It wasn’t Beverly Hills . Beverly Hills was , what , a full block over . The ship-shaped apartment house sailed close but then stopped and anchored . When ? 1941 ? Maybe the architect or the builder were Navy men . Who knows ? I don’t .
Holmby Hills was nearby . Within walking distance if you’re a good walker . Lew Archer lived in Holmby Hills in a big house along with Lt. Commander Phil Queeg . No , no , it wasn’t Lew Archer . He was the partner who’d been knocked off . It was Sam Spade . Queeg liked strawberries . Was obsessed with strawberries . I’m not sure about Spade . Spade said , ” You’re a good man , sister .” Probably said it to the tough guy Duke Mantee or to Charlie Alnut . Those characters both lived in the same house , too , with a guy named Rick who ran a high class nightclub and gambling joint in Casablanca. He might have liked strawberries too for all I know . They all lived with a girl named Lauren Bacall and an actor named Bogart .
The Maltese Falcon was made in 1941 . Casablanca was made in 1942 but the action was set in 1941 . The house I live in now was built in 1941 . Bogart had been in the Navy. He sailed for fun . He’d bought a sailboat from Dick Powell . The apartment house I lived in then on Wilshire Boulevard , the early 1970’s , was built like a ship . It had decks and portholes . My apartment was on the quarterdeck , I think . I climbed up the starboard gangway to get to it . Also in 1941 the U.S. launched the Liberty Ship program . Well ? You don’t get it ? All coincidence you think ?
The old building was crumbling . I got a very good deal on rent for a large apartment . But this was part of the deal : The corporation that owned it wasn’t going to put any money into it to fix anything because they’d bought it to tear it down and build something new . That might happen next week or next year or never . I had to agree to go when the time came , be ready to clear out , to abandon ship on short notice and not to expect anyone , in the meantime , to do any repairs around the place .
While I was there a hair salon owner lived downstairs —- sorry —– belowdecks with his sleek girlfriend . He stayed to himself ; worked long hours at his elegant shop in Westwood . He would slip back home evenings in a gleaming white Rolls . He probably paid the same meager rent that I did . I’d see his mail sometimes as it came to the building , addressed to So-and-S0 , such-and-such number Wilshire Blvd. , Beverly Hills . Beverly Hills my foot ! He must live in the crumbling ship to save money, because it was close to his hair salon , and to pretend to have a Beverly Hills address . It was always a funny sight to see him roll up to the old wreck of a building in that shining white Rolls with the elegant girlfriend, both of them too aloof to converse with the rest of the crew .
The Playboy mansion was , sort of , in the neighborhood too . It was over on Sunset , farther away than the Bogarts’ house . It’s hidden behind gates and hedges and lush landscaping , though . There’s no point walking that far to stand outside the gates .
I would walk down the other direction , toward Santa Monica Blvd . , to do my shopping at the Santa Glen Market , located on the corner of Santa Monica and Beverly Glen . Once in awhile I’d see movie stars shopping there . Everyone has to eat . They bought the same cheap cans of peas that I bought .
One day I was walking along Wilshire behind an elegantly dressed old man . He suddenly turned to the boulevard ; it was around noon , I think ; he unzipped and took a piss on a plant . I was a little shocked and mentioned the incident later to a friend of mine . He said matter-of-factly that sometimes when you gotta go you gotta go and your bank balance has nothing to do with it .
I lived there in that old leaky apartment for two years and then I jumped ship . It was torn down several years later . I used to check on it every few months . There’s a tall and typical high rise there now . It has none of the character , in my mind , that the old structure exuded as it waited to be finally scrapped . But I guess sometimes when you gotta go you gotta go .
Early one Sunday morning the water heater burst . I could hear Max , the manager, and his brother outside my place chattering . I stepped off the bed into six inches of water . I was contemplating this sudden surprise when Max knocked on the door . I opened it and a river rushed out onto the two decrepit old men . ” If I’d wanted Venice , Max , I would’ve gone there , ” I said . They weren’t laughing . They were probably thinking that it might be about time to abandon ship .
As the fat man Gutman says to Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon : ” These are facts , historical facts , not schoolbook history , not Mr. Wells’ history , but history nevertheless . ” Such as it is and so it goes .