BEER MYSTIC: Read Beer Drink Novel: I thought by serving words in the name of beer & side effect mysticism would be repaid in not only the enchantment of words & the joy you can glean &/or scrape off that enchantment & how, arranged in horizontal rows, words continue to beguile, charm, lead us places. I have sacrificed a lot over time for my loyalty to the written [& sometimes spoken] word. I have spent many thousands of hours holed away, far from the partying fray to commune with these words. Conventional wisdom carried over from the 1950s into the 1990s was that words would, if of proper resonance, if of a compelling dynamic edging on reverie, poetry and story, would be rewarded.
There are two kinds of non-writer people: those who don’t want to believe you are not rich like “all those other writers,” and those who simply cannot comprehend [or may simply be masking condescension in exaggerated expressions of disbelief] why you would invest 2000+ hours in something that has paid back in hard cash dividends something like a few hundred bucks [which, in most cases were already spent prior to receiving or really also includes payment in “free” beers] so that if you were to cruelly calculate your wage rate you would find yourself earning less in a day than an Asian garment worker earns in an hour… So, in any case, we’re pinned between 2 forms of disbelief.
I am naive and not particularly ashamed of that naiveté [although sometimes disappointed] to believe that quality is always indeed, eventually rewarded although having read the short & longer bios of writers, I should by now realize that that reward may come posthumously or even later. But this is the mindset, the paradigm [or naked lie] we were fed in school and college, that the best rise to the top like cream, like a good healthy head on a beer but no matter how untrue and unlikely that has always been it seems even less likely or true these days. Or that’s what I need to tell myself to protect that slender currency known as self-worth.
Discovering that my daughter Paloma Jet is dyslexic and recognizing how she is differently oriented as far as time, space, words, visuals made me realize that I too am dyslexic – her actions mirroring & dredging up long-neglected memories – although dyslexia was called many worse things in my day. That her brain works differently allowing her to express her take on reality in a way that is unique is what has led researchers to determine that many great thinkers, writers, but especially visual artists are or probably were dyslexic.
The fact that my brain does not work linearly or even that logically [which led to a kind of adventurous but ultimately unsatisfying relationship with poetry] should forewarn that writing in lines, sentences, paragraphs where you are led from point ale to point beer is no easy task. That I won spelling bees in 6th and 7th grade probably adequately masked my dyslexia. [This line I thought of much later and I cut it from 4 paragraphs further on to paste here, so the process doesn’t stop].
I seldom thought that others might have it easier; that when they write they are actually thinking in story form. My brain seems to work as a Jackson Pollock painting – blam, an explosion of everything all at once, from which I must disentangle distraction and story and then carefully reorder everything element by element so that readers can actually read what I have written as a story.
And so, it is astonishing [some might say ill-advised or stupid] that I ended up as a writer and not as something else, something more visual, visceral like a filmmaker or something. It reminds me of the jokes we used to tell in the NYC messenger waiting room waiting to go out on our next delivery. We used to joke about the one-legged foot messenger and the blind foot messenger being better at their jobs than some of us sitting there watching ourselves sink away into self-abnegation.
The novel Beer Mystic began as a chain-link of interrelated prose poems, like messy-noisy-brash zen koans that were initially published in early issues of ground- or bone-breaking magazine, WFMU’s Lowest Common Denominator. The idea of it was that, like a kid’s necklace, you could assemble or reassemble the story in your own way. So chapter 3 could later become 24 so that beginning was an end waiting to happen, leading to a flexible, negotiable tale, which I had no idea was reflective of my own mind map.
Many years and some 50 excerpts later, the BEER MYSTIC gained new life as an informal way that the Unbearables came to describe themselves when in certain inappropriate states, not operating in the capacity of a writing group of some reputation. As beer mystics we became our other selves, the selves we balled up and usually tossed to the back of the closet.
The Beer Mystic also inspired essays by Mike Golden and Hakim Bey but mostly allowed some of us to reframe the distractive reality so that it could for a second seem good or at least make sense. The Beer Mystic also led to a beer as produced by Rat Sass of Brooklyn in the mid-1990s. In 2000, the BEER MYSTIC inspired a book contract that quickly dissolved before the echoed clink of the beer glasses between writer, rep & editor that closed the deal had faded from our ears.
& so, in the wasteland interim period I begged, harangued, badgered, made the case [not] to the keepers of the gates of literary taste: agents, publishers, editors, pundits, critics. Some praise, which won’t even get you a glass of dirty water in most bars, kept me alive – that is the magical elixir of vanity. No matter how many times I tried to convince these guardians of high literature of the BEER MYSTIC’s value, however, things went black out, non-response, like comatose binge drinkers, like one of those fade-to-black transitions you can use in iMovie that gets stuck.
Last year I spent WAY too much time on this concept of the BEER MYSTIC Global Pub Crawl whereby people could – and can still – read the entire book excerpt by excerpt in publications and on websites located all over the world. I also took the advice of poet-friend Su Byron and gave the agent world another beer shot, targeting some 50 to 100 agents who described themselves in a manner that made me believe they might be interested in work such as mine. But, I was deceived like horny phone sex clients used to be, and although some kind words arrived my way, none of the addressed dared go any further than faint praise using the cynical, profit-fame-driven nature of today’s book world as escape clause as if they were clean of any blame in its devolution. One agent went “out on a limb” and said something to the effect of: I hope it gets published and I hope to read it but I cannot represent you because the world of publishing is at its most evil stage…
So I’m quite bipolar: go through a manic phase of incredibly naive stabs at credibility or recognition, followed by despair and months of immersion in other affairs to distract me from the previous venture only to be followed by yet another.
I finally had to accept sudsy comrade, fellow Unbearable author Mike Golden’s words: People can’t and DON’T read any more. This became clear when I realized — actually a few discerning types told me — that I had a really good book on my hands. & so every once in a great while I’d clutch it again and declare them right.
I wanted to learn to make films [on a budget of $0] so I made a slide show movie of Paloma’s artwork & then stumbled upon some suggestions that I do something with BEER MYSTIC. Finally acknowledging the visual nature of our YouTube world and how that has altered basic relationships between maker and consumer but has also basic human interactivity not to mention the very shape of our brains… I started shooting and collecting beer images and finally when the box was overflowing I turned to it & as they used to say about John Lee Hooker: It’s in’m & it’s gotta come out. Under-employment, meanwhile, DOES have its fringe benefits – it’s called time to do stuff.
These revelations plus reading about how various artists, musicians and writers persisted despite their rejection by contemporaries, & eventually triumphing while I drank a beer [such as the new Pale India ale from Brouwerij ‘t Ij] while doing so reinstituted my former wobbly and now-again firm belief in the quality and value of Beer Mystic led me to where I have always been interested – film. I friggin’ STUDIED film but from the wimpy perspective of writing about film. I’ve been fiddling with images, book covers, graphics, posters, fliers, concrete/visual poetry for years but always as still images. My notion was that a still – a photo in a frame on a gallery wall – is actually a movie in that when you look at a still your thoughts, your perceptions, the projection room in your brain sets it into motion. I still believe that …
The apocalyptic last chapter indeed has a life of its own, replicating, molting and transmogrifying more than a dozen times, each time appearing in a new [rewritten, tweaked, pimped, sharpened or finagled-with] version. It can currently be read in its entirety at Sensitive Skin.
I still have this vision of just filming people in bars reading and reciting from the book and putting it together as both impressionistic film and audio book but time is short and my budget even shorter. For this film, I did manage to record art historian-curator Susanne Boswell, poet Sharon Mesmer, Mark Boswell and editor Steve Korver [who will appear in a future Beer Mystic film] as well as shooting various intoxicating interiors in places like Amsterdam’s Gollem, a beer valhalla. The result was mesmerizing-confusing – I liked what I had produced and this meant satisfyingly combining the need to present linear story [subtitles] with how I visually experience the world as somewhere between plot & a haze of signs bathed in rumination and reverie. I also hope this puts to rest the rumors that I employed some filmic genius to apply visuals to vision & then stopped payment on his check. Anyway I gave up paying myself in anything but kind servings of beer.
You can also read a similar making-of tale at Parisiana where Einar has been a major supporter of my work over the years despite migrating from Paris to Lausanne to California and now back to his native Chile. You can read a good part of my novel PARIS SEX TETE there as well as a chapter from the BEER MYSTIC Global Pub Crawl.