Bart Plantenga’s
Confessions of a Beer Mystic #5

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haven’t consumed anything with as much hidden gusto or as little secret kickback behind it as Bart Plantenga’s still unpublished ineberotic end of the century confessions of urban transcendence since the first day you stubbed your reality on A Yaqui Way of Knowledge.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.

Mike Golden / Rudy’s Bar & Grill - Hell’s Kitchen, NYC - 7/31/99 –

When I finally managed to finagle an escape scenario out of her house it was midnight. And then my pity for her started to sink in – her lines, her seductions, her exaggerated smudges of lipstick stretching way beyond the furthest contour of lip, her former prowess, the way she clung to the few good photos of her. You want to just say: the more you lunge the easier it is to dodge you. You want to say: You suffocate what you love to death. And I wonder what the fuck I am doing. Oh, she had once been something to somebody. She had been on TV, in the press, had a style, a record or twenty-two – I know her résumé like others know poems. I saw those 45s with their intriguing labels [Pussyfoot, Chi-Tow, Firmament, Bean Me Up] she had even played them on her warped stereo unit, which made all music sound like it came from some deep, grey sea, like the songs had been carried through the Rockies, like they had withstood severe temperature changes in the trunk of a Ford Maverick. She had once had tits, boobies that everyone respected and called breasts. The kid you really want to fondle, go to town with… Yes.

And then I’d find myself – or at least some kind of floor mop that reminded me of myself – walking the streets again, the misrepresentation of me that was just drunk enough to get nostalgic. To pity her; of course, in less than a week I’d want her pussy again, along with all the folds of skin that she would serve up as mock labia.

Anyway, there I’d be outside on the plain of grime – “what saith deep midnight’s voice?” – amongst the pock-faced junkies and grunts, the paint fumes from chop shops where Elsa got lightheaded “and lightheaded makes me easy.” Pioneer of a New Promised Land, a substratum terra incognita, a neglected parcel of toxic land that could be re-colonized and in some respects already had been. The Gowanus smells like Turkish Taffy tonight.

I found myself instinctively reaching for my only weapon – a pen. It had already jabbed a perp/mugger in the face. I mean, think he intended to mug me. Although he could have been just asking me for a light. You just don’t stand still in these disputed quadrants of the Brooklyn dark because you quickly become their target. We just don’t take chances in a dark that was designed by others.

For instance, eventually I started carrying a knife, a Chinese knock-off Swiss Army knife, not just because I felt safer but also because I felt more useful. At a party [I hadn’t even been invited to] I found myself with someone else’s Swiss Army knife, opening a number of foreign beers and uncorking Gamays brought by lithe mocha-epidermal women, who had voices like Eartha Kitt. And so by the end of the party [the good beers had all been quaffed] I departed with it up my sleeve – a new appendage. It was as if my body had evolved to its newest level of functioning – to open foreign beers at parties. Open beers, open hearts, open legs [I didn’t say that!]. As if suddenly useful was chic, and prepared was sexy. And for beautiful women, I became a convenient godsend, a character, a dependable sentinel at their command – “Can you open this for me, sweetheart?” Yes, some cachet was squeezed from all this… down and out-ness.

Yes, that is how I must think of it as I wander unto the strip girding the Gowanus Canal. There you cry tears that you cannot explain without some understanding of chemistry. I cry because the air above the water is sour and toxic – melted plastic, burning rubber, PCBs, rotting flesh. Or because the houses seem to collapse before your very eyes and the sad dusty Xmas lights are never taken down and the Italian guys ride around and around in their jacked up pony cars through their Carroll Gardens looking for something they cannot see. It is September – or is it? – and one must be brave when confronting the dark sadness at the precise location of where the sky reflects the pavement.

When I got home [quote-unquote – that’s a joke nobody even laughs at anymore] it is 2 a.m. and I stare at the note Georg has tacked to my front door: DEER KOMRAD, THAT DREADFULL ODER? BODY PARTS IN BASEMEANT? WHO CALLS FOR INFESTEGATION. He cooks forgotten tubers, black potatoes at odd hours. Behind several thick but moist and semi-porous walls, painted a sour sanitarium green, I hear Pasha Georg playing Wagner on his old hi-fi set. I think it is “Siegfried” because that is his favorite. “You are like this Siegfried,” he has told me more than once. The Motive of the Valkyrs, the Motive of the Gods’s Stress, the Motive of the Dusk of the Gods. You can almost picture him Georg in his Lawrence of Arabia get up, conducting an imaginary orchestra with his vintage sabre. Something about the Boer War. Hear him bellow over the music “Waken, Wala! Wala! Awake from lasting sleep…”

I stood there for a second and I now began to realize that Djuna’s old agoraphobic visions [no other word for them] were not all that wacked after all. She had been onto something and I never noticed – beer and pussy obscuring my vision! As they say. I remember her wild arms twirling like propellers, her hands swelled by the consumption of a great number of beers. Djuna would say things like: “Out there’s nothin’ but a big ashtray with teeth.” There was a time, you know, the charmed period, romance, do each other’s toes, flowers for monthly anniversaries, blow jobs in public, back when personal annoyances were amusing quirks … And then, and then, something gave. The roof caves in, the ice sculpture melts, her drug dealer [ex-lover!] disappeared without a trace. And suddenly doing nothing is no longer fun or alternative or creative resistance. It’s just boring.

This is all before she became so – how else to put it? – hopelessly realistic, so staunchly utilitarian, before function and purpose began snuffing out all flippancy and serendipity. I mean, she used to havevision and a sense of fun, shoplifting on a dare, running down St. Marks pillaging at random… slam-dancing at Soho art openings, no to-do lists… Those were the days! And get this, years later at parties she goes around claiming that we were the world’s first slam dancers when it became all the rage.

She wasn’t even my ex yet and already we were living in the future past tense. Being clean, in NA had managed to give her the character of a snub-nose pearl-handled pistol of verifiable accuracy – at close range. God, and how I loved her back then, all 4 feet and 11 inches of her. Back then being before I moved into her place. Back when the truth about my being a “Pet Rock Repairman” or the highest paid foot messenger in the Five Boroughs was something deliriously curious and entertaining to chew on. These are the kind of jobs that make your later success [if it ever comes calling] all the sweeter.  She believed me precisely because it was so unbelievable! But now the ridiculous had gone on for too long and it no longer worked in my favor. “Come on, get serious, get a checking account…” I was no longer surreal and entertaining; the ridiculous was just ridiculous now. And pathetic. And you get associated with pathetic and you go down fast in New York.

“This ashtray’s also got a big powerful sucking action,” I remember her great resilient lips vacuuming me from chin to chest. “A whirlpool of screeching steel and splintered chicken bones.” Necklace of loving teeth-marks strung across my torso. Which made hairs quiver in bodily nooks and shadowy undersides and orifices I didn’t know I even had. But, again, that was before. And now I have to ask myself: Was it love, me or just the drugs? Although drunkenness, reverie, love and memory all make a shambles out of now and then, out of plot lines and sequence and sense. Events go back and forth, get twisted like twine and if that matters you are in trouble – until you buy an agenda.

I remember one summer eve, under our bedroom window, in the relentless commotion, some girl is out there in the street and she wants to know; “What is all this? A wall of flesh or sumpin’!? I’m gonna join me a zoo! Gonna pose nude for all yooz, be the star of your thousand fuggin’ home videos!” She was the gargoyle that guarded our stoop. A pretty girl with a bark and a sweet snivel into a jazz sleeve. In any case, she added exotic verve to the ‘hood. The more she despised the tourists’ insatiable appetites for consuming all experience, the more colorful she turned up in their snapshots. The more they had to talk about their NY adventure in their homes in Clifton and South Orange. And, indeed, if you are bored with the life you have chosen, you can for a price live in a kind of inverted Disneyland, surround yourself with exotic creatures – many of them discarded anti-social misfits from the very suburbs and small towns where the Chamber of Commerce gives misfits one-way bus tickets to the Big Apple by to rid the community of a social problem and eventually use the fact that New York has more crazies and uses more tax dollars to maintain them than the suburbs against it in order to show one’s indignant and insecurely tainted sense of superiority. Or you move there. Or you come visit and you see the crazy on the stoop and you have this strange sense of familiarity or déjà vu.

“I BE your porn star, BAby!” A man accompanied her on garbage cans laid on their sides. They sounded like Santana. I don’t know, and she sounded so right on, like some Nina Simone with a tornado coiffure. But I was afraid to admit I was agreeing with someone who was so far gone. I could’ve been all wrong about our stoop gargoyle. I never ventured some “amen” response out the window. Camaraderie, even simple niceties, are suspect around here. Take the lesbian woman living in “our” building. Eating macrobiotic at places where eating slow is religion hasn’t helped her mindset one bit. She does look like a fuzzy gray version of Anne Waldman or Diane DiPrima working as an assistant bookkeeper at the St. Mark’s Poetry Project or something. For months I said hello to her as we passed in the hallway. Finally one day she turns to me, aims her slender forefinger at my throat and says “Fuck off you piece of shit.” I am speechless.

And now I fret, I breathe hard, put my ear on our front door, and I gauge whether the coast is clear. And like that, I’m now terrified to be out in my own hallway. Every sound I think its slow chewer or Georg or the Ukranian ladies. I mumble “Ja vas kokha ju” as I pass them. My declaration of love does not alter their wet dishrag scowls. I will have Pawel at work teach me to say “No, I do not work for the KGB.”

Meanwhile, other fucked-up types – the kind, like you and me, who get fucked up trying to keep up with fucked-upness all around them – think you’re going to bum money off them if you’re nice. But they’re onto you, you can tell by that snide little wound of sneer they give you. They think nice is weak or a con job. The words in the dictionary don’t mean what they say anymore. I just stopped saying “hello” because it sounds too much like “I want to knife you or fuck you or steal your dog’s bowl of Laddie Boy.”

I cannot emphasize enough how back then, during our honeymoon season, me and Djuna were a happy fused WE molecule and we just had no time for sleep. Wasn’t it the Maharishi who claimed we don’t need to sleep if we meditate twice daily for 20 minutes? I had imposed a regimen to see how close I could come to not sleeping: love or what comes beyond that [if love is marijuana, then whatever the cocaine equivalent of emotion would be], meditation, coffee, hyper-activity, beer, intense conversation where your dreams for changing the world suddenly become a likelihood. I mean, it worked for a couple of months, anyway. But you have to assume the consequences: a new – more poetic – syntax where speculation is equal to fact, levitation, dislocation, phantom hallucinations, hearing things…

Notes I wrote down back then are hard to decipher when I look at them now. But it seems that at a week or so of no sleep I heard myself sounding like Charles Baudelaire in an argument with Rip Taylor and Louis Armstrong at 78 rpms. I mean, it sounds wacked but there you are in the Holiday Bar and your going at it, tearing into the conventional logic of the universe and they are all nodding their heads in unison in full agreement. Actually, we didn’t know anybody who really slept a lot. The idea was cocaine, No-Doz, caffeine and a LIFE TO LIVE because if you slept you might miss something, somebody might get something up on you. You might become the victim of a lapse in vigilance. Paranoia was the name of the pet we took for eternal walks. I kept the windows open to keep hot from getting too hot. We sweat the sweat you never see in Hollywood versions of tenement bohemias. There was no way to turn the radiators off – ON meant on, but so did OFF. I knew they – those theys that are not me – couldn’t get in this way unless they [the “they” inside all of us] used a helicopter or a catapult. Or astral projection. It’s all been done – Army surveillance copters “leased” to the city utilize infrared technology to detect privacy wrongdoings as well as the sophisticated windowsill cultivation of cannabis plants.

This all used to make sense. We had claimed a kind of inspired lunacy as a reprieve from the paranoia – every night the international [Grenada, Chernobyl, El Salvador, Reagan re-election] would invade the sanctum of the personal. Bed, bedlam, Bedouin were all related in my dictionary. And so you may remember me [or am I flattering myself?] as that slender boy with the beer in paper sack in left hand who might sleep walk with the remains of a waning six-pak in a rucksack until dawn made me feel like an alien in an alien world. That’s a cliché but it is a valid experience: Although you might stand on a corner and tell yourself that this is really happening and the next your wondering if your words are lying to your mind – everyone is tumbling out of the subways, off the buses, strange evasive eyes, hands struggling to straighten ties as they gallop past, all headed this way and you’re headed that way, crawling home.

So, our insanity [that of our kindred spirits] was a kind of performance art that would purge us of the times, the times that would not have us – the us who were confined to this place here in Downtown Beirut or the Holiday or Sally’s and the them were everywhere else like McSorley’s where cops once beat Leroi Jones to a pulp for being an uppity Blackman who liked his beer.

Sometimes Djuna made me stand before her recumbent splendor wrapped in the humid bed sheets so that she could shake my low-hanging testicles like fuzzy dice and stare at me with her gray dirty-glacier eyes. Her mind was like the ruins of the temple of Isis – filled with thousands of phalli. She had had older men in the palm of her hand and they had had her in the folds of their wallets. Ditto for younger. Her solace was an equation of being had that was always less than having had someone. She’d take one testicle as a lozenge and place it in the back of her cheek, back where the voice becomes something special, something to be heard. Then places the other in the right cheek and hums and hums and hums like a Tibetan Buddhist monk or soul singer dressed in sartorial silk.

Then she’d place one in each of her eye sockets like one might delicately place [to not spill a drop] green olives in matching martinis. And she might have said, “Mine eyes have seen the gory.”

I remember the odd spiral, the way my forefinger was fascinated by the seashell spiral of her earrings and the impression they left in the skin near my omphalos after she’d pressed her ear [attached to her brew-sloshed or psilo-silly nog] to my trunk for awhile. I remember this while standing in the doorway; the apartment suddenly feeling like a neglected diorama in a museum basement.

We used to flick dying roaches [Thai or Jamaican] from the damp bed, aiming for the window, too drunk and stoned to even think of anything resembling an upright position [Upright and vertical meant the man, paternalistic, phallic…]. Sometimes these lit roaches got caught in the lacy curtains. And in no time they were pocked with a constellation of burn holes [which reminded us of the universe’s architecture, which only made us snicker some more] and from here we created our own constellations and charts, divined our future. Sometimes the embers got flicked out onto the people hanging out below. Maybe they thought meteors or smokestacks – you know, like the ones at the Con Ed plant where they burn tons of garbage [that’s the rumor anyway]. And the particulant-dense toxins tickle our flared nostrils when we least expected it. But that was so long ago – months, weeks, years, hours… I can’t keep track.

More than once we worried about fire, still do. I mean, the lady in #12 used to have this wild dog. When she walked it she had to muzzle it. Everybody hates her because of this dog – doesn’t she understand this? – she gets rid of the growling beast she thinks she needs to protect her from those who hate her and – voila! – the source of hatred is eliminated and suddenly she’d have friends again… But that is not how the human soul is assembled. I mean, you used to be able to hear this beast a block away, its claws digging into the cement sidewalk, choking itself on the end of its chain, ready to tear the head off a kid or attack your ankles. And she’d turn around and blame you for being scared, which only encouraged him. “He smells fear,” she’d say.

I think: 3-legged dogs. I think: On her death bed will she wonder how much better would my life have been without that beast? It barks at anything even contemplating movement. And I can still picture it up there on her stove, her screaming for help, me scrambling up the stairs, it barking at rats with wings, it catching fire, igniting the fake lace, and sending this whole rat trap up in smoke. Me putting out the flames in a fit of heroism. She later blaming me for hurting her beast and causing water damage and stealing some of her silverware.

Tentative and tenement may have the same Latin root. This will have to be checked at the library. Our apartment was an illegal sublet you never knew what the super, who did some time for a crime we can only guess at, might perpetrate: He might try to burn us out or like 6 months ago, try to flood us out with a broken water pipe “accident.” He may be subsidizing Georg’s rent to keep him there and drive the rest of us out. It may be him or Georg, for that matter, who is dragging large maritime chains across a wooden floor. Or percussive thumps at all hours against my front door. Like a warning. When I leap to check, there is no one there, just that weird cord swaying ever so slightly under the sick rancid butter-colored light. And I can see the catastrophe before my eyes, a whole life full of love letters, photos with writing on the back, Cramps records, and knickknacks from great adventures – POOF! – gone like that, tossed out on the street, charred at the edges, running ink…

I asked one of the gargoyle Ukrainian ladies one day what that cord was for and they looked at me as if I had just asked them whether they masturbate to the image of the almost-naked Jesus. I believe they believe that you pull that cord and the whole building falls down. Ok, so I won’t touch it but only in deference to their belief system. I sometimes stare at it precisely where the cord goes into a small hole in the ceiling.

“It’d do everybody good to lose everything every couplea years.” I swear I’ve heard Djuna talk like that. She was not sentimental about stuff, the past, mementos. It’s this type of calamity scenario that actually resuscitated Djuna – a Phoenix thing – still does. She’d be sitting pretty because all my past(s) would be lying there in a small pile of smoky ash, no longer able to lurk and linger – and drive her crazy. I once caught her scrawling snide and snippy comments in the margins of old high school love letters she’d found buried away in my part of the closet. I mean, I didn’t even unpack my bags – see relation between tentative and tenement above.

Any remnant of sobriety can breed this kind of linear sophistry. Thus I reach for another beer [a metaphysical one, perhaps one brewed at a Trappist monastery, perhaps a Chimay White – pron. “she may” – a brew of dry hoppy finesse, one that goes down satisfyingly although not without a battle] in an attempt to reverse, in some small way, the spin of this earth.

I’m on the ground floor, Djuna is gone, so tonight I’m alone again, and when I turn down Joy Division and really listen, I can hear the howls of the half-dozen guard dogs that, according to Georg, Marco the super keeps hungry in the basement.

(to be continued)

Confessions Of A Beer Mystic by Bart Plantenga
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Bart Plantenga – is the world’s foremost Beer Mystic and authority on yodel-ay-ee-hoo! ·

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