Confessions of a Beer Mystic #22
Confessions of a Beer Mystic #22
I’d been banished from Jude’s garret, cut adrift, cut astray in the chaos to explore but never figure out. Like a wanderer in search of a wandering tribe I negotiated my way down Broadway from 110th. It was 2 AM in the concrete sleep. Streets still letting off steam, clutter unraveling deliriously before me. Like a quivering arachnid in the corner of an insomniac’s eye the metropolis keeps moving, stays lit, quivering, vigilant, selling, never coughing up the time for us to sag into deep breathing dream. Convenience and service offered by squat Guatamalans on every blazing corner allows us small respites from the merest of chrome-atose survivals.
Necropolitans, lightheaded in the toxic bouquets of fresh candy-colored car enamels, cross the street and disappear into the billowing plumes of steam. And I will follow them with their polyethylene shrouds (the thought that my liquors and their hooded sweatshirts derive from the same ethyl molecules sets in awe our ersatz alliance.)
And when I leave Jude’s I have to walk. And when I walk I see her legs. I make words sing of her legs and words act like the dreams of legs. They are Parisian dreams. Pale Greek statuary in the Tuilleries. They walk toward me and what is the name of that drug of insinuation? Steel drums on the street meanwhile bang out of jangled nerves a sweet Caribbean tune.
I walk and when I walk I think, and when I think I become a genius and when I walk in the lucent light, a Bedouin celestial navigation-type of starlight. I feel like an alchemist approaching the knowledge of perfection. This is not your average horrendous watt overkill, households lit like sagging jack-o-lanterns, overlit to barricade the cellmates inside against all fear, all curiosity.
[Jude Falley: “Furman stays skinny — damn him — because he used to leg out hundreds of pick ups and deliveries as a midtown foot messenger to earn extra subway tokens reimbursed for long hauls — 10 extra dollars to his pockets and 10 extra miles to his sneaks every day. That’s insane. Plus he only seems to own sneaks, hi-tops. They stink from sweat and cheap sour socks. Like a cheese you’d never wanna eat. He does own a pair of beat up black boots that make him feel big whenever he wears’m. He’s like a different guy. To him they spell menace. To me they’re too beatnik. Except in snow and rain, I suppose, when they spell wet feet. But mostly it’s his hi-tops, which he even wore to bed — I know — claiming that he never knew when he’d have to hi-tail it out after making love, if that’s what you want to call it, if his words are to be believed. But you can appreciate his words without believing them. The lies were never meant to hurt me. I could imagine that he was an editor, a radio DJ, an artist and a good lover but I never saw it. Oh, he was a great kisser and well, I just don’t see him anymore. I guess it was this self-declared heretic thing. The lights thing just left him well, less than ready and able to … satisfy all in me that needs satisfying. He had such a nice curlicue cowlick, such a nice set of arms, such a nice … shut me up before I say something I regret or begin believing again.]
I have discovered the knowledge of perfection like an alchemist might with a 6-pak coursing through my alimentary canal — colon and rectum — ancient phantom stops along the Rockaway-bound A train. Brew is the sextant of elixir, an alchemy that transforms sharp objects, projectiles of control, architectures of neglect and belligerent light strategies into a soft contoured womb, spinning everything of mind and blur, of environ and reverie, into its non-spatial and non-temporal delirious core. This state (migration inside stasis, daydreams of the stoneface) is attained, some say, as we move from light beer to dark, where the blood becomes aqua vitae and the conscious will becomes flooded with personal lumen naturae or psycho-magnetic bio-luminescence.
And with that I uncap a Lambic, something special (from Belgium, where Lembeek, or Lime Creek refers to the limey character of the soil) — from the clandestine confines of a paper sack! A paper sack because they, they who own the city and supply the uniforms for the police, they want to contain vision so they can tinker it into the shapes that will flatter themselves.
Don’t ever guzzle a Lambic. Sip and swish and let this most unusual beer linger on your taste buds. This is what I do — I walk, I sip, I swish, I swallow, I smile.
The Lambic aligns itself with anarchist thought because it invites wild microflora to spontaneously ferment. And its surprising taste is capable of convincing me to totally rethink financial priorities — I spend rent money on it! Fall behind in the rent. Owe 2 — or is it 3? — months.
The longer I walk the more adept I become at synthesizing knowing and being. And dodging the waddling troops of the corpulent and bludgeoned with cheap furniture in their eyes. Walking is free but not without its hazards so I carry a drawn knife in jacket pocket, ready to protect my freedom, ready to carve deep, expressive scratches into auto-transport missiles from nose to tail. The knife handle fit neatly in my palm.
Insanity is just a norm with a little more inexplicable action careening off and around it — it had long ago begun to suck me in. Like a crash at the Indianapolis 500. Or swirling tornadoes bloated with dusty circulars, bottle caps, and shards of glass rising up and suddenly collapsing. I find my vestments twisted as if I’m about to be screwed into the earth.
At 103rd St. workers in blue yell at crates full of cans in a basement. And The Dynamic Emptiness is playing in Cinepolyplex #1,2,3, and 4. Deep Six is in #5 and Three Girls Unchained is in #6. Let out of carpeted family homes by 7. Raising standard kinds of hell by 8. Hanging with their grey vanishing tribe, spurning the indifferent world, in a nod they swig and swivel, hoola hoop in heels on car hoods at 10. All either up and out or down and out. Jiggling around in thick fits of air by 12. Big bracelets. Moist napes at 1 AM. Full of the glum swagger that becomes them. Scrawls of “FUCK THIS” and “FUCK THAT” on every pillar, cliff, and overpass.
The Caligula Theatre meanwhile has a triple feature: A Taste of Beefcake, The Destroying Angel, Six StudsWith Sweet Cakes.
Urchins meanwhile bark around in a language foreign even to their own ears. So adrenalin-sloshed that even their hair is barking as they lean against dumpsters shoveling slices of pizza down their gullets, using the dumpster as makeshift dinner table; pizza grease slithering down their wrists.
In a shoe store window I spot a blue loafer with a strap of dark elastic spanning the bridge of the foot. A sign next to the shoe proclaims, “IT’S EXCITING!” Another shoe, some gruesome hybrid of topsider and wingtip declares, “I’M COOL!” Will the real shoe please stand up and kick an ass!
A girl with the pallor of a cheap murky Pale Ale in a pizzeria tells me she forked over $90 to see Madonna “tromp around in underwear I got in my drawers at home. $10 I show yuh.” I too shall die tepid like a bird in a cage of noise and sad amber streetlight.
I thread through disillusionment. Sleepy staircases. Bloody noses. Spilled brandy. Sneers of glimmering beer glass under foot. Broken China. Pedestrians with open shirts. Glazed onlookers. Grackle-suited men. Begging noises. Women with shiners of love behind shades. Or fat bouquets. Furbound objects strung with gold in yawning cleavage. Streets littered with news and glazed fishheads — a stunning dismay of wealth.
The blind black man has a satchel that says I LOVE NY and a splinter of crutch that he bangs against things — Tkuh-Tkuh-Tkuh. His swollen foot is wrapped in black garbage bag. He drags that foot. And the scraping of foot and the tapping of crutch creates a compelling kind of percussion — Tkuh-Tsssh-Tkuh-Tsssh. Had he played the Sturgeon Club in his prime? He moves on, feeling the edges of windows, door jambs, corners of buildings. His world one of contours, trust, and topography. I want to ask him whether he knows when it is night. But don’t.
The delivery truck is playing “No Pity In The Naked City” by Jackie Wilson. Bundles of newspapers fly out the open door. Radio is always better at night. When nobody is listening. I have done 100 shows now at my radio station. Still no one has ever heard of the station or been able to tune it in.
A man wearing 20 pounds of jewelry is selling postcards salvaged from a dumpster. They are all the same and show a man burning a coil of nautical rope — $.50 each, 3 for $1. It’s 2:49 AM and I’m at 86th St. trudging across this tundra of sagging pavement. Everywhere the desperate are laughing at the incongruity of the dreams they’d read about in civics books and the everydayness of that betrayal.
At 72nd I pass the Dakota where Lennon caught lead. The spot marked by memory the way a shiver of moth wing clings and melts to a hot bare bulb. I tromp over Strawberry Fields and feed the insomnia squirrels that are so big they sometimes mug children of their bags of candy. This bribe buys me weeks of safe passage. I cross the park and the absorbed imagination of horror movies and headlines has me jogging. Once I’m out of the park I walk over to Bloomingdale’s to stare at the site of the Elias and Schmitt brewery that stood there in the 1860s. I have the entire insomnia night to kill. I leave my empty Lambic bottle there as a memorial at the corner of 60th and Lexington.
A mnemonic pilgrimage to St. Patrick’s Cathedral (site of the Schaefer Brewery in 1849) drags in a flood of beery-eyed memories. I was so lazy back then and in no hurry. A foot messenger working just above minimum wage. I wonder how Lee Grant is. And here on the side of St. Pat’s I’d lie in the spring sun. Watch the Sak’s shoppers, listen to the devout brag about how many wafers and candles they got. Content to flip through the portfolio of a blond Ford model and imagine us together, picked from the throng outside Studio 54. This is where I took an extra headshot from the back of Amandine Dupin’s portfolio. I still remember her name. Slipped it inside my shirt. Pout against chest. Walked around with her the rest of the day. The portfolio, full of her face, was already long overdue at a scent-imaging corporation. Later, I would take this glossy and spend my wad in her visage, watch the ejaculant eat away at her face. And then I had no choice, I crumpled Amandine up into a ball and tossed her.
And now this small bower is covered in coils of razor wire and spiked wrought iron to prevent respites from being discovered here and slackers from slacking without buying a beverage.
At 47th St. I’m dogged by epileptic chiaroscuros that obliterate the paranoid spires of high investment. I tipped back the substantial Lambic #2 bottle and saw the wraith of self swallow the final sips. After a sixer I no longer believe in gravity. However, 4 more and I’ll be contending with gravity in all its horizontal pervasiveness.
A hobbling man in rags at 44th mocked my limp with a big smirk on his face. My limp’s barely perceptible anymore but I’m still sensitive about it. I accosted him, shook him hard. Shook loose a frying pan from under all his layers. It dropped to the sidewalk with a clang. But then I noticed his smirk was really a veiled grimace. And I noticed his limp was real, very real, more real than mine ever was. Like maybe a big-toothed gear had gone right through it. I offered him a dollar’s compensation.
“I don’t accept money from loonies,” he said. And the dollar floated to the sidewalk. And the weak-eyed street abeerigines now call out my death after me. They follow me. Throw beer bottles at my head. Nobody sits still in NYC unless they’ve passed out. Last and only respite from speed is the black out.
In Times Square hope rubs up against hopelessness, one looking more and more like the other. The despised dress more and more like those doing the despising. Whores look like receptionists and businessmen like pimps. I visit the site, from which a tangle of cement arteries now rises out and beyond the deceased calm at 529 W. 41st. St. where once stood the cathedral to ale, the V. Louwer’s Gambrinus Brewery where up until 1948 anyone could come in between the hours of 7 am and 5 PM and receive two heady brews free!! I leave Lambic #2 in front of Port Authority.
A stretch limo nudged insistently through tight clots of peds. At 3-something AM! So, to get the chauffeur’s craw, I bent down to tie a shoe, to become for a micro-second a counterfriction against those made comfortable at the benefit of our discomfort. He laid on the horn. So I planted a gob on his windshield. His window went down with a hum. Requested I stick my head in. HUH! What, so he can kiss me to death with a crowbar!?
When I suggested several intimate orifices where he could stuff it he emerged from the car the way I’d seen the barrel-chested genie emerge from the bottle. He removed his jacket, hung it in the open car window and gave chase, leaving the limo idling among an audience of thousands of noctambulists, those who are afraid that if they sleep they will miss something.
I could have easily outrun and ditched him. But I decided to toy with him, play picador, use finesse. He was corpulent and chugged along like a snowball on fire, wielding an ax (a baseball bat with a railroad spike punched through it). In front of a Times Square restaurant. I dodged his first lunge, leaving aghast diners in mid-bite. He lunged again. I dodged him easily and he barreled full weight into a tangle of shrubbery planted in barrels.
He came at me again and this time I waited an extra half-count, stepped aside, agile, unscathed. Floating like a butterfly, stinging like Ali because I too, was helping sport — in my case urban jousting — transcend mere pugilism. My foe again goes careening across the sidewalk with all the grace of a wounded pelican. I’m beginning to believe he suffers from Mad Cow Disease but I’m ready for another round. Months of pent-up vengeance had my adrenalin gurgling, extremities tingling. Some bystanders sided with my foe because they too were motorists who’d had it with pedestrians. Some yelled; “Get Him!” But he’s dazed, a mess. And the betting game never gets untracked.
I leaped onto the limo hood, up and across the roof, down the trunk — I was gone. I’ll never forget him wielding his ax, face beet red, in Times Square. 3-something in the night of morning. He fit right in. Above his head on the faux brick a sprawl of graffiti declared: “BREED WHITE GIRL! SAVE YOUR NATION!” And it was then that I realized I’d been branded, initiated into this peculiar hypnotic cycle of urban insanity. And behind the jolly sign is where they keep the evacuation sirens.
The Circus Cinema shows 4 new movies a week. Just $2.99 — if you don’t snore. Although the snoring makes some of the movies more entertaining. It’s open 24 hours even on X-mas and the marquees read like haiku:
WET SLUTS FILTHY ORGY SEXY SOPHOMORES SHAMELESS SUMMERS
HOT TEENS CARNAL SEX NUDE STEWARDESSES TORRID TITS
CROTCH SHOT SWEET CAKES STRANGE DESIRES TEEN HOOKERS
POMPOM GIRL SOFA SLUTS WHIPPING WIVES WHORE DREAMS
SECRET SLURPING SOUNDS THE PSYCHIC BIMBO SENSATION
I remember when I took Jude here to a suck-epic, She Swallows It Wholesale, and she managed to bury her discomfort of seeing such enthusiastic fellating by criticizing the mattress actress’ grammar! This is like criticizing Einstein’s theories because he had a bad haircut.
I searched the noctambulatory hordes (their eyes the size of donut holes), half-expecting to see the beet red guy with his ax. Mnemonic stains trigger emotions thick with the grief of forlorn standup encounters down deadends.
In Greece, on treacherous mountain roads, they place white memorial crosses where people have swerved and plunged to their meaningless deaths. If NYC were to paint a white cross at every spot anyone’s ever been knocked off, the entire city would be white-washed. I keep moving — not quite invisible, not quite imaginal — somewhere between hoax and a place to piss.
There’s the fur joint where one night, while trashed on Southern Comfort and seconals, me and Djuna had changed the “FURS FOR LESS” sign to read “FURS FOR THE HOMELESS.” A girl got knifed here — 28th and 7th — and they didn’t even wash down the blood that night. Somebody said she was just a nobody. And the accused I remember later stood behind the Bible in court. Didn’t do too bad either — 4 years. His motive: to not only squelch temptation (the miniskirt meant she was asking for it) but the SOURCE (i.e., woman) of all temptation as well.
I too, have turned to the Bible to justify my actions. Matthew has made it very clear; “The light of the body is the eye; if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.”
Above the doorway of P.S. 40 someone had scrawled “ATTICA” in big red letters.
I stop in a store window, flip through my journal, find this, “Stephen Crane broke up all his furniture and fed it to the fire to keep warm. When that died he went out and walked around the city to stay warm in the winter — for 3 years!”
At Union Square I noticed a woman in ugly tie-dye until I saw that her blouse was actually drenched in blood. Baby on her back in a papoose of blood-soaked double knit fabric. The baby full of wrinkles — a breadfruit Gaughin might’ve painted. In a slur she said that she couldn’t take it kicking in her belly no more — it had made her ugly and useless. Couldn’t take guys being too afraid to fuck, afraid the baby thing would “bite it off.” And now here it was on her back. Calm. Hardly breathing. Later The News said she’d given herself an abortion. Coathanger. In Bellevue under observation now. Her hair was nice. And the baby had never been breathing.
Graffiti at 2nd Avenue and 1st Street: WHO DOES GOD THINK (S)HE IS FOOLING? where fires blaze from rusty barrels and when the men bang out rhythms on the barrels they send up odd funk-filled signals, and a thousand wounds languish in our minds like petunias in September.
In a Chinatown store the hairless girls smile from rows of exotic magazines full of off-register color and nubile tits staring back at me. I wonder if the Chinese text is a love story or something about how to operate a Fax machine. A little girl sits on a stack of bundled newspapers, watching her dad balance figures with a pencil he’d grabbed from behind his ear.
I buy an 8X10 glossy of Dick Clark (I don’t ask why they have pictures of him) and some Heinies. (Clark’s smile and haircut verify the existence of eternal life.) Don’t ask. It was either him or Sylvester Stallone.
On the Staten Island Ferry I popped the beer, autographed Dick’s face for Djuna. A Swiss mädchen leaned over and wanted to know who he was. How could I explain American Bandstand? I was still wired. Couldn’t sleep. She wanted to know who I thought I knew I wasn’t. She couldn’t sleep either. All of us insomniacs bound together in our isolation by our relentless busyness.
She’d been here a week and hadn’t REALLY met anybody yet. She thought NYC was the place to become an opera singer. I’d never looked at NY that way. She sang me something I didn’t understand. She already knew NYC was “no enchanting fôret.” I could sense her clamoring for the proper American pronunciation.
“It might be a nice day later for a picnic in the shrapnel. Kick around the flotsam washed up on shore. Pour the libation, 100 proof, into a helmet!” I gave her one of my beers despite that this upsets my feeding schedule. She wiped the top of the beer with her sleeve.
“I have seen the dirts that is inside the NY.”
We rode forth and back and forth and back. Watched the sunrise over Red Hook. She had lived with her husband in the Alps so he could further his studies of mountain flora. Their “medicament properties.”
“Yes. You have maybe seen The Shining?
“Well, that we lived. In a montagne cottage. He suffered from me. My existence. Finally everything I do upsetted him. So much as a sigh. And so he took a pistolet. Something heavy from his father collection. And took 3 shoots at me through the door of the bathroom. I was crouch, like this, under the small water sink. And he leave me for dead. And I leave him. I take the pistolet. I have it. In Switzerland. Sometimes I hold it. It is heavy like an arm.”
“In some gospel songs men are compared to worms.”
She told me she met a model — if you could call it that — who she slept with — if you could call it that. And when he awoke he found her asleep on his shirt, the shirt he wore to “photograph shoots.” She’d wrinkled it. For which he slapped her. And flushed her halter top down the toilet. Hid her pants and pushed her out the door in only her jacket and a towel.
“Here I am to wonder if this is the world, the way it is.”
“No, some are even worse. Some woulda shot you — or married you, whichever’s worse.”
We parted company at 8 am. And promised to meet over beer. I went home. She went off somewhere else. I told Djuna I had run into Dick Clark. But she didn’t care. Or wasn’t listening. She’d been sleeping with an entymologist. Or was it the guy who wove hair for actors? Humidity had tamed her perm. She wasn’t herself. Neither soup nor sky looked very good that morn.
The entymologist (they never have names; a tactic of hers like farmers who don’t name barnyard animals they’re going to slaughter) had taught her an African method of keeping houseflies out of the apartment. First you must kill some. Then place them in a halo configuration around your head or, if enough, your whole body. The anguish — certain chemical messages — of the dead is broadcast to them. Or so he said.
At the kitchen table she looked at the glossy. She’d always liked Dick Clark. Had always wanted to be a spotlight dancer. Suddenly she was impressed by the autograph and for weeks thereafter, at the oddest moments, I’d catch her staring at Dick’s 8X10. Asking me what he was like.
She made me show it at parties. Everyone seemed so convinced, impressed, entertained. But then these types of ruses began to take hold. And I was suddenly required to uphold their fragile ability to replicate realities and isn’t that the very nature of Faith? And just as suddenly, possibilities for a new career arose.
“I met a REAL lady a while back.”
“Sounds like beer delirium again.”
“Beer’s a tool. Drinking’s a sacrament. A drink a day keeps the doctor away.”
“And 2 drinks?”
“Keeps the doctor and priest away.”
“Add the writing teacher.”
“Add the mortician.”
“You’re just bullshit waitin’ to stink.”
“Gonna use gluestick as lipstick. Shut you up.”
“OOooh, Mr. Tuffcat’s gonna sleep in the lap of the scarecrow again?” She said things like that to baffle me. It was the year of the big heat. The year only 66% of the subway doors were working. And I will go to work, brag about Jude, her mouth, her sucking action because at places like work the story as entertainment is more important than the story as truth. A lie is just the truth making a wish. Afterwards I’ll doze off (the bosses are in Bermuda) among the 50 pound boxes of Hammermill white Xerographic paper. My PIN, Social Security number, home phone number all drained from the hard spongy region of memory.
to be continued –
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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 @ http://www.brooklynrail.org/2011/10/books/beer-is-two-subway-stops-away-from-mysticism
WRECK THIS MESS
Confessions Of A Beer Mystic by Bart Plantenga