Bart Plantenga’s
Confessions of a Beer Mystic #35

Certain things I continue to count on: the ever-increasing banality of even the fantastic; amazement ameliorated by careful applications of self-abuse; the approximately 6500 windows in the Empire State Building; beerhead will continue to be produced when CO2 gas is forced into beer under pressure and released when the bottle is opened — that’s just the way it is with beer.

The guy across the street watches TV. TV misinforms. Yankee Stadium’s grass looks blue. He chews unlit cigars and takes off his toupee while the Honeymooners credits roll up on the screen behind him. He positions the toupee on a mannequin head and combs it during re-runs of The Newlywed Game.

World of Wheels is on TV. A chorus of cheerleaders in Smiley spangles jazz up “The Star Spangled Banner.” That it’s an old English drinking song, “To Anacreon In Heaven,” makes it easier to hum. The PA in the stadium prayed along with feedback, something from Job; “Behold I AM vile … I AM the King of Terrors …” ingeniously tying in the Holy Snuff King himself with the emerging Krusher, metallic manifestation of the “Big G CHAMPEEEEN” Big Wheel. Godzilla of steel on wheels, the size of a modest lakeside bungalow.

With beer #3 I bear witness to the glorious slo-mo ecstasy of shattering glass, splintering in a crystal shimmer up to the rafters as the Krusher romps gung-ho over the roofs of a line of mortal transport vehicles. Crushing them for our collective psyche in an awesome symphony of buckling and imploding steel.

At intermission Chubby Checker does an updated Twist with extra sincerity and girth. 6 Playboy Bunnies help. But I’m lost — which one is Miss May? Which one’s the Cowgirl from Gillette? I fumble through data. Wonder why I’m sick, feel like a half-melted baseball trophy molded by a drunken god, living a life of air fresheners, ill-fitting trousers and beer. I sit upright with my sex turned inside out.

What a land of mind we are!

The mediacaster barks through the blue smoke and roar in the pit. The driver removes his helmet, waves into the adulation. He is a hero and his hair looks great even after crushing 35 cars.

And now my Hagia Sophia beer is drained. The label says it’s Latin for “Holy Wisdom.” Made in the Vatican! I’m from a town famous for its automobile byproducts — of which I guess I’m one. So what do I have to show for myself? Inventory: a few documents verifying the facts; I’m alive, legal. I have a NYC Public Library card, some charts and maps documenting my paranormal prowlings, some poems about “Angela Fuxso” and others, my bottle and label collection (if Djuna will stop holding them hostage) big black boots for Fridays, a collection of ridiculously obscure cassettes, some embellished diaries, sweet memories (firefly hunts and running through summer sprinklers; their hiss and the way hose water tastes so good) and some dangerous fashions insisting I’m not like you and I mean business. Ha!

Not even reveries of Nielle’s steatopygia, her firm and profound buttocks, and how she’d balance that extended tulip glass on her tailbone, chanting mischievously, “NO LIGHTS GOOD CITY! NO LIGHTS GOOD CITY!” could lull me to sleep through the wail of the car alarm, “New York Nightingales” as Nielle calls them — 3+ hours! Counted bottles of beer on the wall, 24,133. Only got 36 hours left on this planet and I got plenty to do.

But before I go out I make sure every hair on my head is in place. Organizational imperatives offer surprising satisfaction. As if there is an entire universe for me to put in order out there. I’d discovered all the freedom I thought I needed in the way I combed my hair. I try to find phone numbers for Nielle. The more I found the less likely it seemed I would ever see her again. The more numbers I dialed the more distance fell between us.

When I enter the 3 AM street, 4 neighbors — I don’t know them and they don’t know me — were lounging with proud, fixed gazes on the hood of their prey, a bashed and hacked-up automobile with offending alarm; now a mere hulk of gnarled steel and broken glass.

I remember a 5th grade class trip through a museum diorama of Cro-Magnon cavemen sitting astride the carcass of a woolly mammoth they’d just stalked and butchered.

The guy in the wool cap sitting on the cobweb shattered windshield — now I remember him — thinks he’s Elvis and beats his wife. She evidently doesn’t think HE’s the King. He once hung a cat from a neighbor’s (#8, with the pink sweater?) doorknob because she’d spurned his advances. There’s supposedly 1 rat for every person in NYC. Wonder if “Elvis” has found HIS “vermate” yet. As I walked by I requested a souvenir.

One guy tossed me a hubcap with the plastic center punched out, leaving only a jagged rim, a craggy halo. I put it on. Where’s the crime of the century? I’m ready! Ready to black eye a streetlight or other glaring preachment of false illumination. POOF! Like cracking bones over your knee.

I still keep track while continuing to sharpen my para-normal skills by “predicting” my black eyes. I have a map on my wall covered with colored pushpins: blue for Monday, red for Friday. Is there a pattern? What is my goal? A docu-vid? Go 57 days straight? Beat DiMaggio? Or maybe something on the order of the Big Blackout of ’67?

The 1977 U.S. Clean Air Act never established proper star visibility standards. As a consequence, there has been an unchecked surge in light pollution with light levels in the dead of night being 10 to 30 times brighter than natural levels. This alarming corruption of light into our night sky has already had profound effects on the human spirit. There is nowhere left for us to go except inside. And so we end up in planetariums with their drilled pinholes of light representing stars! Because the night sky can no longer be the source of speculation, guidance and poetic wonder it once was.

Light pollution is the moral equivalent of urinating against Stonehenge. The night and its surfeit of stars and heavenly bodies is now lost to 90% of Americans! The sky is an elaborate web of stars, 2500+ visible in natural conditions (less than 300 in small town conditions, 50 in urban situations) and in some outbacks — we’re talking tundra, Alaska, Siberia — the Milky Way will still stretch like a hair net from horizon to horizon.

Meanwhile NYC continues to wear this crown, this tremor of ambient light, upon its dark floating celestial plates. It insists other worlds do not exist. It compresses oxygen, sends frissons of mumbling light wafting about. It pinches desires into condensed pools of incandescence around electric yule logs, where denizens huddle over high balls, rub their tanned legs together, burrow into tiny elegant echoes of misery to feast on forever, on their gleeful paths to self-destruction.

And there’s these lighting fixture stores down on Bowery. They are the big jewels of blight in NYC’s crown of febrile light. Night and day I brood over these gaudy tiaras. I read up on it: “… here was a lighting war … flares that lit up no man’s land for nocturnal targets … life-size cinema in which the day and the light of film-speed succeed the day and light of astronomical time. It is subliminal light of incomparable transparency, where technology finally exposes the whole world.” [Ed. note: Paul Virilio, War & Cinema: Logistics of Perception, Verso, London, 1989]

Looped or straight I contemplate how elegant flambeaus or a lit match in a gas leak could level these vesperous propagandas of luminiferous rhetoric.

I feel there is nothing much left to do so why not make it my duty to venture into the eye of this sun, abuzz with its polemics of ostentatious chandeliers, halogen lamps, lava lamps, mood lights, strobes, disco lights, display lights, black lights, standing lamps, desk lamps, spot lights, arc lamps, and track lights. I walk by the banks of floods and lasers that effectively infect the sky with their fulgurant scars to announce yet another new emporium of nauseating light. All of it allied to the cause of besieging, eroding the tattered frontiers of our darkness.

Light pollution interferes with various ecological routines related to the celestial patterns. Bright lights on tall buildings and light refracting off clouds can confuse migratory birds. On any given night there are thousands of birds serenading a false dawn.

I don’t get it. Tell people to fear black cats, Negroes, black holes that suck up whole galaxies and they will. Of light, we harness it, package it, make of each light a gimmick, a style, a necessity. As there are many seductively shaped guns there are just as many “beautiful” packages of light. Again, their ultimate goal: to colonize the pitchy darkness, erode the dark raggedy perimeters of our souls.

In darkness lies the fallow mindscape to till with fear. And to abate fear we bring light to the fore, kill the thing more and more. Make of the wilderness of dark a kind of park. Scrape tatters of darkness into theaters and planetariums like little throwrugs of infinity — gimme a stout and I’m an instant Shakespeare!

I brood for hours, staring into the storefronts south of Houston, challenging light, blinding white-hot heroin-ical (rhymes with rabbinical) walls of wattage, with all my quasi-harnessed “tele-kin” powers. I black eye an entire wall of modular lamps here and a forest of slender stem stand lamps there (I ignore the employee yanking down the gates). But I end up drained, done in, not up to it. I wonder where these lighting salespeople park their cars. I think of taking their headlights out with a brick. The more I end up down here the less any one seems to want to have anything to do with me.

Ben has snitched on me at work. I can’t be late any more. Elsa has found her last straw. Djuna only calls when she suspects I may have packed something of hers in one of my bags. Jude is now involved in an interactive metaphor recovery program and is dating a video guy. Nielle is now fully Bedouin, with not even a PO Box to her name. Or she was accepted to grad school. They cut away until I got no shadow left.

I enter the night and the night is womby and extrapolates the physical aspects of the unconscious … like putting a black sheet over a ghost. The way orgasm redraws the vagina into a new shape.

Centuries ago there was no constrictive crown, no synthetic aurora over NYC, only a gauzy sieve with pinpricks of clarity, of guidance and delight — stars spoke to (womb)men.

I wondered why, after sex, I feel like I’m in a hole I need to climb out of. How the expenditure of sex diminishes the wattage of gunny sack. How the testicular globules lose some of their warm glow, some of their pang and bang. When — POOF! Without even trying — another fried light, black eye #109.

Maybe it’s the new moon. Or a mind over matter thing. Or too much dark beer. Or something even more frightening, the unruliness of matter. Seemingly stable matter gone awry. I don’t know, but I’m having a hard time taking credit any more. And yet, I still dreamt of Daily News and Post headlines calling me “The Prince of Darkness.” Even dreamt of sending my diaries somewhere — the papers, agents, publishers, Geraldo.

I reread my notes under a streetlight: In 1937 Alexander Gurvich found that all living cells, especially human cells, produce radiation. He found it in muscle, blood and nerves. He found this energy, these mitogenic rays, to be strongest (brightest in Curlian terms) at the extremities, hands, feet — and like Reich thought — in women’s breasts and the genitalia of both sexes.


6 beers later I’d black eyed my quota of streetlights. Not because I wanted to but just like that, like a fortuitous smile with missing teeth. In Nielle’s honor — “‘A light broke in upon my brain,’ that’s Byron. See you stripped of light. Soon!” Her last phone message — more than 10 days ago — had promised.

I really need a hit of the ole “tele-kin” now and then to prove my place in the bigger scheme of things. But what to do with the results? I’m spent like a man who has jettisoned himself into unconsciousness, groaning to a fearsome halt. Like a light losing the “fill” of its filament. Out like a light.

Night is feminine and extrapolates the physical aspects of the unconscious … like putting a black sheet over a ghost. The Greeks believed the dark of night was the precursor of all things creative. Night is the fertile water of all anticipatory potential. Night is the thin membrane between 2 orifices and when I lean into this membrane I can feel you feeling me.

Night disguises rain. The rain obliterates vision. Our thought lay down the streets, neat and treacherous like black ice. Our view — I am alone but imagine I am not — is further skewed by memories made jittery by what I am and am not seeing. The tenements seem to sway in the breeze, the beings dart bent-backed through dingy lightless intersections. The beings — suddenly one of them is you, me, her, you, me… The glimmer of an old trolley track rises up out of the crumbling asphalt, the underwire rises up out of a worn bra , the bones of a beggar rise up out of the skin stretched across his chest.

Thought has kinetic energy. But it wasn’t taking me anywhere. The more I knew, the more it unhinged me. The bigger the stakes got the lonelier I got. I’m looking into astral projection. Tired of this wavelength. Tired of my weight. Cash in this skin.

But when I finally came to it was STILL night. Night, sure, but the night of tomorrow. As in 20 hours later. I’m still much the same except my sneakers have disappeared from the nubby ends of my limbs. “He’s not alive. He’s not dead. He’s just sleepy.” Someone hovering over me observed. And someone else had painted a scene-of-the-crime-victim outline around my body. He’s an artist, maybe his name is Richard Hambleton.

It is not unlike what happened in Hiroshima in ’45, when atomic bomb victims near Ground Zero left shadows — like tattoos of ghosts — upon the topography where their breathing, dreaming frames had departed from.

My hubcap halo’s still warm to the touch. Was all this a premonition? Or a joke?

To revive myself I head for the Linger Lounge, all-nite joint of purposeful and stylish dissipation. The cigs don’t dangle from patrons’ lips as much as THEY seem to be clinging to the cigs.

There’s a sieve in the john, behind the toilet. Check it out. Graffiti above the gurgling toilet tank: GOD IS A JOKE WE CAN’T LAUGH AT with a © symbol tagging it. I’M TOO TIRED TO DEFACE THESE WALLS! Admits another.

In the mirror my third eye has gone blurry and I look like Shemp, oddest of the 3 Stooges. I scoop out a sieve full of water from the toilet. Then shower up by holding the sieve triumphantly like a gold trophy cup over my head. Don’t worry, there’s a hole in the floor that sucks up the water. The cool water revives the bony plates, the gristle and cartilage and the wanderless soul — it really does! It’s like wetting a dull stone, suddenly it turns precious. And I come out a new man. No longer look like Shemp. Ready to face the rest of my life — all 20-what hours of it. And right now every minute is dense like a lifetime lived in every tick of the clock.

Sure, my survival techniques have always been clever. Using girls as mules, beer runners, smuggling in cheap brews into clubs where beer goes for $5+. Or sniffing out open bars and art openings (Kelly had developed my sonar for these events. Again, it’s survival.) I watched Beer Doyen, Runkle Kölm, word distiller and the man who translated Joyce’s Ulysses into a single haiku, load up on 6 beers in 6 pockets. I followed his lead and stuffed multiple (mended) pockets with beer to beat the 9 PM deadline — in the World, a microcosmos of glares and stares, dealing and reeling, of sweat and shivering chandeliers and beer nuts (plus harder stuff) all over the floor. And that’s just the patrons!

I’d sometimes go with Jude, file in behind her mesmerizing trenchant elegance. There she’d kiss me in public, latched to me like a leach, sucking the acne right off my cheeks, sure there’d be ex’s there to get back at, all the while coaxing stories of humiliation out of me. Stories that’d reinforce her notions of men. That’d find their way into the Village Voice. She dressed these stories up as purposeful decadence, as something people could get behind.

The World is where I sometimes ended up to feel “in.” So “out,” that you’re back “in.” Where those most IN (in trouble?) wear what’s most OUT to be most audacious.

I, blue around the gills (girls?), even got up on stage to bump and grind with the gogo girls (perf. art M.A.s). Only to get yanked by bouncers.

Or I’d stalk the tables of nervous birds in jangly jewels and wait for them to get dance fever. And on the dance floor I’d watch while surreptitiously sucking down their neglected drinks no matter how sweet and gooey. It’s a cheap drunk and a rather subtle way of redistributing the lopsided facts of wealth. (They don’t NEED the drinks, I do.)

It’s a little chancy with disease and all but adventure is the throb in the blood, the beer in the glass, the light in the bulb. But I’m tired of hanging out in dance joints. I’m tired of almost everything.

How does one go about patenting drinks anyhow? I have 2 surefire hits: “The Jersey Shore”: 4oz Hi-C (with 10% real fruit juices) / 4oz lo cost rum / 2oz Carnation Instant Breakfast (strawberry flavor) / 1oz Pepto Bismol; Mix in blender. Pour over Secaucus tap water ice cubes and into lipstick-stained 16oz styrofoam cup.

And “The Jersey Sunset”: 3oz Wine Cooler / 3oz Yoohoo / 4oz peach brandy; add Yoohoo to wine cooler in unrinsed Johnson and Johnson beaker. Then gently pour Peach Brandy down side of beaker. When brandy has sunk gelatinously to bottom drink up with breathless gusto.

The World is no more. I am outside it. I am outside. I toast the streetlights — some have been out for over a year now.

The hops, it seems, contains a kind of spirochete, a slender spirally undulating squiggly form of bacteria that causes spirited fevers. I wait, twirl the bottle in the beg of my hands, wait for the label to come off in my hand. Wait for the sudsy spirochete to commence its spin of mine 3rd eye. And if the fever works right, it wrings reveries and vision from the tangled entrails of mind. The beer’s good anyway, and the memories not all bad. I try to toast my way out of certain memories.

I see the stains on my drinking clothes begin to misbehave (maybe you wouldn’t see it that way), to act just like the spiral impressions Djuna had traced upon my torso, the way it spun everything of mind and blur, of environ and reverie, into its non-spatial and non-temporal delirious core. And then, and only then, would I be somewhere.

There sat that same old hearse, vehicle in many dreams, still parked in front of the old place, waiting. Still waiting. I looked inside and it still looked cozy, tranquil, inviting, like the inside of a jewelry box.

And where was I again during the Blackout of ‘67? I was in the thick of it. I must’ve been. Believe me I was. In my school lockerroom listening to the patter of feet and screams built on top of other screams. I liked that sound. I like chaos. I like when a snowstorm paralyzes the city and everything is a whisper. Humility is this whisper. #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 – #33 – #34

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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