"he was a really great fuck, after all."
Today is what would have been the anniversary of Charles Bukowski's 87th year on this planet, had he not passed away in 1994. I really wish I had it in me to writing something amazing in honor of the man, but I'm not sure it can be done. What can you write about a man who revolutionized literature with a style that has yet to be rivaled? All I can think to do on this day is share one of my own Bukowski memories:
Back in 1986, my mother, believing that I at five years old was getting too old to listen to her read something as childish as the Brothers Grimm for my bedtime story, decided that it was time that I started listening to her read some Bukowski instead. It was summertime, and I was hot, but I was wearing footie pajamas anyway because I positive that the boogie-guy under the bed would capture me if my feet were exposed. The first Bukowski work I encountered (via my mother) was Ham on Rye. My mother serialized it of course, spreading it out over many nights. Both the Brothers Grimm and Ham and Rye were rife with abusive parenting, but I knew that the Brothers Grimm was fake and that Ham on Rye was real. Maybe too real for a little kid -- I told my mom that I would help Henry Chinaski beat up his dad is she would just take me to Los Angeles, not that I knew what "Los Angeles" was at the time.
That was 21 years ago, and Bukowski has been my literary god ever since. As I made my way through my own childhood, Bukowski's works showed me that people can survive life's worst-case-scenarios; that yes, most folks are assholes, but that doesn't mean you should let them fuck up your day; that nothing is worth doing unless it is done with style; and that the most beautiful artistic creations are born from tragedy. Now that I am all grown-up and actually living in Los Angeles, I love that Los Angeles feels like home to me each time I am able to recall a familiar Bukowski story that is associated with a specific location mentioned in his books or poems.
I suspect that lots of folks will be out tonight boozing it up over cheap wine and Mahler in honor of the best writer Los Angeles has yet to produce. But before I go and do the same myself, I want to share one more Bukowski matter: This morning I was searching my bookshelf-stash to channel Bukowski from beyond the grave to try to see what he would have thought about all of the folks who are memorializing him today. I found my answer in Slouching Toward Nirvana, a collection of post-humous poems published in 2005. In the poem "no eulogies, please" Bukowski wrote that he would prefer if people didn't patronize his relative merits and worth after he was dead. He instead wished that one of his ex-lovers would come forth in a tight dress, high heels, and too much make-up and announce to the world that "he really was a great fuck, after all." I am too young to have been one of his memoired ladies, and I don't even own a pair of high heels, but I can say with total confidence that it is absolutely true...Bukowski really was a great fuck, after all.
If you want can't bear the thought of memorializing Bukowski-style all by yourself in a dark room with a radio and a bottle of cheap wine, you should check out the Buk-Day to-do list compiled by Callie Miller for LAist, "Happy Birthday Buk."
And here are a few more You Tube clips of the poet himself for the road: