Bart Plantenga’s
Confessions of a Beer Mystic #36 - The Final Episode


The Beer Mystic’s last day on the planet: I travel across the feral and morose topography, landscape of pavement, gaping, giving way of its own accord. And some among us, a few, are brave enough, to toe the ragged lip and look into these cragged maws and smell the disdainful scent of bottomless mess. I traveled west through the fecund mysticism of brew.

I walk and hear voices calling me — FUUURMAAAN — from intercoms, car alarms, police radios, PA systems, disembodied voices seeking their wandering beer dybbuk. Condo-fortress intercoms invite me into their faux marble lobbies. Brew is the sextant of elixir. Dark brew is an alchemy that transforms sharp objects, projectiles of control, architectures of neglect and paranoia, belligerent light strategies into a soft contoured womb, (I remember a parachute game where I was tossed, catapulted weightless into blue sky, a field of clover below, and then fell carefree into the parachute’s deep deep pocket) a womb of comprehension and reverie.

I pinched a set of wheels from in front of the Heartbreak Club where inoculated money spinners dress in $3000 worth of leather to get real, break a sweat, act artsy. Somebody had left it, MY ’63 abalone Lincoln, idling right out there on Hudson. It was immaculate, the hood awesome as Texas in tin. A romantic grease jock’s dream. And it left me totally lushed, totally garbage-lid-eyed to imagine the driver’s face returning with his foxy piece of Euro-Trash under arm. Oh, sweet reverie!

I adjusted the electric mirrors, electric seats, put it in gear like a knife through warm butter, elbow out the window. All the dials stared up at me like an obedient dog’s eyes. We were one — a noble cell with a mission, time bomb waiting to go off. The acceleration of the everyday leaves ever less time for character development, motivation, personality so that cars begin to supercede their function to become characters in their own right, beyond subservience and status symbol. They control the speed limit, convert latitude into attitude, negotiate their own predetermined routes. That is what they mean by automatic.

I buy beer, the best: Harp, Red Stripe, Budweis, Thomas Hardy’s Ale, Guinness, Grolsch, Palm, Old Peculiar, Heineken Dark, doppelbocks — I choose 2, Animator, Optimator — because what good’s a pocket full of chump change in Hell?! One of society’s great inventions: the 24-hour deli with 100 brands of beer, sandwiches, disposable stereo systems, and bright toys to distract us from our angst. From Tribeca I bullet up Avenue of the Americas, doing menacing side swipes, sheering door handles and fancy trim along the way.

This boat’s a dream! It steers like my old American Flyer on hardpacked snow. I glide across craters which, if they were on the moon, we’d spot with the naked eye. I do felonious screeching donuts at Crazy Eddie’s. Heads turn, haircuts are mussed. I’m the bumper car wacko on my final tear. Don’t they understand? This is my last day.

I wish crazy little Nielle was beside me. Nielle’d know when to grenade empties at pedestrians. She’d know about a beer bottle’s trajectory, know the Slimelight Club was a prime target. I tried to call her but every number was a wrong number. The less we see each other the more inseparable we grow. She’d stuffed a scrawled note into my wallet where more money should have been: “‘Yes my eyes are closed to your light. I am a beast, a savage. But I can be saved.’ Arthur Rimbaud said that. We’ll go for a ride off the end of a pier with you on my handlebars.” That was almost 2 weeks ago.

She’d ride her bike (tires spray-painted lime green), army boots sprayed silver, jean shorts held together by 50 colorful safety pins, holes in her tee shirt so her breasts could grace us with their peculiar smiles. I was wearing her unwashed panties as I often did when I was lonesome. We’d lived on hope, buried the hope in hip skepticisms. We had been hopeful and none of us were stupid enough to admit that.

We once made love in the Soho loft of some rock star she was babysitting for, using an Alligator Baggie she’d salvaged from the deep freeze, as a condom, unwrapping 2 lbs. of chuck in my honor. The chuck lay defrosted on the counter by the time we’d finished. Which spurred her to make chuck casts of her face and torso and to implore me to eat the “plaster tartare” from her features.

But tonight chance’ll just have to be my co-pilot. When you’re alone who cares for starlit skies? At 14th St. I do a dramatic stuntman slide, broadsiding a silver Mercedes. The sound is meaningful. The jolt exaltingly tragic. “He just missed a hot dog stand. Let’s get’m!” A citizen waving an umbrella gives chase. But I leave him with just a hint of rubber to perk his nostrils like a subtle dab of perfume on the nape. I lose him easily because I am not afraid of intersection death. Leap right into the arterial vortex.

I course further up 6th Ave., free of guilt and moral constraint, nose up the quivering tailpipe of a trembling Volvo. I run red lights, scatter pedestrians dead to their own dreaming. And the threat of death animates their knickknack hearts, awakens them from their ennui. But I get no thanks, no credit, no footnote in their slender scrapbooks.

I challenge stunned grey men in important cars, ears glued to cellular phones. Human accouterments distinctively integrated into their vehicles’ status. And suddenly everything speeds up, hell-bent beyond all comprehension.

At a light I gun the engine, pour beer over my head, comb my hair back. I’m James Dean. He’s dead too. And yes, I too am just a short chapter in an absurdist novel. I too am just a fever blister in someone else’s medical history.

At 34th Street I make a swooping chase-scene left, cruise down the sidewalk, watch the strollers scatter and cling to Macy’s windows. It’s a movie. It’s amazing. And you’ve seen it. But never quite so interactive. I wish my head was a camera.

A van swerves to avoid me and hits a pedestrian (this I did not want) and the angry crowd of bystanders ignores the pedestrian who was being aided by the driver. One tore a bracelet from the passenger’s wrist. Their trial is fast. Their guilt instant and convenient. Another jurist from the mob stole her purse. Then the mob broke open the back doors of the van and looted it of its cargo — fashion sweatshirts. The mob flailing, tearing, bickering over size and style.


I hang a hair-trigger louie and then a sudden tire-screeching ralph at 8th Ave. Pick up a hooker at 40th. She’s in chemical limbo, somewhere between Flip Wilson and Dolly Parton in absurdly tight satin jogging shorts. Confesses she’s always wanted to help people, “work widduh blind,” as she loosened my fiddle from its case the way a nurse might change a catheter. “Or maybe work with the impOtent.” She’s getting warmer. “$20 for a handjob and $50 I go down.”

“Whattah your lips made a wet silk?”

“No, but I can sing opera wid you down my throat.”

She holds on to her 14th Street wig as we cruise crosstown. “Whatta yuh late for a funeral or sumpin?” she asks.

“Remember, if work’s such a great fuggin’ thing, the rich woulda kept more of it for themselves!” I yell as we glide by the Time-Life Building.”

I double park at the Waldorf and block 2 limos in. I drag her luded body (she claims its an anti-vertigo drug, cyclizine) in past the fish eyes under red caps. And she tightens her grip — maybe it’s rigor mortis — until she’s squeezing the beef out of me.

I order beer in crystal tulip glasses at $6.75 a crack. She wipes lipstick on the hem of the tablecloth. Reapplies more with the mirror balanced on her water glass.

She likes her Long Island Ice Tea with 5 packets of sugar. She’s never been to Long Island. Heard it was nice. And somehow we dance. Sort of. Her backbone’s like saltwater taffy — in August. Her skin smells like Juicy Fruits. I try to imagine sitting next to her in hi school. How’d she get this way? All that helpless flesh.

“I don’t want no clothes / and I don’t need no bed / I don’t want no pork chops / just gimme gin instead.”

“Hey, aint that Bessie Smith?”


“No, the lyrics.”

“Honey, I dunno. I bin sayin’ it for years. I aint responsible for knowin’ who said what.”

We bump into tables, upset drinks and faces. Her eyeballs have disappeared somewhere up into her forehead like 2 billiard balls sunk into side pockets.

Everyone, by now, is gawking at us. And I’m encouraged by the penguin suits to lead her out through the yawning doors, her heels dragging, wearing out like pencil erasers.

“Forget dinner.” I press $50 into the penguin suit’s palm.

“Awwh, I always wanted to try Baked Alaska.”

“It’s just fried ice cream.”

“How do they fry it widout meltin’ it?”

“I dunno.” As we amble through the thick doors.

“I — yea, me! — was the model for Mark Rothko’s painting ‘Drunk on Turpentine.’ I tell the doorman Rothko committed suicide on Feb. 25, 1970. I do not know why I know this but I do. About Rothko, Michel Butor said; “One of (his) most remarkable triumphs is to have made a kind of black light shine.”

I park at the intersection of 8th Ave. and 49th St. I drop off my Delilah, confident that she will survive. Although perhaps not long enough to collect social security.

“Wat was yer favorite subject in school?”

“Favorite Subject?”

“Geography I guess. Even knew where the Galapagos Islands were.” This fact brings tears to my eyes. And then I laugh because when I laugh I take in 6 times more air than when I breathe. And I’m going to need it all because in the mean time traffic has begun to back up. I give her a wad of green. I lean her up against a lamppost, serenaded by this sea lion chorus of car horns.

“See you in heaven, Delilah.”

“I doubt it, hon. Go to bed now.”

“I don’ have a bed.”

“Everybody’s got a bed. I got a thousand of’m … to bed now. Quickly.”

Anyone can paralyze a city in this manner, by the way. Fake car trouble or whatever. Just stop your car, especially sideways across an intersection … So all you would-be anarchists with cars, listen up!

I put my tub in drive. Time means something wholly different to me now. I challenge the honking backed-up traffic like a toreador in an arena. It’s 6 am. Worker drones en route already. I try to imagine their hasty breakfasts, modest dreams of release, of winning Lotto. Eerily preoccupied equally with weight loss and child abuse. And one can either go nowhere fast or nowhere slow. Speed in its very dynamic contains the anxiety of arrival. Intelligence in desperation is this febrile motive power. Ambulance chasers begin to follow me. I am leading a configuration of the desperate and lifeless.

Hmm. I back up, pure demolition derby-style and slam into a Cadillac putting it out of commission — crushed radiator. The ambulance chasers sit on the edge of their lifelessness as they watch. It is dramatic to see steam rise up out of the crushed metal. The driver loses control of his hairstyle. The wreck looks so visceral, so sculptural, so dynamically integrated into the prayers of Madison Avenue. And I feel like an artist for the first REAL time in my life. All my black eyes up until now have been mere prelim sketches for the bigger canvas I call, “The 5 Boroughs Bursting.”

The Caddy owner gives chase, bangs furiously on the windshield of my tub. And the symphonic car-caphony continues. I want Leonard Bernstein. I want to sculpt the agonizing noise of frustration into a masterpiece CD. Do scrapmetal Stravinsky. I want to have all these blaring horns, car alarms, and barking motorists to draw functionaries to their windows, away from their desks. To see the faces everywhere bereft of purpose, wired to go nowhere very fast. And the Caddy owner, when I step on the gas, hangs onto the antenna. He looks funny like Jerry Lewis in a movie I can’t remember the name of.

By now I’m becoming well known. I wend my way up 8th Ave. to Harlem, weaving a delirious tapestry of steel, misery and mayhem. Bouncing off cars from east to west. Crash, nose first, through a furrier’s window and kids with askew baseball caps and big lipped hi-tops are already ransacking the joint before I’ve even had time to back out into traffic. I believe in the hyper-dispersal of misery and money.

I park on the sidewalk, grab the pay phone to call Nielle. The last number I have for her. She has left a message on this machine, “Furman, remember what W.C. Fields said, ‘Sleep, the most beautiful experience in life — except drink.’” At the beep I don’t know what to say. Instead I hold the phone out the window and rev the engine.

35 cars on my way to Harlem. Just like “The Krusher.” This is pure aggravated operation of a motor vehicle, a churning delirious hunk of illogic. A tone poem. And by now my back bumper’s dragging which sends sparks everywhere. Side trim is splayed and wiggling out into traffic. A hub cap pops off the front left and rolls into a herd at a crosswalk.

Yes, I am a scene. And a scene, like a parade, should head down 5th Avenue — bumper-car style in heavy traffic, playing chicken with over 100 violations under my belt and I’m STILL moving. One lady in a cab wants to know whether I’m crazy. I shake my head yes. She’s satisfied. $2 million in damage and still rolling.

Then I hit a stretch limo at 45th and 5th Ave., doing 40 and the crazy thing buckles around me in a U-shape. I imagined it running forever in a circle like a toy wind-up car. The moment of impact has certainly become a crime of ecstasy, felonious vandalism, the last remaining source of orgasmic delight. After that it’s mere hysteria, human foible and stunned collective panic. Set an anthill on fire and you get the same effect.

I salute the 2 lions, Fortitude and Patience, guarding the NYC Public Library as I scream past, my voice blending almost mellifluously into the screech of steel on pavement, dragging attention along with it like the train of a wedding gown.

I bang and bruise my way out to comb the outer boroughs — the entire city decorated in the festive and menacing tinsel called razor wire — spread my metropalsy, confident that Manhattan is all abuzz and forever changed by me and my tub. More abuzz than by anything I could ever write or paint. Beer offers us this repertoire of insouciance to take back the night, resist curfews, and re-occupy this no-mans-land so that the sense of order in time and space gives way to uncontrollable chaos.

I find my favorite sites: Flushing Meadow, Brooklyn Bridge, Floyd Bennett Field, The Cloisters with its headless torso of Christ, the Long Island City salt mounds, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, City Island, St. Luke’s Garden on Hudson where one can daydream through the woosh of swirling traffic, on wooden benches, under magnolias, and then the crumbling docks of Greenpoint where I catch my breath and maneuver for perspective. I breathe into my palms. They are swollen by beer and excitement. But I am afraid that the he that is him is now me. I remember my fear of heights. But it wasn’t a fear of heights as much as a fear I might be compelled to jump. I Wonder how it will feel to die. Wonder if I should do it in public, if there’s a quick way to write a will. Times Square perhaps. Quickly and slowly.

I visit various banks and enter their lobbies to yell; “Your money isn’t there. They’ve already spent it!” Because I have nothing to lose by betraying our cumulative and tenuous economic myths. This is how panics begin. When the suspension of disbelief can no longer be extended. We’ve seen banks collapse and the drug companies panic beyond what their formulas are able to comprehend into sales.       

But my words and yours are just ashes blown into the faces of the shivering. It’s actions that speak louder than paragraphs. Boxers are always more famous than philosophers. Inertia louder than War and Peace. This last 20-some hours is the painting I would do. I wish I could do. George Grosz in crushed steel. A panic of the obese. A public monument to the disinherited.

Finally I’m in Central Park, 7:30 PM. Hats climb the hill with big daddy shadows and coats the size of backyards. I’m in a purgatory squashed between exhaustion and narcolepsy. Where the Leni Lenape once put down camp, where the sex predators now roam, and where those who knock the heads off the remaining lampposts, somehow grinning, is how they see light.

I’m right on empty and so I ditch my tub, with beer-soaked seats, near the zoo.

I notice a helicopter hovering overhead. Something like gun muzzles or camera lenses aimed down at me. I pay 2 Midwesterners $25 to take my pic with their Polaroid next to my hunk of steel. I hold the musty sack of leftover shook-up brews the way fathers hold their babies.

I imagine the ribbons of errant light are the worms of my secret demise boring in through the soil and my linseed oil soaked burial chemise. Dream had deserted me; the past, my DNA, had been sweat out of me. Heat stopped being an issue — I became a phantom and stealth was my modus and I gave up on all the lives I’d known, all the people I’d taken as my guides, all those I’d spied on.

I put the snapshot in my breast pocket. In the zoo I talked to the seals and sea otters. In the seal pool I see sticks or cudgels or canes or poking sticks or hairless limbs, the back legs of any number of dogs floating atop the dark greasy water. The seal and otters are my faves because they have fun and they seem to understand.

I opened my Thomas Hardy and wander around the cages. I inhale the pungent perfume of Phocidae fecal matter.

And at midnight of the 7th day I shivered, I festered but I did not die. No activist lawyer came to my defense. No art critic analyzed my impetuous techniques. No photogs came to shoot my Brancusi on 4 wheels. No one saw similarities between my methods and the flailing pugilism of Jackson Pollock. The nobility of my terrorism had eluded them all. Notoriety had failed to lift me, Furman Pivo, out of my meaningless anonymity. I was alive, reinvented, and in big trouble. #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 - #35

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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