Beer Mystic Burp #10: The Amble, The Ale

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.

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6 thoughts on “Beer Mystic Burp #10: The Amble, The Ale

  1. It always appalls me when I see not just teens, but also people who are older, looking at the poor and homeless, or the insane or addicted and living on the street, and just sneering at them, ridiculing them, deeming them as nothing more than objects who are in their way, or who they see as a blight on the clean, pretty landscape they want to be surrounded by. I’d also talk to homeless people, give them a little money whenever I could—there was always something you could learn by talking to them. I remember when I was in college when I told a grad student that I often learned things from homeless people, he asked me quite seriously and incredulously, “what can you learn from a bum?” Well, if one has to ask, then I suppose there is nothing someone so pompous and removed from reality could learn from a homeless person—or anyone for that matter, because people like that usually just like to be patted on the back for every goddamn thing they do. And as for a homeless person taking any money I gave him or her and using it, say, to buy liquor—hey, if I were on the street I too would need a drink at least now and then. Hell, I’d need a drink more than if I had a home to go to. Cheers.

  2. Me too. I notice that many ex-high school mates are now ultra-conservative, part of the blame the poor for their poverty movement – somehow they manage to fit all this in with their religious fanaticism, can even believe in jesus as they simultaneously viciously blame the unemployed for their plight – they’re lazy, plenty of jobs out there. have even heard family members uttering these sentiments. people prefer to imagine that on the ladder they are many rungs closer to the rich [association by desperate hope] than they are to the poor. the near-poor often hate the poor because they don’t want to face reality. so kill the poor. seems like a simple solution for some. i had to ‘re-educate’ paloma. i say the poor and homeless are less scary than well-dressed banker types. the real enemy is not a homeless man talking to himself [no one less listening to his story], than a corporate type [take a monsanto rep, for instance] who seems to be talking to himself but is actually talking on his cell phone…

  3. oh yeah, the near-poor, or people who were just recently struggling can sometimes be the worst with their attitudes, demonizing the poor and the homeless on down to the mentally ill (and sometimes exploiting them in various ways as sources of entertainment)–anyone who is just isn’t leading the clean, reality-TV ready lives they see themselves as living or that they want to identify with.

  4. i think this is SOO true! and it is indicative of how politicians can take advantage and tweak these fears, which rather than turning on their masters they turn on those who are worse off than them and blame them for reminding them of their wobbly sense of self and economic doubts… there was just a report on the BBC where employers [those entrepreneurs who HATE government nanny-state interference] were caught on camera in london buying homeless people for 100+ pounds and then putting them to work for slave wages. there are many in florida who pick oranges who live in slave like conditions. but people don’t say anything because it would upset their belief in the immutable neo-liberal arrangement of the universe. reason and compassion are just 2 words they despise and they despise these words lest they be seen as soft as in homo as in girlie – even women like bachmann, palin, madeline albright [misnomer], condy rice…

  5. Hi, Bart, this is good stuff, and doesn’t really surprise me about you. Wow, have I ever gotten hassled for being kind to street people. Yeow. I still do it here in France and try to give them more than just a coin. The past couple of years for me have been so full of high and low points I am just reeling. Having been homeless and malnourished more than once, to the point of losing pregnancies, I simply cannot understand the attitudes of many people. So cold. What seems saddest to me is the vampires and bashers who have come out against me when I dared to fuss or had hard luck. There are lots of people out there who call themselves enlightened and wow, watch out for those most of all. Especially when they are anarchists or whatever. Grifters! And high minded bigmouths, at that! Wow, could I ever spill some beans, and you’d know the names! What is really vile is those who’d prey on women and yet many are women who prey! I still do professional rune readings and did my own awhile back, in 2009 when I decided to start giving away everything I myself earned, and the runes told me keep on giving freely and ask for nothing in return. Turned out to be a valuable lesson. What little I had to give, I got labeled a nut for giving, and I was not sharing anything which wasn’t mine to share. So, go figure. 2010 was the worst year for me, and yet had such high points it was incredible. What an eye opener. Those we think we know and trust the most, woah, we don’t know anything, is all I can figure. I just had a totally peaceful week in rural France, offline. We never know when this life will end. That is for sure. I just refuse to feel panicked or fearful. Nor to give in heedlessly to silliness, if that makes sense to you.

  6. Hi Bart,

    Another nice piece. I think this disdain for the homeless is part of the mean-ness of our age – no one wants to admit we’ve been duped for the last decade or two, and it’s much easier to blame poor people for their plight. Also, twenty odd years of neo-liberal rule have eroded a sense of community, so people stop seeing the destitute as one of them.
    Still, I don’t miss the aggressive beggars of the 90’s here in NY. I notice the beggars out now tend to be much more polite. And people give them money. So all compassion is not lost.

    Tim

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