Palace Flophouse Grill

The view from near the site of the Palace Flophouse Grill
with Monterey Bay in the distance.
Note the cypress-tree, mentioned in the passage below.

  When you leave the grocery, if you walk catty-cornered across the grass-grown lot, threading your way among the great rusty pipes thrown out of the canneries, you will see a path worn in the weeds. Follow it past the cypress-tree, across the railroad track, up a chicken-walk with cleats, and you will come to a long low building which for a long time was used as a storage place for fish meal. It was just a great big roofed room and it belonged to a worried gentleman named Horace Abbeville.
  "You know that place of mine across the track up there where the fish meal is?"
  Lee Chong nodded. It was his fish meal.
  Horace said earnestly: "If I was to give you that place ­ would it clear me up with you?"
  Lee Chong tilted his head back and stared at Horace through his half-glasses while his mind flicked among the accounts and his right hand moved restlessly to the abacus. He considered the construction which was flimsy and the lot which might be valuable if a cannery ever wanted to expand.  "Shu," said Lee Chong.
  They finished the deal with dignity and Lee Chong threw in a quarter-pint of Old Tennis Shoes. And then Horace Abbeville walking very straight went across the lot and past the cypress-tree and across the track and up the chicken-walk and into the building that had been his, and he shot himself on a heap of fish meal.

Edited from Chapter I of "Cannery Row"

The view from near the site of the Palace Flophouse and Grill with the Pacific Ocean in the distance. Note the branches of the cypress-tree

  Now Lee Chong owned the Abbeville building -- a good roof, a good floor, two windows and a door. True it was piled high with fish meal and the smell of it was delicate and penetrating.
 He was tapping the rubber mat with his gold ring and considering the problem when the door opened and Mack came in. Mack was the elder, leader, mentor, and to a small extent the exploiter of a little group of men who had in common no families, no money, and no ambitions beyond food, drink, and contentment. But whereas most men in their search for contentment destroy themselves and fall wearily short of their targets, Mack and his friends approached contentment casually, quietly, and absorbed it gently. Mack and Hazel, a young man of great strength, Eddie who filled in as a bar-tender at La Ida, Hughie and Jones who occasionally collected frogs and cats for Western Biological, were currently living in those large rusty pipes in the lot next to Lee Chong's. That is, they lived in the pipes when it was damp, but in fine weather they lived in the shadow of the black cypress-tree at the top of the lot. The limbs folded down and made a canopy under which a man could lie and look out at the flow and vitality of Cannery Row.
  Lee Chong stiffened ever so slightly when Mack came in and his eyes glanced quickly about the store to make sure that Eddie or Hazel or Hughie or Jones had not come in too and drifted away among the groceries.
  Mack laid out his cards with a winning honesty. "Lee," he said, "I and Eddie and the rest heard you own the Abbeville place."
  Lee Chong nodded and waited.
  "I and my friends thought we'd ast you if we could move in there. We'll keep up the property," he added quickly. "Wouldn't let anybody break in or hurt anything. Kids might knock out the windows, You know--" Mack suggested. "Place might burn down if somebody don't keep an eye on it."
  Lee tilted his head back and looked into Mack's eyes through the half-glasses and Lee's tapping finger slowed its tempo as he thought deeply. In Mack's eyes there was good will and good fellowship and a desire to make everyone happy. Why then did Lee Chong feel slightly surrounded? Why did his mind pick its way as delicately as a cat through cactus? It had been sweetly done, almost in a spirit of philanthropy. Lee's mind leaped ahead at the possibilities ­ no, they were probabilities, and his finger tapping slowed still further. He saw himself refusing Mack's request and he saw the broken glass from the windows. Then Mack would offer a second time to watch over and preserve Lee's property ­ and at the second refusal, Lee could smell the smoke, could see the little flames creeping up the walls. Mack and his friends would try to help to put it out. Lee's finger came to a gentle rest on the change-mat. He was beaten. He knew that. There was left to him only the possibility of saving face, and Mack was likely to be very generous about that. Lee said: "You like pay lent my place? You like live there same hotel?"
  Mack smiled broadly and he was generous. ''Say---" he cried. "That's an idear. Sure. How much?"
  Lee considered. He knew it didn't matter what he charged. He wasn't going to get it, anyway. He might just as well make it a really sturdy face-saving sum. "Fi' dolla' week," said Lee.
  Mack played it through to the end. "I'll have to talk to the boys about it," he said dubiously. "Couldn't you make that four dollars a week?"
  "Fi' dolla'," said Lee firmly.
  "Well, I'll see what the boys say," said Mack.
  And that was the way it was. Everyone was happy about it. And if it be thought that Lee Chong suffered a total loss, at least his mind did not work that way. The windows were not broken. Fire did not break out, and while no rent was ever paid, if the tenants ever had any money, and quite often they did have, it never occurred to them to spend it anywhere except at Lee Chong's grocery.
  The boys moved in and the fish-meal moved out. No one knows who named the house that has been known ever after as the Palace Flophouse Grill. In the pipes and under the cypres-tree there had been no room for furniture and the little niceties which are not only the diagnoses but the boundaries of our civilization. Once in the Palace Flophouse, the boys set about furnishing it.

Edited from Chapter I of "Cannery Row"


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