The bartender pulled back on the Pike's Ale tap (the Ale that Won for Yale) the way an experienced back-hoe operator would pull back on his machine’s sticks. He knew every inch, every beat, every bump of the tap mechanism. He knew how to read it, how to feel it so the Pike's Ale, amber and sweet, filled perfectly my eight-ounce glass.
|The coaster. (Artist's rendering.)|
It was Oscar's night in America and reportedly one-billion people around the would would be watching the cleavage live. There were no flatscreens at the Tempus Fugit. There was not even a little transistor radio of the sort that doormen keep in their jacket pockets so they can listen to sports late at night.
I began this time, “My daughter says you don’t exist.” The bartender hardly seemed to hear me. He kept wiping the already clean bar surface cleaner. “She says that even in New York, there are no bartenders who know Beethoven.” I drank a bit and began again. “Much less conversational Latin.”
His terry was back in its hiding place beneath the bar and the bartender leaned across from me. Our noses—and we were each well-endowed in that department, were only a foot away from meeting.
“And where is this daughter of yours this fine evening? I assume she is studying at some exalted university.”
“Yes, actually. She is 8818 miles away as the Google flies. Taking a semester at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.”
“There are two ways to see the world,” he said, drawing me another. “You can set out as men have for as long as time and chart unknown waters, visit unknown lands, bring back unknown plants, animals, people and soils. This is a way of seeing. This is what has driven our species across the expanse of oceans and through the sea of space.
“But there are other explorers who explore close in. They want to know not every rock in the world, but instead every rock on their own island. Their world might be no more than the 26-miles it takes to circumnavigate Manhattan. Their world might be no more than the tides of the Hells’ Gate. Their world might be nothing more than the Tempus Fugit. That’s the knowledge some are driven to possess.”
I took a swig of Pike’s Ale. It was cold and good. I examined the foam crenellations and the bottom of my glass as they formed new heights and valleys in the scant remaining brew.
“There are two reasons bars exist, my friend.” He began again, filling my glass again expertly. “Two reasons.
“One is libation. We need a place to get cool in the summer and warm in the winter.”
He was again terrying the bar around me.
“What about,” I interrupted “what Robert Frost said about home?
‘Home is the place where, when you have to go there,/They have to take you in.’”
“That’s libation. The pouring of a liquid that’s a sacrifice to a deity. The god of loneliness.’
“I see.” I answered.
“Then there’s fornication. Libation and fornication. Finding a connection. An intimacy. A release.”
He took away my glass, dropping it in a sink of sudsy water.
“Go home,” he said. “You’ve had enough tonight.”
I was about to say I had had only two.
But I knew what he meant.