I got to the museum earlier than I needed to every morning so I could get myself a cup of Irish coffee and look out over the pacific ocean while waiting for the sun to fully come up in the east. Now, seeing as how the heavy fog was and probably would be taking over the day out here, I didn’t much hold out hope for seeing the sun. The coffee made it nice. Now most people when the visit San Francisco – either visit San Francisco or live there, they choose the Buena Vista to have their morning Irish. One of the grandest parts about having works at the Musee Mecanique was having that pleasure waiting for me each day. Each of the bartenders there knew me and, in exchange for a free pass inside to view my magical creatures who came alive with the drop of a quarter, they would present me with my morning wake up. Been working like that for about 20 years now. If I think about the time I tend to get a little upset and wondering if the life I lived was the life I was supposed to live, but quickly forget that with a nice sip or two.
Now on this morning, and I can tell mornings by the scores of baseball games – but on this morning, that same kid came riding up – seemed to be out of breath. Alberto was his name. Met him awhile back – I think you can find that in one of the stories here if you check. Stay in character.
So, he comes riding up to me, like he came out of the fog and into my place. My place. Funny how people who work somewhere for someone-after it’s been so long, they start thinking of it as their place. Only a few people own anything. Hell, the old fortune tellers and out dated nudie show pictures owned this place more than me and I was trapped inside of here. The kid came up and left his bike on the outside wall – leaning up against that wall, and shook my hand hello. That’s how fine young men say hello just in case any of you out there are wondering how to do it.
“Morning Vince,” he says to me. “Things are kind of thick today.”
“You rode up here to talk about the weather with me,” I ribbed him. “You can only tell what’s going on if you listen up beyond what you see. Now what brings you out here this early?”
“Well, I was wondering if you’d be interested in making some extra money – nothing too much, not at the start any how, but a little something. We’re putting something together – some friends of mine, and we figured this would be the place for it. Can we go inside?”
He took a big drink from his cup, which is the same drink I took not that long ago, then opened the door using the pull chain he kept on his side. Even though there was no sun, the light from outside woke up the machines.
“Tell me,” he said, walking through and turning everything on.
“So we have some people will to work,” I told him. “They have all of these clients all over the city. They’re into weird things. A little off center.”
“Yeah, I know that about folks in this city,” he laughed, looking at the diorama of the opium den, the maniacal laughing clown and the strip show flip books. “What are you telling me that’s new?”
“How would you feel about using this place to host some events – not every night, but a select night of the week. More like after midnight thing. It would be exclusive and big money to get in. No line outside or anything like that. No kids. Just some adults looking to spend their money in the night. I have the people ready to go but we need a place – and not just any place, but a spot. This one has the background and character that could give it the push we need.”
He didn’t break stride.
“Would I need to be here,” he said, “Or are you expecting me to hand over the keys blind.”
“You do what you want,” I told him. “Having you around only adds to it. Everyone wants to feel part of something fun. Not sure how you’d keep up with night and day duties, but feel free. If you’d like to join in and participate, I could use all the help I needed. I figured you’d want to be there for the first show and then see from there. If it’s a one time thing, that’s okay. At least we tried. I’m just trying to do something here without having to go and sit behind one of those computers and this place seems to be one that can help me hold on to the analog age. It’s my last stand. Perhaps We’ll call it that.
“Holding the Analog Age.”
He told me to think about it and gave me his page number, telling me to page him before noon if it was a go, or just keep it silent if I was against it. As quick as he had come through the fog, he left. I turned on the rest of the machines just as I had done every morning, but the warmth of my Irish coffee wasn’t doing as much as it normally did. I thought about my grand daughter and how her mother, who didn’t much talk to me any more on account of how my morning rituals had turned into my evening rituals on too many occasions. How this, some extra money, might get me back in there with her. I moved on to thinking about all the extra people who’d be coming in here and who I could tell my stories to if they chose to listen. The machines had kept me company long enough.
I started up the player piano and took a strength tests again the frozen muscle man to distract myself from coming to a decision, but the lack of distraction made the choice obvious.
I went to the room in the back where I usually ate my breakfast sandwich and dialed up the number to page him. Somewhere out there in the fog a message was being received.