Bart Plantenga’s
Confessions of a Beer Mystic #33

The Beer Mystic took the Rum Seer to Coney Island. Not that she needed to be led there. She knew the “scape and topo.”

Her mind, she thought — you watch — could still get snagged on the various outcroppings, bad memories of Coney picnics with aunts doused in acrid perfumes, or the walls of rock crowned with glittering ridges made of glass shards embedded in cement to keep “it from us or us from it.”

She flashed her silver hip flask and before she teasingly blinded me with errant reflected sunlight, I read the inscription: TO OUR SISTER OF MERCY!

Perhaps she was hoping he’d ask who it was who adored her so. But he did not. Maybe it was the knowledge that her “ultra-hip flask full of rum-matic firepower,” as she put it, contained roughly 8 times the punch and proof of his awkward sack of sweaty brews. If he thought she had acquired some of Garbo’s more vexing imaging strategies he was careful not to tell her.

It was summer, late afternoon. Off the “F” train, they were greeted by the full neurotic clang of pink rabbits banging on tin drums, time bombs inflated with someone’s breath, wild orange dogs barking, doing flips, tin busy things, full of buzz and jangle. It was if death were encrypted inside every desperate gesture and festive object that screamed, “I’M ALIVE!”

He bought a beer at the Cold Beer Clam Stop counter just across the street from the subway, to gain his maltographical bearings. The beer was just cold enough so you couldn’t tell it had no flavor while the cup lost its shape as he held it. The music pressed itself into him and came from everywhere all at once and was shapeless, relentless, without melody, and just loud enough to compete with all other noise.

Off Surf Ave., near the Tilt-A-Whirl (2 deaths, 4 injuries in the past decade) the airplanes had begun to look like turtles. Maybe it was what sun does to vision, or the salt, or the wind …
“There useta be a place called Dreamland here …”

Faded beach toys dangled from awnings for yet another summer. One could now suddenly purchase something I’d never seen before, stale popcorn and tired cotton candy full of more soot than an old madame’s collapsing bouffant as one single confection. Some newsguy called it the “American ingenuity for convenience and goo.”

A couple struggled with shish kebab on a stick. Meat or marinated leather or something else — the debate continues. A girl spit out one of the morsels onto the boardwalk. A couple happening by did not stare at it the way they did.
Luddite pilgrims in beatnik sunglasses lugging odd bygone cameras came from the world over to document the avant-decay, the overglorious collapse of false hope, the last rusty twitches before the calm.

It was the most humid day in the history of mankind. Even her stiff spikes of polyurethaned hair had already gone the way of blades of knife grass in a rain forest. Even the dead dog’s bones in the hands of the paint can percussionist seemed to prefer bending like green twigs than snapping as prescribed by their chemical properties.

Everything smaller than them stuck to their bodies, and he, in turn, stuck to things — Formica counters, railings, car fenders — larger than himself. Such was the humid nature of orbital attractions, of gravity, and annoyance.
They stopped in at the Aquarium where the wall behind the bar held many framed photos testifying to how glorious this bar and Coney had once been. Sad, this admission of irony, which too gets absorbed instantly as nostalgia as soon as someone realizes how useless a sense of pride steeped in aesthetics was as a skill in this point of time.

“Look, there useta be Luna Park, Irish music halls, a racetrack …” She guided him along through the framed photos, until a jukebox song so loud and distorted that it resembled the voice of Satan (as if a firing squad had been confused for a quartet) and aimed right at them forced a retreat from the bar.

Outside, entrepreneurs melted into their hapless punched-out storefronts, drained by sunlight and nothingness day in day out. Snuffed of their resilient sarcasm, it’s all they can do to stare at flies pestering a dog. A fat lady scratched a welt on her flabby arm.

Everything — like a bombsite — frozen still. Rides still churning, like the Wonder Wheel, wheezed rheumatically. In a matter of weeks we’d all know the terms “stress fracture,” “preventable tragedy” and “tensile strength.”
On the roof of the Inferno a stalking demon looked less menacing with a pitchfork bent limp from years of service as a pigeon perch. If you want you can take home pocketfuls of historical rust, that intimate union of oxygen and iron.
“Sort of like how brain cells commune with alcohol,” the Rum Seer observed. Someone else had broken the heads off the swans on the carousel. She took photos. Each headless swan representing an aspect of atrophying empire.
She bragged about some friends who were trying to revitalize the former glory of Coney Island. That they were doing this for others who didn’t yet even know they wanted their fondest memories refurbished, made their efforts all the more astounding. She said, “we could visit.” If only she could remember which code to tap out on which manhole.

They lived as squatters in a labyrinthine cavern full of dusty old carousel horses and horded amusement remnants. The Rum Seer grew in stature the more people she let him know she knew. Sometimes it’s difficult to know what’s good to remember and what to forget.

Arrows along Surf & Turf Ave. pointed contemptuously to nonexistent rides and locked toilets. We wandered in through the rides. Jiggly things in the Inferno that were supposed to leap out at you didn’t. The bone chilling screams don’t scream. The “Wonders of the Invisible World” a Puritan’s tour through Salem during the witch trials is so devoid of attractions, so ransacked — there’s no one in the ducking stool, there is no ducking stool — that it leaves ticket holders miffed, and humbled by the ride’s utter dilapidation.

The phantom train dashes through Hell — as a urinal. When you press buttons things don’t move. Slots suck up coins. Horoscope machines only tell you you’re out of luck. The garbage cans with clown heads are so full they puke up garbage instead. But you can still win a lifetime of low tar smokes or cans of Laddie Boy if you pick the right number.

After the Aquarium they appeared to be ready to purge the dingy funk of the bar with one ride — “Come on, just one!” He thought the one she’d chosen was called the Spyro Gyro. She insisted it was the Spinsy Winsy. They’ll have to wait for the photos to carve a kind of cameo of evidence out of the dark and light. But when will he ever see them?

The Spyro-Keats or the Spineroo or the whatever looked decorative and flamboyant, with a Hindu or Hare Krishna motif. The cars were brightly painted to represent various many-limbed, curvaceous, avenging, and dramatic deities. Some she recognized: blue-skinned Krishna, Shiva, Shakti, Sarasvati riding a swan.

“She’s the goddess of poetry and music.” The backdrop scenery recreated something like what the Himalayas dotted with voluptuous cowherds called Gopis, wearing 3rd eye garlands, might look like if they’d been interiorized by the human soul.

They climbed into the plastic yoni of Shakti, “deity of dominant feminine sexual energy.” They were the only ones on the ride. And as they got whipped and whipped into a ferocious spin, all din and turbulence that had clung to them so voraciously through so many lifetimes began to shred, fall away to become one great hum, although it could have been the straining motors that powered their Spyro-journey — 8 pink tickets each.
As centrifugal force was converted into something more parapsychological or vertiginous, they found themselves completely wrapped around one another. The faster they whirled the less their facial features seemed to matter; blending like smudges of psyche into the backdrop, adopting the features of sea and sand, heat ripples, and other fields of energy. The mischievous G-force even whipped her breast from the confines of her D-cup, liberating it, lifting it out of its sag, in defiance of mundane gravity, for the journey’s duration. I could only think of a big carp I caught in Blue Mountain Lake when I was 10 leaping out of a pail and flopping out on the dock.

As suddenly as they were propelled into space they were sucked out, converted into human drills, and plunged into the plaintive and pungent earth, rotating on “the axis called sushumna” — she said — around which all networks of bio-astro-circuitry were dragged along with it. Corkscrewed relentlessly inward until they contained no more fear, expectation, hope. Spun so free of moorings that not a shape felt or looked like it had before. A state of wondrous bewilderment where one’s insides and the universe spin at the same velocity, concentrically, sharing the same center — and when this happens, suddenly all is tranquil. His face lost all blood and his body all hops.

At the exit they spotted the snickering attendant. He had really put “the screws” to them. They stood before him hollow, humming, beyond nausea, without bile or preconception, unwound and decoded as if they’d had strands of DNA ripped from their cells and all testosterone drained from their glands. They went to the sand to lay down slowly and hold on tightly to the flatness of their earth. Furman removed a beer from his pocket and saw it swirling golden and counterclockwise in its vessel — like their own innards.

The Beer Mystic, by necessity had managed to pass from a Me to a You to a He to a The — much the way Nixon became the 3rd person blameless shadow functionary of the self. Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it was vertigo.
They walked the boardwalk, inhaling air so topheavy with greasy sausage and gleaming chicken carcasses rotating on spits that certified fashion models with perfect skins had filed complaints (read the Daily News) with the city to the effect that they believed they had contracted a peculiar, tenacious airborne form of acne-inducing bacteria to the utter detriment of their careers.

Teen couples from anywhere make at least one pilgrimage to Coney Island in their lifetimes. The boys want so bad to be men already and soon after they have become these men in the bucket seats of their own minds, they begin desperately reliving a childhood they never had. The girls carry incredible blossoming posteriors to test the miracles of Spandex. Their kids meanwhile, crave the new confection “cotton corn” and strange flirtations with extreme danger. Soft ice cream melts down mom’s knuckles. But the couple have been together too long for dad to lick mom’s knuckles clean.

The Beer Mystic took her to the spot where a friend of his had been raped at gun point 3 years ago. They crawled under the boardwalk where he re-enacted it for her. The way he was crouched, forced to watch. The gunman tugging nervously on the trigger. The barrel steel pressed to his forehead. The residue of spent gunpowder. The crack of limbs pulled out of joint. The water’s glisten.

“I remember stuff only in so much as I need it to survive. ‘Don’t fuck up or I’ll use it.’” Said the gunman making Furman eat sand to shut him up. The Beer Mystic had another Kwak — dark and warm like a womb with hints of anisette and licorice. She nipped at her flask.

“I still search the sea of faces on the F, at Jay St., in Times Square for their faces. But I dunno what I’d do if I ever spotted them again.”

“A woman’s beaten every 18 seconds in America. I been there. It comes with the package,” she said nonchalantly.

Her nipples arose out of all this. Noradrenaline released into her gaping veins, made her own memories tingle in a way reminiscent of how the triangle adds sparkle to an orchestra.
Don’t stare. It’s just the cool gusts sweeping in off the sea.” This made him smile which made her break down into a pained replica of a smile.

“This is as much fun as horseflies around a carcass.”

“I didn’t know you wanted fun. There’s the Cyclone and the batting cages. You want fun. I thought you thrived on rust, decay, the absence of frivolity, the sound of a warped world grinding to a halt.”

“I do! Like beauty stopping the machine, like time enveloping them. Rust is the nosegay of progress. When you hold a handful of rust you know it’s the byproduct of a very utilitarian and oppressive process.”
“If you believe it, I believe you.”

“It’s not the thing, the machine, or the ride, but the idea of its falling apart. Most people hate decay. Yuh know, laugh, but uh, I’m a romantic — really! — cuz I see rust and crumbling magnificence as the ‘conjunction of opposites’ or like how the positive and negative sit at peace on the same rigged ship. I mean I been here before. When I was like real young.”

“Like last year?” The Beer Mystic ventured.

“You wish! More like 5 or 6 summers ago. 7 even.”

“When you were? …”

“16, 15.”

“You didn’t tan?”

“No. I dodged the rays.”



“Turning away from the sun or sources of light, like roots do.”

“So big words is your way of getting it on with chicks.”

“If this is getting it on lemme off.”

“Anyway, it was my best friend, Marilyn and her family. Everyone called her Marilyn Monroe and through her life she tried to live up to this nickname and went a little bonkers. Although she did once win a Marilyn look-a-like contest. So we were on the beach collecting these plastic things. Decorated sand sculptures with’m. And then some guy with the hots for her — she had a gap between her teeth that men seemed, even when she was like 12, to really go for — he told us what those things were — tampon applicators!”

They walked the sand. Her face veiled in a silk thing from Venice. Sunglasses and hands in her pockets — every inch of body kept away from the voracious appetite of the sun. Which she likened more than once to “therapist.” Or did she say “the RApist”? She looked like a starlet from late night TV — little kids stopped building their sand monsters to gawk — or from Addams Family reruns?

“Trouble is I don’t know anymore what is me and what I got secondhand from movies and gossip and whatever.”

A jumble of tattered black ribbon and white wax washed up ahead. She pawed at it with her slender painted toes. 3 white candles in the shape of women, heads wrapped in black ribbon.

They squatted in the briny ocean foam of unctuous effluvia, picked at the 3 wax figures with golden pins piercing eyes, vaginas, anuses and breasts. He held the waxen women. The water glistened and swayed. High tide and then even higher and not a word between them (how could he arouse her with his hold on her elbow?) until the water lapped up over the tops of their boots, which sent them breathless, laughing, arms entangled, tumbling into the warm sand and broken glass.


Under the black ribbon of one of the wax figures was a wet photo pinned to its forehead. A mocha-skinned woman with flat, broad features, expectation drained from her cow-brown pupils.

A sallow hippie couple, with matching his and hers Grateful Dead T-shirts, happened by as if they’d been propitiously spit out of a time warp. “That’s some heavy shit you’re stuck with,” they declared in unison with a world weariness they assumed carried spiritual freight.

“Can’t I just toss’m back out to sea?”

“No man, you’re with the power shit! Yous are in the realm.”

“Wait! What’s the black veil mean around their heads?”

“Death, man, what else,” said the grisly-chinned man. “The power’s comin’! The power’s comin’!”

“Punitive figurines are used to convey lessons of correct behavior. These figures are kept anonymous and secret from the uninitiated. When they become representatives of specific people who have transgressed normative behavior in the community, spells are cast and they become pariahs …” the woman added.

“Wait! and is it 3 different women this guy’s tryin’ to put away or is it a triple whammy hoodoo this dude’s puttin’ on one woman? Or is it a jealous woman puttin’ the hex on … ?”
But the hippie couple kept on down the beach and were already out of earshot. Things now began to grow surly shadows. He sucked beer to circumvent linear systems of logic. She took more nips. The shadows wearily enshrined the dusty lots scattered with glass.

Everything began to look like it had been torn from a grimy old car engine. They watched themselves get swallowed up by the encroaching shade. Someone had just shot the sun out of the sky.
The World In Wax Museum’s proprietess — Lily, the sign said so — had accented a mole on her cheek with eyeliner. The 3 hairs came out of the mole like a dollhouse potted plant. Lily, for her part, had met way too many people in her life to like them anymore.

Once inside the exhibit, the Beer Mystic removed his boots. Hung wet socks from the boots in a dusty sill in the bathroom that was still filled with warm warped sun as if they’d been painted by Van Gogh and, here, for a brief moment, reality seemed to conform to the way it had for so long projected itself on the backs of his eyelids.

Inside the exhibit it was dark, empty, peaceful. His barefeet stuck to the floor. He had another Kwak in front of the Kennedy Brothers. Their heads seemed too big for their bodies. Faces carved out of hope and anguish. Even in wax they looked handsome. One received the suspicion that in America royalty was not a lineage thing but more how good looks accrued money and power.

“They’re like Leave It To Beaver.” She nipped from her flask.

Some of the cases were on the blink. Neon flickered in the Ford Theatre. The strobe effect made the scene come alive. Blood gushed from a wound in Lincoln’s neck. It kept gushing.
Drink a beer fast and it won’t go flat. Lena Medena, the “World’s Youngest Mother,” stood in a crisp horsehair crinoline dress with a forced and forever smile. Who was the father? Newspapers at the time suspected Lena’s own father. Or brother.

Neither of them could remember the significance of Madame Chang Kai Shek. Although her glimmering gown seemed to be reason enough to include her.
“It’s weird to think young lovers come here, get excited, kiss.” He made a stab for her lips but she easily dodged his puckered lunge.

Nat King Cole crooned in the same case with the cryogenically laid out Michael Jackson while Marvin Gaye was caught mid-tumble, folding in half from a gunshot blast delivered by his father.

“I guess it’s to save space or cuz they’re black.”

Richard Speck killed 8 nurses. He stood calm and smug in cuffed khakis, more famous than 99% of the museum’s visitors could ever hope to be. School photos of the victims revealed no specific preference. Some had glasses, others didn’t.
Elvis wore a Vegas suit against a backdrop covered in replicas of his gold records. The suit, one he REALLY wore — once — July 28, 1975, Silver Spur Casino, Las Vegas, looked like armor made from old Christmas ornaments. The wax sweat on his forehead reminded her of blood dripping down the forehead of Christ in a certain Cathedral.

John Lennon looked like a thinker with granny glasses in the arms of Madame Yoko who looked like an eggplant in a bikini. The New York Times clipping in the display said: “In 1969 Lennon married Yoko Ono a Japanese-American artist who was pregnant … Imagine, one fan carried a Lennon for President button, all the Beatle cards and a John Lennon Fan Club comb everywhere for the past 15 years. ‘The dream is over’ is all this fan’s fan could muster.” And when they pressed the button on the side of the display it didn’t matter; no music came out.

Next to the them was the assailant, Mark David Chapman, “crouched in the archway of the Dakota,” holding a copy of Catcher In The Rye and a .38-caliber revolver. A smirk squirmed awkwardly across his face.
Then The Beer Mystic came face to face with something altogether otherworldly. The wax face hovered before him, so familiar that the eyes looked just like his favorite marbles from his childhood.

There stood the western man in black, hand in vest pocket, fingering a fob. Who were they kidding? It wasn’t the face of “Black Bart (Charles E. Bolton), legendary stagecoach robber with a weakness for verse.” It was someone else’s! It was his own! Who’d he know who knew … ? But it didn’t matter how they got it. They’d somehow managed. The display read; “Black Bart often left notes on the stagecoaches he had just looted. Snatches of verse became his trademark:
I’ve labored long and hard for bread

for honor and for riches —

but on my corns too long you’ve trod,

you fine haired sons of bitches.”

Born on the very same day as Furman too — July 11! Ah Ha! Fascinating. Same year! Ah Ha! Uncanny. Different century however. Eh, small detail.

Yes, beer had once again opened the doors of perception. And when he saw that Mr. Bolton had died THIS year, in fact, NEXT WEEK, 100 years ago, he felt an odd astral correspondence as if he had just wandered into a new dimension.
“Tha’s me! “

“Yea. And that’s me on the throne over there. “

“But LOOK! Really LOOK! It IS me.”

“Well, from certain angles it does …”

“You bet it does! Cuz it IS me! Right down to fortune telling my last day on this here earth. Tha’s friggin’ next week! I got 1 friggin’ week to live!” Was he cracking? Or just pulling her leg.

“I’m NOT dead! How can THEY know all this about me? I’m here. Touch me! I get an erection! How can this have come to be?” He thrashed and wasn’t about to leave without a struggle. Lily from the ticket booth came back and wanted to know about the commotion.

“Listen, lady. I ain’t dead!” His hands clamped on to Lily’s shoulders. “I don’t know what gave yous the idea. The right. How can you go around predictin’ my death? I want this display destroyed!”

“You OK? He on somethin’, lady? Cuz we don’t allow people high on anything in here and this here’s why.”

“But can’t you SEE!?” He shoved Lily up in front of the display. “There’s no denyin’ tha’s me. How’d I get in there?!”

“I’m gonna have to ask you to leave now. Quietly.”

“But the FACE! It’s mine! How do THEY know?”

She called for help on the phone in her booth. A brute from another concession came over. The ex-hi school football stud with eyes like crushed black beetles (the kind of guy ingenious enough to convert the decorative aspect of his high school ring into a weapon) was all too happy to toss him out. And 2 bottles of unopened Kwak too. Stragglers outside stared because people always stare at anything that moves. The Rum Seer went back in to apologize, get his boots back.
He put them on, sitting on the curb. Then suddenly he leaped up, lunged in front of a car with 1 boot on, without thinking, to save his 2 bottles of Kwak.
“We’re all gonna drown in piss and beer, plastic and ketchup,” she predicted.

“And sand and hysteria and noise and stuff that makes no sense.”

“Every beer kills a thousand brain cells, hon.”
“Wasn’t usin’ those anyhow. We only use 10% of our brains anyhow. Other 90% god gives us to squander.”
“You musta squandered up yer quota long ago. Musta had so many beers yer now into the 10%. Outa the warehouse and into the storefront.” He was too drunk to notice her getting peeved. And not even a cold beer and a hot knish could soothe his fevered soul. “Look, get a grip on whatever it is you call yourself.”

(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 – #32

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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  • 1965 collage by d.a. levy

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    Dick Lit
    Missionary Positions
    fiction by Joe Maynard

    Painting by Peter Cross

    "dick lit" is here to acknowledge the good, bad and ugly that goes with it, as it celebrates every young boy's quest to get off the next time, and every old man's quest to get off one more time, before there is no time left to get off on... »

    an excerpt from Ellen Pearlman’s

    Nothing and Everything is about the relationship of Eastern thought, particularly Buddhism, to the arts in post-war New York City —from the early 1940s to the early1960s—a handful of individuals brought about major changes in music, performance, dance, theater, installation, video, mixed media, painting, and sculpture, as the evolution from modernism to postmodernism broke down the idea of art as a practice devoted to a particular medium. The world—or life itself—became a legitimate artist’s tool, aligning with Zen Buddhism’s emphasis on enlightenment occurring at any moment.... »

    A Message from Senator Franken

    Please take 2 minutes to watch this important video.

    Alan Greenberg’s

    For three hours Ali was in the ring sparring, and the entire time he never threw a punch. When he finally stepped down I asked him what he was doing. “I’m gonna get that sucker so tired of punching me he’s gonna fall flat on his face,” Ali replied. And so the “Rope-a-Dope” was born, not in the ring in Zaire, but in a gym in Pennsylvania. »

    Up on the stage a man who looks like Klinger on Mash lifts his dress for the audience to inspect him. He has a clit. An actual clit. Then suddenly the legs spread, and PRESTO SLEAZO, there's a schlong! What a bargain! A real live hermaphrodite is about to take the skin of his female genitalia and stretch it over his male genitalia and get it on with itself »

    Great Moments in Sportz
    Professor Irwin Corey Accepts The National Book Award for Thomas Pynchon

    It happened Thursday, April 18th, 1974, at Alice Tulley Hall, and those that were there will never forget it (if they remember it at all). The National Book Awards, commercial publishing’s now defunct version of the Academy Awards was in the bottom of the ninth, down »

    Mimi & Richard Farina Live

    In 1965, Mimi and Richard Farina dropped by the studios of WTBS (now WMBR) with electric guitarist Barry Tashian (of Barry & the Remains) for music and talk with DJ Ed Freeman. Richard is on dulcimer. One of Mimi’s two guitars is tuned like a dulcimer. The explanation for the brief gap in the tape has long been lost.


    Michael Disend's RIDER OF THE JADE HORSE

    Li looked firmly into his eyes. “No! I want man who is also a woman.” Penman nodded against his will, his gaze stealing down toward the strap-on dildo she was generously coating with lube. It thrust out like a red cannon from her leather harness. Why red? Is it because she’s from China?


    Dick Lit
    Stacia St. Owens’

    “Dick lit” has been around since the first caveman’s curiosity stuck his dick into the equation when he rubbed those two rocks together around it until....
    Millie tittered, which is how girls used to be taught to laugh. Tilda wondered if this were an intentional jab.

    Barney Rosset Interview
    (The Subject Was Left Handed)