Confessions of a Beer Mystic #28
Confessions of a Beer Mystic #28
In bed, when things had worked — the horsehair wig, the canicular incense, 3 strips of raw bacon down my brief front, and the virgin suctorial massage oil allowed her to envision someone else girded around her jutting hip bones. Even insisted I say certain things in a certain way, things I suppose he’d say. Did he still wear my clothes?
She’d slap in a cassette of “Eric Clapton’s Greatest Hits.” This reminded her of the 8-track in his car, a vintage ’58 Oldsmobile. “When you held one you knew the technology was somehow a future in reverse.” As well as many other bands of sad optimism, bands that had made careers of turning Rock ’n’ Roll into spiritual profit, bands she remembered that would get at the deepest thread of my tympanic nerve.
Our scenario — the orgasm as harbinger of imminent collapse, the euphoric peak as linchpin of denouement — had, by then, become complete. I was someone else. An intermediary, a mnemonic dildo. I eventually had to burn that wig. It looked silly. Itched like a mockery of a mockery. The satire molding into the very thing it satirized.
I insisted she accept me for who I was. So she promptly began to ignore me. Walk right through me. Made sure I kept my luggage packed near the door. Helped me look for a new sublet. Bart Plantenga’s CONFESSIONS O A BEER MYSTIC #28
“Anywhere, anywhere, as long as it’s outa my hair.” She sang.
I had gone the way of some flesh. I threatened to leave, walk out forever.
I had recently given her a cassette mix of 5 versions I’d done at the station of “Don’t Mess With My Tutu.” I called it my “aural bouquet” — a peace offering, a way of staying longer with the unpaid rent mounting.
Little did I know this tape would later be used against me. She began to take to it. Take from it. Began to sing along with it, percussively punctuating the beat with sharp punts to my beer luggage. Singing loud enough to obliterate both my corporeal and any remaining spiritual presence I might’ve had left.
I have many obscure things on tape; sounds that have been culled from the brink of the underside; items melding speculative electronics to the bleating of a rare wildebeest; bands that strip every 4th note out of show tunes — plundering fantastically the notions of popular song. Military marches made into dance music — ransacking it to turn it upside down and against itself. The more obscure (the Residents doing John Philip Sousa, Eugene Chadbourne doing “Creator Has a Master Plan” or “I’m Sorry” by the Inflatable Boy Clams) the more firepower it contained. The more dissonant (Lou Reed’s “Metal Machine Music”) or the more frenetic (Rahsaan Roland Kirk) the more I could dismantle temporarily the new clean calm she had discovered in her new job.
Djuna had also begun to complain about phone calls bloated with silence, the kind that linger, simmer, terrorize. They occur only when I’m not around and she is sure I am the cause of them. It is not Elsa, who recently told me her name was a source of great anxiety, because her namesake was a famous Russian fast-living bohemian, and the more kids mocked the French pronunciation she insisted on — Trio-LAY — the more she became known as an easy lay. Which led to her enslavement to this cruelty and led further to her contemptuously fulfilling their wildest notions of “easy.” All confessed to me while she was soaking in a bathtub of warm beer to make herself more attractive to me. This is what sometimes redeemed Elsa, her ability to make the desperate into something playful.
Djuna’s new exercise regimen truly bugs me. It combines mundane everyday activities with exercise. She has the armchair rigged to a harness. Drags it around while dusting. Builds up calves and thighs while waltzing along to Andre Kostelanetz. She even sips tea, eats soup with ankle weights around her wrists. All this drives me to early beer; throws off precise biorhythmic feeding schedules. I stare at the dull walls. What can I tell the neighbor when she glares at me in the hall?
The Beer Mystic part of me fell to a new low when I engaged Djuna in cassette combat. She sometimes wears headphones to bed to tune out the phone or my breathing or the clink of green bottles as I set about to pull them from the luggage and, yet again, rearrange my bottles to give me a sense of where I am going with who I am becoming. Or she might plug in one of her endless loop cassettes — her “Life Support System” — tuning out car alarms, smoke alarms too. It’s the sea and the wind with gulls in the back. Something offered to her for having gone on a Club Med holiday.
Some days she doesn’t even take her headphones off. This, for her, makes the city bearable. An agreeable container of sound. There were many to blame for her unhinged, so-called lifestyle. It was them and I was the main one of them.
But she had no inkling that cassettes could be more than mere consumptive devices; she had no idea they could be creative devices. She did not know that all over the world rare people in outback bunkers and pirate radio stations communicated via cassettes.
Not only had Djuna begun to tape over my priceless cassettes but she’d begun to appropriate a lot of MY life soundtrack songs. And with her headphones on she could sing along at strategic junctures in our coexistence. She had turned these prerecorded friends against me.
She had already appropriated for HER arsenal: 9 versions of “Mack The Knife” (including the Harmonicats), Butterbeans and Susie’s “I Wanna Hot Dog For My Roll,” Gale Storm’s “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’,” and Sidney Bechet’s “Laughing In Rhythm.”
Advertising works this way too — appropriating key songs that used to inform the heart and then re-routing them to stimulate affairs of the wallet instead.
Just the other day she made off with Mae West’s “I Like A Man What Takes His Time.” This is provocation. And “Bing Bang Bong” by Sophia Loren. Their mere association with her forces me to erase them from my repertoire. And then she just alters the lyrics to suit herself — and persecute me. This is colonization.
She has even begun to color code the cassettes according to moods evoked. Or is it the mood commiserated? Or alleviated? She has also begun to lock them away in her dresser. Wears the key around her neck.
I’ve begun to retaliate. There are songs she doesn’t like and will never like and these are the ones I now embrace and seek refuge in. “Le Twist Du Canotier” by Maurice Chevalier is one. I took this kind of sparring seriously. I rifled through her things, souvenirs, weird Polaroids of her topless in the arms of bleary-eyed men, key rings from places I’d never heard of. And eventually I ran across her prized cassette, “Eric Clapton Live.”
I covered the knockout tabs so I could record over her Eric. I had thought long and hard about what I’d use to erase this part of her identity so caught up in dreary memories. My skin prickled with delight.
Over “Layla” I recorded Television’s “Little Johnny Jewel.” One memory sinisterly obliterating another. It was like smothering someone with their own pillow. It was voodoo. Foreplay. And the early bio-psychological signs of tumescence amused me.
Over “Bellbottom Blues” I laid Dada Frolic’s “Jackass Song,” which she found “totally excretory.” Suddenly they’re my faves. Other noisemakers she can’t bear: Reverb Motherfuckers, Pussy Galore, Shockabilly, Haters (waterfalls of broken glass), Diamanda Galas (opera sung from a bed of nails), Zoviet France (reprocessed found sound), Butthole Surfers (the cynical solipsistic implosion of punk), BoyDirtCar, Spike Jones, Mark Stewart and The Maffia, Étant Donnés (famous for stylish French obscurantism), Albert Ayler (primal sax therapy) and any scat singing or yodeling. Yodeling to her was a sign of impending insanity. She had recently tossed my cassette of Jimmy Rodgers’ “Collected Blues Yodels #1–14” against the kitchen wall.
“Same wid scat singing.” So, it was with some mission that I traveled uptown into the East 90’s to attend the Oktoberfest in Manhattan’s Germantown — a fair where the streets are paved with plastic cups. I combed the stands and stalls decorated with candy-striped maypoles for yodeling tapes. I found 2 — “Yodel With Cowbells and Beer steins” by the Wild Kirchli and “Die Jodeller’s Sind Im Himmel” by the Entlebüch Valley Yodeling Clubs — that seemed to particularly exemplify an aspect of schizophrenia, i.e., the “annoying” ability of yodelers to sing harmony with themselves.
After finding the cassettes my mission still held 2 folds: discover good beers and find the REAL St. Pauli Girl, rumored to be in attendance. Ever since I’d been a teen I’d been fascinated by the directive “Enjoy A Nice Cold St. Pauli Girl” — the first occasion of sexual innuendo linked to the inebriatory pleasures offered by beer.
I careened through the hordes asking every fetching gal with sun-reflecting-off-clear-lake-eyes, in traditional skirts, puff sleeves and lace bodice, “Bist du die mädchen von St. Pauli?”
At the stands I enjoyed imagining their flesh bursting out of their hastily tied bodices. I also enjoyed saying, “Ein bier, mein schatze.” Wondering aloud whether, to them, beer was masculine or feminine.
I met a young couple, Johan and Margaret, brewers from Bavaria, who’d emigrated from Germany because they’d been unable to convince German officials to allow them to name their first child “Bierstübl” or “Beerhall” in German, because it may “endanger the well-being of the child.”
I was fascinated by how easily pagan imagery (goats, maypoles, trees) were incorporated into Christian iconography. And how this was affected by the inebriating modus of beer. As well, I was interested how cozily religion stood in proximity to the Bacchanalian excesses encouraged by beer. How one thrived on the other and vice versa.
Sister Doris served us Mallersdorf in flugelhorn-shaped steins.
“In Germany priests and nuns regularly sit down with you at long tables to taste the new doppelbocks,” Margaret noted.
“How come breweries so often use the cross on their label?” I inquired.
“This makes it your Christian duty to drink.” Johan.
“Ja, der Priest thanks unseren Gott, blesses the new batch, then leads the singing of praises to the Ur-bocks,” Margaret added.
“Jägermeister has that deer with antlers and a crucifix right above its head.” I wanted to come off as scholarly. The lifting of huge iceberg-thick 1 liter steins helped them maintain a wonderful muscle tone in their arms and shoulders.
“‘Danke meine grosse Gott.’ Is what it is saying in the stained glass above the entranceway of the brewery native to our village.” Margaret.
“So your gods and priests ain’t worried about how close you get to divinity with the help of beer? They don’t feel threatened?”
“Not at all. Gott protects our right to pleasure.” Johan.
“Wow! Tha’s my kinda god.”
“You see, water that is blessed is a sacramental, a sign of the spiritual effects of our Gott. You pray through them for Gott to accept the prayers of those who use these blessed things like water with reverence.” Margaret.
“Water is full of mystery — that’s why people find it frightening to swim in the ocean at night.” Johan.
“Yes, it can express something spiritual, it cleanses and purifies.” Margaret.
“Beer, which is of course 99% water, is doubly imbued with the mystery. A Belge Lambic, for instance, can be traced in the etymological sense, to the Middle English, alambic, now alembic, meaning anything that transforms, purifies, or refines.” Johan.
“I see your point.”
“Not completely. An alembic lamp, for instance, provides heat and also light, a special kind of light.”
“A light that purifies?”
“Ja, and more. The word alembic continues back to the Arabic for still, stillness and tranquillity or perhaps still, as in distilling device consisting of a vessel — the Greek ámbix means cup — in which a fluid is heated and vaporized and a cooling coil condenses the vapor.” Johan.
“Wasn’t alcohol the first liquid we knew that dissolved organic compounds such as fat, i.e., like something that can aid the disappearance of fat, substance, façade, or impediment to spirit.”
“Perhaps you have taken it further. But it is no accident the association between spirit as in manifestation of soul and ‘spirits’ which can mean the essence or active principle of a substance, or even besser, a highly distilled liquor.” Margaret.
“Yea, you mean like spirit, the soul like yuh know, you can almost feel soul in the cognac vapors clinging to the sides of a brandy snifter.”
“Pear-shaped, voluptuous and perfect as the breast of a woman who loves you … dare I say, breathless.” Johan. Margaret smirked and seemed to offer me her eyes to drink of and then they were beckoned and she curtsied and he tipped his Tyrolean hat and they disappeared into the maelstrom of the country dancers twirling one another until their faces blurred beyond recognition.
Back “home,” Djuna suspected the “Yoko Jap Wench” of making the aforementioned silent phone calls. “The Wench” recently sent me moist quadrants of her putrid menstrual canvases. “What’s she into, anyway, some kinda crotch voodoo?” Djuna wonders. I don’t know. I met Rita Mitsouko at an art opening and no matter what I said she seemed to make our language difficulties the basis of a passionate relationship. If I said, I thought Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings of flowers sexy she would grin, giggle and month’s later send me a letter of such passion that I, at first, thought she had the wrong guy. But I was indeed just the right wrong guy.
This “Wench,” now of mythological perpetrations, sent me other packages too; homages to automotive despair, dedications to my “terrorist black eyes.” The ones I had shown her as we careened through the late night streets with my hand down her pants, fondling her pudding dish buttocks. Explaining in broken English that “light no good. Hurts eyes.” I squinted. She shook her head as if she understood. Then I grabbed her black hair and said “Dark better.”
She once sent me a lozenge tin filled with shattered windshield crystal and a bloody tooth from a car that had exploded in her native Kyoto.
I also keep tokens, results, I guess, of my black eyes: a melted “Dali-esque” steering wheel from a torched Volvo on Avenue B, a slab of bark found wedged under a bumper, Triumph gearshift knob, Mercedes hood ornaments.
The first time with Rita was odd enough for me to mistake for profound. We were in her boardinghouse room in Chelsea. She cued up a cassette, something she’d recorded at a Paris retrospective of the Fluxus Movement for a class she was taking at the School Of Visual Arts. And then she laid back, black hair on white linen and had me REALLY listen to the recording, the snipsnip of Yoko Ono’s scissors — Rissen! — cutting holes in the red dress of Alison Knowles who sounded like she was strangling a violin. She considered the sound of Yoko’s scissors going snipsnip — Rissen! — important, revelatory, like satori, like ART.
We did make love that night. Or something like it. We had sex. Or sex had us. The “cloth cutting” piece was 12 minutes long so every 12 minutes she’d squirm out from under my action, hang with her ass off the bed, and reach for the rewind button with her big toe which was as smooth as a polished stone in a cold brook.
This is how it went: 7 times 12 minutes plus 10 minutes of rewinding = 94 minutes of making love the way soap operas make drama. Her philosophy was “pure Kyoto”: prolong pleasure, defer denouement.
Later a cheap perfume bottle containing several rolled-up photos of her underarms, photographed in a way that suggested an alternative pussy(?) arrived. And then a series scented with champagne that showed her cutting the underarm hair with scissors.
Then a cassette of Yoko Ono’s “Kiss Kiss Kiss” purportedly remixed with a bed of Rita’s own throaty warbles and whispers underneath imploring; “Smell me. I love you. Cut me. Touch me. Bring butter.” In 4 languages for 60 minutes. I mean to tell you the truth, I really didn’t hear it that way. Until, nearly hysterical, Djuna insisted, slowed down the tape and said, “SEE? SEE!” She could’ve been right.
And she was. When I next saw Rita she told me quite matter-of-factly all the ideas she had mixed on the tape. “Remember first night? I record that. All squeaks and moans.”
“Because it our duty to refwrect. Analyze aurl we do and why.”
The part of the brain that handles the registration and analysis of sound is located above and slightly forward of the left ear. It’s the size of a lemon slice you might find in a Weissebier. This area breaks down spoken language into phonemes or phonetic bits and sends the signal to Wernicke’s Area, a small triangle in the cortex, behind the Auditory Language Zone and the left temporal lobe. This is the area commissioned to translate the phonemes into meaning. Comprehension occurs here.
Me and Djuna fought furiously after this flurry of Kyoto mail. But we never raised our voices. Instead she’d play Tammy Wynette on her ghettoblaster at volume setting 4. I sang along with Ray Charles at volume 5. She’d respond with the Runaways at 6. And I’d counter with Hank Williams at 7. The songs acted as go-betweens, our ambassadors. The cartilage between bones. And thus we reached a febrile, pregnant détente. For every Lydia Lunch I had my Elvis Costello. She’d play “Girlie Girlie” by Sophia George at 8 and I’d come back with Dylan’s “Positively 4th Street.” Or even “Dicks Almighty” by 2 Live Crew ( a song I never liked until she revealed how much she disliked it) which she followed with a song by a Soho band, the Y-Pants, a group I had introduced her to, “That’s The Way Boys Are.” And I follow with my true ace up the sleeve, “I’m Bom Bim”: “Im the baddest muthuhfuckuh you ever seen / … I’m the kinda cocksucker start an uprisin’ in a muthuhfuckuh’s ass / … Among the who’es you might hear my name ring / But a bitch with a head shaped like a 4-way cold tablet libel to say any goddamn thing …” Our perverse and addictive dialectic would keep us in on a Friday night just so we could continue sparring tympanically. Until the THUMPTHUMP of the neighbors above cut the escalation just short of maximum volume.
Karlheinz Stockhausen was easily neutered by the likes of the Runaways, Queen Latifah, or the Rump Burners, Salt ‘N’ Pepa, Anal Manhandle or even Journey. She could learn to appreciate all manner of irritating music so long as she could be assured — my nervous facial tics or a certain torso squirm — that it irritated me into the paroxysms of nausea — aesthetics as vengeance.
Djuna began to foresee the day when answering machines would begin to talk to one another. And the cassette would serve as mouth to some micro-sliver brain. She couldn’t wait. The more art or art PR she did the more she hated people. And she wondered if this was good.
I thought it all depended on who and how. And we realized right then that it was our creative ways of hating that was the glue on the vampire’s dentures.
Djuna one night got the bright idea that I should black eye Rita’s neighborhood. Shake her up. Make her leave me alone.
“But I thought it was all rock throwing, alcohol poisoning, and grandiose delusions.”
“Well, then leave her some frighteningly obscene phone calls. Tell her you hate Speed Racer. I’m sure you’re capable of that.”
“But why? Aint itchu whose got a tattoo wid the words ‘EVERY WOMAN A POLITICAL PRISONER’ runnin’ across yer pubic? …”
“Yes, Diane DiPrima, neglected as a Beat cuz she’s a woman.”
“So’s Helen Reddy a woman. It seems like all I’m good for is to help you rearrange your furniture.”
“Awh, poor boy.”
“And as an endless source of life soundtracks for you.”
“Poor boy’s got such a dog’s life.”
“You’d go Top 40 without me, babe. Instantly slack. You know that? Anyway, a dog mouth’s cleaner’n yours’ll ever be.” Sominex, they say, reproduces in pill form, the temporary effect of a lobotomy on the forebrain.
“Then go kiss your Yoko mutt.” Djuna’s smile like a jagged cicatrix.
“Maybe I will. I’ll see my lil semblance of joy, my lil Lizzy Borden, my lil Valerie Solanas.” The more my happiness appeared to be at her expense, the more intensely satisfying life became.
(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