Ask me! Ask me! Ask me! I won’t say no. How could I?

I got memed! I suppose that’s better than being maimed. Is that even a word? Memed? It’s a verb, right? Mrs. Savannah pinged me to answer the following questions and I am happy to oblige. Anyone who’s been here a long time will find these answers somewhat redundant.

1. If you could change one thing in your life, what would it be?

I’d have gone to college and gotten a degree. Who knows how far I could’ve gone? I wouldn’t have wasted all those years wracked with low self-esteem. I also would have tried to get something published. I was so certain that I’d fail as a writer that I never even tried. I never gave myself a fighting chance. I’ll have to warn The Daughters about such self-defeating tendencies.

That was two things. Tough shit.

2. If you could repeat any age which would it be?

One early Sunday morning in the springtime of my 26th year, I was sitting alone in my apartment in Brooklyn. I was reading the Sunday New York Times, a cup of coffee next to me. One of my cats, a sliver Siamese named Mr. Chow, was sitting in my lap. I lived in the top-floor apartment of a brownstone that had two tall bay windows. It was Sunday-morning quiet. The sunlight poured in and spilled onto my hardwood floor. Lying in the center of a sunbeam was my other Siamese cat, Lucy. She looked at me, blinked slowly, contentedly, and raise her chin a bit. She swished her tail.

I was seeing a pretty girl at the time. We were both quite fond of one other but we weren’t in love. There was no jealousy or need. I liked the work I was doing. I was in excellent health. I was still acclimating myself to New York, which was exciting. I was kind of broke but didn’t care. I felt free. Something washed over me and I thought, “This is as happy as anyone can ever hope to be.”

I’d repeat that year.

3. What really scares you?

Losing my family. I’ve lost jobs. Lost money. Lost love. You think you’ll never get over it, but you do. What would I be if I lost my family? I’d be nothing.

4. If you could be someone else for a day, who would you be?

I’d be Jesus Christ. No joke. Because then I’d know if I really was the Son of God. Then I’d finally know the truth to one of the greatest mysteries. I am wracked with doubt and I’d like to know, once and for all. Wouldn’t you?

*     *     *

Do you have any friends who are actors? Ask them and they’ll tell you: when inside a theater, you’re never supposed to say “Macbeth.” It’s bad luck. Amongst the acting community, the play is referred to as “The Scottish Play.” It’s silly but fun. That’s what this planet needs. More silly but fun.

I just saw creepy, excellent Alan Cumming perform a one-man Macbeth on Broadway. I wouldn’t say it’s got universal appeal, but I enjoyed it. I got lost trying to follow along a few times. I find Shakespearian plots complicated to navigate normally. Trying to hold on with ONE GUY playing all the parts (including evil queen Lady Macbeth) was a challenge. But worth it.


Patrons entering the Barrymore Theater are met with this advisory:
That’s a first. What do you think? Is that pretentious? Before the show my friend bought a round of drinks. One Jack Daniels (a double) and one Maker’s Mark. $45. $45! (Albeit, including tip.) It’s the most I’ve ever seen anyone pay for two drinks.

Course Title: Bukowski and the $12,000 Poem

Settle down, class.

Last week I attended the annual Antiquarian Rare Book Fair at the Park Avenue armory. I saw something that, in over two decades of attendance, I had seen on only one other occasion. This:


This little pamphlet is a single poem by Charles Bukowski titled The Genius of the Crowd. It’s considered by many to be his masterpiece. I’m going post the poem in its entirety. If you’re just glancing and have limited time, read it and skip the rest. It’s pretty good stuff. Afterwords, stick around and I’ll tell you the wild history of this little book and why the dealer’s asking price is $12,000.

*     *     *

The Genius of the Crowd

There is enough treachery, hatred,
absurdity in the average human
To supply any given army on any given

AND The Best At Murder Are Those
Who Preach Against It
AND The Best At Hate Are Those
Who Preach LOVE

Those Who Preach GOD
Those Who Preach PEACE
Do Not Have Peace.

Beware The Knowers.

Beware Those Who Are

Beware Those Who Either Detest
Poverty Or Are Proud Of It
BEWARE Those Quick To Praise
FOR They Need PRAISE In Return

BEWARE Those Quick To Censure:
They Are Afraid Of What They Do
Not Know

Beware Those Who Seek Constant
Crowds; They Are Nothing

The Average Man
The Average Woman
BEWARE Their Love

Their Love Is Average, Seeks
But There Is Genius In Their Hatred
There Is Enough Genius In Their
Hatred To Kill You, To Kill

Not Wanting Solidute
Not Understanding Solitude
They Will Attempt To Destroy
That Differs
From Their Concepts

Not Being Able To Create Art
They Will Not Understand Art

They Will Consider Their Failure
As Creators
Only As A Failure Of The World

Not Being Able To Love Fully

And Their Hatred Will Be Perfect
Like A Shining Diamond
Like A Knife
Like A Mountain
LIKE Hemlock

Their Finest

*     *     *

This was a cheaply-made pamphlet back 1966 by 7 Flowers Press of Cleveland. There were only 103 copies made; an extraordinarily low number. I don’t know what printing technique was used, but it looks like they may have had rubber stamps made of each text block.

The publishers were so broke that they printed it on the back of business envelopes. If you look at the top leaf, you can see the verso of the envelope where it was sealed.

genius4 genius3

These were sold by Jim Lowell at his Asphodel Books in downtown Cleveland. In the 1960’s, Asphodel Books sold radical, left wing literature. They were rabble rousers and not popular with the local politicians. One fine day, the Cleveland Police raided the bookstore on trumped-up obscenity charges, closed it down, and confiscated all of its merchandise. It wasn’t Cleveland’s finest hour. At that point, only approximately 40 copies of The Genius of the Crowd had been sold.


Most of the surviving copies reside in University special collections. There are just a small handful in private hands. To this day, nobody has ever been able to locate the 63 copies that the Cleveland Police absconded with. Presumably, they rotted away in an evidence locker in the bowels of a Cleveland police precinct.

The poem put Bukowski on the map and the raid by the police gave it a prescience and a special gravitas. (They will attempt to destroy/anything/that differs/from their concepts) It’s important. But $12,000? Give me a break. At auction it would probably fetch a quarter of that. Still a lot of money, but rare book dealers live in a fantasy world.

Finally, here’s a recording of Bukowski reading The Genius of the Crowd with his surprisingly soft-spoken, slow, Pasadena drawl. Beautiful graphic transitions of the text in this as well.

Class dismissed.

Set the way-back machine to 1992

Here’s some more fodder from the journals I unearthed. Nothing shocking here. Just a beautiful slice of life. As of these writings, I was still living in Brooklyn. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the Lower East Side of Manhattan was just a few months away.

*     *     *

Monday, November 16, 1992

I walked over to Brooklyn Heights to get a haircut. I fired Anita, even though she brushes her tits against me (intentionally, in my opinion). She charges too much ($28) and doesn’t always do such a great job. Picking a new barber is angst-inducing, to say the least. I impulsively walked into Golden Fingers on Court Street. I sat down, looked around, and suddenly realized it’s an Arab barber shop. Nobody was speaking English and there was strange Arabian music playing. [Note: Yes, that’s what I called it. “Strange.” I was going to edit that bit out because it sounds awful but thought it best to present these entries warts and all.]

Everyone sitting there, including the barbers, had thick, black, curly hair. Do these guys know how to cut straight hair? I could rework David Crosby’s Almost Cut My Hair into Arabs Cut My Hair. Ha ha. My barber had B.O. I told him to not cut it too short and no blood, please. He laughed but I wasn’t kidding. I’m happy to report that my man did an excellent job. He hands were fast, fast. I was out of there in no time. And cheaper than Anita, too. Only $17. But I missed the tits. It’s kind of far but all the barbers in my neighborhood only have black customers and I don’t know if they’d have any idea how to cut my hair.

I spoke to Klinger a few hours ago. He’s playing an open mic at the New York Comedy Club. He wanted me to come down but I don’t think I can make it. I’m a lot funnier than that guy, but he has bigger balls. Ambition trumps talent. It always has and it always will.

Sheila called me out of the blue. I told her that the common thread running between her and Joann is that on separate occasions I tried to seduce each one of them and they both, miraculously, found the strength to resist my animal charm. That made her laugh. Leave ’em laughing, right? She’s got a boyfriend she hates and occasionally calls me to complain about him. What the fuck am I supposed to do with that? Good God, I don’t care.

I met Cindy at DeRobertis on 1st Avenue and 11th Street. I finished her biography and we needed to pour over the edits and layout prototypes. She was grateful. No, not that grateful. I had a deliciouoso cream puff and a cappuccino. We walked down to St. Marks Bar. They remodeled it not long ago. People—and by “people” I mean the usual Lower East Side malcontents who are always spoiling for a fight, any fight—are bitching about the new décor but I don’t mind it. I asked the bartender what part of England he’s from and he said he was from Ireland. I apologized profusely, then I tucked my tail between my vagina and crawled out of there, humiliated.

At work, I passed two girls who were talking in the hallway. We all exchanged pleasantries. I turned the corner and there was a magazine rack there. I stopped to thumb through the magazines and I heard one of them say, “I passed him on the street the other day and he was talking to himself out loud.” She said it like it was scandalous. Do you know what? Not only do I not mind, I like it! If two sorority chippy investment bankers think I’m strange, then I must be doing something right.

Hey, Muslims! Is this true?

Here’s a doozy of a quote from a review of ‘Sex and the Citadel,’ a careful study on sexual relations in Muslim societies, with particular emphasis on Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates, by Shereen El Feki:

The rules governing marriage in Islamic countries seem to give great advantages to men. A man can strike up a temporary marriage with a women with whom he wants to have sex, then say, ‘I divorce you!’ three times and have it be all over.

It also said that Muslim men in the Middle East are obsessed with sodomy because their culture places a premium on virgin brides.

Do you suppose any of that is true? Can it be verified? If it’s so, what a demented society. I can’t believe some of those guys are our allies. It’s lucky for them we need their oil or we’d wag our index finger and give them the same human rights lecture we give to China and Russia. And don’t tell me not to judge their culture. I’ll judge whomever I choose and call bullshit when I see fit.

*     *     *

I’m sure all you folks in nice, warm climates enjoy a healthy belly laugh when we here in the colder climates are getting slammed with a blizzard. That’s okay. We can take it. But while it’s true you don’t suffer biting winds or numb extremities, you are also deprived of spring. You’ll never know what that first warm kiss of the sun feels like after suffering a long, frigid season. We’ve spent the past six months curled up in a tight little ball trying to keep warm. It finally broke this week. Do you know what that feels like?

It’s back to dining al freaso on 9th Avenue in the theater district. I walked past this last night and it was like seeing an old friend. Doesn’t that look inviting? Take a seat and enjoy dinner + a show.

Suddenly, alternative modes of transportation appear in Central Park.

Springtime brings the swallows back to San Juan, Capistrano. Here in Manhattan, we have the reappearance of these:

Accept no imitation or substitute. I impulse-purchased my first cone yesterday on my way back from a lunchtime read in Central Park. The official end of winter.

But mostlyand this is what sunny Southern California doesn’t getsurviving the winter and walking out into that first balmy breeze feels like this:

*     *     *

Coco’s righteous indignation that a car has the audacity to drive past her window pooch perch.

What an idiot nightmare*

*Bukowski. Notes of a Dirty Old Man

I had a horrific nightmare. Nightmares are exceedingly rare for me. I sometimes have trouble falling asleep but it’s nothing that a mug of hot milk + honey won’t fix. Once I’m out, I’m out. But nightmares? Never get them. Ever.

In New Jersey we have a type of wasp that builds its nests in the ground. They look like this:


They’re big and scary. Almost as big as your thumb. If you step on a nest, you’re fucked x 100.

The house I grew up in wasn’t a nice house. It was a farm house that was much older, smaller and more run-down than the Cleveland suburb that sprung up around it. The house was an anomaly. It didn’t look like it belonged there because it was built ages before the neighborhood was born. It stuck out, and not in a good way.

In my dream, I was sitting in the tiny dining room. The walls and door frames were crawling with ground wasps. Five or six at a time would land on me. They wouldn’t sting, but they’d bite. I’d grab one and try to pull it off but it would cling to my clothing and skin. In my dream, they were bigger. They were so big that as I closed my hand around one, the head would stick out of the top of my fist and the tail with the stinger would stick out of the bottom. I’d yank one off, crush it, throw it to the ground and another would take its place. The biting was relentless.

I ran into the bathroom. I had a can of insecticide in my hand. I started spraying them. I put the nozzle right up to their face, sprayed, and covered their heads with foam. Still, they kept coming. I grabbed one, went to the bathtub, turned the water on and held it under the tap. Its mouth opened wide and I could hear it fill up with water, like when you fill up a bottle. The water kept pouring in and pouring in.

I woke up tangled in my sheets. I remembered my sister running into that bathroom and locking the door behind her. I don’t remember exactly how old she was. A young teenager. Maybe 12 or 13. My father pounding the door with his fist, yelling at her to open the door. Her crying. He kept pounding and eventually we heard the wood split. Then he stopped. My sister, crying behind the locked door.