Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I've always loved John Steinbeck's Cannery Row for its vivid descriptions of a unique place.  It begins, famously,
"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 . . ."
It's been sad to watch Cannery Row lose its character over the years, in return visits (though Doc's laboratory is still there, untouched), but this area does feel very much still like the "stuff" of Steinbeck.  And I learn from the Asilomar State Park Guide:
     John Steinbeck’s oldest sister, Esther Steinbeck Rogers, and her husband, Carrol Rodgers, did own a small cottage at 825 Asilomar Avenue that is now part of the Asilomar conference grounds.  The cottage was purchased by California State Parks in 1972.
     Esther and Carrol Rodgers owned an apple farm in Watsonville, CA, and bought the small house on Asilomar Avenue in 1932 for “their seaside cabin.”
     John Steinbeck and Gwendolyn Conger stayed in the cabin in 1941.  In 1946, Steinbeck wrote to a friend stating he was writing the Log from the Sea of Cortez when he and Gwen “were hiding in the pine woods” in his sister’s cabin.  Steinbeck wrote, “She would sleep late and I would get up and build a big fire and work until noon when she woke up.  That would be the end of work for the day and we would go walking in the sand dunes and eat thousands of doughnuts and drink coffee.  I worked very hard.”  The Log from the Sea of Cortez was published in the spring of 1951.

image:  Steinbeck Country 

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