Day 212: Recluse or Moose

Laetitia sat sipping coffee in the library of the Emerald Victorian as she looked at a map of Wyoming, the state she had chosen for the day’s tour. She knew that conventional tour directors sometimes devise games for the guests to play, particularly on days when there are long bus rides between destinations. Mind’s Eye Limerick Tours has no such obligatory long bus rides, but she thought a game would be fun anyway. The game was that half of the group would go to the Wyoming town of Recluse and the remainder would go to the town of Moose.

Though she suspected that the latter was named for the presence or past presence in the area of a large bovine mammal, she preferred to think of the residents as being gigantic like Moose Malloy, Raymond Chandler’s character in Farewell, My Lovely. Chandler described Moose as “not more than six feet five inches tall and not wider than a beer truck,” and “He wore … a rough gray sports coat with white golf balls on it for buttons.” Moose was, of course, a thug, which, as far as Laetitia knew, none of the inhabitants of Moose, Wyoming, actually were.

The game was to interview the residents of each town and determine how many shy and retiring people lived in Recluse and how many of gigantic people in Moose. A percentage for each town would be calculated by dividing the number of reclusive or gigantic people observed in each respective town by its population. The two teams would meet in the afternoon in the lobby of Old Faithful Lodge in Yellowstone National Park. At dinner, each team would present their results, and the team with the highest percentage would be declared the winner. This study was somewhat short on scientific rigor, and since it was an imaginary tour was likely to produce imaginary results. Also, as games go it was rather lame, but Laetitia had been on the go for several months and relished having a few hours to relax in the lounge of Old Faithful Lodge while her guests were off on their respective missions.

The two groups recombined that afternoon, and Laetitia took them on a brief tour of the area around Old Faithful Lodge. They watched Old Faithful erupt several times, hiked to view some hot springs, and enjoyed the bison and elk herds that roamed nearby. They read the signs warning guests not to try to pet the bison and elk since they were not tame.

At dinner, the Recluse group conceded defeat. They said that when they entered the town, the streets were empty. Occasionally a curtain would move, indicating that people were watching, but none ventured out. A man blundered out into the street as they were about to leave, but he acted so shy and seemingly confused that they couldn’t do an interview, and he quickly dashed back into the house. Moose did, in fact, have several very large residents who looked like they might be descendants of Paul Bunyan, though none came close to being as wide as a beer truck. After presenting the limerick, Laetitia stopped in Recluse on the way home. It was a small, unincorporated community with little more than a school, a post office, and a few businesses. Its residents seemed perfectly normal. She suspected that the folks from her group who went to Recluse had very active imaginations.

The group found them shy or obtuse
Those folks who reside in Recluse
They’re somewhat retiring
And not awe-inspiring
Unlike the gigantic people from Moose.

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.