Visigoths in Tweed
Taylor's loquacity had settled down
after they had crossed the longest unguarded border in the world, but when they
turned onto the main feeder street into New York City he revived back to his
usual self. Approaching the metropolis the sun was like a tangerine suspended
in a dirty white haze covering the city's skyscrapers. Compared to Kingston,
the full radiance of the sun was hindered by hanging smog.
"Let's go straight to a pub in
Greenwich Village," said Taylor on the edge of his seat.
"Ah, we'll worry about that
later. If worse comes to worse, we'll crash in the car."
"Who knows? If we wear our tweeds
maybe we'll get lucky. After seeing your grandfather I'm beginning to see that
you might have it in you."
They didn't have a map of New York
and Taylor only had a vague idea of where Greenwich Village was. The first
thing they did upon Taylor's insistence was pull over to grab a six-pack of
Michelob from the closest corner store. Reid then made a turn that looked like
it went toward the east end of Manhattan but instead it took them into Spanish
Harlem. They crossed a short bridge and passed a deserted street with an
abandoned car on fire.
"Did you see that?" He
nodded as he slowed the car. They watched the flames burn from its interior.
Moments later, when they were stopped at a stoplight, an old black man
approached them with a bucket. He washed the front window so they both
scrambled for some money. When the light turned green, the windshield was
smudged with bug guts and dirty water. It was in worse condition than before,
but Taylor gave the man a Canadian two-dollar bill. As Reid hit the accelerator
they heard an angered muffle from the man with the bucket.
On their meandering way to Greenwich
Village they rode through an industrial sector that was a wasteland of
abandoned factories and rusted machinery. Old railroad tracks were hidden among
weeds between graffiti-covered buildings. In time they found Greenwich and a
place to park underground, where they changed their clothes in the parking lot,
supplied their wallets with condoms and put on tweed jackets. Locking up the
car, they walked to the hotel above the underground parking to exchange
currency. With money in their pockets, they found the infamous Bleaker Street
with bars above and below ground. An over choice.
"Let's go into this mead hall," said Taylor. It was called Darwin's. Inside, the dull brass
pipe along the long wooden bar was packed with people wearing black. Behind the
bar were rows of bottles magnified by a large mirror and backlight, with a sign
in the corner that read:
THIS SHOP IS DEDICATED TO
WHO APPRECIATE THE ART OF
RATHER THAN THE ACT OF
There was some wisdom in that little
sign Reid thought to himself. Not wanting to just throw back booze and get into
a frenzy like another rowing regatta, he sought to get away from the drinking
norms of the student ghetto and merge into the culture of
New York, the headquarters of the United Nations and the soul of America. For
some reason it was important to understand this place; it was part of his
education. This was the kind of
classroom he wanted to be in. To entwine himself in the fabric of New York's
Greenwich Village for a night just like his grandfather had done when he moved
from London to Paris in the 1920s was what he thirsted. Reid was tired of
living in a school bubble.
They ordered beer and sat down at a
corner table in front of a live band where the guitar and drums vibrated his
"I have a problem when it comes
to music," Taylor said.
"You have a problem? I'll say." They were both looking
around, soaking it in like a sponge. People kept coming in but there was no
"When I listen to it I can't
help tapping my foot to the beat. It's a compulsion. When I took music in high
school my music teacher said that I had what they call perfect pitch. It means that I could pick a C out of the air just like that,
without hearing a note beforehand." Taylor's foot tapped to the beat of
the band under the table.
"I thought that was called
"That's when you can pick out a
C when you have just heard a note to give you a frame of reference. Perfect
pitch is when you can sing a C out of the blue without any
"I never took music in high school."
There was a man sitting at the next table who still had his tie done up. He was
looking at the elbow patches on our tweed jackets.
"See? He's admiring our tweeds. He
can tell we're university students because the tweed tells him we're cultivating the little barbarian within us."
"I doubt it Taylor."
"The soul of a barbarian is a deep well, and its cultivation is the refining of a finely tuned instrument."
"And what exactly is your definition
of a barbarian?"
"Everyone is a barbarian prior to
education. Applying the wisdom you gain, not from school but from living life, cultures a barbarian. And cultured
barbarians wear tweed." Taylor spotted two women who came into Darwin's with
three guys trailing behind them. For no reason Taylor waved at the women to
join them. It was the blonde, not the brunette, who responded by approaching.
"Didn't I just see you at the
corner of 13th and 14th St.'s?" asked Taylor, extending his hand to the
blond woman. Thirteenth and fourteenth streets didn't intersect.
"Oh? Who are you?"
"That's a good question. We're
Norsemen from Canada," Taylor said with a proud smile as if were an
"Horsemen?" the brown
haired woman asked with interest. Standing up, Taylor's multi-dimensional mind
swelled in youthful inspiration.
"No, we drove actually, but we
have a good buddy who's a horseman." Taylor held his deadpan for a moment.
"We're from the Great White North."
"The north?" They stood
uneasily with blank looks on their faces. "We're from North
Carolina." It appeared as if they had already been pub-crawling.
"Yes, we're western Goths
currently displaced in Canada." The woman with the blond hair sat beside
"Where are you from Yellow Hat?"
"Where abouts are you
"North Carolina," she
"But where in North Carolina Amber Helmet?"
"Charleston actually." One
of the men offered to buy a round of drinks and promptly left for the bar.
"So what do you do with your
time Sandy?" asked Taylor, rising to the demand
"What did you call me?"
she asked, smiling.
"What do you do with your time Sandy Summit?"
"I'm a bank clerk."
"Bank clerk? My pal here is a
banker Flaxen Cap." She moved closer to Taylor.
"What about you?" Reid
asked the brunette.
"I'm a chef."
"Saucier?" He couldn't
suppress his smile, and added: "Hazel Hat."
"Yes, a saucier. How would
you-, oh never mind."
"Plenty of sauce," Taylor said just
as the round of drinks arrived. The beer flowed until Taylor and Reid were in
full stride. The women kept laughing as Taylor and Reid, unflinching and
charismatic in delivery, spoke of their exploits with sweeping embellishments.
The four of them gravitated towards each other while the other three men sat
awkwardly, buying rounds until the table was crammed with drinks eventually
With the seasoned guitarist
strumming his guitar, Reid and the brown-haired woman followed the rhythm of
the band to the Dionysian-charged dance floor, carefully weaving through sweaty
bodies and shuffling their way up to the foot of the stage. The sharpness of
the notes filled him with an immediacy of spirit, tasting the sweet
intermingling of music and philosophy as if a honeycomb of barbarian truth.
Returning to their table, they
noticed that the three guys had left.
"Who were those guys?"
"Friends of ours."
"They probably went to another
"How would you like to come
back with us to our hotel suite?" said the sandy-haired woman to Taylor.
"Sure Sunflower Toque." Taylor gave Reid a subtle frown.
"Want to go to Time's
Square?" asked Reid, looking at Hazel.
"That's a good idea," she
replied. "Let's check it out."
When the two couples separated, Reid
and Hazel hopped in the taxi and toured around Manhattan eventually making it
to Time's Square, but neither of them saw anything. They groped with zeal in
the back seat with the stringed notes of music still playing in their heads. By
the time they stumbled to the suite, Taylor and his dance partner had passed
out in the huge king size bed. Giggling, they spread a comforter and other
blankets that had been left out for them on the carpet in the far corner behind
a table. They slipped under the covers and at first were cold but soon warmed
up as they continued dancing in a horizontal manner. As Reid fell asleep, he
dreamt that his prophylactic had come off somewhere in the shuffle.
The following morning Reid woke up
under the covers with Hazel. Slowly he arose, slipped on his clothes and beheld
the shapely dancer lying under the blankets. Stealthily, he negotiated around
the flung clothing scattered on the floor and looked over to Taylor, who arose
without a word. He gathered his clothes and gingerly sidestepped the sleeping
bodies on his way to the door out of the room into the hallway. Once out of the
room and into the elevator, Taylor couldn't control his laughter.
"Thrust-" Taylor began,
trying his best to say something but unable to complete his sentence.
"Thrust-" he said again but stopped. Reid was hunched over in the
elevator crippled with laughter looking at Taylor's puffy eyes and lipstick-smudged
cheeks. "Perry!" In an instant there was just the
soundless convulsing of pure hysterics. Tears swelled. Their two frames,
shaking in their creased shirts, were like two leaves fluttering in the wind.
Reid almost wet his pants he was laughing so hard.
Landing on the ground floor they
tried to look dignified in their tweed jackets despite their unknowing
dishevelled appearance and conspicuously slipped on their sunglasses over their
red watery eyes. The doorman opened the door for them as they strolled out the
lobby. Walking the few blocks to the underground lot, they grabbed the car and
drove south towards to a pier jutting out to the Hudson River. Outside, Reid
and Taylor rambled along the old paved waterfront passing an assortment of piers
extending out into the New York harbour. The skyscrapers dominated the skyline
amid the ruckus of honking horns. Straightening his posture, Reid looked up
across the river where there was a boatlifting crane at the water's edge.
"We made it happen, eh McFetty?"
Taylor looked at Reid from behind his Ray Bans as they walked out onto the
"We took a chance-"
"And the results were serendipitous," he said with characteristic knavery, causing Reid to see that
Taylor was not just a poet but an adverbial dilettante: an artist blessed with a
penchant for adventure.
Looking like two Visigoths in tweed
who embodied the vigour of warriors in the aftermath of sacking a city of the
ruling empire, they enjoyed the sight of the Statue of Liberty down the river
at the estuary where the fresh water flow met the saltwater tides. Reid filled
his lungs with the salty ocean air feeling the vital forces of freedom shoot
through the haze of his soul reaching an inner depth of clarity where the past
faded into a hollow echo as the future blossomed into fresh wisdom. The pale
orange sun above strengthened an emerging character out of anxiety and doubt;
his shaky foundation had found solid ground. Experiencing the vital force of
freedom, an inner fire had been fanned.