After having hosted every single themed birthday celebration for my two kids, from Elmo to paint ball, I find myself ill prepared to give up on the excitement that comes with an upcoming birthday. While my older teenage children are past the themed birthday stage, I’m not ready to let go of the party piece. And I’ll never understand adults who disguise their age or hush an impending birthday, claiming, “It’s just another day.” When in truth, it isn’t just another day.
On the day of a birth, a mother is in horrific pain (probably frightened) and more than likely fights through hell to push a baby into this world. Apologies to those soon to become pregnant, or are currently preggers. Yes, it is the worst pain you’ll ever experience and then will forget only two days later. And for some reason, maybe a year or five later, you’re ready to go through it all over again. Nonetheless, a day of birth should be celebrated if not for who is born, but for she who shepherds them into the world.
Fortunately, my husband supports the celebrate-your-birthday concept I live by and suggested I come along with him to Las Vegas for a business trip. My bag was packed before he finished his sentence.
My 48th birthday began simply and ended with an interesting dinner experience at a restaurant named Blackout. As the title suggests, your dining experience is in the pitch black, and with a little digging, I learned it was a 7-course vegan meal. Otherwise, we were totally in the dark as to what to expect, both figuratively and soon to be literally.
“Hoban, table for two?” calls the hip young hostess with black framed glasses.
“Welcome, Mrs. and Mr. Hoban! My name is Shawn and I’ll be your waiter for the evening. Mr. Hoban, please place both of your hands on my shoulders and stay close behind. Mrs. Hoban, please place your hands on your husband’s shoulders and be sure to not move from the line we’ve created. Ready? Here we go!”
Into the black we stepped, trusting waiter Shawn to not walk us into a pole and scurry away giggling. There are mean people in this world, unfortunately.
Shimmy, shimmy, shimmy, our shoes dragged on the floor in an attempt to ground ourselves. Soon, the light faded completely—the blindness overwhelming. I could not see my hand in front of my face. The hair on my right arm stood up from the breeze of a swift passerby.
I jolted—frozen. Our congo line stopped abruptly.
Every other one of my senses was at max capacity. My ears were that of a bat, my nose a bloodhound’s sniffer differentiating between garlic, perfumes and sweet desserts. The silverware chinked, diners laughed and chairs scraped. I could not confirm anything, no matter how widely I opened my eyes.
“Okay, here is your table,” says our trusty waiter. “Mr. Hoban, I’m going to place your hand on the top of a chair that faces your table.” My husband steps away from the front of me and I am standing in the deepest of black with my hands up—T-Rex fashion. Fortunately, the waiter didn’t leave me that way for long and immediately sat me.
Being in the darkness made me slightly paranoid. Someone could have their face an inch from mine and I wouldn’t know it. How many courses were there again? I kept thinking my eyes were going to adjust and I’d be able to see something—anything. Nada. Except, I did notice green laser dots floating about and deduced they were the waiters’ night vision goggles. The fact that they could see me but I couldn’t see them was a bit unnerving, if I’m honest. Note to self: secretly pack night vision glasses next time.
Our waiter described each course in detail without identifying the actual food. We’d then slowly savor our bites and discuss what we thought we were eating. Most items were finger foods, others needed utensils, which posed a unique challenge. I found myself sniffing the food before taking a bite and trying to decipher… is that rosemary? Do you taste corn and maybe edamame? I’m certain that was a pomegranate seed, no?
Course after course was a delicious mystery to solve; each bite a journey down a culinary highway where the following words were used to describe things: buttery, crunchy, sour, salty, earthy, aromatic, creamy, tart, succulent, crispy, lemony, garlic-y, peppery, spicy, cheesy, nutty. It felt strange to talk into the total darkness and not be able to see body language or make eye contact. For all I know, my husband could have gone to the movies and put a recording of himself saying “Yes,” “I agree, honey,” “Hmmm, yes, I taste that too.”
Six courses in and I began to wonder…how long have we been here? Thirty minutes? Three hours? Without a phone (which they asked us to store in a locker or turn off prior to entering) there was no concept of time. I decided not to care as I allowed the final bites of my caramel brownie dessert (I think?) melt in my mouth.
“Mr. and Mrs. Hoban, your meal is finished. Is there anything else I can get you?” Waiter Shawn caught me off guard once again. He was doing that all night—he’s one of those silent
approachers. I’m fairly sure he enjoyed this aspect of his job as I thought I heard some maniacal laughter being muffled after he startled me. I considered asking him to wear some dog tags or jingle bells to save future diners from having a heart attack.
Soon after our last bites, we carefully boarded the waiter congo line out of the restaurant back to the lobby. It took a while for our eyes to adjust like coal miners coming to the surface after a month underground. The hostess revealed the details of the menu we just enjoyed. Huh, that crunchy lemony, tarragon fried thingy was a walnut souffle? Who knew?
My birthday was definitely an adventure this year and I hope to continue to celebrate my tribe with as much gusto. After all, there’s only one day a year to call your own—might as well kick it while you can!