Bukowski on my couch

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."

99-Cent Store Preacher

When I’m sad in Los Angeles, I go to the 99-cent store
because you can’t be sad in the 99 cent store
because they have things like plastic flamingos,
and Jesus candles,
and the shelf by the registers is a Quote “perfect post modern representation of the lifecycle of a relationship.”

Lipsticks next to
Chocolates then comes
Pregnancy tests
Denture cleaner and
Sympathy cards.

I run into my friend Elaine who’s sipping from this enormous red straw that is sticking out of her pocket book. I asked her once what she was drinking and she said, “Dar’lin, life’s way too long to go through it blind sober” Which I tend to agree with.

I see her digging in a big cardboard container. 

"I need envelopes for my project I'm sort’en through 75 years of photographs, and I’ll tell you what, I’ve not done anything this difficult in my entire life."

"I imagine it’s hard. Must bring up lots of memories.”

"I can handle memories. I can’t handle the 'who the fuck is this?' (and she pulls a black and white photo from her bag.) Who is that good looking man. I don’t know. I'm standing next to him, my cheek is pressed to his with my arm around his waist, and I have no idea who he is. And there are more like him, women, men, kids.. They meant something to be after all or I wouldn't have posed for the picture because don’t pose for pictures with people unless I like ‘em. Now I just stare at them and don’t know who the fuck they are.”

We keep digging but the envelopes are all small.

"I need big enveopes, these won’t work. They need to be able to hold a whole year because. I'm a good mother. I have to do this, or my kids won’t know.

 "I gonna preach to ya now. Because I'm preaching to everybody I meet. Always write on the back of a photograph who is in it, where it was taken, and when.”

 “No one develops photos anymore.” I tell her, “We post ‘em to Facebookand Instagram, and all over the web We post and tag and pin and explain our lives away as it happens and it’s possible we do it so we don’t have to ever look back. Of course I’m not sure Facebook will be around when I hit old lady status.  I think our whole life will still be there

"OH," she said turning way from me, pushing past the bookrack and the potting soil. "I guess you won’t be an old woman on a goose chase to find envelopes, then!"


I am sitting on a porch in Jersey with my friend’s father, Fabian. Fabian’s sounds like he stepped out of a Martin Scorsese and I miss that living in L.A. He adjusts the Velcro of his back support belt while he talks.

"I got drafted into the Army. For Korea, you know?  So this one day I walk in reporting for duty to the CO’s office. And this guy was sitting there. Behind a desk, you know, answering phones. Everybody called him the last buffalo. Mountain of a guy working as the receptionist in the officer’s office. I mean he looked like he was living his life in a dollhouse sitting behind that desk. I developed a thing for this guy. I’m telling ya, if we woulda been friends growing up, I’d have never lost a street fight. He’d a come in, the fight would be over in two hits. He hits you, you hit the floor.

“The manila files, fuck! He was surrounded, ya know? This was during Korea, and the Army had him at a desk job because they couldn't put him on the front lines because he was the last guy in his family line. Now, if there was anybody who looked like the perfect soldier it was this guy. But his sperm was too important. Hence, the last buffalo. The last buffalo was waiting out the war behind a desk. Lucky him.”