Saturday, October 29, 2011

My Long-Awaited CA Coastline Pics

I’m blessed to be in San Diego, staying with the friend of a friend who is fast becoming my own friend.  She’s taking the trouble to show me around.  She took me to the best place in San Diego's Little Italy!  Time to get more great coffee and a flaky pastry!  

This is an old-world Italian café, except for the palm tree and Mexican tiles in the outdoor courtyard.  A fountain burbles, and I hear the clank of coffee cups from behind the bar.  A sparrow has joined me on the table, nibbling at sesame seeds someone left behind.

What's funny is my new friend and hostess, Jolene, feels ready to leave San Diego.  She looked around at the weather this morning, said, "Another perfect day in paradise," and said she was ready to move, she was bored with San Diego.  I’m a new arrival and don’t understand at all, but she’s been here many years and must have her reasons.

Meanwhile the Northeast of the country is bracing for the first October snowstorm in sixty years. 

San Diego is a watershed city for me.  I have just three and a half weeks left in my trip.  I turn my face east, toward home, on Tuesday morning.  I’m at my very furthest geographical point from home.  When I planned my trip, I worried about what I would feel at this point – intense homesickness?  Intense loneliness?  But I don’t, I feel sublimely happy.  My only worry is how I’m going to tolerate being at home again.  It will be so dull, not studying a new map of a new city every two days.

What's clear to me is that David Foster Wallace was correct in an essay he wrote about Kafka's humor:   "The journey IS home."

Now for pics of the California coastline (and a pirate in Monterey and in San Luis Obispo):

A pirate on Cannery Row.  If you haven't read Steinbeck's book of the same name, RUN to your local library.  It will delight you.

I liked this pirate's face almost as much as I like Johnny Depp's.

Where Pacific Ocean meets California -- dangerous waters just south of Carmel.

The view south.

The view north.

The glories of the California coastline.

Whoa! Don't drive off the cliff!

The private beach I overlooked at lunchtime.  Almost tumbled down this hill!

In San Luis Obispo, the Thursday night farmer's market brought out the little kids in Halloween costumes.

A mean ole pirate.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The coast of CA and the coast of OR are competing in my brain for best coastline.  I'm not sure who's gonna win, but it sure was fun checking them both out.

Stunning, spectacular, has to be experienced to be believed, cannot be described.  And delightfully undeveloped.  That's what I think of Big Sur.

I picnicked in a verbotten manner, disappearing over the edge of a carpark / vista area, out of sight of everyone.  I wanted to enjoy my weird lunch without spectators. Two small pieces of buffalo-spiced chicken, and half a bag of rosemary and olive oil potato chips.  There was a beautiful little sand beach at the bottom of the extremely steep, dry, dusty hill that I almost tumbled down with my picnic basket (a paper bag from Trader Joe's in Monterery).  I had some Trader Joe's fresh mango pieces -- unforgettable -- while the surf lapped at the beach.  It was protected by giant rocks, so it was just a quiet little private sandy beach that no one but a few smart seagulls could get to, making it even more appealing.

The Pacific Ocean had no swells today, it was flatter than Lake Michigan.  In the afternoon, starting at, say, three p.m., the sunlight danced off the water as the sun headed to make a new day in Japan.  The water looked leathery, or maybe scaly, like snakeskin, millions of interlocking scales whose edges were lit by the slanting sun.  I got sunburned today just looking at the water, which I couldn't stop doing.

Tonight I'm in San Luis Obispo and will visit the mission in the morning.  If it's at all like the Carmel mission, it is picturesque, full of Spanish character, feels peaceful, has a central garden full of hummingbirds, is more than 200 years old.  But there's a dark side -- the friars didn't technically "enslave" the Native Americans, because they didn't buy and sell them, but they made them work like slaves and destroyed their morale and "disciplined" them harshly (as harshly as they disciplined themselves), and were as surprised as everybody else when ninety percent of the natives died.  Now we know it was malnutrition, overwork, smallpox and that special gift of European men -- syphillis.

Tomorrow, scenes from the California coast.  For now, some final pics from Monterey's Cannery Row.  I'll give you a little variation from pirates:

How about a California Highway Patrol (CHIPS) officer?

Or this lovely darling?  What is public art coming to?

Everything I need for two months of living is in this luggage.  The weird cow-hide food-chill bag is turning out to be very useful.  It saves my spot on the bus when I get off to stretch my legs.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I met Gary Breschini, an archeologist who has worked with Native American artifacts for forty years.  After all those years of combing through digs, researching and writing, he says he finally has the knowledge necessary to tell the story of a people who came from Alaska south along the coast, making colonies on the Pacific Coast all the way south to the tip of Chile.  Now that's when the Americas were truly a new world.  

Gary Breschini, Ph.D. in anthropogy and archeology, standing near three books he co-authored with the Monterey County historian Mona Rae Gudgel and his wife.

I was privileged to be invited to see the temperature-and-humidity-controlled room in which the Monterey County Historical Society maintains the many records -- court, newspaper, tax assessment, insane asylum -- entrusted to its care.

These are the tax assessor's books, which record the making -- and breaking -- of Monterey County residents' American dreams.  Until the 1950s or so, the county assessed personal as well as real property.  These books show families coming to the county and becoming incredibly wealthy, and other families arriving wealthy and watching it evaporate.

These books, and six others like it, are the only records that the Monterey County Historical Society is forbidden to open.  These books can only be opened with a court order.

Outside the Monterey County Historical Society office, where I met Gary and Mona and saw the special records vault, I saw the County's memorial to the 105 men it sent to the Phillippines in World War II.  They ended up in the Bataan death march and only half the men returned.  The way they fought and died for their country, and the price paid by survivors as well, must never be forgotten.

This half-track behind bars commemorates the men of Salinas, the city that lost the highest number of men per capita in the Bataan death march.

Then I went to the National Steinbeck Center and had a thrilling time.  I spent $42 on two books, two postcards and a metal water bottle.  I was SHOCKED.  But the books were $16 apiece - "Winter of Our Discontent" and "America and Americans."  I want those two books and I want them from the Steinbeck Center as lifetime mementos of my trip.  Now I have to trudge all over the country with them.  But they'll be good company.  I'm also carrying Eudora Welty's "The Optimist's Daughter," which won a Pulitzer.  I'll be visiting her home and museum in Jackson, Mississippi.

A map of Steinbeck's route as he researched "Travels with Charley."  Maybe I need me a cute dog or maybe a cat to take on the Greyhound bus and name my book after, do you think?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Monterey, Salinas and Cannery Row: Steinbeck Country

I walked for two hours along the Pacific coastline on the Monterey peninsula, from five to seven p.m.  I got to see beautiful pearlescence in the sky as the moist air turned all colors of mother of pearl while the sun set.  No clouds, just pearlescence...

Weird foliage and mother of pearl sea and sky.

Tomorrow morning I'm meeting the Monterrey County historian and an archeologist who has worked on Indian artifacts for 40 years.  Then the John Steinbeck museum.  The closer I get to that museum, the worse I feel about my own writing....then I'll go to the Monterey aquarium and see the creatures that grow in the bay and think that at least I can write better than that eight-armed starfish...

So, I just have to give myself a good talking to -- never, never, never give up.  A little Winston Churchillian stiff upper lipness.

I'm on the Monterrey Peninsula tonight, enjoying sea breezes in a hostel that costs $25 a night.  Meanwhile the millionaires along the coast have to pay mortgages and taxes and upkeep and wash their windows every three days if they want to be able to see out of them : )

Weird foliage.  Déjà vu all over again.

Intense close-up of weird foliage.

A millionaire's home overlooking Monterey Bay that's been turned into a B&B.

I've been playing hooky from real life since October 1 -- a new city every two days.  It's been so much fun.  How on earth will I be able to tolerate being in my house day after day, once I get home?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

San Francisco

The altar of Grace Cathedral, an Anglican cathedral on Nob Hill.

The rose window.

The labyrinth.

The play of light through stained glass.

Loved that light.

Where's the rice-a-roni sign?


Some San Francisco row houses and another church.

The many steps to the base of Coit Tower (thank God it has an elevator!).

Fog rolling in through the Golden Gate Bridge.

Christopher Columbus, from a Euro-American worldview, not like the one in Seattle from a Native American perspective.

An addition to my pirate statue collection.

Crabs on Fishermen's Wharf.

Alcatraz in the fog.

Boudin's on Fishermen's Wharf is famous for it's sourdough, and for what it does with sourdough -- alligator families.

Monday, October 24, 2011

California Dreamin'

When the bus crossed from Oregon into California on Route 5, the first California exit sign said "Exit 776."

Seven hundred seventy-six exits in one state?  The Garden State Parkway in New Jersey has 172 exits, and I think the Parkway is interminable.

Good thing I'm traversing California in five legs:  Redding, San Francisco, Salinas, San Luis Obispo and San Diego.  Here's some pics from the first leg, Northern California and Redding:

Mt. Shasta, a mountain with two peaks, one of them an old volcano.

There's no plaque to explain what this is.  But it's in the train/bus depot in Redding, and I'm speculating that it's an old locomotive steam engine.  The casting on one of the wheels says it was made in 1902.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Beautiful Highways in Oregon

The Pacific Coast Highway (the famous Rt. 101) is fantastic; even better is Route 126 from the coast at Florence, OR to a point fifteen miles west of Eugene, before the auto marts and strip malls of Eugene start.  Rt. 126 was THE most beautiful highway I've ever driven.  It had more solid beautiful miles than the Pac Coast Highway, which went through a national forest for 10 miles. That part of Rt. 101 was great; the rest is lined with honkytonk motels and salt water taffy shops.  

By contrast, Rt. 126 was 50 miles of unbroken picturesqueness.  Huge Douglas firs lined it.  A river ran alongside it part of the way, with picturesque houses scattered here and there on its banks.  Mountains with rank upon rank of Douglas firs upon them rose up on either side of the highway, which snaked around them.  Some of the curves were banked.  The forest just went on and on, mile after mile.  It has to be one of the most beautiful stretches of highway in the country.  I didn't get pics of it because it was raining and the windshield was blurry.  It also had too narrow of a shoulder to stop.

The Oregon coastline is no slouch.  Here are some photos from today's adventures:

Oregon wine country, between Portland and Lincoln City, which is on the coast.

A house a block from the Pacific cliffs.

The way the wind sculpts the trees.

A pirate outside a gift shop in one of the Oregon coastal towns.

Sea lions on rocks.  Their bark is endearing.

A knight in shining armor at the hostel I'm staying at in Eugene, Oregon.