Beer Mystic: A Novel of Inebriation & Light
Bart Plantenga

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 this chapter / cover by David Sandlin.

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 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 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.
<< Beer Mystic Excerpt #31: Demon Comics

Beer Mystic Excerpts #31a

I saw Siglund, a Soho art patron of some elegance, at the “Downtown Goes Uptown” Neo-Dada-Hip-Flux-Schlock-o-Pod Art Show at the Kai Winding Gallery on Madison. has money and was condemned to the inspiration garnered from seducing 20-year-olds [perhaps making and then later breaking ambitious art studs].
When she walked she didn’t just put one foot in front of the other, no, she glided, shimmered, belly-rolled, flamencoed across any flat horizontal surface that might serve as stage. And people followed like the Living Dead. The integrated synchronized movements of her hips, lower back, knees, elbows and the tremelo underside of her breasts could lead you to believe that the celebrated are serenaded day and night by integrated internalized soundtracks – that hum of success. Remove or disturb these soundtracks and they collapse the way Jell-o does without its form-giving bowl.
I had first met her on my messenger rounds delivering an artist’s slide portfolio to her place on Broome. She’d said something to the effect: “Your pants are much too tight to be a messenger. Maybe these pants mean you were destined to be a gigolo.” Her Swedish [or Finnish, I forget] eyes floating in the languid jazz of Coleman Hawkins like seedpods on a mountain lake.
This is not something a messenger with no hope and no prospects isn’t going to milk by simply forgetting it! I said I was a victim of fashion and she said: “Honey, that’s not fashion. Let’s be clear on that.” She would later dress me in a Hollywood television show version of art punk, you know, where they have stylists rip your jeans just right.
“My dear friend,” cultural women of maintained beauty always speak in sweeping “my dear friend Thomas Pynchon” terms “Aram Saroyan, his father William was a messenger and wrote The Human Comedy about his experiences.”
I told her I was a writer, which, of course, was no excuse, and a couple of other things and she asked to see some of my work. Conveniently enough, I always carried samples with me in the breast pocket of my jean jacket. She read some, then had me read some to her.

Anyway, when you’re new to a place like NYC you tend to explore, figure out how far you can wander from home before things get nasty or alien. Before you feel lost. Many of my ramblings were random, instigated by curiosity, taking me off the vectors as prescribed by my daily routes as a foot messenger. I didn’t know what else to do; how else to spend my energy. I was like the recording heads of a tape recorder and the streets were the audio tapes.
My résumé: delivering packages and envelopes, delivering misery to joy, profit to more profit, surviving. Dreaming entire novels that double as revenge scenarios on my rounds. I was daily reminded of legs and feet and even more so when there was one missing. For instance, Cosmo’s main competitor, AAAAAA Messengers, had a one-legged foot messenger in its employ. You are also eternally aware of the fragile nature of footwear, the porous nature of sneakers, your delicate constitution in the face of inclement weather.
But back then I didn’t worry about how I ended up in places only what they might have to say for themselves. I walked right through Fort Greene, Bed-Stuy, Washington Heights, Bronx Zoo, Jamaica, Hell’s Kitchen, Avenues D through G in the East Village, forsaken areas of Staten Island, and Harlem on a hot open-fire-hydrant night with naiveté/curiosity as my only guide. I got taunted but never assaulted, got labeled “Blond Jesus” because of my long blond hair, got given tickets for an Evangelical Church raffle – “You should come” – got pointed the way out by those who assumed I had just mistakenly walked into their hoods. One day it was a rubble-riddled cloverleaf on the BQE, the next, the lobby of a 5-star hotel.

She decided I was destined to be “someone.”
“You are bold in your boyish heart. You have something going but have to guard that it is not all gone before you quit wasting your time.” And quick and impetuous like that [the luxury of those with means, you may suppose] I became her metaphysical/strategic fuck, someone to cavort through insinuating scandal with, to introduce to catty agents. Arouse whispers.
She wanted me at this lavish Soho catered thing, where I’d lush attention on her, dressed in her version of me, as an adventure against her husband. Get erect in her gallery toilet. Get her jealous hubby to wave his unloaded pistol around. His expression of jealous helplessness was the spice of her life. I heard the raspy, whispery conjectures of her friends: Don’t forget what happened to minimalist, Charles Abbot’s wife. Defenestrated out the 33rd-floor window of their West Village apartment. Yea, he was acquitted but, still, she died. Didn’t she.
Siglund once locked the door to her Broome Street gallery and in the backroom asked me to rub a mop pole between her legs [and maybe something else after 5 p.m.]. Said she knew where he kept the bullets to his pistol as she proudly pressed her breasts into my face.
“And he is not shy about showing off his aim. He is not the first guy to think he is an artist with a pistol in his hand.”
She rubbed my bones and then named them one by one. “Clavicle, scapula, cocyx, hip bone… You are skinny and bold in your boyish heart.”
“Poverty. Bad sandwiches my mom used to make. As a kid I’d flush’m down the toilet. The nauseating sandwich on week-old bread diet works. Tapeworm too.
“Charming. Hunger is probably necessary for the spirit.”
“Orwell, Hart Crane, and Melville and all that, you mean…”

[Femke Pivo (mother): “It would not be van me this tapeworm you say he maybe hass. I do not know of this story that he tells that he used to be eating hot dogs not cooked and bacon from package to impress friends when he was young. I know too that he eat sandwiches of peanut boter en ketchup on white brood because this was all so American. I know I did not approve. It is strange because I did not raise him in such a vay. During de zomer I worked as a cleaning lady – I am proud of this, not ashame, you know – and would leave him his tongue and tomato sandwiches on good bread in the refrigerator. To be day-old is not bad bread as you maybe think we were saving money for his future we were making. I cannot be honest to say I know why I hear he throwed these good sandwiches away in the garbage. If he did. I am not in agreement maybe I cannot be believing this about him – but if this is what he tells I am confuse – especial after I so told him how I survived as a girl in the Amsterdam winter of ‘44 by eating tulip bulbs and sugar beets and so fort. You say he got smarter and thereafter flushed them down the toilet. I do not believe this about him. Yes, he is skinny – like me when I was his age – for many reasons of body but also drogs – strange ideas I know not all of them.
Yes, he did walk his brother to home from kindergarten to protect him from the bigger kids who would bullebak [bully] him for being a cripple boy with crutches from Holland – not so far I don’t think, two miles – which are from his school lunch breaks. He did not have long to eat before he must return to school. This is how he helped me as a working mother – I could not do it all. No, he never mention that he throw up his food from nerves of eating too fast or worry about being late and getting detention. Yes, during the War in Vietnam – you do not know about real war over here – he was often overheated with arguments with his vader. There are so many I am thinking of. The pleasant side was out of life then. And yes, maybe I hoped and begged that he maybe one of them apologize to the other. But was only so many years later that his vader could admit that to be against the war – I support my son in that! But no thanks there – was maybe more courage needed than allowing him to be so easily drafted. I am just so sorry that Furmannetje – he not like it when I call him that – never heard these words from his father. I would not let him go either to a war made by de Republicans for profit of the banks. I have cleaned up many dinner plates thrown, and stained tablecloths. I remember my Furmannetje, he storm to his room, he was lucky to have one and maybe he I remember he did stay there for a few days and I did leave food for him that he did eat at night and to erase us and our voices he did play his Bob Dylan records for many hours very keihard. He is skinny – like me when I was his age – for many reasons of body but also strange ideas I know not all of them.”]

The artists, standing near their respective naughty works, righteous and careerist with cassettes, elaborate PR folders, and hologrammed business cards, were not that different from the country kids standing next to their 4-H blue ribbon porkers. Except here they proudly displayed the cow plop and doodoo truffles as the apotheosis of their work.
“This ain’t the fun freedom’s s’posed to be about,” Kelly [dressed in his kelly green suit (actually a 14th Street 3-button polyester suit spraypainted green)] hissed. There’s something feeble tingling in our sleeping limbs, something foregone in all the clatter and bluster. Art: each scream of terror at the thought of being alone and forgotten was met with a louder scream.
As I hung a found street-bent fork from a dirty piece of string and pinned an actual Baggie of dog truffles to the wall between a frame that held shards of bloody broken mirror and an S&M dildo wired to a police siren, the aluminum-foil lady asked, “What kind of dog was it?”
“I dunno.”
How long had I carried this Baggie around with me so I could perpetrate this sophomoric terrorism? I do not want you to even contemplate. I had lost the explanatory text. Something to the effect: Dogs have stolen human hearts, the very hearts that were destined for the lonely. More dogs less human happiness. Or something like that.
The Boho-ettes, a blond cartel, comprised of arrogant and spindly limbs, snuff-faced strategies of avoidance and full-blown hair, had their objective – fame [the only currency left] at any cost. They stood around the gallery/demolition site displaying full labial pouts, working the crowd, promoting their latest single, “Flaunt Me” – big on the Area DJ playlists. It somewhat answers the question of whether there can by prudery dressed down as wanton exhibitionism. Periodically they’d cluck their tongues in disdain and renegotiate their quick glances in a mirror. Half of them had already been validated by Interview which told them that they had all the features required to become someones. All to appropriately deny any expression – in fact, to remain granite-faced, dead – that might expose the fact that you had come here to temporarily feel alive – and drink free wine. While the nouveau quiche nibbled away at the soggy six-grain triangular sandwiches until they were empty-handed and did not know where to turn next. Check our pockets maybe.
This season it was Soho art galleries from the East Village go uptown. Boredom as source of seasonal diaspora. Three years ago, it was the third comeback of cowboy chic. Two years ago: simulated S&M weight-loss junkets. Last year: Pygmy encounters in rain forests. And next season? Maybe dining in close proximity to the homeless. [Ed. note: This has actually happened with the (re)opening of the Toolshed, which had been nothing more than an old no-nonsense and grimy Bowery hardware store for plumbers, electricians, and mechanics for 40 years. But now, Malcolm Forbes, owner of “capitalist tool” Forbes, had purchased this prime corner in the Bowery and converted it into a slum-chic hangout for the glitterati and others who were nothing until they were gawked at.]
“They’re like locusts – instead of rubbin’ their hind legs together they rub credit cards to make their mean mating music,” Kelly sneered as he flicked his lighter with that mischievous face as if he was about to torch the place and he probably was because whatever it was school was supposed to instill in a future citizen [civic duty?] had actually been snuffed long ago. This gave me more ammo for thought: celebrity as the fleshly manifestation of harsh blinding light. That is why celebrities cavort in flood lights. White heat white light is right.
Kelly replaced the good pair of art-designated [neo-post-Duchamp] socks stapled to the wall with his own pair full of stinky holes – an improvement on both ends! “The secret to the success of any such infiltration is unself-conscious audacity. Just act like you’re s’posed to be doin’ this. Like it’s your work. Like you work in the gallery. Like it’s performance. This effectively eases the fears and suspicions of all witnesses and they show their gratitude by ignorin’ you.”
Kelly sat on the marble floor, put on his new socks, grabbed a tray of hors d’oeuvres, and shoveled them into his special pack pouch. He watched me scrawl grafitti on the main wall right next to a colorful Kenny Scharf piece: THE GOVERNMENT URGES YOU TO REMAIN CALM [Ed.: Discovered this quote coincidentally and much later in Artaud’s There is No More Firmament].
Kelly grabbed my marker and scrawled JOHN BELUSHI + KAREN CARPENTER DIED AT 33 FOR THE COLLECTIVE SINS OF TEENAGE AMERICA.
We eventually departed, without fanfare [luckily we disdained all fanfare anyway!] triumphantly for downtown when no more imbibing substances seemed forthcoming. We tromped with glasses of wine in hand and pilfered Old Bohemian and Iron City brews [the cheapness of the brew was but a small detail of the elaborate slumming style called “inverted blue-collar chic”] in breast pockets – close to our hearts.
In the hallway Kelly scrawled 33JFK = 11MONTH + 22DAY.
“It woulda been righteous...”
“Wha’...?”
“To torch the fuggin’ dump. It’s the only art form left. Torching galleries.” Kelly could have been good at being someone. “I’d wait so that nobody gets hurt.”
“Don’t worry. Hurtin’ people’s not my MO.”
“I wasn’t worried.”
The more we walked, the more Kelly divulged his theories of how mega-corporations lobotomize us: water coolers laced with psycho-deactivating drugs, the pseudo-excitement of Lotto and casinos, shopping malls, Muzak, stamps psycho-chemically treated. The more we walked, the more Kelly divulged his theories of how mega-corporations lobotomize us: water coolers laced with psycho-deactivating drugs, the pseudo-excitement of Lotto and casinos, shopping malls, Muzak, stamps psycho-chemically treated.
“Ever notice postage stamps have different flavors... well, tha’s cuz they’re testin’ various drugs on us as they try to find the right balance so we vote, shop, and visit national monuments.”
Me and Kelly had supplemented our “slimcomes” with all manner of shoplifting for months now. Bowery Boys here we come. For instance, we sometimes stole the Sunday New York Times and newsstand glossies for resale. Kelly boldly made entire 6-paks and 5-pound sacks of potatoes disappear underneath the musty sweep of his 18th-century winter coat. Cassettes, videotapes, ginseng root, and steak knives, five sets of them. The grocer’s a gouger anyway; finger on the scale, the whole bit.
We imagined ourselves immortalized in a Museum of Natural History diorama as “Hunters and Gatherers in the Late 20th Century.”
I took the knives [manufactured in a country I’d never heard of] from bar to cafe. Actually sold all five sets to a gaggle of Yuppoisie in a bar where supposedly the elaborate track-lighting doubles as a tan-maintenance device – it’s where they all go to get away from themselves.
“Once stole a bouquet of tiger-lilies for Djuna. They wanted $12.99!”
“Stolen flowers smell best.”
“And hijacked brews taste best. Even if they ARE only Old Bo’s – $6.99 a case.” That’s right, a case.
But flowers did NOT ever make Djuna not hate Kelly, his guitar, the lingering patch of odor his coat left behind. In fact, Kelly was just more evidence of what was wrong with me. Kelly, in her mind, was bad news getting worse.
Anyway, she makes lots of money now. I think she’s stashing it away. To make her big move – soon. Promotion! Promotion! Cross your fingers. She even sleeps well now – like a log floating off to the saw mill. My suitcases continue to stand, bulging with beer stuff, leather jacket, singles, LPs, books, right next to the door. I can be gone in five minutes’ time. The secret – and maybe here me and Djuna could still have some fun together – was to stick the super with some shit left behind and the subletter [a tic of a guy whose last name is Greek for cutthroat] with three or four months back rent.
I would later recall this instant and tinker with it. Since alcohol stimulates dopamine release via a mysterious process that blocks the enzyme that eats dopamine and since dopamine is commonly associated with the pleasure system of the brain, providing feelings of enjoyment and bravado to motivate us to do certain things we would not necessarily end up doing otherwise. In other words, alcohol-enabled dopamine stimulates attentiveness, motivation, learning, and memorization and thus leads to – arguably! – the possibility of attaining some measure of enlightenment [a word you should never use in Manhattan].

We parted ways at Union Square – he heading to his closet at the mortuary where he sometimes sleeps in an upright position. I wandered out into traffic and into store windows, where my dodgy reflection was rendered almost charming by its refracted obscurity. Another window on Broadway displays dusty kung-fu videotapes. I stop because something grabs my attention. The recommended video on a pedestal was Game of Death. The carefully hand-printed recommendation read as follows [I was so spooked I had to write it down]: “Starring Bruce Lee, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Chuck Norris and Gig Young. This 1978 film appeared 5 years after the death of Bruce Lee in 1973 [age 33]. Lee plays Billy Lo, a Hong Kong movie actor and big box-office draw. His girl friend Ann is a promising singer. The mob wants them to join their management firm. Lee smartly refuses and the mob tries to coerce him to. That having failed they unsuccessfully attempt to murder him, everyone thinks he is dead, so he fakes his death, changes his looks, and decides to go after the syndicate; taking them out one at a time.”

Next to the film’s recommendation was a photo cut from a sports magazine with the caption “Jabbar, the famous 33, goes up for a sky hook proving he may very well be the best basketball player of all time.”

We will roam the dusky fringe with purloined emotions, concealed horrors, latent apophenia, and clinky green bottles in sagging pockets as we dart from dirty light to dirty light. I am anxious to again hear the lovely voice that emerges from the papillion lips of Nice, which “my” answering machine magically holds in suspension: “Sorry, I been at the library.” I was becoming addicted to just coming home, opening a beer and listening to her voice suspended like water lilies on a pond. Oh, and, by the way, to make things easier on her conscience and schedule, Djuna “gave” [threw it] me a copy of the new house key. I relistened and the relistened again to the message. When? What branch? “Some days I just watch the silverfish devour the books on the shelves. Today I discovered that space is curved! Curved by huge dense masses. Super-massive black holes deform regions of space as they spiral inward to finally coalesce into an irregularly shaped, spinning black hole. Sounds like we’ve been there – CLICK, Please insert – oh, my quarter’s run out, goin’ back to...” Where!? Where!!? WHERE!!?


Beer Mystic Excerpt #32 >>