Last night was unusually festive in the Tempus Fugit, a former speakeasy I stumbled upon some years ago that has maintained its speakeasily comportment.
The Tempus Fugit is not generally given to either mirth or merriment. In truth, it is dour place, a place where the clientele prefers to stare into their glass rather than in the eyes of someone they hope to hook-up with. No, the Tempus Fugit isn't about conviviality, comradeship or togetherness. It's bar for people like me: maladjusted misanthropes--people who are Garbo-like in their preference for alone-ness.
I arrived with Whiskey, my nearly two-year-old golden retriever in tow. People have said to me "the Tempus Fugit can't be real. No bar allows dogs." But, for whatever reason, the Tempus Fugit does. Whiskey has a home away from home on its sawdust-covered floor and settles in at the foot of my favorite stool without even circling the place.
The Tempus Fugit is like that. Since it opened as a speakeasy back in 1924, you expect it would be a place that followed its own rules, that marched to the beat of its own drum-machine. That iconoclastic behavior hasn't changed with the times. The Tempus Fugit is no more conforming and tractable now than it was 90 years ago.
It has no flatscreen TVs, no thumping music, no neon signs. In fact, they serve just two kinds of beer at the joint, neither of which you can find anywhere else: Herzmorder, with an umlaut over the 'o,' which is imported direct from the Schleswig-Holstein district of Germany, and of course, Pike's Ale (the ALE that won for YALE.)
Pike's, the brewery went belly up in the early 60s, and the bartender of the Tempus Fugit bought all of their remaining suds. He tells me he will finally close up shop when he runs out of Pike's. Personally, I've seen the room where he stores his kegs. It is dark and deep--you might find a cask of Amontillado or two--and I don't think he'll ever run dry.
Now, as I said above, last night was unusually 'gay' in the Tempus Fugit. When I sat down on my stool and settled into my first glass of Pike's, the bartender brought over from the back shelf a small model of an old Moran's tugboat, of the type that used to chug through the East River slurp, hauling garbage and dredgings three-miles out to sea. (Today, there's no dumping three miles out. You have to go 12 to comply with the law.)
It was a nice model he showed me, about a foot long, and with its tall conning tower, almost as high. It was even girded with appropriately sized bald tires--the tires that serve tugs as bumpers and its front was a miniature rope fender which had sprouted realistic looking rope filaments which reminded me of an ugly mermaid's hair.
He then threw a small switch that was on the main deck and both the bridge lights and the running lights went on. He placed the tug in front of me and pulled me another Pike's.
"Red," he said, pointing to the lights on the Starboard.
"Green," he concluded with a gesture to the Port-side illumination.
"Christmas colors," I added.
"Merry," he said.
I merried him back, shoved a $20 his way and tugged home.