Time’s Place is a little tavern in Harlem. It’s not listed on Trip Advisor.
Nearby, between two brick buildings, is a fenced-in empty lot, overgrown with tall weeds and a few trees. As I was passing it recently the gate was unlocked—so I wandered in.
Regarding the following: apply what disbelief you need—sprinkle it with grains of salt—but in advance I clarify I was not dreaming or using any drugs.
Beyond the shadows of the trees the yard suddenly expanded. My curiosity drove me on. I came to some doors and went in. It was a tavern right out of a short story or movie. Dimly lit. Pinball in the corner. Sawdust on the floor. Stale beer smell. Jorge Luis Borges sitting on a stool at the bar.
Facing the mirrors behind the bar, his presence was echoed endlessly due to the mirrors on the wall behind him. He gestured me towards the stool next to him.
When I saw him at a reading in Chicago some 40 years ago he was already completely blind. And he died a few years later.
As I sat down next to him I was struck by that familar smell—that breakdown of cellulose and lignin in paper—that essence of used book stores.
The proprietor came over and asked what I was having. The same, I pointed to Borges’ beer, which he was stirring gently with his finger, then licking clean.
This is your moment. Borges said. Do you know who you are?
When I get nervous I tend to ramble, and off I went.
I have this amazing novel. But it’s stuck in my head. A mystery—but far more than that. A geographic puzzle, a literary collage, a word riddle — even a mathematical memory game. Enormous.
The plot surrounds one of the remaining prop sleds used in the film “Citizen Kane” being stolen from Sotheby’s. Insider information reveals that the stolen item is hidden—in one of twelve bars somewhere in Manhattan.
I’ve got this great idea of a riff on Monk’s composition “Straight, No Chaser”—because it’s a . . . twelve-bar blues!
Fourth walls will be demolished and out of the rubble will emerge apolcalyptic dreams, philosophical leitmotifs, existential dilemmas and spiritual bankruptcies. I’d drop all the characters into a shaker and come up…