Breakfast with B's family at Sang's Diner, a Salinas institution. (A big sign out front: "JOHN STEINBECK ATE AT SANG'S). Plastered about were ads for the Steinbeck Center's Big Read; (Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451', which I thought would please Jon on a couple of different levels). B grew up here and somehow missed ever eating at this particular culinary hole-in-the-wall. He didn't miss much, even calling it 'culinary' raised the level of it's grub, but it was a great little cultural insight into this town. (Ex: After the waitress delivered all our (breakfast) food, she told us she would be back for the pitchers of white gravy. Finger lickin' good.)
King of the Mountain
We ended up in Monterey at Dennis the Menace Park, which I heartily recommend, on the grounds that the design is mega 60's kitsch, it's on a sweet lil' lagoon with paddle-boats and dive-bombing seagulls, and because everyone should visit the scenes of my childhood. (How's that for megalomania?) And of course it was completely foggy and the wind was bitter. Monterey can be just so dang bleak and melancholy sometimes; B & I both link the sound of driftwood wind chimes (which are horrible anyway), cypress trees wrapped in fog and sixties-era strip malls called 'Town & Country Center' with Monterey......
Toilet Cakes and Rufus Wainwright
Later,we tried to get into the ultra-fabulous Golden State Theater to show off to K & J, but it was closed; apparently Rufus Wainwright needed a sound check for the concert that night. Sheesh! Some people! If anyone is within driving distance to this incredible theatre, hop in the car right now and drive over. Tell Rufus I said hi, and call me later. It's jaw-droppingly beautiful inside, although the lobby can't seem to ditch the fresh toilet-cake smell.....but there are worse smells, right? (Not so-fresh toilet cake, is my first thought.)
A random note on John Steinbeck. When B and I were working with YWAM, in North Ayrshire, Scotland, we frequently were asked where we hailed from. It was amazing how frequently words like 'sunshine', 'paradise', 'Baywatch', & 'Hollywood' would volley forth from the pale, rain-soaked Europeans we worked with, as soon as we said, 'California'. The inevitable picture of Californians as lithe, athletic, blond, tan & wealthy certainly abounded. (And really, our presence only served to re-enforce that stereo-type.........) Actually, quite a lot of people knew us as the Raisin State, which I found highly amusing. I recall Neal saying one day, "I thought all Californians were tan and ate raisins." Which actually startled me into silence.
One day B and I had the task of driving the father of a Danish friend to Preston Airport (near Ayr). It had been a largely silent trip (my Danish is only slightly worse than my Hungarian, and the dad seemed disinclined for conversation). Until he asked, "And vere doo YOO come from?"..... "California?".........("Oh no," I thought, "Here it comes.")......"Isn't that where John Steinbeck is from?"
I felt so enormously gratified, I could have kissed his whiskery Danish cheeks.
We had a great talk about how important Steinbeck's books are to American literature (of which he had read a lot; while I've read very few books by Danish authors -okay, none;
The Danes Are Great
So, thank you, John Steinbeck, for increasing the credibility of my much misrepresented state. And for writing prose that so encapsulates the beauty & humanity of the central coast of California. And thank you, Danish people, for being such paragons of literature and culture. California salutes you, dudes! Rock on!