"My work may be garbage but it's good garbage." Mickey Spillane
The place that he lived was a shock.
Despite the visions he had encouraged me to have, and I am certain that my youthful imagination had added a bit of extra glamor to, the reality was far different.
His home was a rundown beach cottage on a tidal pond across from a bird sancutary. Crates of aging Life magazines, Saturday Evening Posts, and various Golden Age pulps took up most of the space in the living room. Bookshelves lined the walls, but they were built from stacked up fruit crates like you usually see in supermarkets when stocking is in progress.
Going through a door to the right led to the bedroom with the bathroom at the far end and a tiny slip of a kitchen that looked more like a modified hallway than an actual kitchen. Beyond the kitchen was a tiny room that always felt odd and uncomfortable to me. The kind of reaction you read about in ghost stories, but never really expect to encounter.
The cottage was one of a cluster of four such. The driveway into the cluster had broken glass strewn over it. I discovered later that the landlord, who was an over the top curmudgeon, deliberately dumped broken glass there to discourage people from using it to turn around.
Our neighbor in the cottage to the right, Helen, was the area’s best-loved bar girl. I once watched Helen rip a revolver out of a drunken marine’s hand as he was shooting a rival’s truck to pieces, tongue-lash him into submission, and remove the remaining rounds from the gun before handing it back to him.
The cottage on the other side of us was occupied by a group of hippie-style dopers. I never did figure out what they did for a living.
The cattie-corner cottage was empty when I arrived, and was not rented out for several months.
Ours was the only one with a decent-sized front porch. The boards had long since lost their paint, but you could see from the sides of the house that it had all once been white.
A broken, rotting fishing wharf jutted out into the tidal lake directly out from the little enclave. Most of the surviving boards were either broken or rotting, but I could walk on the edges if I was careful. Unattached posts, thick and heavy, suggested that the wharf had once been twice its remaining length.
Needless to say, none of this was what I had expected from an ‘editor-in-chief.’
The reasons for the squalor would become clear over the next few weeks.
I should have listened to Jessica.