bart plantenga

What I Learned About My Neighbor On East 13th Street, NYC
[from Beer Mystic*, the novel, not included in the new book LIST FULL**]

1. He was an orphan, a member of “Our Gang,” having starred in some 20 “Little Rascals” shorts as Wheezer. He was kept in a shoebox in the early days. Incubated in a bakery oven. And then later he and his poor mom ended up camping under the “W” of the “Hollywood” sign during the Depression.

2. He’s sure our neighbor in #3 is a spy with a “primitive surveillance device.”

3. He was a champ half-miler. Began training in 1933 for the ’36 Olympics, which he missed because of bursitis. For which he later invented a cure. Jonas Salk may have stolen his ideas for his polio vaccines from him. They went to college together.

4. He’s a surgeon with 22 degrees. He can show me if I’m ever interested. He operated on his friend Johnny Weismuller, whom he also taught the backstroke.

5. He fought in North Africa during WWII. He was master of the desert. A unique cravat style, “the Georg,” was copied from him during his battles with Rommel and became all the rage in Southern Europe immediately after the war. He sent Rommel scurrying more than once in humiliating retreat. He refused to shoot Rommel in the back although he could have. He wrote the definitive biography of Rommel but his portrayal was considered “too positive and loving” by the publishing houses.

6. He led a hodgepodge army of Arab pirates, Zulus, and Celts to over 20 decisive victories in battle against the Nazis.

7. He wore a gleaming silver helmet decorated with three cockatoo feathers. The silver blinded opponents in hand-to-hand combat. He also wore a kilt, cowboy boots, and his signature cravat. He rode a glorious white steed and was often confused for Lawrence of Arabia – whom he claimed to know and considered a “pompous oaf.”

8. He has a vice-like grip that kills even the strongest. Could crush my neck “like a grape.” He is by law not allowed to even demonstrate this hold. “So, consider yourself lucky that I abide by all just laws.”

9. He saw 12 belly dancers, including Mata Hari’s daughter, dance at one time in the Sheik’s palace in his honor.

10. One redhead later performed all night for him for two dollars. He later married her and she became a famous movie actress. Each time he mentions her name it’s different. It is not Rita Hayworth, however, who he also met. But Orson Welles was too jealous and forbade their friendship.

11. He once broke up a Russian spy ring. Was recruited by the KGB. He considered becoming a double agent for the remunerative aspect. Kim Philby worked under him.

12. Was hired by the White House to entrap homosexuals involved in white slavery and kiddy porn. He has one thousand letters from grateful parents thanking him and nominating him for a Cabinet post. He says not all homosexuals are bad and that he had to “engage in some despicable sexual acts for the sake of the nation.”

13. His unique torture-confession methods, as learned in WWII, have been approved for use by the CIA in El Salvador and Zimbabwe. He has mentored six official trainers of his methods.

14. He was a potentially great opera singer. His voice has natural vibrato and perfect pitch and a range of four octaves.

15. He saw Caruso the Great die on stage.

16. The last words Caruso heard were actually his – on tape – and Caruso claimed they sounded just like his own. Then Caruso died. And no one will believe him to this very day.

17. One day he heard his own voice on the radio. He realized later that someone had made a recording of him singing and had produced a record of it and then claimed it was someone else. He claims to have settled out of court for $138,000.

18. He helped Yma Sumac with her singing, providing key vocals offstage. In effect, Sumac was lip-syncing to his voice.

19. He claims he can do the Sunday Times crossword puzzle in 5 minutes or less. I can watch if I so desire.

20. During WWII, armed only with a bayonet and his wits, he captured three German soldiers who surfaced in a U-Boat off Long Island. He personally took them into custody and brought them to Hart Island where their cell had a view of Potter’s Field.

21. He saw a preview of his next life. He insists he will be a pasha and will personally reunite Turkey and Iran as Persia.

* https://bartplantenga.weebly.com/beer-mystic.html
** http://spuytenduyvil.net/list-full.html

bart plantenga is the author of novels Beer Mystic, Radio Activity Kills, & Ocean GroOve, short story collection Wiggling Wishbone & novella Spermatagonia: The Isle of Man and wander memoirs: 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 plus the CD Rough Guide to Yodel have created the misunderstanding that he is the world’s foremost yodel expert. He’s also a DJ & has produced Wreck This Mess in NYC, Paris & Amsterdam since forever. His new book LIST FULL proposes that lists are unpretentious working-class poems.
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