Friday, November 03, 2006

Chandler Pilgrimage

This is how Raymond Chandler described his home in La Jolla in two letters excerpted here from Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler, edited by Frank MacShane:
We have a much better home than an out-of-work pulp writer has any right to expect.

We live in a rather too large one-story house on a corner across the street from the ocean ... Our living room has a picture window which looks south across the bay to Point Loma, the most westerly part of San Diego, and at night there is a long lighted coast line almost in our laps. A radio writer came down here to see me once and he sat in front of this window and cried because it was so beautiful. But we live here, and the hell with it.
And this is how the house looked just a few years ago (Eduardo Contreas / San Diego Union-Tribune):

Since John Billheimer and I were visiting the San Diego area to sign at Mysterious Galaxy Books, we thought we'd take the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to the site. Turns out the house is undergoing a controversial remodel, adding a second floor and additional rooms to the ground floor. Here's how it looks now:


And here's John posed against the view that made the radio writer cry. Note the street name (Camino de la Costa) etched in the concrete on the steps that lead down to the water.


Chandler is buried in San Diego's Mt. Hope cemetery, which we decided to visit as well. There was no one available at the cemetery office to direct us to his grave, but we managed to flag down a security guard and asked him if he knew the location. He didn't immediately recognize Chandler's name, but thought about it some and asked if he was "that writer guy." We eagerly nodded yes, and he directed us to this row of headstones:


In which we ultimately located this marker:


As you can see, it's not particularly well kept, nor were there any flowers. John and I decided that if we'd been thinking straight we would have at least picked up a bottle of Chandler's favorite whiskey and left it for him.

Mt. Hope was a rather sad end for Chandler. He had asked in his will to be buried next to his wife, but since he died alone without any close friends present, his body was consigned there by default.

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