Heart Talk

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Breakfast and Conversation

By James Utt

The first Wednesday of every month I wake up as eager as a child on Christmas morning. This is the day I will join five other retired teachers and one retired school counselor for a breakfast of oatmeal, eggs, bacon, pancakes, and most importantly, conversation.

We consist of five men and two women. In truth, we men are a bit saggy, and many body parts are out of warranty, while the women maintain their youthful attractiveness.

There is Susan, who, as one of our school’s counselors, helped hundreds of students navigate the pitfalls of high school. In retirement, she sings, gardens and travels. She, like me, has written a book. Hers has sold more copies than mine. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Heart of Gold Gil usually sits next to her. He is a rare creature: an evangelical liberal. He also takes the longest to figure out what to order. He uses his finger to follow the lines on the menu and usually ends up ordering the same thing every time.

Josh was raised in Butte, Montana, where unions were once strong. He carried on this tradition as our union rep in the Saddleback Valley School District, tirelessly fighting to protect and extend our rights. Whatever he orders must have hot sauce with it.

Dwayne, one of the most successful A.P. teachers ever at El Toro High, is also a stellar guitar player. I have seen him blow the doors off the Coach House with powerful solos. His one flaw is that when he goes to Las Vegas, he never stays at top flight resorts. Once he stayed in Primm. Enough said.

Glenn and Roberta are husband and wife, a romance that bloomed in our own social science department. They were excellent teachers, world travelers and political activists. Laughter comes easily to them, but make fun of San Bernardino and see what happens.

That is our breakfast club. One from Laguna, two from Dana Point, and four from the Land of Nod to the east of Eden, that is to say, the Saddleback Valley. We love sports, fine scotch and the Anaheim Ducks. Actually, that applies mostly to me.

We take turns selecting where we dine. Coyote Grill in South Laguna and RJ’s in Dana Point are frequent choices. Whomever selects the restaurant picks up the tab.

Why is the meeting of aging educators so important to me? Because we are actually talking to one another. No cell phones come out, no awkward silences, just genuine communication, which we fear is becoming a lost art as the younger generation falls more and more in love with their electronic devices. Why talk when you can text? Why go to a place of business where you have to interact with people when you can click away and buy from home? Isn’t human contact overrated?

People like us might be fighting a rearguard action against forces of the future we cannot alter. But we believe that face-to-face communication helps us more fully engage in the world in which we must live. In many ways, it is the most human thing we can do. Texts and posts online are one small step that becomes one giant leap toward disconnection. And it is so much easier to be nasty when you are not face-to-face. We are divided and disconnected enough as it is.

That is why at 71, my monthly breakfast group helps me continue to grow. Our open-ended and spontaneous banter is a tonic to my heart and mind. We laugh, we inform, we question and we leave each meal a little more complete than before we sat down.

Our next meeting will be the day after the mid-term elections. That will give us plenty to talk about. I hope we can raise our coffee cups to a great victory by the…oh, come on regular readers, you know where I stand by now.


James Utt is the author of “Laguna Tales and Boomer Wails.” He hopes you buy a copy so he can catch up to Susan in sales.




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