“…the period of incarceration proved a welcome respite from responsibility.” I read the fragment and my fuckin nuts got themselves in a bind like someone had squished something in my drawers -- walnuts or Brazil nuts or some other kind of fruit that Bukowski would've registered and written down for posterity. Me? Call me leaky deaky. The quote was laying there like roadkill, in a biographical essay on the German writer Heinrich von Kleist, in a square book. Thank god there are still square books around. For a square person, like me.
Not much of a quote, you're probably thinkin. Me, I wasn't thinkin bout nothin much. Maybe just one thing kept comin to the surface: my job and the bone-wracking boredom that attends all those days in the office playing with paperclips, sticking my arse out the window, or surfing the internet, too distracted by distraction to spend more than a few seconds on each landing page, as though all this web-based shite was a big revolution in human consciousness. Some revolution. And what a world -- too few important books, far too many minor moldy ideas masquerading as newly hatched innovations, bound and cloaked like the real thing. And being sold as such. Just read any one of the end-of-year "best of" lists and shrug: how did it turn out like this?
Isn't it amazing how many buyers are out there? Where in hell did they go to school? Wasn't the street, I'll tell you.
How can I tell? You know me, poot, I'm one of the salesmen. A hired hand. One for whom a great sadness like a shadow sits upon the shoulders. It's the dark side of midnight when you can't explain the pain. All you can do is bleat -- bah bah bah -- and bullshit your way through another day. Imagine this, that the sky stays forever blue -- and that you can make one person, just one person, happy. Even if only for just a little while. What a feeling. So good, such warmth down in the solar plexus, a nice spin on the familial serving board, or maybe you're just lying to yourself and in the morning you'll find yourself as cold and stiff as a corpse. Down in the murk and the weeds, eyes wide open.
Pretending to be Albert King fingering the Flying V, singing "If it wasn't for bad luck I wouldn't have no luck at all." When you gonna go up to the fourth, you sonofabitch? Hunkering down on the G like that, shit. You tryin to be somebody? Just some scrawny dude -- sportin a fuckin harelip -- sittin there pretending to be a man. A kid, weak-kneed and snotty. Acting like he can sing this shite. The brat couldn't sing it even if he used his intestines. My buddy Tony would've scoffed and said sourly, "An exultation of the irrational." And that would've been that.
Eyes wide open but unseeing. Christ the river is so dark. I want to go and choke the cormorant until he gives up the goddamn fish.
Those romantic Germans, giving up responsibility to pursue the inner life of the mind. Hah. My old man admired Robert Stroud, the so-called Birdman of Alcatraz. He didn't have to do anything. Just sit there in solitary and mind his ps and qs. Trays of food, a cot, and a squat-hole in the corner -- everything he needed. Who gives a hoot that there was a big old world beyond the bars? That world wasn't all that pretty. It still isn't. Illness, bills, crowds, bad weather, bouts of depression, occasional unforeseen violence, the full gamut of circumstance, none of it under his control. Behind bars he gave it up for good. And this was considered an exemplary metaphor for living, tending to a little bird, while fires raged and generations came and went, ignoring it all, while the story of one man got confused with the history of his age. In a square book shelved in a square library that hardly anyone visits any more.