The annual RETREAT TO GOODISVILLE was held on January 7, 2012, the 45th anniversary of the death of acclaimed noir writer DAVID GOODIS. This is the preamble to November’s NoirCon. Both events are organized by Lou Boxer (@noircon).
It was my pleasure to join the tour as a designated femme fatale in my vintage hat and Ann Taylor duds. When I noticed the tear in my thigh-high stockings, I decided it added to the mystique of what a Goodis dame would be like in person. His women were rough around the edges. They were well-used, often drunks and worked their sexuality like most women of the pulp genre. This was my second year on the tour through the Philadelphia landmarks of Goodis’ life and I’m always learning more.
I took it upon myself to be the unofficial social secretary of the tour since I was the femme fatale. I could easily fill the role of an advertising executive’s mistress. For today’s age, I modernized my part and was sure to Foursquare each stop sending posts to Facebook and Twitter with hashtag #goodis. Somehow I managed to miss the group photo under the Ben Franklin Bridge. Not sure how that happened!
The group met up at THE LOST BAR OF ATLANTIS to board the bus. Fans from the local metro area and up the east coast as far as Rhode Island got to know each other on our way to the ROOSEVELT MEMORIAL PARK where Goodis and his family members are interred. Several people took the opportunity to read passages, poems or tributes to Goodis at his graveside. Last year, literary scholar Ed Pettit had created a slam style poem using only Goodis titles so all the new tour attendees got the chance to hear it in person. I read the only passage of CASSIDY’S GIRL that had any happiness or joy in it. It was a part when bus driver Cassidy had finally discovered a new love and was deciding to leave his miserable marriage in a paragraph filled with visuals of the drive from Philadelphia to Easton along the Delaware River on a sunny day. I think the passage was fitting especially this year when we were graced with the most gorgeous weather anyone used to Mid-Atlantic winters could expect. The sun was shining, people were leaving their coats on the bus and flasks were flowing with a variety of whiskey.
We did get to see the one Goodis house which still stands. It’s in the East Oak Lane neighborhood. The current homeowner may have been surprised at a bus unloading in front of his house but he was courteous and let us have our fun. The bus made its way to the Logan neighborhood in which the blocks of one Goodis residence and his former neighbors have been leveled. It’s a bit sad and depressing to the see the site but Goodis fans take this spot as an opportunity to raise a flask, make a toast and drink to our departed icon. There’s also the tradition of taking a group photo by the cement median blocking the former street where we proudly join the ranks of “True Thugs 4 Life.” None of us were quite sure what the appropriate noir gang hand symbol was. In fact, since I’m from Jersey, I asked if there was a special Jersey sign that shows the cringeworthy notoriety of today’s “Jersey thug” also known as the “Jersey douche.” I was informed the “duck lips” pose for women as frequently seen on Facebook was appropriate. Yes, I laughed and I sighed but I couldn’t bring myself to make the faux botox smoochy duck lip face when I was surrounded by some exceptionally cool people that I didn’t want alienate.
I was not aware of what to expect at THE TRESTLE INN considering co-host Duane Swierczynski made it sound like the regulars of the joint would be packing heat, dealing drugs on the corner as we enter and a mugging very likely. The Trestle may have had the reputation at one point but now it is a revamped modern go-go and burlesque club. We sat at the bar entertained by a solo go-go dancer in a black minidress. She wiggled her hips and bounced her ravishing raven hair. I siddled up to partners in crime, Pettit and Swierczynski to have my first taste of an Old Fashioned. I know it’s a bourbon based drink and has some tasty bitters but I have to confess, I don’t remember much of The Trestle Inn after the first three drinks.
I was actually prepared to host a small trivia contest but since we successfully sold all the raffle tickets, it was decided all I needed to do was pull the winning numbers. At which point, I dropped the pile of tickets no less than four times in my utter failure of dexterity.
After The Trestle Inn there was one more stop but I was in no condition to hop to BONKS bar. I turned over my keys and was escorted some place quiet to sober up before my two-hour journey back to my country estate in New Jersey.
Looking back on the day, I am delighted to report that I feel my relationship with Goodis has grown significantly since 2011. David Goodis lead an interesting life which was partially spent in Hollywood writing screenplays for Warner Brothers. It’s actually his family life and personal relationships that I find captivating. His brother Herbert was an undiagnosed schizophrenic. David never gave up on Herbert. He did have to spend some years living on the west coast but he made sure Herbert was in his life. When David returned to Philadelphia, he wouldn’t hide his brother from society. Herbert was perfectly able to stand by his successful brother’s side in typical 1950’s Americana.
David Goodis was also a non-conformist in his choice of female companions. He was married and divorced from an attractive woman name Elaine Astor. One reason that marriage might not have been destined to last is that Goodis was more attracted to black women. The American Civil Rights Movement was trying to break down barriers to get African-Americans the most basic forms of equality but the racism of the day would have surely forbid the white Jewish Goodis from openly marrying a woman like artist Selma Burke who he courted privately for many years. He also had an appreciation for a fuller, more matronly figure of the female form. Some may describe him a “chubby chaser” preferring obese women but from the photos I’ve seen, the women were rather average around 150 pounds.
There are only a few landmarks left of Goodis’ Philadelphia. The old pool hall he frequented is long gone. His Logan neighborhood’s topography has been drastically changed. The City of Brotherly Love doesn’t necessarily feel warm and welcoming, not to a person like myself. That doesn’t mean I won’t come back to participate in more Noir education; and one never knows… maybe I’ll get to plan the D-Con Tour of Swierczynski landmarks.