The SF “Dash-eel” Hammett Tour

“When you’re slapped, you’ll take it and like it.”

Sam Spade “The Maltese Falcon”

If you have a free afternoon, ten bucks, and any interest in San Francisco literary history, go on Don Herron’s super-informative Dashiell (pronounced Dash-eel, not Dash-shell) Hammett walkabout. I know, geeky. But seriously. Go. Don was especially cool and super up on his mystery fiction, giving proper props to Hammett as the second most influential mystery writer in America. Because we all know who came first. When he asked if anyone knew, me and a pasty, slightly crazed Goth guy shot our hands in the air yelping “Oh oh oh!!!  Poe! It was Poe. POE!” When Don cautiously acknowledged that we were correct, we shared a knowing smirk and made fun of the east coast tourists who said Chandler. Ha! Losers…

Anyway, I decided to go for several reasons… among them:

1) I couldn’t write and needed to get out of the house.

2) Next to “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (“Can I call you Fred, dahling?”) and “Shawshank”, it’s one of my all-time favorite movies.

3) I wrote a paper about misogyny and gender play on Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon and love the book more than the film, which is saying something.

Now this is tour isn’t for slouches. It’s four hours long and you walk several miles (mostly in the Tenderloin) but you are rewarded with amazing bits of SF historical insight.

Like 620 Eddy Street… a very pretty building in the Tenderloin where Hammett lived with his wife and daughters… he paid about 45.00 a month for rent. He also rented a room down the street (it’s a playground now) when his tuberculosis acted up.

Then he lived up the street on Post… in the top floor, right corner apartment. That’s where he wrote about the black bird… this is walking distance from my apartment. Cool no? No?! That’s what I thought. Hell yes it’s cool. Unfortunately this apartment was taken by a wealthy fellow who has since restored it and no longer lets people visit it. Boo.

Top right corner…

Now the coolest part was when we got to the plaque on Bush Street, across from Dashiell Hammett Place, know where I’m talking about? Near Tunnel Top and the Green Door Massage Parlour?

Well, as it turns out, the Green Door wasn’t there back in 1941… that whole building wasn’t there… and you can see where the moldings change and the cement is new. Before, it was a steep ditch where Brigid O’Shaugnessey shot Archer in the film. And the plaque gets you close to the spot, but if you go down the alley, you get right to the spot where Bogart raced down at 2a.m. after getting the call Archer was murdered. Standing there, with Don and Goth Boy and the dumb Chandler tourists, I just kept thinking… I wonder if Bogart was a diva on set. His freak outs would have happened right about… here. I then realized the group was watching me laugh out loud to myself so I made an excuse and awkwardly departed.

Just kidding. Not really.

But… considering he wasn’t deemed leading man material at this point in his career, it’s unlikely. He was still coming up in his career and hardly a star before “Maltese”. In fact, he’s considered the actor, whilst donning sport-dork white shorts and tennies, responsible for coining the phrase “Tennis anyone?” As a part-time, hack actor, I find solace in knowing that Bogart had to play small time dork parts before hitting his iconic status with this film.

Mr. Animal Magnetism. Tennis anyone? Gotta start somewhere…


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Filed under Arts and Letters, Fun Stuff, Writers on Writing

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