Bart Plantenga’s
Confessions of a Beer Mystic #27

Me and Kelly tromped uptown to crash the “Downtown Goes Uptown” Neo-Dada-Hip-Flux-Schlock-o-Pod Art Show. We wore shades and English black boots with bulky but functional buckles, singing “If I can’t get drunk / I don’t wanna live.” We looked like ex-members of the Velvet Underground singing Flipper.

3 rotund cops (who could only have garnered any swagger at all in life from the patronizing perks accorded their uniforms) approached and barked “DUMP DUH BEE-AHS!”

“Why? They’re in paper bags.”

“No fuggin’ lip from you FAGgut.” And their pronunciation seemed uncannily similar to that of gangster goons they’d seen in movies.

“And we don’ wan’ yoos gettin’ stoopid on us.”

“Stoopider than yooz?” Kelly was a master negotiator.

“Hey, FAGguts! Dump duh BEE-AH!”

“Or we dump what’s left uh yuh brains on duh sidewalk.”

We dumped the beers, mere malt liquor decoys for our better clandestine stash. And along our way we copped attitude, knowing attitude to be an ambient format of spirituality. This purposeful grim-edged attitude brimmed with pose — so in opposition to fashion that the entire package became a sort of higher fashion.

Kelly, skinny guy, “They’re just worried like the Pope in the 14th Century got worried ’bout monks brewin’ brew, sousin’ the countryside …”

“Givin’ the rabble and goatherds too good a glimpse of ecstasy.”

“Heresy, the Pope calls it.”

“Disorderly conduct’s what the pigs call it.”

At the opening we fell into our Verlaine-Rimbaud snarl of political dissipation. Ben would’ve been proud.

“See that guy with the Asian woman.”


“She’s slight and tight.”

“So …”

“It means he’s got a … tiny dick.”

“Oh.” Esteem thus works its own thermodynamics.

From the bustle emerged a bubbly woman with red ponytail wearing an aluminum foil coat. She wondered if it was true that the eyes of guys who have too much sex become ultrasensitive to light.


“I live in a cave.” Not quite, but Kelly had lived in a funeral home, in a closet, which reeked of embalming fluid. Kelly let me try on his pilsner-tinted sun glasses. Gave everything an amber tint.

“This is what utopia would look like. Dju see how she winked at me?”

“Sorry to bust your beer head man, but I’m pretty sure it was me she was winkin’ at,” Kelly corrected.

“‘Ese shades are cheap man. From Chickoslubomia or somewheres, man.”

We hit the gratis libations like 2-fisted frugalcratic imbibers. It’s important to know what, if anything, they’re serving at an opening before trekking off somewhere. And Kelly knew like no one else. And this I was learning. He actually “lived” off openings for a year, shoveling grilled and baked morsels into a section of his backpack especially designed to facilitate this. Keeps a shirt — only one — clean and neatly ironed on a hanger for the fancier ones.

“Hey, you ain’t him are you?” I recognized him as D.A. Levy, writer of fringe culture for the East Village Eye.

“Uh, could be. If yer hear to punch me I ain’t … “

“No no, I like blackouts.”

“I got nothin’ on me.”

“No, it’s yer … outages. I like it. The energy feeds me. And I used to be a man of light.”

“How’d you know I was … ?”

“You just smelled right to my 6th sense.”

Madame Lock, my second NYC “love affair,” — self-styled “domin-ART-rix” is how she put it — was combing the hordes for new blood. She was an art patron, condemned to the inspiration garnered from seducing 20 year olds (perhaps making and then later breaking an ambitious art stud.) “Even homos,” she claimed, with sinister pride, managed to forego their revulsion to service her in the name of their careers. Is this what ambition makes of pride?

“I’m on a semen diet: when I see men I eat them,” she’d say with cognac on her breath, utterly impressed by her own attempts at vulgarity. Her eyes floating in the languid jazz of Coleman Hawkins like black seedpods on a mountain lake.

I had been her metaphysical fuck (for a month or 2), a pawn, someone to cavort through insinuating scandal with. Arouse whispers, rustle dust and disbelief. She wanted me at this lavish catered thing, in the Tenesmus area of Psoho (the settlement for the punkish offspring of art entrepreneurs) where I’d lush attention on her as an adventure against her husband. Be the object of whispery conjecture. Get erect in her gallery toilet. Get him jealous.

She DID once lock the door to her West Broadway gallery and in the backroom asked me to rub the pole of a mop between her legs (and maybe something else after 5 PM). She was proud of her breasts and whispered things that men and even women had said about their exquisite contours.

The artists, standing near their respective naughty works, righteous and careerist, with cassettes and hologrammed business cards were not that different from the country kids standing next to their 4-H blue ribbon porkers. Except here they proudly displayed the cow plop and doodoo truffles as the apotheosis of their work.

“This ain’t the fun freedom hinted at,” Kelly hissed. There’s something feeble tingling in our sleeping limbs, something foregone in all the clatter and bluster.

As I hung a found street-bent fork from a string and pinned an actual baggie of dog truffles to the wall between a frame that held shards of bloody broken mirror and an S&M dildo wired to a police siren, the aluminum foil lady asked, “What kind of dog was it?”

“I dunno.”

How long had I carried this Baggie around with me so I could perpetrate this sophomoric terrorism?

The Boho-ettes in among the blond cartels, with their arrogant and spindly limbs, their snuff-faced strategies of avoidance and full-blown hair stood around the gallery/demolition site in full labial pouts. Periodically they’d cluck their tongues in disdain. All to appropriately deny any expression — in fact, to remain granite-faced, dead — that might expose the fact that you had come here to temporarily feel alive — and drink free wine. While the nouveau quiche nibbled away at the soggy triangular sandwiches until they were empty-handed and did not know where to turn next.

This season it was Soho art galleries from the East Village go uptown. Three years ago it was the 3rd comeback of cowboy chic. Two years ago: simulated S&M weight loss junkets. Last year: Pygmy encounters in rain forests. And next season? Maybe dining in close proximity to the homeless. [Ed. note: This has happened with the (re)opening of the Toolshed which had been nothing more than an old no-nonsense and grimy Bowery hardware store for plumbers, electricians and mechanics for 40 years. But now, Malcolm Forbes, owner of Forbes, “capitalist tool” had purchased this prime corner in the Bowery and converted into a slum-chic hang out for the glitterati and others who were nothing until they were gawked at.]

“They’re like locusts — instead of rubbin’ their hind legs together they rub credit cards to make their mean mating music.” Kelly sneered.

Kelly replaced the good pair of art-designated (neo-post-Duchamp) socks stapled to the wall with his own pair full of stinky holes — an improvement on both ends! “The secret to the success of any such infiltration is unself-conscious audacity. Just act like you’re s’posed to be doin’ this. This effectively eases the fears and suspicions of all witnesses and they show their gratitude by ignorin’ you.”

Kelly sat on the marble floor, put on his new socks, grabbed a tray of hors d’ouevres and shoveled them into his special pack pouch.

We departed triumphantly for downtown when no more imbibing substances seemed forthcoming. We tromped with glasses of wine in hand and pilfered Old Bohemian and Iron City brews (the cheapness of the brew was but a small detail of the elaborate slumming style called “inverted blue collar chic”) in breast pockets — close to our hearts.

The more we walked, the more Kelly went into his theories of how mega-corporations lobotomize us: water coolers laced with psycho-DEactivating drugs, the pseudo-excitement of Lotto and casinos, shopping malls, Muzak, stamps psycho-chemically treated.

“Ever notice postage stamps have different flavors … well, tha’s cuz they’re testin’ various drugs on us as they try to find the right balance so we vote, shop, and visit national monuments.”

We had supplemented our “slimcomes” with all manner of shoplifting for months. We stole the Sunday Times and newsstand glossies for resale. Kelly boldly made entire 6 paks and 5-pound sacks of potatoes disappear underneath the musty sweep of his 18th Century coat. Cassettes, videotapes, ginseng root, and the steak knives, 5 sets of them. The grocer’s a gouger anyway; finger on the scale, the whole bit.

“Hunters and Gatherers In The Late 20th Century.” We imagined ourselves immortalized in a Museum of Natural History diorama.

I took the knives (manufactured in a country I’d never heard of) from bar to cafe. Actually sold all 5 sets to a gaggle of Yuppoisie in a bar where supposedly the elaborate track lighting doubles as a tan maintenance device — it’s where they all go to get away from themselves.

“Once stole a bouquet of tiger lilies for Djuna. They wanted $8.99!”

“Stolen flowers smell best.”

“And hijacked brews taste best. Even if they ARE only Old Bo’s — $6.99 a case.”

But flowers did NOT ever make Djuna not hate Kelly, his guitar, the lingering patch of odor his coat left behind. In fact, Kelly was just more evidence of what was wrong with me.

Meanwhile, Djuna once borrowed a cup of flour from a neighbor in her negligée. Or so it’s said or so is how I understood it. Anyway, she makes lots of money now. I think she’s stashing it away. To make her big move — soon. She even sleeps well now — like a log floating off to the saw mill. My suitcases continue to stand, bulging with beer stuff, right next to the door. I can be gone in 5 minutes time. The secret — and maybe here me and Djuna could still have some fun together — was to stick the super with some mean music and stick the landlord with 2 or 3 months back rent.

We gloated about saving on tokens by walking the 60 some blocks and joked about our coat pockets stretched by scrounged cantaloupes.

“My left here’s got a hole the size o’ Montana.”

“Mine’s a Beirut bomb crater.”

“Or Glory Hole fundament.” Anyway, the pilfered cantaloupes and beers sat like tumors on our hips.

And then out of nowhere at Union Square and 16th, right in front of the Coffee Shop, I appeared to douse a pair of streetlights. Or my person had managed to gather the mystique of serendipity to some advantage.


“Yea,” he says, “Tha’s some dark shit awright.”

“Colonizing lights’ve gotta go.”

In Union Square we bowled our cantaloupes into the grumbling tangle of homeless near the amphitheater. This is our way of offering them some of our spoils while maintaining a safe distance from these raggedy hosts of lice and fleas.

“Fleas can jump up to 10 fuggin’ feet, man. If they need to.” Kelly’d seen them.

“I guess they’re survivors.”

One of the men in Army fatigues (the bullet holes lovingly accented with colorful yarns) ducked into dust, thinking the cantaloupe was a bomb — the kind he’d seen in Nam. Another “soldier” gave us crisp military salutes — over and over until he took a sledgehammer to one of the cantaloupes. There’s the madman they call Santy Claus declaring that the night

And here we suddenly arrived at the ineluctable connections between vision and inebriation, enlightenment and obliteration, light and beer, the way thoughts sometimes swirl in total harmony with the whirlpool of a flushed toilet. And this is how logic careened and blundered into the derivation of the term “light beer.” And for some portion of a minute we knew absolutely everything there was to know.

We parted ways and I wandered out into traffic and into store windows where my dodgy reflection was rendered almost charming by its refracted obscurity. We will roam the dusky fringe with purloined emotions, concealed horrors, darting from dirty light to dirty light.. Off to hear again the lovely voice that emerges from between the papillion lips of Nielle. Which “my” answering machine magically held in suspension: “Sorry, I been at the library,” I was becoming addicted to coming home, opening a beer and listening to her voice. When? Which branch? “Some days I just watch the silverfish devour the books. Today I discovered that space is curved! Curved by huge dense masses. Super massive black holes deform regions of space as they spiral inward to finally coalesce into an irregularly shaped, spinning black hole. Doesn’t this sound like we’ve been there — CLICK, Please insert — oh, my quarter’s run out, goin’ back to …” #1 #2 #3 #4 – #5 – #6 – #7 – #8 – #9 – #10 – #11 – #12 – #13 – #14 – #15 – #16 – #17 – #18 – #19 – #20 – #21 – #22 – #25 – #26

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 @
Confessions Of A Beer Mystic by Bart Plantenga

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