I went to the childhood home of Charles Bukowski the other day. It’s on Longwood Avenue in the mid-city district of LA. The address is easily found, for those who care to find it that is. There is no homage, no murth of tutelage by the homeowner to know or covet the exposed décolleté of mad genius once housed within his stucco walls. Instead, there is a Prius parked in the driveway, and a fashionable tapestry dressing the big crescent picture window. I think Chuck and Hank Chanaski would’ve disapproved…but it’s not their fault, the people who live there. It’s not their duty to care. It’s Los Angeles, for Crissake. Lots of people live in the homes of once-famous, misunderstood ne’er-do-wells turned cult-icon-heroes for the lost generation. Someone lives in Dee Dee Ramone’s old apartment, for instance. I drove by it, from my old place on Franklin Ave, every time I went to DJ a gig at the Sunset HOB. It’s just something you get used to living out here, not just death, but famous death– as if that should matter one bit. Someday, when you are standing on the precipice, high above what used to be– no matter where you are, no matter Who you are– you will see that we are all the same. It’s a fact so easily forgotten in these divided times. But, I move on.
It’s not like Bukowski just died, obviously, this I know. But I’ve had a lot of time on my hands as of late, time to revisit books and records that have been edged out over the years by more pressing issues. One of those books is Ham on Rye. Goddamn, I have no idea why it took me so long to read this again! The first time, I was in my twenties, and I’m sure a lot of it didn’t land with me then. Reading it again, twenty years later, and now living where the book took place, spawned a whole new bout of romanticism for me regarding an LA I can only fantasize about, one bathed in post-war bliss and then effectively shit on by the fire splitting Bukowski’s lips via a typewriter and Hank Chanaski. I sat there in my parked car, across from Bukowski’s place, and I imagined him a gangly, pock-marked twenty-something, in a ribbed creme bowler and brown pleated slacks, on his hands and knees on the lawn of Longwood Avenue, scrambling to gather his pages from the grass that his father had dumped them on. I see him packing his typewriter in the case, hunched over it as curls come loose from his pomaded ducktail haircut, hanging loosely between his brows. I’m reminded of how the combination of pompadours and pockmarks somehow does it for me. And then my eyes scan the rest of the street, which dead-ends not far past his house, and I envision him hauling his lot– all that he would officially move out of his parent’s house with, to the bus stop over on Pico. Pico, not Wilshire, because it’s Downtown LA he’s headed for, to drink with the Filipinos and hurl insults at anyone who dares to call him a friend. In short, I have been rediscovering the music and literature that made me feel alive, for the first time ever in my life, so very long ago. I’m doing this, I think, because I want to feel alive again when the world around me feels almost dead. No. Because I need to feel alive again when the world IS almost dead.
I have been doing things I’ve wanted to do for many years, but just never got around to– but very Specific things– things that hark back to simpler times. I went to Angelino Heights, for instance, to see the Thriller house. MJ fan or not, I Remember the MTV World Premier (that was a thing and it was fucking awesome) of Thriller. I was pretty young at the time, but not too young to be enthralled by the synchronized dance moves of ghouls fiending for the flesh of a pretty girl in saddle shoes and a poodle skirt. In retrospect, it’s strange to realize that a Michael Jackson video had so much of what I’d come to adore later in life– Victorian homes, horror movies, and teen-culture of the nineteen-fifties. It’s also strange to realize, considering my love and longing for Victorians, that I’ve been in LA for nearly seventeen years and have never made it a point to stop in Angelino Heights before this pandemic, a remarkable neighborhood, and the oldest in LA, comprised almost entirely of perfectly restored Victorians, the youngest one being built the same year the Titanic sank.
But I digress… Michael Jackson and Bukowski in the same article. Don’t ask me to speculate on how it just happened.
I also visited the Salton Sea and Slab City recently- sort of a Double Must if you’re in the area, aka roaming a no man’s land of thirsty earth and bizarre tales. My friend, Grant Brittain, shot an iconic photo of an empty pool on the Salton Sea back in the eighties. Much like Grant’s famous “push” photo of Tod Swank, forever eschewing the popular notion of what a “cover photo” for a skateboarding magazine was supposed to be, Grant’s Salton Sea photo is unique in that there is no one skating in it. The pool takes center stage, as it should. It’s a great example of Grant’s fine-art photographic showmanship. It’s a pool against the backdrop of an alien oasis. It sits above a sea deathly still with toxic warning, the only body of water in California where not a ripple gives motion.
So, I asked Grant how to find the pool. He got back to me right away, not only with the address, but with actual coordinates and the architect of the building the pool sat next to. There is something to be said for the obsession of artists and the dedication of those indebted to skateboarding. Thank you, Grant.
We arrived, my friend Matt and I. It’s a yacht club, it turns out, and not a house. It was probably about 105 degrees…we went during that first April heatwave. Matt had a drone and got amazing shots of the defunct pier’s pylons emerging from verdant algae in achingly still water. I have never, before that day, been so bodily parched, standing next to an expansive sea, of which I knew I couldn’t penetrate. The Salton Sea is a mind bending experience on many levels. I suggest taking it as far as you can if you visit. Trip. Roll. Fuck. Camp. Dance. Shoot. Paint. Cry. Amplify. Be lawless while you can. The world is changing quickly, friend.
I found the pool, and like many totem moments in life, it is no more. I didn’t bother with the tripod and lighting. I grabbed my phone, and I sent Grant a photo of what Once Was… There are two tell-tale Palms in Grant’s original photo. They remain, but in place of the pool is a concrete deck. It’s quite pleasant, I’ll give it that. But knowing what was once underneath of it, well, that stings a little. I never got to to skate that pool. It wasn’t my time. But I’ve made memories and NBD’s at plenty of other holes I’m proud to have made contact with coping at.
I think the point of this whole long overdue post is— for me, at least– is that the present isn’t too awesome. I’m going to forego the political rant here. It’s why I’m not on social media. Too sensitive. Can’t hang. Whaaa-whaaa. But I’m serious. Go read Kerouac, or Selby Jr., or listen to The Rezillos or Black Flag– ANYTHING that will take you out of this current societal divisiveness. It wasn’t always like this. Life as we knew it may, Indeed, be over. There’s nothing we can fucking do. I would not have aligned myself with punk rock 25+ years ago if I truly believed the world would ever come to its senses someday. That’s what centrists are for. I’ve simply found my people instead. What else can we do?
Lastly, straying a bit from the usual format of what I do here at Whatwedoisisecret, this post Is Not titled after a song, but after a Charles Bukowski quote. If you must, though– listen to this Dogs D’amour song About the Great late poet: Bullet Proof poet This may be Tyla at his best, but I also suggest listening to “Satellite Kid” by Dogs as well. Probably my Favorite of theirs…here it is: Satellite Kid
I think it’s been almost a year since I’ve written a word on this page. I had a lot of other pages to fill, about two hundred and twenty two of them, to be exact. My book is finished- it’s been renamed Sixteen Down. Am I happy it’s finished? Yes, and no. It was wildly fun to write at certain times. Finding an agent is a fresh new hell I hadn’t anticipated. If you know one, for fuck’s sake, give them my number!
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