Thursday, March 7, 2013

Wordsworth (and more) at the Tempus Fugit.

Last night we were due for yet another storm of the century. But like 19 of the last 20 storms of the century, this one didn't arrive.

Instead, when I woke up at around a quarter past two, it was merely cold, chill and windy.

Whiskey didn't mind--she has a nice fur coat, and neither did I. I have the Persian wool Astrakhan that Uncle Slappy gave me for my 55th birthday. He called it "the hat that won World War II. Because while the Nazis froze, the Russians, warmed by these hats, marched forward." Having worn the hat for three months now, I think the old man has a point. It wasn't radar, or Churchill, or A-bombs. It was a hat.

Whiskey and I headed, as usual, uptown, aiming to stop in once again at a little bar I've been frequenting called the Tempus Fugit.

From what I've gathered, the Tempus Fugit opened in 1924 as a speakeasy. Accordingly, it's housed behind a skein of industrial steel doors, down flights and up flights, downhall ways and behind more steel doors in an old warehouse building (it was old, too, in 1924) on one of the most out of the way blocks in Manhattan, east 91st Street between the river and First Avenue.

As Yogi Berra might have said, "if you don't know where it is, you don't know where it is."

In any event, Whiskey and I arrived just before three and we each settled into our usual spots.

The ever-attentive bartender walked over and as usual brought Whiskey a bowl of water and me an 8-oz. glass of Pike's Ale (The Ale that won for Yale) and a small wooden bowl of salted peanuts.

He is an unusual man, this bartender and I enjoy talking with him. He seems to know the things people don't know anymore.

"You know," he began leaning on his side of the teak "it's been said that William Wordsworth walked 175,000 miles in his life. He walked everywhere, and routinely went on walks of 20 miles or more. Regardless of the weather, Wordsworth walked."

"That makes me feel like a slacker," I replied.

"Walking wasn't transportation for Willie."

I didn't wince at the 'Willie.'The bartender talked as if he knew the man. And it seemed like he might have.

"And walking wasn't exercise, either."

"I'm not sure people in the 19th Century did exercise, " I answered.

"You have a point," he said. "Walking for Wordsworth was work. He found in it a connection into the darkest recesses of his brain. Walking was the labor to plumb his soul."

I nodded and he refilled by glass with the cool sweet amber of another Pike's.

"We are prisoners," he said. "Prisoners of screens, of beeps and bells and tones and chimes. We live amid terra interruptus. We don't have lives anymore. We have a series of inconsequences punctuated by interruptions."

As I slid on Whiskey's leash and zipped up my peacoat, he recited.

From Wordsworth, of course.

I WANDERED lonely as a cloud          
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,          
When all at once I saw a crowd,           
A host, of golden daffodils;          
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,          
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.           
Continuous as the stars that shine          
And twinkle on the milky way,          
They stretched in never-ending line..."       

"That ain't bad," I answered.

"Agreed," he answered. He wiped clean the already spotless bar-top.

I proffered a 20 for my two beers. He slid the bill back my way. 

"On me," he said.

Then he continued. 

"He was great. But in a pinch, I'll take Robert Service."

"Service?" I questioned. "He seems a bit low brow for you."

"I'm a saloon-keeper. Service is my business."

And as I walked out, he declaimed:

"There's sunshine in the heart of me,
My blood sings in the breeze;

The mountains are a part of me,
I'm fellow to the trees.
My golden youth I'm squandering,
Sun-libertine and I;
A-wandering, a-wandering,
Until the day I die."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love New York.