This haunts me — Philip Marlowe, the hardboiled detective of author Raymond Chandler’s oeuvre, is 42-years-old and was born in Santa Rosa, Calif.. If I weren’t such a fan, these fictional factoids would be of little interest to me. But I am, so they are, and having chanced upon them only recently has caused no end of soul searching this past week. To wit, I’m going to admit something in pixels and print that perhaps I shouldn’t:
Despite bragging hither and yon about being a Petaluman, born and bred — I was actually born in Santa Rosa.
Don’t hate me because I’m mutable. It was just always easier to say “Petaluma” when asked where it all started, since I’ve lived here, off and on, for like 42 percent of a century. And frankly, I never thought claiming a Santa Rosan birthright was worth a damn until last week when I learned that Chandler’s creativity, and Marlowe’s nativity, coalesced in a suburb just a few miles up the 101.
To fully appreciate this, you must understand the whole journo-P.I. relationship. As I’ve often mused, the type of schmuck attracted to the private eye racket is the same as that for journalism — it’s a spectrum disorder, with, say, “merchant marine with a Moleskine” perhaps on the far side and something more genteel like “newspaper columnist with a hangover” on the nearside. It’s the difference of being possessed of either a wandering soul or a wandering mind.
Private dicks are in the middle, and I swear that was going to be my next stop had I not found gainful employment as a public dick stretching my column inches as far as they would take me. Which, at present writing, is right back where I started. In fact, I write for a paper which is now the sister paper of the one at which I began, so I’ve either come-full-circle or am stuck in an enormous rut, treading a rat wheel I’ve mistaken for a career.