Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Flogging in the Tempus Fugit.

Belaying pins in use. They were also used to club disobedient sailors.
“Most people don’t realize it,” the bartender said to me as he pulled me the cool, effervescent amber of yet another glass of Pike’s Ale (the ALE that won for YALE) most people don’t realize it, but flogging was outlawed in the US Navy only in 1850.”

“Practically in your lifetime,” I responded like a jackass.

He glared at me briefly and continued.

“Practically. When the Secretary of the Navy polled senior naval officers in 1850, only seven of 241 were in favor of banning flogging. Corporal punishment, hitting, clubbing with belaying pins, punching with brass knuckles was banned only in 1915.”

I sipped at my Pike’s, waiting for a point to come around. It could be, I reckoned, a long night.

“Personally,” he had pulled out his damp white terry and was buffing the already mirror-like mahogany. “Personally, I believe that the way things are going, we will, before many more years go by, see an upswing in corporal punishment.”

“You’re dour tonight.”

“I’m just playing it as it lays,” he answered. “The short end of the stick is getting shorter and shorter.”

“It’s getting sharper, too. You can barely grasp it at all.”

“Exactly,” he said as he hied around the bar to refill Whiskey’s bowl from a pitcher brimming with cold water.

“Quinescit orare, discat navigare,” he Latinized. “He who does not know how to pray, let him go to sea.”

“It seems everything worth saying was said first and best by the Romans,” I said.

“You obtain a broad view of the world when your days and nights are filled with orgies and debauchery. As Jean Renoir once said, “the foundation of all Civilization is loitering.”

The bartender filled my glass once again with Pike’s. He slid over a bowl of salted Spanish peanuts. I picked at a few and pushed them away.

“A pound in every nut,” I said.
We were all once "wretched refuse."

“We will go back to flogging. It’s the way the world is going. A disdain for the little guy.” He paused. “Not disdain, actually. Abhorrence. Disgust. Hatred. We were, not long ago, 'the wretched refuse on these teeming shores'. We will be again.”

“As the rich get richer,” I added.

“And the poor pay their taxes.”

“That’s right,” he said.

“A friend of mine saw a job listing online. First it listed the myriad computer skills that are required. You’d think the job was paying a quarter-million. Then he saw the salary: sixty thousand.”

“Barely a living wage in New York. But the flogging enthusiasts would have us starving and in debt if they had their way.”

“This is pretty heavy for a Tuesday night.”

He pulled me another Pike’s, my third. Not really a lot since the Tempus Fugit serves beer in little, six-ounce juice glasses so it stays cold. I drank it down and prepared to leave.

I pushed two twenties across the bar-top, his way. He pushed them back.

“As usual,” he said “Preston Sturges said it best.”

“’I need him like the axe needs a turkey’” I asked.

He laughed. That line, delivered by Barbara Stanwyck is about as good as it gets.

“Close, but no cigar. Try this on. ‘A man works all his life in a glass factory. One day he feels like picking up a hammer.’”

Whiskey led me the mile home, past dozens of plate-glass windows.

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