I arrived last night at the Tempus Fugit at precisely the stroke of 3:33, a symmetrical number if not an auspicious one. We had braved a night of thunder that frightened neither myself nor Whiskey and we made our way to the one bar in New York that never closes and hasn’t since it first opened in 1924.
As usual, I was greeted not with a hello or a handshake, but by the ancient bartender with a bit of convoluted philosophizing.
“The allurements of dissipation are more than equal to anything that can be conceived,” he said.
With that he pulled me a perfectly topped Pike’s (the ALE that won for YALE!) and I assumed that was that, allurement of dissipation-wise. I sipped the cool amber nectar and it went right to my thirsty heart. In short order, I was due another Pike’s and the bartender complied.
“Most people know of ‘The Mutiny on the Bounty,’” he began, “either from the superior Charles Laughton movie of 1935 or the inferior version with Trevor Howard and Marlon Brando from 1962.”
“You’re right about that,” I agreed. “I prefer Laughton in just about anything. I think my favorite film of his was directed by David Lean, called ‘Hobson’s Choice.’”
“A good picture, but entirely besides the point. This isn’t about Laughton. It is about the allurements of dissipation.”
“It is thought,” he continued “by most that Bligh’s cruelty and harshness aboard the Bounty is what led the better half of his crew, led by Fletcher Christian, to mutiny. Nothing could be further or even farther from the truth.”
I finished number two and in short apple-pie order another was placed before me.
“Bligh’s full quotation is as follows: ‘The women are handsome ... and have sufficient delicacy to make them admired and beloved – The chiefs have taken such a liking to our people that they have rather encouraged their stay among them than otherwise, and even made promises of large possessions. Under these and many other attendant circumstances equally desirable it is therefore now not to be wondered at ... that a set of sailors led by officers and void of connections ... should be governed by such powerful inducement ... to fix themselves in the midst of plenty in the finest island in the world where they need not labour, and where the allurements of dissipation are more than equal to anything that can be conceived.’”
“That’s quite a mouthful,” I said completely devoid of sagacity.
“Bligh’s men had been on Tahiti for 23 weeks, harvesting breadfruit trees for importation to the Caribbean. Most, in that time, had succumbed to the allurements of dissipation in the form of drink and womanly flesh.”
“Who can blame them?” I asked, again with a dearth of insight.
“After those 23-weeks in Paradise, Lieutenant Bligh’s men were unwilling to return to their labours on the Bounty.”
“Again,” I said, twirling my glass, “who can blame them.”
“Bligh is the hero of the story,” the bartender continued. “With 19 men in an open boat just 23-feet long, he navigated by the stars from Tofua to Timor, where he knew of a Dutch settlement.
“They were on the open seas with little water, less hardtack and even less rum, for 47 days—3700 nautical miles, yet Bligh compassionately kept all his men alive, save one who was killed by cannibals.”
“Cannibal is no longer politically-correct,” I corrected, “we now say ‘same-species eaters.’”
He laughed at that and ploughed ahead.
“History, of course, celebrates the slackers. Slackers are better story-tellers. The noble Christian and his mutineers. Bligh, despite his Dickensian last name, is the hero.
“He did his job. He found a way. He resisted the allurements of dissipation.”
“I suppose, then, in keeping with this evening's theme, I should resist having another,” I said.
Again he laughed. Twice in one evening.
“Do what you do. Resist the allurements. And go home.”
I pushed two twenties his way, across the teak.
“On me,” he said, resisting.