Foto by tgw, "Through a Glass Darkly," New York City, Jan. 2012
Time Waits for No Man
My dad used to say, "Don't let time pass you by." After he'd say that I would wonder in my child-curious way how time could pass one by. I had never felt it passing me by. I'd look at my wind-up alarm clock by my bed, my first timepiece ever, and I would imagine the hands flying freely around the dial, hours and hours and hours passing me by. Swooshing by me.
Time is a movable feast, I suppose. Since it's man-invented, of course it can't pass me by. Time is imprisoned within our chronological devices, which are the concepts of our brains. Time is a controlling agent. Time is an incarcerator. Time is a method of measurement. Time is a measurement of just how long we have...to live...to die...to be imprisoned...to wile away time...to take a lot of time outs--and the time out is one of the means one has to keep time in tow. You get frustrated, you just take a time out. Time outs stop the clocks; yet the shadow of time keeps on keepin' on.
Your heart is a timepiece. It tick-tocks.
Before there were quartz time or digital time, before our Naval Observatory time was computerized and nanoseconded down to minutia of time, clocks tick-tocked either from side to side or up and down.
Back in my good ole days, I used to hang on my three-hour lunch breaks at a Midtown Manhattan restaurant called Ho-Hos. It was in the ground-floor back of the old Time & Life Building in Rockefeller Center. I first heard about Ho-Hos on the long-ago-and-now-forgotten Long John Nebel's all-night radio talk show that aired back from the 50s, 60s, up until 1978 when Nebel died of prostate cancer. Ho-Hos was one of his sponsors. Two of the bartenders in Ho-Hos were Jimmy Chin and Mister Yick. One day I was sitting at the bar when this musician friend, he'd been big during the bubble-gum rock phase, came in needing money. He was peddling this pocket watch he'd gotten as a wedding present from his wife who he had now divorced. He said he definitely hated her and he also hated this watch because she had given it to him so he said I could have the watch for $20.
That's it...the Majestime Pocket Watch I Bought for $20 From the B-Gum Rocker
Twenty bucks was chicken feed to me then since I was working in a high-cotton field knocking down big bucks-per-month, so out of feeling sorry for the dude, I'd just gone through a divorce of my own, I bought the watch. After the dude had split, Mr. Yick asked me to see the watch. He took it and held it up to his ear. "Yes, velly good watch," he said handing it back to me. Curious, I asked him what he was listening for when he held it up to his ear. He said cheap watch tick-tocks up and down but good watch tick-tocks back and forth sideways.
I at one time invested a whole ton of spondulex in antique wristwatches. My oldest and most treasured one was a 1907 Elgin porcelain dial solid silver wristwatch with solid gold works inside the silver filigree case. I still have it--one day the stem broke and it has sat dormant for several years now. The time contained in that old precision-made chronometer has been frozen in time. I tried to sell it on eBay as is for an opening bid of $100 but nobody was interested. I paid $375 for it ten years ago. At one time my watch collection contained 50 timepieces, of which I've now sold off 20, leaving me still with right at 30 watches in various states of running, some having their own time-works frozen and in need of repair. If you ever see me in the street or at dinner or playing a gig, I'll be wearing my favorite of all my watches, a 1950s Bulova automatic with a black dial. Bulova may not have invented the self-winding wristwatch, but its were the best and this little watch has been running faithfully for me for over 10 years now. The longest I had a wind-up wristwatch run was 18 years, a Gruen watch my dad bought me for high school graduation, claiming he paid $80 for it, an exorbitant price for a wristwatch in those days. That watch ran until one day it simply just stopped winding and working, so I put a nail in my apartment wall and hung that watch up on it as a work of art.
The most amazing wristwatch I've ever owned is what we called the Casio Rubber Watch. It is a battery-operated watch--it has all kinds of bells and whistles on it, too, like an alarm, a stop watch, military time, etc. It also lights up in the dark. A friend in the watch business sold me this watch for $30 back in the 80s--the insert that came with the watch said it had a 7-year battery in it. That watch, my friends, is still running today, 20 years later--keeping fairly accurate time--sitting in a never-used coffee mug up in my loft bed right now as I type on this post. The last time I wore it, about a year ago to an Ives program at Town Hall, it started falling apart, a little metal strip falling off the watch face, the band, rubber, tearing slightly near the clasp--so I returned it to the coffee mug and there it sits today still telling time. Just look at the time this old rubber watch still is recording--the time of my life up there in my loft bed for the past 20 years.
Sitting here looking around my apartment, I count four wall clocks--and there's one in my bathroom (my Charles Parker, Jr., clock), too, so that's five. I love clocks but I hate time. One of my clocks, it's celebrating the 10th Anniversary (1994-2004) of the Hudson Valley Renegades minor league baseball team, stopped one day about a year ago at 15 minutes of 12--and I have just left it set that way. Another one of my clocks is an hour off because I never change it come Daylight Savings Time beginnings and endings--in the spring it will be two hours off--and in the fall, it will return to being one hour off.
Daylight Savings Time was a Rooseveltian move to give folks longer days so they could work their asses off in the WWII defense plants. Why we kept Daylight Savings Time after the war I'll never know; the politicos on the left say it's so the little kiddies won't have to trudge down to their schools in the dark; the rightwingers say it blasphemes God's time. All that Daylight Savings Time proves is that man is the clockmaker and he can start and restart time at will. I mean why couldn't Congress pass an amendment saying 12 midnight was no longer 12 midnight but was now 12 night noon or some such bullshit as that? Man could even add an extra hour to a day if he so chose.
A good quote about time? Here's one from Somerset Maugham (in The Moon and Sixpence):
"I don't think of the past. The only thing that matters is the everlasting present."
Living in the present tense continuously. I learned living in the present tense continuously from Gertrude Stein who said she wrote in the continuing present tense. Writing in the present tense. Solving all your problems in the present tense. Because the present tense is where we all are at the same time. It is in the present that I sit now presenting you with this little presentation on time. My time. I know my time, but I don't know your time.
Some Antique Watches, the Collecting of Which Was One of My Pastimes
A Famous Hilton Triangle Watch From the 1930s.
This Is a Nelson Celluloid Watch, Also From the 1930s.
A Lord Elgin Gold Watch With Black Dial and Wire Lugs From 1940s--I still own this watch; unfortunately its works are currently frozen.
This Is the White-faced Version of the Lord Elgin Gold Watch With Wire Lugs From 1948. All but the Black-Dial Gold Elgin (3rd from top), I no longer own.
There aren't many old watchmakers still around who really know their business. The guys who knew how to work on the above watches are all gone now and today's watch repair people here in New York City have no knowledge of these American watches--most of the watch repairmen in my neighborhood are Russians. There is still a world-renown Elgin watch restorer out in California but he's quite expensive. However, those Elgin Gold jobs above when completely restored sell upwards in the 300-to-400 dollar range.
So remember, time will tell, but what it will tell, we'll not know until the time comes for us to know. A lot of people are looking forward to a coming time; while some are dreading any kind of waking time.
for The Timely Daily Growler
A Little Taste of American Art:
"Big Red Flower?" by California artist, Geoff Greene--Acrylic on 2 canvas panels - 48" x 38" (August, 2007) The question mark is explained: he didn't remember what kind of flower it was.