Sunday, March 04, 2007

MONTEREY, California

"Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses." These are the first lines of Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. And there in the Cannery row in Monterey in California is where our Big Sur trip really started. It is very close to San Francisco. So from there we headed south. The city is really nice. The shoreline reminds a lot of the Mediterranean coast. Lots of rocks and some small sandy beach. Very different from the endless West Coast beaches. And there is a place in Monterey they you can't miss. It is Cannery Row. It is where the canning industry was located till few decades ago. But it is also the American classic by John Steinbeck. I never read it. After this visit I have to red it, though. It was definitely used to be a very poor, working class town. Today everything has been renewed. Where people was used to sweat working with salt and stinky fishes there are touristic shops. This is the bridge between the two parts of the old cannery factory.

The factory is on three layers. Each of them has its own identity now. In the ground floor there are the shops where all the tourists stop. Ice Cream. Pizza. Burgers. Postcards. T-Shirts. And of course there is also Starbucks. There is a staircase that goes up. And not a big surprise very few people take it. We are really lazy, I guess. Anyways, we took and we went up. It was strange. Very few shops. Most of the spots were closed. No tourist around. It was really peaceful. Finally no noise anymore. And from there, an other staircase. Guess what. We took it. And we got to the next level. And there, really there was no shop at all. The space wasn't as big as downstairs. Not even the noise coming from the ground floor. All the stalls were closed. But the most amazing thing wasn't that. The most amazing thing was the smell. That smell of old wood and salt and fish. Like opening an old can of salty sardines. There I closed my eyes and I really felt that I was in the Cannery Row. It was smelling the life of hundreds of people. I could imagine the men and women working and sweating there under that thin metal corrugated roof. I opened my eyes again and I realized that I was in a magical place and that I have to read Cannery Row, now. We left the building and we went to the beach. Back to touristic things, I guess ...

The sky was blue. The weather perfect. The beach and the ocean breeze were smelling wonderfully. But, believe me, that won't be the memory I will have of Monterey. To me the smell almost stinky of that second floor in the Monterey Canning Co. will be the one that I will remember forever.

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