- Please keep these annotations SPOILER-FREE by not revealing information from later pages in the novel.
Page numbers refer to editions with 369 pages, where the story begins on page 1. Not sure if there are other editions with variant pagination. Please let us know otherwise.
A lunch date had just happened to cancel
Afternoon, Friday, March 27, 1970, the fourth day of the narrative, and Good Friday.
"He showed up at a peculiar skid-row eatery off Temple where wine abusers up from bedrolls in vacent lots back of what remained of the old Nickel." The part of downtown centered around 5th Street is Los Angeles’ Skid Row and has long been referred to by locals and detectives in noir novels as "The Nickel." While downtown Los Angeles has gone through a revitalization in recent years, it has mostly skipped over the Skid Row neighborhood. Listen to Tom Waits' wino lullaby "On The Nickel." "...off the nikel..." page 320. "Plastic Nickel" page 293.
A mickey is a half-size (375 ml, or approximately a pint) bottle of liquor.
I just heard she skipped
Doc heard it the day before from Bigfoot, on page 34.
1. Never trust a flatland chick
Could be a reference to Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions (1884) , a satirical novella by the English schoolmaster Edwin Abbott Abbott. In the chapter "Concerning the Women" (full text available here):
- "If our highly pointed Triangles of the Soldier class are formidable, it may be readily inferred that far more formidable are our Women. For if a Soldier is a wedge, a Woman is a needle; being, so to speak, ALL point, at least at the two extremities. Add to this the power of making herself practically invisible at will, and you will perceive that a Female, in Flatland, is a creature by no means to be trifled with."
- "Obviously then a Woman is not to be irritated as long as she is in a position where she can turn round. When you have them in their apartments which are constructed with a view to denying them that power you can say and do what you like; for they are then wholly impotent for mischief, and will not remember a few minutes hence the incident for which they may be at this moment threatening you with death, nor the promises which you may have found it necessary to make in order to pacify their fury."
2. Never trust a flatland chick
We may suppose that, for Doc, a flatland chick is one attuned to a reality both foreign and detrimental to that of a surfer. For several centuries, natives of mountainous Vermont have indicated a person's lack of merit by calling him/her a flatlander, meaning an outsider. While the term may have originated in Vermont, it has long been common as a perjorative in the elevated regions of New England (and elsewhere) to consider folk native to places neither mountainous nor hilly as flatlanders. See examples: 1, 2, 3, and 4. It is not hard to imagine a surfing New Englander paddling far out from a Southern California beach in the 1950s; she/he may have caught a montainous wave, jumped atop her/his board and, looking back at the bland continental landmass, declared it all-in-all as flatland. By one mind or another, the concept caught a wave. As evidenced by the term platteland in
‘surfrikan’ slang, flatland may still occur in surfers’ conversation (although it is otherwise not to be found in current internet surfer slang dictionaries). Beyond the traditions of wave surfing, a derived sport,
flatland skimboarding, has made flatland more respectable. Thus a skimboarder blog declares,
3. Never trust a flatland chick
Or go to the alphabetical index and take "flatland" to mean the less hip areas at the foot [feet?] of the LA area mountains
prime directive of life at the beach
"Prime Directive" is a central phrase in the Star Trek universe. It was a rule intended to restrict the actions of Starfleet's officers. It was frequently violated. Wikipedia
Deputy District Attorney (Penny Kimball)
In the Pynchon-narrated promo video for Inherent Vice, Pynchon sez:
- "stewardesses or, more correctly I guess, stewardii"
The comedian Shelley Berman (b. 1926), in his 1960s nightclub act, puzzled over "incongruities in the English language":
- "I just want to say just a few words about stewardii. They have... (he is interrupted by crowd shreik of laughter) Stewardii is plural for Stewardess. Uh...I think there are many incongruities in the English language as far as plurals are concerned. For example, it seems to me that the plural for Yo-yo should be Yo-yi. How about, one sheriff; several sheriffim. Um...one goof; a group of geef; uh...one Kleenex, several Kleenices; one Blouse, two Blice ........Two Jackii."
This could very well be the source for Pynchon's use of "stewardii".
The joke is based on a misconception of Latin plurals: if stewardess were a Latin word spelled "stewardus" (which would, ironically, make it masculine) the plural would be "stewardi". It is only nouns ending in "ius" which are pluralized "-ii", eg radius/radii.
The reference in the promo video may echo a throwaway line on the first page of The Crying of Lot 49, when Oedipa Maas discovers she has "been named executor, or she supposed executrix." The fact that Oedipa's supposition is a completely correct change of from masculine to feminine emphasizes the difference between the reasonably well-educated Oedipa and Doc.
after nightfall [...] they ended up cruising
Remember, Lourdes and Motella are, in criminal parlance, "dewdrops" night pleasure seekers as the character Jade will be described on p. 82 of this chapter.
seeking out of some helpless fatality the company of lowlifes of opportunity
A clearer punctuation of this would be "Seeking, out of some helpless fatality, the company of lowlifes of opportunity." The phrase "helpless fatality" is commonly used to describe a condition where one has no influence, to which one is fated. Lourdes and Motella, even with all their offshore bank accounts and extravagant lifestyle, are helpless in resisting the urge to cruise "the bleak arterials of dismal L.A. backwaters" for lowlifes (eg Cookie and Joaquin) who will take advantage of L & M's goodies, material and carnal.
In Chapter 1, "fatality" is used to describe Aunt Reet's ex-husband who had "a fatality for the restless homemakers one meets in bars." And, on p. 203, Bigfoot's "fatality [...] for introducing disaster into every life" he touches. And, on p. 223, Puck, gazing at Trillium's ass "in a kind of morose fatality" and, finally, on p. 318, Dr. Blatnoyd's "fatality for rogue profit-sharing activities."
Wouldn't it Be Nice
Beach Boys, 1966, off the album Pet Sounds.
Tommy's is a famous burger chain in the LA area. This place was a food shrine to the American Hamburger and people used to come from miles around to get them. Pynchon moves the location one block east from Rampart and Beverly to Coronado and Beverly.
Krishna, the fry cook: could this be the same Krishna who shows up in Vineland as the sound man for 24 fps?
a demonstration against NBC's plans to cancel Star Trek
Here we find out that Doc is a Star Trek fan. See page 69.
pretended to explain
As Hope Harlingen "pretended to explain" about her teeth on page 36.
The FBI's Counter Intelligence Program
Ron Karenga is an influential African American activist. He invented Kwanzaa. Back in the day in some quarters he was thought to be an agent provocateur in the employ of the FBI, especially after the shoot out at UCLA in January 1969 that left two Black Panthers, Alprentice Bunchy Carter and John Huggens, dead.
Can I be frank for a minute
A bad joke since Doc starts to sing Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon."
...the Director...spade penises...
Long time FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, now famous for his paranoia and closeted homosexuality.
main character in the TV show, "F.B.I.," which ran 1965-74. IMDB
Ubiquitous grocery chain in California. Plays an important role in the Coen brothers' The Big Lebowski, a film to which Inherent Vice is often compared.
Coming out of work later in the day
Afternoon, Friday, March 27, 1970, the fourth day of the narrative.
I'm working weeknights at Club Asiatique
Afternoon, Friday, March 27, 1970, the fourth day of the narrative. Doc sees Jade this night at Club Asiatique, still nominally a weeknight.
before he's slipped, as Jim Morrison might put it, "into unconsciousness"...
lyrics from "The Crystal Ship" by The Doors: "Before you slip into unconsciousness / I'd like to have another kiss." The song was on the Doors' first album, The Doors, released in January 1967. Have a listen on YouTube...
as Fats Domino always sez, "Never to be"...
"Blueberry Hill" was written in 1940 and was recorded by Gene Krupa, Glenn Miller, Jimmy Dorsey and Gene Autry, and others. In 1956, Fats Domino (b. 1928) recorded it and it was a #2 hit on the Billboard Top 40. Excerpt:
- The wind in the willow played
- Love's sweet melody
- But all of those vows we made
- Were never to be
Motella gave him a skeptical O-O
One was worn by Tyrone Slothrop in Gravity's Rainbow, part 2.
"'Photo courtesy of NASA!'"
At this time, less than a year after the first moon landing (July, 1969) everybody was very familiar with photographs of the (pock-marked, cratered) surface of the moon.
supernaturally cherry vintage Auburn
Auburn Automobile Company of Auburn, Indiana, 1900-1937.
"Lourdes and Motella = WOW"
This must follow some Beach Boys melody. Anyone?
Pynchon's Boards' lyrics bear more than passing similarity to the lyrics of the Beach Boys' 1963 song, "Shut Down."A live version. Note the scarcely competent sax solo by Mike Love, which provides some support for Doc's and Hope Harlingen's opinion, at page 37, of the general level of surf sax playing.
The Beach Boys song was co-written with KHJ DJ Roger Christian (1934-1991), who was likely the source of the car terminology. Christian's other Brian Wilson collaborations included "Don't Worry Baby", "Little Deuce Coupe" and "In the Parkin' Lot" and he co-wrote, for Jan and Dean, "Dead Man's Curve", "The Little Old Lady from Pasadena", "Sidewalk Surfin", "Drag City" and "Honolulu Lulu."
The Pontiac GTO (Gran Turismo Omologato) is an automobile built by Pontiac in the United States from 1964 to 1974, and is often considered the first true muscle car. Wikipedia...
A toda madre!
from Urban Dictionary: Mexican slang that means something is totally awesome. Often abbreviated, especially in graffiti, as ATM.
"La fiesta estuvo a toda madre." translation: "The party was totally awesome."
like Moe going, "Spread out!"
Moe, of the Three Stooges would yell "Spread out!" to the other two, and sometimes some other people, when fighting.
Shipping containers. While this source may legitimize the term with a double n, the original acronym used a single n. "In 1952 the army began using the term CONEX, short for "Container Express". The first major shipment of CONEXes (containing engineering supplies and spare parts) were shipped by rail from the Columbus General Depot in Georgia to the Port of San Francisco, then by ship to Yokohama, Japan, and then to Korea, in late 1952. Shipment times were cut almost in half. By the time of the Vietnam War the majority of supplies and materials were shipped with the CONEX. After the U.S. Department of Defense standardized an 8'×8' cross section container in multiples of 10' lengths for military use it was rapidly adopted for shipping purposes." 
Kai Tak Airport was the international airport of Hong Kong from 1925 until 1998.
San Pedro, Terminal Island, Vincent Thomas Bridge
All back in L.A.
a body-hugging one-piece Chinese dress for women.
Fan-tan... dollar-a-stone Go
Fan-Tan is a form of gambling long played in China that has similarities to roulette. Wikipedia. The "stones" in "dollar-a-stone Go" most likely refers to the point differential at the end of the game, usually ten or less between evenly matched players.
sauntering in in step
A cute double preposition. Cookie and Joaquin enter the club doing the dance move called "truckin'", which enjoyed a brief revival in the sixties and seventies after Robert Crumb published his popular "Keep On Truckin'" drawing.
Though it doesn't look it (like a slang), according to Websters' Third New International Dictionary, copacetic, pronounced co pa see dick, is a slang meaning very satisfactory or fine and dandy.
Vietnam soldier slang for "landing zone."
A dewdrop or dew-drop is a night pleasure seeker, in criminal slang. Source: Criminal slang: the vernacular of the underground lingo by Vincent Joseph Monteleone 
Spanish: (literally) little grandmother
South Pasadena, Los Angeles County
The dan ranking system is a Japanese mark of expertise as used in martial arts (and also traditional fine arts, including mastery of the board game, Go). Wikipedia entry
wallerin in eye contact
Phonetic spelling of "wallowing" (pleasantly indulging in), as in a sort of hillbilly or rural-Southern accent. This article goes into more detail. An excerpt:
- For those unfamiliar with southern U.S. parlance, the English verb “wallow” is many times pronounced as “waller” in areas of The Southeast, especially rural areas. According to Dictionary.com, the verb “wallow” means “to roll about or lie in water, snow, mud, dust, or the like, as for refreshment." 
1956 Fireflite ragtop
The nearly total absence of lighting
Night, Friday, March 27, 1970, the fourth day of the narrative.
gathering pinks as it came
Car slang referring to cars racing for pink slips (the winner wins the loser's car and, thus, obtains the loser's registration slip - which in Calif is pink in color). So, in Pynchon's context, the '56 "Fireflite ragtop" was exhausted (so to speak!) from racing all the way down, and gathering the pink slips (vehicle ownerships) of racing opponents whom it'd beaten along the way.
According to Google Books, this spelling also occurs twice in Against the Day, and 12 times in Vineland.
abbreviation of Post Exchange. A service mark used for a military store on an Army or Naval base that sells goods to military personnel. Apparently, the PX often appeared in the Beetle Bailey comic strip from the 1950s. Wikipedia.
ear trumpet 
An old-fashioned hearing aid, shaped like a funnel to direct sound to the eardrum.