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Final Buk issue 2000

Buk -- A fan's Perspective

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Bukowski a la 1998

Each year for four years the Lummox Journal spotlighted the effects of Charles Bukowski on certain writers such as S.A. Griffin, Jay Alamares, Gerald Locklin, Joan Jobe Smith, Fred Voss, Mike Meloan, Steve Abee, Scott Wannberg, Rene Diedrich and of course, myself, Raindog. This section features selections from the many contributions by these varied and talented writers.


Comments on The Second International Bukowski Symposium, held in San Pedro, CA on August 18 & 19 of 2000.

I recently received an inquiry concerning this event, held last August 18 - 19 in San Pedro at Sacred Grounds Coffee House. I don’t know how it slipped my mind not to report on it to the Bukowski faithful who were unable (or unwilling) to attend...it’s a divided house, unfortunately. Perhaps it was my disappointment that so few were in attendance, that I figured those who wanted to know about it were already there. In any case, one of the subscribers, who lives in Japan, made the request.

In order to give a proper perspective on the event, I sought the views of several in attendance, but as of this moment only two have seen fit to respond. I decided to make this an ‘observations’ piece rather than a review, and have included their responses (edited for length). What follows are the responses to my original message by Larry Wessel (videographer and audience member), Gerry Locklin (presenter), and finally, my own.

Dear RD, I was shooting Michael Montfort for a documentary I'm doing on collectors (Michael having the world's largest collection of all things Bukowski) and he suggested that I document the Symposium as well as the graveyard vigil that takes place every year on Buk's birthday. Well, August 16 also happens to be my birthday and I thought it would be a fun way to celebrate my birthday, honor my favorite author and add some dramatic footage to my documentary...Michael assured me that someone always drains a beer over Buk's grave. I brought sunflowers, as did my friend Jeanne, (neither of us knowing what kind of flowers we were going to get Hank).

All afternoon we drank beer, ate Barbecue chicken and munched on chips and salsa and very late in the afternoon something dramatic happened. A car pulled up with ski-racks on the top. Michael looked up at me...it was Linda. Everybody respectfully watched from the shade of a tree perched on the hillside above Hank's grave. Linda approached his grave with a handful of beautiful sunflowers. I drunkenly approached her with my camera rolling as she carefully pruned and arranged all of the sunflowers. She told me that they were Hank's favorite flower. Even though I haven't seen the footage yet, I know that it has got to be incredible.

The next visual feast in store for me was Michael Montfort's slide show at the Bukowski Symposium. Michael is a brilliant artist and his photographs of Bukowski are hauntingly beautiful. I was very glad that I badgered Falco [Hennig] into handing the microphone to Michael whose commentary was brilliant and straight from the heart. I also enjoyed Philomene's dramatic reading of her "hog's eye" poem and her analysis of the influence of Li Po on Bukowski. Your reading of Buk's poem "Style" and you reading from your own stuff was also a highlight for me. I'm still wondering what it was that you said detracted from your previous enjoyment of Charles Bukowski. I'm sorry to say that Gerald Locklin bored me to tears with his lecture about God knows what and that female professor going on and on about her trip to the supermarket (?).

The symposium was riveting when it stayed focused on the ‘great one’ but when it veered away, I tended to lose interest. Larry Wessel

Raindog- Let me frame a few thoughts on that (seems like years ago), I was pleased to see an increasing scholarly and critical attention added to the biographical and personal presentations: what Falco did with the comic books and Trish Cherin with the references to Bill Margolis and his wife, for instance.

I liked the good-natured atmosphere of the thing, people from all over trying to contribute items of worth (and they all were, in varying ways) while also retaining the relaxed informality that kept it from becoming diametrically anti-Bukowskian in spirit. In other words it could have been awful, but it wasn't: it was appropriate; it was good. Gerry Locklin

Larry mentions going to the Buk gravesite and, in a way, that’s how this started for me, also. I gave Falco Hennig and Benjamin Lauterbach (who were visiting from Germany and were, along with Andrea Kowalski, the symposium organizers) a lift to Green Hills cemetery where we searched for nearly 40 minutes for Buk’s grave. It was pretty comical, the three of us scouring the hillside looking for his simple marker.

I hadn’t been to Buk’s grave for a few years, mostly because of events involving the other side of the divided house I mentioned earlier. But since this was a special year (would have been his eightieth birthday) I decided to put aside my differences and have my own “small ceremony” (almost) alone. While I was doing this, I saw Larry approaching. Soon afterwards, I left. Falco assured me that they would get back to Andrea’s by cab.

The festivities began Friday night with Falco introducing those who would speak that evening. There were maybe 20 people in attendance. It was a little disappointing, but I was used to small crowds for these kinds of events. Many people I thought would be there opted out. After Falco spoke, John Thomas and Philomene Long took the stage and shared recollections regarding their long relationship with Buk. Thomas has a very large library of tape recordings of him and Buk talking about their lives. Many of these conversations are transcribed into print in the book Bukowski in the Bath Tub, which was published in 1999.

Philomene also shared some of her experiences and then related how the Chinese poet Li Po influenced many modern poets including Buk.

Much of what was said by these Buk peers served to bring him down to the level of ‘man’ and by this I mean that they are aware of the movement to deify Buk and make him become his macho alter-ego, Chinaski. Much to the chagrin of some present, both Thomas and Long succeeded in humbling the Buk legend, which is as it should be, in my opinion.

Ben Lauterbach’s presentation was on the houses of Bukowski (and I don’t mean Black Sparrow). This included slides of the various places he lived in (primarily) in Los Angeles. This also featured recordings of Buk talking about these places. Unfortunately, the recordings were really inaudible for the most part, but you still got a sense of the history of these places. My favorite picture was of the legendary lawn where Buk spent so many hours trimming under his father’s stern eye. Buk makes it sound like the lawn was HUGE, but in the photo, you can see that it isn’t much bigger than 6 by 12 feet. One suspects that he was a bit of a slacker when it came to mowing (though in his final years, he did pick up gardening, to some degree).

Both Falco and Ben are to be lauded for their presentations, if for no other reason than the fact that they labored to get their respective points across even though English is not their native tongue.

Friday night ended with a lengthy slide show of pictures from Michael Monfort’s incredible library of photographs. He was essentially THE Bukowski photographer from the mid-seventies onward. A few weeks before, I was privileged to thumb through several file folders of B&W photos for the cover of the August Lummox Journal. There were literally hundreds and hundreds of photos to choose from. The slide show was a rambling affair which roamed over Buk’s life: at home, out and about, at the track, on his trip to Germany & France in 77, hanging with his cronies, hanging with his girlfriends... just like family shots that everyone has except that this was the “family” of the writer Charles Bukowski. I left before it ended, as I was sort of overloaded (being a sensitive poetry type).

The next afternoon started with a really interesting presentation by Falco about Buk in cartoons. It was pretty amazing all the different forms this took. There was even a Buk comic strip. Buk as hero/anti-hero? Falco did a very nice job creating a display of these comic representations in a binder, which I was lucky enough to get a copy of.

Next, I gave a little presentation, sort of the Buk influence from the standpoint of a fan and one whose style was directly influenced by Buk’s style. I gave a speech and I read some of my favorite poems of his and poems I had written that I thought reflected his influence on me. I remember feeling pretty nervous, as I was going up before Locklin, who is, after all, a noted and respected Buk scholar. I guess I did alright. Here are a couple of paragraphs from my “speech” that sum up what I was trying to say:

“Many people have spoken about their relationships with him, hanging out, drinking beer and shooting the shit. I did not know this man, nor, to be honest, did I want to. The Buk I knew was the writer, the man whose ideals came through the character of Chinaski. This man that the other people knew, looked, to an outsider like myself, like a drunken asshole, mean and maybe even pretentious at times. I heard the stories, I had seen the films. He was kind of a prick!

“But the man I had connected with back in the early seventies SPOKE TO ME as an individual. And I tried as best I could to unravel the “message.” I suppose I’m describing more of an interpretation of Bukowski than a factual or even fictitious accounting of events. Yet, just as Buk interpreted his past/present to create Chinaski, he also, to some degree, re-created himself. It was the spirit or essence of the man that I was drawn to and the essence was strongest and most viable in his writing.”

The afternoon was rounded out by Gerry Locklin and Trisha Cherin (a former Locklin student) speaking about the complexities of Buk as a figure of study in academia. I have to admit that I didn’t really follow it very well. I remember there were a lot of “ists” and “isms” and words that I had no idea what they meant. I’m glad I went before them as I know I would have sounded like a real country bumpkin otherwise.

Generally speaking, it went well. Unfortunately, the lack of interest by even the local press, much less the supposed Bukowski faithful, was disappointing. That night after the symposium, the widow Bukowski had a party (invitation only) and that’s when the faithful showed up. Apparently our shindig was a little too “dry.” No matter. Raindog

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