stumbled into the Little Joy, blind, my eyes scrambling to adjust to
darkness. Richy the bartender was lighting incense, a flavor that
married well to the aroma of stale beer and cigarettes. He looked up
sight returned to a focus, I could see there was another guy sitting
at the bar. I hate a crowd. The juke was playing an old Curtis
Mayfield song. Soul makes me feel magnanimous. I turned to the fellow
and hollered, “Hello
The guy nodded, without losing sight of the bottom of his glass.
was now singing something slower. Richy picked up my empty pistol and
rattled the spent cubes. “Another?”
I nodded. With the aim of my thumb, I said, “And one for
my friend here.”
The guy barely looked my way. He wasn’t moving too fast.
I knew of him, but we had never met. Shirtless, his lily white
torso was mottled
with bright red blotches and burn marks. He looked like a gamer
who had adventured outside for a long day at the beach without
Richy set the drink down in front of the guy. Later I learned it was
a nectar and tonic.
Icarus mumbled a ‘Thanks’ as if he were in a great
deal of pain, physical and psychic, like a junkie in his last
days. I think he
was glad to be recognized. It was fairly obvious. The singed
and torn tunic, one sandal, the bad sunburn. A couple of feathers
to his canvas.
In the background, Curtis Mayfield had upped the tempo and was
advising us to ‘keep
pushin’’ and ‘to keep moving on up.’
I raised my glass, “Icarus, my friend, I owe ya. I’m not sure what
I have learned from ya. But you have set an example.” After a pause, I
added, “You should have listened to your Dad.”
The kid hiccupped a laugh. “Yeah. I got a problem with authority.”
“Everything in moderation.” I lingered. “I know this guy, Marsh.
eighty now. Very smart and well respected. He’s always telling
in everything” like it’s the be-all.”
And you’ve never really understood what that meant…?” Icarus
No… And neither did you.” I turned to Richy, with a thumb aimed at
Icarus, “This guy’s Dad had to leave Crete but there was no way out
except up. So Daddy-O invented a pair of wings fashioned with feathers and wax.
He taught sonny-boy here how to fly with the provision that you keep the altitude
even. You fly too low over the ocean and the precipitation will dampen the feathers.
You’ll sink. You fly too high and the sun will melt the wax. You fall.” I
leaned against the bar, “Icarus, here forgot his sunscreen.”
So what happened to you?” Richy asked the Greek.
I guess it’s a long, long, old, old tale,” he said to the bartender.
Then he turned to me and cracked, “You still buying?”
We laughed and I said, “Yes.”
You could read on his face that Icarus was switching gears, going back to that
old, uncomfortable place. He was rubbing his cocktail glass as if he were trying
to thumb the label off a beer bottle.
Slowly, he answered. “At first, it was frightening---learning how to fly.
It was hard to navigate… Of course, my old man is shouting instructions
as I’m flapping my arms. Slamming into a tree. I knocked over a whole jar
of olive oil---those were big jars back then. Anyway, I get the hang of it. It’s
like windsurfing; you learn it quickly or not at all. I’m flapping fast
and slow, trying to find a balance. To steer. You ease off on the pressure of
the wings and learn to glide… And you start gliding. Soaring. I found I
could fly higher and faster with less effort.” He paused for a minute, “It
came so naturally, this beauty. The wind was warm and soft against
my skin. The view from above, the vista, the perspective, it was incredible.
no one had ever seen. No one except the Gods.”
Icarus grew quiet, searching for the words. He continued, “It felt so good.
I was feeling and I wasn’t thinking.”
to defend him. “That’s just as dangerous as thinking
He shrugged his slender shoulders. “I caught an updraft. I was a rocket.
Higher and higher. I saw more. I was enlightened. It was easy. I saw the whole
world and the skies that surround it. I wanted to touch the sun…” He
was lost in his moment. “I didn’t realize I was losing feathers.
I didn’t know the wax was melting and I was losing feathers. I just kept
flapping harder and harder until… Until I started to fall…”
a pause, Richy broke the moment, “Rough landing?!”
Icarus snorted with a laugh and we all started to breathe again.
“Ya know, “ I ventured, “I once wrote that ‘Artists are
the astronauts of our sociology.’ We reach out and discover an idea or
a sensation. We bring it to a world that doesn’t have the time or the
inclination to think of such.”
Richy asked, “So, what in the hell’s that supposed
“I dunno,” I replied with a sigh, “The Gods. Transcendence.
A sense of wonder…”
Icarus interrupted, laughing, “And all things in moderation.”
There is a melancholy to the singing voice of Curtis Mayfield. The beat wants
you to move but his voice makes you cry.
I clapped my hands and with gusto said, “Richy, rack
up another round. Gentlemen, a toast to Icarus and the Slippery
GORDY GRUNDY is a Los Angeles based artist. His visual and literary
work can be found at www.GordyGrundy.com. His current show Fortuna
Rising is presented
by Western Project.