Girl Escort in Shizuoka Girls
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I wasn’t surprised, somehow, to find that the bungalow court apartments at 311 S. Loma had also been destroyed. A huge new low-income housing project, called Casa Loma, occupied the whole block. I parked the car anyway and got out and walked down the street. Casa Loma was covered with scaffolding, and workmen were repairing cracks in the stucco. Even though the place didn’t look more than a few years old, it appeared very cheaply made, as if it were already falling apart. I noticed an old bungalow court complex across the street—the Loma Garden Apartments—now cordoned off with chain-link fencing, and I wandered over and looked into the courtyard. This was the sort of bungalow court complex where Ray and his mother would have lived, of the same vintage as the one that had been torn down across the way. The bungalow court was a style of apartment housing unique to Southern California: separate little units, often of vaguely Spanish design. There were, however, also Tudor bungalow courts, and mini–French chateau bungalow courts, and thatched-roofed English cottage bungalows, and Seven Dwarfs bungalows—the idea easily accommodating various styles because this, after all, was L.A., where no architecture was considered inappropriate or outlandish, and set designers who worked in the film business began influencing the architecture of the city, realizing their fantasies on a domestic scale. Bungalow court units were joined by common walkways and little garden areas, which allowed a sense of living not so much in apartments as in separate little houses. The idea was that in L.A. everyone should enjoy the outdoors, have a bit of garden, a little private paradise. But again the neighborhood was so changed that I could not feel, standing there in the late afternoon light with a homeless man diving through a dumpster nearby, anything of Chandler or the life he and his mother might have led here. It had become a run-down neighborhood, infused by a feeling of decay and an air of dispirited poverty.
I got in my car and drove back to Third Street and turned left, heading west into the fading sun. I felt like making one more stop before going home. I was curious to see the place where Julian and Cissy Pascal had lived. If it was still there. The Pascals had lived close enough that Ray and his mother could easily have visited them by taking a short trolley ride. Maybe they even owned a car by then. It’s not known when Ray got his first automobile, but what is known is he developed a lifelong love of cars.
Photo: Internet Book Archive, Flickr.
Warren Lloyd had a big convertible, and often he organized driving trips with various members of The Optimists. They’d take dirt roads through the unpopulated regions that lay between downtown and Beverly Hills, sometimes heading over Cahuenga Pass to the San Fernando Valley, which was then still farmland dotted with citrus groves. Sometimes they’d make a day of it and take a picnic—Warren and Alma, Ray and his mother, and Cissy and Julian—or they’d stop at the roadside inn at the base of Cahuenga and order a meal. Clearly Ray took to this aspect of life in Southern California—the world of cars and driving and motion, the possibility of moving oneself (caught in the very word automobile ) from one place to another with unprecedented ease, under one’s own control and powers, unlike the earlier conveyances, the horse-drawn carriages or even trains whose frequency and destination were beyond one’s control. It’s hard for us now to imagine the freshness of this idea for that first generation of drivers, the excitement the automobile must have engendered, and also the sense of freedom and pleasure it imparted to its owner, especially in a climate like Southern California’s where in an open car, motoring beside the sea or through the hills and sur rounding desert, you could so easily feel yourself an intimate part of the sunny and balmy world that encircled you.
But Chandler must also have sensed how there was an elusive quality here, something about the climate that cheated the senses by the very evenness of it all—the weather, the lack of pronounced seasons, the people who all walked alike and worked as if in a dream with no awareness of the passage of day, that peculiar lack of time and season, days and nights so alike in warmth and bright ness and beauty. One day Chandler would subvert all that brightness, making it dark, and turn L.A. into a city of rain-slicked avenues and dark banked canyons, where a powerful undertow of corruption ate away at everything, a kind of airless underworld composed of, in his own phrase, mean streets. The lovely drives in the sunny convertible with Warren and The Optimists would, in time, become excursions to run-down roadhouses or shacks on half-made roads at the city’s edge where drugged and helpless women awaited rescue by Philip Marlowe, and by then even the ocean would have turned ugly, like a fat washerwoman trudging home. But when the city was still new to him, it was immensely alluring, a city of imagination that could be reinvented with each dawning day.
At what point during those first five years that they knew each other, before Ray went off to war, when Cissy was still married to Julian and Ray was still living with his mother, had they realized they were in love and there was no turning back? Cissy made the decision to leave Julian for Ray during the time she lived in the house on Vendome, sometime early in 1919. It was a decision that upset Florence Chandler very much. She did not want Cissy to leave Julian Pascal, and even more, she did not want her to marry her son.
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