To preface: I submitted this interview and some other works for Pamla Sterner’s book, “Rocky Mountain High-er Comedy” – a sequel to “Rocky Mountain High Comedy” – a culmination of poetry, stories, and other arts created in efforts to unite the local comedians. You can acquire Rocky Mountain High-er on Amazon or as Kindle also on Amazon. Thank you for supporting Pam!
That said, I needed to get this out there.
“Insight From a Blind Guy”
An interview with Los
by George Wagner
Many of you Colorado locals might be familiar with Los. He’s a blind comedian, though that has nothing to do with his style. Los wanted to share this observation I’m not hearing much from other people that our current president Donald Trump is showing signs of going blind, whereas most people just think he’s dumb. I’m a sloppy interviewer who talks over people like a dummy, so a tidied-up transcript is the most pleasant format for this conversation.
Los: “I was watching Desus and Mero calling him “baby-hands,” how he was holding his drinks with two hands, and I started realizing after that – the way he would move to it, it wasn’t baby hands, it was blind hands. And so then I started paying attention to see what else, if I could catch something, that he was doing blind moves. Like stairs… they had him walking up the stairs after a speech at a podium, well first there was one where he was walking downstairs from an airplane. The other one I saw he was walking… he grabs someone’s elbow, so every time you go up, I’ll know how the pace is gonna go.”
George: “You’re saying this is something he’s recently dealing with now.”
Los: “Yeah, ‘cause that’s how I was when I first got diagnosed, and I wasn’t fine-tuned to dealing with my condition. And there are little tricks they show you, like whenever you go for a drink, you always stay at the bottom, and have the other hand on top. You never come from the top of a drink, because it’s bound to fall over. So you watch him, he does the blind move, where you come at the bottom, push it in your hand, and then I always drink my beer like that” [he demonstrates holding the top of the beer with one hand] “so I don’t smack my face and shit with my beer.”
George: “ So you can get a muscle memory of where it is.”
Los: “Yeah, it gives you a range to feel out.”
Los used to have great vision. He was a hairstylist, doing hair & make-up, and manager at the oldest day spa and salon in Texas. Sadly, in 2005, age 27, he was diagnosed with a juvenile form of macular degeneration, a hereditary condition he may have had his whole life, but that had progressively got worse & worse. He suspects Trump might be experiencing the same issue, where you lose the center of your vision and only retain your peripherals.
Los: “My eyes are always flashing, and there’s a big cloud around it. I can stare at the eclipse because my eyes are already flashing. If you were to look at it, your eyes would be flashing all the time.”
George: “So by flashing, do you mean that static gray when you rub your eyes?”
Los: “It’s more like pixels misfiring. You get those gyroscopes with LED lights at the end at the circus or carnivals.”
George: “That leaves streaks in your vision.”
Los: “Yeah, I see that all the time. So he was staring at the eclipse, ‘Oh, he’s retarded, he stares at an eclipse,’ but yeah. I’m able to do that because that part of my eyes are already burnt out. That’s why I figured that’s what’s happening to him too… He tracks walls too. You’ll always see my hand out at clubs using my pinky to track walls. He stands as close to walls as possible… But they’re like, ‘He’s scared of stairs,’ and I’ve fallen down stairs. It fucking sucks.”
George: “This is interesting because I don’t think I’ve heard a lot about Trump being suspected of being blind, people are assuming he’s dumb.”
Los: “Yeah, and that’s what I was saying. Everyone was making this assumption that he’s a dummy that he stares at eclipses. No, he’s just… able to… Another one, if you ever see him signing shit, he writes in Sharpie.”
George: “I’ve seen you write your jokes”
Los: “Yeah, I only write in Sharpie.”
We watch a clip where Kim Jong-Un has a regular pen and Trump has a marker. I notice it looks like he’s hiding it with his knuckles forward on the table, possibly ashamed of it. I later watched the Steven Colbert clip referencing when he drank using two hands. Trump grabs the water bottle, brings it up, right pinky reaching underneath the bottle, left finger tips where the bottle tapers up top. He unscrews the bottle without looking at it. He brings the bottle up to his mouth quickly, and pauses before smoothly tipping back up and down and rescrewing naturally once the approaching motions were established. I honestly would move very similarly if I was blindfolded. Steven doesn’t even shake a hint about it.
George: “Do you still see colors fine?”
Los: “Not all the way. Pinks, oranges, grays will kinda get lost to me, depending on their hue. I did hair color forever. I’m used to seeing colors, I know what they’re supposed to look like.”
Los is still creating art with what’s left of his peripherals, he demonstrated that the bottom-right corner is his strong point. He’s become his own niche as a blind photographer, and overcoming the challenge aside, it’s just good photography. He mostly does landscapes, but he’s also been designing stickers in full color. At the beginning you can see the grid-style design on a clear sticker that I’m sporting on my tablet. At the end of the interview, he showed me a nicely framed photo print capturing a soft foggy glow in a warm dreamlike green & orange patch of woods.
George: “Do you see the full spectrum with that part of your eye?”
Los: “For the most part. Grays look like all the colors to me.”
George: “It’s not far off, because browns and grays have all the colors in them.”
Los: “Without reference between each other, it’s harder to tell in-between colors, like seafoam green.”
George: “Do you think your peripherals got sharper being that you had to focus on them instead?”
Los: “Yeah, you use it more, so you learn how it works… If you have a puzzle, but pieces are missing, you move your face, those pieces appear, but the other pieces are gone now. If I’m trying to read something, I usually start way off to the left, so I can see what’s on the right hand, then I drop my eyes down so I can see what’s on my left… When I started really losing it, I started reading as much as I could, until it started hurting. It hurts to read, I’m straining my eyes at that point.”
George: “Do you listen to audio books?”
Los: “Not as much as I should.”
George: “I’m the same way with books in general.”
Los delved in how his other senses sharpened.
Los: “You just pay more attention. I was already good at listening, but now I hear everything. It just kinda falls in as you’re paying more attention. Like whenever you walk into a room and look around, it’s kind of the same thing. I’m just listening.”
George: “You described something I’ve noticed a couple times… The lack of sound, and something is blocking it, even if nothing is going on, like the DVD player is on. So a hum that’s in the background that you might not even pick up on a microphone…”
Los: “[John] Rumery keeps trying to scare me when he comes upstairs. I can hear him coming down the hallway, because the noises start stopping, or I can smell them. Not like he smells bad, but people have a smell. Like Tyler & Mel wanted me to go to a haunted house last week, and it’s kinda lost on me. It’s just people yelling at me. I’ll talk to my ex wife if I want that, dawg. And that’s free. I can hear all the movement, and I can hear people breathing. Rumery said, ‘I’m gonna scare you.’ And I said, ‘Well, you’ll have to bring some pregnancy tests…”
Los: “Every costume I put on automatically becomes a blind whatever I am. ‘Hey, a blind doctor?’ No, just a doctor, asshole. I happen to be blind. I tried it the first couple years that I went blind to still do Halloween and that’s what it turned into. But then I was still carrying a cane, I walked with a cane for about 3 years before I figured it all the way out.”
George: “What did you figure out?”
Los: “Not to drag my feet. Like I step out instead of straight. If I step out, I’m more likely to hit this and recover instead of falling straight forward. Or stepping really big if there’s a curb. I gotta fake myself out that I know it’s a curb, so I’m gonna have to step anyway, so I kinda overdo it sometimes to overcompensate just in case I don’t get it right.”
George: “That way there’s no getting it wrong ‘cause you just went way out there.”
Los: “Yep. Sometimes it can go wrong, like if I understep coming off of curbs, like if it’s a lot further than I think… I’ve fucked up my back a few times. That’s why I started doing that.”
George: “I’ve got a little bit of learning how to walk without seeing. I’ve hiked in the woods at night. Are you comfortable walking in the dark like that?”
Los: “Yeah. I can hear water. Unless it’s ice, like I’ve fallen down when I moved here. In Austin, I never really had that problem, ‘cause it never really froze like that. Here, one time I was going down to the grocery store on the south side. It didn’t look like ice, it was black ice. I just took a couple steps and hit the floor.”
George: “Yeah, ice is hard to see even if you can see well, so that one can really mess you up.”
Los: “I busted out one of the canes, the end of the year before last’s winter. It had a screw on the tip. They usually use little pegs you screw into the bottom of a chair, like Hershey kisses without tops. They’re usually like that with rubber, but those things will break off. I’ve had that screw for 10 years. It looks like a golf club stick.”
He showed me that cane, it’s thinner than a pool stick, maybe up to my rib cage in length. The screw at the end was just a bit wider than the stick it was in.
George: “Is there any part of your style influenced by your loss of vision?”
Los: “No, it’s just me. I was talking… I need to do more blind material, because it’s there. In Pueblo one time, ‘Hey my name is Los. I’m legally blind, but I can still see your 2AM beauty contest.’ I’ve got one bit I’m working on, but it’s more of a drunk joke than a blind joke.”
I commented on how observant Los was to behavior indicating blindness.
Los: “That’s because I know the moves. When I started going blind, I went to a rehabilitation center for the blind. They teach you how to walk with a cane. You’re under a complete blindfold 8AM-5PM. You can take it off for lunch and if you have to go to the bathroom, but they ask you not to. I had to learn how to clean a toilet under a blindfold, make a bed under a blindfold. They’d be like, ‘Here’s an address, go find it.’ I give you a business card, and you’re under a blindfold. If it’s not in Braille, you’d have to find somebody sighted and be like, ‘Hey, what is this address?’ We didn’t have Google phones, you just had to find the address. That was 2006… They know you’re blind. Austin has the biggest rehabilitation center. They have a blind school and a deaf school. They’re both elementary to high school.”
George: “That must be surreal. Did you go to those?”
Los: “Yeah, we went and volunteered, ‘cause I was at the rehabilitation for the blind, so these are older people who has surgery or it’s hereditary.
George: “Being an isolated community, was there anything that was different?”
Los: “Most of them are childlike, is the word I would use, because they’ve never been out of their parents’ houses, they’ve always been coddled their whole life because they’re blind. Their parents never let them go out and do shit for a lot. They got people that were born completely blind, but there were a lot of people who were “low-vision,” like me. There was a guy that lost his vision because he was in a motorcycle accident. He hit a tree, and it separated something in his eyeballs where he couldn’t see. He was I think just 21… There were a lot of people, about 25 people that came into the program with me. About 9 of the 25, they had Lasik that went wrong.”
George: “Damn, I don’t want to put a laser in my eye. You’re literally cutting your eye, and it wears out over time anyway. It’s not worth it.”
Los: “I think at that point it’s just vanity. It might be complete inconvenience to wear glasses, don’t get me wrong.”
George: Oh yeah, it’s kind of a bother to have to take care of glasses and make you have them.”
Los: “Here, I lose mine quite often.”
George: “Do you wear your sunglasses a lot just so you don’t have to worry about where your eyes are looking at?”
Los: “Yeah, because they look kinda crazy, but also it helps with the lights. Blue lights fuck me up. Red or orange lights are less overwhelming.” [He described earlier how his eyes are more easily overwhelmed, like the after-effect of something too bright will last a lot longer than when he had vision.]
George: “Blue lights are bad for everyone, especially at night. I talked to someone else was also mostly blind, only had like 30% of his vision. He noticed things like your eyes fluctuate how much you can see throughout the day. At night, your eyes are not trying to strain that much. He brought a good point that glasses force your eyes to be in the same position all day, & that can make them atrophy and get worse.”
Los: “I can tell the smallest change in light. My eyes can feel it like less pressure.”
George: “We also talked about martial arts.”
Los: “I got into something [at several places not long ago]. I’ll fight anybody, any time. Yancey and I are retraining me to a brand new style that really works for me because of how my vision is. I used to be a bulldog, just walking and tackling, ties in, use some art and class behind it. But now, it works better for me to have a more defensive style, try to keep it at bay as opposed to running into a punch… The more I kick your legs, the more frustrated you’re gonna get with me. Then you’re not gonna be thinking anymore, you’re gonna be mad.”
He showed me how his style has more kicks to the legs. Distracting hits that feel to me like a meteor shower. They wear you down over time, and they force you to respond somehow. You’re focused on the chest to fight, but you’re trying not to get too much focus below, because once you do, you let your guard down.
Los: “They teach you how to use your cane as a defensive melee. It was an old people and a blind people class. “Cane-fu.” Teach you how to use it as a weapon.
George: “What kinda things can you do? I don’t know how sturdy it is…
Los: “Some of them are thicker, the ones I use aren’t thick at all. It depends on the style of cane. I used a break-down cane for a long time, so I could just carry it here. Like I used a light saber until I was walking… Those things hurt if you get hit with them.”
George: “Yeah, like that wouldn’t stop the force of something, but that would discourage someone from doing something.”
Los: “Yup, swinging for faces, just trying to keep somebody away.”
To wrap up the interview, he showed me his canes and photography. Los is also an expert-level chef. He described a different time some stuff he came up with to win competitions. He used ingredients I’ve never heard of, like thyme oil. With that, his visual art, martial arts, and strong self-sufficiency, he’s a self-proclaimed madman.
George: “Do you have any parting statements?”
Los: “I just think it’s funny that it took a blind man to see – that Trump is not an idiot. I mean he does stupid shit, but he’s not scared of stairs. He’s not baby hands. He’s not a dummy to stare at the sun. They’re just things that blind people do.”