Photos by Lou Boxer
It was a classic Goodis day. Amid the biting January cold, Goodisheads gathered to remember the Prince of Noir.
There were three of them sitting on the pavement with their backs against the wall of the flophouse. It was a biting cold night in November and they sat there close together trying to get warm. The went wind from the river came knifing through the street to cut their faces and get inside of their bones, but they didn’t seem to mind. They were discussing a problem that had nothing to do with the weather. In their mind it was a serious problem, and as they talked their eyes were solemn and tactical. They were trying to find a method of obtaining some alcohol.
---Street of No Return---opening paragraph
Read by Ed Pettit
After clearing the snow covered grave, we retreated to the Mausoleum, where we were threatened with expulsion if we conducted a service.
Instead we had an observance, where we read quotes from the Prince of Noir. “Well–” she groped for an answer. “We can’t get nowhere,” he said. “Can’t take a chance with the streets, there’s too much Law. They’re on Burton, they’re on Second, they’re all over. Only thing we can do is stay in these alleys, and I swear if it gets any colder–” “It can’t,” she tried to say it lightly, with humor. “It can’t get any colder than this.”
-Fire in the Flesh, Gold Medal 1957
Read by Cullen Gallagher
We walked to the grave to pray.
Della pushed the gun at him.
"Stand back. You try to take it from me and I'll pull the trigger. Then I'll pull it on myself.
Harbin felt very weak. He leaned against the edge of the bed. "You want me that much?"
"There's nothing else I want."
read by Aaron Finestone
We drove through the grimiest streets of the decaying city to visit the house where Goodis wrote and looked up to the room where he slept.
We drove past the hospital where he died, the place he played pool, and the junior high where he studied. We stopped at the vacant lot that was his childhood home.
We drank a toast.
The desk became a smaller desk, in a classroom at Birney Grammar School. He was in the sixth grade and it was another dismal Friday when they were having the weekly arithmetic tests. It wasn't that he didn't know his arithmetic. Actually it was his favorite subject and he was one of the best in the class.
---Of Tender Sin
We stopped at the Birney School which he attended and then to Port Richmond Books for wine and cheese and a visit to the genisa of lost books.
Finally, off to Atlantis, a neighborhood bar in Kensington--across from a brewery. Over kielbasa and sauerkraut--oh so Goodis--we celebrated another spectacular plunge into noir.
A hint of the Maltese Falcon.
Only the piano player was missing.
Tribute by Louis Boxer
Many have called me a pervert, a deviant, a masochist and a hack.
I would much rather prefer being called a man of mystery, a loner and a forgotten soul.
I am an artist, a writer, a joker, a non-conformist, a brother, a son and a lover.
To my family, I am a doting brother, a loving son and a charismatic cousin.
To my friends, I am the ultimate prankster always searching for the shocking, off-color and bizarre.
I have been described as having a Jekyll and Hyde personality – self-obsessed, eccentric, reclusive, sentimental, forgettable, mild-mannered, manic depressive, charming, tender-hearted and innocuous. [correspondence with Sandy Schwartz]
Sure, I had my idiosyncrasies and obsessions, but who doesn’t?
My productivity was prolific even legendary! 10,000 words a day, 1,000,000 words a year with my two fingered typing.
Initially I sought to write solemnly and handle only the important issues. But of course the most important issue of all is putting food in one’s belly and in order to that I deviated from the track most of the time and complied with the wishes of my editors and publishers, I admit that was a weakness. I threw away a lot of time in Hollywood, although I must admit I had a lot of fun in Hollywood.[William Sherman correspondence]
I am an enigma, a riddle, a master of disguise. I am a chameleon and I can change my color to suit any social situation. I live and breathe the human condition.
In my world, Good doesn’t always win over Evil. You are on your own in this world. Alone. What happens is sometimes sheer luck or circumstance; it depends how you react or what you can get away with.
Losers are losers. For us there is no comfortable redemption nor faith to sustain any reason in an unreasonable world. There is no escape.
In our wretched condition, where today and tomorrow are a living hell, there must be violence. For violence frees us from our loneliness and fear. Though it I am able to feel! To live.
I hold firm to the belief that the greatest works of art are those wherein the artist is unmindful of the time and effort spent and concerned only with the goal of creating a thing of truth and loveliness and perfection. [Correspondence with Anita Halpern Rosenau]
Maybe I wanted this mystery to surround my death and life. Maybe I never really gave it any thought. This was the hand I was dealt and I played it to the fullest. Win, lose or draw. I lost.
Was it the beating I received from the muggers outside of Linton’s cafeteria that frigid night in January 1967, or shoveling snow during the big storm of the winter of 1967 or my genetic make-up finally catching up with me that brought me to Roosevelt Cemetery some 44 years ago?
No matter. At last I am with my beloved mother, father and brother for all of eternity.
I am David Goodis.
I am a writer.
A Psalm of Life
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Read by Andrew Kevorkian
Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou are, to dust thou returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, - act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sand of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solenm main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
Salute to a scribe by Molly Eichel, Philadelphia Daily News