Chapter 3 Summary
Chapter 3 begins with a map of how Cannery Row is organized. To the right of the "vacant" lot (inaptly named because it is filled with non-working appliances, timber, and other junk) is Lee Chong's grocery. Behind the lot and across the set of railroad tracks is the Palace Flophouse. To the left of the lot is Dora Flood's whorehouse.
"The Bear Flag" may be technically illegal but it is far from an eye-sore. Dora's house is clean and well-managed. Dora has been in the business for an astonishing fifty years, first as a working girl and then as a madam. She maintains her business by being tactful and honest, but perhaps most importantly, by maintaining a "certain realism." That realism is that human beings will engage in sexual activity and it is impossible to prevent it from happening. For this, Dora is hated by the more "respectable" women of the town whose husbands are mostly dutiful but "don't like it very much."
Dora has standards that help her survive in her profession. All of her girls are "one price," thus eliminating bargaining among patrons and reducing jealousy among the girls. She does not sell any hard liquor and does not tolerate a foul mouth. These strictures help keep the peace. As for the girls, she does not dispose of them when they become to old or ill to work and for this reason, among others, she maintains both their loyalty and respect.
Because her trade is not actually legal, Dora must be very careful. In addition to making sure there are no fights or drunks on her property, she pays her taxes and contributes to all manner of charitable needs. Her girls are the epitome of discretion concerning their clientele. Any man in town knows that his visit will be kept strictly confidential.
Most of Dora's employees find a happy haven to call both home and work but just as in other professions, not everyone fits in and sometimes the reason is never quite clear. Once Dora had a bouncer named William. He could never make friends, though he tried very hard, especially with Mack and the boys. One day, he overheard Mack calling him a pimp, which greatly hurt his feelings. William was not a pimp; he was a bouncer.
After overhearing this painful comment, William went to Dora. He said he was going to "bump himself off." Having heard lots of crazy talk in her time, Dora brushed him away. William then told the big Greek cook, Kits, the same thing. Kits said he hears men say such things all the time but they never carry through. William blanched internally. He felt this was a challenge from which he could not back down. And even though now it "seemed silly," William stabbed himself in the heart with an icepick.