There are these curious windows of time when you get to be magical, when somehow every hair on your head falls into place, and your toothbrush is brand new, and your breath electrifies the skin of every person you encounter.
-Charles Bukowski Are Sitting On A Pink Couch
“It's no good drinking with a lot of people,” Bukowski says, his limbs splayed over the sides of my pink couch. “You can get drunk in the company of a great number of people but you intimately share a bottle with a rare few.”
He swings his head back to look at my father, “Something like that?” he asks. My father motions for him to keep going then gives me a big smile.
My father likes to bring people over from his side of death to give me advice. People whose work he introduced me to as a kid. I’m a devoted Fellini fan, having watched 8 ½ on TV with him the summer he fell ill. When he brings over Fellini we talk about film and female giants. Bukoswk’s a different animal. My father would say he’d introduce me to Bukowski’s poetry when I was old enough. I have not read Bukowski.
"And I don't normally go visiting daughters either,” Bukowski continues, passing his fingers over his cheek stubble. "Nor do I visit homes that use the color pink as a design choice. The guys usually keep the torch of my altar lit. That or they're trying to burn me down. Either way, fuck it. I like your dad.”
My father lived a contained existence when I knew him. Working as a salesman at W.B. Davis Electrical Supply Company on North Hollywood by day and playing badminton in the back yard with me most nights. I like that he’s hanging out with more deviant company.
“Let’s have a drink.” Bukowski says, searching the house for a bottle. “You drink to let people in, or you drink to keep them out. The taxman with a hairpiece that was bought at Kmart…drink to keep him out. The worn-in woman who spends an hour in the bathroom trying to curl her hair just so for you…you drink to let her in. Let’s drink to your father.”
My father never says a word during these encounters though that probably has more to do with me than him. He passed when I was a kid so I have no real memory of his voice. But we smile affectionately at each other pretending we’re foreign countries, neither of us able to speak the other's language. He finds a couple bottles of Pimm's next to the vacuum cleaner. They are red. Two bottles. I explain to both of them that it was left by a friend, on two separate occasions, two years apart as gifts. Otherwise my house is dry.
"I would question the friendship that considers bottles of such ineffectual liquor a gift. But you’ve forced my hand.”
We pass the bottles back and forth.
My father motions for me to say something. I should say something. I’m sitting in the presence (or something) of a poet. So I say something.
"I keep trying to write things down but...Here’s the thing. You figure, you say a phrase long enough, a phrase you love, that you will kill someone if you can't find a way to use it...You figure if you just keep repeating it you can pull all the other words out of you that it needs to go with it and you'll just attached them together to finish your story. But the chase has you up till all hours, you think you’re shit and what the hell were you thinking and there’s no food in the house because you’ve eaten it, dry rice included and you end up fishing a muffin wrapper out of the trash, licking its edges, and then you DO get enough words together and you think you’ve finally done something with your life and you find all you’ve succeeded in creating is a grocery list.”
"Sweetheart," he says, "You're wasting my dead time."
“What's dead time even mean?”
"It's more...dead beat time. Like dead beat dads who don't care much for their kids, dead beat time is only good for denting the cushions of your sofa."
He and my father laugh together.
"Shouldn't you tell me something important before you go. Something to live by?" I ask.
"If that's what you want, you can Google the shit out of me and find something I said once that probably seemed lousy at the time but kept being repeated until it became a quote. Sadness is just a thing like any other thing. You won't shake loose yours any more than I shook loose mine. But you still try to shake it. Come on Tommy.”
The two friends turn to leave. My dad leans into his ear and Bukowski turns back towards me.
“Right. And never drink in a bar with too much light. That's part of the problem you've got way too much light in your bar."