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Reading Bukowski in San Pedro

All I wanted to do was open his book and get lost in his words again

By Daniel A. Olivas
Published on LatinoLA: November 27, 2004


Reading Bukowski in San Pedro


The meeting had
come to an end,
another public
hearing on seawalls,
endangered species,
developers wanting
their projects along
the California coast.

But now my tie could
come off and my lawyer
duties could be put
in a drawer until
tomorrow when the
Coastal Commission
would reconvene.

I overheard a conversation
as I packed up my
briefcase: It?s the oldest
bookstore in Los Angeles,
someone said. Just a
few blocks from here.
My eyebrows popped up,
I smiled. Really?

So I walked from the
Sheraton to Williams?
Book Store with another
lawyer who wanted to
get away from her lawyer
duties, too.

We found it after a brisk
stroll along West 6th Street
that November evening.
Established in 1909 the
sign said. Almost a
hundred years old.
Perhaps it was the oldest
in the city.

Small, a bit rundown,
but filled with booksmells,
warm, good. As my
friend wandered deeper
into the store, I stopped
by the first shelf on the
right filled mostly with
Bukowski. San Pedro
had been his home at
the end. So of course
there would be such a
shelf.

As I made my purchase
(Dangling in the Tournefortia)
the owner told me
the man himself used
to come by and browse.
And unbeknownst to her, he?d
autograph his books and
slip them back onto the
shelf.

In my hotel room that
night, I sat in my boxers,
pillows propped up behind
me in a bed too large for
for a lone body, and read
about fights and booze
and whores with dirty,
tattered slips and Baby
Face Nelson and more
booze and more whores
and about writing, always
words about writing.

I read and I read
until I could take no more
and I called my wife and
son and told them I loved
them and that I?d see them
the next night after the
three-day meeting was
over.

Morning came and
I shaved,
showered,
drank weak hotel
coffee and entered the
meeting room off
the lobby ready for
another day of public
testimony and quasi-judicial
decision-making of
a state agency.

As a speaker gesticulated
and explained why the
Commission should let
him add a second-story
to his house, I thought
about Bukowski and his
women and fights and
drunken nights.

And I wondered what
he would think if he
were alive, sitting here
in a suit, watching
what I was watching.

Would he be drunk
already, snickering
at the proceedings,
looking to poke a
guy in the eye?
Would he make a
pass at one of the
pretty women in
the audience and
then cuss her out
when she turned away
and vow
right there and then
to stick
with whores
because
that?s the best he
could do and besides
all women were
whores anyway
especially the ones
who didn?t want him?
Yes, I think he would
do all that because he was
Bukowski.

And as I listened to
the public testimony,
all I wanted to
do was open his book
and get lost in his
words again.


About Daniel A. Olivas:
"Reading Bukowski in San Pedro" is from Daniel's unpublished collection, "Crossing the Border." His new book, "Devil Talk," has just been released by Bilingual Press. www.danielolivas.com




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