Friday, April 12, 2013

Monterey, Cannery Row, and a feeling of 'Home'

 Twelve years have passed from the day I drove away from Monterey and Cannery Row.  Santa Barbara may be the most beautiful city on the West Coast but Monterey is, by far, my favorite seaside town, and it is the most like 'home' to me.

The Monterey Peninsula  is made up of seven rather tiny incorporated towns--each with its very unique personality:
Carmel--originally an artist's colony and now overflowing with gift shops and art galleries,
Pebble Beach--most everyone has heard of the famous golf courses and the great concentration of wealth found there,
Pacific Grove--founded by the Methodists as a retreat, famous for its monarch butterflies and boasting the greatest number of Victorian homes per capita in the USA,
Monterey--immortalized by John Steinbeck in the classic tale of Cannery Row,
Sand City--home of Costco and several good auto mechanics,
And finally, Seaside and Marina--the working men's towns and now home to California State Univ, Monterey Bay campus.

That is only a modicum of the diversity of this collection of towns that are strung like a fine strand of pearls around the peninsula and along the bay. It is home also to the Naval Post Graduate School, a large Italian fishing community, many artichoke and strawberry farms, the Monterey Bay Aquarium with its marine research facility, the Defense Language Institute, the Monterey Jazz Festival, Clint Eastwood, Leon Panetta, a multitude of interesting ethnic groups, Laguna Seca, some great history...and the list goes on. 
Right away upon my arrival and as I headed toward Cannery Row I was greeted by a parade...

The essence of this famous street has not been destroyed by its commercialization.  Winos and factory workers have been replaced by fun-seeking tourists; sardine canning factories are now souvenir  shops and candy stores--I don't see a lot of difference there.

Doc Rickett's Lab--(the small building with 5 windows) and many of the buildings from Steinbeck's classic tale are still standing just as they did then.  The following is from the historical marker....

The real neighborhood of John Steinbeck's 'Cannery Row'.  
Real people and places in the neighborhood of Monterey's old Ocean View Avenue inspired fictional characters and establishments in the mind of John Steinbeck.  Published in 1945, his novel,"Cannery Row", vividly captured the essence of life during the cannery era of the 1930s and 1940s.    

Steinbeck's longtime friend, biologist Ed Ricketts, is immortalized in the character Doc of "Cannery Row" and its sequel "Sweet Thursday".  Doc's Western Biological Laboratory was based on Ed Rickett's real lab, Pacific Biological Laboratories, located at 800 Cannery Row. 

The buildings still stand as they did in the book though the businesses inside are not the same... Wing Chong Market is 835 Cannery Row; La Ida Cafe at 851 Cannery Row was actually a brothel in the cannery days, as was the Bear Flag Restaurant at 799 Cannery Row--now souvenir shops and fancier restaurants but the buildings and feel of an era past are a window that lets our imagination soar through.

Kalisa Moore-owner and operator of La Ida Cafe

John Steinbeck

The Spindrift Inn (Did you know--'spindrift' is the fine spray blown by the wind  from the top of a curling wave)

View from a guest room at the Spindrift Inn...

The view towards Monterey from the garden on the rooftop of the Spindrift Inn.
It was 25 years ago when I went to work for the Inns of Monterey--first at the Spindrift and finally as reservations manager for four of the loveliest boutique hotels to be found anywhere--The Monterey Bay Inn, Victorian Inn, Spindrift Inn and the Hotel Pacific.

My boss, the incredibly pleasant General Manager,  Randy, is still there, as is Sandra in Human Resources (who has retired twice but keeps going back) and just about everybody else I waved goodbye to 12 years ago.

The longevity of Randy's staff at the Inns simply must be due to his great charm.  Stacy Lee (Asst. Mgr. at the Monterey Bay Inn) joined Randy for a tour of my plush abode.

Sharon, on the left, took my place as reservations manager. And Stacy, on the right--Well, Stacy has been the heart of the department for 20 years now and my right arm when I was there--and I am sure she still is for Sharon.

If any of my loyal readers out there ever plan to visit the Monterey area, please call Stacy and tell her "Toni sent you".  I guarantee you a terrific deal.
(phone--1-800-841-1879) No, I will not get a commission for this ad.
The 'free ad' is my pay-back to Randy for inviting me to play tourist for a while at the lovely Victorian Inn.

The lobby is in one of the historic Victorian home's of the area ....

And that staircase, once upon a time, led to my office.

The Assistant General Manager, Sharleen, is one of my dearest friends so be sure and ask for her if Stacy isn't around.  (Please notice that Sharleen is such a close friend that she is now copying my hair color)

Wow!  A king sized bed.  Can I adjust? And I didn't have to share it with Sigh Me...she stayed in the RV and was happy as long as I showed up early enough in the morning to feed her.

A fireplace! And a giant flat screen TV!  And enough floor space to park three Halcyons and still have room for a sit-down bathtub with lots of hot running water.  I think I can adjust to this--at least for a few days.

And finally, one more familiar face that is so special to the Inns and to me.  Josefina was last year's 'Employee of the Year' and deservedly so--she is an amazing and steadfast employee. But Josefina was also one of my mother's final caregivers and I will, forever, be grateful for all she did to make mother comfortable at such a difficult time.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. I just loved this. My grandfather lived in Pacific Grove for years after he retired, and we would go down to visit him. I visited the Monterey Aquarium with my mother and sister years ago. I think it's time to go back and take another look at the area.
    It amazes me how well Californians have managed to preserve the atmosphere of their beautiful places, even with the challenges of increased population and other stresses on the environment.
    And how wonderful that you have good friends who remember you and are showing you a good time and a spot of luxury, even.