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Bart Plantenga

or google “Bart Plantenga”
or “Beer Mystic”
or “Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo”

For the past 20 years, Bart Plantenga has been producing his mythic radio show Wreck This Mess in New York (WFMU), Paris (Radio Libertaire), and currently in Amsterdam (Radio Patapoe). Plantenga is the “nonfiction novelist” of Beer Mystic and Paris Sex Tête and recently published YODEL-AY-EE-OOOO: The Secret History of Yodeling Around the World, the first-ever global history of this mysterious vocalization. He is also a founding member of the New York writing group, the Unbearable Beatniks of Light. He currently lives in Amsterdam.



The beer mystic last day on the planet

I travel across the morose topography, landscape of pavement, gaping, giving way of its own accord. I travel west courtesy of the fecund mysticism of brew.
I walk and hear voices calling me - FUUURMAAAN - from intercoms, car alarms, police radios, PA systems. Signals of the collapse of the social inside the paranoid, the ego inside rumor, conjoined to such a degree that we live on the rumors we imagine are circulating about us.
I pinch a set of wheels - a '63 custom-stretch Lincoln left idling on Hudson Street in front of the Heartbreak Club. I adjust the electric mirrors, the electric seats, put it in gear like a knife through warm butter, elbow out the window. All the dials stared up at me like an obedient dog's eyes. We were one - a noble cell with a mission, time bomb waiting to go off.
The acceleration of the everyday leaves ever-less time for character development and motivation, however, so that cars begin to extrapolate their functions to become characters in their own right, beyond subservience and status symbol. They control the speed limit, convert latitude into attitude, negotiate their own predetermined routes. That is what they mean by automatic.
Dark beer, however, is my sextant of elixir, an alchemy that transforms sharp objects, projectiles of control, architectures of neglect and paranoia, belligerent light strategies, into a soft contoured womb, a womb of comprehension and reverie.
I double park, buy beer, only the best: Harp, Thomas Hardy, Delirium Tremens, Old Peculier, and Animator. From Tribeca I bullet up 6th Avenue, do menacing side swipes, sheer door handles and fancy trim along the way.
At 14th St. I do a stuntman slide, broadsiding a silver Mercedes. The sound is meaningful; the jolt exaltingly tragic. A citizen waving an umbrella gives chase. But I leave him with just a hint of rubber to perk his nostrils like a subtle dab of perfume on the nape.
At a redlight I gun the engine, pour beer over my head, comb my hair back. I'm James Dean. He's dead too. And yes, I too am just a short chapter in an absurdist novel.
At 34th Street I make a swooping chase-scene left, cruise down the sidewalk, watch the strollers scatter and cling to Macy's windows. It's a movie. It's amazing. And you've seen it. But never quite so interactive. I wish my head was a camera.
I can paralyze a city. And so can you. You too can redraw the maps, which will place you in complete opposition to the objective grid of crosshatched asphalt that hems everyone into the reigning wisdom.
The car drives on with the chase scene from the Seven Ups coursing through our system, propelled by multiple beers and a can of Jolt. You can either go nowhere fast or nowhere slow. The very dynamic of speed contains the anxiety of arrival. Ambulance-chasers follow me. I am leading a configuration of the desperate and lifeless.
We - me & Lincoln! - back up, pure demolition derby-style, slam into a Cadillac, putting it out of commission - crushed radiator - to ecstatic cheers! The Caddy owner gives chase, bangs furiously on my windshield. The symphonic car-caphony crescendos. I want Merzbow to sculpt the agonizing noise of frustration into scrap metal Stravinsky. I want the blaring horns, car alarms, and howling motorists to draw functionaries to their office windows and away from their desks.
When I step on the gas, the Caddy owner hangs onto the radio antenna. He looks funny like Jerry Lewis in a movie I can't remember the name of.
Yes, I am a scene. And a scene, like a parade, should head down 5th Avenue - bumper-car style in heavy traffic, playing chicken with over 100 violations under my belt and - I'm STILL moving.
I double park and enter the lobby of a bank to yell: "They don't have your money! They've already spent it!" I have nothing to lose by betraying cumulative and tenuous economic myths. This is how panics commence. Doubt worming its viral way through habit and presumption. We have already seen beer drinkers take over Central Park to drink their ales in defiance of 3 city ordinances.
Running on empty, I finally end up ditching my tub, with its beer-soaked seats, behind the Central Park zoo. I emerge as an immigrant from the spent interior of himself. I notice two choppers hovering overhead. Something like gun muzzles or camera lenses aimed down at me. I hold the musty sack of leftover shook-up beers the way fathers hold their babies.
I opened my Thomas Hardy and realize that my reality had outrun my ability to invent or document it. And at midnight of the seventh day I shivered, I festered but I did not die.
No activist lawyer came to my defense. No one offered me a hand, a bite to eat, a drink of something. No one saw similarities between my methods and the flailing pugilism of Jackson Pollock. No one noted that my techniques were informed by Dada which aimed to fracture art through politics and to erode politics through art.
The nobility of my terrorism had eluded them all. Notoriety had failed to lift me out of my meaningless anonymity. I was alive and in big trouble.