San Pedro


I had become enchanted with San Pedro long before I discovered that a great American poet lived there.

Every other weekend my wife and I would drive 40 minutes or more just to bask in a small, unassuming low cost ocean community or leisurely cruise through a modest neighborhood always magically enveloped in a refreshing breeze, a trip always ending near a giant Korean Bell on top of a picturesque hill. The temple overlooked the ocean and was just around the corner from a small bikers’ bar. The bar was a genuine all American drinking hole, off the beaten track, often with Harleys parked in front of it.

I don’t think that my woman and I ever discussed the Poet who lived near by. (Maybe once and in passing as in “doesn’t Chinaski live somewhere here? Yes, he does.” - that’s probably all we spoke on the subject). Strange, considering that she was a talented and educated American writer and I was a starry eyed immigrant, nuts about every local film or a literary icon. The Poet was already a huge name. Yet neither of us made a move toward him.

OK, I do remember my inner voice once going - “suppose I find the guy (I didn’t really understand his poetry, probably didn’t even bother to fully enter anything he wrote, but was aware of his statue, so was considering approaching him out of sheer snobbery,) so suppose I find this guy and than what? What would I say to him?” That’s why I didn’t attempt a meeting.

Why wasn’t she inquiring about the Poet? What was her reason? I do not know. Never asked. Now, I am curious.

I know however that we both loved San Pedro and felt charged and invigorated each time we visited the place.

Now, after all those years, swimming in his writings, I suspect that part of the magic of going there could be him, after all.

Perhaps our souls were smarter than our minds. Because do we have to meet a poet face to face to feel his tune? Do we have to go through an awkward social dance to drink from his poetic well? Doesn’t a true giant of feeling and words and life exist beyond his living room, a modest fence, perhaps a barking dog or a socially required trip to a near by liqueur store? (I bet that's how it would go.)

BS Pawel, a voice says. It’s all BS. You had a chance to meet him and you blew it. Now you read him and you think you understand him, but he is no more.

I silence the voice and cry: Chinaski, my friend! Why haven’t we talked? I understand your every line, I get your pain, elation and wonder. Every action and non action of yours is clear, a must, saving grace. Couldn’t we have talked about it then?

No, Pawel we could have not. That’s how it works. You just read on. And don’t you ever forget San Pedro.

1 comment:

  1. According to Wikipedia, Chinaski, is a fictional character invented by Bukowski. I remember all that you describe so well, except wishing to meet Bukowski (or Chinaski) since I don't care for his writing.

    This reminds me of an argument my aunts had with one yelling at the other, "Don't tell me you don't remember Esther Golding!"

    Memory, like God, has a fantastic sense of humor.

    Thank you for bringing back those lovely scenes that we lived in San Pedro.