Day 151: Psalms Embalm

Located at the junction of the lower Colorado and Mojave deserts, Joshua Tree National Park is characterized by interesting geology and vegetation, including creosote bush and, of course, the Joshua tree. Laetitia led her group on some nature trail hikes. Some gossip overheard in the park about Arnold, a Marine from Twentynine Palms, and his girlfriend, Geraldine, provided the limerick of the day. Arnold, who was devout, had chosen the wrong text in his quest to get to know Geraldine biblically.

When Arnold from Twentynine Palms
Tries to woo Geraldine with the Psalms
She continues to long
For Solomon’s Song
The former, her libido, embalms.

Day 150: So-Cal Locale

Laetitia met her group in La Jolla (pronounced La Hoya), a lovely upscale seaside community a little north of San Diego. Raymond Chandler lived here toward the end of his writing career. Laetitia took her group to Balboa Park to the San Diego Zoo and gave them a few hours to go through it at their leisure before meeting at a designated location. As it neared time for the group to reassemble, one member of her group came back early. He told her his dream was to be the Raymond Chandler of the twenty-first-century and handed her his manuscript. Fortunately, the rest of her group returned and they all headed off to the Point Loma lighthouse before Laetitia had time to read more than the first paragraph:

“When Sue Smith married Kansas carpenter Sam Studfinder, she had no idea how aptly her newly acquired surname would suit their daughter, Stella, who would go on to survive a rebellious youth with only one illegitimate child. In Hollywood, Stella had used her marketable assets—a face that would make a lily wilt with envy and a penchant for marrying accident-prone men of means—to bankroll an escort service for lonely rich women. Her venture was so successful that she had soon accumulated a fortune large enough that she could afford to keep a pool boy for her birdbath. Now Stella was dead under mysterious circumstances. Just as I was drinking my first cup of coffee of the day and reading in the Times that Stella’s lawyer and alleged lover, Snively Scofflaw, was her sole beneficiary, her waif of a daughter turned up in my office after two days and nights on a bus from Kansas. When she tearfully begged for my assistance, I replied, perhaps prophetically, that I would help her or die trying.”

As near as Laetitia could tell, the new work resembled Raymond Chandler’s writing only in so far as it was written in the first person.

When the California Gold Rush dramatically increased the number of ships sailing its West Coast, the United States responded by building eight new lighthouses. Built in 1855, the Point Loma Lighthouse operated for 40 years before being replaced by a lighthouse closer to sea level that was more visible on foggy nights. The group visited the old lighthouse, which is 400 feet above sea level on the tip of Point Loma, before going off to dinner. They dined at a seaside restaurant with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. At a nearby table, a number of ladies from the Los Angeles area were gossiping about a friend named Ramona who had recently taken up yoga and liked to practice in her yard.

It shocked the whole town of Pomona
When doing yoga in public, Ramona
Raised her legs in the air
And proved to be bare
Naked beneath her kimono.

Day 149: Bay City Ditty

Like Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler was a member of the “hard-boiled” school of detective fiction writers. He was born in England to an English father and American mother. At some point his mother brought him to the United States. During the 1920s he was an oil company president in southern California. When the company failed during the depression, he began writing short stories for a pulp detective-fiction magazine calledBlack Mask. When his stories and his detective, Philip Marlowe, became popular, he wrote some novels. Some of them were made into movies like The Big Sleep, which starred Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Chandler’s stories are mostly set in southern California. Many of his settings are real places with fictional names like “Poodle Springs” for Palm Springs and “Bay City” for Santa Monica.

Laetitia met her group at the Guggenheim Museum. While they were touring the exhibits, a man in her group sidled up to her and whispered that he was a writer too, and wondered if she would read the beginning of his manuscript. It was only a few lines, so she sat on a bench to read it while the rest of the group viewed the things on display. It read:

“She said her name was Angel, and it sounded like she was looking for men interested in being missionaries. But there was something about that platinum blonde hair, those inch-long scarlet nails, that dress that would make the clerks at Frederick’s of Hollywood blush, and those four-inch spiked heels that didn’t add up. Maybe it was that while we often see angels in the City of Angels, we don’t see many missionaries. Or maybe what she actually said was something about men for the missionary position.”

When Laetitia handed the manuscript back, she said, “Angel could be a Raymond Chandler blonde, though he seemed to prefer ladies with lapis lazuli or cornflower blue eyes. Before the author could comment, the docent announced that the tour was over, and the group went back to Santa Monica, where they were spending the evening.

It was shocking to all Santa Monica
When a wife by the name of Veronica
Was had by her Fred
Though not in their bed
But in their yard near their Japonica.

Day 148: Kitsch Glitch

Built in 1772, the Mission at San Luis Obispo was one of seven missions founded by Father Junipero Cerra. The missions are a day’s ride apart along the southern California coast. With a mild year-around climate and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, the town of San Luis Obispo is a mecca for tourists and those who wish to reside there. The local residents have worked hard to discourage the kind of overdevelopment that has plagued other California communities and maintain the town’s attractiveness as a place to live. It has a thriving arts community and is home to a number of artists and writers.

For some reason Laetitia couldn’t fathom, more and more aspiring writers began showing up on her tours and asking her to comment on their work. She never knew what the people in the central office at Mind’s Eye Limerick Tours were up to. Perhaps they were touting these as some sort of literary tours. In any case, a man named Wayne showed up on this day’s tour with his manuscript in hand and asked her to read it. Since she was an attractive young woman, she couldn’t be sure Wayne wasn’t just hitting on her, but she started reading the manuscript anyway. It read:

“The clenched fist pounded with staccato blows of savage intensity, pummeling relentlessly until the thick scarlet liquid spattered, oozed, and finally gushed forth in a torrent, drowning the macerated flesh beneath. Wilmer sighed, replaced the cap on the now-empty catsup bottle, called his waitress, and asked her to take away the catsup-inundated hamburger and bring him another.”

Laetitia handed it back to him, saying, “Nice bait and switch, but hamburger lovers will hate you for calling their favorite food macerated flesh.”

That evening Laetitia and her group stayed at the Madonna Inn, known worldwide for its rather garish décor. At dinner Laetitia overheard a conversation that gave her the limerick of the day.

When Jake and LaVonne went to sin
With a tryst at the Madonna Inn
He thought it was dandy
For kitsch made him randy
But she viewed the place with chagrin.