Bart Plantenga’s
Confessions of a Beer Mystic #12

49% of all fatal accidents occur in the home. With these kinds of numbers I’m safer lying in the middle of the street or heading to Bar Nickel Bill where even though I’ve ordered a thousand beers I might as well be from Planet X, Y, or Z as far as they know or care. Some people think this is modern, the freedom of nobody caring, and they come all the way from Bohunk wherever, where they were known maybe even appreciated, to here, NYC, where they will be ignored with a special fervor. Where sometimes ignoring someone with more care and cunning is the only way to even the score of you yourself being ignored.

My drinking partners are dusty fixtures glued to swivel stools. They stoop to vicious prayer over shots of phlegmish amnesia or Rusty Nails, cracking their bulbous knuckles with the ballgame on. They guard their chunk of bar, get here early to claim their stools, their pile of sharp objects and musty misconceptions in a universe crowded with static. Some have dreams, the dreams of others, of hunting trips, the hunting trips of others, they remember differently every time. Some even write their names in red Crayola on The Daily News as if they can own it or something.

Remarks jab out the sides of their mouths. Flatulence is sometimes the profoundest thing you’ll hear in an entire night spent in Bar Nickel Bill. Mostly I am a stranger every night in this place. But certain locals to get to me or get me to emigrate down to the next joint say things like, “You’re looking more and more like a goddamn beer bottle every day.” Huh! No kidding? Or just kidding? Nielle says they are just jealous. I think they are just bored torturing their wives. Nielle will not go into Bar Nickel Bill. Nielle is black and has a Mohawk the color of a Van Gogh sunflower.

“You’re shaped like a goddamn GOB-let.”

“As in BIM-bette.”

“As in ROCK-ette.” They were only profound for that one instant, that snap of your fingers between too sober and too drunk.


What did they want to “know” about me anyway? Two of the regs, Dick “Duckie” Vance and Tom “T.T.” Torrida, are ex-rock ’n’ rollers who grew very bitter and hunched over (body politics?) around the time youth finally caved in at age 46. And now here they were, left holding nothing but a bunch of old 45s with their pictures on them and two scruffy ponytails, tails no rat would ever attach to his ass. I refuse to play their 45s on the juke. C12 and D12 — musts-to-avoid! They were in a band — what was it, til last week? — called Lieutenant Duckie’s Horny Hardup Club Band, mostly cover versions which they mangled so bad half the time you didn’t recognize them. Some call that improv.

Duckie has a forehead that looks like a bunker you might see along the Normandy coast. All pocked and chipped from many a battle. I get to study them more than they ever get to study me. This gets me absolutely nowhere except through the night.

T.T. calls his ole lady “battleaxe” except when she’s there in Nickel Bills and then he calls her “darling.” But other than pick away at me once in awhile, they mostly ignore me, especially with the ballgame on. They are content to pick lint off their threadbare garments or sell their black market videos of bad movies. This is what the UN calls peaceful coexistence.

So when they taunt me with “Furman Pivo, Perfectamente Borracho,” or “the human beerbottle” I usually don’t say much. I think it means lit like Times Square but sounds like the title of a painting done in the backyard of the Surrealists. They are many and they could want to hurt me. But mostly they ignore me.

Better a bottle than a beer can anyway, I suppose. Fear (or the fear of showing fear) makes me reach for another beer. Sometimes when I press them for details: long neck? what brand? full or empty? green glass or brown? a mug? Like in Munich where mugs are a pugilist’s prayer, big enough to hold a pair of boxing gloves on the way to oblivion, they act stunned or even hurt that I can’t take a joke. They can’t — or won’t elaborate. They just sit there, dusty in mid-swivel, mid-puff, mid-sip. Pictures of me taped to the bottom of their mugs.

At least I’m home again — where 187,000 accidents are said to occur annually — where the bottles look down from the shelf. A shelf I had built at molding level, about 9 feet up, all the way around the living room to display an elaborate collection of beer bottles — current faves: a vintage St. Pauli Girl with her busting out of her bodice and a Rosé de Gambrinus which shows a naked voluptuesse on the lap of Pan.

The way I arranged my beer bottle constellation and then rearranged it depended greatly on whim and mood. One week it might be alphabetical order, the next color, a United Nations theme or by types of beer. Every arrangement was carefully curated and often told me much about who I was and who I had been.

None of this sat well with Djuna who thought she now wouldn’t get her deposit back because of the nail holes, thought the beer bottles would stink and attract even more roaches, thought it was “cultish behavior.” Maybe I should have consulted her before I got started.

“I gotta solve my own riddles now. Jump in and outa my own pants.” I vow in the mirror — a mirror made by window at night with darkness in back and light in front of it. And with the flick of the light switch I can obliterate myself. Totally wasted. That’s how light works on us. But my light switch jiggles. If I flick it wrong there’s a blue flash and the light pulsates. And I stand there looking at my body; pale, withdrawn, both coming and going. See poisoned wells of insomnia digging deep dark sockets into my skull. I watch the bottle change shape in my hand.

“I have to go back out. I am wasting my good looks on some ugly walls,” I say. Sitting still in this place drives you nuts. I bring my journal and before the end of my night I have 2 new black eyes to write about — one in Stuyvesant Town and another that pours light over old St. Marks Church Cemetery. They are out stone cold. Soon the city will be saving money on my account and I will want a cut of these savings.

The neighborhood by day and by night changes too fast for everybody including me. Nobody wants it. And yet the deli’s now a tanning salon that sells balloon bouquets, all occasions. The hardware store is now a Manicure Mall with hair extensions, all colors, half price. The bodega is full of screaming pink confections and the only health food it carries anymore is beer.

The new spin put on the world leaves me dizzy. Tenements and condos cut up our loyalties. Realtors and landlords without faces (and neat as cutlery) drag us around like potato sacks full of anxious locusts. And then us locusts with our hi school diplomas in pathetic Woolworth’s frames are tossed into crumbling little Alamos. Each Alamo will get further subdivided by loyalty to particular floor. People on any particular floor will see differences between themselves and those who inhabit the other floors. This is a universe that we are told is expanding like crazy, like we can’t even believe. Meanwhile our living spaces are imploding, collapsing, whittled down to alcoves and cabinet space. Cells where people stew and smolder. Where flimsy walls swell like corpses. Where idiot things and dirty forks attain the stature of cosmic persecutions.

Each apartment on every floor is further whittled into compartments that contain solitary beings molting their bitter armors of misconception and oppression. This is where the strong stuff, the rot gut, snuffs the weaker egos, the way Drano eats big globs of gunk and the drain sucks it up down and away. Remember the way we used to take a razor to a golfball and unravel it? Well …

Each inpatient’s mind becomes a blueprint of its chambers, a template of oppressive isms, a graph of the electrolysis that has dug too deep, of big swaths of invading arrows, repressed energies and retrenched desires.

Each body becomes acclimated to, and loyal to its own cereal, her own spoon, his own solar system of petty irritations, and stashes of pilfered junk. And even within the confines of our bodies, confederacies are being renegotiated. Various organs secede. Bitter and ravaged, the kidneys, bladder, lower intestine, mucous membranes, the heart-shaped prostate, the sympathetic nerve, and the lactiferous ducts of the breast were the first to mutiny. Some remain loyal to the heart. But there goes libido. But is that really an organ or just a humour that wafts about like pollen?

Precaution entered my blood and every tic long ago. Every twitch is under surveillance now. Reach into the wrong pocket around here and POW? Not as a person mind you, but as a reason for their oppression or as a target for their latest consumptive device. Every handyman’s a prowler. Every woman a provocateur, a prostitute or an undercover cop playing one.

Tomorrow we go to Djuna’s parents place. I reach for another beer, for beer speaks a paragraph of triumph in the language of defeat.

to be continued –

Confessions Of A Beer Mystic by Bart Plantenga #1 #2 #3 #4 – #5 – #6 – #7 – #8 – #9 – #10 – #11

How to become a Beer Mystic – by Mike Golden


Bart Plantenga – is the world’s foremost Beer Mystic and authority on yodel-ay-ee-hoo!•
Sharon Mesmer interviews the old Beer Mystic @
Here are some of Bart’s more recent radio shows available for your ear-ly pleasure. themes were nature [2], serge gainsbourg, blurt, electronica-blues, the meeting of wfmu & wtm in the amsterdam studios, the dutch band Emma Peel, many versions of that classic ditty of undeniable fluff – Popcorn…


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