Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Buk Stops Here

Today I learned of a literary bus tour so utterly ridiculous I feel that I must expound on the sheer stupidity of the concept and offer some insight as to what one might do in its place.

Charles Bukowski, perhaps the all time greatest American drunk and prolific scribe of such masterpieces as Factotum, Ham on Rye, Notes of a Dirty Old Man and Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions and General Tales of Ordinary Madness is now the subject of a bus tour Haunts of a Dirty Old Man: Charles Bukowski’s Los Angeles brought to you by Esotouric Tours. For a paltry $55 you partake on a magical journey into “the places and people who shaped Bukowski’s consciousness.” One wonders just how conscious he actually was. This dream excursion stops at the post office where he worked, the central library reading room (where he supposedly discovered John Fante’s novels), the skid row streets he “haunted as a youth,” the East Hollywood apartments he allegedly lived in, and last but certainly not least, the package stores that, “provided comfort to the mature writer.” And to boot, all riders get a complimentary Tony Millionaire Bukbird beer coaster!

I can understand doing the literary tour of Cannery Row or even the downtrodden streets of Lowell, Massachusetts (which I’ve done on more than one occasion), but skid row East Hollywood? It just goes to show how low people will go to make money. In actuality, Charles Bukowski was probably not a guy any of these people would want to encounter in a skid row alley. He was tough, he was drunk and he probably smelled of piss. I am certain that his literary genius, of which he was brimming, was not a quality that was noticeable on a first impression.

The idea of this tour brings to mind a New Yorker cartoon that I encountered several years back. The picture is of a couple in a travel agent’s office. The caption reads, “We want to do the whole Jack Kerouac, On the Road thing, only with B & B’s.”

Here are a couple of suggestions you might try to get the full Bukowski experience. For the less adventurous types, go out and get a fifth of Clan MacGreggor and rent Barfly. You’ll see first hand an example of the dingy lowlifes and disgusting surroundings that Buk was the center of without actually having to smell them. A bonus - you’re home, you can sit on the toilet. As for you daring, method types, take the $55 and get dropped off in the center of your town’s equivalent of skid row. Most every town has one, and if not, I’m sure you’ll find one a couple of towns over. Walk into that bar with the windowless door and order several shots of whiskey in succession. Once you’re thoroughly buzzed, strike up a conversation with the transvestite/hooker that has been eyeing you since you strolled in. Before you know it, you’ve lost your wallet and have a burning itch when you pee. Then sit down and write a poem about it.

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