was introduced to Bukowski’s ex, Linda King, in early 2006 by Neeli Cherkovski, before she moved from LA to the Bay Area. She was in town visiting her grandkids, and stopping by to have lunch with her old friend Neeli from the DeLongpre days in the Seventies. Her depiction in the novel Women was very much at odds with the laid back, polite woman standing in front of me that morning. But the warm smile seemed familiar, something I had seen in a time machine perhaps.
I wouldn’t think of her again for four years, when I was alerted to the fact that she had relocated near the Lake Merced area of San Francisco to be closer to her family. With her arrival, she was dropping in for readings at Modern Times and the Beat Museum and as I was helping a group of poets to produce a new submission based reading series “Anger Management” it occurred to me “hey, why don’t we grab a few features to make sure we have a loaded lineup.” My co-producer HK Rainey wholeheartedly approved of this strategy, and I immediately reached out to Linda.
She wanted to read first in the show so she could go home early, and while normally this wouldn’t endear me to the poet, we were talking about a woman on the verge of turning 70.
Of course she didn’t remember me. “I meet so many damn artists, it’s hard to keep them straight,” she admitted. But she found the theme of the reading, writings from or about anger (or both) to be highly appealing, and agreed to open the event which would take place at the Kaleidoscope Free Speech Zone just off the corner of 24th Street and Bryant in the deep Mission district. She wanted to read first in the show so she could go home early, and while normally this wouldn’t endear me to the poet, we were talking about a woman on the verge of turning 70. I prefer an early bedtime myself these days.
In addition to Linda though, the lineup of writers performing for this event had me jacked: Tony DuShane, Jesus Angel Garcia, Lauren Becker, Alia Volz…and it didn’t end there. I had been watching over the past few months how big lineups of writers could turn out big crowds and we wanted every decent submission for the event to get its moment.
We had 19 readers booked. BIG mistake. As we got closer to the event several readers expressed to me their doubts about this arrangement. I tried to assure these readers that everyone was only going to read for no more than seven minutes apiece. Debbie Kirk fumed at me that “no one does just seven minutes!” She backed out of the lineup on the day of the reading asking that one of the troupe readers, my buddy Adam Laxton, read in her place instead. I tried to tell myself this was not really going sideways.
The night of the reading arrived. Our musical guest was my neighbor Cindy Emch’s happening little booze band Vagabondage, so I car-pooled into San Francisco with her. We arrived to find most of our talent thronging the sidewalk outside the Free Speech Zone. The strategy of booking a large lineup had paid off with an enormous standing room only crowd. The reading was jammed with readers who were regulars at Quiet Lightning and the 16th and Mission Thursday Street Showcase. And it was a Thursday night.
Linda King arrived as the band was setting up, and I re-introduced myself to her and told her she would be on right after the band, and people whispered and pointed at her. She had that aura…this was Buk’s ex. So many wanted to fetishize her, and I realize that now, I was doing something similar by wanting to brag I had had her on MY bill.
As the band made its way through a three song set, I was informed another feature, Pam Benjamin had dropped out. The hazards of fielding a marathon lineup were beginning to clarify themselves. Just as I was starting to wrap my head around the show beginning, an old friend, Matthew Decoster called me over to say something.
“See that guy there?” he pointed to a rumpled looking reprobate who might be referred to as a “Goth” with all his black clothing if he hadn’t had a near mullet and a hipster mustache.
“He’s been hitting on Jess over there and I don’t think he’s getting the hint.”
Indeed, the singer for the band Fox & Woman appeared to be getting a strong dose of unwanted male attention from an obnoxious drunkard who wasn’t much interested in hearing “no” for an answer. I could see him trying to talk to her back, but then he quickly relented. The last thing I wanted to do was have some kind of harassment intervention at the show.
“Okay,” I sighed to Matthew, “let’s both keep our eyes open and keep each other posted.” He agreed and we got the reading going with Linda, who recounted stories of what a prick Bukowski was and read very astute poems which occasionally burst out into angry cries, rhapsodizing: “DON’T SAY: I LOVE YOU ANYMORE! Say something kind.” I was so stoked with Linda’s set I quietly ignored the fact that it had gone on for 15 minutes.
Dispatches from Atlantis #14 continues...