CONVERSATIONS WITH DEAD MEN #1 By Scott P Barrons
Charles Bukowski died in 1994.
He spent many years slaving away, not
moving from a single spot while his right arm was an efficient conduit for the mail of Los Angeles to travel through.
We meet in Santa Monica, a small place with just a few tables outside.
Charles smokes hand rolled cigarettes the whole time,
though he is horrible at rolling, and takes me up on every offer I make to keep him caffeinated.
He has a slight odor that comes after
a night of drinking.
Without prompting Charles begins to speak of Henry Chinaski, his novelistic alter-ego, the inversion of himself used in most of his novels.
â€œI always write about myself, man.
But after working so long and all the women and beer, I
didn't have any other story in me, you know? the story.
Who else is there to
I mean, shit, that's
I worked hard, drank a lot and fucked as much as I could.
That's the story, man.â€?
Charles leans back as if the interview is over, though of course it has only begun.
Barrons / Bukowski 2
“Women are the root of the world,” Bukowski toasts, and I'm forced to agree with him on that one. strongly than writing. listening?
I ask what draws him to women more
“Fucking is the root of the world, are you
There isn't one good thing a woman can't give for you, or
take away and leave you a pissing shitting wreck, or at least for a little while.”
It's easy to tell he's talking from experience, that
the proverbial 'you' is probably Chinaski.
Bukowski takes me to his childhood home, the setting of most of Ham on Rye.
“2122 Longwood avenue.
Agony, where I was almost done in.” running around, just noisy cars.
House of Horrors, House of The block is devoid of any kids
Each house is nice, squared, and
with so much sunlight it almost look like a desert. “AS you can see, I'm still standing here.” Bukowski always talked about his old man, “a son-of-a-bitch who would beat the hell out of me two-three times a week.”
this middle-class dream-street, it's hard to see the gulag that Bukowski remembers.
I ask him if he over-dramatized, that maybe he
was a brat like I was.
“Well,” he began, then lit another cigarette
before continuing, ”well I figure he was right some of the time, but about eighty-three percent of the time, he was wrong as hell.”
Barrons / Bukowski 3 Something about the order and brightness of Longwood avenue didn't sit well with Bukowski.
It covered him up, and so did his
father, and even out there in the open, mile-wide avenue, there was no-one to help him.
As perfect as Longood avenue looks, it only
pushed him further under.
When I ask about the places that he did his best work, he took me right to a desk with a towering hive of cubbies sitting over top. There was a woman in the background but Bukowski, like in a dream, sat at the desk and taking a stack of cards, began tossing each card one by one into the unmarked holes. the stink of it in your bones. carrier.
“you get to know L.A., you get
I was out there for four years as a
It helped but...”
The woman says “He would get so anxious about the tests, he would just sit and do this...” Hank waves her away and she's gone, and we're sitting in front a typewriter, a small metal box, and I watched Bukowski curled over the thing like electricity to a coil. “Sometimes the mechanism just goes, you know?
start writing, you put pencil to paper or you start hitting those damn keys, and you write it out.
And sometimes it works. Whether it
feels good or not, you just have to do it.”
I ask Bukowski about how
that started for him, when he learned to just start writing. were in a bedroom, back on longwood avenue.
Bukowski's face, neck
and shoulders bulge with red and purple puss-filled blisters.
Barrons / Bukowski 4 Bukowski sits bent over a notebook, scribbling ferociously, trying to catch up to his own imagination.
â€œI wrote about Baron Von
Schliecter, Ace Pilot, who flew by his enemies with grace and ease. It was the easiest it ever was.
And I had plenty of time to write,
so I got to know it really well, man.
And from then on, I just had
to.â€? As the bedroom fades, a man comes in; the notebook is taken from Bukowski and there are tearing noises but we are looking away, following the slipstream behind the typewriter.
How much of Chinaski isn't Bukowski?
Wow, I mean, Chinaski is Bukowski is Chinaski. we went through the same shit.
We are the same,
Chinaski, though, who he is, that
depends on the particular moment you are coming across him.
Post Office days, he's drunk, sure; he's drunk most of the time. he's able to find the balance. such an easy going guy.
As Bukowski got older, Chinaski isn't
Still drunk though. (laughs)
he might be
slightly more clever than me, or seem to have slightly better luck.
If you could censor anything from the world, what would it be?
I would get rid of jobs. perfectly good man.
Shit. All a job does is spoil a
It takes him at his strongest and most lively,
Barrons / Bukowski 5 wraps it's tentacles around him and squeezes for all he's worth. Then when the man cries uncle, he's left broken by the side of the road no richer than when he was dreaming that the job would save his life and make it roses.
What else is there to life besides women,
drinking, and maybe the occasional party where both can be found?
Is regret one of your motivating forces?
No, I don't regret anything.
I have a life, I still
live in beautiful California, I can write my poetry. People ask me to read my silly poems and sometimes I can travel.
I don't regret a
There are many empty bottles strewn throughout your fiction.
A man can drink wine and beer for...for centuries. die.
There will be government studies to prove.
Does alcoholism ever come to Henry Chinaski's mind?
If your going to be anything be an alcoholic if I wasnâ€™t a drunkard, I would have probably killed myself. mean the jobs, the three dollar rooms.
I mean, alcohol gives you the
release without the deadness of the drugs.
I mean a drunkard, man,
Barrons / Bukowski 6 he gets sick and comes back and, he springs back and forth.
these light drug freaks, with marajuana, you know, they're like “heyyyyyyyy” all the time, and I don't like that.
Like all spirit is
When your working
You don't want to be like that?
all day for a couple of bucks, and you come home, you don't want to be like, “heyyy, how you doing?” right?
You want to go out and drink
a bottle of whiskey, maybe end up at a bar. bitch, you know?
Fist fights, maybe some
And THEN you go to work the next day, and start
over, work through it.
That's life, man.
At one point in Post Office, Chinaski looks to his fellow worker and advises him to quit his job and go to a room somewhere and write.
Yeh, this same guy is a guy who never gets published.
Did anyone ever give you that advise? Eventually I just followed it and so Chinaski tells people what I have learned. That what I would tell anyone.
It's what I do, what I need.
Sometimes, I'll just lock myself in a room, pull the curtains, lock the door, and sleep for four days. go right back to sleep.
Maybe wake up, drink a beer, and
And I guess it's, you know, they'd call it
depression, but I bounce back, with so much energy for months and
Barrons / Bukowski 7 months.
Sometimes, and I think more people should do this, you just
have to lock yourself away for three or four days, and then it gets better, and you get better.
What has been your biggest muse?
http://poetrycircle.com/index.php/topic,226.0.html%5C%22 questions: censorship – what is obscene? - some people won't read your work writers block – self-editing – writers process Chinaski – fiction?
How do you handle writers block? What is the most important task of a writer? What is the Novel? “Dont Try”?
“Women are strong people.
If you just...”
“she had a fat ass and was good to lean up against in the winter” “it was like being in a war” “love is a fog; its there and beautiful in the early hours, then
Barrons / Bukowski 8 burns away in the light of the day.” “there are worst things than being alone”
“when you get the shit kicked out of you long enough, long enough...eventually you start to tell the truth. the truth. about pain.
I started to tell
My father was a great literary teacher.
He taught me
Pain without reason.”
“as long as you keep an ember alive, the greatest fire can be reignited”
“Someone has to kick mickey mouse out of your heads, that three fingered son of a bitch, he has no fucking soul.
everyone so fucking happy. And that's what's wrong with the world, man.” “It's not the large things that send a man to the madhouse”
“I used to live on one candy bar a day. cost a nickel.
It was called a payday.
I used to love the payday.
when I don't go to the track, I can't write.
Barrons / Bukowski 9 I went to the track today, came back with two hundred and twelve dollars, it was a good day, and I look down and I have one black shoe and one brown shoe.
And I said, the light is fading, old boy.â€?