On December 20th Mrs. K’s restaurant in Middleburgh welcomed the Old Men of the Mountain for their annual Christmas Party. The restaurant always puts on a great spread for the OFs as they get ready to celebrate the Christmas season. Usually there is live music (as opposed to dead music) for occasional singalongs if the OFs know the tune and stop talking long enough to give the musicians some attention.

The chatter at the breakfast is similar to the chatter that proceeds church as people come in, or any meeting where people, who see each other once a week or so, get together. In some cases the persons at these meetings have just visited with each other the day before, but that does not deter them from conversing before the service or meeting starts. The OMOTM breakfast does not have a beginning or end, no one bangs a gavel, or rings a bell, or comes down the aisle with lit candles to indicate that whatever is going to happen, is going to happen, so the chatter continues until the last OF pays his bill and goes home. This is what the musicians have to contend with as they continue to play through the breakfast with the noise and chatter, and they appear to have a good time doing it.

Much of the conversation among the OFs consists of bringing people up to date on each other’s activities during the week, and some is a continuation of conversations of last week. However, this week we had one OF bring us up to date on his travels to South Africa. The OF was asked many questions and the OF related tales to us about what life was like during his stay in that country. One thing he mentioned more than once was that the water in the South Atlantic was very, very, cold. The OF said it turned one’s legs red. He thought it was colder than the ocean in Maine and most OFs could relate to that.

Another thing the OFs could relate to is when starting a home repair project how many times the OFs have to go to the hardware store to purchase additional parts so they can repair parts on something that broke along the way. Fixing one simple thing leads to either breaking something further down the line, or a part is rusted solid and adding a pipe to the wrench is generally not a good idea. Then the OF finds that he can’t get the part because the guy behind the counter says “How the h— old is that thing? They haven’t made parts for that in years.” Now the OF is stuck paying a couple hundred bucks for a complete new whatchamacallit instead of the two bucks he thought the part would be. Then the OF says he gets home and the new part doesn’t fit because it is different in length and width and none of connections join up. Back to the store, and by now the OF mentioned he was really ticked off, and didn’t know how much more would break somewhere down the line, so he buys more parts than he needs just to be sure. One OF piped up, “Why didn’t you just call a plumber?” “WHAT”, the other OF says, “And admit defeat! Never, even if cost me a grand.” Another situation the OFs could relate to. Many of the OFs have started to repair something and chased it to the end after all the trips to the store, and days later to find they have replaced the whole thing, which they should have done in the first place.

The OFs went from South Africa, to right here at home, to the Florida Keys. Now that is a lot of geography. When the OFs were at the Keys (especially Long Boat Key, Marathon, and Key West the first time and they were younger) prices were cheap, and Key West was, in their opinion, sort of dumpy, but even at the way money was then, it was a cheap vacation. Today, what a difference! Key West has been spruced up, and the OFs say it is necessary to have a real pocket full of change, just to eat. The OFs said that when they were younger it was possible to take the family on vacations and it wouldn’t break the bank. As one OF put it, the really upper middle-class and the rich can travel there now, but as it stands currently these type of trips are out of reach for the OFs and many of their kids.

One OF added he does not know what planet the Government is from because there was no increase in Social Security, and some OFs even took a loss after the increase in Medicare hit their Social Security checks ─ the reason given by our wise politicians that there was no rise in the cost of living. The OFs say, “SAY WHAT”! As one OF commented, “The CIA should look around and find out where the officials who came up with that information parked their space ship!”

Those OFs that enjoyed the music, supplied by Roger Shafer (OF), Gerry Irwin (OF), Tom White, & Debbie Fish, with the hors d’oeuvres (almost a meal, supplied by Mrs. K’s Restaurant) at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh were: Marty Herzog, Jim Rissacher, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, Jim Heiser, Chuck Aelesio, Ray Frank, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson (at the table, exactly one week from being under the knife with a complete hip replacement ─ the wonders of modern medicine), Mark Traver, Bill Dergosits, Ted Willsey, Don Wood, Sonny Mercer, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer. Jay Francis, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Warren Willsey, Russ Pokorny, Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.