catsandflowers

Monday, October 10, 2005

Lunch Fun

Monday is a sometimes lunch at Home Town Buffet. After working hard during the weekend and subsisting on peanut butter and jelly, real food comes to mind, at least a plate loaded with fruit and veggies.

Today was particularly interesting.

When I walked into the restaurant to stand in line and wait for my friend Sandy, the cashier, to take my money, the noise level hit me immediately. It was somewhere up at ceiling height. I was thinking, oh yeah, Columbus Day weekend, until I was corrected by the African-American couple directly behind me.

“Wow, everyone must have come here for lunch on the day off from work,” I stated.

“No,” the female half of the couple said. “They are here for second Monday, and they are all retired. I call them the OG’s, the Old Guys.”

The three of us joked until I had paid for lunch, then we went our separate ways.

The place was totally crowded. The huge group took up over half of the restaurant, and everyone was having a great time, laughing, walking around to various tables, hugging each other, sharing photo albums, passing out copies of printouts, taking pictures. The flash from cameras was predominant, as people posed in their seats or stood with their arms around each other in small groups.

It has been some time since I have witnessed such a boisterous, happy group. When I am with the seniors, it is not quite the same, and supposedly the group was composed of retirees.

I must say, I was probably staring at various members of the group a bit, as there were several extremely attractive women, dressed professionally in office wear, along with equally handsome men. I just kept thinking that I wished I were involved with such a group.

I finally had a chance to find out more about the group from a man that I met at the drink dispenser. I had noticed him near my table as he made the rounds, talking to his friends. He was very tall, with a backward baseball cap, and an Olympic T-shirt. I had been curious about the significance of the T-shirt, but forgot to ask him.

“You are having ENTIRELY too much fun,” I told him.

“Yes, we are having fun,” he replied.

“I am totally envious. I wish I belonged to a group like this.”

“We all went to school together,” he explained.

“Where did you go to school?”

“In the City. But we didn’t all go to the same school. We went to Tech, Galileo, and (a third school I don’t remember). We get together every month.”

“Yes, the people behind me in line told me you meet on the second Monday. So, you all live in this area now?”

“No, we are from all over. There are some people here from the city, other areas around here and even from Sacramento today. We go to different places so that it is closer to where some of the others live sometimes. Next month we are going to Cache Creek (Casino), then after that we are going to San Leandro, then South San Francisco.

“I thought you came here every month.”

“No, we are here every four or five months.”

We would have talked longer, I think, but they started singing Happy Birthday, so he went back to the group and joined in. I must say, this wonderfully happy group of beautiful Black people certainly made my day. I suppose a lot of it has to do with the age of the individuals, the mellowing that comes after a certain amount of time of being on this earth. It also seemed amazing to me that they do get together every month, and keep tabs on each other, right down to sharing albums with large portraits of grandchildren. This seems to be something that very few people would do.

The mellowing after a certain age is attained was a significant part of a very lengthy conversation I had with a 72-year-old Black man at the market yesterday. He had stopped at my booth, and we started a conversation that centered on his being retired Air Force. He was wearing his jacket with all of his patches that he had earned.

He told me about the many places all over the world where he had served, including Sampson Air Force Base in the Finger Lakes part of New York State, a couple of miles from where I grew up; about being in the Korean war; about being stationed in Japan, where he met his lovely Japanese wife of 49 years. He speaks Japanese fluently, as well as Portuguese, “I’m a Black Portugee”, and other languages. He has a beautiful, friendly face and voice. He told me about growing up in the South as a Black, about Racism, and going into the service to “learn something” as so many of his fellowmen did. He stated that they also joined the service to see the world and go somewhere other than the place in which they were living.

He was telling me stories about being in Japan, as a Black man, in areas where he was the first Black that the locals had ever seen, and women telling their children to stay away from him. He was on his way to see his wife, on a train, when this happened, and he started speaking rapid and perfect Japanese to a woman who was treating him this way, thus winning the respect of everyone around him because he spoke the language so well. He ended up with many invitations for dinner, but turned them down because he wanted to see his wife.

He regaled me with several other stories, as he has many at his age, and told me that he was in the Air Force after the Navy, retiring from the Air Force after 26 years. He then went to work for Wells Fargo in data processing, and retired from there after 23 years, I believe he said. Quite a gentleman, and I consider him to be refined and mellow, the same as so many of the people that I met today. He goes to the market every week, to get out and keep active.


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