I was in Los Angeles for two and a half months and travelling about by bicycle. I was doing the tourist thing for some of that, then picked up a Bukowski book to pass the last week of my stay and was inspired to figure out a tour.
I found http://bukowski.net, where there is a whole wealth of information pertaining to Charles Bukowski, and an excellent timeline page with addresses. So I tapped them into my GPS, and took off for two days with a camera to follow the ghost of the old man.
I went in order of wherever was nearest, though I have put them into Googlemaps as close to the correct order of time as possible.
(All the photos can be found in the post below.)
What struck me was the quality of the areas he stayed in. Maybe things have changed a lot since the time he was there. Some buildings no doubt being replaced. But the only time I really felt I was anywhere near ‘skid row’ was in Union Drive and a little around Westlake and Kingsley.
Ocean View was clearly run down, with windows hanging off and stuff dumped outside as you can see in the photos below, but Union Drive had the vibe – bums drunk in the street, people hanging around looking shifty, and the entire area was run down. The photos don’t really show it, but the place was not somewhere to hang about on a bicycle with an i-Pod strapped to my arm and a GPS on display.
Then Branden Street was positively affluent. Though the exact place he lived is hard to figure out, I think I got it right. Edgewater too, was upmarket.
I was really glad to get a shot of De Longpre in, as it was condemned to be replaced, and that place more than any other is somewhere I imagined he did some of his best work (Post Office was written there). It certainly had a vibe to it and I could picture him stumbling out to get smokes and booze before heading back to it to write.
Sadly, I somehow failed to take a shot of the other place he stayed on De Longpre.
Longwood was pretty nice looking too, and that was where he was brought up so you can almost understand why his old man despaired of him somewhat.
In his own words, in the book ‘Hollywood’, he was always heading North or West whenever he moved. That book confused me a bit, as he states he moved from Carlton Way, which he describes as Mexican and pretty run down, to another place, but according to the timeline on the bukowski.net site, he moved to San Pedro from there. Maybe someone can clear that up. (feel free to post what you know in the comments)
The only other place I had a little confusion with was Westmoreland Ave, it seemed the number he lived at was now offices and a car park. The condos on the opposite side of the street were all pretty nice, large and in place still. Number 305 you can see in the shot, but the rest of the way up that side of the avenue there are no homes. So what was there? It would be in keeping that it was all condos, like the opposite side of the avenue, but I guess there must have been a boarding house of some kind.
Then the last shot I have is of two drunks asleep in Union Drive. When I arrived there they were cuddled up together. It was beautiful, if a little messed up. By the time I could stop and get the camera out without having to watch for people who might want to lift my kit, they had split up. I only found the world I expected to find in this place. It was The Buke all over. Everywhere else just seemed too clean, maybe. I don’t know. I had been prepared to fight my way through a war-zone when I left that first morning expecting to be seeing some of the worst of LA but it was mostly pretty reasonable places I found myself. I can’t say I am sorry it wasn’t that way, but it made me revisit my perception of Bukowski’s life.
Anyway, I hope the shots are enjoyed by those interested. I guess it was some kind of pilgrimage for me. I felt his ghost there a few times those two days. I read someplace that the old boy was buried with a ceremony by Buddhist Monks. Maybe he’s doing good in the next life. Hope so.
Enjoy the tour, and if there are any corrections feel free to let me know.