Friday, March 17, 2017

God in the Tempus Fugit. (A re-post.)

My younger daughter Hannah who had been traveling around the world since January--she visited the Cook Islands, New Zealand, Australia, Bali, California, New York, Boston, St. Maarten,
St. Kitts, St. Barths, Saba, Stacia, Nevis and some places I'm surely forgetting--packed up her bags and left yesterday morning for her senior year of college in California.

It's hard when your children do what they're supposed to do, which is fly the coop and bravely make their way in the world. As proud as I am of them, I miss them intensely, and so, last night, unable to sleep and looking for some compensatory companionship, I headed north once again with Whiskey in tow and found myself some few minutes later within the warmth of the Tempus Fugit.

The Tempus Fugit, I'm sure, is not for everyone. I suppose there are those who might find it gloomy. Its dark bar, its mis-matched tables and chairs along the back wall, its dim incandescence and its thoughtful, almost pensive ambiance. Some people prefer a bar to be garrulous and loud. But I find the Tempus Fugit just the sort of place I need. When I'm staring into a short glass of Pike's Ale (the ALE that won for YALE) or trading grudging words with the bartender, I find I can see a thousand miles.

Whiskey took her place as usual at the foot of my stool, one in from the end. And as usual, the bartender fairly leapt around the bar, carrying for her a small wooden bowl filled with water. He was back in a trice at his usual station behind the bar.

"Are you drinking again?" he asked. "Have you recovered from your elevated liver readings?"

I nodded assent. "I am told I am well. My levels are level. My a-fib is gone."

With that he pulled me a Pike's in an eight-ounce juice glass and slid it over the highly-varnished mahogany to its place just inches in front of me.

"I have been looking forward to this," I said.

"Let your Pike's tiptoe to you like a maiden. Never should a Pike's approach like a linebacker."

I sipped at the amber. It was cool, sweet, clean and unlike any other beer I have ever tasted.

"Nectar," I said.

"Nectar," he echoed.

He placed in front of me a bowl of salted Spanish peanuts. I pushed them to my right and laughed along with him as I said as I always do, "A pound in every nut."

He then began his discourse. He fairly declaimed like a stentor.

"A little man walked up and down,
To find an eating place in town,
He read the menu through and through,
To see what fifteen cents could do."

"One meatball," I completed.

"That is correct," he said. And then he continued.
"One meatball. He could afford but one meatball."

He filled my glass with another Pike's and began wiping the bar in a circular motion with a damp white terry. 

"Today's disquisition is on meatballs?" I asked.

As he so often does, the bartender plowed ahead. My question was not even an underachieving speed bump.
"He told the waiter near at hand,
The simple dinner he had planned.
The guests were startled, one and all,
To hear that waiter loudly call, 'What,

"'One meatball, one meatball?
Hey, this here gent wants one meatball.'

"The little man felt ill at ease,
Said, 'Some bread, sir, if you please.'
The waiter hollered down the hall,
'You gets no bread with one meatball.'

"'One meatball, one meatball,
Well, you gets no bread with one meatball.'

"Most people," he said "prefer the Andrews Sisters' version. But for me 'One Meatball' starts and finishes with Josh White."

I sipped at my Pike's. In an eight-ounce glass your beer doesn't go flat or stale  or warm. I agreed with him. Josh White took the song from novelty to Biblical.

"To use your word," he continued "the lyric seems a disquisition on those who want something for nothing."

"Bread with a single meatball."

"It's not about wanting something for nothing. It's not about being a gonif. It's about goodness. Helping a fellow man, perhaps someone down on his luck."

"Fifteen cents can't do much. Never could." 

He pulled me another Pike's and placed it in front of me. He swept from behind the bar and refilled Whiskey's bowl with some ice-water. Back behind the bar he brought me again the bowl of salted Spanish peanuts. I took a half a handful.

"It's about being there," he said. "Maybe it's about God."

I stared into my Pike's a thousand miles. Then I finished it off in two gulps and pushed two twenties across the bar.

"On me," he said, pushing the bills my way.

And Whiskey and I walked quietly home.

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