The Amble, The Ale: Walking Nowhere Into the Pale
“Freedom knows no propaganda more effective
than people calmly enjoying themselves.”
• Raoul Vaneigm, The Revolution of Everyday Life
I was pointed to a youtube via another story, which led to others about how more and more teens in the US, UK and elsewhere are abusing, attacking and killing homeless people – bum bashing – because they are – homeless, evil, ugly, down on their luck, can’t fight back, probably a too-visible reminder of what might happen to them some day and we have obliterate all that might to remind us of that.
To rearrange reality I walk, usually off a beaten path, usually where there are less humans, sometimes – when I lived in Paris or NY – carrying a beer for that extra carriage, that extra, distance, buffer, whatever you want to call it because when you walk the rhythm creates a meditative quality that puts you closer to essences allowing you to think again and write them down. Let’s call it peripatetic meditation if you will. That is what I did in NYC as well; to escape the claustrophobic and right-angled obsessed Manhattan grid I would walk and if you walk down certain streets in certain directions headed towards certain shores you can temporarily leave one’s confines.
I used to talk about the need to walk to escape to think to write with Jose Padua, a great writer who probably became great in part because he used to wander through Manhattan at all hours. That there is a relation between a long ramble and a few lines of poetry is probably immutable truth although I’m going to purposefully avoid any concrete examples to keep the secret. [I really hate documentaries that reveals how they prroduced the magic in a film I liked].
While in NYC I made a point of talking to homeless people. I gave them money and then asked if I could take their picture. None minded, some even thought it wonderful because even sitting on a busy street like Broadway with 100,000 New Yorkers and tourists ambling and shuffling by they feel invisible as if they are reminders of how easy it is to slide into the very misery you have always told yourself is not meant for you because you are not like them: you are educated, handsome, already hired, invaluable to the company or whatever else makes you feel good. But as my friend Brad used to say when we used to drink and balader [its no coincidence that balader means walk/stroll and that ballad means a sentimental song sung by wandering minstrels] around Paris, upon spotting a homeless man [sans-abris or also the more dignified clochards who choose their addresslessness] he would point and say: “That’s me in 10 years.” Luckily he was wrong but the point being there is a very thin veneer between home and homeless, certainty and doubt…
Anyway, the interesting thing about walking is that it frees you from certain grid-related confines but it exposes you to ever more details of reality as well – unless you can enter that state of reverie, sometimes accompanied by humming, a light-headed state where you are carefree up to many hours at a time before the reality that one has to sleep in one’s substandard housing becomes ugly reality again.
I inhale the head of a beer the way others breathe oxygen. And then I walk. And when I walk I think, and when I think I become a genius; beer bottle reserves in breast pockets, tracing enigmas to their source, noting incidents of autumnal light, imbuing jails, detention centers and chopshops with the ecstasy of its collapsing light.
I wander around, discover hints of being in the lucent light, a celestial, bedouin, navigational starlight. Not your average horrendous watt overkill, households lit like sagging jack-o-lanterns, overlit to barricade the cellmates inside against all fear, all curiosity.
Here, at the frontier of where light goes limp and darkness blossoms, one becomes privy to chance discoveries; scuffling through dingy snow as grey as the grey matter that no longer matters, to find the roving ghosts of Stephen Crane, Henry Miller, Hart Crane, Hubert Selby, and Carson McCullers – their presence like watermarks on forgotten stationery.
I discover the knowledge of perfection like an alchemist with a 6-pak coursing through my alimentary canal – colon and rectum – ancient phantom stops along the Rockaway-bound A train. Brew is the sextant of elixir, an alchemy that transforms sharp objects, projectiles of control, architectures of neglect and belligerent light strategies into a soft contoured womb, spinning everything of mind and blur, of environ and reverie, into its non-spatial and non-temporal delirious core. This state (migration inside stasis, daydreams of the stoneface) is attained, some say, as we move from light beer to dark, where the blood becomes aqua vitae and the conscious will becomes flooded with personal lumen naturae or psycho-magnetic bio-luminescence.
And with the knowledge that “fermentation and civilization are inseparable” I uncap a Lambic, an old Belgian beer fermented with wild yeasts, matured in wood from Bordeaux, something special from the surreptitious confines of a paper sack! “to feel a euphoria steal over [me] that effectively blots out the harsh realities of life.”
A paper sack so that those whose function is defined by how well they contain vision and funnel yearning through the various official and constrictive sphincters. They tinker this zeitgeist into shapes that will allow them to flatter themselves. This is not unlike the way statues of soldiers in parks begin to define heroism.
Don’t guzzle a Lambic. Let this most unusual beer linger on the taste buds. The Lambic aligns itself with anarchist thought because it invites wild microflora to spontaneously ferment. And its surprising taste is capable of convincing me to totally rethink financial priorities – I spend rent money on it.
A Belge Lambic can be traced, in the etymological sense, to the Middle English, alambic, now alembic, meaning anything that transforms, purifies, or refines. An alembic lamp, for instance, provides heat but also light, a special kind of light, a light that purifies and more. The word alembic continues back to the Arabic word for still; stillness and tranquility or perhaps still; as in distilling device consisting of a vessel – the Greek ámbix means cup – in which a fluid is heated and vaporized and a cooling coil condenses the vapor.
There’s a map on the back of the beer label which guides my nocturnal circumambulations. I keep it in my breast pocket.
Read entire Mysticisme de la Biere: Fermentation, Inebriation, & Navigation
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