Bart Plantenga’s
Confessions of a Beer Mystic #32


After work I went up to Central Park. Ben has finked out again. Again another place to be. Just as well. In the park I saw the man I have seen for years covered in pigeons holding his breath just standing there like a human crucifix. No one thinks him strange. He entertained children and tourists. I wonder if he still has a mind of spark.

There seemed to be a million Christs in town, swarming around in droves and ill-fitting shoes — is it ChristLove® Convention time again? They’re bad dressers like Deadheads with unlimited access to anti-perspirants. But they were even worse tippers if you can believe television.

One never knows whether to acknowledge the crusty characters who feed pigeons — clap, give loose change, take photo, kiss feet, blame schizophrenia, or just ignore them.

He’d managed to find his niche (was that so bad?) — as a kind of ornithological landing strip. He strung stale crusts into the odd webbing of his cableknit sweater. With a nose fit for a butcher shop he stood like some maniacal Moses atop the park trash can and implored pigeons, as “Messengers from God,” to eat of his body and “enlighten” him. One pigeon ate crusts right from the crucible of his mouth. This was communion whether the tourist Christians thought so or not.

And then I swooped down Strawberry Fields and chased the tyranny of birds off him. But does the guy thank me? No! He bitches me down to size instead because he’s the “Vigilante Messiah” on assignment receiving “tele-magnetic messages” he decodes for the White House.

“Are you glad to see all the Christs like you in town?”

“They are not him. They are not me. Get outa my space.”

When the pigeons grab the bread they peck out small Morse code links on his skin. And now I’d flubbed it all up. Maybe he was in cahoots with my neighbor, Pasha Georg in #4.

I retreated to Tin Pan Alley where you can argue baseball from a psycho-political angle and find a 45 of Bertolt Brecht singing on the juke, “So divide up those in darkness / from those who walk in light / light ’em up boys / there’s your picture / drop the shadows out of sight.” A bar is a safe warren where engaged disputation prevents mulling words from collapsing all around me.

On the small chalkboard above the register, the daily quotation; today from Dylan Thomas: “… born not out of the womb, but out of the soul and the spinning head. And he who had borne her out of darkness loved his creation, and she loved him … And with him dwelt a dog … and a dark woman. The woman went away, and the dog died.”

I had a beer and quiet. I was beholden to this intimacy of beer and mind. But I was also taken by signs of synchronicity and coincidences speaking to me. And this quote by Thomas made me think my days with Nielle were numbered. I gave a quick call to yet another phone number that Nielle had given me; I left a message unsure whether the guy voice on the answering machine would pass the message on to her: “I have the sugar packets that I will sprinkle on your pussy.” And then I went speechless, nothing more to say, like I don’t know how to turn the corner of flirtation into something bigger. I stood for a second, stared into the mouthpiece and then hung up.

I held my beer glass in the prayer of my hands up to the light to see if it matched Kelly’s pilsner-tinted shades. If you’re going to be really mental you might as well be detri-mental.

I thought maybe my enjoyment of beer had become a necessity to enjoy it. This necessity in turn, would fold into a need to document this enjoyment. And soon this need to enjoy would be replaced by the need to render in words this enjoyment. One totally eclipsing the other. Like some compulsive disorder which converts compulsions into something deeper and more dignified and justified. And the weeks pass the words before the beer, wedged in between myself and the beer’s head and the ability to drink of it all its pleasure. And then the words will suddenly be rendered illegible when the beer is spilled upon it. At beer 6 you go back to beer 1.

Back on my stool I stared at the self that dodged my gaze in and around the bar mirror, framed by bottles with labels from countries I’d never been to. I waited for the head of my brew to give me a clue of how to stop the invasion of worry into dream. And I can still cry! Not Hollywood tears. But ones that run down my insides into my gut. And the Alley bartenders don’t bother you with concern because what is wrong with me is wrong with you is wrong with them.

And then I wandered home, 50 blocks down to the Meat District where dogs and butchers meet. Walk a certain way down a certain block though, and memory becomes the mugger.

I drink Pilsner Urquell to dig up, out of memory’s backyard, a warm intimacy with Djuna Scolanaski. And as I am prone to the torture of recall and actually writing it down I can see immediately the utter futility of my endeavors. I have seen the micro-mites (Djuna used to spill crumbs — I swear — to plant the seeds of this kind of insidious destruction) boldly eating the page, beginning with the spine (the same way multiple sclerosis works!) and they’re gnawing so voraciously that they’re obliterating my hard fought memories before I even make it to the end of my scrap of paper.

I wonder if knowing another person too well should be declared a victory or a failure. I remember the sweat on Djuna’s upper lip. The twitch in her grip with my face in her nape. The way she pushed her glasses back up the bridge of her nose with her pinky. I remember surprising Djuna with a high heel full of melted butter that I poured over her and then licked clean. The way she picked my brain while she swung and writhed like a country girl doused in mail order perfume. Bellowing her legs, nervously fanning unforgettable fires while sipping brew from a papersack. We didn’t need weird-name beers back then to bolster our egos. The faster I walk, the deeper I drink, the more I remember.

It’s still the same perplexed fat armed women in dingy windowsills staring down onto East 11th at little men wrestling with driveshafts under Chevys. No one seems to remember me (or is willing to admit it!), for better or worse. lt’s funny, that feeling when you’re just ready to say hello or touch the shoulder of a neighbor kid and you don’t, you pull back just in case they mistake you for a child molester.

Djuna and me have split. Sort of. It’s been 6 weeks. Djuna’s too much into sun and the look of success. Djuna will continue to do her “heliosis” up on her tar beach. Heliosis was an ancient Greek regimen for body development in the sun. Djuna will continue to claim that the sun increases production of testosterone which is essential for muscle development and a proactive attitude.

Our last summit ended the way picking at a scab usually does — blood. She exploded indignantly there in the cafe like a dropped box of roofing nails.

“‘People who hate the light usually hate the truth.’ Burt Lancaster once said.”

“‘It’s obvious that sexual life flourishes better in a dim murky light: it is at home in the chiaroscuro and not in the glare of neon light.’ Tha’s Henry Miller.”

I think New York’s the wrong town for sun but I say nothing. Well, not nothing.

“How come a day in the sun leaves you drained?”

“You’re outa whack. Just look at light deprivation experiments, studies done in Alaska, Norway, Sweden, and dear, you’ll see that an absence of sunlight in this Land of the Midnight Sun reveals an increase in alcoholism, depression, suicide.”

“Yea, but I’d like to see when this agony actually occurs like in the height of summer when it’s light for 22 hours a day and if that isn’t what’s drivin’ people loony. I mean tanning’s just the sun stimulating the release of melanin; same stuff that makes worms brown.”

“Sunlight kills bacteria.”

“Yea, it reeks havoc on beer. It kills beer’s what’s wrong with sun. And if it kills beer it must kill other things we value like our youthful faces for instance! It also slows sperm production, and brings out the latent herpes on your lip!”

“Light symbolizes knowledge.”

“Scholars don’t do research on beaches, honey.” And so our last moments together were squandered.

Anyway, rent’s cheap here in this illegal sublet garret because of the smell. I think the checkerboard linoleum curls up because the glue doesn’t stick to the floor because of the abattoir years of pig grease. I brought Djuna up once because she was curious how and if I could survive (especially aesthetically) without her. I showed her my map of Manhattan, full of big colored pushpins marking my black eyes before she began to get sick. I guess she won’t be back. Nielle, resourceful as ever, just wears lots of scent and light lots of incense around my place. And there on the phonepad next to the phone she jotted yet another new phone number.

 From my window you can see carcasses splayed wide open, swaying in the breeze from hooks. She said the slabs looked like whale cunts (I wouldn’t know) or Carol Channing’s smile. Yea, now I see what she meant.

I’m a vegetarian, have flat teeth, herbivore’s teeth. And I live here in the unassuming cruelty of fate. Where air is pumped under the skin to loosen hide from meat. Where calves are placed on slatted tables and immediately after their throats are slit they are yanked up by their ankles so that the blood drains quickly to make the best veal. Where dogs tear open black plastic bags of bone and gristle at midnight. Where the homeless kick away the mutts, to suck up the gristle hidden in among the discarded knuckles and joints. Where men on their knees suck off boys with veins the size of garden hoses, feeding blood to pecs whose sole charm is their sculpted uselessness.

Where the abattoir sign swings and creaks in fat nocturnal westerlies, a racket that advertises pig necks and pig feet — Pork Extremities. And I remember the pigeon man in the park and remember staring at this black and white photo from Paris, 1908, “L’Oiseleur du Palais Royal,” in the Strand. The card portrays a man in a park feeding pigeons from his mouth. I wonder if maybe this was his grandfather. Or maybe he’d seen the postcard.

I found the postcard, put it in an envelope mottled with green flowers of mold, and write “here’s to prosthetic drinking devices. Call 524-3435.” And addressed it to the Rum Seer of Brooklyn.

But soon the men in bloody white aprons will begin sawing through bone again. They begin early in the morning. And the sound of sawing had long ago entered my dreams.

I can see the Gansevoort Street Pier from my window. The empty harbor, the collapsing cement, abandoned auto carcasses, and a huge smoke stack. They say that after the failure of Moby Dick, Herman Melville withdrew into oblivion, worked over there for 19 years as a customs inspector. Does the knowledge of this kind of suffering make me feel better or worse?

Thus I reach for another beer in an attempt to reverse, in some small way, the spin of the earth. I discover myself up, up and around my queersome gnarled digit, whirling in that stark yet magnificent checkerboard linoleum instant. And with utter amazement (balanced on big toe of all consequence) I began to reverse all the damage the spin of the earth had caused us. This spin or anti-spin is in the same configuration as I remember the wombful spiral, that hypnotic swirl, that earring impression Djuna once left on me, this map to the way beer and consciousness work, dragging the whorls of self off my fingerprints like the rings of a tree suddenly unfurled out in a straight line like a whistling party favor flicked under the nose of infinity. Like there is no end except in nausea, the nausea of knowing. And knowing that the result of discovery is just more discovery. That each morsel of knowledge has a million concentric circles of more knowledge spinning wildly about it and just as many spinning concentrically within it. Vertigo is the physical manifestation of this knowledge. How does this happen? How can I think all this and why does it calm me like a balance sheet calms a CPA?

A message from Nielle quoted Baudelaire, “‘One should always be drunk … It is time to get drunk! / If you are not to be martyred slaves of time, / be perpetually drunk. / With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you please’ and with me …”

[Nielle: “The Beer Mystic converts the slightest memory of a beer, its faintest aftertaste, the cloudy residue marking the inside of the glass, into that delirious oracular spiraling — the pinnacle of the inebriatory cycle. Suffice it to say that he inhales the head of a beer the way we breathe oxygen. And this I could have admired into something more if he’d only let me.”]

(to be continued) #1 #2 #3 #4 – #5 – #6 – #7 – #8 – #9 – #10 – #11 – #12 – #13 – #14 – #15 – #16 – #17 – #18 – #19 – #20 – #21 – #22 – #25 – #26 – #27 – #28 – #29 – #30 – #31

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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