Time Magazine called Charles Bukowski “laureate of the lowlife.” He was a student of the gritty streets who wrote about the shadow side of America. Prostitutes, dingy bars, human cruelty, and lonely trysts. He was a brutal drunk, a misogynist, a self-admitted louse. He was also a prolific writer and 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. He 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,” he wrote. “I just feel better when they’re not around.”
Though he had many literary heroes, Los Angeles was his creative muse. Many of his fabled haunts have long since been torn down but some locations remain intact providing 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 the LA Free Press. He came to believe the post office was killing him by slowly poisoning his desire to write. Black Sparrow Press Publisher John Martin offered Bukowski $100 a month for life if he quit his job and dedicated 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, Pink Elephant Liquors is where Bukowski picked up booze and bidis (Indian cigarettes). His beverages of choice included Cutty Sark (for boilermakers), Riesling white wine, Vodka & 7up 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.
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