Sunday, August 16, 2009

Charles Bukowski - Aug 16, 1920 - March 9, 1994

My favorite bar in Boston would not be the yukkie yuppie Cheers but Bukowski's on Dalton Street.   (I automatically hate sitcoms, and anyhow Cheers is now a chain and I pretty much automatically hate chains, though it's come to the point in much of the United States that your choice of a place to eat would be this chain or that chain so what the hell you gonna do?)

When Mark's nephew JD, who lives on the west coast, and I happened to be in Boston at the same time a few years back I could hardly wait to surprise him by taking him to a place named after a guy whom he'd said was one of his favorite writers, a guy whom Time magazine once called the "laureate of American lowlife."  JD and I had great burgers and a couple beers at Bukowski's.  (The 1987 film "Barfly" with Mickey Rourke was based on a period of Bukowski's life.)

Bukowski had been championed at some point by the guy who owned Black Sparrow Press and, through a long-lasting loyalty, almost all his 50 or 75 books were published by them; Black Sparrow's books were invariably well-done, good-looking, nice to hold in your hands.

I used to visit Montreal once a year.  There was a bookstore on St. Catherine Street that always carried a good selection of Bukowski.  While my friends Mark, Bob & Sue were shopping I would sit in the bookstore's cafe and read some Bukowski.  Then one year -- pow! -- there was not a single Bukowski on the shelf.  I sought out the floor manager and asked her why they no longer carried Bukowski.  She said his books were "by far the most shop-lifted" and they now kept their stock of him out back.  I thought it a great honor for Bukowski to be the most shop-lifted author, and that this was perhaps an indication that punky non-conformist types made up a large segment of Bukowski's admirers.  I guess I liked the idea that people, in order to get a Bukowski in their hands, were willing to possibly face a judge and a jail.

I regretted that a construction fence adjacent to the bar spoiled my picture.  I also regretted that my crappy skill with a camera cut off part of the neon sign "Dead Authors Club".

Inside the walls are adorned with gigantic pictures of Bukowski and a couple other authors (Anais Nin being the only one I can recall), and big reproductions of posters advertising Bukowski's readings and such, and quotes from his works.

Once my snapshots were printed I mailed them to JD with a note, "Here are the pictures I took in Boston.  Hope you like them.  If not, go fuck yourself."  He liked that.  He'd told me in Bukowski's about a poem he liked (by one of the brothers who made the movie "Fargo") whose last line was: "If not, go fuck yourself." 

Bukowski is buried in Rancho Palas Verdes, California.  The photograph below comes from the wonderful website "Find A Grave" and I need to give credit for the photo to a Gary Goude.  The epitaph, "Don't Try" comes from an answer Bukowski gave to a young person who'd asked him how to become a writer; it doesn't sound kind but was; Bukowski said "Someboy at one of these places ... asked me: 'What do you do? How do you write, create?'  You don't, I told them.  You don't try.  That's very important: not to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality.  You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more.  It's like a bug high on the wall.  You wait for it to come to you.  When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it.  Or if you like its looks you make a pet out of it." 

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