On the Fourth of July I was in Rancho Palos Verdes on other business and I had some time to kill, so I swung by Green Hills Cemetery to visit Bukowski’s grave. I haven’t posted on this blog in awhile, as I have been working on the sequel to Palm Avenue, which I am currently calling, “ Actualization.” I thought this might be a good topic to post, since Bukowski is one of my favorite writers, and often wrote novels and stories based in Los Angeles, and “Palm Avenue,” is a Los Angeles book.
I have heard that people visit Bukowski’s grave and pour beers and whisky onto it, and they leave beer and cigarettes as offerings to the late author. I thought how hard could it be to find his grave. There must be bottles all over it. I quickly discovered that Green Hills Cemetery is a big place, and all of the grave stones are flat, so it was not going to be easy to just find it. I saw a cemetery employee driving a golf cart and I stopped her. “Where is Bukowski’s grave?” I asked. “Hop in, I’ll take you to it,” she gladly said.
I got on the golf cart and she drove me up the hill. I asked her if a lot of people come to visit the grave and she said at least two a week, and from all over the world. She stopped at a hillside and pointed up the hill. “It’s right there where all of those beer bottles are,” she said. I couldn’t see any beer bottles, but acted as if I did. How hard could it be to find? She had pointed me in the general direction, so I thanked her and climbed up the hill looking for the headstone.
Well, thirty minutes later I still had not found the grave. I felt like Tuco in the final scene of the “Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” There was even mariachi music playing from a funeral happening in another part of the cemetery. I walked up and down rows of headstones and could not see any beer bottles to save my life. I went further up the hill and ran into a section of the cemetery reserved for infants. I looked at the headstones and many of them had lived only one day. I shuddered at how sad that must be. Bukowski would not be here. There was a family nearby having a picnic on the cemetery grass. I could see the Vincent Thomas bridge in the distance and the Port of Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Writers Besides Bukowski
- Raymond Chandler
- Bret Easton Ellis
- John O’Brien
- Walter Mosley
- Sonny Donato
- Rob Neighbors
I walked back to the area where the girl had pointed and finally I saw the beer bottles! I thought there would be a whole case, but there were only two Sierra Nevada bottles and one sad can of Modelo, along with some cigarettes. I was expecting to see a whole case. I took a couple of pictures and sat at the grave site a moment and thought of the stories, poems and books I loved by Bukowski. The guy lived a good portion of his life in obscurity and poverty, yet he kept writing, and now people came from all over the world to visit his grave. That is immortality.
The headstone was in the direct sunlight, so I moved further up the hill and sat in the shade and reflected on what it meant to be an author. A car stopped at the bottom of the hill and two tattooed hipsters got out with a map in hand. They started roaming around looking for the grave. “It’s right there,” I said, pointing to the grave. They laughed and thanked me and they stood over it, paying their respects. I was a little resentful, that they showed up and I didn’t have Bukowski all to myself. I bid them farewell and walked back to my car. I texted the pictures of the grave to a friend of mine, and she asked me if I had left an offering. No, I hadn’t and she informed me I would have bad luck. “You took a selfi, but didn’t leave anything,” she said. Good point. I will be returning with a pint of whiskey, a six pack, and pack of smokes for Hank, ASAP.