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Capt Is Out to Lunch
By Charles Bukowski
HarperCollins PublishersCopyright ©2000 Charles Bukowski
All right reserved.
Good day at the track, damn near swept the card.
Yet it gets boring out there, even when you're winning. It's the 30 minute wait between races, your life leaking out into space. The people look gray out there, walked through. And I'm there with them. But where else could I go? An Art Museum? Imagine staying home all day and playing at writer? I could wear a little scarf. I remember this poet who used to come by on the bum. Buttons off his shirt, puke on his pants, hair in eyes, shoelaces undone, but he had this long scarf which he kept very clean. That signaled that he was a poet. His writing? Well, forget it....
Came in, swam in the pool, then went to the spa. My soul is in danger. Always has been.
Was sitting on the couch with Linda, the good dark night descending, when there was a knock on the door. Linda got it.
"Better come here, Hank..."
I walked to the door, barefooted, in my robe. A young blond guy, a young fat girl and a medium sized girl.
"They want your autograph..."
"I dorft see people," I told them.
"We just want your autograph," said the blond guy, "then we promise never to come back."
Then he started giggling, and holding his head. Thegirls just stared.
"But none of you have a pen or even a piece of paper," I said.
"Oh," said the blond kid, taking his hands from his
head, "We'll come back again with a book! Maybe at a more proper time ... "
The bathrobe. The bare feet. Maybe the kid thought I was eccentric. Maybe I was.
"Don't come in the morning," I told them.
I saw them begin to walk off and I closed the door...
Now I'm up here writing about them. You've got to be a little hard with them or they'll swarm you. I've had some horrible experiences blocking that door. So many of them think that somehow you'll invite them in and drink with them all night. I prefer to drink alone. A writer owes nothing except to his writing. He owes nothing to the reader except the availability of the printed page. And worse, many of the doorknockers are not even readers. They've just heard something. The best reader and the best human is the one who rewards me with his or her absence.
Slow at the track today, my damned life dangling on the hook. I am there every day. I don't see anybody else out there every day except the employees. I probably have some malady. Saroyan lost his ass at the track, Fante at poker, Dostoevsky at the wheel. And it's really not a matter of the money unless you run out of it. I had a gambler friend once who said, "I dorft care if I win or lose, I just want to gamble." I have more respect for money. I've had very little of it most of my life. I know what a park bench is, and the landlord's knock. There are only two things wrong with money: too much or too little.
I suppose there's always something out there we want to torment ourselves with. And at the track you get the feel
of the other people, the desperate darkness, and how easy they toss it in and quit. The racetrack crowd is the world brought down to size, life grinding against death and losing. Nobody wins finally, we are just seeking a reprieve, a
moment out of the glare. (Shit, the lighted end of my cigarette just hit one of my fingers as I was musing on this purposelessness. That woke me up, brought me out of this
Sartre state!) Hell, we need humor, we need to laugh. I used to laugh more, I used to do everything more, except write. Now, I am writing and writing and writing, the older
I get the more I write, dancing with death. Good show. And I think the stuff is all right. One day they'll say, "Bukowski is dead," and then I will be truly discovered
and hung from stinking bright lampposts. So what? Immortality is the stupid invention of the living. You see
what the racetrack does? It makes the lines roll. Lightning and luck. The last bluebird singing. Anything I say sounds fine because I gamble when I write. Too many are too careful. They study, they teach and they fail. Convention strips them of their fire.
I feel better now, up here on this second floor with the Macintosh. My pal.
And Mahler is on the radio, he glides with such ease, taking big chances, one needs that sometimes. Then he sends in the long power rises. Thank you, Mahler, I borrow from you and I can never pay you back.
I smoke too much, I drink too much but I can1 write too much, it just keeps coming and I call for more and it arrives and mixes with Mahler. Sometimes I deliberately Stop myself. I say, wait a moment, go to sleep or look at Your 9 cats or sit with your wife on the couch. You're either at the track or with the Macintosh. And then I stop, Put on the brakes, park the damned thing. Some people have written that my writing has helped them go on. It has helped me too. The writing, the horses, the 9 cats.
There's a small balcony here, the door is open and I call see the lights of the cars on the Harbor Freeway south, they never stop, that roll of lights, on and on. All those people. What are they doing? What are they thinking? We're all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesnt. We are terrOrized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.
Keep it going, Mahler! You've made this a wondrous night. Don't stop, you son-of-a-bitch! Don't stop!
Excerpted from Capt Is Out to Lunch by Charles Bukowski Copyright ©2000 by Charles Bukowski. Excerpted by permission.
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