These are a few of my favorite things: #21 (About my very tortured friend Peter by Charles Bukowski)

About my very tortured friend Peter by Charles Bukowski

Drawing of writer Charles Bukowski

he lives in a house with a swimming pool 
and says the job is 
killing him. 
he is 27. I am 44. I can’t seem to 
get rid of 
him. his novels keep coming 
back. “what do you expect me to do?” he screams 
“go to New York and pump the hands of the 
publishers?” 
“no,” I tell him, “but quit your job, go into a 
small room and do the 
thing.” 
“but I need ASSURANCE, I need something to 
go by, some word, some sign!” 
“some men did not think that way: 
Van Gogh, Wagner—” 
“oh hell, Van Gogh had a brother who gave him 
paints whenever he 
needed them!” 

“look,” he said, “I’m over at this broad’s house today and 
this guy walks in. a salesman. you know 
how they talk. drove up in this new 
car. talked about his vacation. said he went to 
Frisco—saw Fidelio up there but forgot who 
wrote it. now this guy is 54 years 
old. so I told him: ‘Fidelio is Beethoven’s only 
opera.’ and then I told 
him: ‘you’re a jerk!’ ‘whatcha mean?’ he 
asked. ‘I mean, you’re a jerk, you’re 54 years old and 
you don’t know anything!’” 

“what happened 
then?” 
“I walked out.” 
“you mean you left him there with 
her?” 
“yes.” 

“I can’t quit my job,” he said. “I always have trouble getting a 
job. I walk in, they look at me, listen to me talk and 
they think right away, ah ha! he’s too intelligent for 
this job, he won’t stay 
so there’s really no sense in hiring 
him. 
now, YOU walk into a place and you don’t have any trouble: 
you look like an old wino, you look like a guy who needs a 
job and they look at you and they think: 
ah ha!: now here’s a guy who really needs work! if we hire 
him he’ll stay a long time and work 
HARD!” 

“do any of those people,” he asks “know you are a 
writer, that you write poetry?” 
“no.” 
“you never talk about 
it. not even to 
me! if I hadn’t seen you in that magazine I’d 
have never known.” 
“that’s right.” 
“still, I’d like to tell these people that you are a 
writer.” 
“I’d still like to 
tell them.” 
“why?” 
“well, they talk about you. they think you are just a 
horseplayer and a drunk.” 
“I am both of those.” 
“well, they talk about you. you have odd ways. you travel alone. 
I’m the only friend you 
have.” 
“yes.” 
“they talk you down. I’d like to defend you. I’d like to tell 
them you write 
poetry.” 
“leave it alone. I work here like they 
do. we’re all the same.” 
“well, I’d like to do it for myself then. I want them to know why 
I travel with 
you. I speak 7 languages, I know my music—” 
“forget it.” 
“all right, I’ll respect your 
wishes. but there’s something else—” 
“what?” 
“I’ve been thinking about getting a 
piano. but then I’ve been thinking about getting a 
violin too but I can’t make up my 
mind!” 
“buy a piano.” 
“you think 
so?” 
“yes.” 

he walks away 
thinking about 
it. 

I was thinking about it 
too: I figure he can always come over with his 
violin and more 
sad music.

The poetry is a conversation between two friends, the poet & a young man who seems to be stuck in the ‘Rat Race’ n consumerism (He lives in a home with a swimming pool). The poet lives his life the way he wants (he writes poetry but doesn’t want to publicize his passion for the praise of others, he does it for the joy it brings him) n the other guy also wants to do the same, he means to do the same but he can’t get un-stuck. He somehow keeps justifying his choices. Now this is very, very interesting, people who live their life according to the pre-made script of the society always have their reasons to remain stuck in their misery. They keep cracking Monday morning jokes but can’t break away from work-consumerism-impressing others-more work-more misery cycle.  The friend though seeking advice from the narrator to quit his work doesn’t miss the chance to brag about his supposed superiority. He is definitely self deluded …no wonder he’s confused  & can’t find the courage to do what he really wants. If we look around us, the majiority of the masses are tortured like our tortured friend Peter. The last lines are so powerful, they give me goosebumps, even if our friend Peter gets a violin/piano as he has been planning for a long long time, he’ll only play sad music on it. Joy is not possible till he is stuck in his current mindset.

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February 20, 2013. Tags: , , , , . Poetry, Quitting the Rat Race, Reflections/Musings.

2 Comments

  1. michelle replied:

    Thanks for the shout-out, Ritu! It’s much appreciated 😉

    Also, the timing of you finding me and linking back here is uncanny: I am about 90% done by first collection of short stories, and I want to self-publish next month. But yesterday, I had an AWFUL crisis of confidence. I mean, the worst I have ever had. I was asking myself WHY I want to write, since I am clearly the worst writer in the history of writers on this earth. I was tempted to just delete my whole book, and go back to my ‘safe’ life plans of 9-5.

    Today, I’m back to myself (mostly), and I know that writing is what I am meant to do. But boy – was yesterday ever rough. Your blog post – and the links you’ve provided – are just what I need right now, to put my fully back on track. So, thank you!

    • ritusthoughtcatcher replied:

      Hi Michelle…What you said is so tremendous n overwhelming that it took a while for me to get my bearings back :-)…I’m sooo happy that you are back to your normal sassy self ‘cos we won’t be happy with anything else…I have a feeling that we would have a lot to say to each other…& CONGRATULATIONS for the book 🙂

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