A New Guy at the Round Table
By Brother Mosch ( with a long O)
Jim, Randal, and I were joined Jose, a newcomer who was there to play bridge, but came early to get a meal before the fun started.
“Yeah, I play for fun,” Jose volunteered. “Most of the others are serious about it.”
“What did you do before bridge?” I asked.
“You mean, for a living?”
“Yeah, what kept the wolf away from your door.”
“Computer programming. I started in the days of punch cards…. now it’s all electronic… I’ve been retired since 2000.”
I’d had experienced that whole computer revolution when working on my PhD…. studying attitudes toward theatre among the college constituencies where I taught. I spent many hours keying 50 or so reactions/statements into punch cards to be fed into the monster computer available to graduate students.
There was a lull in the conversation… then Jose asked who was going to be the entertainer. He pointed at me…
I said to myself, ‘Jose has spunk… I like that. But I’ll not be in the spotlight.’
I said, “I’ll ask questions… Your answers will be the entertainment.”
They all laughed.
I turned to Jose and asked, “Do you have children?”
“Yeah,” they all live in Boston area.”
“Long way away,” Jim said. “Why so far away?”
Jose gestured at the scene out the window: bright sunshine and cool, gentle ocean breeze.
“We live in paradise,” Randal opined.
There was general agreement on that subject.
“News story in Wall Street Journal about girls getting hooked on Instagram… anyone see it?”
“We’re all addicted to something,” Randal said.
“Where are the parents?” Jose asked.
I added, “Addiction is overblown… follow the money… the media has to keep us fearful of something to keep a story going… keep us fearful that the sky is falling.”
“I got kicked off Facebook,” Jim said. His declaration caught us off guard.
“That’s out of the blue,” I said gauging everyone’s surprise.
“I posted a poem about Trump… and some lowlife flagged me. I’m gone.”
I was astonished. I’d thought that Facebook was so anti-Trump that anyone could say anything they might want… the more negative the better.
“That must have been a scathing piece,” I said.
“Yeah, pretty scathing,” Jim proudly agreed.
For some reason or another, Jose had a curiosity about our ages. I was the senior in that group by 10 years.
I learned that both Randal and Jim were both raised Catholic… but had left their faith some years ago. It appeared to me that the seeds of faith still resided somewhere in Randal’s spiritual consciousness.
On the way to our cars I said to Randal that in this dark world those of us who believe in a higher power need one another.
“Don’t throw out the good with the bad.”
Randal said he agreed with that.
Sharing Plights at the Round Table
By Brother Mosch ( with a long O)
Besides myself, Dave, Phil and Randal were at the Round Table today and Randal reported that he had followed up on Phil’s recommendation of a car mechanic one could trust. He said his guy could weld the fracture for $1200 which would get him through this inspection season… but he couldn’t guarantee how long the patch would last. So, Phil is left with his nagging three-pronged dilemma: the original repair for $3500 with new manifold and catalytic converter, weld the crack and a new catalytic converter and hope for the best at $1200, or dump the vehicle.
I admired the calm with which Randal faced his choices. I’ve been there a couple of times in my life and remembered a season of internal turmoil with each. For me I would likely swallow hard, bite the bullet and get the repair with new parts. Relying on the welded manifold would bring with it the constant everyday worry that at any moment it it might well explode. We will see what Randal does… I wish him the best.
Randal had brought with him the printed copy of the last line of The Tempest… “Our Revels now are ended…” etc. There was some mindless banter about its meaning. Yes, the idea that life is but a dream was clear… My new age comrades would have no trouble. I was surprised that they didn’t get the t allusion to “the Great Globe” itself… a double meaning: The physical theater which will over time decay and rot and the earth which will also disappear when we die.
Dave picked up on the death theme reminding us that the great actor, Robin Williams, had taken his own life to escape unimaginable pain.
“We can’t imagine the agony he must have suffered… the only escape being suicide.”
“He was a talented man,” Phil offered….
We all agreed with that conclusion.
“I think if assisted suicide were legal in California, none of us would be here,” Dave joked.
“You could move to Oregon,” I offered.
We all laughed.
“I can see how having that as an option may be a good thing,” Dave said.
“It’s hard to imagine things getting that bad,” I offered weakly.
“Excruciating pain without relief would be that bad.”
“You’ve a point there,” Randal agreed.
“Let’s be thankful that none of us has yet to face that dilemma,” I offered hoping to put the subject to rest.
“Could use touch therapy,” Dave said touching the bridge of his nose. “Touching links people together in inexplicable ways… but it works… I can know what you are feeling…and you can know what I feel.”
“Yeah, strike a person on the chest with these fingers and there’s power in that,” Phil said bringing his fingers together to form an anvil.
“Yeah,” Dave said and named the teacher, “She zapped me on the chest, and I suddenly found myself floating outside my body… It was weird.”
Well, there was more such testimony… all beyond my experience, expertise or willingness to dwell in.
Sally sidled up beside me and placed a red straw beside my plate. I was mystified but thanked her… it’s the second time she has done this.
I believe you are coming to believe that the Round Table is an interesting place to gather… to share our plights.
Car Advice at the Round Table
By Brother Mosche
When I walked into the great hall, I spotted Angie, the lady truck driver. She waved to me inviting me to join her at table. Randal was at a different table and Jim’s gloves marked the place he wanted saved for him.
Dave, joined us and almost immediately produced a package of dried lintels and asked if anyone wanted a package. I waited for a few minutes or so for others to claim a bag of beans. No takers…
“I’ll take them,” I said anticipating putting a proper serving of lentils and several chunks of ham in my small cooker. ending up with a nice lintel mealputting a proper serving of in my small cooker along with several chunks of ham and ending up with a nice lintel meal.
I would have thought that Jim would have snapped them up. He’s made it knows that he survives on a meager income.
“I don’t cook anything,” he said. “No room…. I’m a minimalist…. smaller and smaller footprint. I live in a 10 by10 room. There are six billion, plus people on the earth… Everyone wanting a standard of living like ours. The planet can’t sustain continual growth at present rate”
I had nothing to say. I live alone in a 1600 square foot house. But I didn’t feel guilty… I’m pretty frugal…try not to waste resources and I like my privacy… so for now, it’s enjoy my 1600 and allow others to enjoy theirs.
“What’s bothering you, Randal?” I asked.
“My car failed the smog test…”
“What’s wrong with it?” I asked realizing that it was a stupid question… How can anyone short of an expert mechanic know what to do.
Nevertheless, Randal tried, “The guy said I my engine had a cracked manifold, also needs a new catalectic converter and all the stuff that goes with that … Said that would cost about $3200 or so.”
“Wow, “I blurted, “That’s big. How about a second opinion?”
“I know a guy in San Marcos who has been honest with me before.”
“Is there such a thing as an honest mechanic? “Dave posed the ironic question, “That’s an oxymoron.”
Jay had joined us taking Angie’s place who had left to take a call.
“Jay, our motorcycle man was a mechanic,” I said intentionally attempting to engage Jay and give him recognition, “Do you know an honest mechanic, Jay?”
Jay gave us his open-mouthed smile and laughed, “NO!”
“Come on Jay, you are a mechanic, What would you do if your car had a cracked manifold…. and couldn’t pass the smog test?”
“Get rid of it!”
Dave mentioned several websites where one can sell almost anything.
Phil, who was at a nearby table overheard our conversation raised his hand as if he were a kid asking permission to speak… Attention turned to him.
“Most of those online car dealers won’t give you much of anything for your car. I know an honest mechanic and he lives right here… don’t have to drive all the way to some place else.”
Randal seemed pleased… though the seeming may be a shallow seeming. We’ve all been in situations where we have felt like we’ve been kicked in the stomach… and like we are alone in our anguish.
I’m hopeful, dare I say, “pray” that Randal’s walk through this difficult patch, his plight, turns out to be surprisingly smooth.
We will know more next time at the Plights of the Round Table.
Sharing the Sting at the Round Table
by Brother Mosch (with a long O)
If I sit for a few minutes in my new lounge chair, I can count on settling me into a nap. However, today it almost caused me to miss my friends at the Round Table. The tables in the Great Hall were almost full when I entered the big room.
Familiar faces were there at the Elite Tables. Jim and Dave had settled at table #5 and ordinarily, I would have joined them, but I spotted Keith alone near the windows. I made my way to his table and sat down with the light from the midday sky to my back. I’d learned that facing the windows made it almost impossible for me to read lips… not that reading Jay’s lips really made much difference. His words all ran together in a series of open-mouthed consonants… no Ts, Bs, Ps and others. But Jay’s determination using some emphatic repeats made it work.
I noticed a picture on the table near Jay’s coffee cup. I picked it up. It was a picture of a young, bearded, long-haired man and a child. I’d heard enough about Jay’s story to realize it was a picture of him.
“Is that you?” I asked knowing the answer.
A grinning opened mouthed “YEAH,” came the answer.
“Is that your daughter?” again feeling certain I’d surmised correctly.
Again, “Yeah… She lives in Vegas.”
“How old would she now be?”
“30 years old.”
“That was a long time ago,” I said, putting a button on the subject.
Moments later Martha quietly settled into the vacant chair opposite me…. That made three of us at table with room for one more… though it appeared that the placement police weren’t on the job. I also noticed that the spindles holding the table number cards were no longer there. I made comment calling attention to the absence of table number markers.
“They aren’t using them anymore,” Martha said in a matter of fact-manner.
Then an astonishing thing happened.
Dave got up from the Jim table, gathered his backpack and came over to join Martha, Jay and I. It’s hard to reason it out, but I was suddenly struck with the irony… the stark instance of poetic justice that was taking place before my very eyes. Jay, usually alone in the world, was surrounded by friendly attention while Jim, who had gotten into crossfire with Sally over a trite misunderstanding sat alone.
After that triumphal moment Jay and Martha turned inward leaving Dave and I to sort things out.
I expected Dave’s usual rant against his contractor to provide fodder for conversation. Instead, Dave reminisced about his career as a park ranger for the forest service in several National Parks.
“Still have my ranger shirt with the Forest Service patch in the sleeve. I was wearing it on a visit to Grand Canyon… a few years back. The ranger made me take it off.”
I felt the sting Dave experienced… a source of pride was needlessly squelched by legalistic fuzz.
Dave sat silent for a spell lost in past realities. I wanted to join him there. Seeing himself dressed in his smart ranger uniform topped by that tell-tale Smokey the Bear hat.
“I wore a small hat… it stayed on my head better.”
Pride. I would have felt that too.