Chances are the date March 9 doesn't hold broad significance to you. That's why Harry Baker wants you to take off work and come marathon-drinking with him to commemorate the passing of one of America's most treasured alcoholics.
Eighteen years ago tomorrow, Charles Bukowski succumbed to cancer after decades of rakish existence, during which the Angeleno writer cranked out countless stanzas, chapters and paragraphs. Most all of those words were spurred into a gallop by Bukowski's meticulously documented drinking, just as vital a part of the writer's mythology as any quotable turn of phrase. "He wrote his own legend," says Baker, a poet, rugby player and former bartender. (Fittingly, I first met Baker, in his third year of organizing Bukowski death-day tributes, over rocks glasses at The Khyber.)
To commemorate the brash boozer's passing, Baker, who now makes his rent working for SEPTA and coaching high-school tennis, has organized a series of Buk-inspired events at bars throughout the city. His all-day plan cheekily capitalizes on the strength-in-numbers strategies of the Occupy movement with a single, honest purpose: getting loaded, the most populist of all playing-hooky persuasions.
"Drinking is an emotional thing," Bukowski once said. "It joggles you out of the standardism of everyday life, out of everything being the same." Turn words into action starting at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Con Murphy's (1700 Ben Franklin Parkway) for an Occupy-style planning meeting accompanied by eggs, Irish coffees and poetry readings. The bar will distribute event T-shirts featuring Buk sharing a table with a number of his intoxicated brothers in arms (Hemingway, Poe, Burroughs), with sales benefitting Rock Ministries. ("Getting drunk for charity sounds good to me," says Baker.)
From here it's a choose-your-own-soused-adventure situation — at noon, the Piazza's Gunners Run will screen 1987's Buk-punned Barfly, with a second, highly interactive screening going down at 8 p.m. ("Like Rocky Horror for alcoholics!"). Also starting at noon, O'Neal's (611 S. Third St.) will pour half-price beers for anyone who recites a Buk poem. Around 4:30 p.m., Fergie's (1214 Sansom St.) will see readings from Ham on Rye and the eating of ham on rye sandwiches. South Philly's Shamrock (1400 S. Second St.) welcomes Buk revelers all night, while Gunners Run is set to host the Charles Bukowski Blues Project, with Frank Petersun reciting Bukowski work backed by a five-piece band, at 10 p.m.
Baker hopes participants will don his shirts and descend on these bars and others, Occupy-style, to encourage impromptu discounts. "Ten good-looking people" in thematic garb, he believes, "should be enough to make a happy hour." Though he's the architect of this quasi-controlled madness, he's adamant about the focus staying squarely on Chuck. "It ain't about me," says Baker. "It's about a great man's words."
For more info, visit occupybarstools.blogspot.com.