1953 Unpublished letter to Judson Crews - Read this gem! (timeline stuff) (1 Viewer)

cirerita

Founding member
We all know that B claimed that he didn't write much during the 10 year drunk period. Here he not only says that he sent a group of poems to Crews, but he also acknowledges having submitted to -and being rejected by- Poetry and Embryo? I knew Poetry published B in 1993 and 1994, but it really surprised me to see that he had tried them in the early days, especially taking into account he always despised publications such as that one. The early 50's is sure a dark period in B's life.

I suspected that B would have written stuff during the 1945-1955 period -I mean, besides the poems/stories listed in Dorbin- but since he was on the bum most of the time, I thought that he would have not bothered to submit that other stuff. I was obviously wrong.
 

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mjp

Founding member
Great letter!

But 1945 - 1955 he wasn't a bum at all. He lived and worked that entire period in Los Angeles. I think the "on the bum/ten year drunk" myth has been busted elsewhere around here.

1942 through 1944 were the only years he spent any considerable time away from Los Angeles. At least two years of that time was spent in Philadelphia, at one address, working one job, until the FBI picked him up in Philadelphia on July 22, 1944.

So the only period of Bukowski's life where he could have been "on the bum" went kind of like this: after two years at LA City College he dropped out and moved to Philadelphia. He lived and worked there for about 2 1/2 years until he went to prison for a couple of weeks on a draft dodging charge. After being released and relieved of any military duty, he went home to live with his parents.

Now, it could be that on the way home to Los Angeles he made stops in all the cities he mentions - New York, Atlanta (freezing in a shack here, as he often said he did, makes sense since it would have been fall or early winter of 1944), Ft. Worth, New Orleans, St. Louis and San Francisco - but by 1945 he was back in Los Angeles, living with parents and working downtown at a job he would hold for more than a year.

In 1947 he left his parents house and bounced around a lot of shitty apartment buildings and rooming houses in Los Angeles, and worked all the jobs he would write about for the rest of his life; Sunbeam and Supreme lighting, factory jobs, art supply store, post office. He likely did a fair amount of drinking during that time, and I think when he talks about a "ten year drunk," or being a "bum," he's thinking of the five year period from 1947 to 1952. But he was in Los Angeles the entire time, and he does not seem to have had any really long periods between jobs.

I don't think Bukowski was ever "on the bum" in the way that kind of terminology conjures up...homeless, hopping freights and all that. There's nothing to indicate that he was ever a bum except the stories he wrote and told.
 

bospress.net

www.bospress.net
Wow. Hand written (where was the typer?) and he calls him "Mr. Crews". Also, it is interesting that he says that he can't write poetry.

Very interesting letter. Is this the earliest out there?

Bill
 

cirerita

Founding member
I have other letters to Crews, all from 1953 and 1957, but this one is the most interesting and revealing. There must be other ealier letters, but they haven't surfaced as of yet. The ones to Fry must be something!

All the letters from 1953 are handwritten while the one from 1957 is typed. Maybe the typer was pawned during 1953?

When I said "on the bum" I was obviously referring to one of those myths dispelled somewhere in this forum. We know that Bukowski was not seriously on the bum and that he wrote a lot of wild shit during the supposed 10 year drunk. But I always thought he was so busy working or moving from flophouse to flophouse that he didn't even bother to submit that stuff. He tells Crews not to return the poems because he will throw them away anyway...
 

Bukfan

"The law is wrong; I am right"
A letter all the way back from 1953. That's very interesting. I did'nt know he send out poems that early on. Seven years before "Flower, Fist..." and ten years before "It Catches...". Remarkable. - Thanks, cirerita!
 
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mjp

Founding member
When I said "on the bum" I was obviously referring to one of those myths dispelled somewhere in this forum.
I know, I just need an excuse to type up the chronology every now and then. ;) You know, improve on it a bit.

A letter all the way back from 1953. That's very interesting. I did'nt know he send out poems that early on.
He first published poetry in 1946 (or maybe 1945 if we can ever find Write), seven years before he wrote that letter.
 
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Bukfan

"The law is wrong; I am right"
He first published poetry in 1946 (or maybe 1945 if we can ever find Write), seven years before he wrote that letter.

Yes, that's right! In Matrix. I forgot that...
 
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cirerita

Founding member
MULLINAX said:
He DID TRY to get into big-time publications like Harper's and The New Yorker. They rejected him, so he later shat all over them. Had they accepted him, he might have written glowing and warm accounts of those publications and their editors and readers.

That was before the 10 year drunk. Try to find a single biography, article, review, bibliography, etc, mentioning that Bukowski submitted at all during that period -besides the stuff listed in Dorbin, that is. I think this letter to Crews is the first real evidence -and not an unfounded theory- that Bukowski did submit to other mags we've never heard of before (Poetry, Chicago, Embryo and probably others). These early letters are really interesting because they shed some light on one of Bukowski's most obscure, not documented periods.

The rejection letter from The Fiddlehead was a nice find as well.

And I have a copy of a postcard sent to H.D., when she was in Zürich! Read that again: Bukowski writing to H.D.! That's not documented anywhere.

Of course, all this obscure material is not at the usual Bukowski Collections (UCSB, Tucson, Huntington, etc).
 
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ROC

It is what it is
I wonder if he wrote to HD due to all that prodding from Sheri Martinelli.
SM pushed HD on to CB pretty damn hard. :)
 

Johannes

Founding member
And I have a copy of a postcard sent to H.D., when she was in Zürich! Read that again: Bukowski writing to H.D.! That's not documented anywhere.

It's sort of documented in "Beerspit Night and Cursing" but I don't have the book here right now. S. Martinelli sort of moved B. to write H.D., because she (H.D.) was "dying", if I remember it right.

Still, that's absolutely great, like all these ultra-rare things of yours, cirerita. Two thumbs up and thank you (again) 1000000000 times.
 
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cirerita

Founding member
you guys are right. The postcard is actually from 1961 and Martinelli persuades B to read H.D. in 1961, so your point makes sense.
 
At least two years of that time was spent in Philadelphia, at one address, working one job, until the FBI picked him up in Philadelphia on July 22, 1944.

I highly doubt that.
My guess is, that the FBI-files only listed (http://bukowski.net/fbi/006.php) those adresses they could make sure, but these aren't necessarily his ONLY adresses.

Proof:
in 1942 he lived for a short period of time in San Francisco working for the red cross and later that year went to St. Louis, Missouri working as a warehouseman. (not too sure about my source here, but think it was Sounes.)

another proof:
How can they arrest him for dodging the draft through moving without giving record, when he stayed at this one adress all this time? Doesn't make sense, does it?

So I really think, the FBI just avoided 'holes' in their collection by simply stretching the timeslines of data they had.
 

mjp

Founding member
How can they arrest him for dodging the draft through moving without giving record, when he stayed at this one adress all this time? Doesn't make sense, does it?
Actually, the only way they could find him is if he stayed in one place for a period of time. If he was constantly on the move, they would have never caught up with him.

I don't doubt that he spent time in all the cities he mentions, I just think the period of time that he bounced from city to city was very brief. When I make my case for a short time "on the road," a lot of it is based on my interpretation, obviously, since we do not have a lot of details. But in my interpretation I try to look at the big picture, as well as the details we get from the FBI files.

So, big picture; we don't know exactly when he left Los Angeles, and we know that we can't place him in Philadelphia (for sure) until 1942. So it's entirely possible that he dropped out of college in the summer of 1941, laid around his parents house for a while, then in December the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, everything changed in America overnight, and he hit the road.

So early in 1942 he is out there in the world with no destination. Well, maybe he had a destination in mind. Or maybe he just needed to find someplace to get work. He couldn't have left Los Angeles with very much money. This is a good place to insert the "ramblin' man, made a lot of stops" bit, but that hobo mythology ignores one big motivating factor in Bukowski's life: Fear.

If you look at his writing output, he really started writing in the quantity that people find so amazing after he quit the post office and had financial responsibility not only for himself, but for Frances and Marina. So I think it's safe to say that much of that post-1969 work ethic was rooted in fear. We also know from people who knew him that he feared poverty (as a lot of depression-era people did), and always maintained money in the bank to shield himself from unexpected circumstances or problems. These things do not really fit into the profile of a man who is likely to spend a lot of time in limbo, with no source of income and no place to stay.

That's why I think he spent most of that time away from Los Angles in Philadelphia. He mentions in several places spending at least a year in the infamous Philadelphia bar. But begging sandwiches and drinks cannot support someone, they don't buy you even a cheap room, so he had to work. Then after he was released by the military, we know there was a period of a few months before moving back in with his parents.

So yeah, on his way to Philadelphia (whether that was his intended destination or not), and on the way home, he had some time to bum around. But for a lot of reasons I still think the bulk of those 2 1/2 years away form Los Angeles was spent in Philadelphia.

But again, that's just my interpretation of the info we have. Doesn't mean anything. You're just as right as I am, and if Sounes has evidence of a period of time in San Francisco or elsewhere, then maybe my theory is bunk.

I'll have to re-read Sounes, because I don't recall seeing any evidence (other than stories) to support the other cities. If it's there I'll add it to the timeline. Eventually, with enough info in the timeline, the story tells itself.
 

cirerita

Founding member
These are excerpts from an uncollected story that will published this year, so I don't want to spoil the excitement by uploading the complete story.
Anyway, the story was published in 1968 but I suspect he's talking about the 40's.

This story kicks ass, believe me. Very unusual. It took me a while to find it and the editor of the book was sure happy that I did :D

1.jpg


**********

2.jpg


************

80594328da2.jpg

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4.jpg


************
 
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cirerita

Founding member
Apparently, he was in Louisiana in 1941. This is an excerpt from an unpublished letter to Jack Conroy, dated May 1st, 1964. Maybe he got the dates wrong, maybe he didn't...

may1st1964toconroyug4.jpg
 
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mjp

Founding member
Apparently, he was in Louisiana in 1941. This is an excerpt from an unpublished letter to Jack Conroy, dated May 1st, 1964. Maybe he got the dates wrong, maybe he didn't...
Or maybe it wouldn't have sounded quite as bad-ass to say he was in college in 1941. ;)

It's entirely possible that he left college in August of 1941 and hopped a freight the next day, and wound up in New Orleans and Atlanta and New York and St. Louis and San Francisco and and and --- before he went to Philadelphia to work at the car lot, drink and get arrested.

But I will always go back to saying that a long period of time on the road would have been out of character for Bukowski. Not in contrast to the persona, but the character he exhibited in real life.

I don't think we can take the stories, tales or letters of someone who was always in the process of myth-building as gospel. Mark Twain warned against that where he himself was concerned, saying that sometimes his memory favored things that would make for a colorful biography over the truth.

The truth we know about Bukowski during this period:

- He left college in Los Angeles in August of 1941
- He was arrested in Philadelphia in July of 1944

Those dates we know for sure. So there are a little less than three years there where anything could have happened. Unless you believe him when he said he spent a year (or more?) on a Philadelphia bar stool. Then the window of opportunity shrinks.

All of this interests me because I like to know the truth about things. So confirmed dates and places that we have, that kind of thing, are cool and interesting to me. The rest is speculation, which is also cool and interesting, and fun too.









Plus I like that cirerita keeps going to his vast well to prove me wrong, and in doing so just exposes more goodies. ;)
 

Bukfan

"The law is wrong; I am right"
Nice goodies, cirerita! Thanks...

It's quite a mystery where Buk was between August '41 and Philadelphia July '44. Apparently he was in Louisiana in '41 and in San Fransisco in '42, working for the Red Cross. Do we know for sure he was working for the Red Cross in '42? Any proof of sorts?
It would be interesting to attempt to make a timeline for those three years. Maybe we could make one from Buk's own informations, if that's possible. It would'nt be solid proof but interesting none the less...
 
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cirerita

Founding member
Plus I like that cirerita keeps going to his vast well to prove me wrong, and in doing so just exposes more goodies. ;)

I'm beginning to notice that...

Looks like the Red Cross in Frisco bit is true as he mentions it here and there. In the 1968 story, we learn from the landlady that B had been in Frisco before.
 

Johannes

Founding member
"I've worked in slaughterhouses, washed dishes, worked in a flourescent light factory; hung posters in New York subways, srubbed freightcars and washed passenger trains in the railroad yards; been a stock boy, a shipping clerk, a mailman, a bum, a gas station attendent, a truck driver, a foreman in a book-distributing warehouse, a carrier of bottles of blood and rubbertube squeezer for the Red Cross, crapshooter, horseplayer, madman, fool, god ..."

Now this sounds like one of Weissners bios, even the "gas station attendent" is there, only the whorehouse is missing. He must have been getting one of those himself.
 
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cirerita

Founding member
Add to that list "coconut [cocoanut?] man in a cake factory" (that was partially left out of the pic). What's exactly a coconut or cocoanut man?
 

hank solo

Just practicin' steps and keepin' outta the fights
Reaper Crew
Moderator
Founding member
He's the guy who shakes a sieve of desiccated coconut onto the cakes, to give them a tasty snowy coating.
 

mjp

Founding member
Yeah, coconut man. Whorehouse manager. Astronaut.

I don't believe that the date/place details in his stories are something that can be used to reliably place him anywhere. There is just far too much fabrication there. That he has a landlady in a story place him in San Francisco two years apart is meaningless.

If we are trying to look behind the Chinaski mask for the reality of Bukowski's life, we cannot take Chinaski's word for anything. In the same way, Bukowski's personal stories, in letters or elsewhere, ultimately became wrapped up in the mythology, and after a while you can't tell where the truth is anymore.

Did he work in slaughterhouses? Even if we use his stories as a compass, he writes about a few hours in a slaughterhouse - or actually on the loading dock of a slaughterhouse - then walking away before the first shift of the first day was complete. Did he really do that? Maybe. But he could have also been sitting in his car watching a bunch of guys load carcasses into a truck for 5 minutes, and written that whole story that night. Like a writer, making shit up.

And remember, he said, "I am always the hero of my own shit." Regardless of what really happened.

I just think taking him at his word in a letter or a story doesn't help us get beyond the myth, and getting beyond the myth interests me. If you hadn't noticed. ;)
 

cirerita

Founding member
That he has a landlady in a story place him in San Francisco two years apart is meaningless.

I wouldn't be so sure. Granted, B. did fabricate a lot of stories and aggrandized stuff to write wild shit, but he usually didn't make up places nor dates. I usually "believe" him when he mentions places and dates; my "faith" in him dilutes when he begins to tell stories about the things he did -not where or when.
 

mjp

Founding member
If he mentions a certain place and time often, I tend to believe him too, but he rarely mentions some of these places, and the less he mentions them, the more I doubt them.

Again, I don't doubt that he was ever in San Francisco, St. Louis or a lot of these cities, I just doubt that he spent any considerable period of time in them.

But of course that's what I believe, because it supports my overall hypothesis. ;)
 
Do we know for sure he was working for the Red Cross in '42? Any proof of sorts?

Only proof is Sounes. Usually he doesn't tell things 'as fact' if there's a reasonable doubt. But then - of course there's no evidence it's true.

The timeline I did for the yearbook of 2006 - based mostly on the FBI-files and Sounes both books - says:


1941
June: leaving university. / short jobs at Southern Pacific Railroad Co and Borg-Warner Factory, South Flower Street. / Then start of wandering around - first target: New Orleans. There: work in a warehouse. / Then Atlanta Georgia. / Travel back through Texas as a railroad worker.

1942
Moving to San Francisco. / job as a blood-truck-driver for the Red Cross. / latest possibile date for discovering classical music / Wandering again, one of the targets being St. Louis, Missouri. / job as a warehouse man. / Possibly first visits to Philadelphia.

1944
First publication: 'Aftermath' - going to New York on that occation. / Then (back?) to Philadelphia. (in the Buk-Tapes he mentions, he was in NY BEFORE he went to Philly the first time!). / Living (among others?) in 603 North 17th Street, / prefered bar at Fairmount Avenue. / job (among others?) Fairmount Motor Products. / July 22: arrest through FBI ......etc...


(this is my back-translation from German, so: sorry for the language.)


anybody any suggestions on these datas?
Anything definitely wrong with it?
 
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mjp

Founding member
1941
June: leaving university. / short jobs at Southern Pacific Railroad Co and Borg-Warner Factory, South Flower Street. / Then start of wandering around - first target: New Orleans. There: work in a warehouse. / Then Atlanta Georgia. / Travel back through Texas as a railroad worker.
I would question whether he had time for all this in 1941. If he left school in June and got a job in Los Angeles, I would assume he worked that job for at least a few months. FBI says he quit Borg-Warner in December (Pearl Harbor?), which puts him in Los Angeles for essentially all of 1941.

In a few places in the FBI files he indicates a month long gap of unemployment, so it was not as if he was afraid of indicating idle time between jobs. That would tend to support the idea that he reported those job dates accurately.

The files indicate that he went straight from Los Angeles to Philadelphia, and then show a one month gap between leaving Philadelphia and arriving back home in Los Angeles. Now if Bukowski had a good memory for dates and places, and he was the source of this information, then his whereabouts are confirmed with the exception of that one month. If he was not the source of this information, that means the FBI confirmed at least some of it, which would seem to make it even more accurate.

A lot of this hinges on how accurate you consider the FBI files to be, or how accurate you consider the information that Bukowski gave to the FBI or the post office investigators.
 

Bukfan

"The law is wrong; I am right"
Roni: Thanks a lot for the timeline!

According to mjp's FBI info he was in Los Angeles for all of 1941. Then he couldn't have travelled to New Orleans, Atlanta and back to Los Angeles through Texas at the same time - unless the FBI files are wrong, of course. I guess we'll never be able to solve this satisfactory - damn!
 
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cirerita

Founding member
From "Dirty Old Man Confesses" (Adam, Oct. 1971):
I moved from city to city, having to work long and dull dime-and-nickle jobs - Houston, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Frisco twice, New York City, Miami Beach, Savannah, Atlanta, Fort Worth, Dallas, Kansas City, and probably some that I have forgotten.

Looks like the landlady from the 1968 story was right after all ;) But, Savannah???
 
mjp said:
I would question whether he had time for all this in 1941. If he left school in June and got a job in Los Angeles, I would assume he worked that job for at least a few months. FBI says he quit Borg-Warner in December (Pearl Harbor?), which puts him in Los Angeles for essentially all of 1941.

You are totally right!
Sounes (p.20 in the Grove-edition) states:

"He dropped out of college soon afterwards, in June, 1941, and after working manual jobs for six months [!] in the Southern Pacific railroad yards and the Borg-Warner factory on South Flower Street, he set out to explore America ..."

Still he names New Orleans, Atlanta and the back-travel through Texas right after that, which points these experiences somewhere in the Winter of 1941/42, with uncertainty about the exact year/date.

He then claims Buk to be working in SF for the Red Cross in "spring of 1942" (p.21).

This puts all these experiences (the so called "bumming around") into a very short amount of time. Still, living under these conditions can make 3 months feel like 2 years. So we don't need to doubt wether Buks claims about his experiences were true at all, but only if they cover a long period of time.

Some of Sounes' sources, as stated on pp 254-255 were Buks own writings and claims. So we still have some uncertainty here.

mjp said:
Now if Bukowski [...] was the source of this information, [...] A lot of this hinges on how accurate you consider the FBI files to be, or how accurate you consider the information that Bukowski gave to the FBI or the post office investigators.

As I recall the FBI-files (I may have to have another look during this thread), their main source was NOT Bukowski himself but former employers, co-workers, landladies, neighbors, etc.

I know a little about archaeology, and usually you collect as many fragments as possible - and even though you're not able to collect Everything, you start making a 'story' out of it, build a theory about what happened. (Only when later new material comes up and gives evidence to do so, you Change that story.)
- I would expect the FBI to work in a similar way. That would explain, why the places where he lived show no holes in their files: they simply 'expanded' the proven facts to cover it up. Or maybe they got information from a former employer, who showed them, what Bukowski had listed to get employed, which obviously could be 'filled up' by Buk also to avoid holes in his record.

So, yeah, I seriously doubt the reliability of the FBI files as far as 'EVERYTHING in it' is concerned.
 

mjp

Founding member
Well, I think we're pinning it down.

So it's safe to say that very early in 1942 he started his traveling, and that same year wound up in Philadelphia, where he stayed for some time.

If he really was in New York when Story magazine came out, that would mean he had to go back to Philadelphia after New York, since we know for sure he was arrested in Philadelphia in July of 1944 (about 6 months after Story came out).

New York may have been a brief excursion, as he says that he spent very little time there (only a few days or a week as I recall?). I assume - since there is only one known Philadelphia address - that Philadelphia was probably "home base" for a while, and he could have easily visited New York by train at any time (maybe during vacation from his job at the Philadelphia car lot ;)).

---

I have to disagree that the FBI or post office would have "padded out" any dates to cover unknown times/places. Bukowski himself would have had reason to do that - to make himself appear stable and hard working - but the FBI would not report anything but the facts that they found.
 

Bukfan

"The law is wrong; I am right"
Now we're starting to get somewhere. We can almost certainly rule out travelings in 1941. We know he was in S.F. spring 1942 working for the Red Cross and we know he was arrested in Philly in July, 1944. The other locations that he mentions, such as Atlanta, was that before or after his arrest? Hmm...
As for the FBI files I tend to believe them overall because I don't think that they would undermine their own files and detective work by making things up. If that was common practise all FBI files would become utterly untrustworthy...
 
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