S1: Episode 1 - Larry Johnson

Portrait of Larry

Episode Information

[Intro Music]

Narrator:        Welcome to My Heart is Not Blind. Narrative histories about blindness and perception. A traveling exhibition and book published by Trinity University Press, supported by Gronkowski Charitable Foundation, edited and hosted by Michael Nye. Every person. Every place is a map to somewhere else. Episode one Larry Johnson.

Larry:               I don’t remember losing my sight because it happened when I was a baby due to infantile glaucoma, I guess for me, vision is what I remember being able to see. I’ve never saw a face or anything in detail. What I remember most are colors. I remember seeing shadows of trees. I, I have no idea what a mountain looks like or a river. I loved playing baseball, even though I could never catch the ball. <laugh> I loved being out in the field and, and hearing the ball hit the bat. I just was excited about the possibility of one day I’ll catch that damn ball. And later on, when I was a teenager, I used to practice imitating the announcer as he described the game. And, and I could begin, you know, okay, now Luke Alene is up and there’s a swing in a bit, strike one.

Here’s the next pitch. It’s low one outside ball, one, one, and one, or the, the, the short stop dives and makes a one hand stop. And you could feel it and you could experience it. And it was part of my game. It was part of my own entertainment. When I acquired my dog Tasha, I was just short of 16 years of age, and I felt I could go anywhere, do anything with her at my side. I thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful to take a trip to Mexico? It took about a year of planning and of course then began my adventures. When I got into Mexico, where in my limited Spanish, tried to find out if the train would make a stop long enough for me to take Tasha off the train to answer to nature’s call. So I asked the conductor and he told me in, oh, no, problema no problema. Well, there was a problema because <laugh>, as soon as, as soon as I released Tasha from her harness and leash, the train pulled away. And so I was left in this little town and it was a scary moment. And, uh, Tasha again was my source of self-confidence in, in, in support. She came back and I, I hugged her and I thought, it’s, it’s gonna be okay.

Oh, I felt sorry for myself, many times throughout my life, when I would be, uh, turned down by a, a girl that I wanted to go on a date with, or my ideas would be ignored so many times.

And it’s very easy blaming the disappointment on the condition of blindness, no question, but my mother’s philosophy and her belief in me has been the most important factor. And my believing that I can take one more step up that ladder. One more step. No, I have never really longed for sight. What I have longed for was to not be discriminated against because I was blind. I think the greatest misconception is that people who are blind are helpless, how do you brush your teeth? How do you <laugh>, how do you go to the bathroom? You know, how do you cook many blind people are fully functioning in the community. They’re able to work. They’re able to marry. They’re able to have children. They’re able to be contributing valid members of society.

Synesthesia is where there’s a crossover of senses. Some people, for example, when they listen to music, they visualize textures, smells or tastes. I, in my case, when I think of words or letters, I visualize colors, why Michael is yellow and Larry is blue. It just happens to be how I interpret them. But at the same time, I also see that word in braille. I don’t feel it with my fingers, but in my mind, I am feeling the dots and, um, numbers do have colors. A four is kind of silver. A 10 is red, a hundred is, uh, it’s kind of a, a pink color, but it hasn’t really had any practical application for me. As far as I know, it’s just kind of been entertaining. Sounds can be so meaningful, not just people’s voices, but their tone of voice, the words that they choose to use, walking along a street, and hearing music from a record store.

And so you become very aware of sounds that that are happening. They become, um, clues as to where you are and where you’re going. I remember once I was gonna go to a store and it was snowing and the wind was blowing and you couldn’t really detect the sidewalk I got lost. And I didn’t know if I was in the street or where I was. And I began to think about my radio heroes and how would they approach this? And it was at the same time, scary, but also I just consider it as, as part of the adventure of learning to deal with the unknown and with the unexpected.

[Outro Music]

Host:              This is Michael Nye, and you have been listening to a podcast of narrative histories. Larry Johnson was born in Chicago. He has a master’s degree in economics and Latin American studies. His first career was in radio and television. He’s the author of seven books and has been an advocate and champion for persons with disabilities. Larry’s thoughtful advice to me has given meaningful shape to this project.

Join me next week, two new episodes will be released. Please subscribe, rate, and review this podcast. You can also go to my website, michaelnye.org/podcast for transcripts, and other information. There are so many ways. Different ways to experience moments to their fullest. Thank you for listening.