Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Crucifix in a Death Hand

Writing these short pieces feels like being a newspaper columnist. Hell, that's ok.
Let me tell you a little story about my favorite newspaper column, back when times where interesting and gas was thirty cents a gallon. In 1967 or so I was dating a nurse named Penny who had an apartment near Macarthur Park in L.A. That's the place Jimmy Webb sang about: "someone left a cake out in the rain." Oh really, Jimmy? Someone left a lot of winos and junkies out in the rain too. They were lying there smoldering in the Los Angeles heat; below the windows of those old worn out apartment hotels. This was no country for young men or civilized women. I used to sit in the park all day and talk to the Indians and pigeons. Waiting for something. Waiting for Penny to come home with the grub, maybe. One day here comes a man with a bunch of newspapers under his arm and he hands me one. It's "Open City," and it contains a column called: "Notes of a Dirty Old Man," by one "Charles Bukowski." Now I doubt if there's ever been a column such as this - now or ever. This gent Bukowski wrote about working for the Post Office and drinking and trying to date women; every rank American male frustration in the book. The read was highly entertaining. Consider: Jonathan Swift meets Mark Twain and Henry Miller at Raymond Chandler's house; with a savage dose of Celine and Nathaniel West. It was drunken rant; like he was putting words in the mouth of a million American blue collar workers. A touch misogynistic. But, oh the humor! I saved all the columns in a box in my garage. Later Bukowski's publisher, through a long grapevine, found out I had the columns and Bukowski had burned all of his. Could Bukowski borrow my stash? Of course. And that started a correspondence with Buk that lasted thirty years or so. You can find all of that in a book titled "Tough Company" on Black Shark-Mystery Island Press. Well…I don’t know what the hell I'd think of Bukowski now. Never read him anymore. He told me once that: "Hemingway is better when you're young." Well old Buk's stuff was probably better when you're young too. But, hell, I wish somebody wrote columns like that now or had something passionate to say on the news or in a magazine. Political correctness has choked us down and hobbled our guts and forced Spaulding Gray to jump into the East River. He left a note to that effect. But Buk wrote one classic L.A. poem….
"Crucifix in a Death Hand."
"Yes, they begin out in the willows, I think.
The starch mountains begin out in the willows.
And keep right on going, without regard
For pumas or nectarines."
Somehow, he nailed it. I leave you with that.


Saddle Tramp said...

TR . . . Great post and I agree. Yes, even Bukowski can outgrow Bukowski. His most recent volume of original and unpublished work is titled " The People Look Like Flowers at last ". I am happy he got there. For me Bukowski is all about the struggle and means to laugh and get through hell without coming up emptyhanded.

As for me I am book rich with recent teasures from:

The Robert Henri Museum in Cozad, NE.

" The Son of a Gamblin' Man " by Mari Sandoz. Mari was beaten by her father and sent to a dark cellar for publishing her first story at age 11. Her father, she later found out detested writers and artists. It did not stop her.

From A Novel Idea Bookstore in the Richard Booth ( Hay-On-Wye ) designated Book Town of Brownville, NE.

A first edition copy of " Crazy Horse " by Mari Sandoz
" The Dull Knifes of Pine Ridge "by Joe Starita
" Booked To Die " by John Dunning
" Frida and Diego " paired together

From Vintage Stock in Joplin, MO

" Between Midnight and Day " by Dick Waterman

" All any man can do, is to add his fragment to the whole. No man can be final, but he can record his progress . . . What he leaves is so much for others to use as stones to step on, or stones to avoid. " Robert Henri ( Cozad )

Thanks fir the stepping stones TR.

-ST Norco, CA and looking out at those starched mountains.

editor said...

Y'know, a newspaper column ain't a half-bad idea...

Tom Russell said...

I wish you opened up a newspaper and it had those old Bukowski columns and poetry and snatches of great American lit and funny cartoons and Little Lulu and something else for gawd's sake....and down in the corner they can cap the news in five sentences. I will find my own dread,,,searching for art and joy. In the Garden. "No Guru, No Method, No Teacher." To quote Van.

Saddle Tramp said...

The method was there is none. The guru an alias. The teacher everywhere. Formal or informal. On the street or on the trail. In the garden or in a prison. You know it when you see it. You know it when you hear it. I have quoted Van on that to to myself many times. Credit or not, no man walks alone. I know crayola art when I see it and I feel Van Gogh when I see it. You cannot create a Van Gogh. A gift from God or a freak of nature. Take your choice.


Ruahines said...

Kia ora Tom,
There are still nights I pour myself a whiskey and read a bit of Bukowski, many others I put on Van and just listen. Never at the same time. Cheers.

Roy-Olav said...

And when will you visit Norway again? ;-)

Saddle Tramp said...


Henry Chinaski’s Stamp
ISAAC FITZGERALD BIO ↓  ·  February 24th, 2010  ·  filed under BOOKS
Are you a fan of Charles Bukowski? Want to see him get his own stamp? Over at PetitionSpot some folks are trying
to make that happen:

-saddle tramp
Via: Old U.S. Hwy 40 ( The Historic National Highwy ) across Pennsylvania with 7% grades and 10 mph speed limits with a very lively load of apple juice from the Port of
Wilmington ...