The world tends to think rather loosely about the concepts of Los Angeles, Hollywood, and the motion picture industry, throwing them around, running them together, naming one when they mean another — still, nothing a bracing splash of Charles Bukowski can’t sort out. Above, the famous Los Angeles-resident poet, a figure as shambolically glorious and stealthily inspiring as much of the city itself, gives a brief back-seat tour of Hollywood. No, he doesn’t take us past the movie studios, nor the Walk of Fame, nor the site of Schwab’s Pharmacy. He stays closer to home — his home, the storied bungalow at 5124 De Longpre Avenue. We see his neighborhood, his neck of Hollywood, the northwestern district of vast Los Angeles that contains much less of the capital-I Industry than you’d think, but more of genuine (if often grotesque) interest.
“That’s a lady fortune teller there,” Bukowski says, gesturing toward one of the modest houses around him. “I went in there one time. She read my palm. She said, ‘You’re an alcoholic.’ ‘Really? Do I gamble, too?’ ‘Yes, you gamble. That’ll be five dollars.'” The driver continues down Hollywood’s eponymous boulevard, passing Western Avenue, which gets the poet remembering more: “There used to be cement benches out front, and all the insane people would sit there. The street people. They’d talk to each other all day long.” We pass important landmarks as well: “There’s the old Sex Shop. Keeps changing hands.” He even points out the wheelers and dealers living amid this stretch of bars, brothels, and burger stands: “There’s a woman who’s not a hooker. There’s a dope dealer.” Give me Bukowski’s Hollywood tour over those double-decker buses you see around town, their conductors barking about minor celebrity sightings, any day. “I’ve been to this liquor store many a time,” Bukowski notes. “Many a time.”
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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.