Jason Fredric Gilbert
Pushing the boundaries of weird since 1978
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The life and death of Mr. Moss

Noticing that a not young blogger was conspicuously quiet, and getting worried enough to actually pick up the phone

I quit blogging last week. But nobody noticed. Maybe it’s because I blog so effing much. Nobody can keep up. M. can’t. She’s still reading about Turkish coffee. Or obesity. My mom has a folder full of my blogs printed out. Poor trees lost their lives so my nonsensical ramblings and mildly amusing non-sequitors and lists could be kept as keepsakes for future generations. I enjoy writing but sometimes it becomes an obsession. And I go through periods of manic obsessions. Like when I sold all my stuff on Ebay. You name it I sold it. Until I ran out of stuff. And clothes. And then I moved on to something else. And then something else. And then blogging.

My dad called me on Thursday afternoon as I was on my way to pick D. up from day care. He told me that one of his former players, a young kid, barely 29, had had a heart attack and died. I hadn’t known the guy, other than the stories my dad told me about him. He was overweight when he was on my dad’s tennis team at Philadelphia University. He graduated and took a job at an accounting firm. He then began to get healthy. Obssessively. He lost all the weight and was in great shape. And then, one day, out of the fucking blue, he drops dead of a heart attack. At 29.

When I first started blogging for TOI I would read some of the other blogs posted on the site. Not necessarily the political ones. Or the ones about Judaism. They all kind of bored me. But I loved reading personal stories. And there was this one blogger. Leon Moss. An 80 year old South African living in a retirement home who blogged his witty observations. So one was called I like pizza why doesn’t it like me about why he couldn’t eat pizza anymore. Or which back pain have you got? 

Nobody ever commented on any of the blogs. And neither did I. Even though I wanted to. I wanted to tell him that he made me laugh. And that even though I’m still in my 30’s I find his dry sense of humor, his succinct style of writing and his attitude on life hilarious. And that I imagine he would kinda be like my grandfather if my grandfather were still alive. Or had I ever met my grandfather. But he isn’t. And I hadn’t met him. But if I could have a grandfather, I think I would have liked him to be like Leon Moss.

And then he stopped writing altogether. It was August 18th. His last post was entitled: Who says you can’t drive over 90 about one of the retirement home residents who was in his 90’s and was still driving. Or something to that effect. And I commented. I wrote: “Hilarious stuff, Leon”. And I would check back every once in a while to see if he would respond to my comment. Maybe acknowledge that he appreciated the feedback. Or that someone read his stuff. And thoroughly enjoyed it.

A month passed and nothing. Not a new post. Nor did he comment on my comment. So I looked him up on Facebook and sent him a message. I wrote: “Dear Leon” (you have to be formal and respectful when dealing with octogenarians) “I really enjoy reading your blogs Leon. They’re funny and sincere. Which I am neither. It’s been a while since your last post”. I checked the “Add Friend” button and hoped for the best.

Those people that know me in real life (and through my blog) know I’m a misanthropic douchebag. I hate myself. I hate most people. I hate everything really. I never call anyone. I almost never have friends over. I don’t have any friends, really. I don’t go to people’s weddings. Or Bar Mitzvahs. Or sit shiva. Or anything. I know. I’m a sad and pathetic little man. But that’s just who I am. I’ve learned to live with it. M. has too, miraculously. So you can understand how out of character it is for me to reach out to another person.

Another month went by and no word from Leon Moss. So I started doing some more research. I started going back and reading all his blogs for clues. His bio reads: “Leon Moss grew up in South Africa and has lived in Israel for 35 years; He is a construction estimator by profession, and has been a freelance writer for the past 10 years, writing odd stories, articles and web content. Leon paints and works hard at being retired. He and his wife live in a retirement home in central Israel”. He wrote his first post in April of 2012. And I found out that he lived in Even Yehuda. And that he used to be from Jerusalem. He was a writer for a gambling website. Then a financial website. Now he lives in the retirement home and paints. And loves pottery. And makes plates and dishes when the need arises (like when his wife cooked an entire salmon)

When two months had passed since his last post I began to worry that my adopted virtual grandfather had bought the farm So I did a Google search. And learned that he blogged on his own website. And there was a comment on the last post from someone in China dated October 21st. It mirrored my exact sentiments. It said: “Dear Leon. You haven’t posted in a while. I hope that life in the retirement home isn’t so exciting that you don’t share it with us.” Signed LostInChina.

At this point I began to get real worried. What if he were dead? So I Googled his name again. This time with the addition of “retirement home + Even Yehuda”. And lo and behold I found a .pdf document dated May 2013, a newsletter from a placed called Ganey Sharonim in Even Yehuda, with a short excerpt from Leon Moss in Hebrew. So now I knew where he lived. And I felt as creepy and stalkerish as one could feel towards an 80 year old man whom I have never met and who might be deceased.

I jotted down the number for the retirement home and kept it on a piece of paper throughout the entire weekend. I couldn’t bring myself to call. If he were dead that would be terribly depressing. And the last thing I need in my life is more depressing. And if he were alive what would I say to him? I’m your biggest fan? How creepy is that?

So I emailed TOI and asked them if they had heard anything. I wrote an email to the editor M.H. saying: “Hey there’s this blogger who used to write for TOI Leon Moss. He’s like in his 80’s and writes these hilarious posts from the old age home. He stopped writing about two months ago. Tried sending him a message on fb but he never responded. Do you have any way of knowing if he’s still alive???” She promptly responded: “Goodness, you’re right. No information, but here’s his email address: XXX (maybe FB isn’t his thing…) — I have found his writing really charming”.

I was up all night with D. He had diarrhea and was vomiting. As I sat in the dark thinking about heart attacks and my own mortality and artistic legacy I kept coming back to that phone number on the sheet of paper. I decided to call Leon and find out one way or another.

And so I did. First thing in the morning. I called the retirement home and asked to speak with Mr. Leon Moss. The receptionist asked me to hold on and then put me through. “Hello?” His wife’s voice answers. “Hello?” She says again. Do I hang up? Do I ask for him? What do I do? I froze. ‘Hello?” A third time. “Hi.” I say. “Is Leon there?”.
“Hold on.” She says and passes the phone to Leon. And I hear his voice for the first time. And I am relieved. And I tell him as much. And he laughs. And says that he’s been painting recently. And he doesn’t really have that much to say anymore. And besides, nobody seems to be responding to his blogs.

“Except for this woman in China”. He says. “And the folks here at the home”. And then he assured me that he would continue writing. I hung up the phone and went back to playing with D.

I don’t know what to make of any of this. This whole blogging thing. Sometimes it feels like I’m in a dark cave drawing pictures. At other times it feels like I’m in Ordea square in the center of Ramat Gan shouting with a bullhorn. Each week I promise I’ll never write again. And each week I find myself at the computer. Often times more than once.

I just hope that one day, if I do stop writing, someone in China, or Ramat Gan, will call me and ask if I’m still alive.

[p.s. – Leon is back and better than ever. Check out his latest There’s no escaping the curse – the blog is back]

About the Author
Jason Fredric Gilbert is a film and music video director, published author and acclaimed parallel parker; His Independent Film,"'The Coat Room" won "Best in Fest" at the 2006 Portland Underground Film Festival. He is also the author of two books of screenplays, "Miss Carriage House" and the follow up collection of screenplays "Reclining Nude & The Spirit of Enterprise" He currently lives in Or Yehuda and solves crossword puzzles in the bathroom. Please slap him in the face if you see him.