Bukowski, just like Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson, are the pillars of my foundation as a writer. And, in essence, the pillars of the life I’ve created and lifestyle I’ve continued to immerse myself in.
Kerouac put me on the road ‘round-n-’round America all through my 20s (and every single day since then, too) in search of endless adventure, new friendships and devastating love: lost, found, lost again. Thompson pushed me to track down truth, to seek out and provoke chaos in the name of the written word and midnight shenanigans.
And Bukowski inspired me to dig deep and truly stare at that face in the mirror, that every single detail of your life, no matter how mundane or dark, is worthy of being written down, picked apart and sent out for public consumption.
When I was young, I really had no life experience to write about, so I took off and explored the depths of America. I ran around this country in a reckless abandon. I ran around the hearts and minds of countless femme fatales, too.
I spent years saying “yes” to any and everything: alcohol, women, drugs, and so forth. I figured, just like my literary heroes, “How can you write about life, love, sorrow and salvation if you never leave your house, your town and your comfort zone?”
That mindset and ultimate path has put me on this trajectory I currently float along. And I made that choice to do so years ago. Sure, I steer away from liquor for the most part. And I don’t do drugs anymore (except the occasional joint).
But, that mindset has remained. So much so, I’ve spent the last year picking up the pieces of my existence in the aftermath of a terrible breakup and just how self-destructive I’ve been in my time on this planet.
In my pursuit of the written word, I’ve passed up stable career opportunities to keep the dream of being a writer alive. I’ve pushed aside a new house, new car, white picket fence and all that jazz for a small one-bedroom apartment with just enough room for what little possessions I do own (mostly books, vinyl records, concert posters, hot sauce collection, a big bed and cold beer in the fridge).
And I’ve destroyed relationships and lost incredible women, and because I had blinders on with only one goal in mind: to keep writing. I remember one ex saying to me: “When is this writing phase going to end?” One said: “Is this all really worth it?” Another said: “Why don’t you get a regular job like everybody else?” One really hit deep when she said: “You keep this up, you will end up like your heroes — all alone and dead of a broken heart.”
It’s true: Bukowski, Kerouac and Thompson all ended in incredibly sad ways. Bukowski died somewhat financially stable, but more so a rotgut being who ruined his body and mind in such terrible ways. Kerouac bled to death in his bathroom when he hemorrhaged after decades of alcohol abuse. Thompson shot himself when his body started to fail him, his family right in the next room.
Heck, even Ernest Hemingway found himself in the same fate as Thompson, where Thompson idolized Hemingway as I now idolize Thompson. It isn’t about glorifying these people, because I don’t. I adore the work, but what they don’t tell you is about all the demons that come with your own pursuit of similar work, similar career paths and dreams. It’s all one thing, really.
All of what I’m saying can easily be applied to the music industry. I mean, how many “Behind the Music” stories can be told — of excess and falls from grace — before people who want to be rock stars finally avoid all the damn stereotypes of “sex, drugs and rock-n-roll, baby.”
I think part of it all is the Peter Pan mentality of artists: “never grow up, never grow old.” As Tom Petty sang: “Well I don’t know what I’ve been told?You never slow down, you never grow old/I’m tired of screwing up, I’m tired of goin’ down/I’m tired of myself, I’m tired of this town/Oh my my, oh hell yes/Honey put on that party dress/Buy me a drink, sing me a song/Take me as I come ‘cause I can’t stay long.”
Again, this article hits home, in so many damn ways. I’m far from perfect, and my journey will always be a work in progress. I’ve identified my flaws, and I’m trying to make positive change.
It ain’t easy, and sometimes I say screw it and run through the town — any damn town — with two huge red paint buckets, ready to throw it all around in all that is “irresponsible enlightenment.” I’m still here. And I’m still learning to be a better person each day I arise into the unknown.
Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.
1 Folklorist/storyteller Gary Carden will tell the story of “The Hanging of Bayless Henderson”at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 2, at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva.
2 Acclaimed Americana/country act The Darren Nicholson Band will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 9, at The Strand at 38 Main in Waynesville.
3 Frog Level Brewing (Waynesville) will host Bohemian Jean (pop/rock) at 7 p.m. Friday, March 1.
4 The “German Friendship Dinner” will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, March 7, at the Folkmoot Friendship Center in Waynesville.
5 Author and Vietnam veteran Tom Baker will give a reading and book signing of his latest work The Hawk and The Dove at 5 p.m. Thursday, March 7, at the Macon County Public Library in Franklin.