We’re almost to the end of this journey back in time. One more post tomorrow, and then it’s back to the present.
This post is about how pussified writers (and many artists, actually) have become. How they need constant reassurance and stroking to put pen to paper, when so many who came before wallowed in obscurity (and even filth) but still managed to crank some good shit out.
You would be amazed how many people google “did phil collins witness a murder?” They find an answer in this post, which was born from a question my brother Mason submitted to my fake advice column on houstonist.com called “Ask a Dilettante.”
I’ve always promised to be honest in this blog, and I’ve mostly succeeded. This was a rare creative writing entry not based on reality.
Back in the day (2012, in fact) Google search terms that brought people to my blog would show up in a list on my admin dashboard. They were always way more interesting than my blog, so I was sorry when Google went dark on search terms.
I like to imagine what he might think about the world today. Not that I knew the guy, it’s just an interesting exercise. I thought of him this morning for reasons I’ll get to in a minute.
I have a couple of CDs of his readings–Poems and Insults and Solid Citizen–recorded in what sound like dive bars. The audience is drunk, so’s he, and there’s a palpable danger in the room. Like he could set the place on fire or someone could run up to the stage and punch him in the face at any moment.
Maybe because he wrote about people who don’t always get to see themselves in poems and stories. Drunks, jailbirds, blue collar workers who aren’t living some academic’s version of the “stolid American working the land,” ugly women, uglier men, gamblers, fighters, poor people. That’s who his audience was. They came to see themselves and revel in all their glory and grotesqueness.
Though Bukowski wrote a few things about writing, he mostly wrote about the struggle of living. About working for the post office or begging money off some pock-marked woman he met in a dark bar on a sunny LA afternoon. He didn’t write about sitting at his typewriter, waiting for the words to come. When given the opportunity to meet “important” writers of his day, he generally said no thanks (only with a few expletives thrown in). I’ve quoted him here before: I disliked them all immediately, sitting around acting clever and superior. They nullified each other. The worst thing for a writer is to know another writer, and worse than that, to know a number of other writers. Like flies on the same turd.
I thought of him, and specifically that quote, today when I read a post in a playwriting forum about someone weeping when they killed off a character. “I cried for hours!” a commenter said in reference to their own experience. Another said, “That’s how you know you’ve written a great character!” It was a circle jerk of people smelling their own intellectual farts, and I wanted Buk to show up and tell them all to stop writing about writing (like flies on the same turd) and actually do some fucking writing.
This sort of thing goes on there all the time. “Does anyone else ever find when you’re writing a play that it just veers off in a direction you didn’t expect?” No, fancy writer, you’re the only person who’s ever experienced that. We’ll just go ahead and send the Tony to your house now.
I can’t even imagine Bukowski in the same room with some of these people. I’d wager his whiskey shits were more dramatic than their plays are. Mine, too. Plays, that is.
Writing is a solitary experience, so I understand the need some people have to reach out and talk about it. I need to stick to groups that discuss dogs or hamburgers or national parks. I’d happily read about someone shedding a tear after taking their new puppy to Yosemite and grilling up some burgers. “Does anyone ever have that moment when the sun is just about to set and you’re a little buzzed and it feels like you’re connected somehow to the past but firmly in the present and you weep for the beauty of it all?” Yes, my friend. Yes.
SOUND: It’s early and I’m sitting at my desk, listening to the garbage truck empty our three trash cans. One for yard waste, one for household garbage and one for recyclables. It’s easy to tell when he gets to our recyclables. The clanging of empty wine bottles is enough to wake the neighborhood. Luckily, they’re already up because other people’s cans sound similarly populated.
SIGHT: I just started reading Big Sur (Jack Kerouac). It’s about his trip to Lawrence Ferlinghetti‘s cabin in the woods (near Bixby Bridge). He’s trying to deal with the letdown of life, post On the Road. His mental state comes through clearly in his description of Big Sur. It sounds like a frightening, cold and overwhelming place. And though I feel differently about it, I still recognize it. The reason I mention the book is this passage made me chuckle:
I’m absolutely alone for weeks on end (because later in August when the sun conquered the fog suddenly I was amazed to hear laughing and scratching all up and down the valley which has been mine only mine, and when I tried to go to the beach to squat and write there were whole families having outings, some of them younger people who’d simply parked their cars up on the high bridge bluff and climbed down) (some of them in fact gangs of yelling hoodlums).
I feel you, Jack. I feel you.
TASTE: When I went to Boston, I ate something called a Butta Burger. Oh, did I mention James and I are eating meat again? Mostly just on the weekends (and mostly just burgers). Like riding a bike. Anyway, the burger came from a place called Tasty Burger, and it was right next to my hotel. The Butta Burger is a bun that’s been toasted on the grill (and buttered) gently holding a meat patty topped with caramelized onions (and a gilding-the-lily pat of butter). Too rich to finish, but it was a damn tasty burger.
The place I stayed in Boston is a renovated HoJo from the ’50s (it’s now The Verb). While I’m not big on themes (theirs is rock-n-roll), I thought this place was pretty cute. And it offered the occasional unique experience. Like, when I was bent over in the bathroom drying my hair, this is what was looking at my backside. (It’s the sliding door to the bathroom.) Also fun whilst sitting on the loo.
TOUCH: I flew JetBlue to/from Boston. First time on that airline, and I liked it. You can choose your seat when you book your flight (and I was able to move to a better seat when I checked in), and their planes have the most legroom in coach. I didn’t feel like I was stuffed into my seat, which was good since the flight was around six hours. This was my first trip as a Californian, and it made me realize how conveniently located Houston is for travel.
My only complaint: We hit what felt like a speed bump an hour or two out of San Francisco, and it would have been nice to hear that calm pilot’s voice say, “We just fucked up a flock of birds or some shit, no worries.” Instead…silence. Which kind of freaked me out, so I would have appreciated a little more communication from the cockpit. Oh, and this young guy kept hitting on me the whole way back from Boston and no one seemed to care. In fact, they were egging him on.
SMELL: The Pacific smells a little fishy lately. And there’s been some foam on the water. And I don’t know what it all means, which makes me realize I have a lot to learn about where I live. And that makes me happy.