Archive - Dismodern Body fa 05

My second trip to the Carlisle House on December 6, was a much more enjoyable experience. The weather was gorgeous and the walk there with Ellen and Jackie was a very pleasurable one. When I arrived at the Carlisle House I was immediately greeted by Ron, who was sitting over by the arts a crafts table. I broke off from Ellen and Jackie effortlessly, I was not at all apprehensive or nervous. Ron and I immediately started talking about race car driving and other various sports; he seemed very happy that I had arrived. Suddenly, however, a very tiny woman seemed to come out of nowhere and abruptly pulled me, Ellen and Jackie into the side room. The woman introduced herself as Peanut and seemed in a desperate hurry to get us to help her make a crown for the new Karaoke Queen. We all agreed to help her out when we got back from Christmas break and she was very thankful. She gave us all big hugs and told us how much she loved teenagers. I then went back into the main room and talked to Ron with Jackie for another half an hour and then helped Peanut and Christy decorate the Christmas tree for the remaining hour. All in all, it was a very rewarding, magical experience that I enjoyed immensely.

There was something about Ron’s demeanor that drew me to him. He seemed like the nicest most honest person I had ever met. When I arrived at the Carlisle House, Ron was just sitting at the arts and crafts table watching a woman named Brenda paint wooden Christmas stockings. Ron seemed so content with himself, just sitting there observing the scenery, it made me very interested in him; I wanted to know what he was thinking. When I spoke to him we primarily talked about cars and sports and typical male dominated things. However, I thought it was interesting the way that, Ron, a person with a cognitive impairment, could be so socially similar to my other guy friends. What I talked about with Ron was pretty similar to what I usually talk about with all my other guy friends who don’t have a cognitive impairment. I have always known not to judge a person based on their appearance, however, Ron looked to be physically normal. It was his cognitive state that deemed him anomalous, and yet, what was so interesting was that we engaged in very similar conversations to ones I might have had with someone without an impairment. Given that there was some difference in the way that Ron interacted and presented himself with me, I think it was really great for me to see just how similar these he was compared to anyone else.

As hard as I tried to stay open-minded at the Carlisle House, I think I still allowed there to be a gap between me and the people who were severely impaired. I was definitely more drawn to those that looked physically “normal.” One of Mary Garland Thomson’s five assumptions about what human beings instinctively do is that we “avoid the anomalous.” I must confess that I did keep towards Ron for most of the time I spent at the Carlisle House because he acted particularly normal compared to some of the other members. However, I think that if I were given more time I would have eventually branched out and befriended those who had more severe cognitive impairments and probably had less in common with me than Ron did.

I went to the Carlisle House on Thrusday December 8th from 12-2 P.M. As I walked in the door I was immidiately greeted with the sound of Peanut singing to the kareoki machine. Sydney, James, and I introduced ourselves to those present and then searched for Stephanie. After confirming our presence with Stephanie, Peanut took James, Sydney, and I on a tour of the facility. Following the completion of the tour,James and I stayed in the main common room watching Peanut and a few other individuals singing with the Kareoki machine. Peanut immidiately approached me and asked if I would take off my jacket and sing along with her. Iuite apprehensivly but continued anyway. Peanut and I sang “New York, New York” first and followed up with a few additional songs. I then asked James to “jump in” with me and the three of us proceeded to sing a few more songs. Peanut then decided to get a milkshake from the Dairy Queen, so James and I joined Sydney in the kitchen. I met Chris in the kitchen and proceeded to spend the majority of our time talking with him. We talked about his past military experience, partying, and the success of the Carlisle High School’s boys basketball team during the mid-1980’s. We continued the conversation both outside while he smoked and in the kitchen over coffee (which was surprisingly good) and soup. I then met Scott who owned 4 dogs and was quite the cross-country runner and wrestler during his high school years. Our conversation then revolved around how he spoiled his dogs, feeding them Turkey for breakfast. I can personally relate, for my dog receives roast-beef every morning. After a short period of conversation we found ourselves in the pool room. An administrator of the Carlisle House then joined the pool game. I was unable to determine if this man possesed any mental conditions. However, after a brief period of time I realized that he was in fact an employee, who coincidentally grew up very close to me. Sydnery, James, and I remained in the pool room until we said our goodbyes and left.
Upon my initial arrival I felt akward not because I was surrounded by peopel with varying mental conditions, but because I felt as if our interaction was artificial. I was curious if those who I spoke with felt as if they were being studied or observed. I quickly overcame this feeling when Peanut asked me to sing with her. After finishing the first few songs, I began to get into the music and had fun. In addition, I quickly understood that the Carlisle House truly was a recreational facility. I was just another person singing Kareoki, playing pool, and smoking cigarettes (even though I didn’t actually smoke) just like anybody else. Talking with Chris also aided in diminishing my anxious demenour. The more I talked with Chris and learned about his past experiences, the more comfortable I felt. The two of us had a mutual love for partying and in particular, partying in New York City. However, as I was first approaching Chris upon my initial arriva, a woman playing cards on the other side of the kitchen commented on how I looked. Immidiately, Christ try to ensure me by saying, “Don’t worry about her, shes crazy”. This comment (which was repeated later on ) made me feel slightly anxious, for I didn’t know how to respond. The rest of my time there was very calm and enjoyable. I left the Carlisle House feeling significantly more comfortable than when I first entered.
Some of the information conveyed in Thompson’s, Extrodinary Bodies, was identifiable during my trip to the Carlisle House. The unexpected comment made by Chris, “Don’t worry about her, shes crazy” exemplified Thomsons argument that “disabled” people tend to stereotype and margenalize other “disabled” people in an attempt to normalize themselves. The more Chris and I conversed about partying in college, the more “normal” our interaction became. Therefore, Chris may have repeated the same comment in an attempt to solidify his “normalcy”. In doing so, he was projecting the woman whom the comment was directed towards, as an entirely different “disabled” person. My analysis of the comment may very well be inaccurate, but Thomson’s argument and this class has reformed the way in which I approach the topic of “diability”.

Laurie and I arrived at the Carlisle House around 1230PM. When we first walked in and hung up our coats and I observed that some of the members were taking part in singing Karaoke. I sat on a chair and introduced myself to Ron who was to my right. He told me about what songs he enjoyed singing karokee to and we discussed car racing for while. He informed me that his favorite driver is Jeff Gordon and that his father drag races at a race track in Mount Holly. Ron also told me that he used to race, but that he sold his car and that he would like to work as an auto mechanic, which he had done in the past. I was then introduced to Peanut, who was doing most of the Karaoke singing. She sang the songs Boardwalk, the electric slide, and others. I also met Mel, who was knitting at the arts and crafts table. Mel was also taking part in singing and dancing. She was a great singer. After being introduced to Mel and Peanut I went back and sat down and talk more with Ron. We discussed what he wanted for Christmas, hockey, football, what television shows he enjoyed ad he showed me a giant star that the members made. Ron then had to leave to pick up his Mom at work. He told me he would be back on Friday and that he would be making lunch. After he left Peanut wanted me to sing Karaoke with her, so stood with her and sang and danced. After a few Karaoke songs with peanut Laurie and I had to leave. I hugged Peanut and Mel and told them how much I enjoyed my time with them.
I think before going I was feeling a little bit nervous because I wasn’t really sure what to expect. But soon after I got there I began to feel more welcome and in talking with Ron I just attempted to look for something that we could have in common to talk about. I was surmised at all the things we had in common such as football (even though he likes the Steelers and I’m an eagles fan) as well as certain TV shows such as wheel of fortune. It made me happy to see that there were things that I could identify with. Something else I observed was just how carefree everyone seemed, especially Peanut. She seemed as through she couldn’t be happier singing and dancing. There was no fear in her of being embarrassed or different, she was just happy to be expressing herself. You could also see just how much she enjoys the Carlisle House. In comparison with something in my own life sometimes I go to a bar with some friends on a karaoke night. After we leave the bar everyone says how next week they are going to sing and how they wish they had this week, but they never do. I think that people who are “normal” have a fear of embarrassment and of being different, where it seemed like people like Mel and Peanut weren’t afraid to be themselves. I found them to be truly inspiring, I even sang and danced and felt like it didn’t matter how I acted I was accepted.
I think that based on my observations I really saw that these people are being something extraordinary through their differences. Not to say that people without disability aren’t unique, but I think that each person was using his or her difference to be something special. For example, Peanut seemed so thankful for everything that she had and she to really be happy with who she is. Rosemarie Garland discusses the dominant culture as being neutral and what is defined as normal doesn’t really exist: “If one attempts to define the normate position by peeling away all the marked traits within the social order at this historical moment, what emerges is a very narrowly defined profile that describes only a minority of actual people”(8).

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