career advice from Mr. Bukowski

Charles Bukowski is the master of laying it all out. Here, he talks of writing. But you can easily apply this advice to just about anything. Music. Acting. Painting. Accounting. Anything.

so you want to be a writer?

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it

unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
forget about it.if you have to wait for it to roar out of
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.
if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be so like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by

and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in
you.there is no other way.

and there never was.



Philip Seymour Douche Bag

Before I get to the meat of my post, allow me to establish my bona fides. The acting community has no greater patron than Yours Truly. In 2008 I saw 28 plays. Better than two per month! The only people who saw more plays than I did were theater critics. I’m a fan of Mr. Douche Bag—I mean Mr. Hoffman. Back in 1997 I saw him in a small play about the doomed Space Shuttle Challenger called Defying Gravity and in 2000 I was lucky enough to see him and John C. Reilly in Sam Shepard’s True West. I’ve seen most of his films—even the obscure ones like Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead. I like his work a lot.


The New York Times Sunday Magazine cover article was a fluff piece on Philip Seymour Hoffman. In it, Mr. Hoffman says:

“…for me, acting is torturous, and it’s torturous because you know it’s a beautiful thing.”

In the same article, Dustin Hoffman is quoted as saying this about playing Jamie Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey Into Night on Broadway:

“It nearly killed me.”

I can’t stand listening to actors prattle on about how dangerous their work is. And I don’t think they’re speaking in metaphor. Do you know what can nearly kill you? Patrolling the streets of Kandahar. Do you want to see some torture? Visit your local ER and/or ICU.

Do you know what I really love? When actors talk about the characters they play as though they actually existed. It’s fiction. It’s not real.

I will continue to patronize the theater. I love it too much to abandon it. But sometimes I wish actors would spend more time outside of the thespian community and acquire some perspective.

Know your lines and don’t bump into the furniture.


visiting another old friend

I paid my annual visit to the Morgan Library to see an old friend; the handwritten manuscript of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.


A Christmas Carol
in Prose:
Being a Ghost Story of Christmas
by Charles Dickens
The Illustrations by John Leech
They put it on display every Christmas. It can be argued that our modern notion of Christmas can be gleaned from these handwritten, barely legible pages. I don’t know why I get a chill every year when I see this manuscript but it never fails.
Also at the Morgan on permanent display is one of their Gutenberg bibles.
This is one of the first books ever printed, folks. It changed civilization. The Gutenberg bibles were the first books to be produced on a moveable type letterpress in 1455. Prior to this, books were handwritten; usually by celibate monks hold up in monasteries. Herr. Gutenberg’s invention lead to the spread of education. And porn.
There was a bonus exhibit! The original early drafts and watercolors used for the first editions of Babar by Jean de Brunhoff. I wouldn’t have gone just to see this exhibit specifically but I was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful these drawing are.

the smoke gets in your eyes. and hair. and clothes. but in a good way.

I spent a very manly evening at Hudson Bar & Books way down yonder on Hudson Street at Horatio with R, esq. This would be Holiday Spirits #4. R, esq. is another lost soul who I communicate with regularly but don’t actually get to see very often. Like most lawyers, he works. A lot.

Hudson Bar & Books is a cigar bar. Smoking has been run out of town, so walking into a bar and encountering a cloud of cigar smoke is a bit unsettling. The testosterone practically drips off the walls and seeps down onto the copper-topped bar.


This bar is so damn masculine that they play nothing but James Bond movies on the small TV in the corner. Last night they had You Only Live Twice on a loop. I was able to watch it one and a quarter times. The back room of the bar is a library. Nobody reads there. It’s just drinking and smoking. The books are for show. And a pretty show it is, especially for an old bookman like myself.


There are women in the crowd but, generally, it’s a bunch of guys sitting around puffing cigars. They have a cigar menu and a whisky menu. No food. I don’t make a habit of smoking cigars but when the occasion calls for it I am happy to imbibe. I always end up smoking a stogy or two when in Vegas.

4 glasses of Dewar’s (2 straight up, 2 w/ soda) + 4 Dunhill cigars = $147.63 And that’s without the tip! No food, remember. Just alcohol and tobacco. Even for New York that’s preposterous. Well…that did include the Bond movie.

* * *

I got down the the Village a little early and had a cup of chili at this utterly charming bistro.


Next door to the bistro is the house I going to own someday.


That wreath is hung in their living room window. It looks out onto a quiet, pretty block in the heart of Greenwich Village. *sigh*

gay divorce

I met C for a very tall Ketel One and cranberry (actually, two) at the beautiful Playwright in midtown Manhattan. If you’re counting, this would be Holiday Spirits #3. Click on that pic of the restaurant. It’s a lovely place.



I’m a cheap drunk and I was loopy by the end of the evening. C is yet another friend who I talk to on a fairly regular basis but have not seen for many months. I love the holidays! It’s the greatest excuse ever for calling an old, absent friend.

The bad news I got from C is that she broke up with H, her girlfriend of 14 years. I’ve known C for over 20 years. When I first met her, she was a bass player and lead singer in her own band and also a hired gun with a few other bands. She was part of a group of musicians I hung out with. I remember spending countless evenings trolling East Village bars listening to her and my other friends play. None of them ever broke out and made a living with their music, but those magic nights took place during a period of time that I now think of as the best years of my life. To have my own apartment on the Lower East Side of New York City when I was single and carefree with no responsibilities or obligations to anyone except my landlord was a dream. This was a pre-gentrified East Village. It was dark, drug infested and dangerous. I don’t want to romanticize what it was like. Some of it was quite ugly and I don’t pine for the “old days” as many do.

When I first met C, she had an insanely jealous girlfriend, L. When C and I would go out for a bite to eat or to see someone’s band play (it was never anything more than that), L would get on her bike and follow us around the neighborhood. She would ride one block behind us, wait for us to leave a restaurant or bar, and follow us to the next venue, always keeping her distance. C would laugh at her and then they’d get into a terrible row later when she got home. She said that the great make-up sex kept them together a lot longer than they should have been.

I remember when C first met and started dating H. The three of us would go out to dinner together and they often referred to me as a “breeder.” Well, the gay community needs its breeders and I am happy to oblige them. I am deeply saddened to see them part company.

This was another stone to bear. I’ve received an extraordinary amount of really bad news over the past four weeks; terrible things that I’ve not mentioned here because they’re too personal. I am stunned that so many bad things can happen in such short order. And right before the holidays when there’s suppose to be so much joy in the air! What gives? When will it end? How much more can my family take? I feel the punishment, but I can’t connect the crime.