“The Salinas Valley is in Northern California. It’s a lengthy slender swale between two ranges of mountains, and the Salinas River winds and twists up the centre till it falls eventually into Monterey Bay.” So begins John Steinbeck’s 1952 novel East of Eden.
Steinbeck was merely one of many best English language writers of all time. His works primarily involved the working lessons of the primary half of the twentieth Century and the ethical trivialities of their on a regular basis lives. In 1962, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, with the committee praising his “reasonable and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and eager social notion.”
Late final 12 months, I traced the Salinas Valley by the fairly laborious public transport, and because the river did, so too did I wind up amongst the stays of the tin shacks of Cannery Row and Monterey Bay. I started the journey by travelling to Salinas from San Francisco by practice.
My first port of all, seeing because the day was already getting on as a result of lengthy practice journey, was to take lunch on the Steinbeck Household Home – the place the legendary author was born in 1902. I sat down on the desk and ordered a slice of candy cherry pie and low. Fairly quickly, the previous girls who labored there started to make a fuss of me, completely satisfied that I’d made the pilgrimage to go to my favorite creator’s residence. Certainly one of them (I overlook her identify) confirmed me round the home; Steinbeck’s bed room, the room during which he was born, swathes of previous pictures and the household’s piano.
After lunch, I went downstairs into the reward store, the place an previous Remington Noiseless typewriter lay alongside an indication that mentioned “don’t contact”, which solely made me need to contact it extra. I purchased some pencils as a memento and talked with the cashier about my journey all the best way over right here. Shortly after, I then headed for the Nationwide Steinbeck Centre on Predominant Avenue. I’d been lucky sufficient to work with the Centre beforehand as a part of their Younger Authors’ Writing Programme just a few years again, and as outcome, I acquired a tidy low cost on the best way in. Earlier than heading into the principle exhibition, I watched a brief documentary on the Salinas Valley and Steinbeck’s relation to it. Nevertheless, I couldn’t assist however really feel considerably dissatisfied by what was inside. I had been anticipating artefacts, notebooks, pens, something referring to the precise creator, however all I discovered was details about his works and life, most of which I’d some semblance of data of anyway. Which was, after all, insightful, however I might assist however really feel that the exhibition was extra designed for youngsters than for these making a protracted pilgrimage to one of many “giants of American letters”.
Nonetheless, the workers have been very type certainly and even gave me a free ebook from the reward store. It was time to get out of Salinas and head to Monterey, the setting for an additional of Steinbeck’s novels, Cannery Row. Hanging about within the bus station, I observed that Salinas had largely fallen right into a state of decay, with a number of homeless folks lining the streets, asking for change – like a lot of California, it appeared. This appears pertinent due to what I discovered in Monterey. Steinbeck writes in Cannery Row: “Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a top quality of sunshine, a tone, a behavior, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wooden, chipped pavement and weedy heaps and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, eating places and whore homes, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses.”
He continues: “Its inhabitant are, as the person as soon as mentioned, ‘whores, pimps, gamblers and sons of bitches,’ by which he meant everyone. Had the person regarded via one other peephole, he may need mentioned, ‘Saints and angels and martyrs and holy males’, and he would have meant the identical factor.”
Nevertheless, what I discovered have been largely luxurious eating places and resorts. Monterey had evidently grow to be a vacationer vacation spot, which makes an terrible lot of sense as a result of the scenes of the Pacific Ocean have been merely breathtaking. I made my means down from my motel into city through bus and walked down the shoreline till I arrived at Cannery Row.
As anticipated, there have been no canneries left, no lingering scent of sardines, simply doughnut outlets and eating places and some bars. That’s to not say that I couldn’t really feel the historical past of the place. Not like most of the locations I visited throughout my month in California, I might really feel that Steinbeck had as soon as walked the streets on which I stood.
I walked up and down the shoreline till the solar dipped under the horizon, at which level I grabbed a meal from a close-by pub and headed again to the motel. The next day I used to be heading again to San Francisco for just a few extra days earlier than coming again to London. It was a pleasure to go and really feel the ghost of John Steinbeck in Salinas and Monterey, to stroll on the identical earth as he had, however I couldn’t assist however really feel that the paradigms of the 2 locations had shifted considerably. The onetime affluence of Salinas had been changed by dereliction, whereas the luxurious calls for of vacationers had freshened up the “stink” of Monterey. Nonetheless, the journey was a luxurious in its personal proper and won’t be forgotten in a rush.
Comply with Far Out Journal throughout our social channels, on Fb, Twitter and Instagram.