He was walking here, I can almost hear his steps. A troubled, unhappy British scholar, a fake Brit. A parvenu American, a closeted gay, a mom-dependent womaniser, and a pulp fiction icon.
Raymond Chandler walked the beach of La Jolla, shopped in sleazy drink joints with names like “Dick’s Liquor,”and vomited all over the weedy decaying sea-grass. The noir of rich and flakey Californians: their big white dentist smiles, public warnings don’t do this don’t do that, sneering everywhere.
Police roundabouts, corrupted muscled uniforms, blonde invasive babes with prices in their rolling eyes. And then, finally, the Pacific sunsets, preposterous, relentless, eternal, punctual and unavoidable as death. Emotionally nerve wracking, sunsets that make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.
The grey cruel infinity of the Pacific, with its fat whales, malodorous seals, murderous sharks, rapacious seagulls, ugly pelicans: a sea world unafraid of humans or material decay.
Raymond Chandler was watching all this as tears flowed by. The cruelty of the beauty, the stupidity of the glory, the charm of the evil under the sun. Romantic, far too romantic, he was killing himself all day every day, enjoying himself in blind self-destructive rage, in stupor, in delight, drunk and silly. Smoking and reading, smoking and writing, smoking and talking, smoking and bitching. A small weak angry multifaceted multitalented man to whom wealth and fame brought no happiness.
Just that flow, the Californian monotony, every pretty day with the same pitch, where small variations become the plot hints. Small but sinister changes in temperatures, in voice tones. There is beach sand in the hair, in the shoes, in the food, in the eyes.
Bad, beautiful, dangerous women who behold the world, the mystery of evil, the courage of transgression. Without misogyny there is no true love, no gunshots, no plot catharsis.
Bogart was the screen man but Raymond was the real deal, the raw deal. His writerly beach cottage, today gentrified by tech overlords, bears not a signs of his presence or his treasures. His worst moral vices and fictional excesses are the new normality, the rule of daily life, symbols and trademark of La Jolla, a beach turned metropolis. The wealthiest joggers in America dash through the fishy smells, the ants, the flies, the pet dogs and wild pigeons.
Anybody could be Raymond Chandler now, we all are, a collective pulp intelligence, a hooded monster without a face. Instead of being characters from Chandler’s BLACK MASK detective magazine, we’ve become tentacled sapient creatures from Lovecraft’s WEIRD TALES.
Today’s Californians don’t worship the sun as the ancient Egyptians did, they watch the sun come and go without counting days because they want to be eternal, immortal, cybernetic.
We still remember being human and having names, it’s sweet, funny, interesting but useless, since we’re numbers in the data stream. Now we are all unique and yet the same. The tentacle life is simple and good: its trembling vitality gives subdued pleasure which never ends.
We don’t sleep: we just rest or take it easy. We hear enormous amount of sounds but we select our personal music. We don’t love, we eat each other in the name of love, we absorb each other, we merge, we dismember, we are poets and nomads, lights and colours, temperature and weather: we hide and we emerge, we shine and we fade away.
We kill and eat, we don’t think. We fish and we swim and sing like mermaids. It’s like orgasmic joy which produces knowledge, and our lives thrive without permanent extinction. An ancient, extra-dimensional life persisting from eons ago… but we still remember the pulp noir fiction mags written by Chandler, cheap paper drowned and crumbling in the tides of La Jolla Beach.
The Four Girls
….and then they arrive, the four local girls going to Chandler’s beach. They are of their best age, still girls not yet women, they are beautiful with their budding yet undetermined shapes, colours, unaware of their beauty. They are the queens of the beach, they are ruling it but they don’t know. They have the secret strength and grace of those who are natural to power.
The girls giggle and hold hands, glancing around themselves with curiosity: what next, not even sky is their limit.
One is a curly blonde, a round faced girl with serious eyes. Then the black thin gazelle princess of the dark: her face is serious but her eyes are laughing violently. The third is an Asian girl. No smiles, no frowns, her body and her face are self-contained, but her mood is good. The fourth California girl is ethnically undetermined: strong, pretty, female, but so distant from any nation’s soil that she might be a Martian emigre or built by robots. She can speak several languages with a strange accent and she leads the group.
The four girls are strolling and chattering on the La Jolla beach. The sky is sunset red, the waves are big and the surfers ambitious, while seals mix it up lazily with the humans. The sharp rock cliffs above the moist sand smell of eternity.
The girls are naturals, natives, they move across sand like crabs, they don’t bother to jog or surf… They are not tourists here, mere onlookers, rich and fancy visitors… They are the four girls of the apocalyptic Pacific.
They reach a sharp rocky bluff rising from the sand, and walk along it. Young boys would leap off of it, yelling, but the four girls pause with care.
They all stop. The number-four girl sits on the edge of the rock. With a slight, dainty hop, she places her feet safely on the sand, then spreads her hands out for the other three.
The Asian girl immediately takes those hands in a swift embrace and in one second she too is down. The smiling eyes of the black girl seem to sing. Her movements are fluid and perfect. She bends, she stretches her long shapely legs, she scissors them after the other, she dances off that rock as if celebrating its prehuman shape with the spectacle of her human body. The girls all laugh merrily.
Now only the sad-eyed plump blonde is left behind on the rock. But all three of the girls are entirely interested in having her land safely. She hesitates, unsure she can manage, ashamed and afraid of falling off the rock. Her sad eyes are almost in tears for her physical and emotional inadequacy.
But then she starts moving, talking, about the sun, about the rocks, about the sea… The three girls in the sand are listening attentively, not touching her while she climbs down with great caution as if the rocks were Himalayas. But she feels fearless, having talked her girlfriends into her adventure. Finally all four of them gather again under the rock, cautious and intelligent. The girls are simple and forthright about their encounter with the stony world, enmeshed in the experience, asking no one for help. They are like Raymond Chandler’s killer muses descending from a pedestal.
They do not need the author anymore, they are their own inspiration and destination: once on the ground they mash with their own skills their poweful ideas killing the plots of evil under the sun.Chandler is not on the beach anymore.