Friday, May 25, 2012
David Lynch is a surrealist American Filmmaker who somehow found popular appeal. His early bizarre film Eraserhead gained notoriety on the midnight movie circuit. Based on Eraserhead, Mel Brooks hired Lynch to direct The Elephant Man. Later, George Lucas offered Lynch the chance to direct Return Of The Jedi. (Lynch passed and instead made the sci-fi epic Dune).
Lynch's films have a European sensibility and he relies on the subconscious to visually drive his stories forward. He is obsessed with dreams and dreamlike imagery and his soundscapes are fueled by pounding pistons and industrial machinery. Though not always loved by critics, Lynch has received 3 Academy Award Nominations for Best Director and his films have twice won the Palme d'Or at Cannes. Lynch also broke ground with his amazing tv series Twin Peaks which featured quirky small town characters, supernatural forces, dreams of backward-talking dwarves and an obsession with hot coffee and fruit pie. (Writer David Chase credits Twin Peaks for helping inspire The Sopranos.)
In the 80's, Lynch co-wrote two amazing screenplays which were never made into films. Ronnie Rocket was about a 3-foot tall red-headed midget and his relationship with electricity while One Saliva Bubble featured a redneck hick who emits a saliva bubble which short-circuits a government weapons system causing townspeople to switch personalities. From 1983-1992, Lynch penned the comic strip The Angriest Dog In The World. These days, Lynch writes music, issues daily LA weather reports from his website, distributes his own gourmet coffee brand and helps spread the teaching and practice of Transcendental Meditation. He still hopes to make Ronnie Rocket into a film. (5" x 7", black ink print)
Saturday, May 19, 2012
Charles Bukowski was a poet of the profane, or, as Time called him "laureate of the lowlife." A student of the gritty streets, he wrote about the shadow side of America. Prostitutes, dingy bars, human cruelty, lonely trysts. He was a brutal drunk, a misogynist, a self-admitted louse. But he was also a prolific writer and at times a sensitive poet with a twisted sense of humor.
Born in Germany in 1920, Bukowski grew up in Los Angeles son to an abusive, alcoholic father. Bukowski began writing (and drinking) in his teens. He struggled for decades, toiling as an on-again/off-again postal worker until 1969. He was a private person who loved cats and valued his solitude. "I don't hate people...I just feel better when they're not around."
Los Angeles was Bukowski's milieu and creative muse. Many of his fabled haunts have long since been torn down but some locations remain intact and provide a unique view into the life of LA's literary son.
Post Office Terminal Annex, Downtown LA
Bukowski worked as a letter-filing clerk for 14 years. During this period he penned a column called Notes of a Dirty Old Man for a local weekly The LA Free Press. He felt the post office was killing him slowly and poisoning his desire to write. Black Sparrow Press Publisher John Martin offered Bukowski $100 a month for life if he would quit his job and dedicate himself to writing. Bukowski finally quit in 1969. He documented his experiences in his first novel Post Office written at age 49.
Pink Elephant Liquor Store, East Hollywood
Located at Western & Franklin, the Pink Elephant was where Bukowski picked up his booze and bidis (Indian cigarettes). His favorite drinks included Cutty Sark (for his boilermakers), Riesling white wine, red wine, Vodka & 7 and Miller Beer. He despised Coors calling it the worst beer in America. After Bukowski tallied a number of DUIs, the Pink Elephant delivered liquor to his home.
Bukowski famously wrote about his drinking in the novel Women: "That's the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink. If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen."
5124 De Longpre Avenue, Hollywood
This is the bungalow Bukowski rented from 1963-1972. It was here he formally became a writer and where he fathered his only child. Bukowski wrote the novels Post Office and Factotum at De Longpre and the location was the setting for his novel Women.
In 2007, developers attempted to demolish the site and build condominiums. Preservationists and celebrities like Johnny Depp intervened and the location became a historical landmark. Bukowski himself probably wouldn't care. After all, he said of his own writing, "When I die they can take my work and wipe a cat's ass with it. It will be of no earthly use to me."
LA Central Library, Downtown
As a young man, Bukowski spent many days in the Philosophy Room reassured by the thousands of books around him. It was here Bukowski discovered his literary idol John Fante (Ask The Dust). "It was like finding gold in the city dump." Other literary influences included Celine, Sartre, Hemingway and Knut Hamsun. Bukowski devoured every book he could get his hands on and the library was where he developed an ambition to become an author.
Clifton's Cafeteria, Downton LA
Started in 1935, Clifton's remains the oldest surviving cafeteria-style eatery in Los Angeles. Bukowski ate many meals here during the Great Depression. In his novel Ham And Rye, Bukowski wrote "Clifton's Cafeteria was nice. If you didn't have much money, they let you pay what you could. And if you didn't have any money, you didn't have to pay."
Hollywood Park Racetrack, Inglewood
After he quit his post office job, Bukowski spent his days playing the horses to make ends meet. He viewed this as "just another job" and he developed his own betting system in which he rarely lost and often ended up with a tidy profit. The track also provided a venue for Buk to observe humanity and meet shady personalities whom he often wrote about in his Free Press column.
Other Los Angeles Bukowski haunts include Phillipe's Restaurant where Buk ate French Dip sandwiches, Olympic Auditorium where he took in boxing matches and Musso And Frank Grill where he schmoozed with studio executives and celebrities in his later years.
Bukowski published more than 60 books. Hollywood has made multiple movies about him (Barfly, Factotum, Tales of Ordinary Madness) and his writing remains as popular as ever. Bukowski died of leukemia in 1994. His funeral was conducted by Buddhist monks. His headstone features a graphic of a boxer and the zen-inspired epitaph "Don't try." (5" x 6, black ink print)
Monday, May 7, 2012
Saturday, May 5, 2012
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Aram came of age in the 60's and his early writings were heavily influenced by the Beat Generation. He met the beat triumvirate of Kerouac, Ginsberg & Burroughs and Aram's book Genesis Angels chronicles the life of beat poet Lew Welch. Saroyan's philosophy of writing owes much to Allen Ginsberg's exhortations of "First Thought Best Thought" and "Candor Ends Paranoia."
In 1967, Aram and his friend the poet Ted Berrigan traveled to Lowell, Massachusetts to interview Jack Kerouac at his home. It was a few months before the summer of love and people were always showing up at the house to see the author of On The Road. Kerouac's wife Stella was the gatekeeper and she tried to shoo Saroyan & Berrigan away. After they insisted they'd come to interview Kerouac for The Paris Review, she finally let the men into the house.
By this time, Kerouac was a "bull-like ruin." Sitting in the darkened living room, Berrigan gave Kerouac a handful of Orbitrols (Kerouac called them "forked clarinets"). The two poets watched as Kerouac reminisced about his days with Neal Cassady riding around the country "free as a bee...We had more fun than five thousand Socony Gasoline Station Attendants."
Kerouac expressed his admiration for Aram's father, William Saroyan. "I loved him as a teenager, he really got me out of the nineteenth-century rut I was trying to study, not only with his funny tone but with his Armenian poetic."
Kerouac played piano for the poets then composed a spontaneous haiku:
with big leaf on its back
Kerouac riffed on the origins of Buddhism and the impact of Zen on his writing. "When a man spit at the Buddha, the Buddha replied, 'Since I can't have your abuse you may have it back.'" Aram asked Jack the difference between Buddha and Jesus. Kerouac said, "That's a very good question. There is none."
As their meeting came to a close, Kerouac recited his poem Mexico City Blues. He asked Aram to repeat the words after him, line by line:
Delicate conceptions of kneecaps.
Like kissing my kitten in the belly.
The quivering meat of the elephants of kindness.
When the poem was complete, Kerouac rewarded Aram by saying, "You'll do, Saroyan." To Aram, this was the equivalent of a literary knighting.
Currently, Aram teaches creative writing at USC. Aram's 2007 collection Complete Minimal Poems received the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. His latest book is Door to the River: Essays and Reviews from the 1960s into the Digital Age. (5" x 7", black ink print)