Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bukowski At The Golden Bear, Summer 1976

Los Angeles Times listing for Bukowski reading in 1976.

The Golden Bear was a scuzzy little club in Huntington Beach, CA. It was right across the street from the Pacific Ocean. Everyone from Janis Joplin to Stephane Grappelli played there. It was demolished in the 1980's. 

I saw Bukowski here twice. The first time, in July 1976. I was aware of a bulky video rig set up in the tiny club. Surfing the web decades later I stumble upon a snippet shot that very night while watching the documentary, "I'm Still Here".  Buk's girlfriend Pamela Wood, took the stage and playfully announced: "Charles Bukowski couldn't make it here tonight." The rowdy audience responded in a predictable manner -- the clip begins with a more straightforward introduction, after she had had her laugh. My friends and I would be clearly visible sitting in the front row, up against the stage, right next to Ms.Wood, however the atrocious, poorly lit black and white footage renders us murky spectral blurs.

What a night that was! My first encounter with the mighty Bukowski was the best -- and that the waitress served us beer, though we were underage -- Michelob in long tapered bottles, made it all the sweeter.

The second time I saw him at the Golden Bear, Hank managed to misplace his glasses, as he fumbled around in his pockets, he delivered a classic spontaneous line. "Senility has arrived."
  Updated 1/6/15

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Charles Bukowski

Updated 12/20/12

I discovered writer, Charles Bukowski when I stumbled upon a documentary by Hackford Taylor aired on KCET in Los Angeles. This would have been 1974 or 1975. A defining moment for an alienated high school student attempting my own poetry.

Bukowski was raw, exciting and he said the "F word" -- not once but several times on TV -- and it wasn't beeped! PBS was a different world back then. I misremembered his name as "Bullkowski" and unsuccessfully attempted to find his books at the mall book store. Finally, a cute girl at school showed me one of his poems, in a City Lights anthology. For many years I was held in his thrall.

I encountered him Mr. Bukowski six times; I attended three of his readings in Los Angeles, during the brief period he was booked in clubs. Our paths crossed in person, the result of several chance meetings A strange figure; international literary star, yet practically invisible on his home turf. To actually have contact with a hero, in my own city... How many get to experience this? As we move away from print, will there be any literary heroes?

No writer of note has traded so heavily on persona, or so vigorously recycled the same material.

Yet, his strongest work can still be moving.  

Here's my homage:

Taking My Afternoon Walk, I Encounter Buk

Charles Bukowski was not Charles Bukowski
I was not Charles Bukowski,
I was a young man from the suburbs,
 attempting poetry, drinking
trying so hard to be real, 
I couldn't be
more fake. Charles Bukowski was
so fake, he couldn't be more real, drinking
rewriting the same riffs, over again
as poetry, prose and anecdotes --
Both of us obsessed with authenticity.

I'm standing at the corner of 
Rosemead & California Blvd.
Unincorporated L.A. County
I spot a sports car
 top down -- ugly bastard seated inside

Buk and I for real.

© 2013 Dorian Cohen