Posted by: Brad Nixon | April 4, 2010


Fiction is sometimes stranger than truth. One of the foundational notions of this blog is that the real world — especially the quotidian world that is accessible to all of us — is just as interesting as fiction, and worthy of daily comment. We all share the conviction that everywhere one looks, wherever one goes and whomever one meets, one encounters fascinating facts, tales, backgrounds — if only we have the time to observe, to ask, and to relate. There’s an inexhaustible supply of interesting stuff if we just have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.

When truth and fiction collide, all the better. What compelling story, novel, TV drama or movie doesn’t have somewhere within the crux of the conflict some differential between what a character thinks is true or says is true and what is actually the case? Every mystery story, every crime drama, every sitcom relies on this sort of conflict between supposed truth and actuality. Ichabod Crane doesn’t believe in the tales about Headless Horseman until he encounters him late at night on that dark country road. The Ancient Mariner has a hard time getting his point across until he can convince the Wedding Guest that his tale is true. And good old Ishmael, who will believe his yarn about Ahab and a whale?

Me, I’m a believer. Had I been the one the Mariner collared outside the wedding, I’d’ve never made it into the church before the vows were repeated. I’m a sucker for a great story. And I always buy it. So, several years ago, after we bought Rancho Retro and needed to have some of the wood floor repaired, I was a setup job for the old gentleman who came to do the work (click on a photo for larger image).

Rancho Retro parquet floor

Rancho Retro parquet floor

Here is a photo of that parquet floor, which has recently been refinished. This is 3/4-inch thick hardwood. Each of those squares is 6-3/4-inches on each side. Originally, the house had more than a thousand square feet of this sort of flooring, though that has been reduced by a couple hundred square feet in the 55 years since it was installed. The varieties of wood included here span nearly every available hardwood you can name: ash, oak, walnut, maple, birch, mahogany, poplar, plus fruitwoods like peach and apple. The now-elderly man who did the repair said that back in 1955, he had worked on installing these floors in the several hundred neighborhood houses that resemble ours. We are lucky that the two previous owners of this house never removed too much of the original flooring, and didn’t cover it with carpeting. When it came time to refinish it, as happened this October, it shone forth, glorified.

What he told me was this: the wood that went into these several hundred houses had come from shipping crates off the cargo ships a mile downhill from here in the Port of Los Angeles. Wood from these crates had been collected, sawn up and pieced together into these random squares and plastered onto the slabs of the houses that were being slapped up here on The Hill. What a great story. Wood taken from packing crates built in harbors all over the world, put onto ships and collected and “harvested” into a perfect model of what we would today call “recycling.” Just imagine, exotic hardwoods from the port cities of the world! What would be there? Fine-grained mahogany from Africa, cedars from the Middle East, Acacia and oak from the Mediterranean and exotic woods from southeast Asia!

Except, unfortunately, it’s an absolute fiction.

If one has the opportunity, as we did, during our recent remodeling, to take up some of this flooring and turn it over, one finds this:

Bruce Flooring logo

Bruce Flooring logo

If you don’t recognize this, I’ll spell it out for you, because it’s a corporate logo that’s familiar to me from my earliest childhood. The name incised in blue letters on the back of this square of flooring is “Bruce,” one of the world’s largest dealers in hardwood flooring. You can go to if you want to make certain that I’m giving you the straight story. The company has been in business for more than 120 years, so it’s no big surprise that they were the firm that provided the hardwood flooring for the houses build here on the Palos Verdes peninsula 55 years ago. What’s remarkable is that the gentleman who installed these floors (I have no reason to doubt his assertion that he was one of the people who worked here) has, perhaps, confused this job with some other job that may well have involved packing material from the port of L.A. It just wasn’t here.

What irks me is that I’ve been relating his story about the packing crates for eight or nine years, and now I have to give it up. Darn. I think you’ll agree with me that I’d rather have an excellent story than some bland and mundane truth.

© Brad Nixon 2012, 2017



  1. I, too, was disappointed to learn your floor was manufactured by a company and not built of exotic wood from around the world. I, too, told that story several times. Hey, maybe I’ll keep telling it, who is going to check my facts? I love fiction.


  2. I just bought three huge crates of this flooring from a salvage yard. Id love to know more about it!


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