I miss my friend David Hogan today. Yeah, I think I miss my home. I’ve been eating an awful lot of Bukowski lately. He washes well with regret. He’s easy getting down-- hard getting through. When I read him the right way, it feels like I have swallowed an amputated limb; still warm and always trying to slink back to the rightful owner, silently calling. David and I always felt better when drunk, talking about Bukowski. Each with our respective am putative limbs-- shoved down our necks-- half swallowed digesting away in our gullets. So young. So young. Twenty–one, maybe twenty-two.
Dave was from Georgia. Athens, Georgia. Bum-fuck-Deep-South-beer-belly Georgia. I am from Idaho. Lewiston, Idaho. Bum-fuck-pulp-town-smell-like-your-ass Idaho. When I met David Hogan, he had just driven across country in a Volkswagen micro bus packed full of his Emerson college know it all cinematography super star wanna-be bullshit, and I – well, I-- by the time Dave and I met-- I was a three seasoned veteran at Los Angeles bullshit. We met on the set of the television show ‘Twin Peaks’. All I know is that it was the last episode that was ever shot. We walked on that set with our backbones in tact-- erect, unbending. Our hands kept perfect time with our stride. We were the masters of all that we saw, and the camera was not enough to capture our majesty.
The episode was shit. It was all filmed backwards. I don’t mean that the scenes were filmed in backwards order, I mean that the dialogue, the marks, the motion; everything was shot in this semi-sadistic style of the paranormal that seemed to confuse everyone, including the live animals that were shuffled on and off the set in between takes because it was too damn hot for them. For the animals. IT WAS TOO DAMN HOT FOR THE ANIMALS.
The climax of the day was when David Lynch, the director, stepped on set, wearing a director’s outfit from the nineteen twenties; complete with cardboard megaphone yelling, “Back to one, everyone! Back to one!” I hated him instantly and forever.
Fuck David Lynch. Fuck Bukowski. Fuck David Hogan. Fuck Me.
I met Bukowski once. Drunk Bob introduced me. I call him Drunk Bob because he is in the program and so am I and if I break his anonymity I will catch shit. I hate shit. So anyway, Bob Forest takes me down to Sixth Street to a seedy little bar to meet Bukowski and there at the end of the bar was the man himself. Staring up at a television watching a Lakers game. A Lakers game. Drunk Bob spoke first. “Uh, what’s up, Chuck?”
The old man just sat there shaking his head.
“What are you watching there Chuck?” Everyone that wanted to could see he was watching a Lakers game. Fuck Bob Forest.
Bukowski finally spoke: “Basketball, not a noble game, ten niggers running back and forth trying to throw a testicle into a round iron hoop…- now put some naked pussy on the court and then…”
Bob and I stared at the screen with him. His suggestion seemed a good one at the time. “Fuck basketball” I said under my breath, ordered a beer and sat three stools down from the man I came downtown to meet. The beer was warm and bitter. So was I. My now older defeated spine bowed to let my elbow’s meet the edge of the bar. And I reminisced.
I’m the one who taught David Hogan to play the game. I’m the one who spent endless hours on and off the court explaining the game, the nuances, and the innuendo of the greatest game on earth. The day that I met Dave it was so damned hot on set that I actually got sun burned from the lights. After the end of the shoot, we went for drinks. Everyone always went for drinks. And after I whittled past his woodsy southern hee-haw drawl, he told me that it was in fact his birthday. Finally! A chance for my ego to rear its wonderful head. He had only been in Los Angeles for two weeks. Jesus Christ, two weeks. We had another shot of bourbon. It almost came up.
I made my living at the time working as a door-man at Gorky’s, a Russian brewery in Hollywood. I lived a block away. Many a night I would walk home on my lips. That night Dave and I closed down the place. Our lips carried us home. Our new found friendship kept us together on the way--tandem, equal in our loneliness-- but congruent in our hope. And that in itself is saying something in this shit filled city. We stayed up all night quoting our own poetry to each other-- amazed at each others brilliance and insight. And then, like the sun, rose Bukowski; the dark lord. A hush fell over us both. My testes tightened. I had never spoken to another human of the man. He was to me, sacred. Not in some lord on high sort of way. But more in an act of confession or never really speaking of masturbation-- not really.
“You read Bukowski?” said Dave.
“What have you read?”
“What would you say to him if you could ever meet him?
“What are you drinking?”
We both laughed. Dave and I laughed a lot. I think most good friendships start out with laughter. Most end with the lack of it. At least that’s how ours did.
Anyway, back to the bar, back to Bob. Back to Bukowski. Back to me. Back to the Lakers, back to my back, bowed to the bar. “Hey, Chuck, this is Mikey. He’s a friend of mine. He’s wanted to meet you for a long time.” Public embarrassment, how dignified. My gullet swelled. The arm was forming in my throat. The voice was silently calling it home. But I was here. It was home. For all intensive purposes it was home. What was bothering me? Fuck how I hated this situation. I wanted to kill Drunk Bob at that moment. I wanted to eat Bukowski as well. To taste what others had only dreamed of. To devour the man and his pathological pain. To snuff him like the wet end of a cigarette. His head was literally massive. Combed and blind to what I was planning. Was that where it all came from? Was it inflamed with reason and rye whisky? I had to end this situation. There had to be a stoppage to the embarrassment to us all. And he was only three stools down and completely unaware of the happenings of my mind. I had turned cannibal. I had become lunatic. He had become hunted. Bob was caught in the cross hairs, the poor son-of-a-bitch. I knew already, he would be the first to die. How, then would this all begin? I looked quickly-- quickly at the bar tender, standing, unsuspecting, at the beer-taps not ten feet away. He seemed a dull man, at best. But one could not be too careful. One could not underestimate the power of a well-tipped man. I did the calculations in my head. How many years had the old fuck been coming in, and how many drinks had he ordered? My mind was reeling. My resolve was almost complete. I was at the brink of action.
From the edge of my ear I could hear Bob, Drunk Bob, driveling on and on about absolutely nothing and everything at once was narrowing in my mind. Everything was tunneling down, focusing onto Bukowski. His head. His shoulder and its stationary drunkenness, allowing only the extremity of his limbs and hands and fingers to move about. My eyes watched with bated anticipation, following back, forth, to and fro, and finally came to rest upon the little teeny tiny pinky finger of his right hand, clutching a tumbler of whiskey-that was rolling it left, then right- then left again. It was marvelous. It was maddening. I leaned sideways, stretching completely along the edge of the bar- my lips pursed- puckered like a feeding fish, inching toward his pinky finger, reaching as if to kiss it. My eyes darted back and forth quickly, scouting, surveying the terrain for the enemy (whoever that was). I reached his finger with my lower lip, just as Chick Hearn was announcing some fantastic Lakers play. Just my luck! No one had noticed that I had the tip of the decrepit mans little finger in my mouth. I tasted irony under his half-chewed finger nail. I was progressively working my way; sliding, slithering. I was knuckle deep-- and I wanted more. Bob always had something to say. Bob always had something drunk to say. If he wasn’t drunk on gin or whiskey or beer, then he was high on coke or speed or crack. That night I believe it was the whole kit- and-caboodle. Bob had a penchant for the absurd of conversation. He asked far too many questions. And always in rapid succession.
‘Is that a neck-tie you got on there, Mikey? Did you buy it at a store?’
‘I don’t remember Bob’
‘Can I have it?’
‘Why do you want my neck tie Bob?’
‘Why don’t you want to give it to me?’
‘Because it is mine, Bob. Jesus Christ.’
‘Why you getting pissed off Mikey?’
Anyway, you get the idea. I mean I like the guy and all, but Christ, the questions.
So back to me at the bar with Bukowski’s pinky finger in my puckered mouth watering for more and Drunk Bob rambling on with questions galore-- firing them in the direction of the old man, and I have to give it to him-- he was deflecting most of them by sheer silence-- by will-- and not moving a muscle, as if by not moving he was not engaging the twitchy little fucker. By ignoring Bob, he was also ignoring me, and that was a mistake. I was already moving towards the second finger sucking my way, my tongue finding its path. His second finger smelled of, reeked of melancholy…..pungent….heady….I kept from gagging by breathing from my mouth. One quick slurp and it joined the pinky, tucked inside my cheek…..I still stayed there motionless, at the bar….stretched out, irony and melancholy already down. I knew as long as Bob stayed talking I was safe to devour.
The game played on, on the TV. set…. My gullet swelled……and then it happened.
“Whatcha doin’ there Mikey?” said Bob.
“Jesus, Mikey, what are you doin’?”
Fuck Bob Forest.
The next few moments seemed to go in slow motion. Bukowski’s head. His massive head. Turned from the game and engaged life once again, tuned into what Bob was saying for an instant, then slowly came around my way.
I passed gas….the barstool rattled nervously.
But I had committed to this reckless act of will. I beared down. Sucking. Sucking. Sucking…and then…
I bit. Bukowski was looking directly at me not saying a word…..but he jerked his body slightly and withdrew his fingers from my mouth-one fluid movement….the sound was like a cork exiting a champagne bottle.
I was still motionless at the bar.
Extended. Vulnerable. Pursed. I began to shake….the sound of the barstool betrayed me.
The great man-- the Dark Lord was still staring at me. Not even bothering to wipe the saliva from his hand. He had not spoken a word. And Bob would not shut up. He was now pacing in short quick circles, spouting of the absurdity of the moment. His thick black glasses sliding down his oily cracked out nose made his eyes almost disappear when he would squint to stress a word at the end of each sentence. It made me hate him even more. And it was becoming unbearable. Something had to give. Someone had to break…..then HE walked up. “You going to fight him Bob?” It was the bartender.
I had underestimated him…and now…it was on. And the drunks were closing in.
The crowd that gathered had maybe a full set of teeth among them. So when the chant of “fight” began to waft about the room, it began in twisted variants of – “vite, vite, vite, vite….” or- “fot, fot, fot, fot, fot, fot….” It was gruesome.
Bob, of course, was leading the whole thing. Marching back and forth. Lifting his drink, holding it high in the air. King of the imbeciles….and he was leading them, marching out the back door into the alley.
Bukowski finished his drink and followed. His still wet fingers dangling at his side.
I was left behind. Alone…not alone. I was with the bartender…Judas, if you will. On the other side of the bar he was there-- toothpick dangling off of the lower part of his lip, cleaning a large rocks glass…staring, staring at me.
I stared back.
I wanted to say something. Something profound. Dave Hogan would have something to say. Something to make that bastard look away….what would it be? My mind was failing me.
Damned mental impotence.
I stood from the bar and straightened my back and turned to the back of the room. “Does he have any weaknesses?” was the only thing that came out of my mouth.
“I got twenty on the old man” said the bartender…and his eyes stayed fixed on me as I made my way out the back door. I opened it to the smell of warm piss and worn bourbon …I had no friends.
The crowd from the bar had made a circle in the alley way. And the old man and Bob were in the middle of them. Bob was twitching like crazy, seemingly giving advice to the old man. Bukowski hadn’t budged. He stood there motionless….calm. Like a God.
I was in deep shit. And I knew it….everybody knew it….even Bob.
The crowd parted to let me through, grumbling their discontents and I walked up and faced the old man. He seemed taller than me. He seemed darker than the moment.
Bob was standing to the side between us, babbling away,
“You really gonna fight him Mikey?” “Jesus, you really gonna fight him?”…..”What the fuck were you doin in there, Mikey, huh? I mean, Jesus?”….
On and on it went….Bob talking, Bukowski glaring, scourge of the earth standing around me, slowly circling……heaven was descending. Hell was rising.
The moment begged for action.
And with everything I was, I kicked Drunk Bob in the groin; lifting him to his toes…his glasses spun softly to the side of his head.
The crowed gasped.
Bukowski began to smile…
Bob dropped instantly to the ground and began convulsing. I didn’t wait around to see the rest. I walked directly back into the bar, through the crowd and sat on the stool. I ordered a shot and drank it quickly……as I set the shot glass down I noticed the old man taking a seat beside me, raising a finger to the bartender.
My drink fought hard to stay down.
“How’s Bob?” is all I could say as I turned to face him.
“Fuck Bob” said Bukowski with a smile and drank his shot down.
And as I left the bar that night walking back to Hollywood, my feet carried me through the darkest paths this city has to offer. I walked and I thought. And I gave in to nostalgia and its sweet deception. I gave into love and its possibilities. I considered life and great moments in time….that even us feeble humans, if given the chance, can handle the most incredible circumstances. And those of us who can’t will congregate together for strength until we can. I stared at my feet as I walked and I felt completely human. My nose burned from the smell of napalm.
And as the sounds of bombs were dropping in the distance I started hearing children scream. I lit a cigarette from a fresh pack of camels and stared into the TV storefront. And as the sun was rising behind me, a new word was on the television news screens: