Bart Plantenga’s
Confessions of a Beer Mystic #14

      This one guy, Ben Adrielle, who works up front at the warehouse, is always insisting that wasting away is a kind of politics. The quicker and more dramatically, the more radical.

“You’re defying the promise of youth, denying them your goddamn eager healthy body. It’s a battlefield like who gets to use my body.”

“Yea, but what if you’re not young any more. What good’s wasting away? Besides, there’s alotta pain goes into wasting away.”

“I didn’t say it was easy. And if you’re ugly and ignorant with a vengeance, like as a statement of defiance against the system of beauty mongers well …”

“It just seems to be a reaction of our innate sense of desperation. Or that it’s all we are left with as far as showing any sign. Since we can’t do anything about anything else at least we can still control how we look.” Ben still thinks it’s “neat” hanging out in the Village where, he still believes, all resistance festers.

“You go down to the Village, hang out, pick up some foreign chicks, show’m around, get drunk and have fun and you ain’t no good to nobody but yourself afterward. If you’re unhealthy, you flunk the physical. They ain’t about to draft you. I mean you don’t even know how you got home. Never mind they’re gonna trust you to drive one of their expensive tanks.”

“Yea, OK.” I counter. “But it’s only dangerous if you’re in control of this ugliness and drunkenness and dissipation. I mean the whole slacker thing is a kind of marketing thing in and of itself. They fatten you up then laugh at you for being fat.”

“Yea, granted. But being a radioactive sofa tuber with a zapper like with that I get to choose my own backdrop tto my laziness. I can make time go at any speed. I absorb things through a straw at whatever pace I want. Everything is disposable, every fantasy replaceable.”

“Yea, a 6-pak in front of TV reruns and a remote control. That’s how the new guerrillas are gonna be outfitted.”

“Already ARE. I sit in my bathrobe and I get to ride in the parade. I subscribe and unsubscribe all in the twitch of a finger.”

“But are you really relaxed? Like slack or wasting? Or’re you programmed to consume upright, on your ass, but please don’t go on your back cuz then you can’t efficiently consume food. And then eventually you gotta pay them more to get you thin so you don’t get laughed at.” But I don’t know anymore. “I mean if they tell you everything all the time then nothing fucking matters and you’ll say what’s the point? and that IS their point.”

“I get migraines whenever I go into the city now. It’s like an isolated palace. It needs its inner cultural diversity in order to survive! It’s got no friends. It’s only got addicts. And maybe Billy Joel and other guys wid guitars rhapsodize about it in song as some indigo dancing nightbird with a martini glass, it’s really just a giant slab of concrete … not a drop is left we can be call “natural”, and people cling to it no matter what! I mean, rent control is almost outa here and rents will go up and people will STILL live there! You got guys working like a hunnert hours a weekend trying to, what like add zeroes to their paychecks just so that they can live in NYC! thus, they are working in NY to be able to work in NY!!! That seems just about right. Like the insanity makes you giddy and suddenly like it’s your life gone down a rat’s ass. New York rents can keep goin’ up and it’ll only encourage more idiots to live there!”

“Don’tchu live in Queens? Aint that parta New York?”

“Ask anybody in Manhattan if Queens is New York. It aint. It’s like a piece of rotting wood the good ship SS New York is draggin’ along.”

For lunch we’d often go to Jason’s Coffee Shop, get a split pea soup with extra bread if the one gal is working the register. Fish out the gristly chunks of lard later. Today in Jason’s he asked perfect strangers whether Queens was part of New York. And everybody is on their guard, figuring it must be someone about to short change them or humiliate them or … most act like they are hard of hearing. One has a Walkman escape clause on.

Finally some guy who is nervously jingling his pockets of change and lint says, “Queens is boot camp for the real war, man. Best thing man, is to learn to go for the throat. If you don’t kill’m at least they’ll be quiet.”

Ben is from Woodshed, Queens and he works hard even while he is laying out these theories. He can put orders in requisition number order while he’s pontificating. Ben has no idea how I spend my time after work. All he notices is that some days my eyes are bloodshot. This keeps things tidy. I prefer not to know how he spends his weekends either.

“Who’s this ‘they’ you’re always talkin’ about, anyhow?”

“There are some of us and many of them. They are the ones that put you up to consuming the heroic image of self-as-slob, Zapata as couch potato.”

“You dress your fuckin’ misapprehensions up as profound paranoia.”

“Where’s that comin’ from, Ben? Right outa that jiggly torpid wheezing fuselage of yours? Let me tell you a they. They beat up Kelly cuz his clothes sorta mighta hinted he was maybe gay. But ‘I’m not,’ he says. ‘Then how come we think so?’ They are the tautological mafioso. Get my drift?” Ben, is a really good guy and then there’s Jorge.

Jorge is the “ethnic” salesman at Codger. He is slick like a bootlick. He smells like 3 dozen open bottles of K-mart cologne. He is lanky and his muscles flex and twitch all over his face. He’s got a body like Ben said, “a grenade with the pin pulled.” Jorge has the suits and the smile and now even the accounts it seems.

Jorge always thinks you’re talking about him whenever the word “gay” comes up. I mean he is vigilant when it comes to guarding his self-image.

“I work out like a motherfucker, man. The day they come for me I take 20 of’m down wid me.” Don’t smile, don’t smile, don’t even smile, we have to remind ourselves. Diss him the wrong way and he could go off. Sometimes he doesn’t go off and then his mood lingers like a landmine dug just a few inches under the long workday skin. But he has always looked for answers to dignity in all these places I would never think to look. For instance he’s proud of the souped-up muscle car, an Olds 442, jacked-up in the back with a horn that plays 3 tunes, including “The Stripper.”

“You ever notice. …” I begin to ask Ben.

“No.” He sometimes does this to be what he calls funny.

“Duh … you ever notice nobody owns up to being too happy or too sad. Everybody’s just OK. Cuz I think either way people will latch onto you and mooch off you if you’re too anything. People mediate, don’t want to reveal, they get tectonic, you know like shifting plates, cunning, stealthy, post-mod, adjusting their emotional weather report to the people they encounter. How they say they feel depends on who they’re tellin’ it to.”

“So what. It’s always been like that.”

“It means we’ve relinquished responsibility for our actions. It means we are all adequately neither here nor there. It means we lose touch with anything we are.”

On weekends Jorge sits low in his 442 tank and cruises with his buddies; the shine of his car, its jacked up growl and articulate horn doing the lady trolling for him. He keeps insisting he’s not terrified of women. But the more he denies this (without even being provoked by our taunts anymore) and the more he makes fun of women and blurts bawdy in front of them in elevators, the more I am convinced that the more he tries to convince us to the contrary the more absolutely frightened he is of women. When we discuss the terrifying delight of women he will stand nearby, flexing his pecs, his sternocleidomastoids, deltoids, biceps and triceps. His mind is like a hand on a gun in a holster. Sometimes as a joke he wraps a towel around my neck and tightens it and says things like, “Women like to be brought to within an inch of their lives, they like fear, they like … to be looked at, admired so long as this gives them the fuckin’ upper hand. I won’t have any o’ that shit.”

After work one night me and Ben and Jorge went to Billy’s Topless not far to the east of the warehouse. We ordered the cheapest, Pütscht at $3.50 a pop, right out of the can. They have no glass in the place because broken glass becomes a convenient flesh piercing device. I watch Jorge guzzle Pütscht after Pütscht. The bouncers like that, spending money, greasing the wallet. I watch him at our table crush can after can against his forehead as he watches the women jiggle flesh on stage. Me and Ben hang back by the bar, afraid to join him.

“How does the imagination make of jiggling flesh such a tantalizing spectacle?” I ask him as I saunter over, feeling sorry for him. Beer gives me the foamy head of a philosopher. I ask him this only once because what brings inexplicable joy to me brings absolute dread disguised as righteous indignation to Jorge. I look over my shoulder and see Ben give me a timid wave. He will not move from the stool for 3 Pütschts and then I will turn around again and he will be gone.


Suddenly Jorge is not who he came into the place as, a guy with accounts and a shuffle he got off an old Shaft movie. He is now pious and easily offended by every licentious bump and thrust as if these women have just stripped in the middle of his iglesia. And he says so with another Pütscht gurgling down his gullet, half of it cascading down his neck, soaking the front of his shirt. This wetness allowed the shirt, a poly-shimmering thing, to cling to his definition and this definition reconfabulated him as something he had always imagined himself to be — an action figure!

I am meanwhile mesmerized by the variety of feminine presentations — each sneer, each haughty saunter, each revelation of a new delight, each firm plum-colored nipple, each strategy for reinventing dignity, each attempt to preserve who it is they would like to be, each distant stare, and glistening tongue that mocks our libidos allows me to imagine what my neighbors growing up must have looked like.

The more I think that I like 2 of them and paste incredible dignified existences to their mysterious dances, (their movements circumscribed by the tension between delight and contempt) the more I’m convinced that they like me too. I heard that Barney Rossett, ex-editor of Grove Press, found 2 wives and an editor here. I hear a couple of them have Masters in anthropology.

I pass into the sudsy realm of alchemy where contempt and disgust are made into something enthralling and sexy. At least some among us have learned to make shit into gold. Their every snicker and fart transmogrified into a wink and sigh; every scar an orifice. I see how “Angela Fuxso” handles the fact that she must be alluring, and somehow empowers herself in this very act of debasement. She must project herself as object in a souvenir blur of pink and heels while maintaining the notion that she is the subject of this sentence. She must abide her handlers and yet transcend her bosses. She must collect dollars at the vortex of her g-string while projecting the image that when she goes back to her dressingroom she makes paper airplanes of these dollars and launches them out the dressingroom window. “Angela” must flirt (to eat or continue grad school?) while her mind is 10,000 miles away (to survive). She must act like I am the one and only but be capable of seeing right through me until I am nothing.

And suddenly — PING — the dynamic tension spit out a clasp from her g-string or somewhere else. There lay the clasp at my feet. I picked it up. To return it but put it in my pocket instead. As I would have with my own mother’s clavicle found in a fallow field.

Jorge his face twitching, his eyes piercing, acting like I’d just put a dog turd into my pocket. Jorge meanwhile is fixated on a woman of substance. You can hear her breasts — the object of a million howls, speculations, and geeky wet dreams — flop and slap against her ribs if you pull up close, and that Jorge did. Destiny Rockets, you could tell, was so subsumed by the myth of her breasts, that she lived forever in their shadow to the point that her entire sense of being, her entire mind was shaped (by age 13), around their lascivious vortex of many dreams and sad victimizations. Anatomy is Destiny is right. Destiny is forever doing their bidding while busy imagining they were doing her bidding. Who is taking whom for a walk here?

Another Pütscht and he’s leaning over the railing to stuff not dollar bills into Destiny’s sequined g-string and the pungent sweaty cleave between her breasts but folded scraps of a Spanish Bible. Along the way to salvation (salivation?) he yanked out some of her meticulously-braided pubic fur. And this made her squeal — the squeal of delight and terror however, bearing enough of a resemblance to one another that for the moment, no one took heed. Except the bouncer, a vigilant package of reptilian brawn who will win certain backroom favors as a consequence of his extra-curricular duties as in-house hero.

And now Jorge began to get lewd and boisterous. Downright slurred and belligerent. Began calling them all “puta!” Then mumbled this drooling venom onto my shoulder. I sensed he was about to weep or go into some conniption fit. Like his body was crowded with agitated holy ghosts. And that made me very embarrassed as if he was my brother or my gay something-or-other. His invective grew so boisterous that some of the girls were jolted right out of their stuporous routines. “Amanda Demander” just shook her tits at him and sneered, then bent over, parted the g-string from between her buttocks and pulled open her asshole and said, “Look! Take a look at your fuckin’ self in the mirror, fuckface!” And she walked off. And now by virtue of my association with him drooling on my shoulder I did not stand a chance with any of them! How would I go about petitioning them in my defense! I am not his friend, I am his caseworker, his shrink. I have dated strippers …

His face (like an open flesh wound stewing in its own juices) was contorted by drink and pain, memory and regret. What else we got?

“Bitches! They’re all bitches! Fuckin’ bitches set on this earth to trap us. Make us fuckin’ weak. Humiliate me!” And with this his face cringed beyond belief, beyond recognition. It collapsed around the memory of itself. He was no longer a man so much as a painful clump of raw wound.

Amanda was back out. She was one of the few vets willing to take him on and Jorge lunged for her, “Hey, cunt, suck on these Kahonas!” He grabbed his nuts, or where his nuts should have been. But I’d been reading up on the deleterious effects of steroids: “The casual use of steroids can help one attain that hard, invulnerable look of perpetual prowess. But this comes at great expense. Even though men look more virile, the irony is that sustained steroid use produces a shriveling of the testicles, decreased sperm production, premature baldness, breast growth, agitation, increased belligerence and aggressiveness, and a severe inability to arrive at and maintain erection.” [Ed. note: from “The Architecture of Meat: The Ironic Decline of the American Male and Steroid Abuse” by Bert Kämpfert, Fleisch and Peau, Inc. Venice, CA. 1993]. Thus, the more Jorge looked like a superman, the more a eunuch he probably was. And at work maybe he sensed that I had read these kinds of reports. I could just see that he was assuming that when I looked at him I was seeing the pained face of an owner of a shriveled (prune-size) set of testicles.

I went off to relieve myself of him as burden and piss in the trough in the piss chamber with its sweaty walls, hissing pipes, and cracked toilet tanks and I just wanted to stay here. I imagined the window 8 feet up as escape hatch. Standing next to me was a writer guy I recognized from some cable TV game show. His name is Jose Padua and he sometimes drinks with Barney Rossett. He was bent over and staring down deep inside his crotch.

“Where the hell’d it go? Goddamn it, she bit it off. Now I’m gonna have to pump her fuckin’ stomach again to get it back. This is the third time.”

“I hope the last.”

“Yea, I’m gonna find me a lady with gums. Teeth are a definite health hazard.”

“You should put up an ad down at NYU, at the dental school.”

“Gee, thanks buddy. Whadda you some kinda guidance counselor for the sex deprived?”

“I dunno.”

“Well, if you don’ know nobody does. Am I right?”

“I guess. Or you could get it threaded and then you can screw it and unscrew it as you want.”

“Whadda you with the Plumbers Union or what? Man, you got too many ideas. There ain’t nothin’ a writer hates worse than a guy with too many ideas.”

When I came back the atmosphere was neutral, blasé — a return of subdued cool. Jorge was gone. So I departed, (but not before chugging the rest of my Pütscht and his too) and wandered around outside only to run into Jorge puking and weeping in this empty doorway on 24th Street.


“I’s’n’t drink’n’ enough the fuck said. And the bartender wouldn’t vouch for me, the cuntbag!” But I knew. I tried to sympathize but could not.

“I coulda easily killed the godless bitches! Bitches! The way they fuckin’ jiggle up there, humiliate me will they, the fuckin’ cunts! Awh, they like it when they are given a taste of death because death is real sexy to them, the fuckin’ puta!” And mid-tirade I just walked away across 6th Avenue and down 24th Street.

“Give’m a chance to fuck you or your wallet, they fuck your wallet!” My last glimpse of him struggling with his zipper, weeping, fuming — an odd tangle of impacted emotions — I will savor in all my terror.

I had never been happier than at the instant that his voice fell out of earshot. He didn’t even notice. It was as if we were from 2 different planets and we entered each other’s orbits only when we got soused. I didn’t dare look over my shoulder.

All this Djuna would later analyze on the spot as “a self-hating faggot who thinks he can do penitence to escape from his faggotry.” Djuna’s most irritating feature by far was how quickly and penetratingly correct she could be.

I skulked off downtown, afraid Jorge might comb the city for me (weird thing is he did not come back to work on Monday or ever again and every day I would read the papers looking for mention of his death.)

I walk and walk and walk and see the landscape of from here to the next beer, a negotiation through obstacles across a shifting topography under the Manteau de la Nuit, known for its funhouse effects — buildings that just collapse, random explosions (build-ups of methane gas in among the garbage). The pavement sags and gives way to bottomless holes that eat motor vehicles. Where does all that dirt, that … substance go? A thousand million faces line the walks, stick to windows, with their own chic contortions of murder and terror on Delancey. The hazard around here is an abuse of illumination, too many watts crammed into too little space that compresses the soul so that its nothing more than a breadball on the end of a fishhook.

I walked by the Church of the Holy Avenging Light [Graffiti: BASEBALL BATBRAINS PSEUDO CATHOLIC HOMOS] and try to make the sign of the cross like the old men do as they pass by its chained doors. But I get it wrong so it ends up looking like I’m ordering up a beer for each hand. [Graffiti: BEAN EATING SCUM INVASION.] This church is supposedly where a teen mother accidentally drowned her infant daughter while dunking her head in the font of holy water to protect her from all impurity.

I turn my face up into the rain. The raindrops envelop my pupil with a bitter sting. I am reminded of swimming through a school of jellyfish where suddenly my entire body began to tingle. But this was just my pupil. The song goes … “in a coat of darkness and a tearstain full of you …”

The more we neglect fertile darkness the more light (in all its Vegas bombast) manages to snuff the yearning, twist awry the sextant that once had our backbones conversing with these stars. Night, it is said, is the fertile water of all anticipatory potential.

And what’s that festivity called again, when people decorate all the trees of NYC with plastic shopping bags? So when the wind huffs and you squint your eyes just right your mind makes Chinese lanterns of them?

- to be continued –

Confessions Of A Beer Mystic by Bart Plantenga #1 #2 #3 #4 – #5 – #6 – #7 – #8 – #9 – #10 – #11

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 @

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