I was reading the letters of Fitzgerald and near the end of the collection I came across an address not too far away in West Hollywood, on North Hayworth, just off the Sunset Strip and not far from Schwab's Drugstore.
Fitzgerald actually lived in a two-floor apartment on North Laurel, not Hayworth, but after heart trouble he moved in with journalist Sheila Graham, a block away at the North Hayworth address, because Graham's apartment was just one floor, and Scott couldn't do any climbing.
Anyway, I decided to visit the North Hayworth address. This was many years ago, mind you, a summer evening, if I recall. I carried the book of letters – which included the number or letter of the apartment unit – with me.
I passed Schwab's, which was only a minute or two walk from either the North Laurel or North Hayward apartments. I had wondered if Fitzgerald ever spent time at Schwab's – the sort of `in' place he might have written about at one time – and later read that he had suffered his first of two heart attacks at Schwab's. The second would be fatal.
I'm not sure what I had in mind when I approached the North Hayworth apartment, a nice conservative building, by the way, more Midwestern or Eastern than Californian.
Holding the book, I rang the bell. A middle-aged man in a cardigan sweater opened the door. Behind him I could see a dark haired woman sitting on a couch. They had been having a drink.
There was a fireplace with a white mantle and behind the couch was a large built-in bookcase, running acroos the back wall of the living room. It was filled with books and I quickly spotted the Fitzgerald collection of letters, bracketed by ``Tender Is the Night'' and other Fitzgerald novels. It all seemed surreal.
I said, ``So you know. . . ?''
The man replied, understandably with a tone of caution and suspicion, ``Know what?''
``That F. Scott Fitzgerald once lived here. I see some of his books.''
The woman stood up. ``Fitzgerald lived here?'' She gasped it. She had soft green eyes.
``Look at the book of his letters, on page – ''
The man glanced at my book then fetched his copy of the letters and paged through it furoiusly as the woman looked over his shoulder. ``My God, how did we miss that? We love Fitzgerald He might have written that letter sitting in this room,'' he said.
``Perhaps. And he died here.''
``Died here? Scott Fitzgerald died here?'' the woman said with a hand to her chest.
``That's what I've been told.'' I felt a bit insensitive bringing that up so quickly. Still, I found myself saying, because I'd heard it to be the case, ``I think in this room. By the fireplace.''
We sat and talked about Fitzgerald – they knew much more than I did – and had a drink and looked around the room with curiosity. Everything seemed to slow down. The couple moved carefully, almost formally, as they saw me to the door. The apartment was obviously now different to them.
I've always wondered, a bit guiltily, if I changed their lives in some way – that perhaps the knowledge of Fitzgerald living and dying in their apartment made them stay forever, or perhaps leave quickly. In some way it had to have changed them.
Schwab's was torn down in 1983. The apartment is still there.
Causes Steve Hauk Supports
City of Pacific Grove Public Library, Pacific Grove, California; Animal Friends Rescue Project, Pacific Grove; Animal Welfare Information and Assistance,...