Lunch at the Senior Center
I’ve got a friend named Richard J. Smith. Actually, “friend” isn’t the right word, except in that Facebook definition. “Telephone acquaintance” might be closer to the truth since, until today, we’d never shaken hands. He’s an old-school liberal who loves this newspaper and loves liberal talk radio—although he doesn’t like the Democratic Party any better than the Republican Party. At any rate, he’d invited me to lunch, basically to talk about some projects he’s working on, some projects he wants to work on, and politics. The Senior Center at the corner of Ninth and Sutro streets was to be the location of our rendezvous.
Last Friday, when I missed our first appointment, I thought lunch at the Washoe County Senior Center would be a perfectly reasonable place to focus on spirituality because I’m a middle-aged guy, and I kind of figured—a stereotype on my part—that anywhere people older than me congregated would be rife with spirituality.
The dining room—regular readers of this feature can imagine it as the sanctuary—is a large cafeteria. I’d paid my $4 outside at the desk, where I met Mr. Smith. He went in search of a place we could sit undisturbed while I turned over my ticket, received my tray and flatware, and plates with coffee, cauliflower, beef pot pie, ginger cake with frosting, and cooked fruit. (So help me, I’m not sure what the fruit was, it kind of seemed like peach pie filling, but I don’t want to say it was.) All the servers were very friendly toward me.
The room is large, and while it does have a sort of governmental, bureaucratic lunchline feel to it, there were various holiday-type decorations—St. Patrick’s Day is coming right up—to make the room more festive, There were also the metallic sounds of Bingo numbers being called overhead and the tinkling of a piano from the other side of a temporary wall.
Nowhere, though, was there a sign of spirituality or religion. I’ve been to churches that didn’t present such iconography, but this place didn’t even have the feel of spirituality.
Richard and I sat down, and he began showing me his calendars, which he and his son produced in 2008, which were essentially making fun of Rush Limbaugh and the Bushies, a voluminous book full of cartoons and various writings, a sheet with the titles of some songs he’d written—he practices piano some afternoons at the Center—and a book written by famous attorney Vincent Bugliosi: The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder.
We chatted along amiably enough. He’s got a lot to say, and he’s looking for the right venue to say it. He’s, I think, primarily a radio guy, but he wants to write some longer pieces on national topics of interest. He kept telling me about one project after another—from the calendar publishing to radio shows to music videos—that he’s working on. We goofed on the quality of the food. “I’m only used to gourmet vegetarian food—my whole life, well, the last 30 years of it anyway,” he said.
People kept coming up and joining our conversation. Call it friendly fellowship at the Center. One elderly gentleman came up to discuss the Bugliosi book and when it would be available again at the Center’s library. Another man, Mike Kinikin, joined us to discuss his battles with the Veteran’s Administration, trying to get some kind of relief from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome that he suffered in the Vietnam War. He’s been fighting for 10 years to get some help.
With communion and fellowship taken care of, I didn’t have to look hard to find spirituality. Call it the indomitable spirit of man. As I looked around the room and listened to stories, I could see that the human spirit never ceases to fight on, never ceases to look for hope in the next project. And I didn’t even have to listen to a sermon.