January 11, 2018
Hello! I am in Monterey, where John Steinbeck is God*. I got here two days ago and I have already been to the aquarium, which is COMPLETELY AWESOME and tomorrow I am going whale watching! I am so excited! I have never seen a living whale, I mean, except dolphins, I have been around them many times and once, on Sullivan’s Island long ago, swum in and around them, close enough to touch. But those are Atlantic bottlenose dolphins who have known me all my life and these, if there are dolphins out there, will be Pacific dolphins, so I don’t expect them to remember the various and granted, somewhat one sided, conversations I’ve had with their distant Atlantic brethren. Whales! Whales! And otters and seals! And hours on a boat! It is going to be awesome!
Meanwhile, what can I say about Monterey? I found the used bookstore today, so, you know, all is pretty much well in my world. I found the mall (it isn’t really a mall; or, I guess, it used to be and they took the roof off, as is all the rage these days. It’s very fancy.) too, and actually went shopping and came away with a couple of much needed new tops that were on sale, so that went very well, better, actually, than I expected. As much as I want to wear nothing but tunics and leggings forever, it’s hard to find styles that don’t immediately summon a sprightly lute tune and you don’t want that. Let’s see, what else? Monterey actually is pretty beautiful all over – the harbor is fall over drop dead gorgeous – and strikes me as an eminently livable city. I wandered around a few less touristy neighborhoods today – the fedex office! The post office! Fun places like that! – and I liked it very much, although some of the yelp reviews on hair salons, which said things like, “I am so excited that I won’t have to fly to LA to get my hair done every three weeks” gave me pause. I have also been to Whole Foods, which is in the mall, or next to it, twice. This Whole Foods apparently did not get the memo that they were supposed to drop their prices; they seem considerably higher than LA and the patrons seem, by and large, snootier and less pleasant. That just may be because it is so crowded. I don’t know, but if I was working in the deli at Whole Foods, slammed, working my ass off and some older man elbowed his way through the crowds and shouted HEY! YOU! BUDDY! I NEED A ROTISSERIE CHICKEN!! I would probably not be working at Whole Foods much longer nor would I have been as pleasant about it. But there are shitheads everywhere, the gods know. And are watching, dude who stole my parking space right out from behind me as I was backing into it.
Cannery Row – and I want to reread the book, now, which apparently is expected, since there are copies in every single store you go into, like I think it is a city ordinance – is basically Gatlinburg On the Sea (Gatlinburg itself is Myrtle Beach in the Mountains, so there’s an endless ongoing circle o’ references here) including along with the many souvenir shoppes a wax museum, an indoor miniature golf course and a laser tag mirror maze. AND THIS GUY! If you know my photography you will recognize him: his twin brother hangs out at West Asheville Tire (used to be Shooks) on Haywood Road. The miles and vicissitudes of Appalachia have faded his brother to a subdued hue but the Cannery Row cop is sharp. I was overcome when I saw him, I must say, it was just a little bit of home. There is also among the tourist paraphernalia a place called A Taste of Monterey which I wholeheartedly recommend: I sat by the window and looked out at the view and had a very nice local red blend and some tomo – or toro, something like that – cheese with flatbread and apricots and it was the highlight of my day, my week and just possibly my life. Although, tomorrow, WHALES!! Whales might beat out even wine.
- He is so god, that there is a large bronze statue of him on Cannery Row. I find this statue unfortunate as hell. Here is why. Steinbeck is at the top, fine, and his best friend, a marine biologist, is at the bottom fondling some tentacles. Also fine. Then, there are four fairly contemporary city notables, all named: businessmen who were / are apparently the movers and shakers behind the revivification (and Gatlinburgization but I know, that’s just the way it is, sigh) of Cannery Row to its current grandeur. And then, there is one female city notable: a historical figure who was a Madam. Okay, fair play, nod to the old Monterey, lets be inclusive of sex workers, etc. and at least they gave her name and dates.
BUT. There are two anonymous figures as well. There is an anonymous Chinese fisherman who represents, I guess, Asian immigration to the area. That is offensive right there. They couldn’t find an actual Asian businessman to honor? And, there is also a statue of a young, scantily clad girl. She has no label of her own. She’s just included with the Madam: the label says, winkingly, she’s one of her girls. Terrific. If I lived here THREE YEARS AGO when that was put up – it’s not a relic of a less enlightened age – I would be beyond furious. I mean, what the fuck? There are / were no notable women in Monterey? Or you couldn’t find this child’s name? Or you don’t care and as far as you’re concerned, whores, women, it’s all the same thing.
Now I know I do not live here and there may well be local history that I should know about before I get all pissy, so, if you are from Monterey, please, enlighten me. As it stands I think the statue (which is IMHO artistically not the worst thing I’ve ever seen but not all that great either, large and bronze and fountainy, whatever) is sexist, racist crap. If they were all characters from Cannery Row – and I have read it, years ago – then I wouldn’t care. If they were all archetypes, dressed in draperies like it’s 1899 all over again, then I wouldn’t care. If they were all historic and/or contemporary town dignitaries and personages, then I wouldn’t care. But this bizarre mixing of real and stereotypical and choosing to include only two women, both of whom are prostitutes – and the anonymous prostitute is portrayed as very young indeed – in this very large, very public statue which is representing Monterey to the world, is uncomfortable at the least and downright nasty at the most.