a story from the author’s past

When I was eighteen, I was on tour with my ska band and we were in Florida right as a hurricane was touching down. If memory serves, we were in Pensacola and we were playing at some dumpy bar that no one was planning on showing up at anyway, but on this particular night, there being a hurricane and all, it was more desolate than usual. The upside of all this was that they were serving us beer. We had recently gotten a booking agent, and though I now recognize his operation as the half assed run-out-of-a-garage program that it was, at the time the fact that we showed up somewhere and they had a contract that stated that they’d give us free beer seemed like the pinnacle of rock star grandeur. Anyway, they had beer for us so some of us started drinking.
Well, the show was unmemorable, but what was memorable was this old man at the bar. He was gross, pockmarked, stinky with his hair slicked back. He was loud and he was the only person I’ve ever seen in my life who had actually bought an entire bottle of whiskey from behind the bar. He literally had the whole bottle in front of him. I was sitting a few stools down and we started shooting the shit. He offered me a shot and I came over and sat by him.
Now, at this time in my life, I was unbelievably interested in strangers, drunks, old guys and random conversations. I ended up talking to lots and lots of bums and degenerates and this ended up informing a lot of my opinions about homelessness and the general harsh realities of uh…you know, livin’ in a society, man. Anyway, point being, if this story happened today, I’d have never gone and sat next to this guy, as now I have no interest in talking to strangers, but I digress…
His name was Charlie and, as I mentioned before, he was disgusting. When he talked, he sprayed gross, yellow spit all over my face, which wasn’t hard for him to do because when he talked he put his nose less than half an inch from my nose. He was pretty magnetic and intense and he had this crazy eye contact that kind of pulled me in even as his rotten breath and spatial proximity combined to repel me. He talked, loudly, extremely loudly, about how he wanted to fuck the bartender, how he wanted to eat the ass of the girl who was walking by, how he bet I had a nice smooth ass and dick sucking this and ass-pounding that and so on and I was loving it. I thought he was hilarious. I was also eighteen and far from home and drinking whiskey from a bottle and generally living the dream, so I think some of his creepier statements went kind of unchecked, just, you know, in the spirit of keeping the moment going.
Well, the moment went on and on and on and suddenly Pete was standing there saying “Brendan, come on! We’re all in the van and we’ve been waiting for you for half an hour!” The ska band was, not for the last time, bummed out at me.
I said bye to Charlie and went out into our van. The van’s name was Bernice and she was a tin, windowless cargo van with couches bolted into the back. As we drove off, I settled into my seat between Danny and Pete and picked up my book, which was “Memoirs of a Dirty Old Man” by Charles Bukowski. Pete looked at the cover of the book and pointed to the photo of the author and said “dude! That’s the guy you were JUST talking to at the bar!” Dan and I looked at the cover and sure as shit, same dude.

No shit.

I think back about this every once in a while and it kind of blows my mind. I wish I remembered the details a little better. Like, what was the whiskey? That’s not the kind of thing an 18 year old notices, but it’s the kind of thing that EVERY Bukowski fan has asked me when I’ve told this story.
People often ask me what Bukowski was doing in Florida, to which I can only reply “I have no fucking idea. I mean, I was in Florida too. I’m not from there either” Yeah. There’s a lot of unanswerable questions surrounding this story and it’s all pretty unconfirmable and mysterious. I’m not trying to set it out there as anything other than a personal anecdote told exactly how I remember it. And fuck, man. If that guy WASN’T Bukowski, fuck, he really, really really really really really really really kind of stole his whole style, from the ass breath to the creepiness to the look, and fuck, if it wasn’t him, I gotta imagine that’s about as close as a person can get to that kind of thing, both as an impersonator and as a young kid having a brush with grandiose perversity.
But I think it was him. We looked at that picture less than 2 minutes after we left Charlie sitting at that bar and it was fucking identical. I don’t know. Pretty wild, right?
That is all.

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43 Responses to a story from the author’s past

  1. dustyfloors says:

    Simply amazing.

  2. Toto says:

    this is weird, i saw a movie about Bukowsky 2 days ago, starring Mickey Rourke i think…i liked it a lot i must say despite the fact it is kinda lame.anyway, your bukowsky seems more like a pedophile than a writer…

  3. Shannon says:

    My mind = blown.

  4. Candice's Breasts says:

    How do you not go back into the bar at that point?

  5. Candice's Breasts says:

    Also–look at these

  6. Jayzilla says:

    i bought my first butowsky two weeks — pretty rad stuff…

  7. Ross says:

    didn't he die in 1994? i guess that could have worked.

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  8. planespotting says:

    Hmmm … not sure if the dates add up, BK.

    According to Wikipedia (but backed up elsewhere), Bukowski died in March of 1994. If you are 33 today (according to your blog, you turned 33 on Sept. 8, which means you were born in 1976), you would have only been 17 when he died (he died in California, incidentally), not turning 18 until September of 1994.

    So, perhaps you were actually only 17 when you met him. But if you're 100 percent sure you were 18, it (sadly) might not have been him.

    Or you're lying about your age.

  9. Gregory says:

    that is awesome. what year was this? bukowski died in '94.

  10. Robb says:

    You mentioned this encounter before, way way back…but you definitely didn't mention it was in P'Cola…I just thought it was in Chicago or something. Assuming it really was him, that's pretty fucking nuts. I'm less than an hour away. Definitely the last place on earth I'd expect him (or most anyone noteworthy) to turn up. Nuts. I'd like to believe it…

  11. Robb says:

    ^ But yeah…what planespotting said. Fuck it–you were 15, and it was Bukowski. Settled.

  12. james bliss says:

    yeah, I'm with planespotting on this one, I think he was dead when you think you saw him. beyond that, it's hard to make sense of him being in a bar in pensacola, without his wife, willingly having a long and loud conversation with an 18 year old.

  13. balls yo says:

    awesome. Robb is correct, no matter what the year or your age, it was him, and thats all that matters.

    if for some odd reason it didn't actually add up then it's even more awesome because you had drinks with the ghost of bukowski, which is even more rad.

  14. Stizzy says:

    I was reading Ham on Rye like two minutes before I read this entry

    fucking crazy

  15. schmoll9er says:

    i just finished reading "Notes of a Dirty Old Man" two days ago!

  16. James says:

    Bukowsky who?

  17. Seagull Steve says:

    Wow. Among people to randomly run into a bar, Bukowski is far and away the best possible person. Who cares if he may or may not have been dead? You ran into his ghost! Even better.

  18. christa! says:

    It's awesome to know that Bukowski was exactly as creepy and gross as he appeared to be in all of his books. You've gotta admire the self-awarness that dude had…that and the amount of chicks that he managed to bang.

  19. Kevin Burnett says:

    If you dirty dogs o' war ever get the chance to watch Factotum, I would encourage you to do it. You'll be laughing, shrugging your shoulders a lot, crying and rip roaring drunk…all within the first 15 minutes.

    I usually just get drunk and cry.

  20. kylewagoner says:

    Whoa. I want a story like that.

  21. mccool says:

    i wish this was my story.

  22. Robb says:

    "Bukowsky who?"

    Oh that was just the "name game"! You deliberately misspell the name of a prominent cultural figure–by just a letter or two, so who you mean remains blatantly obvious–and see who first caves and wags the metaphorical index finger of smug righteousness. That person is then tied down and forced to listen to a rational, well-articulated argument on how vinyl is fucking useless in the car.

  23. Robb says:

    Ohh James I kid! But what a game it would be

  24. Owner Operator says:

    i'd read the "death" section in bukowski's wikipedia page. especially the last sentance… it is pretty obvious that beeks did meet him. if wikipedia says it's true then so be it!

  25. OPKOPete says:

    to add more semi-weirdness, a girl at work today was talking about how bukowski was her favorite author.

  26. Christopher Bopp says:

    I just got back from D4 and the Arrivals. Las time I saw D4 was about 10 years ago with Larry Arms opening. Many a wistful memory floating through my beer addled brain this evening. Can't wait to see you guys in November.

  27. Christopher Bopp says:

    Oh yeah! I played pool with you and Dan at a place called the Mystique in Pueblo CO back in the Slapstick days. Again; wistful memories.

  28. jflan27 says:

    Brendan, would you ever consider writing more about the early days of slapstick? Sounds like some interesting stories

  29. dan says:

    dear Bk,

    I'm not sober.

    I transferrde colleges, and my one of 4 roommates is a douche. like, the one os gone for a month. he wemnt back to nepal, where he is from. he's straight, but, he's gone for amonth

    and the other is invisiab;e, because they never docked the room to a dude. it's empty. And the last of the 4/4, thats not me, the invisisble dude, or the dude from nepal, is a really anti-social type. Like, I've been around awkward ppl before, roomates infact, strangers in facty!, but this ones not tyhe type tp evene sayt jhi when he see's you.

    too much vodka, sorry.
    hi. i hope you and the baby and widfe are well.
    ner;; b well bk.
    Soon, tla ep, yeup.

    I'll prob never see you live, but owell.

    I was the dude that was swuupposed to interview you at the fest 7, but opted to go to class and see friend, o well. maybe well meet someday, more sober

  30. dan says:


    have no response to the above, but I'm going to stand by it!


  31. bk says:

    Don't worry. Most Bukowski fans leave the creepy, sexist crap unchecked, as well.

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