Off-Ramp

Off-Ramp host John Rabe and contributors share thoughts on arts, culture, and life in L.A.

Charles Bukowski drinks his way through Los Angeles

Charles Bukowski on "Apostrophes"  French Talk Show on September 21, 1978
Charles Bukowski on "Apostrophes" French Talk Show on September 21, 1978 Ulf Andersen/Getty Images

Sometimes LA sucks. I've been an Angelino all my life and didn't believe this until I got my first car. The more I drove around, the more I started to notice the city's imperfections: gridlocked traffic, impatient drivers, one-hour+ commutes, smog. Don't get me wrong, I 'm proud to be from Los Angeles, but these factors sometimes wear my love a little thin. Right when I feel like my disdain is at its worst, a moment comes along where I stop complaining and realize how much I love this dirty city.

Today, that moment was when Vintage Los Angeles posted a video of Charles Bukowski -- an American writer and devoted Angelino -- cruising around Hollywood and Western, and telling some pretty funny LA stories.

The video starts with Bukowski driving past a palm reading business. "There's a fortune teller there," he says, pointing to a person sitting outside the building, "I went in there one time. He read my palm. He said, 'You're an alcoholic."

And that pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the tour.

Bukowski was known to be a heavy drinker. In his novel "Ham on Rye" he writes:

Getting drunk was good. I decided that I would always like getting drunk. It took away the obvious and maybe if you could get away from the obvious often enough, you wouldn't become so obvious yourself.

The writer continues to cruise down the street, points at people and says, "There's a woman who's not a hooker. There's a dope dealer." He passes a liquor store and says, "I've been to this liquor store many a times! Many a times! Great place!"

Personally, the best part of Bukowski's tour was when he points out a motel he stayed at after Linda King, a poet and Bukowski's girlfriend in the early 70's, kicked him out of their house for some reason he didn't disclose. He had a hangover and decided to chill in the pool. He says there were two big fat guys who jumped in the pool. "They must have weighed 400 pounds," he says. He starts laughing at them and they chased him. He bolted to the door and the two guys were trying to beat it down. Linda King came back and got him from the hotel. They lived with each other after the incident, and Bukowski says it was "a terrible mistake."

Charles Bukowski got a lot of great stories from just driving through a couple streets off Hollywood and Vine. Watching the video, it brought the city back to life for me. But the one thing that really stuck out was a comment Bukowski said that the interviewer glossed over. They were driving through a parking lot, and he blissfully says, "Oh, I miss a little of that dirty action now and then, I gotta admit; it teaches you where humanity is. You never want to forget that."

blog comments powered by Disqus

Enjoy reading Off-Ramp? You might like KPCC’s other blogs.

What's popular now on KPCC