Speaking Up at the Round Table
By Brother Mosch (with a long O)
Gregory was sitting alone at table #5 when I joined him. Other patrons had taken vacant places throughout the spacious room. I noticed Rose vacillating – flitting here and there and then moving on. I projected that she was tempted to settle at table #5, but couldn’t abide the thought of dining with Gregory. Obviously, they had not stitched up the riff they had had over the paint job he did for her. I hoped that one day I might help them mend the schism that separated their friendship. But it’s not today. She avoided coming near table #5.
Nevertheless, Gregory seemingly delighted that I wanted to join him, asked what I had been reading. He always has a book or two at his elbow. I wanted to say Carlo Rovelli… since I had a few months ago downloaded and listened to his “Helgoland: Making Sense of the Quantum Revolution”. I wanted to… but I didn’t. It takes me a several times reading his dense tomes to have some inkling of what the physicist is saying. To name drop would make me sound like a name dropper and I didn’t want that, so I simply said, “Some New Age stuff.
Suddenly, Allen appear, dropped his backpack on the floor next to a chair and sat down. I figured I’d get the lowdown on the ineptness of his flooring contractor. I figured right. Today of course, it was Home Depot and Lowe’s. Armstrong is okay… guess their people know best how to install their products… for a price.
“Follow the money,” I said, stating the obvious.
“What do you mean by that?” Allen asked.
“If you want to get things done right, follow the money.”
“Yeah, I guess,” Allen said and moved on to Homeowner’s Associations. “They keep upping their fees and what do you get for the money? Nothing!”
Remembering Gregory was a handyman, I was surprised that he didn’t say much. Why didn’t he and Allen get together on some of Allen’s handyman projects? Rose would have an opinion on that.
A woman I’d never seen before sat down opposite me. Jill was her name. I asked her what she did to keep herself entertained.
“Bridge!” she said emphatically as if there was no alternative. “I play bridge.”
On my way to the Great Hall, I’d seen a sign reading Party Bridge. I gestured in that direction. Jill read my thoughts and before I’d dropped my hand Jill snapped in a ‘don’t misunderstand me, finality’, “We are serious about bridge!”
I thought that the people who played “Party Bridge,” took their bridge seriously… and furthermore, on Jill’s business card it reads, “Have Cards, Will Travel.” Having warned us of her expertise she further implied that if we knew what was good for us we’d not challenge her. With that, she got up went outside,.. no doubt to practice her draw.
I asked Allen what was next after the flooring.
“Painting,” he said and commenced telling me about a remodeling project he undertook in Boulder Colorado… “They didn’t tell me that the paint I bought was sensitive to temperature…. put five coats on and still it didn’t look right.”
“That won’t be a problem here in Southern California,” I chuckled checking for a reaction from Gregory’s face. There it was… one of placid disinterest. Maybe the two of them have had a painting encounter and neither wanted to have another.
Gregory announced that Bridge was about to happen in the eastern chamber of the Great Hall. He got up and disappeared.
Earlier Tom had staggered to our table mumbles some words about a webinar feeding into his ear…. “5 minutes to go…” he said, and with earphones in place shot off to sit by himself at an empty table near the windows.
That left Allen and I at table #5.
Since both Allen and I have hearing problems so when we talk…. if talk is what you can call it… there’s a good deal of “huh?” “What?” “Talk louder,” “I can’t understand you”… and so forth.
Do we really get anything across… well, I often wonder…? I have to confess that I pretend to understand more than is prudent…. occasionally makes me fearful that, I have been in nonverbal agreement with an unflattering, even nasty comment made about someone in or out of earshot.
“Make things up.” Yes, there you have it. We hard-of-hearing people miss so much data that without our own companionship and ability to invent, we’re even more alone in the world.
My friend, Dan, has reminded me from time to time that, in the absence of information, we make it up… even in important matters.
We hearing-impaired live in a segmented world where we spend a good amount of time living in our minds where we invent whatever we need to make sense of the world and our relationships. You’ll understand that Round Table is a creative instrument for me… one I can shape what I don’t understand into something meaningful.
In the meantime speak up!
Beware the Medics at the Round Table
By Brother Mosch (with a long O)
It’s true, I’m an octogenarian – one who is grateful to have reached that respected age in reasonably good health. Albeit, with a full head of silvery hair, people often express surprise when I tell them my age. I must confess that I’ve come to expect that surprise and am a bit disappointed when I don’t get it.
But the other day I’d no more than entered the Great Hall headed for the plights of the Round Table when from out of nowhere, I was accosted by a uniformed health worker. He held up a jacket with the sleeve openings prepared to receive my arms…. If it wasn’t that characteristic navy blue, I might have called it a strait jacket. My automatic reaction was to hold up my hands as I were being robbed.
“Not me,” I said almost involuntarily having no idea what was happening. The poor lad immediately recognized his error, dropped the jacket to his side, turned, and sped away. Minutes into this morning’s gathering I had dealt with my shock and confusion enough to turn to look to figure out what had happened and what was going on.
In that section of the large room away from this day’s patrons a table was set up with several medical instruments. It was then that I noticed and realized that the medical crew was engaged in some sort of testing on individuals… do I dare call them volunteers? Almost immediately I realized that Keith was one of the individuals being examined.
I recognized a blood pressure monitor. I wondered if Keith had had a medical event.
Whatever the event, it was serious enough that American Medical Response team had sent a unit to the facility… but it was parked in an obscure area of the parking. Most of the time, when medical aid is called for the medical unit is in an in-you-face location. What’s the mystery, I wondered?
Without being rudely snoopy I wasn’t going to find out. That’s a question for another day.
What isn’t a mystery however, is that I don’t look as youthful as I have thought.
War Stories Around the Round Table
By Brother Mosch (with a long O)
No Keith today at Round Table. Table #5 sat empty until I sat down. However, no sooner had I took my place, Allen, Tom, Steve, and Norman settled into the remaining seats.
Tom, the psychologist, Steve the biochemical engineer, newcomer Norman, who spent most of his working career as a realtor, and Allen who drove the brass around in Vietnam.
“Was it rough during the Covid shutdown?” Tom asked? “Everybody afraid to move?”
“Good and bad,” Norm returned. “Low interest rates… people looking for bargains… mostly good.”
We learned that Tom is keeping himself fit with senior yoga classes. “We do the exercises sitting in a chair… I can’t do the floor stuff.”
“I’m with you Tom,” I said “The floor stuff is too much. Actually, I am able to do some of the floor exercises but it’s tough getting down and back up… but, the in-between stretching yields good results.”
Don the 90-plus senior waiter overheard heard us talking about military service. He had done 18 months army in 1957-1958, was drafted months after he graduated from college and I’d missed Korea with a college deferment.
During Vietnam Tom had missed having his draft number come up by three. “My draft board reached number 298…. my number was 301.”
“That was close,” Steve observed. Steve had a college deferment so avoided active duty all together. Allen was in the service, but mumbled the details. I’ll learn those another day. Knowing Allen, I feel confident to say that he was a Klinger type minus the dress.
“Yeah, I tried to avoid even being on the list,” Tom said. “Flat feet I told my board… ‘Not flat enough’ the Dr. said and assigned my number, 301.” Tom intoned the number as if it were a badge of courage.
For me It was a badge of courage of sorts, well forced courage. I was drafted, after all…. had no choice in the matter. I was yanked away from wife and newborn son… forced to train on killing machines. Such was not in my nature. I also played the part of Klinger… working myself into a Special Services Temporary Duty (TDY) Acting Company. I spent a year and a half playing Manski in The Play’s the Thing, the character of File in The Rainmaker, The Villain in The Drunkard, a Christmas show for children and a couple of others. Our company toured to Service Clubs throughout the 10th Infantry Division sector in Bavaria. We’d pull into a facility in the morning, set up staging, do a show in the evening, strike the set and stage and, the next morning, move on to the next venue.
We called it “Good Duty” and it was. The Plights of the Round Table is a bit like keeping the show on the boards. As the Bard says, “All the World’s a Stage.”
Making Amends at the Round Table
By Brother Mosch (with a long O)
A quick survey of the Great Hall revealed many patrons already seated at most tables awaiting the midday meal to be served. I’d not made reservations and was placed on the wait list. Robin, today’s check-in clerk, handed me a white ticket. Those who reserve meals get a colorful ticket that sett them apart.
Keith sat alone at table #5. I swooped into a vacant chair and greeted him with a hearty, “How are you doing Keith?” I received his broad smile in return and his characteristic mouthed “Ahnnned,” which I was sure meant fine.
“Well Keith, what do you do with yourself when you are away from here? Watch much television?
Keith pointed to his eyes and said, “Can’t see.”
“Do you read books?” I asked oblivious to the stupidity of my question.
“Can’t see.” Keith repeated. “Listen to books.”
“Ah, books on tape,” I said finally catching on. “You like adventure?”
“Yeah…. I like anything.” I took that to mean that he was thankful to be able to access books however he could get at their precious content.
“Yeah,” he answered with that open mouth smile.
“I do that too.”
We’d all heard how Keith had been in a terrible motorcycle accident…. had to have his face rebuilt which accounted for his verbal struggle. I couldn’t help but wonder how he now supports himself. His walker was top quality… had to cost nice chunk of change. The listening gear he carried was pricey. He always has a small battery-operated fan sitting on the table in front of him cooling his face.
By now Rose, Tom and Gregory had joined us at table.
“Five at table…” Tom noted. “That’s one too many… maybe I ought to go elsewhere.”
“Nonsense!” I said… “The Table Police aren’t paying any attention.” Tom slid into position.
“Did you get you fence painted?” I asked Rose, remembering that last week she and Gregory had worked out an agreement.
The storm cloud that came across Rose’s face indicated that not all had gone well.” He never showed up,” she said, her mild Indian accent voice loaded with more than a little disgust.
“No!” I said with more than just a little concern. Gregory had done a bit of work for me in my back yard, and I had recommended him to Rose. So, my credibility was on the line here as well as Gregory’s reputation. “Did you get the materials he needed to do the job?”
“I did… ground covering, rollers, and specially mixed paint.” It was clear Rose felt that she had been jilted, and was not happy about it.
“Have you confronted Gregory?”
“He won’t look at me.”
The rest of us held our breath wondering how this sage was going to play out.
Gregory had walked right passed us to the elite table and was engaging one of them in conversation.
I couldn’t believe it… I thought Rose would accost him as he orbited our table. If I could help it, I was not going to let Gregory get by without an explanation.
It appeared that he was cognizant of us discussing him, He finally came to our table to face the music.
Well, they didn’t shout at one another…. but it was clear that one or both of them had misunderstood the other. There was disagreement on both time and day. Gregory insisted that his version was correct as did Rose… Rose produced a phone record of the agreement. But even that didn’t satisfy him.
“Can’t we just get along?” I asked hoping to salvage a friendship and hopefully get Rose’s fence painted.
Yes, a bit of back and forth led them to agree that on Thursday at 9:00 am sharp, Gregory would show up at Rose’s place and apply Rust-oleum to Rose’s fence. And more importantly, now Rose and Gregory will have the basis to return to Plights of the Round Table with mutual respect.
Testing for Bromides at the Round Table
By Brother Mosch (with a long))
It was Keith, Tom, Allen, and I at Table #5 today. As I sat down by Keith, he made that open mouthed ‘ha!’ which I interpret to be an enthusiastic welcome. Other than grunts, thumbs-up and broad smiles, there is never much from Keith.
Allen, of course is having labor problems as he inches closer and closer to getting his condo in fit-to-sell condition. A worker didn’t show up a couple of days ago because their van wouldn’t start.
“Yeah, sure,” Allen said expressing his disdainful doubt.
The flooring people did arrive. He watched in disbelief when the workers mixed up a cement like substance, dumped it on the floor, then, watched it flow into an uneven puddle.
“I asked them what they are doing”, he said. “They claimed it was a leveling compound that prevents the flooring from being uneven. Those workers at Home Depot don’t know what they are doing.”
“Find somebody else,” I thought.
Allen read my thoughts, “Can’t find good help any more… 30 years ago I used to hire good workers at minimum wage… not anymore.”
Funny thing… for the past few times of gathering, Tom and Allen have fixated on Abraham Hicks… expressing of him an awe and reverence worthy or Confucius.
I thought the guy has to be worthy of a glance… so I glanced in his direction by looking it up. I found that Abraham Hicks was not a guy…. but rather a condensation of the wisdom of all guys and gals in the past and in the now … a collection of meditations and sayings addressing the human condition.
According to Esther and Jerry Hicks, “Abraham” consists of a group of entities which are “interpreted” by Esther Hicks. Abraham has described themselves as “a group consciousness from the non-physical dimension”.
Okay… that’s a bit new age for my taste… but I did find a tidbit of wisdom that Allen might heed.
“Your choice of action may be limited, but your choice of thought is not.”
Allen, if you are listening, examine your choices of thought about the Home Depot workers.
Okay… my choice of thought about postal workers… maybe I ought to examine that.
How about you, dear reader, does Abraham Hicks speak to you or is it just another collection of tired bromides?
Secret songs at the Round Table
By Brother Mosch (with a long O)
A gentleman, new to me, was texting or at least engaged on his phone with someone at a table #5. He gestured an apology and motioned me to an empty place opposite him.
“Name?” I asked when he set aside his phone.
He answered with a heavy European accent and, of course, I didn’t get it. After a couple of attempts he said, “Call me Nick.”
So, I did. I found out that he is from Yugoslavia… had a career involving humanitarian issues with NATO. Well, he had a bit of the classical look of a diplomat, chiseled jaw, distinguished peppered gray hair. His nose, however, there was something different about it, the bulbous portion didn’t look quite real… But… no matter.I asked him what he thought about what is happening in “Afghanistan”.
“Bad choice, bad timing,” he returned. “Shouldn’t have been there in the first place…. fighting’s been going on there for hundreds… probably thousands of years… they are killing one another. The Romans tried and lost, the Brits tried and lost, the French tried and lost, the Russians tried and lost… the US tried and now, have lost.”
By now Tom, Allen and Steve had joined us at the table… that’s more persons allowed by the Covid-19 police… but the Brown Shirts had moved on to other chores thereby leaving us alone.
“Better to leave the Afghans alone…” Nick continued. They want to kill one another… let them have at it.”
The Round Table gang, even Allen, who I would have thought would find a conspiracy of some sort, seemed to share Nick’s analysis. I suspect that the political views of the Round Table gang generally range from ‘shoot from the hip’ liberal to jaw setting conservative…… though more the former than the latter. I wondered… if the situation weren’t so compellingly dire, would the gang have indulged in the political hair splitting one might have expected. Probably. It seems that today they have found a modicum of consensus. I marveled that once more we as a people might come together to deal with this existential threat. Time will tell.
As serious as are the tragic happenings in that remote country, our conversation turned to lighter matters. Allen complemented me on yesterday’s quote from Shakespeare… said I should keep memorizing. Of course, I could have come for the with:
“Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day.”
Yes, I could have but didn’t. Instead Tom, referencing the fact that children can learn a foreign language with such ease, told us that, when he was in 4th grade, his teacher taught the class French by having them learn the France’s national anthem. He told us and then, yes, began to sing it… and by golly he did so without a hitch… and with melodic charm.
“Bravo!,” I said giving Tom a hand clap.
I may have stumbled onto a wonderfully creative unifier. Bet they each have tucked in little bits of rhyme or song in their memory buckets. It would be fun to hear the secret songs of others.
Nick rose from his chair, “I’ll be leaving to take a nap now.” He turned and walked away. I wouldn’t be surprised if a daily nap is a nugget that came from Nick’s cultural upbringing.
A last glance at his nose brought to mind another of my memorized bits:
“Hey, what, call that a nose, I be no fool like you think I be that there is a blue cucumber…”
Well, you too can enjoy a bit of fun with noses in the play, Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand. Get the Brian Hooker translation.
Tom may not have to have it translated; he speaks French.
Quoting the Bard at the Round Table
By Brother Mosch (with a long O)
Good, I found a spot in the shade for my vehicle.
I spotted and joined Keith at table #5. Linda saw me settling there. I motioned for her to join us. She did. I suspect that she feels to be a bit like a social misfit who finds my attention a boon to her self-esteem. Keith kind of fits that category too… so here we are… a table of misfits. I look up and there is Allen joining us. Another misfit? He has one foot on solid ground while the other morphs in and out of a twilight zone.
“I can’t make up my mind,” he says. Fix it up, sell my place and travel the world, fix it up and rent it or fix it up and settle down where I am.”
He seems to be making some progress regarding his options. Practical Linda, ignoring the ambiguity in his tone offered, “I’d fix it up and rent it. Rental space around here is worth lots of money. You can travel the world while your property gains in value and have a place to come back to when you are done traveling.”
Of course, Allen had considered all those and had chosen to remain in the territory of indecision.
“You are on the horns of a dilemma….” I chuckled. “The question is, how long you going to be content to hang there?”
“Ten years.” Keith laughed in a strong, husky declaration. That seemed to take care of that topic for the day.
Linda deflected my touch of jealousy at her owning a place overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
“Yeah,” she said with a touch of sarcasm. “It’s nice, I can see the ocean if I get up on my roof… neighbors on all sides have two story houses that block my view.”
I admire Linda’s honesty and lack of pride. She could easily have milked her bragging rights…. ocean view property… but she didn’t. Linda says it like it is and lets it go.
Of course, Allen indulged in a rant of finding conspiracy under every political rock… as far back as the Kennedy assassinations and beyond.
After we had finished our meat balls and spaghetti dinner and Linda had collected the leftover bits of watermelon for her chickens the subject turned to philosophy…. wisdom.
“They don’t give him much credit, but Shakespeare was a great man,” Allen said. “He understood politics, religion… everything…”
That gave me an opening, I could contribute to the accuracy of Allen’s assessment of Shakespeare and at the same time do a bit of showing off.
“Speaking of Shakespeare… How about this?” I began:
“Our revels now are ended. These our actors.
As I foretold you, were all spirits
And are melted into air: into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself.
Yeah, all which it inherits, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”
Joke Day at the Round Table
By Brother Mosch (with a long O)
Okay… I took a little nap… almost missed lunch.
I arrived at Round Table check-in table. Gregory, phone in hand, said, “I was going to call you. Your names on the roster. We were wondering where you were.”
Improvisation is a good thing I thought, reached for my phone and playfully and said, “Yeah, Gregory, I’m here. I was just going to call you.”
I looked around the room… wow, nearly full. “Where should I sit?” I asked following Gregory.
Yes, there was a spot at table #5. Chuck was seated talking to someone on his phone. Funny, it wasn’t me.
He frowned… in an attempt to chastise me for interrupting his conversation. I didn’t fall for it, but mimed to him that I was a contrite minion. Chuck is one of those beings that sees himself as abundantly privileged. Knowing that Chuck stocked shelves at Sprouts… and has a tough time keeping a place to live, I wondered how he could maintain such bravado.
I noticed that he had a bandage on his left hand. He mouthed the cause, but I didn’t get it. I just assumed and asked, “Cancer?”
I got a look of distain and a snarl, “Cancer! No!.” He repeated the cause, but I still didn’t get it.
“Take off your mask,” I said. “I can’t read your lips.”
“Oh!” he said… almost apologetically.
“Cancer,” I said, baring my neck… and pointing, “like bandage on my neck… had a spot of cancer removed.”
I’m’ not certain I got any sympathy from Chuck or Gregory. Well, I didn’t need any. The dermatologist thinks he got it all.
This gave Chuck the excuse to reveal his own mysterious patch on his neck. The light was not good so couldn’t get a good look… but from what I’d learned about skin cancer, his wound didn’t have any of the cancer signs… more like a pimple… and told him so… “But what do I know,” I said and ended with, “But you probably ought to have it looked at.”
I wanted to say the same thing to Gregory who has a growth of some type on top of his head. He wears a hat most of the time, so it is out of mind for his friends. But it’s color and configuration are such that if he hasn’t had it looked at, he should… he must. The patch is dark brown to black… shaped like Rorschach ink blot.
Gregory is a smart man… I’m certain knows it’s there and its potential ramifications. Still, I think I must express my concerns.
By now Chuck and Gregory were laughing about Chuck heading for Les Vegas – something about getting married in the morning and divorced in the afternoon. Hearing loss again… I missed the context and essential elements… but was curious about the spine of the story. Trying to get at it… I asked if he, Chuck, had been married before… “Yeah, have kids…”
I sensed they were having a great time with me and weren’t going let me off easy… but finally came clean and said they were joking. The thread of getting us to that spot still alluded me… but having cleared up a bit of their joke, I didn’t want to dig another pit of gullibility for myself and dropped the subject.
On our way out of the great hall, I did return to the marriage theme. I quizzed Gregory about Chuck’s Las Vegas marriage saga. I learned that, on and off, he had rented a room from a woman who is a hoarder. Her house is so loaded with junk one can’t move easily from one room to the next. The proposal of the marriage came about when, most recently, the woman began bringing boxes into his rented room.
“I could start charging her for the space in my room occupied by her stuff,” Chuck had said.
“Or you could marry her, and as her husband get rid of the junk in the morning and then in the afternoon divorce her.” Gregory had said.
I was glad Gregory cleared up that mystery for me.
Rose asking Gregory to do some painting on her garden gate and wrought iron grill work is another story. It contains some chuckles… But that’s for another day.
Back Stories at the Round Table
By Brother Mosch (with a long O)
Julio, originally from Cuba, escaped Castro in the late 1950s. He is happy to be in this country and has no desire to return to or even visit the island, even to visit. Though I’d not seem him in several days, I called him by name.
“You have a good memory,” he said to me with a calm smile.
“I work at it,” I said avoiding telling him that all of us in the Great Hall had to work at it. I have discovered however, that knowing people’s names and using them is not only stimulus for conversation but a means to reveal slices of life that otherwise would remain secret.
A man I’d never seen before sat across the table from me with his back to the windows which meant the light behind him made him too dark for me to clearly see him. My hearing loss makes it imperative that I be able to read lips and with the light behind him made him very difficult to understand. His accent compounded the problem. I didn’t learn much. I did learn that his name is Ruben and that he is a native of Mexico but is now an American citizen.
“You miss the old country?” I asked the phantom.
“I’m afraid to go there anymore.”
“Why is that?”
“It’s changed… too dangerous.”
“How about you Julio? Want to go back to Cuba?”
“Nothing there for me anymore. My daughter would like to visit… but not me.”
I wanted to tease out their stories but was truncated by Linda, the truck driver. She’s the husky lady who raises chickens in her yard on the slanted hillside above the ocean. When she comes to Round Table, she collects watermelon rinds for her flock.
“How was today’s run?” I asked referring to her job as a truck driver.
“I just take what’s ready to go in the storage room. They know that I know what to take.”
She laughed, “I do all kinds of job for them… They asked me once if I would be their bouncer.” She laughed again and repeated ‘bouncer.’ I said to myself I can do that, and I did.”
“Interesting life you lead,” I said.
“Yeah, I guess.”
Tom, another newcomer, took the seat to my left. I was relieved that the light was good on him. Tom spent his career practicing psychology.
“Work for a clinic?” I asked.
“Sort of…. part time… mostly freelance.
“What did you do?” he asked.
I was surprised… people get reinforcement by talking about themselves, but not so much listening to others. It looked to me as if Tom’s psychological training was at work.
“I was a theatre professor for 40 years.”
Tom’s face lit up. “I have always wanted to do something in theatre,” he said, “but was always afraid to try… over the years I’ve seem classes offered in acting…. but could never get the courage to act.”
I don’t think Tom meant it as irony, “to act.”
“You should do it,” I said. “I understand that some PhD programs require the candidate to take some courses in acting.”
Tom’s face lit up, “Makes sense,” he said. “Getting out of oneself and into another persona would be good therapy… I never really was good at counseling…” His voice faded off as he nursed his career regrets. I hope to see Tom again and to probe closer into his plights. I surmise he was more successful with his career than he realized. A handsome articulate guy… how could it be otherwise?
I was sorry to leave abruptly, but a doctor’s appointment forced me to excuse myself.
I drove to the clinic thinking about Tom’s plight…. a career of half starts, of watching distant yearnings flourish in one’s mind and then being stymied by self-doubt. But then, I never really felt all that confident about the plot points of my own career.
Chuck’s Lucky Day at the Round Table
By Brother Mosch (with a long O)
Keith was alone at table #5 when I entered the great hall. My hearing aids were in place so using my poor hearing as an excuse to avoid sitting with him was gone… well, almost gone.
An elderly man sat there alone. Ha, ha… who’s not elderly in this realm? But, this old fellow, narrowly focused in on his phone and didn’t acknowledge either of us. No matter, I’m accustomed to being ignored.
The day before, I’d learned that Rose was born in India… went to school in Punjab Providence, got married, and in the late 60s, moved to North Carolina. I told her that my son-in-law’s father migrated from Punjab Providence as a young man. Of course, there was nearly zero chance that there could ever been a mutual connection between the two families. Nevertheless, Rose warmed to having her memory stirred…. gave me hope that more Round Table encounters continued.
Chuck settled in the seat opposite me at table. He gave us his characteristic grin… kinda like, “Life can be rough sledding, but I’m determined to find patches of joy.” From his appearance I took it that he’d had better days. He wears his hair a bit long. Obviously, he’d not spent much time grooming. From behind, it took on the likeness of a spiraled galaxy.
To guarantee a person will get a meal he must make reservations the day before. Most often there are extra meals available to people who just show up and get put on the waiting list.
Today Chuck clutched a white waiting-list-ticket. When Don wheeled his cart to our table there was none for Chuck…. one short… there were two people on the waiting list and only one meal. The other one had signed in first… poor Chuck
Now, ordinarily, that wouldn’t be a problem… what person with a spoonful of sense wouldn’t have a fallback position? Apparently, Chuck. I’m sure he didn’t intend it, but he looked as if he were the “Little Match Girl’s” brother.
But you won’t believe it. Today was one of those days when the food was next to not fit to eat. It looked like fried mush – a dish my mom used to serve to fill the hunger of her six children.”
Even before Chuck’s plight had become clear, Rose had taken one look at her lunch and shoved her tray in front of Chuck. Before we knew it, there was a lineup of trays sitting before him.
It was clear that Chuck would not go hungry today.
When Elaine, the gal in charge of the meals program asked me how it was, I said, “Not the best!”
She said “Yeah, I heard.”
“I’m grateful for all you do for us,” I added.
And I am. I remember those sparse days on the hot, dry panhandle planes of Texas when, for my parents, food was hard to come by. Fried mush and whatever this was tasted like a feast.
Masking at the Round Table
By Brother Mosch (with a long O)
I was trying to enter the Center by the main entrance, but the re-instated CDC guideline folks had locked the accustomed entrance to the great hall. I could hear in-patients calling and banging on the doors behind me. As I walked the long hall to the foyer, I could see the privileged coming down the hall. This mandate even included the Elites.
No one at my usual table #5 . . . that meant under the new masking rules, there was room for three more. Gregory soon filled one seat and Charles, the masseur, took the seat opposite me. He greeted Gregory and I with hoping we had a good weekend. Rose joined us as Charles was relating that it hadn’t gone so well for him. Rose wanted to know the details… well I did too but is often the case I’d forgotten my hearing aids and Chuck was still wearing his mask… the tough three of us had taken ours off.
The look on Chuck’s face told me that he wasn’t quite sure why, nor was he accustomed to being dictated to by his peers.
“Can’t understand you with your mouth covered… I read lips.”
I didn’t detect much sympathy, but he did remove his mask.
He explained to us that he was trying to find a new place to live and there was an issue with a king size mattress. “It can’t even accommodate a queen, let alone a king.”
Now, dear reader I confess that my hearing loss, thus my inability to track pieces of conversation often makes meaningful conversation fragmented and illusive.
“The woman said I could have the room but then changed her mind… I couldn’t have the room. Why?”
What this snatch of conversation had to do with a king size mattress escaped me. Nevertheless, I also wanted to know why she had changed her mind.
“Did you ask her?” Rose wanted to know.
“She wouldn’t talk to me. I thought something made her afraid. I texted her my picture, so she can see that I’m pretty normal.” He passed around his phone.
“Looks okay to me,” Rose said passing the picture to me.
The shot was a bit grainy, pixilated, but a fair rendering of Chuck.
Chuck told us that he worked part time at Sprouts… keeping the shelves in order and other handy work
“Maybe she doesn’t like Sprouts or people who work there,” I said jokingly.
I’m afraid we didn’t help Chuck very much. I tried, “It’s her place… she can rent to whomever she likes – or not.”
I hope Chuck finds a place that suites him. He seems to be a decent enough fellow and a masseur as well.
Rose opened up enough to tell us that she came to the US from India in 1969. I had the temerity to ask, “’Why?”
“I got married,” was the terse answer. That’s all we would get from Rose today.
But there are fruitful days to come, and Rose is too nice to keep genuine, friendly curiosity at bay.
A Mystery Solved at the Round Table
By Brother Mosch (with a longO)
When I entered the great hall, Keith was sitting alone at table #5. Lockdown had come again so there were singles and pairs at various tables.
Obviously, I could sit where I chose. I confess that I would rather not sit with the monosyllabic grunts of Keith… but I also had empathy for Keith. Maybe he can only express himself in short out-bursts bursts of nasality but understands a great deal more. I felt that my talking to him might be a good thing.
“How are you doing Keith?” I asked.
“Nongugpht,” Keith grunted.
all the while, Allen was filling the air with his usual non-stop judgments about famous people. “I don’t like Bill Maher. He looks slimy… it’s all about money. Did you know that Hitler thought he was a great artist?”.
I asked, “Have you seen his work? Is it any good?”
“I don’t care about Hitler,”, Allen declares. “He was a politician.
“Someone has vandalized my mailbox,” Allen continued. “My key doesn’t work. “Lot of bad people out there… didn’t used to be that way… people have gotten worse… If I was a young man, they wouldn’t have done that.”
In the meantime, a woman I’d never seen before scanned the room like she wanted company…. she approached table #5, extended a hand and looking me in the eye said, “I’m Vicky.”
“Vicky,” I repeated with a smile, “This is Keith.” I said fingering him.
With that, a gnawing mystery was cleared up. Speech was Keith’s problem. Years ago, he had nearly lost his life in a motorcycle accident and as a result, had been in a coma for a long time.
He could hear and understand just fine. He smiled broadly and asked Vicky a question. I have no hope of understanding what Keith had asked. The noise he made to my ears was a combination of breathy sounds reverberating in his nasal chambers and sloppily articulated consonants. However, a snatch of conversation told me that Vicky too had had a major health encounter that had left her in an extended coma.
But Vicky could understand him. With a couple of tries of listening to him, Vicky laughed easily. I got it. Keith had told her a joke and then another. “What do you get when you cross an elephant and a rhino?” Vicky smiled awaiting the punchline.
“El if I know,” came the answer.
I admired Vicky for her openness with Keith and hoped the connection between the two had the potential healing for both.
I left hoping I would see Vicky at the next Round Table.
An Elite-for-a-Day at the Round Table
By Brother Mosch (with a long O)
I was about ready to head for the Center when I looked in the mirror at the remains of the sun spots my dermatologist had freeze dried from my face. Because I was not a pretty sight, I thought those at Round Table would likely be shocked when they saw me.
If asked, I was going to say that I was featured in an episode of “Game of Thrones,” You know, one of the villains had worked over my face. I decided I would go anyway and risk being shunned.
When I entered the great hall, I discovered Keith was sitting alone at our table #5, where over the past weeks habit had placed me.
Further into the room at table #2 however, Gregory was gesticulating a message for Maria and another woman whose name I never learned.
Gregory saw me and like a Lord of the Manor granting permission, motioned for me to approach.
Can you believe it… I was being invited to sup with the Elites at Table #2. I wondered how Gregory has managed to infiltrate their seemingly impenetrable façade.
But I soon learned that the character of the Elites can be mercurial… like Odo, the fictional star in Star Trek. Rather than embrace diversity among them, they merely dissolve and reform at a different location.
And wouldn’t you know, wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles… there was Allen holding court. Yes, of course I would have to lick my wounds.
The arrival of another person at table #2 took my attention away from my abandonment. The gal, who was a bit overweight, had a full, strong face… She looked like she might be a trucker and she was. Linda was her name… not the right name for a tucker. She only works part time. Heads for the dispatcher in the morning and after one delivery is done for the day.
I told her about my experience with driving a tank truck for Standard Oil one summer, delivering diesel and gasoline to logging operations up in the Bohemia Mountains 50 miles east of Cottage Grove, Oregon.
Linda noted, “Those old trucks were hard to drive… now, it’s like driving a car.”
“Yeah,” I said remembering. “My tank truck held 800 gallons of diesel in two tanks, 400 each and 300 gallons of gasoline in another compartment. My rig had stick shifts on two transmissions. Fully loaded heading up those steep logging roads with any speed required shifting through five gears in the lowest low gear… then five gears in the next lowest gear and finally in the third lowest gear shifting through five gears. That’s 15 gears forward. In the 15 gears forward the rig would still only go about 50 miles an hour…”
By now Linda’s eyes had glazed over. She had moved into the 21st century leaving me to remember those wonderful old growth forests and my primal want to stay there.
There was a thud sound behind me. I turned to see Keith lying flat on his back. He’d fallen out of the seat of his walker.
My back has limitations that make me useless in helping him…. but I was a good bit concerned that no one else rushed to help Keith either. Finally, one man from the new Elite table moved to help him get to his haunches and back into his walker.
I was glad to see that Keith appeared to be alright. I was also glad that there was one responsible person among us who had the guts to take the initiative in doing what needed to be done. My own helplessness was and is an uncomfortable reality.
I was ready to head for the door when a gal from table #2 said something to me as I passed her. I stopped turned and leaned down giving her my pathetic good ear.
“What did it cost you to get a spot at that table?”
I was astonished…. here was someone I’d never said more than a few words to expressing what had been my sentiment. The people who ordinarily occupy the Elite table #2 are wonderful people. I’m sure of that… still… there is a modicum of smugness that hangs over that table.
I’d go there again… but tomorrow I hope to dine with Keith, Rose, Pam, and the other roughage I am likely to find there.
Slow Day at the Round Table
By Brother Mosch (with a long O)
There were few people in the room when I arrived at the Center for lunch. Nevertheless, through the wide-open door, I could make out a single person seated at table #5. It was Keif, the big man, who spoke in explosive staccato bursts of who-knows-what.
Pam was Pam. Rose joined us… I asked her how one gains the distinction of being a checker at the sign-in table.
“Volunteer,” she said, as if that explained it.
“You volunteer a lot too?” I said looking at Pam.
“Yes, I do… Meals on Wheels… here in town … have done that for years.”
“How many people does Meals on Wheels serve city wide?” I asked.
Pam looked at me as if she had never been asked. “Let’s see, there are seven people on my team and there are 5 teams… 35… that’s how many.”
“Interesting,” I thought. “This is a sizable city of 70,000 and only 35 in need of that service?”
Pam and Rose spoke closely with each other about mutual experiences as volunteers.
I asked if either of them had had experience with Assistance League.
“They charge you to belong,” Pam said as if they shouldn’t.
Rose said, “That’s for membership in the organization.”
Got the feeling that Pam would never join Lions, or Rotary or Kiwanis. But Pam’s giving nature is so evident. No need for virtue signaling. I’m glad there’s no cost for being a member of Plights of the Round Table.
I turned my thoughts toward Keith… It was apparent that should I attempt to engage Keith in conversation the effort would yield no concrete territory for mutual understanding…. at least on my part. I wondered what his history was… his dreams, his passions and what had happened to lock him in his lonely world.
Though Gregory was not at table today, he told me that years ago Keith been in a terrible motorcycle accident. He suffered a shattered leg and shoulder and had severe head injuries accounting for who he is now.
So, he will remain a mystery. He doesn’t show emotion or many signals of understanding of what’s happening around him and to him. But, I can’t help but wonder if he understands perfectly well but lacks the networks of synapses to engage with others in a meaningful way… I wonder.
Charles, “Chuck” eased up to the check-in desk surveying the room as he stuffed his $4 in the slot. Of course, I may be wrong, but Chuck’s eyes told me that he would gladly have passed our table in route to the elite’s table. But as fate would have it, Bob, our 95-year-old server had plunked his food tray on our table opposite me.
I’d seen Chuck on at least one other occasion but wasn’t certain of his name. I looked him in the eyes and said, “You are Chuck are you not?”
A warm smile came over his face and asked my name. (Wonder if he will remember past a nanosecond.)
We established once again that Chuck been a masseuse as well as a weatherman of note in Arizona and California. It appeared that he couldn’t stomach the meal or intended to eat it later because he did not eat it at the Round Table.
I end today’s tome with touch of irony. Days ago, Rose had reacted with disgust at Gregory’s picking his teeth at table. Well, I must tell you that we were served pork today, and at the end of meal there sat Rose using her long fingernails to clear remnants of pork from her teeth.
Tacky… But we love Rose, and we love Gregory. I suspect we would love you too if we met you at Round Table
Margarita’s at the Round Table
By Brother Mosch (with a long O)
A day lapsed and now today.
When I entered the hall, Luisa and a woman I’d never seen were at table #5… which meant there were 3 or 4 empty places. Before long Pam had settled into the spot opposite me. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted Allen circling into the vacant spot to my right. A was relieved to find him joining us again. But no sooner had I prepared to give him a smiling welcome he was up and away. Patrons often to that… establish a station by placing some sort of marker and leave to do something else for a minute or two. Not in this case. I looked across the room at the Elite Groupies and there was Allen, sitting comfortably among the elites with his back to us. Devastation. Not only had he abandoned us… he had turned his back on us.
Meanwhile, I learned that the unknown woman was Margarita. She is from Mexico City but has been in the US for many years. She has recently become a US citizen… seemed proud to be so. She has a heavy accent making it difficult for me to understand her. Luisa, who sat between Margarita and I, became an interpreter. I pointed to my hearing aids hoping the would understand that it was not her. She smiled and made a joke… Luisa, Margarita and Pam laughed, I did too… though I had little idea as to what they found funny. Probably had something to do with Margaritas being a favorite Mexican drink… It’s a happy drink… Margarita was certainly a happy person…. could be other lighthearted play on words, but fearing where that might lead, I let it go.
Margarita has several children and 6 grand children. They all leave near.
I left the room wondering why Allen had forsaken us. He’d indicated a willingness to be with us by momentarily joining us. Then I remembered that table 8 was full… no place for Allen so he was forced to sit alone at one of several empty tables or join us. Then the unthinkable happened. One person at table #8 had left leaving a coveted place and Allen had noticed. He was up and away from table #5 and seated himself with the Elites.
There’s are quantum reasons why Allen did what he did… among the trillions of WHYs are a couple of obvious possibilities: we are indeed a boring group of people, we smell or maybe our manners are offensive (picking ones teeth at table). But Gregory was not here today.
I guess we are likely never to know.
I can say, however, that if he isn’t careful he will disappear from these pages.
That will teach him.
Behavioral Psychology at the Round Table
By Brother Mosch (with a long O)
Arrived at Round Table to see only a few seniors milling about the large room. I took a place at table #5. With my back to the other tables, I faced the entry doors. Rose had reserved her place by putting her water container to my left. I could see Gregory and other familiar persons approaching the big room. Pam entered and headed straight to our table. I’m afraid quiet Pam, reserved Rose and illusive Gregory promised a less than interesting time at the table. I had hoped that Allen had had enough of the elites and would return to his roots. Not so. He cruised past without so much as a friendly gesture.
Terror gripped my soul. Was Allen done with us? Were we petty bores for him? Had he not recognized the substantive bond that had emerged among Plights of the Round Table. It seemed not… he settled at Elite Table and that was that. Gregory revealed that he had been a cook in LA… chicken dish. I wondered why he wasn’t cooking at a chicken joint around here but didn’t ask.
Rose reported that she continuously checks her attitude so she can remain happy. “Act happy, you are happy.”
“Behavioral psychology, at work,” I said.
Rose agreed. And it works,” Rose added.
Always steady, Pam has a hint of a smile… a Mona Lisa smile, maybe… seeming to indicate that she had found a place for peace in her life. She’ll be without a car for a couple of weeks. A daughter needs to borrow it. Pam will get by. I suspect with regards to pleasing her family, Pam is an easy mark.
Mindy, a newcomer to Plights of the Round Table. A tiny scratch at her interior revealed that her early years were filled with great love for nature… filled with camping and hiking and similar communions with the out-of-doors. She no longer can trip lightly over those rugged Colorado mountains but keeps herself in shape with vigorous exercise.
Mindy’s sister is a psychiatrist… specializing with children’s issues … I felt Mindy was doing a number on me… Interested in my health and mental well-being. Got a feeling she will be a source of table topics.
Shunned at the Round Table
By Brother Mosch (with a long O)
Today, there was hardly anyone in the large community room and certainly no one I recognized.
I took a place at table #5 pretty sure I would soon have company. I could see Rose’s car pulling into place through the window… and Gregory approaching.
Shortly, Gregory took a place at table to my right. He deposited his Sherlock hat on the table between us. He often keeps it on during the entire mealtime. My mama and others of her generation frowned a gentleman wearing a hat inside a building… she scowled even more when such rude fellows keep their chapeau on at table. I can hear the “Humph!” she would have emitted at such a sight. The list of other such ill-mannered behavior would be legion. But society has moved on… So, I love my mom’s memory (and still say “humph” to Puritan judgmental attitudes).
Rose arrived with her colorful sun hat and plunked it in the middle of the table (a certain tackiness there too) and scooted away do something on her cell phone. Shortly she returned to table #5 and greeted us with a smile.
Gregory had attacked one of his lemon/oranges with a serrated plastic knife. Rose, who had bridled at Gregory’s teeth picking didn’t seem to have a negative reaction to pulp digging. I didn’t either.
I could see Allen approaching our building. I was sure he would join me, Rose, Gregory, Pam, who had floated to a seat opposite me at table. You can imagine my surprise and bewilderment when Allen breezed by our table without so much as terse glance. He settled behind us at the uppity table at the far end of the room. It was to my back so I couldn’t observe how the elite would treat him.
Of course, there is no protocol for who sits where, but tradition is a powerful force. Allen had ignored this budding tradition and I was left to speculate on why he trounced on the expectations of his friends at Table #5. “Friends”, I thought.
But, Rose, Pam or Gregory didn’t seem to have the same expectations, or, if they did, they were adult enough to keep their mouths shut.
I decided that I should do the same.
Still, I yearned to know which reality Allen had visited since last we saw one another. “Maybe, I’ll find out tomorrow,” I thought. But the ethereal substance of The Round Table left me wondering.
Soon, Round Table Pam said she was headed for her granddaughter’s birthday. “She’s 4.” I did get that from Pam’s gentle voice. It was Rose who answered my cupped ear signal… that I didn’t understand. Three fingers and mouthed “three” told me that Rose had granddaughters as well.
“What are you going to give the little one?” I asked.
Pam understood that. “Money” she said with force.
We all laughed.
Gregory is not married. His interest in the subject was remote.
“I have three great grandsons,” I offered with some pride. “No, four.”
Rose wanted to know how often I get to see them.
“Not often… they live in Denver.”
It was nearing the end of lunch time when Keif strolled in… hands on his Lamborghini… He settled at an empty table not far from ours… I wondered why he didn’t join us….
My thoughts were interrupted by one of the attractive program managers announcing that today is Don’s birthday… Don is the elderly man, a regular, who collects the meal tickets, passes out a carton of milk, a cup of water and fruit.
Gregory asked, “How old are you?”
There was a bit of shock for us all… “95,” came the answer.
Pretty girl announced, “And Don has a gift for you all…”
Don opened his cooler pack and began extracting Klondike Bars. He gave us each one. What a great thing for us all and for Don. At 95 still serving others and of course, serving himself by remaining engaged.
95… well that’s apace of time away for me… I hope I can still be giving when I’m 95.
On my way out I swung by the elite table and greeted Allen. You know one of those phatic expressions that generally goes nowhere… but is polite.
I stepped back out into that famous cool ocean air and was reminded why we call it our million dollar breeze.
More Than the Water at the Round Table
By Brother Mosch (with a long O)
Hot and somewhat humid today.
“It’s a lot more humid than it was years ago,” says Al, the newcomer to table #5.
Lee, another newcomer to our table, agreed. “Getting to be a more like Florida every day. I hate it.”
Al explained that weather patterns are shifting. “El Nino dominating… hot moist air and storms are moving further and further north along the Pacific Coast.”
I found myself wishing I’d not heard Al’s lecture on the weather. I’ve not thought much about the weather… now it clings to me like humid film.
“I’m getting out of here!” Allen asserted bringing me back.
“What’s your schedule?” I asked. Allen looked at me with a cold mystified look in his eyes. I knew he was hard of hearing like me. Was it that or was he giving himself time to think? He’s not used to being challenged.
Gregory picked up on my dilemma. “When are you moving?” he asked loudly.
“Bali or one of the islands in Southeast Asia… have to get my finances in order… keep having issues with my banks…”
“Wow,” I thought “Talk of traveling the world… Allen must have a wad stashed in those banks.”
” I don’t think there is a future.” Allen said arresting my thoughts. “Like my mother said… doesn’t matter… it’s stiffening of the body and poof you’re gone.”
Was I being taken on another of Allen’s trips? Best thing to do is to hang on and listen.
Allen’s cavalier way of handling reality didn’t seem to bother anyone at table, although, even Gregory, who is ordinarily quick to toss in his perspective remained silent.
Lee and Al were both attendees at another Center began discussing members of that community which left the rest of us out. We fell silent while we finished our lunch. Pretty good meatloaf, mashed potatoes, peas, and carrots.
I asked Pam about her gardening thinking she would give me some idea of what her yard looks like and what she enjoys about it.
“My favorite flower the carnation. When I was young, I worked in a nursery picking small buds of the stems to leave the one to get big and beautiful.”
As she got up to leave, she got a Charlie-horse in her right thigh. “I need water,” she said reaching for the cup.
I wanted to help her, but, of course, there was nothing I could do. I get those too… was glad to learn about the water trick.
The volunteer table cleaner arrived at our table, essentially telling us to move along. Wishing others the best, we were gone.
Time and Patience at the Round Table
By Brother Mosch (with a long O)
Another warm day… what else would you expect for Southern California in July?
A large man sitting in the saddle fn his walker enjoyed the whisper of breath coming off a battery powered fan sitting on the table #5 in front of him.
“Brought your own cool,” I said cheerfully.
“Aa,” he returned.
“I’m Morris,” I added. “What’s your name?”
“Keif,” he said abruptly staring off out the nearby windows.
“Keith?” I repeated to make sure I had not misheard.
“Keif,” he repeated with the same emphatic finality.
“Keif,” I yielded realizing that I had seated myself next to a fellow with limitations. That was confirmed when I looked at the small sign on his chest that read, “Visually impaired.” I suspected that visual was not his only impairment. I might have been able to have a simple conversation with Keif… but my hearing difficulties and the relatively large number of people at the table caused me to turn my attention to others.
Luisa, one of the tenders of the check-in table had seated herself across the table from me. Pam, good’ ole Pam, was next to her and Allen was between Pam and me. Luisa and Pam exchanged words about this and that person whom they both knew.
Periodically, Keif emitted what appeared to be an involuntary grunt. I couldn’t tell whether he was tuned in to what the rest of us were saying or spasmodically erupting an inner urge over which he had no control.
Incidentally, Keif’s walker was a lot like mine… but appeared to have a better braking system than mine. I call mine “Lamborghini” … bet he calls his “Maserati.” I must confess… I was jealous.
But back to Pam and Luisa. It is becoming more and more apparent that there is a whole community of people who drift from Center to Center enjoying food and fellowship. Today, I learned that they I had mutual acquaintance from church.
“He’s nice man,” Pam said, “… sings in the choir.” as if being nice and singing in the choir go together. Well, we knew what Pam meant and singing in the choir and being nice often do go together.
“The Episcopal Church down the street?” Allen asked pointing.
“That’s Catholic,” Pam corrected. “I go to the Methodist Church.”
“Those evangelicals are crazy… too emotional for me. I like Unitarian….the search for the inner Christ.”
“Jesus,” I declared tentatively.
“Not a man,” Allen corrected. “The inner being.”
Pam had had enough… she excused herself and was on her way. But not before Keif rose from his walker, skirted he table and plunked his un-opened dinner in front of Pam, and made his way out of the room.
Elaine, Senior Citizens Meals director saw what was happening… She took the meal to a party who had been on the waiting list.
Allen and I were left alone at table. I hoped I might illicit some answers from Allen that I had been wondering about… no easy task… I did find out that he was having his carpet replaced with plank flooring.
“Nearly a football length of baseboard to do the job. The guy at Home Depot is crazy… they all are.”
“How are your plans for Bali coming?” I asked attempting to probe an extremity of Allen’s personality, or should I say, personalities?
Deflecting my intent, Allen said, “In Bali you find there are Buddhist images, religious images everywhere.”
Wearing my hearing aids will help me better follow the switchbacks of Allen’s complexities but I will also need a generous dose of time and patience.
I’m not certain I have enough of either – but for now there’s tomorrow.
Bragging at the Round Table
By Brother Mosch (with a long O)
I’d not reserved a meal… so was taking a chance… but had arrived early enough to expect I’d probably get a meal. Robin, Robin Ray, she told me when I asked her name. Robin was at the command table near the entrance.
“Wow, that’s a pretty name,” I said brightly, “a lyrical combination,” and repeated, “Robin Ray.” My tongue wanted to say, “Robin Red Breast,” But wisely caught myself.
Robin asked me to put my name on the wait list and assured me that I would almost certainly get a meal.
I took my place at table #5 and checked my email.
Shortly, Gregory joined me. I’d been gone week getting my carpet cleaned, so wondered what Gregory and the regulars had been doing. He seemed genuinely pleased to see me.
“Nothing,” he said glibly.
I wanted to quote Shakespeare, “Nothing will come of nothing,” but didn’t. I merely turned his declarative into an interrogative, “Nothing?”
“Without you here nothing happened.”
I like Gregory’s sense of humor.
Rose Joined us. She wore a bright yellow outfit and carried a tan hat with yellow patterns woven into it. Her hair had returned to its normal blondish color.
Various bodies passed table #5 on their way to the snob corner. Pam, one of our regulars, was one of them. I felt jilted… but kept my feelings to myself.
Allen joined us next. As usual he was loaded with social, philosophical, psychological tidbits. A tall man approached. I searched my brain. I was glad he extended his hand and said, “I’m Chuck… you are?”
Of course, I said, “Morris.”
He noticed my Hawaii tee shirt. “You been to Hawaii?”
I was reluctant to tell him that I had a time share. Time shares were once in vogue… now seem foolish. Nevertheless, I said, “Many times, I have a timeshare. Go every year to Maui.”
Of course, Allen’s ownership of knowledge about most things caused him to offer, “You been to the Grand Canyon of Hawaii?” Without waiting for an answer, added, it’s on Kauai? You can take a helicopter ride in to see it…”
Rose. “I’ve taken it…?” She looked at me, “Have you taken it? It’s spectacular.”
I felt upstaged… like I ought to be able to say yes… having a time share on Maui and having been to the islands many times, to Kauai once… But never wanted to spend big dollars for the 15-minute ride. Chuck pointed out that he’s driven to the canyon overlook in Waimea Park… almost as good as the air ride.
“Yes, I’ve done that,” I said hoping to claim some bit of authority about Hawaii. I didn’t tell them that the day I drove to the edge clouds had drawn a curtain over the view… only wispy hints of the valley’s scope and splendor could be seen.
Shortly, we learned that Chuck was a masseur. He once, maybe more than once, had given Tom Petty a massage… and had had other Hollywood types for customers… and had gone to parties in the hills where a notable or two could be seen in every room. He didn’t say who he’d seen at parties but dropped names. Jane Fonda was one and Elvis was another. I wanted to say that I was in the army with Elvis… that we were stationed in Germany at the same time. Yes, we were in the army at the same time along with thousands of other soldiers doing their part for NATO, but we never crossed paths.
The food came. One compartment was vegetables, another of macaroni and a third was bits of chicken also smothered in macaroni… not the best meal the good people folks have served.
Suddenly, Rose gathered up her stylish bag. She leaned over to my good ear and, gesturing toward Gregory, said, “I can’t stand him picking his teeth.”
With that she was on her way out the door.
No wonder Pam had also found a different table.
I hadn’t noticed… guess men aren’t sensitive about such things.
Excitement Around the Round Table
By Brother Mosch (with a long O)
With only a couple of dozen old people shuffling around, the Center is usually quiet… snail paced action. I had just pulled my car into a spot not far from the front entrance. An emergency vehicle was parked just out of the way with its rear business door open. The curious were gawking. It’s remarkable how we humans can stand at the edge of misfortune vicariously participating in its excitement…. yet maintaining safe distance.
A woman had fainted and fallen. She was lying motionless on her back. A couple of medics were hovered over her. As I approached, I was glad to see twitches of movement in her exposed feet.
Yes, the lady had staggered and slumped against a man who had cushioned her fall. While I and others watched, the medics lifted her to the gurney negotiated it into the vehicle and a moment later it was gone. The parking lot returned to its snail-paced normal.
A minute later I was at table #5.
At Round Table a place mat announced that a July 4th Celebration is to take place on July 16.
That didn’t sit well with Gregory. He expressed his psychological dissonance to Elaine. “On July 9th you announce that a July 4th celebration will take place on July 16th… Go figure.”
“That’s when we will do it,” Elaine said reassuring him that to do it out of sync breaks no universal legal or moral laws.
“Maybe a law of logic,” Gregory muttered. He folded up the mat, stuffed it in a pocket and sat down.
Across the room the clique tables had collected their usual inhabitants.
Jean #1 and Joe had settled in places next to Rose, who still sported pumpkin colored hair.
The volunteer octogenarian plunked a plum down in front of each of us along with a cup of water and plastic ware.
Jean, the first, picked hers up as if it were radioactive and sneered (probably wondering why the rest of us weren’t concerned). Jose got up, went to the restroom, and came back with a damp piece of paper for Jean to use to sanitize her plum. Of course, the juicy piece of fruit had been, ‘who knows where’… but it wasn’t likely that the octogenarian contaminated it because he wore a pair of those transparent plastic gloves.
“Oh, he just plunked it down on the table!” Jean protested in disgust.
No one else seemed concerned… table #5 was probably germ free. Always, when diners have left the room, the octogenarian spritzes the table and wipes it down.
But let’s move on…
A couple circled the table as if they were 747 heavies awaiting permission to land. I avoided eye contact… giving them social permission to join us or settle elsewhere if they so chose.
As they settled at our table, I recognized the man as the computer designer from before. Attempting to be cool I said with a smile, “Tim, the computer guy… “
“Tom, the chip manufacture,” he said without condemnation. “We’re not computer manufactures… we make chips for such firms like QUALCOMM.”
“That explains the two homes,” I thought.
To redeem myself I said, “Here for the summer… from Florida.”
“Yeah, Jean #2 plays tennis… can’t stand the humidity in Florida.”
They revealed that their California home is about halfway down the hill slanting to ocean… It must have a gorgeous view and be worth the dollars, that is, a fortune. A home in Florida and another in California. We think Tom and Jean are no doubt well heeled.
Jokes and Dreams at the Round Table
By Brother Mosch (with a long O)
I was a little late today. As usual, the two clique tables were teaming with groupies.
Away from them was Julio the Cuban and Jean and Joe seated at table #5. Pumpkin head Rose, who was at the check-in table, had saved her place by placing her ticket at an open place next to me.
Jeanie greeted me with an open smile. Joe was friendly as well. I soon learned that he considered himself to be a healthy 82-year-old-man. A slightly plump Jeanie looked healthy as well. She didn’t say anything.
Julio picked up on the theme of aging. “Two old men were discussing age. One said to the other, ‘I’m really feeling my age like an old man… pain everywhere… in my knees, back head…. everywhere.” The other man replied, “I feel like a baby.” “How so… how can that be?” said the first. “I have no hair, no teeth and I just peed my pants,” came the reply.
Pam too her place next to me on my right. “Do they deliver meals?” she asked. I assumed they probably did but had no direct knowledge. “Elaine will know,” I said gesturing toward the check in table. “What’s the deal?” I asked.
“I won’t have a car for two weeks, “she said. “Loaning it to my daughter.”
I chuckled… “Can’t go without food for two weeks.” Guess that wasn’t funny. Edging away toward the check-in table I said, “I’ll ask.”
Elaine was not there but Carol was. I’d seen her in the command seat enough to be certain she would now how to secure meals for Pam.
Carol was talking with Gregory. I’d thought the two of them would have finished their conversation by the time I’d made strides toward them. But not so. Now, I had to decide to stand with my proverbial hat in hand and wait or interrupt. I decided I could be in and out of their conversation before either could say a thing. I plunged ahead.
“Hope I’m not interrupting an apostrophe…”
“I hope you were not engaged in a moment of apostrophe,” I expanded.
Both looked at me with genuine mystification.
“You know, strong statements that require….” I stopped realizing that my play on words wasn’t working. “Pam wants to know how she can get meals delivered for the next couple of weeks.”
Carol smiled indicating Pam’s dilemma could be easily solved.
I returned to table #5.
Allen was still holding court explaining how he planned to travel the world starting in Southeast Asia and flitting from place to place enjoying cultural ambiances in towns and ports along the way.
Got a feeling the others at the table wondered how he could pull that off…. financially, physically, and emotionally.
No one challenged him… With his charm and gift for gab, he may very well become the happy wanderer, traipsing about the world. Who knows, a year from now the Plights of the Round Table could very well be sitting here at table #5 listening to Allen beguile us by recounting avalanches of adventure.
Bragging at the Round Table
By Brother Mosch ( with a long O)
A man was sitting alone at Table #5 when I arrived. The good servers were putting place mats on table for each guest… well, oblong pieces of paper.
I asked Tom, that was the man’s name, if I could join him. He motioned for me to sit but not at the place mat next to him.
“That’s for my wife,” he said, “She’s just stepped out for something.” I’m trying to pay attention to members of the Round Table… but keeping track of a phantom whom I’d never seen, let alone met, was beyond unreasonable. I did learn her name, it was Jean.
I’d never seen Tom before.
Pumpkin head, Rose joined us
“Engineer… Tom said into my question. “Designer of computer chips and other quantum obscurities.” Well, he didn’t say “other quantum obscurities.” That was how I termed the dialogue that was likely to come from Tom. But he wasn’t stuffy at all… well mostly not stuffy.
“I taught a semester at Cal Tech,” he said easily as if we would likely be impressed. Of course, he was right, Cal Tech is one of the primo research institutions in the world.
Tom softened the braggadocio message by adding, “When I didn’t know the answer to a question my students would bail me out.”
My own substantial dose of braggadocio caused me to follow Tom’s declaration with… “My grandson is a graduate of Cal Tech… works for a computer company in Austin.”
Jean’s return to table broke our stalemate. She loves to cook.
Allen is in the market to sell his condo unit and roam the world. “Not a good time to sell,” he declared. Didn’t say why… or maybe did and I missed it… Allen mumbles a bit and without my hearing aids, he is nearly unintelligible.
Tom and Jean are from Florida… here as part of a cruise… I don’t know how that works. My tour operator friend was mystified as well… likely something about re-positioning a cruise ship from one port to another.
Pam was muted… quiet as usual.
Allen railed on about sugar in most of the foods we eat… but I noticed that he wolfed down his pasta. “Everything returns to sugar,” he said in a benign, non-judgmental way.
Some idle chatter brought the day’s Round Table to a close.
The Brotherhood of the Round Table
By Brother Mosch (with a long O)
It had been nearly a week since last I sat at the Round Table. I have to admit I was looking forward to joining comrades who have become regulars.
I entered the room and approached the desk. Carol and Maria were there. A quick glance around the room revealed a bit of a shakeup. Table #4 was in a completely different location… I didn’t recognize anyone it the room… no regulars.
Table #5 was off to my right. A woman sat there adjusting her tote bag full of womanly treasure.
The two more tables in the room had people… the usual cliques. I didn’t want to join them so approached the bag lady.
To my surprise, it was Rose… I didn’t recognize her frizzled pumpkin colored hair. We greeted one another.
“It’s my 4rth of July celebration… red, white and blue.”
“Wonderful” I said straining to make it work. Yes, the pumpkin colored hair was in the direction of red and a stretch would make the, pale powdery blue blouse represent white. The sweat pants were clearly blue, well… kind of a milky blue. Red, white and blue…Patriotic. Yes, Rose was patriotic.
By now, Pam had seated herself to my right and Gregory had claimed the seat opposite. That was it of the old gang.
A muscular dark-skinned man had taken the chair next to Pam.
“What’s your name?” I asked muscles enjoying the thought of adding him to the brotherhood and sisterhood of the Round Table.
“Jay,” came the terse answer.
Food was delivered… main dish was a thin slab of pork.
“What to you do with yourself these days,” I asked Jay.
I detected a hint of annoyance in his response,
“Walk around,” he said… period… So much for my attempt to bring Jay in… or maybe I was the one who needed to be brought in… I couldn’t be certain and wasn’t about to find out.
Rose put her plastic fork to the meat… Plastic on plastic didn’t make for easy cutting. After a respectable number of tries Pam got up to leave, “I’ll eat it at home she said heading for the door.
Almost immediately she was back.
“They won’t let us take food out of here,” Pam said as she returned to the place next to me. She began attacking her stubborn slice of pork again.
“I’ll help you, if you like,” I offered gesturing at her food.
Pam didn’t say anything… just went at the food with increased vigor. “She’s an independent sort,” I thought.
Gregory, watching Pam labor at parsing her meat said,“You can make shoe soles with it.”
We all managed to get our leathery lunch down our gullets.
Gregory asked me if I walk to the Center.
“Guess I could, but it’s bit far for me… would take a long time.”
“You need yard work done?” he asked out of the blue. “I can do it all.”
That was s bit of a shock for me… He didn’t seem that much younger than I… But… “What do you charge?” I asked.
A slight hesitation from him… I wondered what ingredients were loaded into that lapse. Did he really want to do gardening? Did he need money? How much would he ask?
“$15 an hour,” he said and after a moment added, “I’ll give you my phone number.” He paused again, “Think about it.”
Just as we parted he gave me a piece of paper with his name and number on it.
I got into my car thinking that Gregory, the Sherlock Holmes of the group, is an interesting fellow.
I may take him up on his offer.