Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Letter writing in the Tempus Fugit.

Last night was one of those nights.

One of those all-too-often nights that slink into morning like a cat. Where the reasonable hours—like nine or ten—slowly sneak into the unreasonable hours—like one or two.

We finally shut down our Macs. Some of us, with flaccid defiance, left our laptops at work. As if we had the power to say, ‘you will get no more work from me tonight.’

But as they say, resistance is futile.

You work. You work longer and harder and harder and longer. Until your eyelids grow as heavy as a 78-page deck.

I got in my car, and instead of streaming through the empty streets, past the starving hysterical naked, past angry angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night, instead of heading home, I headed instead to the old Irish warehouse dirty stevedore section of what was once working-class Manhattan and now is arugula, kale and empty dreams and empty souls.

I heard a dull ancient clacking as I walked down the dim incandescent hallways to the Tempus Fugit. I walked into the joint, hung my coat up on the old oaken coat tree and assumed my barstool, one in from the end. The bartender, absentmindedly, pulled me a Pike’s Ale (the ALE that won for YALE!) and be-coastered it in front of me.

His ministrations complete, he returned to his clacking on an old Underwood upright typewriter, circa 1934.

“I am typing a letter,” he began, searching for the right key amid the crowded assemblage of glyphs.

“And to whom are you writing,” I asked. “And what is the purpose of your missive.”

“I am writing to one H. Melville of 26th Street in Manhattan.”

“Herman Melville?”

“The same. He came in the other night with a tall South-Seas islander wielding a 12-foot-long harpoon with a blade that could shave Lincoln’s beard on Mt. Rushmore.”

“And the purpose of your note?”

“It is to thank him for his apt description of both my cosmology and the gestalt of the Tempus Fugit.”

“It is a damp, drizzly November in your soul.”

“Whoever’s soul is anything but isn’t watching.” He ambered me up again.

“So, you have nothing to interest you on shore and little or no money in your purse.”

“Man comes into the world without his consent and leaves it against his will.”

"More Melville," I asked.

"Fortune cookie," he answered.

I finished my second glass of suds.

“You’re somber this night. Or should I stretch the point and say sombre?”

On earth he is misjudged and misunderstood. In infancy, he is an angel, in boyhood, he is a devil, in manhood he is a fool.”

“Somber or not, a good synopsis.”

“An analog, I think, to the riddle of the Sphinx.”

He returned to his typewriter and banged at a few more letters. He removed the foolscap from the roller and folded the paper neatly in thirds, placing the open end in a business envelope, and writing on the front of the envelope:

Herman Melville
New York
Planet Earth
Milky Way Galaxy
The Universe.

“Mail this for me,” he said sliding the package my way.

I pulled two twenties from my wallet and shoved them across the hardwood.

He pushed them back.

“Postage due,” he said. “Postage due.”

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