Beer Mystic Excerpt #11: Istanbul Literary Review
Beer Mystic Excerpt #13-14: Sensitive Skin
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 chapter / cover by David Sandlin].
The pavement lies moaning under the shrieking mega-watts of light as a limo plowed through Times Square scattering the truck-ass mallrat throngs pilgrimaging [etymologically related to pilfer and pillage] through the overlit emporiums, looking for something to take home with them. They want tricks of light, disco balls and touchy-feelie chiaroscuros to “light up their lives” and make life a pageant they’ve been invited to. They come here to be galled and unnerved by revelations of extreme epidermal mysteries. There is a porn theatre I hear that supposedly shows women losing their skins and women with asymmetrical alignments of limbs. Did these consent to the amputations to enhance their careers in the manner of castrati? The wall-eyed scrums in their ill-fitting clothes crane their necks and peer intently into our skulls and into Telecom lobbies to be sure they are not missing a single Broadway or MTV star to call home about.
I was here in TS on a lark after work. Had three hours to kill and I kill it best by wandering around with one of the new 22-oz. brews [beer name withheld to protect my rep] around Times Square and then downtown to meet my fate, my date, Jude the Obscure. Work at Codger Office Supply kills the brain but beer kills the killing. Like faith, beer is good for the soul. Like the Bible, the more obscure, the more profound. I stand under the Times Square ticker, next to a newsstand [the vendor peering suspiciously at me from the corner of his one good eye] to write these things down. “Like faith, beer is good for the soul. Unless it meshes with the wrong spiritual gears and unleashes and magnifies a vomitous tirade of venom and violence. A bad drink leads to a bad drunk – Sub-head Elle: ‘Remember alcohol is a poison [why do you think it is called intoxication?], poisons are lethal.’ A bad drunk like a hooligan or barroom brawler is the quaffly equivalent of a bad religious devotee [fanatic, fundamentalist]. The secret is to enlist beer’s quaffly charms for vision, harmony, charity, unification. The happy drunk is charitable, offering drinks, advice, conviviality.”
I lean into the newsstand. The vendor is already coming over to head me off. I see Lauren Hutton’s face on the cover of Vogue. I pick it up and stare at it to reassure myself. I point to her face and say to the vendor “That’s my friend.”
“Ah, fuck grazy.” Maybe he’s right. I lean against the outside of his shack.
The pen she used to sign my MESSENGER RECEIPT said INDULGE. Yes, she had invited me in for tea. I had hesitated. Maybe just say “no” in a polite way.
“Your shoes are soaked.” Said Lauren Hutton. And since I did not believe it myself, I usually said “or someone who looked just like her.”
“It’s wet out there.”
“Let’s take those shoes off, and your socks too, and I’ll dry them for you.” She put them in, I guess, the oven and came back with tea and some wool socks on a Delft blue serving tray.
She held her teacup and saucer and just stared at me for a while. I stared at my wiggling toes.
“Thanks for the socks.”
“Oh, your welcome. What is your life like, may I ask?” Had I seen any of her films? What would I say? I couldn’t name any: Was Zorro: The Gay Blade one? I remember some exposed breast photo of her…
“I’m not prying…”
“It’s OK. I am rich and poor but you prob’ly don’t wanna hear.”
She encouraged me to talk about my education, [not] writing, marriage, plans, my dead father. How every time I see a Campbell foundry sewer grate I want to tap someone on the shoulder and say, “My father made this.”
“My only real awards are for perfect attendance in 4th and 5th grade and I broke the county record for the mile in track.”
“I’m educated but I’m dumb.”
“That’s how it works sometimes.”
“Yea, but dumber than most, dumb enough to take this job.”
“Or scared to try for something better?”
“Destiny is sad.”
“With all due respect, destiny just makes it easier for those who have to not feel guilty about those who do not.”
“You may not believe me when I say I agree. You know how I try to get back at these types? I wear decidedly untrendy clothes, clothes unbecoming of my stature – I am told.”
“Drink your tea before it gets cold. Even funnier is that in no time these people will be falling over themselves to copy my daring style sense. And at the snap of my fingers, it is fashion. I live in a world that exploits fear to squeeze money out of every pore. That is just how it is.”
“I live in a world of beer and cocaine. Self-doubt, self-destruction. You know, beer punk, where ugly is beautiful and the conventional beautiful is despised. I’d be marked a traitor if they knew I was here…”
She went into the kitchen and came back with my dry warm sneaks and socks on a second tray next to a paper sack.
I put on my socks and sneaks and as I got up she handed me a wadded bill. “Here’s something for your efforts.”
In the doorway she handed me the bag. “Here’s three beers a client brought me from Belgium. I don’t drink beer.”
She handed me a card. “Go to my friend André. He will make something nice of your hair. They say esteem starts at the top of your head.”
Once outside I grabbed a piece of dry cardboard from a garbage can and sat on the wet stoop a couple of doors down from her place. I unwadded the bill. It was a $20 bill. I turned to look over my shoulder to see if maybe she was staring out the window. I opened the paper sack. Inside were three bottles of Ramée Blond. I read the label: Bière artisanale d’Abbeye, 8%, une bière finement brassée, non filtrée et très digeste. La Ramée doit être servie à une temperature de 7o C. It packs a smooth deceptive wallop and I disappear into the massive out-there, where I spot a limo, large as an empire, idling on the street as the somebody in sequined dress emerged from the Vermicom Technotainment lobby at 1616 and shimmered into the back seat. I was reminded of several large edible flatfishes of the genus Hippoglossus you can see flopping around on ice down at the Fulton Fish Market. But instantly she’s no more than just a dark head burdened by the superior architecture of her coif.
“It’s the Mafia Princess,” I hear somebody gasp. But it could be anybody we want it to be. “She’s no ordinary fuckin’ oyster, yuh know!” somebody else informs us. But was it the actress playing the Mafia Princess, or the author who had ghost-authored this Mafia Princess’ life, or the Mafia Princess, herself a frustrated actress, hoping to play herself in the story she has not written herself? It didn’t matter, it was instantly like the thirsty on their knees drinking sand at the mirage of a desert oasis.
She offers no autographs, no smiles, no free samples of her new fragrance Umerta, or is it Aorta? The bystanders instantly process her silence, as ingratitude or contempt, others see it as a sign of grace, of high purpose, while still others believe it is the justifiable paranoia that comes with being the target of stalkers. Still other others read further into it and will find sustenance there. Whole empires sit on the edge of a misreading. Entire communities subsist on the notion of discovering slights, slights from stars we can get indignant about, indignant to the point of getting worked up about, until we can wallow in justified retribution and only then, when the retribution is executed, will we feel alive for an instant.
The limo glides by, its proportions influenced by however far our eyesight is willing to carry our enchantment. And in the last glimpse of this bloated carcass I notice her configuration of wounds some call our senses [ed. sensory organs] spelling out contempt across her face as a flash lights up the backseat when suddenly [not gunfire or a lit compact!] – must be her reading lamp in the backseat has shorted out – done the ole “black-eye.” Her head with coif attached disappears into total oblivion – contempt given more form and reign. One more glance: Yes, indeed the light is out and I may have put it out.
Someday I’ll draft a petition with Nice to claim proper credit for these outages – not a trophy mind you, just some gazes drenched in mystification, or maybe a smattering of golf-course applause, an NEA performance grant, or some people mistaking me for someone famous.
I have no idea how this black-eye thing works. I mean, me and Nice have thought about it. Maybe it has something to do with anger and the resultant static charge it builds up inside me. A vibe? A “Mathilda thing,” is what Nice called it, referring – I learn much later – to the Raould Dahl story about a gifted girl seeking revenge with her paranormal gifts.
Nice explains it this way: “All matter is atoms. All atoms are nuclei – aiy-yai-yai – protons and electrons. The electrons whirr around the nucleus – us-us-us.” And at that point she stands up and with her arms outstretched, twirls around, bouncing off my walls, orbiting around the perplexed nucleus that was me.
“But if something agitates the atom – it could be anything – the electrons are forced to jump ship, jump to another orbit. This leap is a quantum and this quantum gives off energy. And its launching pad is your furrowed brow.”
But maybe it’s more metaphysical, like somehow I have merely retooled the notion of serendipity to act like volition. Or maybe it’s the way beer makes a poster of Jarry’s Ubu, King Ubu’s abdominal spiral, spinning hypnotically and knotically, wrings me with it into the mischief of its dangerous corkscrewing action.
Nice had stolen a book from the Second Avenue branch of the NY Public Library called Mysticism: Holiness East & West. I keep the book on my nightstand – yes, you guessed it, an old beer crate – it is by Denise and John Carmody, [Oxford: Oxford University Press]. The book vividly describes a South American tribal trickster named Avireri, a culture hero who helped explain the mysteries of the natural world, the seasons, the cycles of existence, to the Campa people. He made night and the seasons happen by dancing certain dances. Eventually, Avireri becomes happily drunk and begins to play the panpipes… Because the panpipes were important to the Campa, they associated the music of the panpipes with the crucial moment when Avireri brought on the rains. That he was drunk and showing off when he did this hardly mattered. Drunkenness can be a mode of ecstasis, a door to perceptions, feelings, that seem extraordinary [at least to the drunk].”
Upon Nice’s advice, I now keep detailed documentation: odd rumblings of conscience, psychokinetic mayhem, premonitions, things moving of their own accord, the time and place of each black-eye, any distinguishing sonic or concomitant phenomenological details. Anyway, it’s something and I’m in the middle of that something. With a wish comes the will and with will, a way. Nice is great, she makes me feel like I am not alone. There is nothing more priceless that one person can do for another. Notepad: The blink of an eye as detonation device.
I saunter further downtown, keeping an eye out for a happenstance girl I saw on the corner of 7th and 26th a week ago. Her smile flung at me so flagrantly, so obviously into me that I could have floated across oceans in that smile. She had substance but also something that glowed around that substance. Despair? Someone perhaps not yet convinced that work led to dignity. Like she still had intact hopes. Like her eyes were yet to grow tired. But she was not where I had left her. I jump the turnstile at 23rd and 6th just as the F is pulling in and I’m at Broadway-Lafayette in the time it takes me to find a seat. Thanks Mr. Himmelreich, 10th-grade Nazi gym teacher; you were right, gymnastics, particularly leaping over the leather horse in a single bound, has come in very handy indeed.
And as I’m waiting for the DON’T WALK to turn to WALK, a string of lights cheering up a café blow with a crackle. So what if ample moisture’s clinging to the surrounding air and that a wicked wind, the kind that can tear objects from their logical moorings, had just passed. I toasted each of the 26 dead bulbs anyway – skoal, prosit, vivat, chayim, proost, salute, a votre santé, za vashe zdorovye – with 26 sips from a rare Dutch Brouwerij ’t IJ brew, a Zatte, pulled from my coat pocket, like an outlaw drawing his 6-shooter. [Kelly notes: Obscurity is the cocaine of both the DJ and the beer enthusiast.] And after that a Brand. Brand means fire in Dutch. And fermentation and fervor have the same Latin root, fervere, meaning to boil. The mind has a way of organizing obsession to act like a commitment to ideals. Now we’re getting somewhere. Two beers just waiting.
When I spot Jude she is being careful as always not to stand in front of a mirror or over a puddle because the puddle’s reflection might reveal her emergent double chin. Something only she seems to notice. Reflection, one might say, has outlived her purposes.
I am face-to-face with Jude – she is gorgeous but I think she thinks not for much longer. Jude-Jude-Jude – just repeating her name sounds like weariness. She is adorned “so to allure the eyes of all men that should see her” – it’s basically the only Bible stuff I know. Jude swears by panaché [lemonade and beer] and Monacos [grenadine and beer] to effectively recapture her romantic days in Paris. When love was always just around the corner, when it was always being snatched from her clutches like a postcard of Doisneau’s famous “Kiss.” Even stayed in a hotel with a view of the Hotel de Ville. She wants it to be 1950. She wants it to be her Barbara Stanwyck to my Rod Taylor, as she reaches for my long neck: “May I feel it? Just curious what long neck really means.”
To which I am supposed to respond: “Don’ shake it, the head may go off in yer face.”
“I’ll just have to take that chance.” But, between you and me, she was more about the cinematic simulation of taking a chance than the actually going down on you – in public or in private.
“My knees bruise easily.”
Jude is my date at Broadway-Lafayette, lined with its insistent and agonizing dreams in museum cases and storefronts that are pulled from our collective memories of times that never occurred. And since the anorexic nature of our coin purses barred us from entering these scenes I sent some of these snooty tracklit terrariums on the blink. Or so I made the story go. Or so the story made me go. We have a mutual need-fascination with trolling the extravagant art openings in the area, where entire spreads are served up and exuberant selections of not-cheap French Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs and that is how we get by and get to see some art. By 8:30 p.m. the galleries are closing down and we are left to our wits outside on Wooster.
I said something that rhymed perfume with tomb. She did not [want to] get at what it was I was saying. She wanted me and the mind I fed to stand still. She wanted me to act like the men she knew from Capra movies. She wanted me to offer her a steady arm, praise, flattery. A good income, a grand entrance, a pension, medical insurance. You see what a weird dog the human being is, willing to bark up the wrong tree for as long as it takes and that is faith and that is – to some, mind you – stupidity.
“What’m I, just some attractive clingthing to you?” She wondered. By constantly using words like “attractive” when referring to herself, she could stand with bait on hook and wait for me to agree. So the whirlpools of her need for compliments and my whirlpool founded in a need for beer would collide and whirr into one another. Believe me. This quantum dynamic coaxed from me niceties, compliments on her choice of earrings, top-shelf liquor, her legs – they were luscious, her breasts that defied gravity and age. But all of it was meant to prop her fragile self up on these auto-deluded, auto-choreographed instants where she would believe the lies that she fed my mouth.
And so I stood before her with a smirk and again toasted this manifold terrarium black-eye with Jude the furtive, Jude the obscure amourant who loved radio. Or the way radio seeps into you like beer seeps into unnamed internal organs. Or the way radio still promised some measure of renown. Jude was on the radio just last night with Mark Leyner. Jude, who read by candlelight. Who would drip candle wax onto your nipples only if the drink had taken her far enough. Whose cramped abode smelled of myrrh and dust from a more glorious age.
She felt obliged, by virtue of her concern for her future in communications – i.e., via “my” radio show at a fledgling basement radio station – to tag along, act impressed, add her imprimatur to the proceedings. The station’s signal scattered only about half as far as we thought it did. Like micro-local, like a couple of blocks. I tried to explain this to her. Our press – the Voice called us “Rapatistas”; Spin called us “Radio Egotopia” – emanating outward some 100 times further but really nowhere because by the following week three-quarters of the Voice and Spin readers had forgotten they ever read about us – but not Jude.
Jude felt obliged to act [or be – she had long ago given up distinguishing between the two] flattered when I insisted that it had been the two of us, indeed, “our unique bio-electrical chemo-hormonal interface” that had caused these latest boutique-window black-eyes.
She wanted to read from her book, À la Belle Étoile, during my show. She had become a victim of the hope that this well-received book had once promised. And so I kept leading her along. I was just a fill-in DJ for fuck’s sake. A sometimely spinner. And in the meantime, she led me along. Showed me every highlighted clipping, every underlined review her book had ever received, even one in Tel Aviv. And this was the irony: I flattered her to get her to reveal more of her skin, to get closer to her splayed legs, to flatter her into bed, the very bed I would hope to pass out in so I could avoid having to make love with the desperate her that Jude bludgeoned all hope of a satisfying relationship with. Persistence is that sad memory of hope. And she had somehow forsaken all delicacy and discretion for lunges at the crotch, which the crosshairs of her mind had made into the way to the heart.
“I gotta tell you that deejaying’s just a hobby. Nothin’ more.”
“I have to promote my book. The publisher certainly doesn’t. Recognition leads to renown and renown to fame and fame makes you feel good enough so you don’t get depressed thinking you’re never gonna get rich.”
“There’s no guarantee anybody’s even listening at two in the morning.”
“But you promised.”
“You’d be better off gettin’ on yer knees in front of a sewer grate and reading down into the sewers.”
Her skirt was always black, skimpy [clingy and flingy also approximate her sartorial states of mind] and rode way up past whatever its called beyond the thighs whenever she sat down. The far edge of discretion. Her blouse: always the same or forever some variation of that same – clingy, diaphanous, silken, suggestive. And with every trip to the ladies room in the old Knitting Factory on Houston, she’d return with another button undone and all this skin, this delirious cleavage [to which we were both beholden] was all meant to perform some trick of mind in man but instead only revealed more of who she could never be than who she really was.
“You gotta promise to never tell anybody this.”
“I promise.” I knew it was as good as spilled but I went forward anyway, at the risk of having this confession used against me at some later date.
“When I first ordered a Yuengling here I thought it was a Chinese beer.”
“HELLO! It’s been brewed in Pennsylvania since 1820-something.”
She grabbed my bottle. “1829. Pottsville.”
“They make a reasonable Black & Tan, a lager far tastier than the usual American piss.”
It was sip for sip: me sip beer, she her Monaco and then a quick switch to her rum and diet Coke. I tell her about my old man with his cases of cheap beer in the garage. We’d drink cans of Milwaukee’s Best and he’d try to convince me it was just as good as Leffe. And then another. I see him emptying another in the kitchen on the sly, hunched over in pain. I was supposed to tip off my mother if he went too far down the path of no return. He could die from the mixing of alcohol and whatever he was taking. But I never did. One more – he makes the shush sign with finger to lips and he was quickly moving beyond the pain, the doubt, the existential angst of knowing he was going to die. The next beer flushed his face and all was well, a fine tune into a temporary reprieve. I am staring at the bar top and the bottle.
We took a cab in deference to her posing [i.e., non-walking] shoes, to see Bell, Book and Candle at Theatre 80. And there in the dark, cramped and creaking seats I watched her feverishly rub her hands warm in the aromatic weld of where desire met misery. And then watched her grab the hands that had once been attached to my arms [rather precariously] and place them under the pendulous awe of her breasts. This was exciting to her; to feel my palms go moist and then to subsequently denounce me for the way my sweat would stain her silk blouse. Only joking. Or not. Or. But I pulled one hand back anyway because, although I enjoyed the moist warmth under her breast – the controlled jiggle – I wanted to keep one hand free to hold my beer, no matter how much her breasts resembled the most exquisite of Belgian beer goblets. And she knew this. Weakness in me [there was plenty to feed on] is where she found most of her delight. The libidinal confusion she had been infected with was contagious.
In the middle of the film she nibbled my ear, coyly, just as Jack Lemmon’s aunt declares “We can put out streetlights but we can’t turn anything to gold.”
“See,” Jude sneered, “YER no original. Yer just a scene cut from a bad movie.” She cuddled up in a smirk that glistened with a hint of saliva.
“I got diaries dated at least 6 months back. I never even heard o’ this film until you told me,” I said from under a whisper just seething to be more. [Ed. The author can verify this in his own right as well.]
“They’re backdated, you cooked’m.” she gloated.
And with that I stood up, I had my honor but – shit! – I dropped the beer, an exquisite Belgian Dikkenek, or “thick neck,” to smash at her feet [a rare sacrifice!] assaulted by her, betrayed by this, this… film, abandoned by the celluloid myths to the point where I was nothing more than an awkward self-conscious mirror-beholden character, like an extra cut from a film that will never bathe in the light of the film projector.
Someone in the audience SHUSHED us. Another yelled “Down in front!”
And then suddenly Jude had to go, had to outdo me. Had to beat me to the door. Had to look indignant at the dishevelment my desires had caused. Her skirt now as revealing as shrink-wrap around veal shank. She had to feed a cat. Walk some dog – I don’t know.
Beer Mystic Excerpt #13: Sensitive Skin