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Desert Solitaire
by Edward Abbey

Run With The Hunted

Run with the Hunted

Charles Bukowski

It goes without saying that tastes change over time, both for individuals and for cultures.  It’s hard to get high school kids into Nathaniel Hawthorne and Jane Austen, and it’s not just because high school kids lack sophistication.  The language doesn’t resonate with them; the themes don’t resonate with them.  And that’s OK with me.  I’m no Platonist, and I don’t think that Quality is some inherent, well, quality of works of art.  Art speaks to the context in which it was made, and some works have themes broad enough to span multiple contexts and so have staying power, but it’s simply a truism that Henry VIII doesn’t play the same on Broadway as it did in The Globe.  That’s not Shakespeare’s fault; times change, and people have different needs.  Part of Shakespeare’s greatness, no doubt, is that it still plays pretty well on Broadway because he was able to see past the troubles of his times, but I still don’t think we can utterly blame The Unwashed Masses for finding it boring.

The same is true for our personal tastes.  When you’re fifteen, Catcher In The Rye rings awfully true.  When you’re fifty, it’s still a good read, but it’s (hopefully) not still speaking to your current station in life.  If it is, then you probably haven’t grown much.  Again, the best books manage to span multiple contexts and multiple lives, but they can’t speak to everyone at all times, and it’s unreasonable to expect that they should.

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, Charles Bukowski spoke to me.  I read lots — most — of his work, and I felt that it was something real.  Like Holden Caulfield and Bukowski himself, I felt that so many of the literary greats were phonies, that what they created was artificial, that it had nothing to offer to me.  I felt that academic literature was so much verbal masturbation, that writers like Bukowski wrote from where it was really at.  To some extent, I still feel that way.  Jane Austen still doesn’t speak to me.  I don’t find the misery of Raymond Carver characters to be picturesque or interesting.  Even The Bard himself is still hit-or-miss for me.

So when I read through Run With The Hunted, I was a little surprised to find that it was hit-or-miss for me, too.  When I was younger and more angry, stories about desperate drunks seemed pretty interesting.  Even if I felt like trash, there were any number of people out there way worse off than myself who were finding slices of beauty in whatever ditch they awoke.  But reading that stuff now, it just seemed like repetition.  Bukowski drunk, Bukowski with bad women, Bukowski feeling superior to other writers, Bukowski at the racetrack.  There are still glimmers of beauty in all of it for me, but it no longer speaks to where I am.  I’m not that angry, I don’t have the need to feel superior to anyone, and there isn’t much left for me to get out of Bukowski’s writing.  At this point, reading his stuff is just revisiting a chapter of my life that I’m glad to be over.  There isn’t anything much more for me to learn from it.

By the time I’m ninety, I’ll probably be one of those guys who just scowls at the New York Times every morning.  Of course, so was Bukowski, so maybe that fits.

Hey! Cow!

Another lap around the celestial skating rink has come and gone, as have the corresponding festivities.  This year’s party was a bit scaled back from last year’s owing mainly to the fact that I’ve moved to another town and need some time to rebuild my forces.  Of course, by “scaled back”, I mostly mean that the party went on for something less than 24 hours this year.  I doubt that anyone could say that I was truly slack.

The day started with late breakfast in preparation for the Hey! Cow! tournament and wine tasting around the county.  For those not familiar, Hey! Cow! works as follows: each vehicle has a driver’s side team and a passenger side team.  The object of the game is to attract the attention of cattle.  Each team member is permitted one Shout per pasture.  The Shout consists of two words, the first being “Hey!” and the second being “Cow!”.  One point is scored for each cow that turns its head to look at the shouter.  At the end of the day, the scores are tallied and the winning team receives some concession from the losing team.  An excellent example of The Shout is as follows:

Experience suggests that the quality of The Shout is directly proportional to the number of vineyards visited.

Post-Hey!-Cow!, we returned to the Log House, where a crack team of specialists (which is to say, three of us with beers and hand drills) had assembled a dance floor the night before.  There was a potluck, there was music, there was square dancing and hula hooping, and there was an unusually high concentration of Italians.  It seems you just can’t keep Italians away from square dances.

So thanks to everyone who attended and contributed their energy and talents to a memorable evening.  The square dance floor will be making an encore appearance at Musicalia next weekend, and probably at other festivals throughout the summer.  Look for it!

Update: Additional Hey! Cow! footage follows: