THROTTLE
by GORDY GRUNDY
MAY 2009
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MEDIUM RARE
   
   

I stumbled into the Little Joy, blind, my eyes scrambling to adjust to the sudden darkness. Richy the bartender was lighting incense, a flavor that married well to the aroma of stale beer and cigarettes. He looked up and smiled.
“Super-size me Richy!”

As my 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 friend.”
The guy nodded, without losing sight of the bottom of his glass.

Mayfield 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 sunscreen.
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 were still stuck 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. He’s eighty now. Very smart and well respected. He’s always telling me ‘Moderation in everything” like it’s the be-all.”
“ And you’ve never really understood what that meant…?” Icarus wasn’t asking.
“ 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.”
He smiled.
“ 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. I saw things 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.”

I had to defend him. “That’s just as dangerous as thinking without feeling.”
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…”

After 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 to mean?”
“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 Slope!”


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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.

   
   
 
   
       
   
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