Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Belgium Beer Research

My first beer was a Miller in 1965. I drank it behind Our Aunt of Jesus Catholic Church. Two more followed fast. The contents of the three bottles disagreed with my stomach and I spewed out the beer like a whale breaching the surface of the ocean.

On the following Sunday the pastor dedicated his sermon to the evils of teenage drinking. His words came too late for me. I had already vowed to never again drink beer.

That pledge was later adjusted to restrict Miller beer from touching my lips. My friends were fans of Bud, but something was off about beer hauled by the Clydesdales and I only drink it when there is nothing else available like at MLB baseball games and barbecues in Iowa. Schlitz on the other hand slid down my throat as smooth as a vanilla milk shake on a hot summer day and I remained faithful to the beer that made Milwaukee famous throughout my teens.

American beer has rightfully acquired a bad reputation thanks to Budweiser, for as Oscar Wilde said, “I find American beer a bit like having sex in a canoe. It's fucking close to water.”

Over the years I've drunk Olympia, Coors, Busch, Iron City, Narragansett, Carling, Labatt, Molson, Pabst, and hundreds of other brews, until American beer was wiped off the menu by Heineken.

Soon I extended my exploration to foreign shores to taste the beer in their native surroundings. I drank Corona in the Yucatan, slugged down Karlsberg in Denmark, swilled 1664 in France, quaffed Tiger in Malaysia, soothe my thirst with Bintang in Indonesia, and savored Leo in Thailand along with beers from every country in between.

I even created a special holiday for beer.

Beermas sounded good to my ears.

I celebrated it almost daily with pleasure.

I returned from overseas three years ago. My favorite bar was five blocks from my apartment. The lovely Chinese bartender served cold Stella-Artois in a glass. The clientele became my friends. I had downed several thousand at Frank’s Lounge on Fulton Street from August 2009 to September 2011. I left the USA for Luxembourg to further my knowledge and told my fellow drinkers at Frank’s that I would return a better man, because my next destination bordered Belgium and nothing goes down better than the Trappist beers of that country.

Leffe, Duvel and Stella Artois are good supping beers, but they pale in comparison to the Achel, Dubbel, Chimay, Orval, and dark Rochefort. None of them are under 7% alcohol.

A month ago my good friend from Florida Vonelli conducted a tour of a Trappist monastery south of Charleroi. We were two versus a couple of hundred bottles of beer on the walls.

The abbey was in ruins. Not a single monk inhabited the property. Abbeye d'Aulne was served at the nearby restaurant overlooking the canal. We had a fine meal of fish. Three courses cost $30. We drank three beers. I had never tasted better and we ordered a fourth.

"What I like about Belgium is seeing little old ladies drinking beer in the cafes at noon. It make me feel good." Vonelli has been living in Belgium for a number of good reasons. Beer was one of them.

"That's the only reason you live here?" The first sip of the fourth glass was as good as the fourth sip from the first beer.

"That and the beer." There were other attractions and one of them was Charleroi, the ugliest city in all of Europe. It also has good beer. Beer is Belgium as much as frites with mayonnaise. In fact beer was so popular in Belgium that a low-alcohol version was served in schools up to the 1970s.

For lunch I'm drinking a Duvel for lunch with Cod fried in olive oil.

It's 8.5 % alcohol.

I think I'll have another.

I have no heavy machinery to operate in the afternoon or tomorrow either.

Another Happy Beermas.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Man In The White Hat - MC5

The MC5 appeared at Wayne State University for an afternoon concert on July 19, 1970. A black and white film captured the quintet's rebellious musical talents, but Dakota from Weird Womb and I have always wondered about a tall bearded man standing against the Marshall amps to the right. He was wearing a white hat and tee-shirt.

"Maybe he was a roadie," offered Dakota.

"No, he's just standing around and he isn't holding a camera."

"Maybe he was a narc or FBI informer." Dakota pulled up the video and at the end of LOOKING AT YOU, the man in question raised his fist. "No, he's not a narc."

"Then who was he?"

The mystery continues to this day.

Who is the man in the white hat?

To see who I mean, please go to the following URL


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Empty Roads

The day after Christmas I drove north from New York to Greenwich. Traffic was non-existent. People were staying home. I had to work.

Driving through New York was quick. It almost felt like the day after the Apocalypse. Not everyone had died. A cop had pulled over a motorist.

The Merritt Parkway was clear sailing. 60 MPH.

I obeyed the speed limit.

It was good to on the road.

KGB READING January 23, 2017

KGB: Unplugged Yellow

KGB Bar - 85 E 4th St, New York, NY

RICHARD DAILEY is an American writer, artist, and independent filmmaker based in Paris, where he currently hosts a bi-monthly reading and performance series. His poetry, prose, and art criticism have appeared internationally in numerous journals. Unplugged Yellow is his first published novel.

ADRIAN DANNATT is an English writer living in New York City. In 1976 he starred in the children’s show, Just William. He contributes regularly to Flash Art, The Art Newspaper and other publications. Most recently he wrote Jean Claude Abreu for lacanian ink 28. Gossip by Adrian Dannatt can be found in Perfume.

PETER NOLAN SMITH is an underground punk legend, diamond salesman, world traveller and most recently unofficial writer-in-residence to an embassy in Mittel Europa. Much more at www.mangozeen.com.

CATHERINE DESPONT is a writer/artist, editor and educator. She has an MFA in Fiction from Columbia University, and her writing and teaching focus on the role of observation in way we teach, learn and create. As Co-Director of Education at Pioneer Works she founded the annual Summit on Pedagogy, as well as the Alternative Art School Fair, and runs a popular program called the School of Apocalypse. She also oversees PW’s publishing projects including the bookstore, Pioneer Books, and the Groundworks book series.

I will be reading DOWN THE COAST

Here's the opening three paragraphs.

Skyline Drive crested a hill and Sean tramped along the breakdown lane with his thumb stretched out to the traffic. A steep cliff descended to the ocean. Cormorants skimmed over the water. Huge swells fanned into the crescent bay and surfers in black wetsuits skated the face of monstrous waves. He dropped his bag at junction of Route 35 and the PCH, however over two hundred cars passed him without one slowing down.

The stares of female drivers convicted him of rape and hostile male motorists glared at Sean, as if he had betrayed America, while passing high school students shouted, “Get a hair cut, you fucking hippie.”

He answered with the peace sign.

Bonfire Whoosh

Christmas trees are generally purchased a few weeks before the holiday and remain inside until after the New Year. Soon thereafter Christmas trees are discarded before houses stripped of their ornaments. They have served their purpose and their worth is nothing, although I love the scent of pine needles on the streets of New York. Most will be transported to landfills or mulched by the city, however up north people dispose of the trees the old fashioned way.

By fire.

Some towns stacked them into towers.

A special night is chosen for the bonfire event.

Best is when the needles are yellow.

A match is tossed on the pile and the trees go up in flames with a whoosh.

No one should stand close.

The heat will melt any parka.

A fire department truck is another good thing to have on hand, if the fire gets out of control.

But it's burn Christmas tree burn.

Like a giant candle in the wind.


THE TASTE OF PIG by Peter Nolan Smith

My great-grandaunt Bert circumnavigated the world on her father’s whaling ship in the 1870s. In 1960 National Geographic published a story about her childhood travels and at her 101st birthday the old Yankee lady related tales of the black-toothed betel-nut chewers of Indonesia and tiger hunter in Java.

The only two other family member to have visited that part of the Orient were my Uncle Dave, who had served on a destroyer during the Battle of Biak in World War II and my grand-aunt Marion, who brought back a statue of a bare-breasted Legong dancer from Bali. Their travels to faraway places sparked my imagination and throughout my youth I dreamed of traveling to Indonesia.

My chance to scratch this itch came in 1990.

That winter I sold a 10-carat diamond and quit my job at the diamond exchange.

Manny, my boss, asked my plans.

"Travel to Indonesia and write a novel." My take on the sales was enough to buy a round-the world ticket.

"You should invest your money in some diamonds. That's how you make more money."

"I want to see the other half of the world."

"Suit yourself, but don't expect a job when you get back." Manny was twenty years older than me and hadn't taken on a vacation in years.

"I won't."

After buying THE ROUGH GUIDE I researched the various islands of the populous archipelago; Biak, Ambon, Ternate, Sulawesi, Lombok, Bali, Java, and Sumatra. Indonesia was a big country and spread 2000 miles from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean.

My farewell party was a blur and the day of my departure I rode the subway up to 47th Street to say my good-byes.

"How long are you going?" Manny was at his desk, sorting diamonds.

"Six months."

“Six months? Sei gesund.” Manny wished me well and gave me a hundred dollars. I asked him about my other commissions and he said, “I’ll pay you when you get back.”

Manny was the master of slow-pay.

That evening I flew from JFK to LAX and then onward to the small fishing port of Biak in Irian Jaya.

The Garuda 747 lifted off the tarmac.

I was the only Mistah or white man on the island.

And I couldn’t be happier, drinking a Bintang beer on the veranda of the old Dutch hotel overlooking Cendrawasih Bay.

For the next three months I voyaged through the islands on boats, ferries, trains, and buses. Indonesia had hundreds of language and cultures. Each journey brought me to a new land. The kids shouted 'allo mistah' and Bahasa Indonesian became my fourth language, which I spoke with a Boston accent.

In early April I jumped on bus in a Sumatran coastal market town bound for the Batak Highlands. The seats and aisles were packed with Sunday shoppers and I stood at the back door smoking a kretek cigarette. The clove and tobacco smoke mixed well with the diesel fumes from the bus' laboring engine.

I studied the chattering passengers. Their smiling faces were ethnically different from the dour lowlanders and halfway up the mountain they sang a song which I recognized as BY THE RIVERS OF BABYLON.

I loved the Melodians’ reggae version.

When I joined the impromptu choir, the closest passengers stared at me with amusement. At the end of the song an old man rose from his seat to shake my hand.

“Chretian?” He had several front teeth. They looked sharp.

“Christian,” I replied without hesitation. My atheism was a secret better kept from the devout.

“My name is John.” His English was a step above the usual ‘hello mistah’.

I told him mine.

“Where are you going?”

“Danau Tobah.”

The largest lake in Indonesia was set in a gigantic volcano. I had seen its photos in National Geographic

“That is my home. You must stay at my guest house. Very cheap. Very good.” John motioned for a young man to get out of his seat.

“No.” I waved off the offer. “I like standing.”

“No, you big mistah. Must sit. You my friend. Duduk.” The word sounded more like an order for the two of us and I sat in the young man’s place.

On the climb into the mountains John proudly recounted the traditional fierceness of Batak warriors. saying, "Many of our people serve in the top ranks of the Indonesian military. I served with British against Communist in Malaysia. Good money."

The Irish and Scots had assisted the English in the conquest of the world. John's tribe had done the same for Java.

"My family live Lake Toba. Since before time.”

“It says in my book that the Batak people came to Sumatra 2500 years ago.” The Rough Guide delved deeply into history.

“2500 years before time.”

“This book states that 50,000 years ago Lake Toba blew up and nearly killed off everyone on Earth at the time. Some scientists think the population of the world was reduced to 10,000 and they lived someplace in Central Asia.”

“That book say many things, but Batak people believe world came from Sideak Parujar."

"Sideak Parujar."

"Yes, goddess leave husband, a lizard-god.”

John told his tale of creation in a combination of Bahasa Indonesian, English, Dutch, and a little Batak. The rest of the bus listened intently to every word and the children shuddered when John stabbed downward with his hand.

“Sideak Parudjar thrust sword into Naga Padoha. He not die. God never die and every time he move earth shake.”

His captive audience applauded his story and John lit a kretek cigarette.

I like the smell of burning cloves.

“As Christian we not believe in other gods, but the old stories too good to give up. Maybe tonight you tell story.”

Nearing dusk the bus descended to Lake Toba and we boarded a ferry to the island on the opposite shore.

John led me to his guesthouse. The Batak Villa was simple and cheap. My room had a lake view. The other guests were European backpackers. Few Americans traveled this far from the States.

That night on the deck I narrated the story of the Evans Mountain ghost. His family gathered around our table, as I introduced the Batak clan to a haunted house in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

John struggled to translate my tale, but the little children shivered with the old man's eyes. At the end John said, “Good story. Everyone like. They think Mistahs not have ghosts. Only have one god. Good story. Now go sleep.”

I spent the next few days sightseeing around the island. The equatorial sun flayed the skin off my shoulder. John’s wife salved my burnt flesh with a healing clove oil.

Every evening I ate with John’s family. They asked questions about my family. I lied about a dead wife and showed photos of my nieces and nephews, claiming that they were mine. A man my age without a wife or children was considered strange by the Bataks and all Indonesians. They had big families.

The day before my departure to Medan John invited me to a pig roast in a mountain village. We arrived at a compound of wooden houses before sunset. The thatched roofs were curved like the horns of bulls.

Dogs tried to steal the offal. John beat them off with a club.

"Angin no good."

"They like people."

"Because people give dog food. I no trust dog, but everything have tondi, man, pig, dog.”

“Tindi.” I nodded my head figuring tindi meant soul.

The two younger men tended to the cooking. Pig fat sizzled onto the coals. We had finished the beer and drank arak or rice wine from plastic bags.

“Tindi lives many places. The first in body. The second in birth bag from woman.”

“I was born with the placenta wrapped around my head. In the land of my grandmother the Irish think that gives the new-born the gift of sight.”


I searched for the right word from a small Bahasa-English dictionary.

“Penglihatan, but with mind.”

“Ah, ESP.” John rattled off an explanation to his friends.

Batak people understood the shadow worlds.

"In old days every Batak men have birth bag buried special place to protect tindi.”

“Not the same as in America.” Doctors chucked the placenta out with the trash.

"America have no tindi."

"Too much tindi."

Spirituality in the West was the domain of priests, ministers, and rabbis and I almost told John and his friends this, except they believed every man was in touch with the world beyond our senses.

Once the pig was cooked, thick slabs of pork were sliced with the long curved kris. We ate with my right hand, since the left hand was for wiping the ass. John called his right hand ‘Adam’s Spoon’.

A young man broke out a bamboo flute and bags of arak were passed round the fire.

It was a fiery concoction.

“You like pig.” John swayed to the music.

The other men were entering a pig flesh trance like Americans after gorging on turkey on Thanksgiving Day.

“Saya sekali mak mak.” I had never tasted better.

The older men nodded in appreciation of my compliment. We smoked kretek cigarettes to the filter and I felt one with them enough to muster up the courage to ask John a question, which had been nagging me for days.

"Islam came to Banda Aceh almost seven hundred years ago. Most of Indonesia submitted to Allah, but the Batak and other mountain tribes resisted Mohammad's call. Why?"

“First we have the Batak tradition.” John licked at his lips and spoke slowly in simple Bahasa, “At one time Batak people ate men.”

“I had read that.” The Rough Guide covered every aspect of a culture without recrimination.

“We drank blood and ate heart, palms and soles of feet. They were good eating and rich with ‘tindi’ or the life-soul of eaten. In old days we ate man with his family. We suck the bones dry. The meat we eat last and we store bones in cave. If man stranger, we ate him cepat. Fast fast. You know what we call these men?”

“No.” The fire was flickering low. The horned houses were giant buffaloes. I could have been Marco Polo. The year was 1231 AD.

“Babi Bisa,” he spoke the words in a hush.

The other men woke from their stupor to mutter the words in unison.

“Big pig.”

I recognized the words from my guidebook's extensive dictionary, but I didn’t like the way John had said the words.

“Yes, and that why we not Muslims. Because pig taste like man. We killed them on stone.”

The elder explained our conversation to his tribesmen. They nodded with laughter and stared at me for a response. I tried to hide my shaking. They were looking at me funny and not in a funny ha-ha way.

“I like pig too. Not because it tastes like man.” No one in my family had ever eaten another human being. “I like pig, because it tastes good. Even the oink.”

I snorted several times in my best imitation of a pig.

The party chuckled in convulsion and toasted me with warm arak. The pig was gnawed to the bone. The snarling dogs had their way with the carcass. We snacked on the crispy ears. The fire died out and John walked me to the hotel.

At the door of my room he said, “I tell story to many Mistahs. It is joke. No Batak eat man in 100 years. Many westerners run away, not you. Why?”

“Because I like pig too.” Bacon was my favorite meat.


“Nothing taste like it.”

“Not babi besa?”

“I don’t know, but I think not. Man is not as clean as a pig and not as smart. Dumb men can’t be good eating.”

John lifted his head to the stars and laughed aloud. I clapped me on the shoulder and fondled his muscle.

“You not good food. Too tough.”

“Same you.”

His wife shouted at him to come inside. John ignored his wife’s entreaty and walked over to the restaurant. His friends greeted him. John's right hand surveyed the flesh on a fat man. He turned and mouthed the words.

“Babi besa.”

“Makan bagus.” Good eating, because a young pig was always better than an old pig even with babi bear.

“Sama sama. I not here tomorrow morning. Selamat jalan.” John wished me a good trip.

“Selamat tingaal.” I wished him a good life. It was the best thing to do with someone who hadn’t eaten you.

And everyone who has a taste for pig knows the truth.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

48,000 For Trump

Trump called buzzfeed.com trash news, but the new president is the champ of trash talking.

And bullshit.

Talking about the crowds at his inauguration, Trump said it “looked honestly like a million and a half people. It went all the way back to the Washington Monument.”

Not to my eyes and I magnified the above photo and used an app from crowdcontrol.com, which calculated the crowd's numbers and came up with 48,000.

Not even close to a quarter-million.

Them again my fingers aren't small."

Bryan LeBouef - Plato's Cave - NYC Main Public Library

I'll be there Monday.

A Thin Crowd For Trump

Watching the inauguration yesterday I was struck by the low volume of the applause and then spotted large gaps in the audience. The National Park Service is banned from estimating crowds due to GOP budget constraints. The Trump people said the crowd numbered around 250,000 supporters or an eighth of the turn-out for Barack Obama.

Bikers for Trump had promised a 500,000-strong 'wall of meat' to protect the new President from harm.

500 showed up in DC.

My estimate for the thin attendance differs from the Trump camp's numbers.

To me the crowd looks like 87,000 give or take a few thousand.

Where were his people?

At home celebrating?

More likely they were at work and couldn't afford to travel from the hinterland.

Nothing comes cheap anymore.

But that didn't stop the Sisters March.

Hundreds of thousands of women took to the streets of the world to protest the new government and declare that they weren't giving up. The struggle continues. Bravo, sisters. E pluribus unum.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Goodbye Good, Hello The Donald

Barack Obama has been president for the last eight years. Today he walked out of the White House to resume his life as an ordinary citizen of the USA and hours later the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court swore in Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States. The new leader of the Free World spoke to his supporters from the steps of the US Capitol Building and promised to 'make America great again'.

I just can't wait to how the Donald does the Oval Office.