The gentle nature of friendship

Chip at the Wheel

by cheri

I remember visiting my grandparent’s home in Oakland in the late 50’s. On the wall of their kitchen nook was a framed cross-stitched message in blue which read, ” To Have a Friend, Be One.”

What an order! As the years passed, I glanced at that little frame, usually in a hurry.

This week friends named Sharon, Doug, Mary, Donna, Pam, and Linda have been on my mind. Zuby, Gary, Sara, and Ben. Christy, Joyce, and Anna. Richard, Don, Bill, and Susie. Kayti, Jennifer, and Vicki.

The souls I am privileged to call friends are  loyal, diverse, intellectually curious, and most importantly (for me), authentic. Some of my friends I don’t see often. They have been patient with me throughout the years and were you to call for their evaluation of my attention to the edict in the cross-stitch, they would say that I have always been too busy. Too busy correcting papers. Too busy running a busy business. To see me, one of my friends, Ines, would come by the office just to say hi. I always felt guilty when she left. I suppose I have been too busy and I regret the busyness.

Some of my friends are men. I like men because often, they are more real with me. Those of you who have followed my blog for years will remember the posts I wrote about my friend Joe, who died several years ago at the age of 79. Talk about real.

One of my dearest friends is my sister who has put up with my high-spirited nature and downright abuse since she was a little girl, six years younger than I. Cindy is my IMG_3453confidant. We Block girls are known for looking out for our husbands and our children. We still cook healthy meals every night. We love the details of a story. We are former party animals, now tame. (Well, if truth be told, Cindy was the party animal.) Cindy and I have a give and take friendship. I ask about her. She asks about me. That seems to be important to me in a lasting and intimate friendship.

Some of my most cherished friends are old in years but young in spirit. I like spirit in a friend. I consider Kayti one of my dearest friends, one of the oldest souls I have ever flown around a room with. If you follow Kayti’s blog, you will see why. I am proud to have one of Kayti’s sculptures in my home and one of her gorgeous watercolors of New Mexico in my dining room.

This week, I have been in deep contemplation, and as usually happens in times like these, my friends enter my consciousness like ethereal butterflies, fluttering through my thoughts, brushing my cheeks with soft kisses, leaving glitter where they go.

Were my grandmother (whose ring I wear) still alive and were she to ask me whether I have dutifully followed the imperative on the cross-stitch, I would have to say “No, Nana. I have not.” I have simply been too busy.

She would probably have patted me on the crown of my head and said, “There’s always tomorrow, dear.”

That there is.



About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
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30 Responses to The gentle nature of friendship

  1. Akriti says:

    What a lovely post 🙂
    Loved reading it 🙂

  2. “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy. They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. ” Marcel Proust
    Let’s face it, friends make life a lot more fun. You make my life more fun.
    Loved the photo of Obexers! AK

    • Ladybugg says:

      You know, I was just up at Tahoe for one night. What a place that engenders so many memories. I slept in my parent’s room and on the wall is that large black and white picture of you and Dr. Advice, Ron’s parents, and mom and dad. You all looked so young and happy.

  3. Richard says:

    It is an honour to imagine I may be counted among your friends, for there is more than one Richard in the world. Certainly, I feel the warmth of your kindness and generosity, even though we have never met, as, I am sure, do all those to whom you extend the hand of friendship.

  4. Ladybugg says:

    There’s more than one Richard? What?
    Boy, do I have a lot to learn.

  5. Christopher says:

    You may have the close and many friends you have, only because you’re a woman.

    Were you a man, you might indeed have friends, but they would be few, and they would only be with men, since, as a married man (I’m assuming the male you would have a wife) you couldn’t have close woman friends because your wife would feel them a threat, and the emotional state of your marriage would consequently deteriorate even more than it already has. Knowing how men are, your wife would have good grounds for her fear.

    Your friends, being, then, necessarily only men, would not as a consequence be friends to whom you could speak of your innermost feelings and fears, and with whom you could be your true self, for they would think you less a real man if you did, and you absolutely couldn’t have them thinking that.

    Your only allowable woman friend is your wife, who stopped listening to you years ago, So, there’s no point in speaking to her of your innermost feelings and fears, and otherwise of the things you should safely be able to speak about with true friends.

    Hence your only true friend – to whom you can speak of anything, and with whom you can otherwise be yourself – is your dog.

    Consider yourself blest!!

    • Ladybugg says:

      You have a lot going on in this comment, Christopher. !!

      You are right that, knowing how men are, most wives would be concerned about their husbands having close female relationships. But it gets down to the wife–her sense of her self and her relationship with her husband. It also has to do with the intention of the woman.

      In your comment, women do not come out well. Perhaps you are absolutely right. Do married women stop listening to their husbands or is your comment a gross generalization? I do not know.

      I try with all of my heart to listen to my husband.Whether or not he truly shares his innermost concerns, I do not know, but I think he does. ( Maybe I am being my usual naive self…)

      Are there any films that venture into this fatal dialogue between men and women?

      I have a number of male friends, who are married, whom I still have conversations with.

      Thank you, as always, for your very provocative comments.

      • Christopher says:

        ”…….You have a lot going on in this comment, Christopher……..”

        Looking at it again, I suppose I do!!

        I myself am not married, and never have been, for reasons a psychiatrist might have a field day with. So, what I said doesn’t reflect my own situation, but, rather, my experiences growing up in an archetypal 1950s four-person nuclear family, and from observing Family Men over the decades.

        What I said was of course a generalisation, but I think it true of most Family Men of at least my generation and older. And, it goes without saying (but I’m saying it anyway) that the Wives of these Family Men feel themselves not listened to, or more likely not understood, by them, should they try to speak of things of the touchy-feely ilk.

        ”…….Are there any films that venture into this fatal dialogue between men and women?……”

        The obvious one is “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”!! And there are the films of John Cassavetes, that I don’t remember too well.

        One film of this genre, that I thought brilliant, and that I remember quite well, was “Diary of a Mad Housewife”, made around 1970, that looked at an emotionally abusive marriage through the eyes of the wife.

        • Ladybugg says:

          I so admire your ability to remember and comment upon so many films. I was just scrolling through Netflix and Amazon Prime trying to find a good movie to watch. I usually end up reading and turning the computer and/or TV off.

          I would be so appreciative if you could do your Top Tens in various movie genres. You have referred some great films throughout the years. The one you told me about (name escapes me, as usual) the doctoral student’s meltdown was one of the funniest scenes I have ever watched.

          • Christopher says:

            “Getting Straight” was the film with the doctoral student meltdown.

            In the matter of the lonely unlistened-to Family Man, a classic film which has this as a theme, is “Dodsworth” (1936), based on the novel by my favourite American author, Sinclair Lewis.

            In addition to “Dodsworth”, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”, and “Diary of a Mad Housewife, other films that “speak” to me, include:

            Brief Encounter (1946) – Trevor Howard, Celia Johnson
            Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967) – Marlon Brando
            The Sergeant (1968) – Rod Steiger
            The Swimmer (1968) – Burt Lancaster
            Ordinary People (1980) – Directed by Robert Redford
            The Night of the Iguana (1964) – (Richard Burton)
            The Sandpiper (1965) – Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton
            The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1957) – Gregory Peck
            The Browning Version (1951) – Michael Redgrave
            Being There (1980) – Peter Sellers
            Lifeguard (1976) – Sam Elliot
            Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989) – James Spader

            As I said, these are films that “speak” to me. They won’t therefore necessarily “speak” to you. Hence I’m not particularly recommending them!!

            • Ladybugg says:

              I just wrote you a long comment, thank you for the time you spent giving me this list, but the comment “could not be posted” and then disappeared. This poltergeist was with me yesterday when i lost 5 years of Quicken data while trying to follow my bank’s direction that I deactivate and reactivate my online connection.

              So, in case this comment, too, “cannot be posted” I will make it short and just say that I had no idea the Lewis was your favorite American author! My favorite of his books is Arrowsmith but I’d love you to do a review of Dodsworth.

  6. shoreacres says:

    Grandmothers are wonderful. The advice yours offered matches anything I received from mine, both in terms of love and wisdom. And yes, there is always tomorrow — or perhaps we should amend it to say there is always today, since tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, either.

    And I have to add that the photo of the dog made me laugh right out loud. There was a certain cat up in the Texas hill country who had an entirely disrespectful name, thanks to its propensity to get into trouble. One day, it hopped into a pickup through an open window, hit the gear lever on the steering column (old truck) and sent that truck straight down a gully into the creek. The last thing we saw was that cat’s expression as it clutched the steering wheel with its paws and stared out the window at the impending doom.

    Thanks for the gentle wisdom, and the funny memory!

  7. Ladybugg says:

    Yes, tomorrow is not guaranteed. If only most of us would take that fact to heart and really live each day.

    And I am so pleased that you laughed out loud which is exactly what I did when Karin, my sister-in-law sent me that picture of dear old Chip, her very independent Dachshund. I still laugh when I look at it. Although Chip is blind and 1/8 the height of Dinah, my lab, he still tries to perform his male desires when ever with her. It is one of the funniest things I’ve ever witnessed. For her part, Dinah is sweet and accommodating.

    Your description of the cat is masterful.

  8. I am still chuckling over Shoreacre’s cat! And of course you know how I love dachshunds, though I don’t believe any of ours ever drove the car.
    Christopher, I am still listening to Dr. Advice after 68 years, however, I’m not sure he listens to ME/

  9. Man of Roma says:

    I remember visiting my grandparent’s home […] On the wall […] a framed cross-stitched message in blue which read, ” To Have a Friend, Be One.”

    The souls I am privileged to call friends […] would say that I have always been too busy […]

    [My sister Cindy] and I have a give and take friendship. I ask about her. She asks about me […]

    This week, I have been in deep contemplation and as usually happens in times like these, my friends enter my consciousness like ethereal butterflies …

    Were my grandmother […] still alive and were she to ask me whether I have […] followed the imperative on the cross-stitch, I would have to say “No, Nana. I have not.” I have simply been too busy.


    Dear Cheri,

    your post has hit my heart, I find it one of the most beautiful you’ve ever written. I did not have a brother, unfortunately … I do feel the same.

    Our friendship relationship, with you, Richard, Christopher, Cyberqwil, Jenny, Andreas, Thomas, Geraldine and others from the Web it’s been non face to face, ok, but profound (of souls, as you say) and I have neglected you since I was too busy to achieve goals in my universus introversus – you see how we are all different and similar at the same time – id est 3 objectives that are inter alia impossible which I’m determined none the less attain want at the cost of croaking … and for that I have neglected you, I have neglected you, Cheri dear, who have been so dear, fanciful, crystal clear as only an Hyperborean Faerie can be; and I have neglected Richard and so forth.

    As for Richard, a soul I love as much as I love yours, I have not even told him my youngest daughter is working in London as an architect / civil engineer since 4 months perhaps, hired by an English engineering company that is busy building a skyscraper.

    And you, who always were in my heart, I’ve neglected and many other people as well, souls in the Wide Web or face to face – my wife, my Italian friends (men are worse than women in ALL, my beloved fairy, less familiar with the alphabet of feelings, ruthless and itinerant beyond the inner circle).

    And I did all this bad, to do what, to do what, for Chrissake?? To show my father that I’m worth something, because my father having had a Calvinist upbringing (even tho he was an agnostic) to him I was not ‘chosen by God’, I was a zero, there is no middle thing for Calvin, I was zero since I was more similar to my mother who had a Roman core under a Tuscan paint.

    And from this pain, from this want to show him – I do not blame dad, I love him so much, and he died uttering in a polite way he was despairing since he knew he was dying. Can you believe it? Someone despairing because he’s dying and telling you that in a soft, polite way …

    From this devaluation (and consequent lack of self-esteem) I draw these three objectives:

    [a post on it at the MoR’s]: ]

    1) Performing, plus improvising, Bach’s Chaconne on a guitar;
    2) Performing, plus improvising, all J. S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations on a guitar (num 3 will follow), the most difficult pieces in the history of music composed by a severe Protestant, not surprisingly, J.S. Bach being a Lutheran, ok, but Calvin influenced at various degrees the whole non-Catholic field.

    Therefore, when playing this music I cry at times since I think of my dear papà and of how much I regret not having told him how much I loved him and whom instead I had always attacked with all the verbal violence I was capable of (until I was 18, of course, after which I left home to find my fortune) – and believe me, I was a tank like him but not polite at all.

    3) So now objective num 3 is of course the ‘Manius Papirius Lentulus soldier trapped in Albion’ series (I’m thinking about a series of smaller books, getting out one after another, like ‘Desperate roman soldiers’ lol.)

    So the writing has being continued since a while (a couple of hundreds draft pages in both Italian and English: 3-4 drafts installments) and — am stupidly moved to say – even that is too ambitious no matter the series format, ie the third folly, no less hard than the previous two, it being a neo-Platonic-Pythagorean Dante… madness, these three follies, these three objectives that make me live like in a closed bell – with some old school mates around and other friends, who are patient – as you say, Cherie – since I none the less neglect them…

    Remember my friends that I love you so much, and to me, you ALL are important, and perhaps you souls from the Wide Web are even more important, being platonic souls with no body, and that you have a place in a heart that doesn’t forget though it neglects.

    My heart is incidentally strong & attempting his last, stronger-than-him, flight, though he hopes that he will not give up, especially thinking that, should he give up he would have, though neglecting, even more neglected you, and betrayed, in the end.

    Which may occur, in any case.


    • Richard says:

      Dear Roma,

      I am not so naïve as to imagine that the feelings you express are for me personally. I know that you speak of the brotherhood of man generally and specifically of your love for my country and its people. That you do so despite their widespread rejection of the European Union in the recent elections to the Parliament is a measure of your sincerity.

      Yes, the British do feel neglected by Europe. We feel treated unfairly, as a caricature of ourselves, that our pioneering contributions to European culture, democracy, justice, law, science, industry and peace are sidelined, misunderstood or even ridiculed. Our expectations, despite our massive sacrifices and investment in Europe over the last 300 years, and particularly over the last 100 years, bear hardly a consideration, as evidenced by the fact that the recent vote will make hardly any difference to our voice in Europe.

      I myself have not lost hope in the European project, but believe that nations require their identity to be returned to enable them to be heard and to retain what is familiar to them so they may prosper together. Rightly or wrongly, there are those who reckon that some in Europe hope to win some sort of long-term cultural war through the medium of the EU, when there need be no war at all. This fear is behind the current crisis in the Ukraine.

      Adaptability of form and purpose is the key to a united Europe, no less in its central organisation than in its constituent parts, and a willingness to abandon obsolete “visions” and obsessive “principle”. That headlong idée fixe has acquired a separate existence detrimental to the ideal. Real lessons can be learned from the UK and how it maintained many of the practical traditions of the constituent nations. In many ways the UK can be seen as a Scottish take-over as well as an English one. I know that we face the real possibility of Scotland’s severance, but it is a union that has lasted for 300 years, not without its difficulties, for sure, but of great mutual benefit, not only to ourselves but also to Europe and the whole world, by and large. It is significant that many true Scots who play such a large part in the running of the UK have no vote in the forthcoming referendum because they live in England. Our cultures are closely intertwined and most of us in England feel as one. I myself have Scottish antecedents on both parents’ sides and I am a Presbyterian – of a most liberal and broad-minded kind, I hasten to suggest.

      Bigger is not necessarily better and if an organisation is unwieldy it is more likely to lead to unfairness, authoritarianism, disruption, rejection and, in the worst analysis, bitter conflict, than it is to peace.

  10. Ladybugg says:

    Well Giovanni, I don’t know what to make of this long emotional comment. You are too hard on yourself. Life is a journey that we are all on, most of us doing the best we can with what we have and with who are parents were. We meet the “other,” our spouse and we engage in a relationship, often times forgetting that they, indeed, are not an extension of ourselves, but an individual, at times very different from us on their own journey too. That is the magic of the “other”

    We have friends, whether in the WWW or face to face, friends with whom we connect and at times for myriad reasons, disconnect.

    I’d like to believe that both fate and free will entwine in these dances that we do.

    You are a splendid guy with so much to offer. It sounds as if you are doing so!


  11. Christopher says:

    @Cherie – This continues our earlier thread, the width of which was getting narrower and narrower with each added comment.

    ”……..I’d love you to do a review of Dodsworth…….”

    I’m flattered that you would. However, I’m not able to because I read “Dodsworth” only once, and this was over forty years ago.

    Allow me, instead, to speak of why Sinclair Lewis is my favourite American novelist.

    It’s because his novels “speak” to me. In them, Lewis seemed to be raging against the philistinism, provincialism, conformism, ignorance, hypocrisies and smugness of small-town bourgeois society.
    This “spoke” to me because I, myself, grew up in such a society, in which I felt as a prisoner, and so escaped it as soon as I was able.

    Lewis seemed to me to use his female characters as the vehicles through which to express his bile. It was appropriate that he would, since it was men who had the power. So the women in his novels felt themselves as much prisoners as did I when growing up, and so tried, each in her own way, to escape her situation. Hence, again, this “spoke” to me.

    And in using women as vehicles to say the things he really wanted to say, Lewis was portraying women as a cut above men. He obviously admired women, and seemed to me able to see men as women saw them. His women had the finer feelings, and the sensibilities that their men didn’t have.

    Having always, myself, felt that women have sensitivities that men just don’t have, so that, compared with women, men are somewhat one-dimensional, Lewis’s portrayals of his women “spoke” to me.

    I, of course, have generalised, for Lewis wrote over twenty novels about many different topics, and I’ve read only ten of his novels. It was not a woman, but a man, Elmer Gantry, who, in the eponymous novel, was Lewis’s vehicle through which to point the finger at small-town values. And some of Lewis’s men, like Sam Dodsworth, we can feel sympathy with, and can see that, in his own way, Sam was as much a prisoner as his shrewish wife was.

    Reading what some of those of the salad-nibbling, wine-sipping and colonic-irrigation ilk, have written about Sinclair Lewis, it seems it’s mainly his earlier novels that qualify as “literature”, and that his later stuff doesn’t.

    Being just a regular fellow, I found Lewis’s later stuff, like “It Can’t Happen Here” and “Kingsblood Royal” to be as stimulating as his earlier stuff like “Main Street” and “Babbitt”, which are held to be “literature”.

    • Ladybugg says:

      Dear Christopher,
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings about why you have connected to so many of Lewis’s novels. I laughed out loud (which I don’t do often while reading) at your very apt (and hilarious) sentence of the “salad-nibbling, wine-sipping and colonic-irrigation ilk”…that is a riot (but oh so true). I am so relieved that I only can call two of those descriptions as part of my personal way of going in life. You can guess which one I have never tried!! 🙂

      I remember accompanying my husband in the 80’s to Rotary functions. At that time, it was an all male organization, albeit one focused on helping others, world wide. I observed to my husband that the other men addressed me as if I were a flower on his lapel. Of course then I was young and they were flirtatious. The events of those civic and legal gatherings was at times, close to Main Street or the Stepford Wives.

      I like Lewis because of his biting criticism, sharp character delineation, and humor. He is the master of satire.

      I am glad to think you have escaped those pressures so animated in Dodsworth and Arrowsmith, Elmer Gantry and Babbitt.

      • Christopher says:

        Just this morning I happened across on the website of the Guardian (UK) *this piece*, that you, as an aficionado of American literature, might like.

        It’s planned that British high school curricula will re-emphasise British novels at the expense of American ones, and so will remove “……..Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird from school reading lists, in favour of Dickens and Austen……..”

        I have to say, I was surprised to learn that British schools study any American literature at all, because this wasn’t the case when I went to school, which, being in a British colony, followed the British educational curriculum to the letter.

        So, to this day, I’ve never read Mark Twain or Herman Melville, and many other classic American authors whose names ooze easily off American tongues. But, in my teens, I did read clandestinely all of Raymond Chandler, who is mentioned in the Guardian piece.

        I’ve never ever forgotten Chandler, who I read simply for his American tough-guy style, of which he was the absolute master, despite his being classically schooled in England. Does anyone read Chandler today?

  12. Ladybugg says:

    I have never read Raymond Chandler, Christopher. I have no idea if anyone reads him.
    Twain is a master. My favorite short story (other than Camus’ The Guest) is Twain’s Stolen White Elephant. Very funny. Very biting.
    Twain became very bitter in old age, having lost his fortune and, I believe, two of his daughters. His writing after 1900 reflects his state of mind.

    HIs earlier writing is marvelous. Most of Twain’s papers are housed at U.C. Berkeley, as I understand it.

  13. Man of Roma says:

    Reblogged this on Man of Roma and commented:
    Invocation, before a mind journey

    To my belovéd Anglo Saxon friends,
    And to Chaerie dearest Faerie,
    Queene of the Greatest Isle, Américà.

    O Goddess, Thou, so heauenly and so bright!

    Shed pls thy faire beams into our feeble eyne,
    And raise, our thoughts being humble and too vile,
    The argument of our afflicted style.

    M. P. Lentulus Maxumus

  14. Man of Roma says:


    I have never read Raymond Chandler, Christopher. I have no idea if anyone reads him.

    Well, hard for me to say what you mean, Cherie, between the lines – Los Angeles may be boring for you from the Bay Area; for me it is terribly exotic.
    And I’ve always thought on the other hand that, if an author is not read, there might be good reasons for reading her / him.

    I mean, everybody says classics in the broad sense should be read. But who actually reads them?

    Raymond Chandler, Christopher seems with me, is considered a classic deserving a place among the big writers not only of the detective story genre, an American (& a bit British, Chr has observed) classic not totally inferior to great E.A. Poe, according to European and non European critics.

    As for my country – I unfortunately having all his novels in Italian – the translators are among the best literary personages. As for France, here some resources:

    Resources in English:

    He’s un homme du noir, but a lot, no need to tell, of later literature and cinema – Philip Dick, Ellroy great American movies from the black & white era (Humphrey Bogart!) up to Blade Runner’s android killer, and so many detective heroes & no few heroes tout court – all this cannot be conceived without depressed, decent, tough Marlowe, who, despite his depression and his ineer void, is a real man.

  15. Christopher says:


    Giovanni, you said you read Chandler in Italian. However, the way Chandler wrote was so nonpareil, that I wonder if even half his flavour can be caught in any foreign translation.

    Consider the opening of The Big Sleep:

    ……It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.

    The main hallway of the Sternwood place was two stories high. Over the entrance doors, which would have let in a troop of Indian elephants, there was a broad stained-glass panel showing a knight in dark armor rescuing a lady who was tied to a tree and didn’t have any clothes on but some very long and convenient hair. The knight had pushed the vizor of his helmet back to be sociable, and he was fiddling with the knots on the ropes that tied the lady to the tree and not getting anywhere. I stood there and thought that if I lived in the house, I would sooner or later have to climb up there and help him. He didn’t seem to be really trying.

    There were French doors at the back of the hall, beyond them a wide sweep of emerald grass to a white garage, in front of which a slim dark young chauffeur in shiny black leggings was dusting a maroon Packard convertible. Beyond the garage were some decorative trees trimmed as carefully as poodle dogs. Beyond them a large green house with a domed roof. Then more trees and beyond everything the solid, uneven, comfortable line of the foothills.

    On the east side of the hall a free staircase, tile-paved, rose to a gallery with a wrought-iron railing and another piece of stained-glass romance. Large hard chairs with rounded red plush seats were backed into the vacant spaces of the wall round about. They didn’t look as if anybody had ever sat in them. In the middle of the west wall there was a big empty fireplace with a brass screen in four hinged panels, and over the fireplace a marble mantel with cupids at the corners. Above the mantel there was a large oil portrait, and above the portrait two bullet-torn or moth-eaten cavalry pennants crossed in a glass frame. The portrait was a stiffly posed job of an officer in full regimentals of about the time of the Mexican war. The officer had a neat black Imperial, black mustachios, hot hard coalblack eyes, and the general look of a man it would pay to get along with. I thought this might be General Sternwood’s grandfather. It could hardly be the General himself, even though I had heard he was pretty far gone in years to have a couple of daughters still in the dangerous twenties.

    I was still staring at the hot black eyes when a door opened far back under the stairs. It wasn’t the butler coming back. It was a girl.

    She was twenty or so, small and delicately put together, but she looked durable. She wore pale blue slacks and they looked well on her. She walked as if she were floating. Her hair was a fine tawny wave cut much shorter than the current fashion of pageboy tresses curled in at the bottom. Her eyes were slategray, and had almost no expression when they looked at me. She came over near me and smiled with her mouth and she had little sharp predatory teeth, as white as fresh orange pits and as shiny as porcelain. They glistened between her thin too taut lips. Her face lacked color and didn’t look too healthy…..

    This, from Farewell My Lovely:

    .……A man was looking up at the sign too. He was looking up at the dusty windows with a sort of ecstatic fixity of expression, like a hunky immigrant catching his first sight of the Statue of Liberty. He was a big man but not more than six feet five inches tall and not wider than a beer truck. He was about ten feet away from me. His arms hung loose at his aides and a forgotten cigar smoked behind his enormous fingers.

    Slim quiet Negroes passed up and down the street and stared at him with darting side glances. He was worth looking at. He wore a shaggy borsalino hat, a rough gray sports coat with white golf balls on it for buttons, a brown shirt, a yellow tie, pleated gray flannel slacks and alligator shoes with white explosions on the toes. From his outer breast pocket cascaded a show handkerchief of the same brilliant yellow as his tie. There were a couple of colored feathers tucked into the band of his hat, but he didn’t really need them. Even on Central Avenue, not the quietest dressed street in the world, he looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food……...

    And this, also from Farewell My Lovely:

    ……..I leafed through the bunch of shiny photographs of men and women in professional poses. The men had sharp foxy faces and racetrack clothes or eccentric clownlike makeup. Hoofers and comics from the filling station circuit. Not many of them would ever get west of Main Street. You would find them in tanktown vaudeville acts, cleaned up, or down in the cheap burlesque houses, as dirty as the law allowed and once in a while just enough dirtier for a raid and a noisy police court trial, and then back in their shows again, grinning, sadistically filthy and as rank as the smell of stale sweat. The women had good legs and displayed their inside curves more than Will Hays would have liked. But their faces were as threadbare as a bookkeeper’s office coat. Blondes, brunettes, large cowlike eyes with a peasant dullness in them. Small sharp eyes with urchin greed in them. One or two of the faces obviously vicious. One or two of them might have had red hair. You couldn’t tell from the photographs. I looked them over casually, without interest and tied the tape again…….

    This, from the High Window:

    …..A long-limbed languorous type of showgirl blond lay at her ease in one of the chairs, with her feet raised on a padded rest and a tall misted glass at her elbow, near a silver ice bucket and a Scotch bottle. She looked at us lazily as we came over the grass. From thirty feet away she looked like a lot of class. From ten feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from thirty feet away. Her mouth was too wide, her eyes were too blue, her makeup was too vivid, the thin arch of her eyebrows was almost fantastic in its curve and spread, and the mascara was so thick on her eyelashes that they looked like miniature iron railings…

    Further on:

    ……..The house was on Dresden Avenue in the Oak Noll section of Pasadena, a big solid cool-looking house with burgundy brick walls, a terra cotta tile roof, and a white stone trim. The front windows were leaded downstairs. Upstairs windows were of the cottage type and had a lot of rococo imitation stonework trimming around them.

    From the front wall and its attendant flowering bushes a half acre or so of fine green lawn drifted in a gentle slope down to the street, passing on the way an enormous deodar around which it flowed like a cool green tide around a rock. The sidewalk and the parkway were both very wide and in the parkway were three white acacias that were worth seeing. There was a heavy scent of summer on the morning and everything that grew was perfectly still in the breathless air they get over there on what they call a nice cool day.

    All I knew about the people was that they were a Mrs. Elizabeth Bright Murdock and family and that she wanted to hire a nice clean private detective who wouldn’t drop cigar ashes on the floor and never carried more than one gun. And I knew she was the widow of an old coot with whiskers named Jasper Murdock who had made a lot of money helping out the community, and got his photograph in the Pasadena paper every year on his anniversary, with the years of his birth and death underneath, and the legend: His Life Was His Service.

    I left my car on the street and walked over a few dozen stumble stones set into the green lawn, and rang the bell in the brick portico under a peaked roof. A low red brick wall ran along the front of the house the short distance from the door to the edge of the driveway. At the end of the walk, on a concrete block, there was a little painted Negro in white riding breeches and a green jacket and a red cap. He was holding a whip, and there was an iron hitching ring in the block at his feet. He looked a little sad, as if he had been waiting there a long time and was getting discouraged. I went over and patted his head while I was waiting for somebody to come to the door.
    After a while a middle-aged sourpuss in a maid’s costume opened the front door about eight inches and gave me the beady eye.

    “Philip Marlowe,” I said. “Calling on Mrs. Murdock. By appointment.”

    The middle-aged sourpuss ground her teeth, snapped her eyes shut, snapped them open and said in one of those angular hardrock pioneer-type voices: “Which one?”


    “Which Mrs. Murdock?” she almost screamed at me.

    “Mrs. Elizabeth Bright Murdock,” I said. “I didn’t know there was more than one.”

    “Well, there is,” she snapped. “Got a card?”

    She still had the door a scant eight inches open. She poked the end of her nose and a thin muscular hand into the opening. I got my wallet out and got one of the cards with just my name on it and put it in the hand. The hand and nose went in and the door slammed in my face.
    I thought that maybe I ought to have gone to the back door. I went over and patted the little Negro on the head again.

    “Brother,” I said, “you and me both.”…….

    From The Long Goodbye (opening paragraph):

    …….The first time I laid eyes on Terry Lennox he was drunk in a Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith outside the terrace of The Dancers. The parking lot attendant had brought the car out and he was still holding the door open because Terry Lennox’s left foot was still dangling outside, as if he had forgotten he had one. He had a young-looking face but his hair was bone white. You could tell by his eyes that he was plastered to the hairline, but otherwise he looked like any other nice young guy in a dinner jacket who had been spending too much money in a joint that exists for that purpose and for no other.

    There was a girl beside him. Her hair was a lovely shade of dark red and she had a distant smile on her lips and over her shoulders she had a blue mink that almost made the Rolls-Royce look like just another automobile. It didn’t quite. Nothing can……..

    The Lady in the Lake (opening paragraph):

    ………The Treloar Building was, and is, on Olive Street, near Sixth, on the west side. The sidewalk in front of it had been built of black and white rubber blocks. They were taking them up now to give to the government, and a hatless pale man with a face like a building superintendent was watching the work and looking as if it was breaking his heart.

    I went past him through an arcade of specialty shops into a vast black and gold lobby. The Gillerlain Company was on the seventh floor, in front, behind swinging double plate glass doors bound in platinum. Their reception room had Chinese rugs, dull silver walls, angular but elaborate furniture, sharp shiny bits of abstract sculpture on pedestals and a tall display in a triangular showcase in the corner. On tiers and steps and islands and promontories of shining mirror-glass it seemed to contain every fancy bottle and box that had ever been designed. There were creams and powders and soaps and toilet waters for every season and every occasion. There were perfumes in tall thin bottles that looked as if a breath would blow them over and perfumes in little pastel phials tied with ducky satin bows, like the little girls at a dancing class. The cream of the crop seemed to be something very small and simple in a squat amber bottle. It was in the middle at eye height, had a lot of space to itself, and was labelled, Gillerlain Regal, The Champagne of Perfumes. It was definitely the stuff to get. One drop of that in the hollow of your throat and the matched pink pearls started falling on you like summer rain.

    A neat little blonde sat off in a far corner at a small PBX, behind a railing and well out of harm’s way. At a flat desk in line with the doors was a tall, lean, darkhaired lovely whose name, according to the tilted embossed plaque on her desk, was Miss Adrienne Fromsett.

    She wore a steel gray business suit and under the jacket a dark blue shirt and a man’s tie of lighter shade. The edges of the folded handkerchief in the breast pocket looked sharp enough to slice bread. She wore a linked bracelet and no other jewelry. Her dark hair was parted and fell in loose but not unstudied waves. She had a smooth ivory skin and rather severe eyebrows and large dark eyes that looked as if they might warm up at the right time and in the right place….

    After all this, how can a visit to southern California, even though in person, fail to be an anti-climax!!

    • Man of Roma says:

      Well, Christopher. W-O-W-O-W.

      Thing is, I was fascinated (order of importance) 1a. by the quality of our translations (among our best writers, I’ve said), 1b. by the fact that a world so different could in some way be rendered so marveLlously. 2a. at the time of purchase – long time ago – they were cheaper in Italian and 2b. more easily available; 3. some laziness.

      Now I know much better, thank you dear Christopher!

      As a side note, we’ve spent, Flavia and I, the WHOLE afternoon- it is 2:29 am now here – with a in-love-with-Rome family (married couple and 2 kids) from Saskatchewan, of Swedish & German breed (which in itself, to us, counts). He is a far-out, really excellent architect (also sorta going native here) and he made a presentation of his work to us – we were drinking excellent Chianti the couple had brought, we had contributed with tough Sybil Flavia’s limoncello, tomorrow he promised me an excellent bottle of Scotch (which in itself, to me, counts).

      The interesting part among other delightful parts (the kids, she was amazing etc.) is that he’s the architectural point of reference of the Japanese-originated ‘lean’ thing project in many towns of Saskatchewan [as big as France – twice Italy’s size – we learned – with only 1 million people: to us this also counts wow], Japanese because the ‘Toyota Production System’ is the ‘lean manufacturing’ precursor, ALL based on the 7 number (were the Japanese Phytagorean? The contrary, more likely, since P had probably gone to Egypt and then East / far East in his Grand Tour: up to Caldea, the best astrologi, where the 3 magi came from following the comet up to baby Jesus, it seems, or to mother India herlsef).

      But in any case this ‘roman’ philosopher (the ancient Romans considered P ‘theirs’ because he apparently exploded the moment he kissed the soil of Calabria, he in fact being present in ALL our Latin poems and thinkers: Ennius’ Annales (totally Phythagorean: only fragments, what are they waiting FOR, those thousands of Papiri rolls still not restaurati, plus P is a big part of Vergil, Ovid, Horace, Cicero you name it, up to the Renaissance (full of light Ren: Giordano Bruno and Galilei; full of darkness Ren: Tommaso Campanella’s utopian ‘La città del sole’ precursor of 1984 etc., up to the non academic Jewish genius (there are so many, Cheri) Einstein : transmigration of souls and all that stuff, and numerology and number as the ‘physycal foundation of the Kosmos (his word).

      [Speaking of Jewish geniuses, how about the anti-Wirral-Peninsula’s-Olaf Stapledon: C. S. Lewis? His Cosmic Trilogy was the antithesis of Stapledon’s Last and first Men: amazing writer I am tolf by Sledpress, and I believe her, since she never makes mistakes]

      I am digressing but the presentation became a wide-ranging discussion right for that – although *very* practical – concerning, among the topics touched, a pragmatism behaviorism take (theirs: “it works, it doesn’t matter why”) and a more philosophical one, ours (ok, ok, but tell us why) and so on and on.


      The surprise being in the end he was more philosopher than us.

      Amazing Canadians.

      And USers too.

      Tough tough US John Black – the name itself …- being the key figure who had THAT province of Canada convinced to become pioneer in this jaw-dropping, hard to say what to call it, thing).

      • Christopher says:

        As I said to Cheri in another comment, I read Chandler for his style, rather than for his plots. Chandler’s nonpareil style, for which he was best known, makes it all the more pity that his novels are today well-nigh unread, and that the name of Chandler is as unknown to any slack-jawed youth you see lounging against any lamppost on any street today, as is the name of Benedetto Croce.

        Your friend from Saskatchewan’s architectural designs for some of its towns, represents what is good in Canada. However, what’s happening in Alberta, right next door to Saskatchewan, represents what is *the very worst*.

  16. Pingback: Where is Europe going? Wide ranging dialogues over at the Man of Roma’s cafe (1) | Man of Roma

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