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Beverly Hills

Happy Birthday, Buk

7:23 AM PDT on August 16, 2006

Bukowski and Flowers
"If I had to rate cities, I'd put LA right up on top" -- Bukowski

If he were still alive, today would mark Charles Bukowski's 86th birthday. Bukowski loved Los Angeles, and remains, even in death, the city's most vibrant poet. A film version of his novel Factotum is due out this week-- Let's hope it fails less then the other attempts to bring his writing to the screen. Here's an excerpt from an interview in London Magazine, December, 1974 that relates to our fair city:

We lived at 2122 Longwood Avenue. That's a little bit west and a little bit south of here. When I first started shacking with women, I lived near downtown; and it seems like through the years each move I make is further west and further north. I felt myself going towards Beverly Hills at one time. I'm in this place now, because I got booted out of the house where I lived with this lady. We had a minor split, so all of a sudden I came back south a bit. I got thrown off course. I guess I'm not going to make Beverly Hills.

What changes have you seen in Los Angeles during the years you've lived here?

Nothing astounding. It's gotten bigger, dumber, more violent and greedier. It's developed along the same lines as the rest of civilization.

But there's a part of LA—you take it away from Hollywood, Disneyland and the ocean, which are places I stay away from, except the beaches in wintertime when there's no one around—where there's a good, easy feeling. People here have a way of minding their own damned business. You can get isolation here, or you can have a party. I can get on that phone and in a hour have a dozen people over drinking and laughing. And that's not because I'm a writer who's getting known a little. This has always been, even before I had any luck. But they won't come unless I phone them, unless I want them. You can have isolation, or you can have the crowd. I tend to mix the two, with a preference for isolation.

One of your short stories has this line in it: 'LA is the crudest city in the world.' Do you believe it is?

I don't think LA is the crudest city. It's one of the least cruel. If you're on the bum and know a few people, you can get a buck here and there, float around and always find a place to lay up overnight. People will tolerate you for a night. Then you go to the next pad. I put people up overnight. I say, 'Look, I can only stand you for one night. You've got to go.' But I put them up. It's a thing people in LA do. Maybe they do it elsewhere, and I just haven't seen it.

I don't get the feeling of cruelty here that I get from New York City. Philadelphia has nice rays, too; it has a good feeling. So does New Orleans. San Francisco isn't all they say it is. If I had to rate cities, I'd put LA right up on top: LA, Philadelphia, New Orleans. Those are places where somebody can live.

Picture from the excellent Interview Excerpt from

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