The Mushroom King

I don’t like sports. Therefore I’ve spent little time in sports bars… especially divey sports bars.

However, I was once cajoled into spending an evening in the diviest sports bar in Small Town, Ohio. Here’s what happened.

Three of us enter the smoky room. The shelves above the bar sport a NO SMOKING sign. There are two stools at the bar… a third is quickly found. Meanwhile I’m assessing my seating options. I’d like to sit in the middle of my two friends using them as social buffers.

I’m thwarted when my friend offers me the first stool. I’m about to sit next to a man who appears to be on oxygen while smoking a cigarette. Not ideal.

The man immediately starts small talk. Realizes I don’t care much about the game. Then turns to me and says, “Can I ask you a personal question?”

I KNEW IT, I think. I take a deep breath and noncommittally say, “Sure.”

“When was the last time you were in a taxi?”


“I don’t know,” I say. “I’ve only used a taxi a few times. It’s been awhile.”

“The last time I was in a taxi-” HERE WE GO “I was in Japan with the love of my life in 1962.” OH.

I turn and look at him. ARGH, now he knows he has my attention. He goes on to tell me a long story of true love lost and never found again. Then he ask, “What do you do?”

“Well,” I hesitate thinking how to explain. “I teach people how to use wild plants as medicine.”


OH MY. Everyone turns to look at us. “OK?”

He grabs my hand and starts dragging me across the room. I turn back looking at my friends. “You’re coming with me to meet the Mushroom King,” I demand. But only one of them complies.

I’m dragged over to another man, luckily this one is not smoking or trailing an oxygen tank.

Introductions are made. My guide vanishes, and my friend begins asking which wild mushrooms are in season. Mushroom talk ensues for a bit, before the Mushroom King turns to me asking “where do you live?” I give him a general idea. He looks at me down his nose shrewdly.

“May I see your hand?” he asks.

GREAT, A PALM READER, TOO, I think as he’s scanning my palm. Then he turns my hand over, like he’s really taking a good look. Then, he slaps my hand and warns, “Stay out of my woods!”


My friend giggles. Which leads to some laughs and a quick exit from the scene.

As we leave an hour later, I tell my friend that I tried not to sit next to that man. He giggles again, “I made sure you had to sit next to him.”