The Part about Vertigo

How can I explain the part about Vertigo? In a way it doesn’t really fit with the other things that I planned to put in Ed Marker’s 1968 box; but in another way it is absolutely critical to understanding the origin of his idea for mapping the strange phenomena of the Tenderloin.

As it turns out, the flower shop where James (and now Ed) work is the same Podesto Baldocchi Florist where Kim Novak buys a nosegay of roses to put at the grave of the mysterious Carlotta Valdes in Hitchcock’s movie Vertigo. Ed of course, having very little knowledge of art and film knows nothing of this—has never heard of the film or Hitchcock for that matter.

So one day, James and Ed do some windowpane acid and they go to a matinee at the Alhambra Theater to see a screening of Vertigo. The movie, of course, is about a man obsessed with the idea of recreating a past that does not exist. When the part comes where Jimmy Stewart follows Kim Novak to the alleyway and through the back door that opens onto the flower shop, the very shop where they now work; James whispers in Ed’s ear, “This is where we were born.” Not understanding the reference, this blows Ed’s mind for the rest of the film.

After the movie, Ed is still high but starting to come down. James pulls a hand drawn map from his back pocket. He says to Ed, “Come on, you be Jimmy Stewart and I’ll be Kim Novak.” James walks about a block in front of Ed and motions for him to follow. They walk down Polk to Sacramento and then up to the front gate of the Mark Hopkins, across from the Brocklebank apartments. From there they begin to retrace the path of the movie. They take the route that Hitchcock lays out in the film that leads to Claude Lane and to the back door of the flower shop. “This is where we were born,” James says to Ed pointing to the place on the map that marks the location of the Alhambra Theater, “and this is where I died,” he says as he turns the map over to reveal his draft notification. They stand there silently at the back door that opens to Podesto Baldocchi’s. (But of course this is not the real back door to the flower shop; the real flower shop is several blocks away on Grant Street, and there is no back door to Podesto Baldocchi’s. This place is only an illusion that Hitchcock creates for the story.)

Ed is transformed by this moment, but not in the “then and there” of it. Only later, after James’ death, in a reality far from a Hollywood editing room and their playful make believe game, does this memory become a part of a wound that defines his life.

“There are all sorts of portals and time trips in Hitchcock’s films,” James tells Ed when they come down from their high. “That’s why Hitchcock loved San Francisco so much; Hitchcock understood how the city fucks with your mind.”

And so Ed Marker’s idea about the Tenderloin holding some hidden plan of the universe can be traced back to this memory. Whether or not he remembers the exact details of this event is uncertain. It is possible that he has altered the details of the story over time.