Thursday, May 09, 2013

Drinkin' beer, engendering art and reading poems in West Peoria w. Kyle Devlak...a hymn (hymen) to the West Peoria Bars...

Early in Zach Sievers ( a young Bradley student with a vision)cinematic vignette CLOSED FRAME there is a riveting close up of coffee beans pendulously churning in a roaster bin as if searching for the elusive God particle in a nuclear accelerator at the end of time. There is a really hot girl pensively pirouetting through the still-life linoleum commerce of Haddad’s market place in West Peoria, plucking a Hallmark tithe from an unassuming kiosk of loss. There are stuttered jump-cuts key-signatured in waves of amplified static scratching against vinyl shorelines.  There is the guttural hiss from the chrome udder of the espresso machine evincing plosive wisps of  enveloped time, the serrated silence and truncated awkwardness of human interactions, the sadomasochistic propensity to slice into the supine flesh of the (capital oh) ‘Other,’ to mix your body fluids with them, to find yourself momentarily ensconced in the gravity and sockets and friable ziggurats serving as the constricted tarp pinned across the joints of the human anatomy like a makeshift sail, Odysseus voluntarily trussed to the totemic strip-pole mast of ecstatic longing unable to defer from emotionally ejaculating into the cradle of his cod-piece with every forbidden sip of the Sirens’ refrain. There is a really cool actor whose name I will learn is Raj who stands sentinel-postured beguiled in poetic paralysis at the cosmological scent of the creature standing in front of him, tete-a-tete, as if counting the lapsed integers of metered blinks waiting for his vision to explode in tandem plops while staring straight into the frissoned bangs of the blinding sun.

There is also bleach, as the cinematic auteur stipulated was his chemical muse, the portly papal white plastic container tucked like a donor-awaiting liver in the intestinal substructure of kitchen sinks. The sterility of bleach. The searing corrosiveness of various compound chemicals mixed into an ablution that cleanses and burns. Bleach with its olfactory-offensive aroma and alchemizing disinfectant swill. When I was 21 I inadvertently washed a load of clothes mistaking a cup of chlorax for a half-pint of dainty liquid detergent.  The mixture of bleach and water transitioned my damp raiment into archipelago-ridden patches of loss, turning my laundry into leprosy, corroded pink and albino splotches gnawing into the fabric, the color semen makes when mixed with blood and copper shelling’s microscopically assayed under  the neon glower of a blue light yawn.  

Bleach with its blank-baptismal assurance to be washed clean and somehow be born again. 

The allotted ending of the  film feels as if David Lynch decided to redirect Blue Velvet visually supplanting  ersatz suburbia for the topography and tumult of an Hieronymus Bosh patina. Poignant and emotionally vacuous and metaphysically distillated and raw. The standing room only crowd at Champs West basked in a stream of silence. The girl standing next to me broke down into triangles of tears.

Preparatory to anything else (as Leopold Bloom once poetically posited) poet Kyle de valk and I started out the evening with cursory tours of the West Peoria bars. We ate Larry’s driftwood pizza at the Owl’s Nest while hanging out with cool bartender Holly. When Kyle crashed with me last year hardly a day went by when we weren’t plucking amber stems from buckets of beer between intellectual banter at the Owls ‘Nest. For some reason we adopted the habit of peeling off the label from previous pounded libations and then pinning the sloughed label on the side of the aluminum bucket like wallpaper.  Occasionally we espy a bucket with one of our pasted PBR labels still adorning the cylindrical brim after seven months like a war badge and feel like we have left our mark in this world.  
I harbor a hardcore deference and loyalty to the bars within crawling distance of my apartment. 
There is something about the West Peoria bars (esp. the Getaway and The ‘Nest) that feels like you are taking your Drivers’ Ed test while wearing beer goggles skidding through the sawdust paragraphs of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. Fraught with blue-collar brotherhood they used to be called PODunk. Now everyone is christening them with the moniker of ‘Dive bars while trying to sound like they are some authority on the matter. To me, the five bars located above the hill in the geographical rhombus of Western, Waverly and Rohmann will always be family.  
After leaving the ‘Nest we stop in for a quick Milk Stout at the Tartan Inn. When I first moved back to West Peoria four years ago the Tartan Inn was my favorite watering-hole. It went downhill for a while, and a lot of hard-drinkin’ hedonistic West Peoria locals vehemently refused to set foot in there. Last autumn Tom Inman and Joe Hauk and a cool dude named Bradley bought the place and literally transitioned it into the neighborhood bar of my dreams (well, if they served an occasional cheeseburger with a side order of beer battered onion rings I’d never go anywhere else) the sight of Guinness and various Microbrews and IPA on draught makes me look at the tap as if it were constructed out of a baroque-themed pipe organ festooned with dorm room Christmas lights. I chugged several Milk Stouts while Kyle marveled over the refurbished interior before we left for Mike’s.
About three years ago I started the tradition of always stopping at Mike’s Tap for beer prior to the poetry readings at Champs West. Last week there was a picture of  owner Roy in the newspaper drinking with columnist Phil Luciano at Hemingway’s in Bartonville and I immediately cut the picture out, trundled down the street and taped it to the door of the establishment. The picture was removed when I got there but our barkeep jovial Julie (who is a bit of a Ham radio junkie and immediately inquired why the fire dept was at my house last month) welcomed both  Kyle and myself and we drank several beers from the oak cask before heading off to the reading.
We had not had a reading in Champs West for almost a year. For a while we moved the readings into Gavra Lynn’s formidable art show gallery in the Twin towers plaza and reveled in a great deal of linguistic spoken word glory. We also had some epic readings at the Speakeasy Art Gallery in Pekin and a few domestic duds (thank you, Dust) at the (now comedy club) Cornerstone building. Our last reading at Champs’ was Bloomsday 2011 (well, we actually had a pretty successful reading Feb 2012 but I had to leave early and go to work). Art Show closed and Gavra started tending bar three nights a week at Champs and has moved much of her artwork into the backroom, sometimes referring to it as Art Show II, while hosting acoustic hootenannies during the week.  Dedalus Hotspur who orchestrates the readings left to teach college exposition and now he is back.
And somehow it felt like coming home again.
By the time we arrived at Champs the brachiating limbs of many a late twenty-something’s (many clad in beanie stocking caps and horned rimmed glasses) were already frothing across the coniferous/menthol interior of the bar, engaging in philosophical-fueled discourses, clinking shot glasses, blathering about books and literary aesthetics. Beer bottles alighting like syncopated pistons amidst conversational cogs of trumpeting wit and laughter.
 It was a hip crowd and there was hunger. They wanted to view Zach’s movie. They wanted to drink beer. They wanted to hear poems. They wanted to witness rivulets of alphabetical warble guised as sound carbonate and fellate from the nozzle of the microphone. They wanted sentences that bruise and leave narrative welts across the inky flesh of the page. They wanted to be fucked visually in swift cinematic jump-cuts and thrusts. They wanted the clitoris of their chest to be chafed with joy.
It felt real good to hear Deadalus say, “Silence in the Pews,” once again.
She can describe the nearsighted
mosaic of the sub-atomic kingdom
Blinking, Apiary den of molecules
 Scuba-diving  past the coral
reef barrier of microscopic Quarks
String theory resembling cuneiform on unblemished
Operatic sheet music
The strip pole plank scale—  oomphalos elevator button
Going nowhere and everywhere
Through drizzles of consciousness 
And what we have perceived as chapters of\
Time is nothing more than thinly veiled
Sheath of saran wrap, Nikola Tesla’s lunch
Where everything is simultaneously occurring
And will re-incarnate again and again ad infinitum.
She masturbates to Jeopardy!
Hummingbird arpeggio, two fingers
Bookmarked in the collected sonnets of her loins
Stating the question before the
Premier syllable of the answer is revealed
  Rabelasian blindfold occluding her sight
bathing in a rococo bathtub
  Brandenburg concerto chiming in the background.
--incipient mist of spring.
Or when we are making love how gravity
Sometimes reverses itself in dyslexic applause
The fractal of our limbs iterate in evolutionary flap
 defy the stolid linearity of physics
Ankles and kneecaps parallax constellations
 tight algorithmic recipes, square root of our
buckled thighs  launching like sputnik, skirting around
The circumference of the over head ceiling fan
In frenzied apollonian orchestration before crashing
The quantum concavity of the cosmos
Elucidated in the hush of her eyes.
And somehow then there was family. Syllables and vowels flouncing off the walls in ricocheting orbs of  light. Will read poems I had never heard before with gavel-sentencing vigor. Kyle (who always flagellates his forefinger while reading his poems as if taming the vagaries of language) read the “I can’t help when it happens,” poem that I adore. Shannon Moore (impeccable scribe as she is) read. A cool writer from Bradley named Sam ripped up the floor with his rhythm impending sonatas.  The actor Raj recited an arresting colloquy from Richard III (I meant to yell out something about reading that they recently unearthed poor Richard’s skull but  I was three sheets to the spring wind  and all I could think of to exclaim was ‘Go Yorrick!’).
And there was family. At the end of each individual recitation the audience didn’t applaud. The audience chaotically erupted in echoed plumes of incendiary howls.
 I felt privileged to introduce poetess Laura  (telling the audience that Petrarch’s muse was also named Laura ) making her debut, who looked divine draped in this cherry-blossom oriental Kimono-thingie that I had to inquire if she was performing aria’s from Madame Butterfly. Straddled on the bench outside next to the NO SKATEBOARDING sign my new friend Krista read  me poems from the lens of her cell-phone. Normally when people read me poems from their cell phones it looks like they are trying to scrutinize dates off an expired package of birth control pills, but Krista has a very Victorian voice and alluring good wedding china countenance and was able to launch emotions with romantic yearning and stirring resolve.
When Krista finished reading she pushed her glasses up the Euclidean slope of her nose and into the drywall of her forehead and then looked up.
I could not refrain from smilin’.
And it felt like family, sporadically dappled with the aunts and uncles of academia. Dr. Blouch made a cameo appearance (it’s hard for not to cry when I see Dr. Blouch, who in her splendiferous English 300 classes at BU always refers to each of her students’ as individual  ‘authors’).  I felt honored to bask in the scholarly silhouette of Dr. Greene. Dr. Greene teaches philosophy at Bradley and is the most incisive intellectual orator I have ever heard.  When I first read his book Bataille’s Wound back in 1999 it was so beautiful that I had to read it standing up. Twice.  Ironically I was looking for my autographed copy of CIVILWARLAND IN BAD DECLINE earlier in the day and I stumbled across Greene’s bulletin of pithy phenomenological aphorisms and when Dr. Greene arrived Kyle and I just started heralding him with Husserelian hosanna’s about how brilliant he is and he just sort of looked at us funny. 
And how it felt like family, sitting around side table drinking beer and chatting about the battered bohemian impulse to yearn. Meeting fellow local artistic stewards Natalia and her cool beau. “Natalia Talk a la francais to me!”
Sauntering into my new friend Micahel galletii.
Mike who is the formidable lyricist and lead singer of the band The Dirty Gentlemen. I met Mike a few days earlier at Champs and after he told me that his favorite author was my late mentor David Foster Wallace we immediately left the bar, purchased an aluminum bouquet of PBR 16oz cans from the liquor store and traipsed around West Peoria for an hour talking about Post-modernism  (I’ve met only one other person in this area code who knows who William Gass is) between taking swigs from our alcoholic scepters.  A couple of hours later we re-entered the bar in an hyperborean frenzied stated and everyone looked at us as if we had just shot heroin.
No, we were talking about books.
This is why I endorse the reading at Champs West which, along with what dulcet eye-lidded Natashia Deon is doing with Dirty Laundry Lit in Hollywood, I find to be the best literary series in the country. This is why I will stop into Champs several times during the week (even though the beer selection sucks) and hang out with Gavra and visit Monica on Taco Tuesday and stop in for one of Pam’s signature six-dollar lunches during the week and (if I’m lucky) amble in late at night on a Tues. to smoke a cigar with the legendary PJ Star editor the great John Armstrong.
This is why I endorse the readings—because the life of an artist is often one of imposed solitude and loneliness and it’s the best feeling in the world when stragglers from different artistic vocation gather in the emerald coated cum-stain watering hole that is a local neighborhood tap to foster each other’s creative calling and to grow. Because every year (even in the bar that night) I come across a fellow artist who has cut their hair short and jettisoned their dreams for a steady paycheck. Because putting your life on hold for five years’ while you do nothing but bang out sentences and while working menial jobs is just flat out taxing and hard. Because the worse feeling on the scalp of this planet is when you feel compelled to spend hours transcribing human ache into linguistic scratches when you’d much rather be cuddling with the person who inveighed such emotional pain
Because every year I hear of a friend of immeasurable literary talent who just couldn’t take it anymore and decided to dash one final punctuation mark in the narrative of their lives by ending it.
Because writing is a lot like putting your heart into an empty gin bottle and then tossing it out as far as you possibly can into the ocean of cyberspace. You never know whose shore the bottle is going to brush up on. You never know who's going to uncork the capsule of your life's story. Never know who's going to be moved by it.
Because this is how art works.
Because the best feeling in the world is when someone you don’t know comes up to you, squeezes your hand and tells you that something you flippantly compose four, five  (or shit) even nine years ago added something to their life and helped them get through hard times.

1 comment:

David Von Behren said...

Will ankrum is a piece of shit..I have seen him serve minors....I have seen him invite minors and charter minors behind the bar at the late Champs West in a futile endeavor to get laid... I have seen him lock himself in the bathroom and buy Adderall all the while he was fighting for custody of his daughter....I wrote 500,000 words in the last year will never write that much in your are nepotistic modicum of detritus and can suck my Bloomsday phallus with the exception that you would get off on it....FUCK YOU WILL ANKRUM....(ie Billy Simulacrum) ie, the only reason I got into college was because my alcoholic mom was employed at the university you never had to pay for...lied for you once when DCFS inquired..cross me again and I go with J and Etahn to DCFS and you lose everything you never had....ineluctable modality of the Dr Green toady....