Jason Mo

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”.

My third trip to the Carlisle House took place on Wednesday. I walked in around lunchtime and it surprisingly was not very crowded. Perhaps due to the holidays? I walked in, and immediately recognized some people such as Peanut and Mike who both approached me and said hello. This time, Peanut didn’t have her kareoke machine going so it was a little quieter. After a few minutes of conversing with Peanut, Mike, and another man about various things such as what I am asking for for Christmas, we proceeded to go into the kitchen where I helped clean dishes from lunch. Mike and I continued to talk about my plans for New Year, and Peanut kept telling me to bring in the kareoke machine (which wasnt there). She continued to refer to me as Stanley. After playing a game of pool (which I lost) with Mike, Peanut, myself, and another man sat in the TV room and put in Vanilla Sky. We sat in relative silence as the movie went on. Afterwards it was time to go, so I told everyone to have a good holiday and left.

As I mentioned last time, the Carlisle House does not make me feel too uncomfortable. This time I went by myself and was content with walking around and talking with people. I was surprised that Peanut recalled my name. It was also interesting how neat they keep the place. It seems that everyone cleans up after themselves and take pride in doing so. I thought the conversation about what I am asking for for Christmas was intersting. I couldn’t tell if they were asking me becasue they thought I was a rich college kid and they wanted to see what extravagent things I was asking for, or simply becasue they were being friendly. Again, the people were all friendly and willing to converse about a lot of things which made the visit easier

I can relate this visit in a way to Geek Love because like the novel, two different societies collide. You have the wealthier, educated, college students on one side, and the not so educated, not as fortunate, Carlisle House visitors on the other. I can also relate this to Rosemarie Thomson’s methods of coping with the analomous. Overall it was a great experience and I enjoyed it.

It is fair to say that I have conflicting emotions about volunteering at the Carlisle House. I remain apprehensive because I am quite unsure if I will be able to maintain a sufficiently engaging conversation with those individuals I will be working with. I am not entirely unfamiliar with interacting with mentally impaired individuals. I have been a camp counselor for four consecutive years and have experienced multiple children with various disabilities. For instance, this past summer I was the head counselor of twenty-one fourth graders. Two of these children were diagnosed with Autism; one case was significantly more severe than the other. I had trouble getting the two children to listen to directions, participate in the activities, and prevent physical altercations with other children. However, two “Shadows” (a shadow is an individual who is professionally qualified to look after children with certain mental or physical disabilities)were assigned to my group, which drastically reduced the difficulty of my job. Furthermore, my assistant counselor had Cerebral Palsy. In order to maintain a safe environment for the campers, my assistant counselor and I were constantly working together. In addition, my uncle has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). A few of his compulsive actions are physically noticeable and do in fact attract attention. In light of my experiences as a camp counselor and my interactions with my uncle, I am confident that I am not uncomfortable around those with either physical or mental disabilities. However, my job as a camp counselor, for example, wasn’t to hold a steady conversation with a single child. Conversely, my job was to arrange various activities and games for the kids to participate in. Moreover, my previous experiences were scarcely on a one on one basis. I have never been tested in such a way that my volunteering at the Carlisle House will inevitable test me. Therefore, I am not afraid of being uncomfortable or of being immersed in an unfamiliar environment. I am afraid of not being able to effectively please the individual. I am not sure if I will be able to carry out a conversation or an activity that will be both interesting and enjoyable for the individual I will be working with. The last thing I want is for the individual to be bored or impatient.
In addition to my uncertainties, I am in fact eager to start volunteering at the Carlisle House. I am eager to see if I am capable of rising to the occasion while overcoming my uncertainties. More importantly, I am looking forward to this experience because I hope it will make a difference in someone’s life. I am not expecting to walk away from this experience having miraculously improved someone’s life, for instances such as those are few and far in-between. However, I hope that I am able to bring something unique and different to the table. My ultimate goal is to stimulate whoever I may be working with in a different way. Instead of just passing the time by playing pool or poker, I would like to engage the person in a more substantial manner. For example, I would greatly enjoy having a political or sports-related discussion. In doing so, I hope that my being there would have provided something new and enjoyable for that individual.