By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
“You’ve never done anything for me, Bukowski.”
One would like to think that creation does its own work, but N. had forgotten that I had written a foreword praising him for his work in a special Ole magazine edition of his poetry. N.’s persecution mania became so bad that once, after N.C. and I paid him an hour’s visit, we had to run to the elevator and once the door was closed we began rolling on the floor in laughter. We were afraid to go out the front way for fear he would hear us and his feelings would be hurt so we ran it down to the basement and rolled on the floor there, laughing for five minutes among the boilers and spider webs and dankness.
N.H. was still a damned good poet. But it was sad the way they could go, ranting. I suppose we’ll all go, ranting. The poetry, the prose climbing the walls like snakes; our suicide mirrors showing gray hairs and gray ways and gray talents. N. had lost his European backer. Things were not so well. The poets would visit him once, then stop. The Free Press offered him a job of writing reviews, but N. didn’t follow it up. Educated, talented, knowledgeable, he was rotting. He admitted it. I told him he could find it again.
Once, another poet and I visited him and suggested a round of drinking, but N. said he had been invited to a party, a special invitation. Would we like to come? Why not? we asked. He had the address. When we got there it was a benefit for somebody, admission $1. We got in the back way and stood around listening to the band. I found a gallon jug of wine and began drinking it. I talked to a couple of women, kissed one, walked around.
Then the poet I was with asked me, “Do you think anybody knows you’re Charles Bukowski?” It was an interesting thought. I walked up to a girl. “Listen, you know I’m Charles Bukowski?” “Charles who?” she asked. The poet with me laughed. I asked several people if they knew I was Charles Bukowski. “Never heard of him. Who’s that?” “Charles Bukowski. Is that Tiny Tim’s dishrag?”
I drank the rest of the wine, and when the benefit was over I ran down to the bottom of the stairway and blocked the exit. “Now you people, this is to let you know that I am Charles Bukowski. Now before I let you out, I want you to say, ‘I know you. Charles Bukowski!’ Now say it!”
“Come on, man, let us out of here!”
“Bullshit, man, let us out of here!”
“Come on, Charles, don’t be an asshole,” said N.
“All right, say it!” I screamed. “Say that I am Charles Bukowski and that you know me! Now say it!”
I had 150 people blocked on that stairway and inside. Then the poet next to me said, “Bukowski, the police are coming!”
I was gone fast, running down the streets of Venice West, N. and the poet running behind me. Yes, N. and I were both having bad days and nights. But last I heard he was making a nice comeback, going to ’Frisco and putting out a magazine, and I’ve lost the flyer but I believe he’s printing Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, McClure, Burroughs, all of them. He’d finally gotten away from Rose Ave., down there around the parking lot, the soulless hippies sitting on the cement benches, starving, bumming, trying to steal from that Jewish grocery store and waiting for Tim Leary to tell them — Drop out, to what? But Leary isn’t there. Just the seagulls and the waiting and no creation ...
Ah, then there was Mad Jack the painter. A woman was taking care of him, a young woman with a fairly large house. Jack had the whole basement to himself, his paintings spread on the cement down there. I think they were rather good, done with India ink scratches in black and toned up in these blobs of yellow applied with a brush. There were hundreds of them, and almost all of them looked alike.
Jack always had a bottle of wine in his pocket, port, and he was always drunk or getting drunk. He seldom bathed, and the mucus ran from his nose and dried in black designs above the lip and mouth. Even his beard was dirty, and he screamed when he talked, always something melodramatic and just a bit stupid. I had to drink to bear up with him. As I said, though, the paintings were good and I forgave a lot for that. I suppose his girl thought the same way, and he probably ate her up pretty good too. Or so he told me.