While walking around the lake again today, (yes, the lake that is in the town which I claim to hate so much. I cannot completely rationalize why I do not fix my car and get out of here instead of always walking around the lake, but I do know that it can be damn comforting sometimes, proving that maybe I don’t hate this place as much as I claim. But, yes, I do) I realized something that makes me somewhat sad: I cannot handle the work of Charles Bukowski. Yeah, I’m 23 and a dropout and a millennial, so I understand that, theoretically, he should be some sort of patron saint for me. Today I began listening to Ham on Rye and was almost immediately turned off. Bukowski begins the novel (which is pretty obviously just his real life) by recounting his first memories; the first is of his coming into consciousness underneath a table. The author recounts being entranced by the table and its cloth, but not by the humans in the room. Charles then remembers his parents fighting, and his grandmother being in the room, who he callously punches in the face. This is all objectively funny, but knowing that it thrust into existence a man who would quickly begin to loathe life and all that it has to offer is just too much for me at this time.
I’m depressed, sure. Socially anxious? Sign me up. But to suggest that even Bukowski was absolutely hopeless directly after birth is not only tragic beyond entertaining, it’s also just wrong.
On Writing was the first work I read by Bukowski, and in all honesty, all I can say I have finished by him. The book is a collection of mostly letters to editors and publishers and what some may consider friends. The book is endlessly funny, and I laughed while reading a book more than I can remember in the last few years.
Today at the park I walked passed someone who I had been in class with this semester. This was a class that I had dropped out of, and so I found the sight of him interesting. He is a late 20-something who was in the military, was injured, and was now looking for his next step in life. I really do wish this guy – I can’t remember his name at the moment – luck. Not because ‘the world is a hard place’ or anything like that, but because this guy has the most intimidating military in the world under his belt as a reference and is still not progressing much further than I am, it seems. I hate to say it, but I don’t think that Clement Park will in the future be regarded as a breeding ground for genius.
A note to the reader: I misspelled genius on the first try.
My attraction to Charles Bukowski is the same one that I have for many artists: the act of taking something mundane and making it interesting. It’s what all of my favorite artists can do so well – David Sedaris, Marc Maron, Joseph Fink, Jeffrey Cranor, Max Bemis, etc. The thing my personal favorites do, opposed to Bukowski, is pull themselves out of their darkest states. That is where the real comedy resides. I’m not trying to put a label on Bukowski, (not that it would ever matter) but the works he writes are closer to tragedy than anything else. To simply dismiss one’s potential as a life of misery is a truly foolish act. This makes my struggle with Bukowski one that is too close to home sometimes, as I too, can often feel hopeless. So the catch twenty-two becomes that I resonate with this hopelessness which makes me feel better, but then I know that I don’t want to feel hopeless because it makes me feel worse.
So, I am sorry to the late Mr. Charles Bukowski, and to the baby-boomers who based their ideals upon the Beats generation, and I am sorry to the countless college students my age who think that ‘YOLO’ might be a serious lifestyle, because that sucks. If I can walk around some stupid, old-person ridden, goose-shit strewn puddle and be constantly amazed at how transformative the act of going outside can be, I am positive that so many, like Mr. Bukowski, have sold themselves short.
People are meant to struggle, and to have things to deal with, and to not be okay all of the time. It’s so trite and kitsch, but if that shit didn’t happen life wouldn’t be worth living. It is often a struggle for me to not break down every day, but I know (and I’d argue that deep down Bukowski knew) that there is a reason behind the bullshit. And even if there isn’t, you hope that there is so that you can try and be a more empathetic, compassionate, understanding human being.
As I’m writing this, my roommate’s dog is letting out the most annoying fucking bark I swear to God you have ever heard.