There are those that know magic exists, but don't know how or why it does, and those that do magic every day, but aren't even aware they're doing it. You could get stuck in a dichotomy between the two camps, unable to become an actual Beer Mystic no matter how much you guzzle between the lines, if you don't actually submerge yourself in the text beneath the head. Sorry to hype the almighty type here, but to dylanize the cannibal, the changes they are about timing, and no matter what dangerfield you've followed down the road of self destruction in the past, you probably haven't consumed anything with as much hidden gusto or as little secret kickback behind it as Bart Plantenga's still unpublished ineberotic end of the century confessions of urban transcendence since the first day you stubbed your reality on A Yaqui Way of Knowledge.

Though all similarities between Furman Pivo and Carlos Castaneda's journeys end with the discovery you've been transported to the next level of mutant cognition by Pivo's ballsy, yet elegant, street-wise hops, if you're stoked to the gills when that realization hits home, it won't help you hold on to what's right in front of your nose without drinking liberally from the language on a regular basis. Before you dive in, however, remember, there's a fine line between drinking liberally and drinking gluttonously, even from the words, and that's the reason that the brew that fills the Holy Grail has always been hidden right out in the open, in the tap on the bar in front of you.

Aye, let there be witnesses to the rise & fall of human dignity crawling around on the floor and puking its depraved guts out on our very feet. If you have to ask what's on the menu, we can't serve you. If multiple epiphanies were that easy to have, any drooler could drown in them, just like anybody can get drunk and make an asshole out of themselves. Beer Mystics, however, are a different breed of cat.

Sons & Daughters of the spiral of high wisdom found in lowlife dives, Beer Mystics have the power within themselves to illuminate blackouts without reverting to neon proselytizing. There ain't no glitz on a Beer Mystic. A Beer Mystic doesn't have to prove they can drink the whole fucking keg in one sitting. In other words, when the warm secure glow of realization begins spiraling in the belly, a Beer Mystic recognizes the knowledge being handed to them for what it is, and nurses the symbolic fruition into their own experience of reality.

In the same way a keg should not be devoured in one sitting, this book, if you can find it, should not be devoured in one sitting either. It should be nurtured through the great spiral, one word, one sentence, one epiphany, one chapter at a time. It could take you one brew a chapter to get through, it could take two, it's as impossible to guess anyone's number as it is to label the brand they crave to reach the understanding of their own understanding, but there's no doubt, when they get there, when you get there, when I get there, we all know we're there. And no one can tell us any different.

The sign of a true Beer Mystic, of course, is the ability to hold on to the spiral within themselves once they reach it. Most aspirants feel so good once they reach the Holy Plateau they have the overwhelming urge to feel better, and before they know it, the state of their consciousness is unconscious. Even the memory of the moment has gone back to the ether, and will only come out the next time -- if there is a next time -- they reach the peak of understanding the condition their condition is in. More self-developed than naturally gifted in the psychic arts & crafts, Beer Mystics, are always in-process, so always aware of how fleeting the spiral's illumination may be. Like a zen archer, this awareness allows them to recognize the spiral and hold on to the illumination, long after the moment of cognition has passed. Obviously, Beer Mystics are a different breed of cat.

Installment 2 of Bart Plantenga's novel of Beer & Light & Light & Beer


Light gives off heat in the middle of nowhere. Laws of thermodynamics or something. Light, like most humans and projectiles and everything else, has to abide by these laws of thermodynamics. Witness this phenomenon - I do - through despair. Watch and feel the hail, the grumble of aircraft moving clumps of people nowhere fast, through Shoetown, past Bed City, Balls ‘n’ Brew, Mensworld, Liquor Land, and Sofasphere - anywhere - nothing in every direction, the difference between nowhere and somewhere almost imperceptible. No shooting stars. No leaves clinging to lifeless twigs. Garbage bags that resemble spouses, heaved into the grimy shimmer of gas and oil suspended on dark water on Queens Boulevard. The anger unmeasured, the frustration quantified only by the distance of the bag’s toss. I am pre-beer, a state before the gears begin to gilga mesh. What lonely hours... Frail radio voice like cigarette ash in a movie theatre showing a film about a man who leaves home to search for his soul only to find a map that leads back to his own address.

      I’m in Woodheaven, Queens, home to a flingthing [my word for her at work, which disguises the actual depth of my feelings], Raden Adjeng Kartini, who’s unaware of how much lust I’ve already infused into her image. No Manhattanites would ever dignify this place with their presence. But here I am and I’ve come all this way from somewhere to this nowhere in pursuit of the something I think Raden could be. Or the something I need her to be. To walk her home, to lean the amorous shadow [with some of me attached to it] into her. Whenever I see her, my body begins to quiver, lose density, and consciousness begins to blend with outer space. I need to sit down, grip a signpost. She is beautiful and that tears reality from limbs, bones collapse inside skin. I open my beer - TSssh - a wet mantra, its spray first inhaled via my nostrils… and suddenly I am calm. And I need to calm down because Raden - her imperturbable serenity - is the destroyer of all surrounding cool and calm. She is a destabilizer. I crumble before her smile. I have come to discover why but depart as mystified as ever. But if I show you her picture you would understand except for the fact that this sole pic, this Polaroid SX-70 portrait of her is out of focus because her stable mysterious core / gives me the shakes / gimme three beers gimme four [I was writing lyrics to songs that would later get sung by my ex in CBGB’s a year later in a Battle of the Unsigned Bands in which her band, The White Bicycles, finished last and the band blamed the lyrics.]

      Raden’s existence is thus far circumscribed by homework worries, mid-terms, college, post-punk concert tickets, and snags in her fishnets - and taking care of a mother afflicted with the early symptoms of ALS.

      Tonight she told me she had been named for the Javanese rebel princess who introduced education to Indonesian girls - a hero. But did my petite amourette know that I heard every word but not a one of them registered and did she know how awestruck I was by how easily she handled the extreme amount of beauty that was crammed into her small [4'6”] frame? Did she know that when I watched her mouth speak I was mesmerized beyond all comprehension? The fact that she was 10 years my junior and a good foot-and-a-half shorter made her look like my adopted daughter? Did she know how much I admired her clarity of vision, her ability to describe the limitless [and adorable] horizons she and only she seemed to see in all directions? The brazen modesty that contained so much incredible bodily beauty?

      Did she know that I repeated her name over and over - Ra-den Ra-den - as I walked by way of Louie’s Leftover Lounge, to the F subway entrance? After having escorted her all the way home from my East Village to her Queens, sometimes to make love - or kiss as far as kisses would take us - in Flushing Meadow Park in among the rushes? We had found a painting - a Monet - a state of mind, damp pant knees, open green where we could wander for days. This is a place you never find in New York unless you have a cause amoureusse, a pungent, aromatic flingthing to lead you into this impressionist landscape of reeds and wildflowers… Did she know that “raden” in Dutch means to guess?

       But what did Raden then know of the look of failure, the odor of despair that I so ingeniously disguised with pheromones and braggadocio, marginal zines that featured my scribblings, my radio show “Birra Birra Birra” on XYZNO Radio FM, a station that may or may not have existed? I helped her with her applications to Cornell. She being so amazingly gracious as to make me believe I was helpful in filling them out. That is love. I resisted ever saying “some day you’ll see.” I tried to write poetry to let her know how she had thumb-tacked an emotional impressionist landscape in an essential chamber in my heart. I helped her study for the written part of her drivers license exam. I was awed by how she knew at umpteen [15 or 16?] that she would some day be an architect designing what she called “Zen Bauhaus.” And that I only acted like I knew of what she spoke when she said “urban bowers with endless horizons.” All this enamored me to her to the point of absolute disappearance. Did she know that when I masturbated it was to the image of her lunar face and her strategic choice of hem length?

       [Raden Adjeng Kartini said of Pivo: “What does he look like? Keith Haring. Maybe not exactly. More like something caught between James Dean scratching his head and a junior librarian who spends too much time slouched in the front row in an old movie house. Sometimes when he stood in front of me it was like he was standing in front of the spin cycle of a washer. Totally mesmerized. He loved me and I him but then he disappeared like a genie back into his bottle. Like my Joey Ramone into his record sleeve. He could have been a lot more than he was afraid of becoming. The more I tried to tell him the more he went into retreat. Something spooked him away from me. Maybe it was that I was totally serious, never played games, and told him that I knew what ‘forever’ was and that I was ready for it. That I understood forever, embodied it. He may have said ‘But I’m only 24.’ To which I said ‘but I’m only 16.”]

      That was the night that mist sizzled around the lamphead at 130-whatever Street and 70-whatever Avenue like the cosmos was whispering around my neck. My pursuits had led me nowhere. And you ask for directions in New York, you ask for trouble. One: because people have a natural need to disorient you especially if they sense you are a tourist or interloper honing in on what little of value is left. Two: The same numbered streets can lead you to three places in Queens, somewhere in the Bronx and two spots in Brooklyn. I was even beginning to doubt my contention that she actually loved me - what does a young teen know about love? She does not have the experience to adequately manifest it - when suddenly the streetlight right above me went out - POOF! - like someone had shot it out with aircraft scratching across the slate skies, overhead just as I was walking under it. Burnt out. Black, like an exhalation of light, like a mulberry shaken loose into the dust, like the last memory of a dying man. A song I am now hearing that my father used to sing along to with Peggy Lee. When you’re alone, who cares for starlit skies... He’s dead. Is my timing that flawed our respect run so dry? … duhduh dudud duuh… that we’ve kept through our lives. I will place needle upon vinyl and spin Joy Division for the 1001st time when I get home. There is a relation between Peggy Lee and Ian Curtis but I’m not going to try to explain what that is.

      As I looked up at the dead eye of the burnt-out light, I felt my body begin to sway as it processed the accumulated poisons, all the delirious chemicals, all the inarticulate yearning inside me. And then suddenly, out of nowhere and everywhere, my body jolted forward and it ejected all solid matter in its efforts to tear loose from all of its moorings, to enable me to float, float like a balloon that has released its ballast, all the bile and tenacious body matter clinging to the miles of intestine, everything vile, glistening, and parasitic. The head was suddenly free of all pain. I was clean, sharp, lean. Free as a glowing asteroid, free as the last funk flicked off the end of Chet Baker’s last cigarette.

      And too much drinking had become precisely the right amount. I’m a knife cutting through all the coagulated and busy din, all the clogs of trivia, and clumps of inert and hairy cat vomit with a precise clarity beyond drunkenness, where one becomes a function of the dream river, the rock in the stream that turns water to foam and beer to inspiration.

       I’m kneeling there - picture it - in nowhere Woodheaven, whistling, repeating “Dog-beer-light” [not a Captain Beefheart lyric] over and over, washing my shirt in a puddle that holds the reflection of an azure moon [the way a cameo holds the ghostly profile of a loved one] in a pothole, really a crater so immense that - boom! - when a truck hits it, things fall off. And the scavengers who tend and exaggerate the contours and dimensions of this pothole-cum-trap emerge from their abandoned warehouse stakeouts and salvaged lean-tos, arriving before the BOOM has even had a chance to vacate our tympanic bones.

      But when they see me kneeling there by their roadway snare, where they collect the dislodged products [everything from crates of papayas to appliances] to resell in the itinerant markets around town they figure I’m an interloper homing in on their loot. I feel the stares of these untouchables, their eyes dark like the insides of deep abandoned mines or the stares of office functionaries made redundant by CEO policy-adjustments [see the Wall Street Plunge of 1987]. I can sense them plotting my demise with a variety of accumulated kitchen gadgets. As I retreat, insomnia continues to wring soul from light. I am running and suddenly I am airborne like a scene you won’t see in Mary Poppins, but now I begin to wonder where the hell the subway entrance is.