Thursday, February 6, 2014

Shaw in the Tempus Fugit.

The New Year has hardly begun yet already this winter we have had three or five “storms of the century.” Last night we had another one and its freezing rain against my bedroom window wrest me from my slumber.

Whiskey, my 22-month-old golden retriever was similarly disturbed, and before long, the two of us, like Damon and Pythias were heading up town, through the slush, sleet and ice, to the Tempus Fugit.

I had once heard somewhere that the iceberg that damaged the Titanic, causing it to sink is still floating around the Arctic. I think of the Tempus Fugit in a similar vein. It has and it will survive the passage of time, the assaults of winds, seas and storms as well as the calumny of man. I’m sure, and I’m not being particularly lugubrious here, that the Tempus Fugit will long outlast me.

The fact is, the Tempus Fugit, in our increasingly ephemeral world, has survived longer than is its right. It opened first in 1924--90 years ago, and has had a light on in its proverbial window since that time, never closing its doors, not for holidays, nor tragedies like the death of FDR or JFK and not even during the Biblical power-outages New York sustained in 1965 and 1977. 

This stalwart demeanor is one reason I keep coming back to the place. It's nice to know that in a world where businesses, restaurants and bars come and go with the frequency of a firefly's light, the Tempus Fugit is something you can count on. No matter what my mood, no matter what's happened during the day, no matter what sturm und drang I am going through, I will be greeted by the bartender with a warm hello and a cold Pike's Ale.

Whiskey and I arrived at the Tempus Fugit more than a little worse for wear. Though I had on my three-quarter-length oilskin, welted boots and my grey Russian Astrakhan hat, and though Whiskey, being a golden retriever, is all but impervious to the elements, we each looked like a survivor of the aforementioned Titanic. We were fairly soaked through.

"You look like a man in need of a Pike's," the bartender offered, pulling a glass for me.

"A Pike's and maybe a towel." 

He reached beneath the bar and gave me a small white terry. I dried my face and hands and, too, gave Whiskey a once over with the towel, drying particularly her head and snout. She showed her appreciation by licking my hand graciously and laying down once again at my feet to sleep.

"How are things with your heart?" he began.

I answered as I usually do. "I had been getting better. But I am once again feeling the affects or incipient pericarditis. Not enough for me to call my cardiologist. But enough to foul up my mood."

He polished the shiny teak of the bar. He thought about presenting me with a small wooden bowl of Spanish peanuts, but hearing of my pain, he demurred.

"You don't need heart pain to put you in a mood," he surmised. "What's called a foul mood by some, I happen to call realism."

"As in," I answered, "the power of accurate observation is often called cynicism by those who haven't got it."

"Shaw, I suppose."

"Who else?"

"Speaking of Shaw, I think you should try to be more like Man, and less like Superman."

"Relax is what you're saying. And this from a man whose bar never closes."

He laughed at that.

"Like you, I too am an unreasonable man."

"A man upon whom all progress depends."

He laughed again at that and for the third time pulled me another Pike's. He slid it over to me but kept his catcher's mitt gripping the glass.

"What you have to do," he whispered, "is let go. The stupidities, the pomposities, the bluster, the bullshit, the slights, the morons, the thieves, the poseurs, the do-nothings, the no-shows, the advice-givers, the takers. Let go of the liars, the half-truthers, the know-nothings, the politicians, the glad-handers, the self-promoters, the tearer-downers, the short-cutters, the glib, the dishonest, the reprobates, the scoundrels, the weasels, the rogues and the rascals. You have to let go," he said, letting go of the glass.

"Let go," I echoed.

"Otherwise." He paused the length of an elevator ride. "Otherwise. Heart ache."

I drained my Pike's and let two twenties go across the bar. He rang open the ancient cash register, making a show of accepting my bills, but then shoved shut the cash drawer and pushed them back my way.

"On me."

Whiskey and I walked home, once again, through the slush.

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