No, I never met the esteemed Mr Bukowski. I think he was in fact dead when I moved into his neighborhood. But a magazine editor – a very nice lady for whom I have a great deal of respect and who wants me to write for her – mentioned him while we were talking today.
“I never liked his writing. He was too angry,” she said.
I wanted to reply somewhat this way: Hell, who wouldn’t be angry living here Where The Ghetto Meets The Sea?
Though several writers I know live nearby, only those with steady – that is, on-staff – gigs could actually afford to buy a house here, and all of them did so back in the days when this was a slightly disreputable, grubby part of town. Never mind the closeness of the ocean; at one time, this was a haven for the blue-collar folks who worked on the docks and fishing boats.
Now, those industries gone, we watch as our local city Councilperson tries to transform this into a glamorous Destination. Let the wealthy come in and sit in a shoreline Starbucks, and read the names on the memorial to all who died plying the seas in search of a living.
I may be a newcomer (having been here only for the better part of six years), but I can recognize a terminus for misfits when I see one. That’s what attracted me. But the misfits are gradually being shoved aside in favor of the Wealthy Urban Chic people.
Bukowski had some kind of low-level government job that kept him in food and booze while he poured the dark side of his soul out on paper. Whether his writing was an act designed to grab the attention of aging hippies or his reality, I don’t know. And I don’t care.
I understand the anger bit, believe me. I’m right there with it.
Nothing would please me more than to release the rage that has built up in me. If I had a poetic sensibility, I could lay down my venom for all to read, and maybe even gain some notoriety (or money) from doing so.
I don’t have that talent. Moreover, I have a terrible fear of becoming a character, someone whose talent people might claim to admire but whose personality makes them keep one step away. Sure, such individuals sometimes have a coterie of groupies and admirers, but as the sun sets they are left alone and unloved.
The things Ms Editor wants me to write are not the things I want to write. I think she knows that. If I am to slice my veins and bleed on the printed page, I want to be paid for it. If possible, I want to be paid well. She can’t pay well, and doesn’t want me to do the vein-cutting bit in her magazine.
She reminded me of the last article I did for her several years ago. It caused a furore, to say the least. I was uncharacteristically honest about an icon in our field, and the creators of said icon reacted badly to my criticism. Oddly enough, I did not set out to demolish said icon; I turned in a job of honest reporting, letting the chips fall where they might, and she took heat for it. Even so, she wants more from me, and I’m seriously tempted to give it to her.
By all accounts, Bukowski was an unhappy man when he finally tapped out. I’m not happy either, despite a few successes here and there. It occurs to me that if life is not going to deliver those things I feel a serious hankering for, I should at least make money – or develop a following – when I express my displeasure at being deprived.
I don’t relish the idea of becoming a Big Name after I’m gone. I live by the words of the immortal Redd Foxx: “I’m like Rev. Ike...gimme my shit here on the ground!”
But I’m at least living in the right place to achieve posthumous fame. It worked for Mr Bukowski, so why not me?
Does any of this make the slightest sense to you?
All I have to do is find an outlet for my frustration and anger. One that pays.
It certainly doesn’t exist in the field where I’m writing now.
42 minutes ago