BY BUD SMITH
That Thing That Happened Last Tuesday Night
I don’t wanna talk about it.
The Teak Room
The other day we were at a museum.
Like all great museums, this museum had examples of humanity’s worst deeds: the vast slaughter of innocent life; massacres of supposed evil life; atrocities to the planet itself.
On the flip, the museum also had glimpses of the most glorious things earthlings had done for the benefit for all who share(d) the planet: mostly, works of art so powerfully confounding/comforting/taxing/life-affirming, that to look at them you’d have no choice but to come to the conclusion and be hopeful that the ugliness of this world will be balanced somehow by the beauty of this world. One will fight the other, and the evidence of our own contemporary battle will be locked in amber for our children’s children to see.
It was an hour before closing and in the far reaches of the museum there were two museum guards who were goofing around, harassing each other, flirting, just trying to get through the last hour of their mind numbing shift of standing there and guarding glass cases with models of spiral staircases and ancient books full of gold leaf scroll and illegible Latin scribblings
Museum Guard 1: “Yo dummy why they call this the Teak Room?”
Museum Guard 2: “It's antique for short ya mental midget.”
Museum Guard 1: “Ohhhh.”
Museum Guard 2: “Tique … like And-teeek.”
My wife and I walked into the Teak room and everything was made out of Teak. All kinds of things carved out of Teak. Things carved way back before any of us were babies—rainforests ripped down and sent on big ol’ boats from Indonesia. And look at all these pretty things, here in abundance. Teak walls and floor and doors and windows.
Museum Guard 2, flirting through insult, yelling into Teak room at sweet old Museum Guard 1: “You sooooooo endlessly stupit!”
My wife called the museum guard over and whispered, “It's called Teak because of the wood. This is Teak wood.”
Museum Guard 1, now with a huge smile on her face, laughing, holds up both hands and we give her high fives.
“Hey moron! My friend in here just told me something you don’t know!”
If I am going to keep my faith in humanity, I will only do so by watching the way everyday people, ordinary people, get through their day. Surviving by playing against an adversary, making new friends in each new room I find myself in.
In a Lost Taxi
After the museum we were in a taxi cab, rumbling through the city. It’s the cabbie’s first day and he’s lost, and nervous and sweaty. So we have the meter off, and instead of going where we are really trying to be going (who knows where that is anyway?) we are just cruising aimlessly around NYC and I am telling the lost cabbie all about NYC landmarks.
That’s Trump Tower, that’s where all the Klu Klux Klan meetings happen. If you ever get any rabid racists talking shit to you because you are not from this country, just drop them off at Trump Tower.
Off to our left is the Chrysler Building where they make the cars, those Chrysler cars, nice cars. They make them there.
Straight ahead is the Holland Tunnel which we’d take if we wanted to get to Holland real quick. Otherwise, don’t ever go through that.
Here is the New York Public Library, if a fare ever asks to go there, try to marry them. Or at least tell them you love them. They are seeking knowledge, they are in search of sacred artifacts available to all, free of charge, but only the brave may enter that holy place.
To our right is Union Square, that’s where labor unions first started in America. Unions were started by ordinary people who didn’t like something so they banded together with other ordinary people and found a way to improve their little tiny lives.
Here’s the George Washington Bridge, this city’s finest and most famous bridge, home to the world largest free-flying American flag. Woot woot. This bridge was built by the country’s first president, just days after he defeated the British. Presidents these days don’t build bridges. They are trying to build walls in the desert that serve no purpose.
We take exits. We cross cobblestone intersections. Rivers are to our left and then rivers are to our right.
The skyline drifts by and other sky lines appear, the sun is hitting certain places along that skyline, and making those places glow gold, while other places along that skyline are bathed in total shadow.
The cabbie looks panicked. Cars are swarming all round us on FDR drive. We are like a yellow flower and all the cars are smacking into our yellow flower like ravenous hummingbirds starved for anything anything anything. But we keep going forward in the lost taxi, it’s not like we can stop. We have to keep moving forward.
The cabbie asks, “Does this get any easier?”
I tell him the truth, I say, “Life happens downhill for a while and then life gets momentarily flat, serene almost…”
“And then what?”
He changes lanes and the swarm of cars swarms with him.
I say, “And then there comes a ramp, and the ramp stands before a gorge, so deep and never-endingly dark and perilous, that you will either topple off the edge of the ramp and get absolutely no clearance over the deep and never-endingly dark and perilous gorge—or …”
“You’ll hit the ramp with overwhelming speed and fearlessness and sail over the terror that stands before you, and then under you as you fly past it, soaring through the air, safe and sound, crashing down on the other side of that ominously troubled time, now behind you.”
Bud Smith reports from Jersey City, NJ. Twitter: @bud_smith www.budsmithwrites.com. He wrote F250, Calm Face, and Dustbunny City, among others. He works heavy construction, and lives in Jersey City, NJ.