Can’t Win Anything; Penn’s (Mis)Landing
I. Come Down
With the speed gone, the fun of the game dried up like blood left at a crime scene. Delusions of grandeur and success got replaced with sober and ugly realities. Again (and again and always alone) this time sitting on a park bench at Philadelphia’s Penn’s Landing, looking out at the Delaware River and across to the neighboring state of New Jersey and its Camden waterfront. Having just wrote a letter, a potential transmission from heart to heart, there sprang no better feelings or release. Nothing’s ever any better because the realities are still the same: alone and broke again. Again without anything; nothing of substance anyway… I suppose these are merely high class problems in comparison to those which exist around the world.
II. Come Further Down
All I really want is a drink. One burning shot of whiskey will fix me; then another. Or maybe; some rum… He and I haven’t spoken for awhile. Something over ice or with water… Something, anything, other than vodka; because, were not talking anymore. We had a falling out of sorts. Anything other than foul, cheap, corn-colored American beer- she and I have so many problems that I don’t even know where to begin. All I know is that I need something as the wind annoys me, as do the ripples in the water, and the stickiness of the perspiration caused by the heat of the sun upon my face, and these same fucking clothes, always here, always following, always grabbing the wrong parts of my body. I’m convinced that my body is sick. If my mind goes, I won’t be able to take it.
Re-post from elsewhere:
In 1969, publisher John Martin offered to pay Charles Bukowski $100 each and every month for the rest of his life, on one condition: that he quit his job at the post office and become a writer. 49-year-old Bukowski did just that, and in 1971 his first novel, Post Office, was published by Martin’s Black Sparrow Press.
15 years later, Bukowski wrote the following letter to Martin and spoke of his joy at having escaped full time employment.
Thanks for the good letter. I don’t think it hurts, sometimes, to remember where you came from. You know the places where I came from. Even the people who try to write about that or make films about it, they don’t get it right. They call it “9 to 5.” It’s never 9 to 5, there’s no free lunch break at those places, in fact, at many of them in order to keep your job you don’t take lunch. Then there’s OVERTIME and the books never seem to get the overtime right and if you complain about that, there’s another sucker to take your place.
You know my old saying, “Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors.”
And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don’t want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does.
As a young man I could not believe that people could give their lives over to those conditions. As an old man, I still can’t believe it. What do they do it for? Sex? TV? An automobile on monthly payments? Or children? Children who are just going to do the same things that they did?
Early on, when I was quite young and going from job to job I was foolish enough to sometimes speak to my fellow workers: “Hey, the boss can come in here at any moment and lay all of us off, just like that, don’t you realize that?”
They would just look at me. I was posing something that they didn’t want to enter their minds.
Now in industry, there are vast layoffs (steel mills dead, technical changes in other factors of the work place). They are layed off by the hundreds of thousands and their faces are stunned:
“I put in 35 years…”
“It ain’t right…”
“I don’t know what to do…”
They never pay the slaves enough so they can get free, just enough so they can stay alive and come back to work. I could see all this. Why couldn’t they? I figured the park bench was just as good or being a barfly was just as good. Why not get there first before they put me there? Why wait?
I just wrote in disgust against it all, it was a relief to get the shit out of my system. And now that I’m here, a so-called professional writer, after giving the first 50 years away, I’ve found out that there are other disgusts beyond the system.
I remember once, working as a packer in this lighting fixture company, one of the packers suddenly said: “I’ll never be free!”
One of the bosses was walking by (his name was Morrie) and he let out this delicious cackle of a laugh, enjoying the fact that this fellow was trapped for life.
So, the luck I finally had in getting out of those places, no matter how long it took, has given me a kind of joy, the jolly joy of the miracle. I now write from an old mind and an old body, long beyond the time when most men would ever think of continuing such a thing, but since I started so late I owe it to myself to continue, and when the words begin to falter and I must be helped up stairways and I can no longer tell a bluebird from a paperclip, I still feel that something in me is going to remember (no matter how far I’m gone) how I’ve come through the murder and the mess and the moil, to at least a generous way to die.
To not to have entirely wasted one’s life seems to be a worthy accomplishment, if only for myself.
From the desk of K.W. Turner
01 June 2012
Dear Tenured Professor of Nothing Studies at Large University located in the North East,
I took your class during the mid to early 2000s… I majored in Critical Thinking and earned a minor in Structural Analysis. Is there anything new or interesting happening within the department or university? Actually; as I sit and think, I have to be honest- I write with malicious intent- against the university, the department, and yourself generally… I hated Bullshit University with every bone in my body. I hated your shit-ass class. You told us all once that we couldn’t write and that you spent time at an Ivy League university and that their students wrote so much better. Hear this: If I was more of a man at twenty; I would have cursed you to your face then and there and perhaps struck you down. The university is shit. All universities are shit: http://www.howtheuniversityworks.com. Professors have become shit- “free agent,” self interested, pyramid scheming accomplices- with no regard for Truth or Knowledge and a strong desire to turn away from the world.
Consider this letter a brick from the real world hurled with the intent to shatter your front window. You once told my class that you would never post your C.V. online; but, today- here’s your picture and C.V. right in front of me, online, on my computer screen- I suppose times change and then they force us to do the same. When I left college, I couldn’t find a job and bounced all over the place; doing the precarious living waltz, and I spent time in homeless shelters. The stench and pure desperation that permeates from such places will change anyone. Since graduating and due to times that I’ve had to work part-time and temporary jobs- trying to support myself; I fell behind on my student loans and defaulted. I’m now lifetime indebted. I now wear Sallie Mae handcuffs and the keys have been thrown away.
You could position myself within a global context and say that I’m better off than anyone in the “third world” but that’s beside the point… especially considering the stench of U.S. neoliberal ideology that seems hell bent on stinking up the world. For whatever its worth, I write not to blame- but to convey, over the last few years, I’ve met many poor souls much like myself; consumed with debt yet nevertheless smart, ambitious, and hard working. Newsflash: We’re angry at everything. All of your words still hit me today: “I’ve spent time at an Ivy League university and their students write better than you…” Hey, FUCK THEM and FUCK YOU.
If you think this is uncharacteristic of yourself; back in class you also called students who participated in athletic events “jocks” and characterized people in the military as “people who like to follow directions.” Ok, you made a few good points there- in fact, if I remember correctly, in class I laughed rather hard at your antics of singling out the atheles and ROTC students. In any event, its easy to be a tough guy from the safety of the lecture hall… meet us in the street! I needed this letter. Maybe you needed it too. The more I age; the more my stomach seems to turn sour when confronted with thoughts of people and society generally…