Left My Heart In Davy Jones’ Locker”
by Amy Gravino

//Here we come, walkin’ down the street…//

I can remember the smile that stretched across my face the first time I heard those lyrics from the television theme song for The Monkees, and saw the images of four fun-loving boys jumping and playing on my screen.

The Monkees—Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, Michael Nesmith, and my then-favorite, Davy Jones—were as new and present to me as any other musical act that hit the scene when I was in the seventh grade. I had no cognizance of them as a band from the 1960s, out of a place and from an era that was long past.

But for a nearly-teenage girl with Asperger’s Syndrome walking the junior high school hallways of 1996, falling in love with a band that hadn’t been popular in thirty years did very little to enhance my already-lowly social standing.

I remember looking for pictures of the Monkees online, mainly on Monkees.net, which was the only Monkees website I could find at the time. I printed the pictures out, one by one, and proudly hung them on the inside of my locker door. Every time I opened it and saw their smiling faces staring back at me, it was as though I had four new friends, and the loneliness and self-hatred that I felt would abate, even just momentarily.

And when my classmates tore the pictures down, laughing, jeering as they threw them into a nearby garbage can, I would go home, print them again, and carefully re-hang them in their rightful place.

The years following high school were spent discovering myself, but it was not until graduate school—where I had the good fortune to have a professor who was a big Monkees fan—that I re-discovered The Monkees.

With a more mature outlook and a new favorite Monkee (hello, Peter Tork), I began to re-watch the television show and listen to the Monkees’ music, and more than anything, wanted to connect with fellow fans, something I had been longing for since I could remember.

Even though I was thrilled to see the Monkees in concert for my 18th birthday in 2001 (in their “Threekees” combination of Micky, Peter, and Davy, but no Mike), I was still convinced that I was the only person my age who liked them.

But the Internet had progressed dramatically since then, and I was thrilled beyond measure to discover the Monkees “fandom”—a huge group of Monkees fans of all ages in various online communities, most notably on Facebook.

The Monkees were no longer touring as a group at the time, but they were performing as individuals, along with their respective bands. Being that Peter had shifted into the coveted “Favorite Monkee” spot somewhere before that 2001 show, it was he whose solo act I first sought out.

Another change that the passing years had brought was a driver’s license, which helped to facilitate my many concert adventures to come. It all began in the summer of 2009, when I traveled all the way to Connecticut and saw Peter with his cleverly-named band, Shoe Suede Blues, for the first time ever.

And though I did not know it then, at that show I crossed paths with the girl who would later become my best and dearest friend.

As I followed the band from show to show, names that I had seen online soon became familiar faces, and in several cases, developed into deep and meaningful friendships. In my younger years, the Internet was where I went to find friends in the first place; but now, I was using it to keep in touch with the people I met at these concerts who lived a considerable distance away from me.

Missteps were of course made, just as they were when I first began to make friends after high school. It’s entirely too easy to place one’s trust in the wrong people, and in 2009, a 12-year friendship with someone I’d had as a best friend since high school was falling apart. That coupled with my excitement over meeting new friends through the Monkees left me in a particularly vulnerable state, and I could not see that one of my new “friends” was harming me without my knowing it.

It was only through trial and a great deal of error that I finally was able to cast these unhealthy friendships aside, and to free myself from blame and the belief that I had done something wrong. To my everlasting gratefulness, however, in place of those came several of the most emotionally fulfilling and happy-making friendships I have ever had.

One such friendship that I had forged was with a woman who lived in England, but who came to the U.S. to attend one of the Peter Tork shows to which I frequently traveled. We’d spoken online previously, but it was at that show where we met face-to-face for the first time.

Six months later, this woman and I ended up starting a Monkees website together. We were both writers, and had met on a forum for writers and readers of Monkees fan fiction, and after the sudden disappearance of a very popular Monkees fan fiction website, came up with the idea to start our own.

In the summer of 2010, Naked Persimmon—named for the title of a song sung by Michael Nesmith in the Monkees’ 1969 television special, 33 1/3 Revolutions per Monkee—was born. Three years later, the site boasts a Fan Art section, an enormous photo gallery, a section of Monkees quotes and anecdotes, and has become one of the most popular Monkees websites on the Internet, complete with several social media sites that we use to stay connected with our fans.

When I think of that 14-year-old girl watching The Monkees on her television, I know for a fact that she never dreamed that she’d one day be running a website about them. I know that she thought she would always be alone in loving The Monkees, and that she would never find friends with whom she could share that love.

A few days ago, I got together and had dinner with two friends that I have made through The Monkees. We sat there chatting, telling stories, laughing; and our waitress remarked at what a good time we seemed to be having. In that moment, I felt my heart swell almost to bursting, simply because that moment was one I never imagined could be possible.

When I became a fan of the Monkees, they became a part of me.  Despite the initial disapproval of so many, I did not stop being a fan, or change who I was just to fit in. I waited, keeping them close to my heart in that special place that no one else could touch, and over time, finally found what I had been looking for.

The Monkees—Micky, Peter, and Davy—reunited in 2011, and I had the privilege of seeing them three times on their summer tour. I can remember sitting next to my best friend Lynsey in the arena at Mohegan Sun casino, and turning to her with a lump in my throat:

“I have always wanted this: To have a best friend to go see The Monkees with in concert. Right now, my inner 15-year-old is jumping for joy.”

//Oh, what can it mean…to a daydream believer and a homecoming queen…//

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