The bar was pretty empty. Three booths down a couple of sharpies were selling each other pieces of Twentieth Century-Fox, using double-arm gestures instead of money. They had a telephone on the table between them and every two or three minutes would play the match game to see who called Zanuck with a hot idea. They were young, dark, eager and full of vitality. They put as much muscular activity into a telephone conversation as I would put into carrying a fat man up four flights of stairs. There was a sad fellow over on a barstool talking to the bartender, who was polishing a glass and listening with that plastic smile people wear when they are trying not to scream. The customer was middle-aged, handsomely dressed, and drunk. He wanted to talk and he couldn’t have stopped even if he hadn’t really wanted to talk. He was polite and friendly and when I heard him he didn’t seem to slur his words much, but you knew that he got up on the bottle and only let go of it when he fell asleep at night. He would be like that for the rest of his life and that was what his life was. You would never know how he got that way because even if he told you it would not be the truth. At the very best a distorted memory of the truth as he knew it. There is a sad man like that in every quiet bar in the world.
Raymond Chandler on the American language and LA: courtesy of Chuck Thegze
I have had a lot of fun with the American language; it has fascinating idioms, is constantly creative, very much like the English of Shakespeare’s time, its slang and argot are wonderful, and so on. But I have lost Los Angeles. It is no longer the place I knew so well and was almost the first to put on paper. I have the feeling, not very unusual, that I helped create the town and then was pushed out of it by the operators. I can hardly find my way around any longer.
Raymond Chandler c1957, La Jolla, California, in a letter to John Houseman, cited in The Atlantic, August, 1965