Delicious food, entertaining conversation, beautiful music.. all the makings for a great date, right? But here’s a twist. It’s all in the pitch dark. Last night and tonight, the Boulder Integral is hosting The Blind Cafe, a unique experience, where guests are led by blind wait staff into a dining area and served a delicious vegetarian meal, have a question and answer session with their blind hosts, and then listen to the music of Rosh & One Eye Glass Broken.
When I arrived at the Boulder Integral there were several people with service dogs. Many of these were volunteers who were training the dogs to lead the blind. But tonight, it was the blind who were leading the sighted. Groups of eight were led in by one of the blind hosts, lined up, conga-style, with our hands on the shoulders of the person ahead of us. The initial feeling was reminiscent of walking through a haunted house, ready to be startled by any unexpected sound or movement. As I felt the table to seat myself, the first place I set my hand was smack in the middle of my salad. Oh well. No one was looking!
Though a fork was provided, it was easier for me to just eat with my fingers. Since we couldn’t see what we were eating, I wanted to at least feel it and have some guess at what I was putting into my mouth. Breads, cheeses, vegetables, salad, nuts, yogurt, and peanut butter popcorn balls are some of what I tasted. (Luckily, I also found my napkin.) I’m still not sure what all of it was, but I can assure you it was finger-licking tasty. Much of the food was provided by local-area sponsors of the event.
After dinner, we listened to a poem, recited by Rick Hammond. Then he, Gerry Leary and our other visually impaired hosts led a Q&A, and encouraged us to ask questions. There were some excellent questions — things I’d never thought about… For example, ‘Do blind people see images when they dream?’ The answer was that people ‘dream’ the same way they ‘see.’ If they can see partially, the images in their dreams are similar. If they were blind from birth, they don’t see images, but they dream of experiences similar to what they experience when they’re awake (but, of course, with that dream-like unrealistic weirdness stuff.)
One question that I thought was particularly interesting: “What do you think about the over-emphasis that society puts on ‘looking good’? Do you care how you look or how other people look?” Gerry’s answer got big laughs from the crowd: “We care how people smell!” Sabine added that she does take care to make sure her clothes match and put makeup on and that she is conscious what she looks like when she’s in public. She added that, of course, in this situation, where no one can see, she could take her top off and no one would know! (I had to wonder whether anyone was testing this theory.)
The last hour we were treated to the melodic string concert of Rosh & One Eye Glass Broken, ending with a song in which the audience was taught the refrain and we joined in, louder and louder, standing and clapping to the beat. It was really very moving — the kind of thing that brings tears to your eyes, feeling bonded in community, and a new sense of admiration for those who are visually impaired.
Want to experience this yourself? There’s a second performance tonight, May 5th, at 6:30. So tell your friends and get on out to the Integral Center to enjoy the most inspiring blind date of your life.