Thursday, April 4, 2013

Another night at the Tempus Fugit.

Last night, like so many other nights, I was jostled awake by my old Nemesis, Insomnia. She gripped my shoulder and shook me. When I resisted her wiles,
she spoke unsettling thoughts into my non-pillowed ear. In short order, my feet were planted on the parquet, I was fully-dressed and Whiskey was be-leashed and eager to ambulate.

As we do so often, we headed north on York Avenue in the direction of a relic of a bar called The Tempus Fugit. The Fugit is a snug former speakeasy down a warren of hallways, through an Escher-like ascent and descent of flights and behind a number of sturdy-steel industrial doors. The whole affair is situated not behind some brightly-lit neoned construction, but rather in a half-empty warehouse that’s home to a few dozen beaten white Verizon vans and a few dozen more Verizon equipment trolleys.

Somehow through Prohibition, repeal, depressions, recessions, booms and half–a-dozen wars, the Tempus Fugit has thrived. It’s the last extant place that still serves the sweet amber of Pike’s Ale, the Ale that Won for Yale, an ale that, in the words of those who know will “help you find the answers.”

I arrived at the Tempus Fugit around 2:30 and Whiskey and I assumed our positions. Me on a leather upholstered stool one in from the end and Whiskey, comfortably and faithfully at my feet, or better, at the feet of my stool.

The bartender quickly brought Whiskey a small wooden bowl filled with water and gave me my usual Pike’s in an eight-ounce glass and another small wooden bowl filled with peanuts.

The bartender began as he usually does. I am painfully laconic and in about 99% of all social interactions I won't speak until spoken to. 

"I'm afraid I was, perhaps, overly gloomy last time you stopped by."

Last week I had witnessed the bartender's exegesis on heaven, or more aptly, hell.

"I feared that maybe I scared you off for good. I can be a little, how shall I say this, morbid at times."

I drank a long swig of my Pike's.

"What is life, if not morbid?" I answered.

"Ah," he smiled slowly. "A man after my own heart. Since we share an enlightened sense of gloom, I'll continue in a slightly different metaphorical vein. Sometimes I think of the world divided between champagne glasses and bricks."

He brought a champagne flute to the teak, I suppose for comic effect.

"The champagne glasses contain all the light and beauty. Bricks are strong and brutal. They are the foundation of most things we build."

He filled my glass again and I bent my elbow and emptied it.

"Bricks, of course," he continued "can destroy things. They can overwhelm and smash apart champagne glasses."

"Yes," I said "like your friends in the blue suits wanted to overwhelm and smash apart the Tempus Fugit."

"That's right," he said. "There's one thing to remember."

He walked around the bar and filled Whiskey's water bowl again. He then walked back to his station across the bar from me. He wiped the immaculate teak with a damp terry cloth in a well-practiced circular motion.

"There's one thing to remember," he repeated. "You can't drink champagne out of a brick."

Our eyes met just briefly. We exchanged the slimmest of nods. And then as I put on my coat and leashed up Whiskey, he beat me to the punch.

"On me," he said.

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