All things begin as a poem; first breath is a simile, being is a symbol. Great are the myths, metaphors to experience, that sing wide mouthed and waiting.
Ocean View Avenue or Cannery Row: The poem, the stink, the grating noise. Advertisements call it now, “the good life;” however, before the restaurants with sorbet in ice swans, before the fondue, the candy shops, the aquarium and the antique carousal, the air was greased with an assaulting stink, fourteen canneries, and the heart and backbone of our community. For my family the American Dream began on Cannery Row: This is where my grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles survived, succeeded, loved, and quarreled. This is where my grandfather courted my grandmother. This is what their grandchildren have forgotten.
When I first moved to San Francisco, lulled by the romance of the city, a writer’s “golden handcuff of inspiration,” as Steinbeck calls it, I began to dread answering questions about where I was from. It became a chore to explain that just because I grew up on the Monterey Peninsula it did not mean that my parents were rich golf enthusiasts: My family plays bocce; we live outside of Carmel proper- in a house my grandfather built- hence could not vote for Clint Eastwood as mayor (an election I was also too young to vote in); and though I enjoy the poetry of Brautigan and Jeffers, they do not speak to my “roots.” Until I moved away, it had never occurred to me that none of the icons, writers or poets associated with the Monterey Peninsula fully represent my family’s experience, or the multifaceted stories of our community. With this realization I ironically found my calling: I came to San Francisco chasing a poet’s dream and discovered my duende at home: The Cannery Row, The Tortilla Flat that Steinbeck didn’t write; the stories of the families and community that formed while working in the gruel of the canneries, and lives on in with the same passion, vendettas, and ambition, wrapped in glossy alienation.
Though we are a resort community, “a bauble that neither reaps nor sows,” we are nonetheless a community with a history, a history forgotten yet piecemeal immortalized in souvenir key-chains; a history, as John Walton calls it, that is a microcosm to the American experience.
Like Louise Erdrich about Argus, Zora Neale Hurston about Eatonville, and Faulkner about the South, I want to make a tapestry of the Monterey Peninsula; a quilt of mirrors of dark and light reflecting the unseen, ignored, experienced, and celebrated, expanding Monterey Peninsula’s contribution to California literature and mythology.