“Remember, remember the fifth of November,
The gunpowder, treason and plot,
I know of no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.”

Well, Guy Fawkes wasn’t exactly the hot topic last night. I met with some friends at the Tea Lounge, a dark Monday evening and the air was chill and I walked fast past the Brooklyn Museum and Library to plunge through the snarl of traffic at Grand Army Plaza and then down Union Street to the Lounge. Warmth, the smell of coffee, and the cacophony of experimental jazz. Friends up on the left, esconced around a small table, huddled over pots of tea. I shucked my coat, shucked my sweater, hunkered down next to them, and tried to take part in the conversation.

And failed.

The jazz band was letting it rip. Some five or six men stood with gleaming instruments at the far end of the lounge, heads lolling in ecstasy as they made it impossible to speak. The volume was amped up real loud, and they rattled and whistled and squeaked and clattered their way through various songs. They were in the throes of creation, of improvisational genius, allowing the muses to channel their finger proddings and gasps into all manners of unexpected directions. It sounded like a vast collection of instruments had been tumbled down the stairs, like a massive whoopee cushion had been hooked up to saxophones and trumpets and then brutally savaged. It was loud, it was intrusive, and I didn’t like it.

Finally, they slowed, stopped, and looked about themselves, blinking and smiling tentatively at each other. Sweet, sweet silence. Finally my friends and I could talk, converse, pontificate, lecture, extol, cry out and laugh! We did so. Then a mere five minutes after the band had evacuated the premises a projector whirled to life, and a movie began to play against the backdrop wall.

What a bizarre, surreal and frightening film. I did my best not to watch the unfolding saturnalia, knowing that my evening would devolve into slack jawed wonder if I did, and tried to continue my conversation, but it was rough. People in Eygptian regalia wandered through the jungle, communing with small alien spacecraft; a speakeasy erupted into smoke and chaos as people screamed and fell over each other, glasses were shattered and dresses torn for no discernible reason; piano music blared over the speakers at incredible volumes, and the entire Tea Lounge sat, spell struck, staring at the wall.

My friends and I grimly attempted to continue communicating with each other, but eventually we gave up and fled the scene. Out into the welcome cold, and then to our homes, to bed. What a bizarre place, what a strange confluence of artistic endeavors, what horrible sounds – piercing whistles, shrieks and cries!