Tuesday

Jul. 23, 2013

Mediterranean

by Rosanna Warren

The text for this poem is no longer available.

"Mediterranean" by Rosanna Warren, from Ghost in a Red Hat. © Norton, 2011. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It was on this day in 1903 that the Ford Motor Company sold its first car, a two-cylinder Model A. It was sold to a Chicago dentist named Ernst Pfenning, who paid $850 for it. The Model A was painted red, with a seat that fit two people, and no roof. It reached 28 mph at top speed. The Ford Motor Company had organized just a month earlier. There were 12 stockholders, including Henry Ford himself, who was also the vice president and chief engineer.

Ford had $28,000 in investment funds, but by the time the first Model A was sold, the company had just $224 left in the bank. Fewer than 2,000 Model As sold during the two years the car was manufactured, but it was enough to make the Ford Motor Company profitable.

In 1908, five years after selling the first Model A, Ford rolled out its Model T, and the company truly took off. The Model T was the first car produced on assembly lines, and Ford marketed it to the middle class.

It's the birthday of Raymond Chandler (books by this author), born in Chicago (1888). His parents were Irish, and after his father left the family, his mother moved them back to Ireland, and he grew up there and in England. Later, he moved back to America and settled in California.

He wrote pulp fiction about the city of Los Angeles and a detective there named Philip Marlowe. Chandler's first novel was The Big Sleep (1939), which sold well and was made into a movie in 1946 with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall — William Faulkner co-wrote the screenplay. Chandler wrote seven more novels featuring Philip Marlowe, who became the quintessential "hard-boiled" private eye, tough and street-smart and full of wise cracks. In Farewell, My Lovely (1940), Marlowe says: "I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun."

Chandler was never any good at coming up with plots. He had to study and steal from other mystery writers like Dashiell Hammett. But he knew how to create atmosphere. One of his early stories, "Red Wind" (1938), begins: "There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that ... meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen."

Chandler is famous for his metaphors. In one novel he wrote, "She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looked by moonlight." In another he wrote, "She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









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