BEER MYSTIC: A Novel of Inebriation & Light
Join the BEER MYSTIC Global Pub crawl. Read Beer Drink Novel online excerpt by excerpt, URL by URL, city by city. 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. [cover by David Sandlin].
The lights went on the blink in the stalled subway and I have that deep, sinking, iron butterfly sensation that this is me, that I am responsible in some way for this small misery on the way to a much larger bliss. Right away you’re thinking something’s about to happen. You hope it does and doesn’t. Something tragic for someone else, something you will be gratefully able to talk about for years – it was like the subway tragedy of ’86… Angels and apparitions swim up the aquarium windows. So quiet you can hear bodies wheezing and seething inside the confines of cruel fashions that defy the wearers’ best interests. Had the subway’s conductor abandoned us by running down the glimmering ribbon of track? Was it going to explode, was it on fire? This is where I probably really began thinking of how things were happening in terms of fate. Coincidence after coincidence, light after light, week after week, going out above, below, and all around me. Just last night in front of the Pyramid I put out a light, 12:07 a.m., by standing directly under it and looking squarely up into its ugly maw. I heard a click like a bone popping out of joint, and took in a few stares from some aimless types combing the concrete night for a messiah to obey. Don’t look at me, I’m not a pop star! I’m underground. Yea, like a mole in a hole, you retort.
Coincidence already seemed totally inadequate to explain this phenomenon. Like love being explained in terms of bodily fluid exchanges. What kinds of tools or methods can I use to determine the correctness of an interpretation of coincidence? There are none except intuition and insight. Could it be a cosmic compensation for loss of religion – or esteem? I even began thinking that I’d somehow wished situations into being this way, like this dark stalled train, and that my wishes had begun to influence fate. This is how mind works you over.
In the dark F train I saw the girl across from me tapping the seat with her Krazy Nails – TIKTIK-TIKTIK-TIKTIK-TIKTIK, [do I hear the Clash in her tap? “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?”] in a low wattage emergency light. I know that smell. It’s Barbie soaking in warm 7-Up. There she sat in her best MTV-actress-extra, propping up the yearning portion of her bosom in a manner recommended by Mademoiselle. Straight back is a sign of character, bosom thrust outward is optimism and esteem. Infatuation [or the inability to rev up real life?] insists on misunderstanding. It furnishes its own den, digs its own grave, generates its own geometry of bile and ulcer. I can barely see anything but I can see her nails. They are so long you cannot imagine her doing anything useful like buttoning a coat or picking your nose. They have flames painted on them. Flames.
An Asian man was slapping his hat at monsters, jabbing away at his image in the subway door glass in the flickers of spark light. Pointing his fist at his “adversary,” and threatening the image in the glass, “You nothin’.” He kept repeating. He barked at his self-image. Maybe the blue earmuffs reminded him of dog ears. Then a flurry of punches aimed at the self that would not go away. I heard a story – was it news? – that every country is expelling and exporting its crazy people to other countries. Doesn’t that mean that eventually we will wake up and everything will be the same again? Some countries, the article claimed, were making money accepting the psychiatric patients of other lands. They were also the lands earning money by accepting the radioactive waste of others. NYC, it said does not get reimbursed adequately, the article said, for the rejected humans absorbed here.
“Duh monsters won’t le’ me off lis train!” he yells. “It’s a matter of wife or debt!” Or death? I tried to imagine his wife, his life, his debts… He didn’t have much of a nose, just a huge crust like a half-eaten slice of pizza jammed into a socket in the center of his face. Had he been the victim of a fight, a fall, or tertiary syphilis? A man sitting across from me is quick to fix his headphones back upon their oblivion mount. Oblivion is the mantra.
The Asian man wanted so badly to tell his story, too, which is really the story of Americans and people everywhere. Not for a hand out or sympathy. Just to tell it. Ah, go ahead. Maybe he just wanted to make his disfigurement into a Picasso done in bone marrow. And, yea, there he goes, he tells us about tests done by the US Government using irradiated mists  on the unsuspecting which was him but could easily be us. And he points to “You and You too!”
As a child and survivor, it seems, American generals had sent HIM into the rubble of Nagasaki. Or so he claimed. Where he kicked up dust, unfathomable artifacts, and charred gruesome limbs. Jaws fixed in terror. He reported back to the generals carrying armloads of artifacts such as bottles melted around forks. Or so he claimed. He combs the 20 to 30 strands of hair back across the bald expanse. Is this an example of mind over matter?
Now he aches all the time. His body is “full of rusty hinges and duh Demelol don’ do shi’.” Pops them like Life Savers. He ran away from a daughter – or so he says – in Modesto who was born with flippers, or so he says, for arms – “like a purpose.”
“You mean porpoise?” I corrected. Was I the only one listening to him? The subway patrons glare my way as if I’m his sidekick and we’re scamming for money.
“Uh, yea, pulpus.” As if he, this Japanese guy or what’s left of him, had been placed on this earth, in this subway car to herald the coming demise of each and every one of us. As in do not complain about your life unless you have it as bad as me. Yes, these types are valuable for the mass feeling that we are lucky – luckier than him in any case – after all.
“Why you think this car was stop in pits dark for so long so they can infect you an’ all us.” I find myself shaking my head “yes” like he’s onto something. Shake it affirmative too long, however, and you start to wonder about the fine line between what you’re seeing and what really is, the distinction between fucked up and fucked over.
And then the subway suddenly and inexplicably jerked back to life and screeched into my stop, the station with ceramic walls oozing a grimy sap of an undetermined chemistry. And as I got off, 7-Up Barbie was already gone leaving behind only a flaming Krazy Nail – torn from her warm hand? – lying on the subway floor, smiling up at me. And for a long time I stood there staring into the windows of the subway car. And the further I fixed my gaze, the more I caught the reflection of my face perched atop the neck of the noseless one, superimposed over his face so that for a brief instant he was wearing the ghostly mask of me. And as the train pulled out I could see my face flit from one neck to another until I was gone.
I came up out of the subway and felt that I had never been at this spot before. I forgot that I was supposed to be going to work. I forgot what education was supposed to make easier. I forgot what I forgot and just roamed and roamed. I saw the cripple crawling up out of the souls of everyone on the street. At noon I saw a man struggling with a heavy box. He was maybe 60-something and had carried thousands of boxes for thousands of days just like this one. His body bent in half. As a Jewish coolie, the carrying of heavy boxes had sculpted muscle out of consciousness. And I went up to him to shake his hand – I used to do that kind of shit! – and saw him sneer at me like I was holding him up for a dollar and he disappeared into the chrome mirror on the bank corner wearing turquoise plastic hospital gloves as I called in sick to my new job at the office supply warehouse just off Union Square on East 16th Street, and tried to muffle the 6th Avenue street noise as I tried to sound sick.
bart plantenga is also the author of Wiggling Wishbone, Spermatagonia: The Isle of Man, Paris Scratch, and NY Sin Phoney in Face Flat Minor. His books Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo: The Secret History of Yodeling Around the World and Yodel in HiFi & the CD Rough Guide to Yodel have created the misunderstanding that he is a yodel expert. He is also a DJ & has produced Wreck This Mess in NYC, Paris & now Amsterdam since 1986.