A Pipe without Smoke is Fire: The Architect of Possibility

It was a Tuesday evening. The Archer was dimly lit. Intentionally ambient to preserve the figment of secret lives, the lives of us, people that visit bars for escape, for refuge. 

From my usual perch, at the kitty cat corner by the entrance, I sat, a yoga mat by my side, breathing the silent, rhythmic performance of Wilson O, prepping for another evening.

He knew my libation well— homegrown in New Orleans— a stinging, very virtuous sazerac.

Wilson Oliver. Bartender of Notoriety. The Archer, Jersey City

Wilson Oliver. Bartender of Notoriety. The Archer, Jersey City

I was here in trust. For a first date enabled by an app. An app without the machinist left and right swiping. An app that did not allow escape through pictures. 

The Tinder of blind dates. It was called Blindr.

The interface asked for a three sentence description- what we be, what we do and what we hope to become. Faith in alchemy, the perfect match, as the algorithm yields.

The usual?


How is life. 


I could have been less cryptic. I wanted to downplay the internal blubbery blub, the partial nervousness on what I had set myself up to do.

Wilson leaned over. 

So what brings you over. Been two months. 

Who is counting, Wil. Not in my budget anymore to be drinking your fancy cocktails. 

I come when I can.

Wilson went through his rabbit-in-the-hat mixology magic. A polished gleaming highly distilled mean-spirited sazy followed. Conversation in a cup. 

A Wilson Oliver Sazerac

A Wilson Oliver Sazerac

My sip was studious and chaste.


I nodded. Wilson had skills.

Our familiar lapse into silence. The silence of an old couple in a car on a 1000 mile journey. 

My light-blue Jade mat, under the stool, fidgeted. Impatience, a virtue. 

What is the time, Wilson?

It is 5:30. 

It was the octogenerarian shift. Appropriate for someone who was not into the Hunger Games of Dating.

Where are you rushing to? Happy hour just started. 

Well, I am supposed to be meeting someone here.


Just wondering if he will show up. 

Are you nervous? 

Wilson had a sense for the unsaid. He could read my palpitating heart.

It is our first meeting.

Is it a set-up? 



No. Friends don’t let friends go on blind dates. 

Our conversation was Morse Code today. 


It was an app, Wilson. 

Pause. The stain of puzzlement.

It is called Blindr.  They promise blind dates with alchemy. 

Wilson slid over a bowl of lightly salted nuts. A gesture of charitable condescension. 

So you are here for a blind-date, picked by a machine. 

Yes, I am. 

Well, hope this machine has soul, sister.

Not to worry Daddy O. I can take care of myself. Besides you are here right……To sign me out and get me out through the back door if things don’t  work out?

Wilson did a Hail Mary. He proceeded to wipe down a pristine bar for the fifth time counting since my arrival.

It was 5:40.

Was I about to be stood up by a mystery basket, my blind date?

Another 5 minutes and I was out. Humiliation early in the week was simply too much.

We were seated in an L. My lazy eye caught a silhouette all the way at the other end, by the empty prohibition style glasses and the bathroom. He looked man-like.

My phone pinged. 

A scrolling text message. 

Hi, Frl. Roop Uma. 

This was my dating app moniker, so all humiliation and missteps can die forever, eponymously, with a name that had mild bearings to my real identity.

I am here. Are you here? 

By here, I mean I am at The Archer. I am sitting in the darkest corner by the WC.

Counter-intuitive for someone to be waiting on a blind-date by the bathrooms. 

I did catch the WC reference, however. My blind-date was from foreign climes. 


hi, jb, I am here as well.  I am sitting at the farthest corner, by the door, under the antlers. I am wearing a green cap with a butterfly. 

The Hat

The Hat

We both looked at each other the same time. Synchrony.

Uh Oh. 



I was in high quality yoga cozy, prickly pink pants and flip-flops. 

I had shown up nonchalant, signaling only one thing. I cared just enough to not care, Mister, whomever you are. 

My date was in a tux. 


Yosef Beauys. Brother from Another Mother. Nirupa’s fat finger drawings on iPhone

Yosef Beauys. Brother from Another Mother. Nirupa’s fat finger drawings on iPhone

Dear auto-intelligent gods of Blindr…..

Thank you for matching me with a top-hat wearing, pipe smoking, irrationally bearded, man of indeterminate age with a yellow bowtie!!

I gave an anemic wave across the bar. jb tipped his hat. 

The pipe smoke was unmoving.

Did he not know that they don’t allow smoking inside bars in certain parts of America, even for pipes with unmoving smoke?

I signaled for him to meet in the middle. He walked over, more like glided over.

I walked over, fixing my green hat firmly. My slippered step was resolute. 

Like— “I belong here more than you do,” with my yoga mat as handshake.

I placed it, a poised instrument to interrupt any unwanted advances. And gave him a quick tight smile. And a flimsy fish wave. 

jb reached over with pale alabaster hands. I grasped them firmly in mine, with both my hands.

A quick change of mind. Not sure why. He returned my vehement gesture with the ease of someone walking between time, with complete lack of surprise.

In the 30 second walk-over, I had gone through an emotional range of +1 to -1. Bewilderment, annoyance, disappointment, horror, meh, mild curiosity intermingled with hope. There could be a future.

jb looked vintage. Kinda hip in this androgynous, timeless way. Lincoln meets Iris Apfel.  An anachronistic fashion icon. The top hat was felt. It was good material. 

He had a certain unshakeable sense about him- like an old boulder at the base of a mountain, immutable and seemingly forever. 

We looked at each other. A platonic silence hummed deep underneath an unnamed ocean. We were swimming in the dark pool of blind dates determined by an algo. 

So, jb, nice hat. Whereabouts are you from?

Germany, fraulein. 

Umm. You might as well have called me, sweetheart, grandpa. It felt a mild, imaginary slap on the cheek— an indulgent figurative pat from someone, who was pulling age rank on me. 

BUTTT…. At least, he was calling me young lady. Manners from another time. 

And you?

India first, America second, herr jb. 

I reached in my back pocket for some manners as well. 

And if I can be forward, what does j in the jb stand for?


But he said the J like a Y. So Yosef. 

And the b?

B for buoy. 

As in a booey- like the stuff that saves you from sinking. 

Yes. Except I am of interminable buoyancy. I will not sink.

You sound a hybrid. 

I am indeed. Thank you for the observation, Fraulein. Very precise. 

May I call you Roop or do you prefer Uma?

I did not have the heart to break the illusion that my name was a fake construct, something partially made up, a thing of artifice. But he seemed partially made up. 

Please you can Roop me. 

He paused. Silence like smoke unhung on his pipe. 

I am yes, a hybrid. I am the offspring of two different species.

My parents married for love. They were people of the water. My father called the banks of the Galilee his home. My mother was born on the lower shores of the Rhine, in a city called, Kleve. 

And Roop yourself?

I am of the monoculture variety, Yosef. Not much cross-pollination here.

My gene suffers from a certain lack of inter-racial variety. We come from the Dravidian race, from the netherlands of India. 

Further digestion. 

Yosef, I must ask you this question. 

Am I seeing an illusion or is that smoke on the pipe of yours static?

An abrupt departure, yes. But it was bugging me. 

Fraulein, you noticed. Very perceptive. 

The pipe is an act, a ritual, a performance. It is immobile. Unbeweglich, as we say in German. 

And, what is the point of that exactly?

Well, if life is a series of scenes, with each scene being a micro-increment of performance as measured by time, the pipe and the smoke are but a still. 

Why still smoke. Isn’t it a contradiction?? 

Because, I am a man of concepts. 

Please explain. 

I too American, to understand such brevity of response. 

I architect imaginary worlds, Fraulein. I put the implausible together to make them more plausible. 

Hmmm. So you are a maker of castles in the clouds…..a conjurer of sorts. 

No Fraulein. I am an architect. 

I design spaces filled with ideas and embolden them with imagination. And then I concretize them with words. And enact them. 

For example, this is still a pipe. Its smoke exists at a different point in time. 

I prime for enquiry was moved some.

What is the point Yosef?

You are basically smoking, pardon my foreign language, a bullshit pipe. A pipe of no substance. You are enacting an illusion. 

An image of treachery

There is an entire world that exists outside the limited coordinates of your perception, Fraulein.

You are not all you know. Neither are you a sum total of your concepts, OR a being in a static point in time. 

I knew distinctly that I was not being mansplained. But yet to be advised so, made me uncomfortable.

I did not want to be patronized by a man in a top-hat, brought to me by a line of code.

jb. If I may, I would like to go to the bathroom. 

I wanted to gather my thoughts and be ready for a come-back. Dust up my literature on perception, the etymology of knowing.

I came back quick to the gun. Stillness was soundtrack.

The Archer was empty except for Wilson. He slid over a shot of our usual. An aged, small batch magical something. 

He knew I was processing. 

Disappointment like a paper cut. I was looking forward to getting into it, into the meat of the matter. 

Did he leave?

Vanished more like it. 

He left you some store credit. Said the next two blind dates are on him. 

Here, he left this for you. 

Frl. Roop Umapathy. I could not help but google you……..A nice last name. You might like to meet my brother from another mother. 

He also goes by JB, with the upper case. Joseph Beauys (pronounced almost like “Boyz”). 

He is traveling through New York for a show. It is called -“I like America. America Likes Me.” 

Please buy a drink for JB at my behest. Alles gute. Fraulein. May the code be with you. 

The year was 1974. 


This is part of a series of posts that tracks a self-styled study of artists in the micro and macro-cosms. While I was very taken by the story making of Joseph Beauys, and his place in post-war avant-garde German art, I was conflicted in my appreciation of his philosophy and the worlds that he created in light of his ties to Nazi sympathizers such as Karl Stroeher. So I had to invent a more benign alter-ego, with less inflammatory idealogical associations.

It was only after I finished this post, that I realized that there exists a dating app called Blinder. Without really having used it but to deferentially preserve creative license for the sake of story, I decided to modify the name just a little bit. Allow me the indulgence.