Had breakfast with the old fogies at the Wimberley Cafe yesterday morning.
(Please take into account that this is a newspaper-sponsored blog, and substitute the real "f" word I have in mind for "fogies.")
Or, rather, I should say, the other old fogies, since I have clearly achieved that status. I'm happy to say, though, that I was not the oldest one at the table. At one end of the age scale was John, a nearly 90 World War II veteran. He served only during the last few months of the war and was still a teenager when it ended. At the other extreme was Susan, a 40-something reservist whose last deployment (to Afghanistan, I think) ended less than a year ago and who has submitted her retirement papers. In between were Vietnam vets, Korea vets, Desert Storm vets and I don't know who else.
They have breakfast every Thursday morning, same restaurant, same table. The number fluctuates. Yesterday there were 14 of us, 13 of them members of the same VFW, including my brother Larry. I was an honored out-of-town guest, although I told Larry to tell them next week that I prefer to be thought of as a "remote member." I've never joined the VFW, though I am eligible, which Susan seemed to have an issue with. How could I ignore being a member of a club I had earned the right to? I said I had joined the American Legion for a couple of years. Hmmpf, was all I got. Any old veteran can join the Legion.
The whole thing started years ago when my brother and one of the other VFW members had breakfast to talk about an issue the post was having. Then another vet joined the next breakfast. Then another one, then another. The issue they had originally met to discuss has long been resolved, but the Thursday Morning Old Fogies Breakfast has continued. Five years they've been at the Wimberley Cafe every Thursday morning, always at their same table.
They tell war stories, of course; what else would you expect from a bunch of old war veterans? But they're rooted in the present, too, talking about whatever crap in the news everybody else is talking about or who they're going to vote for in the upcoming town election. Yesterday, a hot topic was the fact that a lot of deer are being attacked by what appears to be a mountain lion. My brother and his wife found the carcass of one on their property, so torn up that it was likely a lion or a couple of very big coyotes.
The breakfasts seem to have become a tradition not only for the vets but for the restaurant as well. At every breakfast, the vets argued over the check, each of them fighting to be the one to pay it. So the one of the waitresses made a list of their names, and it's her job to check off the names and tell the table whose turn it is to pay that week. But sometimes it doesn't even come to that. Regularly, some other patron volunteers to take up the table's check and pay it.
Yesterday, somebody at the restaurant had screwed up, and a group of women were seated at the vets' table. So the waitress went to the table and ask the ladies if they would kindly move, as the veterans were coming in for their Thursday morning breakfast club. They did, without protest or apparent feelings of victimization. Don't see that kind of thing very often. Veterans don't need to be thanked for their service every day of the week, but maybe they have earned their Thursday morning table.
Those veterans, it occurred to me, are a community, people who congregate because of shared values and experiences. The people in that restaurant are another community. In a small town like Wimberley, with one main restuarant everybody goes to, regular patrons soon know each other's stories.
And the two communities come together and, in a strange sort of way, become a different community altogether.
There are communities everywhere if you know how to look. My brother's wife Michelle has become fascinated with being an extra in the movies and TV shows that come to Texas to film on location. She travels all over the state to do it, one brief moment in a TV episode here, one brief moment in a movie there. And all the people in the extras pool start to know each other, hang out and do things together. They become a community.
A lot has been written in recent years about the loss of community. Hell, I've written some of it myself. I think we just to think about community in a different way. It has nothing to do with geography or buildings or institutions. Whenever you have people who want to congregate and communicate and share, for whatever reason, you have a community.