Guilty Confessions 25% of the Way Through Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski

By Kyle Milligan / May 10, 2016

Is it weird I’m jealous of Henry Chinaski’s abusive father? Ham on Rye is based on a time long ago, around the 30’s, I think. Things were different. All the kids fought every day. Blood was drawn. Teeth were knocked out. The kids at Henry’s school never made noises in the fights. They didn’t scream or whimper. When they fought kids at other schools those kids would always cry. The rich kids.

The kids got their asses whooped every day by each other and once or twice a week by their parents. Henry’s dad used his leather razor strop. A lot of times for stupid little things or no real reason at all. His father was always angry.

People have asked me if I’m a Bukowski fan after reading my novel Hang-Ups and Hangovers. I read Bukowski’s first novel, Post Office after the first person asked. I have since been asked again and so I’ve started his second book Ham on Rye. Though I feel a weird familiarity to Henry Chinaski’s story, I didn’t have it nearly as bad as he did in his days. My tale would be the watered down Disney version. I have an instinctual feel that my own dad’s story could be closer to Henry’s.

Henry’s dad was always angry. He took that out on Henry and Henry’s mother. It doesn’t take long for Henry to hate both his father and his mother. Why his mother? “The father is always right,” Henry’s mother explained. Henry asked his mother why she didn’t help him after his dad laid a mean ass whoopin on Henry for fighting back against a kid at school.

For all the toxicity, the mother’s loyalty and adherence to a moral code, though twisted as hell, is endearing. Henry’s dad also gets caught red-handed cheating on Henry’s mom. Dad and mom get into an argument and he beats the daylights out of her. And yet… the father is always right.

So at this I think, what a lucky guy. I haven’t even mentioned how he embarrassed them every time he went out in public and picked a fight with every waiter, grocery clerk, elevator guy he crossed.

What a lucky guy.

This probably wasn’t the theme Bukowski was hoping to convey when painting the callous punisher that is Henry Chinaski’s father, but as I continue to read along and the severity of each egregious act increases, I find myself more angry at the man for squandering his blessings than anything.

I envy the lucky bastard to have a wife that loyal.

Assholes finish first. Tucker Max wrote a book with that title to follow up I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell (I have also been compared to Tucker Max for David’s antics in Hang-Ups and Hangovers). Tucker Max is a New York Times Best Selling Author. I admit, I bought both books. The second book was a bit more pretentious than the first. But the theme, assholes finish first, is prevalent in our mating culture.

I wrote about assholes finishing first in Hang-Ups and Hangovers as David struggles with the ways of what he thinks is the right thing to do versus what works. In one scene David tries to kick out a girl he’s just had sex with because another girl is coming over. And to his surprise, the meaner he is, the more she presses him to have sex with her again. This bothers David. Assholes finish first.

Every time I get a text I have to decide, do I answer this now? Or wait 15 minutes to appear aloof? Do I say something sarcastic? Do I put a smiley? Are smileys gay?

Assholes finish first. When I’m flush with pussy and I actually don’t have time for the girls texting me, I always attract more girls. A man in demand, I’ve heard it called. That’s what you want to be. A man in demand.

I just want to be Kyle.

I think all the time. I’m an introvert. I don’t give a fuck how well you think you know me. Being social doesn’t make you an extrovert. Both types can be highly social. Here’s the rule of thumb: Extroverts engage in social activity to bolster themselves. Introverts are drained by socializing and then need alone time to recharge.

Thinking is my burden. It’s a constant nag and often negative. I hate to drag thinking into my love life.

I dated a girl last August for about two months. I loved being around her. On paper we made no sense. She was a fixer-upper. High school drop out with a kid. But I adored her. I asked my friend for advice. Should I text? Should I stay over several nights in a row or was that too much? He said, “Just do what you want to do. If you want to see her go see her.” But that’s not how it works. Maybe for him it does, at 6’3, handsome, and extremely successful, he’s allowed such liberties. I’m a regular guy. I’m not a man in demand. I have to play the game. I lost that girl, one who was probably well beneath my league to begin with.

Maybe if I had punched her in the face.

There’s an icky, bubbling goop where confidence and aggression overlap on a Venn diagram.

I was out last weekend, celebrating my friend’s wedding. One of my friends hit it off with a girl. She really didn’t like me. He asked her why, “He acts like he has a 12-inch dick but he probably doesn’t.” I thought that was funny.

But what if I had hit someone in the face… That’s a defining act of confidence. It’s not a walk, or speech cadence. It’s action. You cannot doubt it. The proof is in the pudding. As a social experiment, maybe I should start striking people and see if my notch count sky rockets. Maybe I’ll land a girl who clings to me like Velcro. Unfortunately, I’ve never had it in me to kick the shit out of a woman. So I’ll stack another pipeline to buffer the sting of the day she walks.

It’s a vicious cycle. I used to understand that I’m young and I will learn. Things will change. But I’m not so young anymore and there are no teachers. I just watch the assholes finish first and curse the softer side of me.

My novel Hang-Ups and Hangovers is on Amazon. Click here. Check it out. Pick it up. I’ll be your friend.

Disclaimer: I don’t condone violence against anyone. I’m speaking ironically. Don’t be an idiot.

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About the author

Kyle Milligan

I'm Kyle Milligan. I really enjoy writing. I wrote a couple novels (The Hang-Ups and Hangovers series) and now I blog frequently on a bunch of different websites. I also enjoy lifting heavy things and and writing about it.

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