As a middle schooler and high schooler, I read many of the works of John Steinbeck, so Cannery Row in Monterey and Salinas, his hometown were a must see on this trip. He is probably my favorite American author, although I didn’t like the first piece I read in 7th grade. It was his novella, The Red Pony. I couldn’t get beyond the protagonist, a ten-year old boy, being named Jody. But later I read The Moon is Down, The Winter of Our Discontent, To A God Unknown, Of Mice and Men, East of Eden and Travels With Charley and have enjoyed reading and rereading his books ever since.
“Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.” That’s the first line from Steinbeck’s book of the same name, but in 2013 Cannery Row is a lovely waterfront area full of restaurants and tourists, the defunct canning companies gone but for their signs. I walked along the waterfront and amongst the stores in the evening and then returned in the morning to take some notes on the trip, write a little of this blog and enjoy the gorgeous view of the bay. I watched some divers taking a scuba class, although I didn’t realize they were divers until I walked along the pier. They had looked like rocks or seals in the reflection of the morning sun. There were seals and ducks all along the pier, including one seal that was sunning itself next to the fence keeping the two of us apart.
Before leaving the Monterey Peninsula I drove thru Carmel, its upscale downtown reminded me of Newport, RI and along the shore line there were lovely bungalows on one side of the street and great beaches on the other. After leaving Carmel, I went over the Galiban Mountains and into the Salinas Valley with its fertile farm fields. Several fields had migrants bent over at work, picking strawberries although I did see some tomatoes and lettuce truck signs. The city of Salinas is trying to stay alive; anchoring one end of downtown is the National Steinbeck Center. I arrived the day before the annual Steinbeck Festival. I was pleased to see the theme was HOME. This was a theme I could identify with easily, albeit in an unconventional way given that as an adult I’ve lived in eight states as well as abroad in Belgium and had ten homes (this does not include several temporary apartments). Making each town our home has been an important task. And similar to Steinbeck, I’m on my journey of the country I call my home. He traveled 10,000 miles and 36 states, and at this writing I’ve surpassed 12,000 miles, entered my 38th state and I’m still enjoying the journey.