Every evening, after a day filled with scheduled exercise classes I don’t go to at this fitness place in Mexico they call the “Ranch”, there are lectures by visiting speakers that I also don’t go to.
Speakers in the past have ranged from the late William F. Buckley and former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. (I was not present on either occasion or I might have sacrificed an early bedtime listening to Mexican music on the radio and attended.)
More recently as the “Ranch” clientele has aged, The “Speakers’ List” has evolved towards experts championing “The Up Side of Winding Down” and specialists offering mnemonic approaches insuring that you check if you have your keys before you shut the front door rather than after.
On, this last excursion it occurred to me that, having visited the “Ranch”, by their count, thirty-four times I myself was equipped to deliver a lecture ntitled “The Ranch – Then and Now.” Or more in my vernacular, “The Ranch – Better or Stinkier?”
As is my habit when it comes to ideas I will never follow through on, I immediately began imagining what I would say, beginning with the traditional Dining Hall announcement for that night’s upcoming evening’s activity.
After being introduced, I saw myself taking the microphone and sheepishly announcing,
“I’m Earl Pomerantz. I’ve been coming to the “Ranch” since the late seventies, and during that time may have attended two exercise classes. Tonight, if you’re interested – and even if you’re not – I will talking about the changes I have seen over my many years of coming here. I don’t know if I can promise any important “Life Lessons” or uplift – I don’t really know what I’m going to do because I’ve never done this before – but if you want to find out at the same time I do, I’ll be at… a gym whose name I don’t know because I’ve never been there, tonight at eight o’clock. It might be fun, who knows? Thank you.”
Something like that. Maybe different. The inspired stuff doesn’t come to me till I am really under the gun.
I believed I had enough material to fill the requisite forty-five minutes, plus the follow-up “Q and A”, which, if there were no “Q’s”, we would all be in bed earlier. So it was “win-win.”
I could talk about the logistical changes at the “Ranch”, the improvement in the food, meeting Oprah Winfrey there before she was famous…
But I knew the centerpiece of my presentation would be a story about an Indian.
“He went by two different names – “Grandfather Raven” and “Chief Silver Raven”. I preferred the latter appellation. It had the word “Chief” in it. I imagined a headdress.
On my first encounter with the “Ranch’s” resident Native American – I had by then been there more than twenty times and I had never run into him before – I was sitting in the “Art Room”, adorning the exterior of a little, wooden jewel box (or mouse coffin) for a loved one back home, reminiscent of a gift a camper might present his mother on “Visitors’ Day”. And equally as ugly.
Concentrating mightily on my project, I heard the door to the “Art Room” open, followed shortly by a kindly voice asking the “Art Director” if his supplies had come in, and the reply, “Not yet, I’d afraid.” To which the kindly voice soothingly said back, “That’s all right. Everything happens in its own time.”
I looked up to see who had delivered this equanimitous response and saw a sixtyish gentleman in braids and buckskin ethereally exiting the “Art Room.” I had never seen a person exit ethereally before, in braids and buckskin or otherwise. I sensed immediately I’d been in the company of a “Spiritual Presence.”
The next day, I read a notice on the bulletin board in the lounge:
“Tomorrow morning at eleven at Kuchima Gym, Chief Silver Raven will be available to explain ‘The Meaning of Life.’”
I knew instinctively it was the same guy. Having “Everything happens in its own time” a previewing example, I was definitely “all-in” on “The Meaning of Life.”
I immediately cleared my schedule, involving primarily “Reading on a hammock”, arriving promptly at eleven A.M. at Kuchima Gym – after asking somebody for directions because I had no idea where it was.
There were a dozen or so other people waiting there, “Truth Seekers” like myself, eager to hear Chief Silver Raven’s exciting revelations concerning “The Meaning of Life.” The unquestioned assumption was that he “knew.” If that’s prejudice, it is prejudice in an honoring direction.
A few minutes past eleven, we looked down the path and blinded by the backlighting sun behind them, we saw a shadowy presence making their way towards Kuchima Gym.
It was not Chief Silver Raven.
It was not even an Indian.
A female “Ranch” employee announced that Chief Silver Raven’s arrival would be delayed. He would now appear at the same location at noon.
There was some mumbling from the assemblage. Followed rapidly by some grumbling.
“‘Noon’? That’s lunchtime!”
There were only three designated feeding times at the “Ranch”, and lunchtime was a third of them. Returning at noon would be a serious sacrifice.
And a dilemma. The time conflict made doing both things an impossibility. So which was it going to be –
“The Meaning of Life”?
For the majority of the earlier attendees, the obvious answer was lunch. Returning to Kuchima Gym at noon, I discovered that only one other person had opted for “The Meaning of Life.” Though she had something in a napkin, which I imagine she had grabbed from the Dining Hall before racing back to Kuchima Gym. I considered myself the purer disciple. For the insights I was about to receive, I had sacrificed lunch altogether. (Although I wondered retroactively if I had needed to.)
Around twenty minutes past noon, we saw a person walking towards us along the path.
It was not Chief Silver Raven.
It was the same female “Ranch” employee. Chief Silver Raven would be canceling his appearance, she announced. He had dropped a rock on his foot and was being driven to San Diego for X-rays.
I stood there, dumbfounded and disappointed, realizing that I would remain ignorant concerning “The Meaning of Life”. I simultaneously realized that I had entirely missed lunch.
Unless I ran really fast before it ended.
Doing my only actual exercise of the whole week, I raced desperately to the Dining Hall. Wondering at the same time if there was some illuminating message in dropping a rock on your foot. Maybe the true “Meaning of Life”, Chief Silver Raven was implying by his “accidental” non-appearance was that you have to figure it out for yourself.
If that’s the case, it had cost me the vegetarian quesadilla. Because when I got there, they were out.
And I am not certain that’s the case.”
I will not be speaking at the “Ranch” anytime soon, which is a euphemism for never.
But it was interesting to think about it.
And pass along what I might have imparted.
I thing the crowd prefers stuff about the “Up” side of being old.
I could probably talk about that too.
If I could only think of an example.