Today is Charles Bukowski's Birthday
Today is Charles Bukowski's birthday. Los Angeles' greatest poet lived to 119 years old. He carried an axe and led his blue ox around with a choke-chain that he'd release whenever someone stepped to him.
He worked for the LA post office for decades and drank and worked and wrote at night and drank some more and sometimes got sleep before he went to work. Even though his fine book "Post Office" told the tale of himself working primarily as a mail carrier, he spent most of his career as the dude who sorted the mail for the postmen.
Meanwhile he was sending his poems out and his stories and his columns to magazines and xxx rags and to publishers and one day his ship came in when a small publisher in Santa Barbara, John Martin, told him that he would support Bukowski if he would quit the post office and write books.
Bukowski took the deal and the prolific writer was able to follow his dream and knock out great novels like "Ham on Rye", "Women", and "Factotum", which is now a film starring Matt Dillion and will be released on Friday.
Charles Bukowski was ugly and fat and scarred and boiled and white and beaten and drunk and mean and high-voiced and scary but his works are far from pity-full. He was rarely distraught in his early days, despite being kicked out of one skid row boarding room after another, despite being fired from jobs, despite being beaten in bar fights. This isn't to say he was an optimist. He was merely stubborn in his walk toward the end of the road. He was going to get there, no need to be sad about the journey.
Bukwoski was born in Germany but his parents moved to Pasadena, where he grew up. He lived for some time in Hollywood, he lived in San Pedro, and later in Northern California, but his best days were spent at Hollywood Park, where he apparently was as good at betting on the ponies as he wrote.
People compared him to this writer or that one, but the only comparison that matters to LAist is that with Ernest Hemingway. They both were booze hounds, they were both huge personalities, they were both master storytellers. Big difference is, Hem was handed everything at an early age and threw himself into danger to make up for it. Hem wrote like a woman trapped in a man's body. Bukowski was never given anything until later in his life and wrote like a dog trapped in a stray dog's body.
Bukowski was grunge before there was grunge. He was indie rock n roll before the Killers ruined that ideal. He was the last man's man to write a large collection of poetry. He is overdue for a street to be named after him. We think 3rd Street would do.
photo by ckirkman via Flickr