Beer Mystic Excerpt #34 – Bowery Poetry Club
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.
#35 Legs gimpy. Bathroom doorknob. Evasive, kaleidoscopic. A pen to write this down: We must each find our own genetic drinking curves to enhance spiritus. This means treading a fine line that curves differently for each one of us. There is footprint and voice print – and there’s drink print. The toilet is swiped from under me. Toilet bender. A piece of shit maybe years old encrusted under lip of ceramic bowl. Do NOT forget licence plate #LUG332. Why did god invent this ambrosia? My neck is made of taffy. Turkish Taffy – how many flavors do I remember? – banana, chocolate, strawberry, vanilla… I spot a hair, a long hair, perhaps Djuna’s hair in the shape of a G-clef. Will I ever amount to anything? LUG332. That my mother will be proud of? That will prevent me from going up in steam unnoticed? If I nudge this hair it will change from a G-clef to a swirling spiral and then with forefinger nudge … a dolphin. Endolphins. The sound of me puking brings back every puke job ever. To the first time as a teen, puking purple from whatever-berry DeKuiper brandy, Detroit, Michigan, 30-something percent alcohol. Alcohol stimulates secretion of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. This causes nerves to send messages to the brain that the stomach’s contents are detrimental to the body and must be discharged via vomiting. This actually mitigates hangover symptoms because the vomiting reflex rids the stomach of the alcohol in the stomach and reduces the number of toxins the body has to deal with. I am puking so much my insides are coming out, like a shirt flipped inside out. Like the fuzzy insole of slipper that comes out as you pull your foot out. Nietszche said: “Pain is also a joy.” This does nothing to alleviate the symptoms. The headache covers parking lots, rings bells in Hungary and … my head is inside a church bell ringing. I am now done puking. No, I am still puking but there is no more puke to be puking. You can feel the up-chuck mechanism searching for other furniture to throw out of the house – eyes, internal organs, epiglottis… Exhausted, sweating, forehead against ceramic, sour stomach, regret, the alcohol is directly absorbed by the spongy stomach lining. Drink water, crawl across ceramic floor, in search of aspirin. GOT TO HAVE Aspirin. Beat the side of my head with open palm. Headaches result from dehydration as the body’s organs try to compensate for the loss of water by stealing it from the brain, causing the brain to decrease in size and pull on the membranes that connect the brain to the skull, resulting in pain. Knowing this does not make things better. Mind creating a desperate mental map of where aspirin are hidden. Do not take too many aspirin. DO NOT TAKE Tylenol. Alcohol interacts with its acetaminophen to create harmful chemicals that can damage your liver or kill me… Nice advice.
Dear lord, I will never drink again if you will just grant me glorious and painless passage through this stage of hangoverness. Am I really praying? Am I this far down the wrong road to actually think why not give a pleading sorry-ass prayer a shot at miraculous recovery?
The toilet seat is wobbly, diarrhea, a weird taffy-like trembling … Alcohol tells the pituitary gland to suppress vasopressin production. Lower vasopressin means that the water no longer returns to the body and the kidneys send urine directly to the bladder, which, of course, leads to the dick and frequent visits to the urinal. Frequent pissing discharges salts and potassium, They are necessary for proper nerve and muscle function; when salt and potassium levels decrease, headaches, fatigue and nausea result. Alcohol breaks down the body’s glycogen reserve in the liver, turning it into glucose, which is pissed out through my limp dick – now. This causes further gimpiness, fatigue and lack of coordination. Also say goodbye to essential electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium, that allow for proper cell functioning. The shriveled wieners at Rudy’s, the very withered image of our super-modernity, the thought of food like its all caught in a tornado of laughing comestibles, tormenting and taunting me into more heaving. The wiener makes me touch my dick. There is a relationship. I suddenly figure that masturbation will short circuit the hangover’s effects but my own dick, my own co-pilot, remains reliably unreliable. I wiggle it, stretch it, badger it, but it just won’t come to life. Isn’t that what Jude Falley’s point has been all along. I have some observations. Let me wag my pointed stick in her face as I give her the last piece of the leftovers of my mind – the more she comes on like Barbara Stanwyck with her purported dozens of men who are just mice with their tails firm under her thumb, wriggling, with her each failed attempt at bewitching me to the point where I end up engaging in some emasculating conduct – it is all a series of sad thrusts, sad attempts to resurrect her self-image. You drop a pretty picture in a muddy puddle, that pic gets soiled, becomes fragile and you try to rescue it, it tears… I have dick in hand but the gears won’t shift… Jude, the more you come on tough – “I need you like an axe needs the turkey’s neck” – the more you really come on like fluff… There are tears in my eyes. Dumb sap. 12% of drinkers end up alcoholic. 15% have a hangover at least once a month. Depression follows. Impaired judgement. Regret: a recalling of all regrettable behavior, verbal outbursts – did I stand on the bar and quote Kingsley Amis? Dear god, please let me survive, triumph and learn from my misdeeds. Dear lord, I will never drink again if you will just grant me glorious and painless passage through this stage of hangoverness. Am I really praying? Am I this far down the wrong road to actually think why not give a pleading sorry-ass prayer a shot at miraculous recovery? I pray – DONG! DONG! – that the headache will just evaporate away like a ghost. If there is a god let him or her do good by me. I SWEAR, I will NEVER as in N-E-V-E-R as in NOT EVER EVER do this again! I swear. PLEASEPLEASEPLEASE [James Brown] PLEASEPLEASEPLEASE! A room is not a room when it is spinning. I hold on the way I see astronauts holding on. Holding on the way you would on an amusement park ride you have been forced to enjoy against your will.
36 And then there is the tranquility, a meditative calm that falls over you, over all mankind, over all weather, all leaves, all refuse and you begin to believe that the exorcism has been… successful – YES! – that you have been resurrected, given a reprieve, you are so glad to be alive that you vow to do all sorts of things like never drink again and you earnestly sit down to help me with my list.
strategic resolution for future engagements with beer [& its allies]:
• Drink water before going out and between drinks [ignore possible wimp factor retribution]
• Eat good food [preferred] or any food, because it provides body with electrolytes which prevent dehydration
• Moderation should be considered, although this makes very little sense. As Kelly pointed out: “It’s a little like chewing caviar and then spitting it out. It’s like putting your dick in a cunt halfway and then quickly removing it.” An average liver can break down a beer per hour. Guaranteed hangover: two beers per hour over a period of 5 hours, mixed with other drinks
• Aspirin before consumption and/or after – NO TYLENOL
• Good night’s sleep OR MEDITATION beforehand
• Dance, wriggle, struggle, pogo, walk [but no fighting!] – movement mitigates alcohol’s effects.
Fans in “SuperPope” T-shirts waved chartreuse styrofoam crosses along the parade reroute. The Pope was in town tying up traffic, and motorists cursed the Gridlock God that confounded them. On a radio talk show one motorist ventured: “Jesus Christ, if duh Pope’s so benevolent and he’s tryin’ to sell Catholicism to duh rest of us he ain’t gonna do it by blockin’ up traffic and ruinin’ people’s livelihoods. I tell yuh that much.” I rambled about the apartment and could find nothing interesting or incriminating or personal on Mister Times Square Valentine Ticker. He had somehow managed to strip all identity from his pad. Tail-end of a short article: “MC Exodus of the Christian rock band the Biblethumpers believes that the reason so many bands are returning to the Bible for inspiration is the search for roots and answers. Even guidance for rock musicians can be found in the Bible, according to MC Exodus: ‘Just read Psalms verse 3:33: “Sung unto Him a new song; play skillfully and with a loud noise.’”
Kelly found himself along the parade route, waiting to go from here to there across Fifth Avenue. He was slipping through the hordes squeezed against police barriers, all begging to be blessed by the Pope when suddenly, out of nowhere, the Pope reached out to bless Kelly. Catholics turned to this pagan, porn cartoonist/conceptualist guitar-strummin’ Jew, as if to say “What’s he got that we ain’t got?”
I could see tomorrow’s headlines: POPE’S BLESSING WASTED ON A JEW. In reality, today’s headlines said the Pope had proclaimed PREMARITAL SEX tantamount to MORAL ANARCHY and that sex was the fuel that would transport the human soul back to the Dark Ages. Moreover, he declared a “ban on the false euphorics of inebriants” – a declaration of war against me and my compatriots.
The Rum Seer claimed her relatives had actually prospered during those selfsame Dark Ages.
“Gypsy blood.” And that was why she said she had pierced her nipples – to be detached from territory and possessions – a Bedouin, a survivor. The logic escaped me but also entertained me in the Holiday Bar. Old men tipped hats and shot-glasses when she walked in. The Holiday, not unlike Bar Nickel Bill, teeters on the fray of the battle. [Part of the battle, of course, is sorting out what exactly the battle is.]
I try to sit on a bar stool but a mutt of some menace and stench sitting on the next bar stool over is growling like I smell like trouble. Territory is the issue at every turn in our lives.
“Aren’t dogs illegal in bars?”
“Not seeing-eye dogs.” Retorts the gray-faced barkeep wiping his hands with a grimy rag.
“He’s not blind.”
“Not yet he i’n’t. Watch, three more he will be.” I moved with Rum Seer to a table under a pipe with an old newspaper wrapped around it.
“Rumor is that Shemp Howard was the bartender here in the 40s when it was called the Black Pussy Cafe.” Men always have to show off what they know about a place.
“You’re pullin’ my tail right?”
“If you got one I’ll pull it.”
“Who’s Shrimp Howard?”
“SHEMP! He was – come on, you’re fiddlin’ my bone! – he was one of the three Stooges! The ugly godhead of all alternative cartoonists, especially the Grumpy Graphists [Weiner, J.D. King, et al.]”
“Hmm. I don’t know whether I should believe you or whether finding out any truth of this kind is worth the effort…”
The hat tippers, meanwhile, were robust men, full of smoke and fart, in Old-World sweaters and two-button jackets, amazing pointed-ear lapels; tipsy compatriots of the 5th Column or, at least, a 5th of bourbon. Men who put a raw egg in a drink and call it a meal. Men who had, thanks to evolution, developed specialized breathing apparatuses similar to fish so that when they were submerged in beverages of alcoholic cheer, they could still get air by absorbing oxygen from the C2H5OH alcohol itself. Men who’d been rehearsing their deaths for 40 years. Some were very good at it. Nihilism is just what old men do. Some were allies of the stool samples I regularly encountered in “my” Bar Nickel Bill.
The Rum Seer and others in black were staving off the yuppoisie horde and other assorted thug-golfers, chameleons who drink unpronounceable beverages fortified with Vitamin E who are guided by breezy articles in Esquire and crawl into scenarios, inhabiting theme-heavy bars hoping to gain sustenance, hardcore legitimacy via consumptive osmosis. Their stories and odors never their own. It’s only what they’ve heard or thought they felt. Understanding art only at the instant of its acquisition. They “conquer” situations this way. But the more they crave urgency, the more the craving swerves awry. So Rum Seer thought, anyway. And she was all for awry. And the old men were all for a rye.
And I shook my head in agreement and licked the beer-head mustache from her upper lip. Sometimes it’s just easier to flatter someone into what you think you want. “But what’s the strat?” At some point, maybe right about here, all liquids begin being described in relation to beer. Beer as standard measure: 100 = beer, 24 = Coors, 13 = Diet Pepsi, -2 = the tap water in the toilet. All experience was now compared to inebriation and all objects were measured in relation to the most common beer vessels: glasses, bottles, kegs, cans, bellies. These shapes replaced the basic shapes of circle, square, and triangle.
“Keep the juke fulla non-Motown and unnostalgic stuff. Ignore’m. Make’m uncomfortable. Don’t allow’m to eat the life outa this place. We also throw paint balloons at the Gap. Which is, for fuck’s sake, like the McDonald’s of sportswear. Every Friday night. Anarchy ain’t just about wearin’ black, yuh know. And the crueler I get, the lovelier I become.”
“I’m sure. And so you use the old men like political pawns.”
“No way… Yuh know, I’ll never drink in a place that puts plastic animals in MY drink.”
“Dju know, there’s a sandwich in every bottle o’ beer? And that beer came before bread. And that they found evidence of beer in 2000 BC on an island called Rhum! Coincidence? I think not. After all, here we are my beer and your rum.”
“OK, now a few questions: What’s an ale?”
“What do I get for all A’s?”
“We’ll see. I have plenty of rewards.”
“Ales. Ales are beers made with top-fermenting yeasts. They’re brewed at warmer temps., somewhere between 50 to 70 degrees.”
“What’s a lager?”
“Lagers originated in Germany and are beers made with a yeast that is described as bottom fermenting. They ferment at cooler temps., between 35 to 50 degrees, which means a longer fermenting period. This cool fermentation process is called lagering which allows for manipulation of the beer’s flavor and smoothness especially if stored in a cool place, which used to be caves.”
“What’s a pilsner?”
“Most American beers are pilsners; they’re pretty much a variation of a lager. The pilsner comes from Pilsen in Czechoslovakia. The most famous is Pilsner Urquel. I read that the name ‘Pilsen,’ spelled P-L-Z-E-N, comes from the ancient words for ‘to crawl’ and ‘slug.’ So the pub crawl no doubt started in Prague.”
“I’m an ancient imbiber – charter member of the Chuggers myself, got my vision chops there.” The Chuggers were an ex-sub-cult of Ferskine Terdwell High School truants who drank anything with proof short of canned heat and who’ve, no doubt, graduated to harder tonics since.
“Who was this Ferskine Terdwell?”
“Somebody who ransacked his Brooklyn neighborhood, gathered wealth in a dubious manner, and then gave back crumbs to a grateful public in a paternalistic way to get him a school named after him.”
“Hey, dju know Martin Luther drank Einbeck to amplify his visions?”
The Chuggers, she went on to explain, hung under the Verrazano Bridge, carving tattoos into one another’s appendages and limbs. She showed me a crude tattoo that said “IN ORBIT” in blue letters. Demonstrated how she’d pierced her nipple with a nail to become a Chugger bloodkin for life [or at least till the end of high school.]
Her first clairvoyant experience came after the Chuggers had polished off a 12-pak of Colt 45s. A couple of Chugger pals were going home first to pick up their wheels. Shortly before their appointed arrival she burst out, “There’s been a fuckin’ accident. It’s them! Atlantic Ave. fronta Disco Donut.” And she [allegedly] led the other Chuggers right to the spot. A busy intersection full of glass, mangled chrome, and ambulance lights. She remembered arriving just as her pals were being hauled into an ambulance.
“They accorded me special status after that. They called on me to predict Super Bowls and shit. But it only came when it came, when we’d be drinkin’. It’s the primitive stages of hooking into something. I am convinced that there are so many damaged people looking for answers in all the wrong places. Like under the Verrazano. I am convinced that constant disinformation and too much info eventually makes everybody distrust everybody else. From reading Robert Anton Wilson, I understand that perfectly sane people begin behaving with all the irrationality of institutionalized paranoids or schizos – just because they have so consistently been lied to in such a calculated and systematic way. This disinformation grid becomes so commonplace that it becomes the dominant speak in society. Look at advertising and organized religion. I think this disinfo-speak is what fucks with so many people’s heads and leads to psychotic breakdowns. Lying becomes the social and political norm, paranoia and alienation become the new normal.”
I was somewhat skeptical but she was prepared for any doubts I might be harboring. Pulled out a faded tatter of newspaper detailing the accident. I astutely pointed out that there was no specific mention of her by name in the article.
“The article does say: ‘Friends of the victims were almost immediately at the scene. One victim observed that it was an ‘unexplained but lucky coincidence’.”
Story #2, drink #3: An English teacher and his librarian wife, self-styled enforcers, confronted her in the hall. Pinned her against a locker, brusquely frisked her. “And there was already plennya me to frisk back then,” she insinuated, but didn’t need to. My mind was already fondling her.
“‘You’re bad news, like cancer, you are a major disruptive factor,’ the wanker says. And then wifey adds, ‘Why don’ you just act the lady, like your sister?’”
“‘Cuz I’m from the fuckin’ DARK Ages,’ I said.” They threatened her with expulsion. “Go ahead, threaten me with freedom, you warped fucks!” They roughed her up, grabbed her by the scruff and dragged her to the vice-principal’s office, a “woman who’d had her clitoris bit out at puberty by a pitbull.” And eventually she was expelled. “And you know what? That’s when I started reading books and learning shit.”
But then she said something to the “Nazi couple” that, even while she was saying it, seemed like someone or something else was moving her mouth, with a hundred dropped-jaw classmates witnessing it.
“It was like bein’ an actor in a dream you’re watching. ‘With fucked-up attitudes like that,’ I said, ‘you two ain’t doin’ no kids any good, and one day real soon your karma’s gonna catch up widju, mess you up real bad!’” The next day, while cleaning out her locker, she heard what the rest of the school was hearing broadcast over the PA: The couple had died the night before in a head-on collision. “And that’s when people started treating me REAL different.”
“Tha’s hard to swallow.”
“Of course, dear skeptical one. But yuh know, fiction just can’t hold the light of day up to my biography.” She handed me another news clipping.
“Only one thing’s missing – any mention of your powers. You oughta give Stephen King a call.”
“OK, I was investigated, shaken down, put in a holding cell. They snooped into my family’s past, if there was like witches and shit. I kid you fuggin’ not! They checked the Ford Pinto wreck for tampering. I was like almost indicted.”
“We need on-site inspection rights.”
“Yea, cuz otherwise why should I believe YOU? I gotta BE in one uh yer so-called black-eyes while it’s happening, not while you SAY one’s happening.”
This was Summit Meeting #2 and she wanted to see my work. “No problem. The city’s my gallery.” I showed her the crumpled map that Rita had made small, neat Xs marking sites of black-eyes that had guided our numerous nocturnal quests.
We went to a cracked-window, cat-urine bodega. Bought beer. She had a good pint of Bacardi rum in her purse.
“Never leave home without it.” Her eyelashes like the sweep of a black cat’s tail, like a broom of stiff twigs sweeping a back alley. I showed her the roadway in front of the bodega.
“I used to go-go in Jersey. South Amboy. Forgot my pasties once. I’m like, lemme glue some bottle caps over my nipples.”
“Sure you didn’t need a jam jar lid?”
“You may be unaware that Jersey law requires you cover your nipples.”
“Me? On the beach?”
“You know what I mean. Aureolas are OK. But it’s the nipple that drives men crazy. At least in Jersey.”
We gravitated toward my nearest great work at 12th and A. A non-place where both focus and power/control are everywhere and nowhere. A place so absorbed into our psyches that there is no outside, no inside, no distinctive boundary between respect and disrespect, between revolution and repression, between good and bad beer.
But somehow I’d forgotten what no serious drinker ever leaves home without – his Swiss Army Knife, complete with bottle opener, corkscrew, manicure scissors, tweezers, and various blades for self-defense. But this oversight availed me the opportunity to show off my resourcefulness. I walked to the curb and wedged the head of the Heineken Dark in between the front bumper and the body of an available automobile.
Voila! The automotive world as makeshift bottle opener.
But she remained unimpressed.
“That’s nothin’, I can do it with the car moving.”
“Yea?” At 12th and A she had to come to terms with my string of black-eyes. As monumental in an anti-wattage way as, say, Rauschenberg’s famous erasure of a DeKooning painting. An entire block smothered in darkness.
“Tha’s me.” I pointed out. She shook her head somewhat yes a little no.
“They found the bones of a stripper colleague of mine in Tompkins Square. Right over there. Mysterious circumstances is one way of putting it.”
I make mental note of how both the Crack Cartel and the Yuppoisie hate me. Although they had no name and no face to pin it on. But it was just a matter of time. “Unverified phenomena,” sounds nice for what I’m up to. “Untitled” might also work. Rum Seer tipped her hip flask back and burped the breath of inebriated life into my mouth. I take it where I can get it. We sit down and contemplate respective spirits. Beer and allied spirits are the only contrivances left to us that effectively, albeit only momentarily, slow down the spin New York puts on our reality. The feeling of ‘in’ of ‘hip’ of being at the center of where everything happens first and most intensely is really just a more intricate version of the kid on the spinning carrousel. The illusion of an intensified and alternate reality as equated with entertainment and pleasure. Well, beer as spirit spanner in the works, as spirit sabot in the city’s matrix, can send it whirling in the opposite direction, creating a new spin on things. The interiorization of a perception. The pilgrimage of desires. That much is true.
The strange and yet totally logical extension of capitalism that is the drug trade deals with two central strategies of neo-capitalism: lifestyle and demand through addiction. Dealers had fashioned themselves as the proprietors of a kind of Disneyland in reverse and white guys in Saabs were the visitors. These junkies had established the obliteration of their thankless and adventureless lives, refabricated as something that would give them something to talk about – if they survived. Yes, cocaine as amusement park ride. Their indulgence in squalor is masochism [self-violation] and sadism [snubbing daddy] but also a kind of religious ceremony to purge them of guilt and the sin of squalid boredom. They suffer to learn about suffering and later profit from it. Dealers let them jump through hoops, let them stand in a foot of snow for an hour – a body face down to the left, a steaming pile of dog shit melting through the snow to the right – and maybe a short story or an album cover or a neo-religious and ironic artwork will come of it later. Or maybe just some good lunchtime fodder in a sushi place off Sixth Avenue. Or maybe a renewed appreciation of the Velvet Underground.
The graffiti on the boarded-up tenement read: “DEATH TO THE BRINGER OF DARKMESS”’ The “N” looked like an “M.”
Rum Seer approached one of the Cartel and announced, “Here’s your Bringer of Darkness.” The dealer in saggy pants just sneered through his gold teeth.
“Dis guy? Hehehe. Yea, and I’m Ruben Amaro and I played shortstop for the ’66 Yankees, and dat dere’s Bill Cosby an’ ovah deh, you got George Jefferson.”
“You know, maybe it’s just a switching-station foul up. You know Con Ed,” she mused.
“Seems like 5% of you’s convincin’ 95% of you not to believe me.” I calculated.
“Let’s just say 2% of me is like a dog bein’ dragged around on a leash by a horny lost man.”
“Horniness is not necessarily a negative.” We continued our tour. I showed her more phenomenal scenes in a calling that’s heavy in the light deprivation department.
Beer Mystic Excerpts #37-38 – Obsolete Magazine