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Before reality TV, there was Charles Bukowski

bukowski.jpgAnyone read Bukowski? I hadn’t until 10 years ago––when I hired him. Okay, so I didn’t hire the original Barfly himself. I hired his number one fan––a young train wreck named Marcus––a functional drunk seeking a steady paycheck as a copywriter. By his work, I knew he was gifted. By his bloodshot eyes, I also knew he had issues, but most creative-types do––I mean, who among us hasn’t wound up drunk, naked and stuck in a kiddie-swing? C’mon, show of hands?

This guy was a living, belching, stumbling, poster-child for inebriation that lived at the uncontrolled intersection of Creativity Avenue and Chaos Boulevard. His address was a VW bus. He showered at the beach and still managed to end up with attractive, though highly desperate, women. I’m not sure what they saw in him? Maybe the same thing I saw. Talent. Mingled with just enough honesty to think he could pull back on the drunk-stick before slamming the 747 into that mountain, killing everyone on board.

His Bukowski-like way with women went something like this: "I date a woman until she develops feelings for me, then I borrow money from her until she dumps me". The sad part is that it took a while––he discovered that $1500 was the scientifically-tested babe-exploitation threshold.

Marcus existed in a world hidden between the Marques of Queensbury rules set by polite society. No, he didn’t pay taxes. (He made up a social security number on his W-2). Yes, he defaulted on his student loans. Maxed out all of his credit cards eons ago, leaving those poor saps in collections to track him down in his VW bus.

But in the end––he quit, just before I was going to have to fire him. The fistfights with agency account execs, that I could forgive. Heck, it was quite fun to watch. The alcohol-fed bouts of paranoia––I’ve seen worse mood-swings. What did him in at the end was how close he came to boinking (I think that’s the scientific term) a client. I could just picture it, "we love working with your firm but we’re firing your agency because Marcus gave me Chlamydia."

We went out for drinks on his last night and he confided that "this whole day job thing," was a fine distraction, but now that he’d saved up a few month’s quid, he was ready to hit the streets again. So if you see a swerving VW bus in Southern California, with a Costco-sized bottle of vodka rattling around in the back, wave for me. And if you haven't read anything by the man who wrote "sometimes you just have to pee in the sink," dust off that library card and check him out.

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Reader Comments (12)

ARe you kidding?
May 17, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkathie
It's all true.

When I ran the creative department at the ad agency I worked for in Hawaii, I had two rules. Be in the top 99-percentile of your craft, and get along with the other kids in the sandbox. That was it. I had more of a campus environment. I didn't care what you looked like or if you came in late. As long as you did brilliant work and met your deadlines. Marcus sent me his portfolio and it was incredible, so I took a risk and hired him. He was brilliant, charming and utterly self-destructive.

Five months after he left I met him in NYC to pick up an advertising award for some commercials we did together. By then I had read a few of Bukowski's books and understood him better.

He hadn't changed.
May 17, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjamie
hahahah this is hilarious. Someone should write a book about the babesploitation threshold hahahaha!
May 17, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjackt
Guys always think it's hilarious. Women are usually horrified.
May 17, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjamie
I don't have anything witty to say.

A dang fine piece of writing. As usual. :)
May 17, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjason evans
so should use this as a basis for a story or novel. I'm sure it'll work its way into one someday. I love your workplace philosophy... I have the same one for myself--at home writer/mom. Though, I'm not sure I'm scoring in the 99%tile in mothering. Only time will tell.
May 17, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkathie
Damn, Jamie. Best laugh I've had in months.


May 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Hurtubise
This post really made me want to get drunk.
May 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJess
Kiss the coffee and the clean monitor goodbye.
May 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterm.g.tarquini
(This post really made me want to get drunk.)

Perfect. Say, can I borrow $1500 for my grandma's hernia operation?
May 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjamie
agree, agree:

great writing
i want to get drunk
i could stare at the photo all day
May 22, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteranne frasier
"There was nothing really as glorious as a good beer shit—I mean after drinking twenty or twenty-five beers the night before. The odor of a beer shit like that spread all around and stayed for a good hour-and-a-half. It made you realize that you were really alive.”
—Charles Bukowski, Ham on Rye
June 23, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBill C

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