Beer Mystic: A Novel of Inebriation & Light
the previous chapter to Bookbeat’s BEER MYSTIC #24 excerpt is now online at:
Beer Mystic #23: Karen The Small Press Librarian
Furman Pivo believes he [plus beer] may be the cause of a rash of streetlight outages. This sense of empowerment transforms him into the Beer Mystic. He has a mission and a mandate. Or does he? In any case, 1987 NYC will never be the same and the rest is history or myth or delusion.
Beer Mystic Invitation: Participate in a unique literary adventure that will take you on the longest, rowdiest literary pub crawl ever. Follow the Beer Mystic’s story around the world through a global network of host magazines [next excerpt at end of chapter / cover by David Sandlin].
<< Beer Mystic #23 To be announced>> chapter 24:
It’s no wonder, then, that I had to start whistling up for the key after Djuna changed the locks and refused to give me a new key. Each successful betrayal of her by me that overshadowed her many betrayals of me just goaded her on to ever more dramatic acts of vengeance. Now, if Djuna liked the tune – “Mack The Knife” is one, “Surabaya Johnny” another “You said so much Johnny / Not a word was true Johnny” – she’d toss me the keys. If not, I’d have to sleep elsewhere. Sometimes with Nice, who had very temporary lodging arrangements. One floor here, a couch there, a squat for a few months. Or I could just buzz Djuna’s doorbell [the kind that looks like a nipple] all night and sing “At the beginning every day was Sunday / That was until I went with you”… None of this did me any good because, as I later learned, she just puts on her Bose headphones [courtesy of the Times Square Valentine tycoon?] and turns the music up a notch. I mean, ultimately, I think I was only two months behind in the rent.
One night, not long ago, I was wandering to kill the Friday night when I spotted this guy coming up Avenue A, off 7th Street whistling a tune, a tune I knew, a tune I’d learned to whistle from Djuna, “Wie Mann Sich Bettet!” Oh sure, this guy knew Weill’s tune enough to whistle it but did he know Brecht’s words?! “You got to make use of the short time that is yours / A human being is not an animal / For, as you make your bed so must you lie / There’s nobody to cover you up there…” I mean, there he was coming toward me with a small bundle of clothes under his arm, dressed in MY clothes – that’s right! – my fuckin’ clothes that she, Djuna, had lent him from “MY” closet! I understand stuff fast, but it takes a long time to explain it to me.
Yes, Nice has a bed, too – calls it a “Bedouin bed” – and she does not get nauseous lying on her back. On nights when I can’t carry a tune [and some others, too] she is my dream among brambles and hatchets. The bed is a sachet, a dream pillow and is never at the same address for very long.
“Why do you bother with her?” Nice is seldom nosy.
“I dunno. Habit I guess. I remember my father in the garage, putting his hand on my shoulder and saying, ‘Hamsters sometimes eat their young. It’s not something we can explain. It’s just something they do when threatened.’ Understand?”
“Uuuuh. Not really. And so what’s’at make Djuna, like star of Invasion of the Killer Shrews?” Nice only acted jealous because she thought I was too used to it to go off it cold turkey. Beyond jealousy, that’s like one giant step toward Buddhism.
As long as we don’t coagulate into a lump of bitter familiarity, an inert “us-molecule,” me and her could last like a “black and tan” Nick and Nora of the ’90s. As long as I take her with me, half-cocked, hunting black-eyes, she’s willing to play my #2 as a down payment on becoming my #1 in the [very near] future.
Nice’s sexual apparatus works like the firing mechanism of a pistol – she is propulsive. She’s so hot that making love to her with pot holders on doesn’t help. This is how I describe it at work. Ben and Robert listen intently. When we chuckle, the bosses think we are laughing at their expense. I say let them think that.
In her kitchenette [this month], one oven mitt that hung from a hook was the head of an alligator. At night it devoured her “devil’s food breasts.” She liked games involving her breasts. She served me a sweaty glass of beer from the grip of her cleavage without spilling a drop. Doing the limbo. She’s from Antigua – no, lived there. She’s from Senegal. But sometimes from “Jah-maica.”
“You’ve lived everywhere.”
“Which is a little like nowhere.”
And, had her dad maybe named her after a town in the Ivory Coast, Niellé where he had try to negotiate a policy to stop deforestation and help the people diversify their economy away from agricultural products like cocoa and coffee.
Nice and I laugh a lot. When she has an orgasm, the muscles in her arms and legs flex so intensely that they remain fixed there, like chair legs locked into position, right at the surface and you can’t even bend an arm or even wiggle a pinkie. The air perspires and is only later worn like what a tornado does to an afro. She likes to show me the data files she has created with all my documented black-eyes on her computer. The map of Manhattan showing the precise locations of all my beers, however, is her crowning glory. We can stare at that for hours. Nina Simone, Black Uhuru, Youssou N’Dour, LKJ, Kalahari Surfers, and General Echo [“Drunken Master:: “In heaven there is no beer / That’s why we drink it here / So don’t have no fear / Just come and get your share…”] on her boombox. An obscure beer or song is more important than any perfume.
My heart still gets hurled like a horseshoe magnet, aorta over auricle, at this splendid face. Strange, this cosmos of beauty [how facial bones sculpt of skin something undeniable, like a silken scarf draped over dream] and how it still takes up tacks, rips up the carpet of my brain awed and deranged from the floor. I have to grab hold of things, things solid and grounded when I gaze too long at her face. Who/what I am can be measured, I guess, in direct relation to what happens to me.
“Dylan Thomas said, ‘I am lost in the metropolis with a rubber duck and a girl I cannot see pouring brandy into a tooth-glass.’” She quoted as we sit in the Linger Lounge now, after watching the spiral imprint of the wood grain from the pew – I mean booth – disappear from the tender underside of her arm. Then she sucked blood from my lip cut on the chipped rim of a stemmed extended tulip glass [which is perfect for heightening the elegance of a pilsner]. Heightening a pilsner is the act that raises us out of ourselves.
“You are soooo…. Beautiful.”
“Joe Cocker, circa 1975. Written by Billy Preston. Um, I was thinkin’, where we put out lights we should place flowerpots filled with bright flowers.”
“‘A guiding light that shines in the night…’ Maybe like crocuses?”
“Why not. Or narcissus.”
“Or wild purple cockle. Um, NIELLE. I gotta think about it.”
“Orchids? This’ll mark our black-eyes as something deliberate. It’ll make it a place of reflection. It will prevent our acts from being interpreted as vandalism.”
[“If the flower (uneven beer head) is sufficiently beautiful, it will not quickly fade…” Michael Jackson. The New World Guide to Beer. Courage Books, Philadelphia, 1988.]
“You got something there. Except that costs bucks.”
“We can steal’m. Everyone must share in the beautification program. Besides, it’ll give form to vision.”
The lights were bright and shivering outside the Linger. On the way to the All-Nite Pharmacy I asked Nice, “What kind do you wanna get?”
“I dunno, let’s try something different.” She played along because for her, life was a series of instants placed before us to amuse. I could be juvenile again. I could say stupid things and not feel stupid.
“Isn’t it the ribbed green kind you like?” Even louder.
“Yeah, but I don’t like the TASTE. Let’s try the reservoir-tipped ones with the grape jelly time-release all-natural spermicide.”
“What kind do you usually get with your husband?”
“Black flesh or pink flesh?”
“Grey fish flesh… OK, so ma’am, can I have a gross of the Martian green-ribbed? Yea, a gross.” And as I paid she made as if to open my fly to assure a proper fit. “A gross, that’s the weekly recommended dosage, isn’t that right, ma’am?” A yawning sneer from behind the counter as if to say “You may think you are a clever scene from a Porky’s retread but I know better.” The gross did indeed go fast, because she often became so impatient and riled up that she would end up biting through the condom, ripping it off, because she couldn’t stand to be so far away from my skin and the throb of my blood.
Her mind still allows her body to be a dreamscape. And when she flexes the wingtips of her scapula it forms a voluptuous fissure, an alternate vagina which she urges me to explore with tongue and plum-headed glans – or tomorrow she might offer the inside of a Black Beauty tulip. And this is what she means by “poetry in motion.” Or she’ll take my scrotum firmly in hand and make the sound of a bullfrog as she squeezes.
“I always think of you as having this finger that’s a bottle opener. Like a sideshow attraction. Like I was witness to at J.D.’s Lowest Common Denominator benefit party. Beer in the bathtub…”
“I saw you but did not know you.” She sipped her Pilsner Urquell – with only one finger of foam; it is best served with two – with gusto and I devoured her burp as if I was inhaling 125-year-old cognac or imagination or snails dipped in fresh mayo – as if each fetid moist molecule of her scent was tagged with mons and pheromones. I drank a Red Stripe from “her” Jamaica and spit several sips down the slender throat of Nice, with thumb pressed to her Adam’s apple. This is how we cross-bred. This is how we got in trouble in the Linger and other bars, and even outside. Affection in a bar is fine, so is a bit of muted passion, but when the passion is full-blown and all over the place, a bar suddenly becomes a church or something. And outdoors in the streets, people can get even more grossed out or pissed off at wanton love than at random violence.
The beach we go to is a dream of us in g-strings and no shoes. I dream of a dream that makes love to me. I encouraged her to read Kerouac’s Subterraneans to me out loud, pillow against the wall, my tongue tickling the vein that runs from hamstring to inner thigh along the sartorius muscle. She lets the crescent of musk melon fall into her lap. She is fruitful. The drops of nectar get caught in her profusion of pubic fur. Her voice full of resonance and proof – 151. [151 is also the pulse rate at the instant of orgasm.] “O dear, what a mess.”
One night she came into the Linger Lounge out of the dark rummy night breathing heavy, opened the paper, and read aloud, “Greedy aliens are stealing stars out of the eternal heavens… snuffing them out like light bulbs [her emphasis]… Something is snatching these stars out of our very own Milky Way like apples from a tree… blablabla… A super-intelligence with only one thing in mind – to suck the very life out of these stars. This is not only evil but potentially dangerous to the delicate harmony of the cosmos. It is speculated that alien cultures need the stars’ light and heat to survive…” And she looked at me, as Bonnie may have looked at Clyde, and thought this was evidence of my/our workings “woven into the cosmic scheme of existence,” as she put it. I was flattered but also a bit frightened by the notion that she considered this some heavenly legitimization of my efforts. I ran my hand through her hair. She is in awe of me, but pities me all the same for all the responsibility this awe places upon my shoulders. I am in awe of the love I am finding I am capable of giving her.
Her hair is thick and dark like the sea at night. My hands get lost in twenty pounds of it. “Pam Grier.” I whisper. “Alice Coltrane.” I remembered a kid with red rake, in briars and brambles up to my knees. Stuck and earnest. So trusting of my father’s camera, squinting in the febrile bee-buzzing sunlight.
In the morning it’s a different day. She gives me a printout of our map with its patterns of black-eye activity. Heavy concentration in the East Village, Foho, Soho, and Tribeca areas. She had circled areas in red that we should target more vigorously.
It’s a Billy Holiday and I am blue. The sky – what there is of it – is grey and untrue on my way to work. I gung-ho it to be on time – a valiant failure. Robert never minds, pretends not to notice. I smirk with the delicious perfume of Nice’s inner thighs still pasted to my face as the boss, Leon Codger, lectures me on punctuality and honesty. “A career starts and ends with punctuality.” A bit late for that buddy I think as rejoinder. This is an act and we all play our parts. He spins in his luxurious leatherette swivel chair. Little does he know how much the accountant, a savvy silver-haired old dame, has told me about how “irreplaceable” she is because of what she “knows” about this joint. Skimming – it sounds like a sport. She once said, “Some cook at home. I cook here. I’ve got all the books cooked to a fine stew.” Winkwink. I go to my position, ready to kill the body of the day. It is Friday and we listen to “Stormy Monday” but I do not wear a donut as a halo today.
And I am by evening redeemed in the tug and strife between me and Djuna, by the fact that something I do still eats away at Djuna. The mystery of why she would be jealous is entangled in the mystery of the human cell. She is jealous for no rational reason. Her body just gives her no alternative. Jealousy is encoded into her DNA the way lovers carve their initials into tree trunks.
It’s been a year – or is it three? – that we’ve been playing Top My Self-Abuse, You Martyr You, an escalation as stupid as any follow-the-leader I’ve ever been involved in. But that’s the nature of cohabitation and inertia. And that is over with. It’s a new game now.
My admittedly quasi-suicidal drinking forays [where the purpose and result are sometimes confused], which I try to dress up as poetic lovelorn angst [like a “different” kind of music’s guitar solos], just don’t faze her anymore. Because after all, does the earth ever have anything nice to say to those who dig the graves?
Besides, Djuna’s no half-cocked beer sap anymore. Nosireee! She’s on a success trip now. Oh, boy! A religion of holy ferocious clean. Ex-junkies really DO mutate into the shrillest of saints. They find purpose and their 12 Steps lead right to salesman of the year. Reason, civilization, and enlightenment, according to Nice according to Adorno and Horkheimer, led fatefully right to Nazism and Nazism-lite, or entertainment and distraction…
Djuna says things from her smile of shrapnel, “Jerks manufacture suffering to heroically play their art off of. Getting crowded up there on the cross lately, ain’t it?” She may be right, but her tone of voice has me rooting for the other side of right.
“Killer whales kill for pleasure – they’re the only animal besides wo/man, by the way,” I’m willing to point this out free of charge.
To get back at her I keep detailed notes of all my glorious – and exaggerated – infidelities. The diaries are calculatingly fictionalized and left lying about. Nice becomes my “Lina.” The lunatic proximity and the jubilant convenience of some of these transgressions eat away at her. Some are supposed to be her close friends! But where does she keep her fictional diaries. The ones that she suggests will implicate me in a crime of passion that may put me away for a very long time.
Not knowing the precise nature of my adventures also gets to Djuna. Not knowing where I “mistakenly” put her sun tan lotion got to her even more. Hide some of her daily accoutrements here and there and her day starts off in a funk.
“‘Escargot d’entres jambes.’ Now who does that refer to?” She spit out quotes memorized from my journals she’d gleaned while I was in the shower. “‘She was so hot she’d set off fire alarms whenever she walked near one!’ Gimme a fuggin’ break!” I listen dispassionately as I pour flat beer – left over Tripel Karmeliet “Authentiek three granenbier, nog steeds gebrouwen volgens een 17e eeuws Dendermonds Karmelietenrecept” over the corn flakes. I remain calm and focused as I try to decipher the Flemish.
“You fuckin’ alkie.”
She hates the time I spend on the journals. “‘She runs her tongue along the scrotal raphe, that tingling seam strung from anus across the scrotum.’ Whadda you, dating proctologists?” Djuna detests not being in total control. Her eyes begin to flicker ever so slightly. Further satisfying clues come from her denying voice, infected with a quavering trill of jealous rage, and that pleases me. That is the only song she sings that I still like. “Blond, robust, smooth and fruity 3-grain beer with final fermentation in the bottle. Brewed with pride and patience after Carmelite tradition with wheat, oat and barley. 100% natural beer.” I read aloud. “It’s like a bowl o’ granola in a bottle.”
However, if I show too much satisfaction with my self-congratulating presence she may be provoked to pick up the very pen I had been using to describe her [in a fit of indiscreet generosity] and stab me in the arm with it like she did last week. That’s right, spousal violence.
“I hope you get some kinda scrivener’s infection so that from now on every word you write will be an embarrassment, every sentence a mockery, every story a plagiarism…”
“Yeah, I get it.”
“Some people treat words like a gun full of blanks aimed at somebody’s skull. Is that a powder burn or just a sideburn? Ha Ha.”
“Laugh now, Djuna. I’ve already done 10 episodes. I’m gonna be syndicated, baby!”
“Puh-LEEEaase! Please tell me you’re just a bad dream crawling into bed next to me at night. People always writing junk down are bad lovers. Take the pen away from the writer, give’m a knife, see what he does then.”
“You’re six dark lanterns down the road, baby! But you got a whole ‘nother state to cross.” I mean, I resented her calling me a mere writer – skywriter’d be more like it! I mean, before the lights started communicating with my organs of inebriation, writing was nothing more than scratching things down on paper. I scratched them down to assure myself that things happened to me. I scratched them down and then lost them. I also resented how far Djuna’s dreams had taken her away from me. And vice versa. And to answer the question that countless others had posed – why does she still want him in her place? – well, all I can say is that landlords being who they are and that demanding the rents they do and then getting them with so little effort in New York certainly has a way of making people interact in ways they would not normally desire. The renters had handed over control of their lives to the rentees. To live together was an expediency of survival. Neither of us could afford to live alone. Economics makes strange bedfellows! Something like that.
“Heat cannot of itself pass from a colder to a warmer body and have the rest of the universe remain unchanged. That’s the law, baby! second law of thermodynamics – and relationships.”
“Call it a relationship. Kid yourself. To be fair to this ‘Lina,’ is she your lover or just a weapon to use against me? Or some fuckbag manufactured in the skeevy residues of your brain? I mean, everything rots, but I find nothing heroic about sleepin’ next to an embalmed corpse.”
“‘Better to sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.’ Herman Melville said that.”
“Wait, I don’t get it; am I the sober cannibal or… Besides, Melville worked the Chelsea docks, disillusioned, and he died poor and unappreciated.”
“Exactly!” Or was it? “No, yer the drunk Christian, with your motivational kits and your can-do mantras and your membership to the Jehovah’s Fitness Center! I seen it all, all the signs of addiction.”
“When I hear your static I just tune in another station. What’re you lookin’ for anyway?”
“Well, you don’t have to look hard. Just look at yer life. If yer lookin’ for spare keys, don’t bother, I don’t keep any spares lying around.”
And later I puked in a secret place – Karmaliet and corn flakes – a place where she couldn’t hear me. Vertigo is a sensation of abnormal movement in which the patient feels either that (s)he or his/her surroundings are going around and around or rocking to and fro. Often accompanied by vomiting, sweating, and faintness – alcohol or merry-go-round can be causes but it usually is the result of ear disease or sometimes a stroke or a migraine or the blood supply to the brain. Sometimes caused by increased fluid in the inner ear – the part housing the balance mechanisms and the nerve endings that transmit sound to the brain or it could be an abnormality of the special nerve endings [proprioceptors] situated in feet and legs that help maintain balance. But there are still some who adhere to the notion that to lose your mind is to have gained – gained something in altitude!
Beer Mystic Excerpt #25: is already up at http://eddiewoods.nl/?page_id=2017
About the author:
bart plantenga is also the author of Wiggling Wishbone and Spermatagonia: The Isle of Man both published by Autonomedia. His book YODEL-AY-EE-OOOO: The Secret History of Yodeling Around the World has received worldwide attention. He is currently [not] working on a new novel, Paris Sex Tete, which lies around like an apathetic, half-clad, dissheveled paramour while his new book on yodeling Yodel in HiFi, will no doubt be a bread-winner of epiglottal proportions.
His life has been defined by women, undignified employment [not unlike 98% of the rest of the world’s population], migration, lack of money and writing. His writing focuses on inequity, unempowerment, insatiable desire, the unentitled, the under-regarded, ignored and ineffable, which has led to a life of luxurious suffering and indellible indifference to profit.
His radio show Wreck This Mess has been on the air since 1986, first on WFMU [NY], then Radio Libertaire [Paris], and finally Radio 100 and now Radio Patapoe [Amsterdam], the world’s most untamed and oldest pirate radio station. He lives in Amsterdam.