There are two shifts for each meal. The early and late shift. I chose the early shift. Tables seat either four or two people. When you walk in there’s a two person table with two people and one has a full white beard, like Santa Claus with sunglasses that they wear in Florida that cover the rest of his face.
The character across from him is clean shaven and skinny and doesn’t wear glasses and his name is Marty.
Marty and Oscar only talk about one thing: classic movies. I have been here a week or more and I’ve heard them talk about the Man in the White Suit, the Lavender Hill Gang, Run Silent, Run Deep, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Marty, Lawrence of Arabia, The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, and at least a hundred other movies that are good or great but I have never heard them talk about anything as common place as the weather, politics, or how cold it is in the dining room.
And my four man table is almost five table lengths away and still I haven’t hear a word about anything other than film.
My table is set for four but I have only met two others there. One is an ex boxer who likes to sleep, and eat, but not at the same time. He has an angelic personality, and his name is Ricardo. I won’t give full names as I don’t know what I’m going to say about anyone yet and don’t want to embarrass anyone.
He sits to my left. You are lucky to get a word out of him. He eats. Gets extra napkins. And finishes everything on his plate. He is ghostlike. And he is a tall black guy who still looks like he could knock you on your ass if you annoy him. Ricardo, the gentle, sleepy giant.
Across from me, when he does show up is Dunbar. Dunbar is badly curved over to the point of just about touching his instant mashed potatoes with his nose. He wear sunglasses and a hat, and talks to himself.
I spent one meal trying to get him to talk, just to give me his name. Nan, who sits at another table to the right of me, whispered that he was deaf.
Then she changed her story and said, no he just pretends to be deaf.
Then a few days later, after he spent the entire meal mumbling she told me he was schizophrenic. He generally sounds like Mumbles from Batman movies? But every once in a while he is coherent. For example, somehow, I said the secret word, Audie Murphy (WWII war hero, turned actor) and Mumbles sprang to life, informing me that Audie was the greatest actor of all time, and listing the wonderful westerns he had starred in.
Nan, who sits (as I said) at the table to the right of me is my Virgil guide through this place. Her brain is still very sharp and caustic. She can give it back to me as fast as I can dish it out. She too is trying to write a novel about this place. But she made the mistake of buying a book about how to write a novel, and she seems to be stuck on the preface of the book.
She has sad some outrageous things since I’ve met her, such as that Hemingway was a lousy writer. Scare bleau!
But she’s been here roughly 6 years and knows everyone. She remembers somethings I tell her and forgets others.
Which is not bad for this place.
At her table is a gentle soul name Lawrence who has been to hell and back in this crazy system. He told me some of his experiences in confidence and I will keep them in confidence .
Then there’s an old old woman at Nan’s table who is allergic to onions, and since they put onions on just about everything, there’s always an issue at meal time.
One more guy at Nan’s table named Spike. From the Bronx. For some reason he usually sits down, has his coffee, and then gets the rest to go.
I have no idea why. One day I’m sure I’ll find out he’s plotting to take over the world. At least Nan thinks so.