It’s my last Saturday in Redondo Beach, it’s raining. I need a bike bag to pack my bike up next week and transport it to Aspen and Austin with me. Last time I trusted movers, my bike arrived back to me with mud in the pedals and the seat position higher than I left it. I assume that between the move from Jersey City to Redondo Beach, a stranger at a moving company probably walked in some mud and then used my bike to go buy beer.
Hence my need for a new bag, in Lomita, a cultural black hole between the South Bay and Long Beach, surrounded by cheap massage parlors.
I think I might have read something by Andy Jenkins years ago. He was living in San Pedro at the time, had a small crisis of faith, and went to find Charles Bukowski’s grave to fix things. I can’t recall if the crisis was averted, I just remember the act of the pilgrimage. And since I arrived in California over three years ago, I told myself, ‘One of these days, you’ve gotta drive to find that gravesite.’
It was today or never. Within a few clicks on the Internet, I had an address, a gravesite and a car key in my hand, headed to an Army/Navy store in Lomita that sold bike-size duffel bags and the final resting place of Charles Bukowski’s body. I chose Green Hills Memorial Park first, and turned right on Western Ave. off of PCH.
I hate, hate, hate asking for directions, but the park was huge. The guard at the gate knew exactly where I wanted to go before I said anything, then asked where I was from.
“Redondo,” I said.
“Really, you sound Irish,” he answered.
And then he directed me up a hill and past a gazebo to visit Charles Bukowski. When I arrived at the site, a man with a hood up was sitting on top of the grave marker, three discarded tall boys of Budweiser around him. I asked if he was okay. He said it was raining and no, things were not okay. And for a second, my Seinfeld brain thought to myself, ‘This guy is a grave hog.’
But he was troubled, upset, and found solace in Charles Bukowski’s gravesite on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Me, I just wanted to take a self portrait and tick it off the mental box of things I promised myself I would do with my time in Los Angeles.
And so I had to do something I didn’t want to do. I had to ask this crying, half drunk man to get up and move so that I could take a self portrait next to Charles Bukowski’s gravesite. He was not amused. I did not ask him to take the photo. It was awkward and miserable and I think that somehow, in some weird way, Charles Bukowski was laughing at both of us. I snapped a few photos, thanked the man for his time, and walked back to my car.
“Think how I’d feel among the lettuce pickers of Salinas,” Bukowski once wrote.
“Think how I’d feel among the grave hogs of Lomita,” I replied.
And then I left, and went and bought a huge duffel bag at an Army/Navy store down the street.
“You gonna transport a body in this thing?” the salesman asked.
“No, it’s for a bike on a one way trip from here to Aspen to a new home,” I replied. And then I left Lomita, and there’s a chance I might not ever return.