"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 flop-houses. Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, 'whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches,' by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peep-hole he might have said: 'Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men,' and he would have meant the same thing."
The first book I read of his, East of Eden, was his most epic and since reading these words I have wanted to go to Monterey bay, to sit in Cannery Row breathing in the air that caused those first incredible lines to emerge.
I started early in the morning from San Francisco to take the caltrain to catch the bus to Monterey The fog was still hanging over the valleys as we approached, and the homesteads and farm houses in the hillsides were exactly the images I'd had reading The Long Valley and the Pastures of Heaven. The arid fields fit my ideas perfectly and while I'd sat in anticipation, ready for a slightly disappointing trip having looked forward to it for so long, it couldn't have fit my imaginings better.
We arrived into the town centre, the low-rise buildings with old adobe structures dotted along the main street and I headed straight for Cannery Row. I knew it would be touristy, and indeed it is, but thankfully there is still a strong sense of the original here and while Steinbeck's picture of the poem, the stink, the grating noise is long gone, the light, the nostalgia and the dream are somehow still there and I sat in a cafe in the middle of it all, looking out over the sea, feeling very much like I was back in a familiar place.
I headed to the aquarium, one of the best in the world, and spent the last hour of opening time watching the displays and walking the boardwalks outside seeing the fog cut a curtain across the bay. I'll leave you for today with juts a few photos from Monterey day 1 and will attempt to finish this off tomorrow if possible: