Alex Fischetti is the richest man in town.

When interviewing Fischetti, a cinephile with an encyclopedic knowledge of film history, it’s hard not to recall the image of James Stewart’s George Bailey — a man whose close-knit friendships around the small, fictional town of Bedford Falls are his true wealth.  

But life hasn’t always been that wonderful for the 2009 Ridgefield High School graduate.

“If you can believe it, I didn’t know anybody. Now I know everybody,” said Fischetti, who recently published his first book, The Lonesome Boy and the Blonde Haired Angel.

“I’ve come a long way,” he added. “I’ve built up the courage to open myself to others and embrace the beauty of others. … I had some help along the way, of course.”

The Lonesome Boy and the Blonde Haired Angel is the story of Fischetti’s friendship with a woman named Reeny, the wife of a local pastor who mentored him from 2009 to 2011 while he was living in Vero Beach, Fla.

Fischetti, who was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome at a young age, said the experience of meeting Reeny changed his life forever.

“I was working as an usher down at an AMC movie theater in Florida and was feeling very isolated,” he said. “I saw a woman in the food court of the mall I was working in and just felt like I knew her. I went up and introduced myself, and like the final line from Casablanca says, it was ‘the beginning of a beautiful friendship.’”

Asperger syndrome is a form of autism that affects how people think and socialize. Fischetti said he’s “different than your average Joe” because he interacts with people differently.

“It can be a turnoff to some people,” he said, “but Reeny taught me to not overthink it too much and told me to ‘let people see the real you.’ And that opened my eyes.”

Coming home

Since returning to Ridgefield, Fischetti has accumulated hundreds of friends. He also picked up the Arts Volunteer Award from the Ridgefield Playhouse, where he works, in 2013.

“I didn’t know how the move back to Ridgefield would be,” Fischetti said.

His family moved back to town in July 2012. He lost the physical proximity to Reeny but has never forgotten the lessons she taught him, and now is sharing those with others in his illustrated short story.

“The drawings make it less confusing for kids,” said Fischetti, who enlisted Old Greenwich-based artist Cleo Miller with the book’s watercolor illustrations.

“They were all done by hand and then transposed digitally into the story,” he said of Miller’s work. “She’s been such a tremendous help to me — it’s been great to have her as a partner. I couldn’t have asked for anyone better to share this process.”

Adaptation

The Lonesome Boy and the Blonde Haired Angel has been a story five years in the making, according to Fischetti.

“I would stop and start whenever an idea would pop up. I would change bits and pieces, make a sentence longer or shorter,” he said. “Lots of tinkering.”

“I have my own style,” he added. “I tend to write when something comes to me.”

The general idea was always to weave the themes of friendship, spiritual mentorship and kindness together. The 41-page book features passages from the Bible and how they relate to the protagonist’s transformation.

“It’s been a long time coming,” he admitted. “But I really wanted to make sure this was something that made people feel positive. I hope it inspires everyone.”

Eternal sunshine

An avid walker, Fischetti logs anywhere from four to five miles a day going up and down Ridgefield’s Main Street.

Not too bad for someone who used to consider himself a loner.

“The lonesome boy in the story, Ernie, is me,” he said. “It’s all about overcoming the social isolation of autism, and how this angel named Madeline — who’s a stand-in for Reeny — helps Ernie break out of his shell. …

“In the end, the boy becomes a social butterfly.”

Fischetti’s favorite illustration is on page 25, where Madeline shows Ernie how to overcome anxiety by walking with him in the park and pointing out the beauty of their surroundings.

“A lot of good has come from positive thinking,” Fischetti said. “That’s why I won’t watch negative news anymore — it’s all about criticism, and I’m trying to do the opposite.

So far, the process is working.

“I have less anxiety these days,” he said. “She helped me cast out the negativity.”

Spotlight

Fischetti said the book can be purchased on Amazon in paperback or on the Kindle. He said stores in town will be selling it soon.

But the promotion won’t stop there.

“I’d like for it to make the rounds in the national circuit,” he said.

“I’ve been doing Facebook Live interviews to promote,” he added. “It’s a unique marketing strategy.”

It seems to be working. One recent Facebook Live interview netted him 12 sales — pushing his total number of sold copies over 100.

“The reach on Facebook is incredible,” Fischetti said. “People you don’t even know find you, and that’s a good thing when you’re trying to get attention put on something.”

Life is beautiful

For someone who’s interviewed and befriended celebrities like Warren Beatty, Mickey Rooney, and Gene Wilder, Fischetti is remarkably humble.

He credits Reeny for the perspective shift.

“I get so much of my inspiration from people right here in town — all the philanthropy and random acts of kindness that take place here,” he said. “I’m so immensely grateful to be able to work at the Playhouse and to meet new friends every single day. …

“Originally, I wasn’t about that — I was interviewing Ed Asner, I was being mentored by Charles Grodin,” Fischetti said. “I’m not as much about that celebrity mind-set anymore. Now I’m all about giving back to my local community.”

If he does take on a celebrity interview assignment, he does it to help others.

“It used to be for personal reasons,” he said. “It’s a better experience this way, though — when it’s beneficial to everyone. …

“That would have never happened without Reeny, and that’s why I’ve decided to pay tribute to her. She opened my eyes and my heart.”

The message Fischetti received many years ago — don’t be afraid to be yourself and be as positive as you possibly can be — is one he hopes resonates with readers around the world.

“I know I can sell a million copies of this,” he said. “Because this is a book for everybody.

“And it’s short; it’s not War and Peace.”