Wordcarpenter Books

Chapter Twenty-eight 


 

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.

            "What about accommodation?"

            "Ah, we'll worry about that later. If worse comes to worse, we'll crash in the car."

            "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 THOSE
WHO APPRECIATE THE ART OF DRINKING
RATHER THAN THE ACT OF SWALLOWING

 

            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 pant legs.

            "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 more room.

            "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 relative pitch?"

            "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 reference."

            "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 achievement.

            "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.

            "I'm Taylor."

            "I'm Reid."

            "We're Visigoths."

            "Visigoths?"

            "Yes, we're western Goths currently displaced in Canada." The woman with the blond hair sat beside Taylor.

            "Where are you from Yellow Hat?"

            "Pardon?"

            "Where abouts are you from?"

            "North Carolina," she repeated.

            "But where in North Carolina Amber Helmet?"

            "Excuse me?"

            "Georgetown?"

            "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 of spontaneity.

            "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 left untouched.

            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?" asked Reid.

            "Friends of ours."

            "They probably went to another bar."

            "How would you like to come back with us to our hotel suite?" said the sandy-haired woman to Taylor. "We're sharing."

            "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 pier.

            "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.

  

Chapter Twenty-nine 

The Unseen Hand

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            The ride back in the station wagon to Toronto gave Reid the opportunity to think. His imagination flourished with ideas of trips to foreign lands and exotic cities around the world, aware of all the possibilities that lay at his fingertips. He thought of Taylor's brother in China and Thailand, his grandfather's life in France after the war, and Michelle's upcoming year in Australia. His hunger for wanderlust and adventure threatened his paradigm, and lured his thoughts away from his old template of what he wanted. I was only when they approached Toronto that despair started creeping in on the party he was having in his imagination.

            When they arrived at Drake's house he wanted to keep it simple and drop off the station wagon, see Drake, get the money for a train and then leave. He knocked on the door.

            "Reid, thank you for coming," said Mr. Ketchum. "Oh, you both came?"

            "I needed to do a few things in Toronto this afternoon," Taylor replied, sharp as a tack. Mr. Ketchum nodded doubtfully, giving them a suspicious look. Maybe he smelled the booze from last night.

            "Here are the keys," he said. They had their knapsacks and had cleaned out the car of any evidence from their road trip to the States. He took the keys but didn't say anything.

            "Is Drake around?" Reid asked.

            "No, he's resting right now."

            "Um, resting? I wanted to see him."

            "I don't think the timing is right. He's just taken some medication and is adjusting to his room." Reid had the courage to look at him right in the eye and what he saw disturbed him. The accusatory vibe was still there.

            "That's too bad because exams are coming up and I don't think we'll have the chance again to see him until after the term is over."

            "I guess it's tough luck then," he replied. Taylor looked at Reid with an eyebrow raised.

            "Tough luck," Taylor said, incredulous. "Is that what you said?"

            "Yes Taylor."

            "Okay, well it was no problem driving the car back," said Reid. "We were able to talk about some of our assignments on the road so don't think it was an imposition." Mr. Ketchum, who seemed to be fluent in this doublespeak, replied in kind.

            "I'm sure you didn't mind the break from the library. And judging by the way you look, it appears as if you were able to have a good time." He took out his wallet slowly. "My wife said that she would give you the money to get back to school. Here it is. I hope it also covers the gas for the ride."

            "Thank you." Then he looked at Taylor.

            "I'm sorry but I didn't know you were going to be here as well Taylor."

            "No sir. How would you? But you're right: it was a nice break from the library. I have enough for the ride back to Kingston."

            "Is Drake all right?"

            "As far as it goes, he is."

            "Are you sure we can't say hello?"

            "It would be best for him to rest. I know you understand." There was that look again. Pure guile.

            "Okay, please tell him we wanted to see him." They said bye and left for the bus stop, but as they were walking away Reid turned back to look at Drake's bedroom window. He wasn't sure but he thought he saw something move in the window - a hand maybe. For some reason Reid didn't wave back. Instead, the two of them ran for the bus that was approaching, and made it to the train station downtown, leaving on the next train for Kingston.

            During the train ride he thought about everything that had happened since September and it occurred to him the only things he had really liked were the new things he'd done, like philosophy and rowing and the New York trip. Everything else was boring. He wanted to keep doing new things and learn all those unwritten rules that nobody had bothered to teach him. Sick of doing the same damn thing all the time, he wanted to break the chains that were holding him back. He wanted to be a Visigoth in tweed and explore, like his grandfather, who broke away from England and lived in France and learned French and cycled around Europe. Times are different but the instinct to explore wasn't; the environment might change but the instinct in man remains constant.

  

  

Table of Contents

1.     The Student Ghetto
2.     The Living Tree Principle 
3.     Overcoming Neophobia 
4.     Socrates' Big Swinging Ice Pick 
5.     Life As An Adjective 
6.     The Timestealer 
7.     Range of Multiplicity 
8.     The Banks 
9.     The Means is the End 
10.  The White Haired Doctor 
11.  Mortally Wounded 
12.  Visigoth Code of Ethics 
13.  Cognitive Dissonance 
14.  The Chinese Laundry Café 
15.  Catching a Crab 
16.  Sheer Recklessness 
17.  Shattered Glass 
18.  In His Father's Voice 
19.  The Dreamstealer 
20.  The Vine of Resentment 
21.  The Golden Mean 
22.  The Altered Eye Alters All 
23.  Missing the Middle Part 
24.  Anima 
25.  Taylor Not Afraid 
26.  Beyond the Monoperspectival Norm 
27.  The Grip 
28.  Visigoths in Tweed 
29.  The Unseen Hand 
30.  Dislocation 
31.  Pouring Heavens of Valhalla
32.  So Then...       
 
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