3.08.2008

Steinbeck, Raisins & the Danes

A Saturday in the Life:How I Ate Some Food & Saw Some Stuff
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.)
Raisin State
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.
Vindication
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?"
Gratification

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; ); how B grew up in Steinbeck's neighborhood, etc. Suddenly I felt like my homeland had more to offer the world than dried fruit and The Governator.
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!

8 comments:

The other said...

I love your description of the Golden State Theater. I don't want to make you to sad, but that's the place that Jared's company moved into for their meetings last August. The whole place was covered in motorcycles. Until now, that's the only context I've known it as, the really cool place with all the motorcycles, sad I know. I'll have to go look at it sometime, sans motorcycles. The other

rosa said...

How random! I never would have picked that venue for a Ducati convention. But the Italians DO have great taste in architecture. (Except for Milan.)

Mum said...

OK, so I gotta jump in here, Rosa. I promise this won't be "Tales from when Mum was a kid" but......., I do remember going to all cartoon matinees at the Golden State as a youngster. What I love now is the Mighty Wurlitzer organ that is played before some of the movie specials. I went, I believe when you lot were in Scotland with Marsha & Cheryl to the sing-along with the Wizard of OZ. Even though I have seen WoO a million times, it was such a treat to see it on the big screen. Plus I never miss a chance to sing along with anything. So, I add a hardy "AMEN!" to your endorsement of this lovely historical treasure.
XO-Mum

neal said...

i repent... i repent!

rosa said...

Neal! I had no idea you were still checking in! How's Judith? How's the wedding plans? We miss you!

neal said...

Wedding organising is good fun - party of a lifetime! We're hoping to have a wee ceilidh! :)
spring is coming, but Judith's pretty much snowed under with lots of work - she's doing her masters in theology in bern this year before we both move back to glasgow for 2 years while I finish of my medical degree - we're going to be a wee nomadic couple for a few years!

rosa said...

Well, if we're able to come out next summer, (like we're hoping) maybe we can see you in Glasgow! Our prayers will be for you and her, theology & medical degrees sound taxing (as well as giant international ceilidhs!) Love to your mum and sister!

**Ms. Franklin** said...

We'll leave out the part about how Salinas now touts "Steinbeck Cleaners" in the local strip mall (where Lucky's used to be). The Golden State was great... I always knew it as State Theater. Maybe if we would've told the woman at the counter that the FRANKLINS were there , she would have gone to get Rufus in a hurry. See you on Saturday!

Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.