Galleon on Salt Billows

You have been interested in your shadow. Look instead directly at the sun. —Rumi

Month: July, 2015

Salinas

Today, I spent the day in Salinas. I visited two major places: the Steinbeck House and the National Steinbeck Center.

The Steinbeck House, once John Steinbeck’s childhood home, now functions as a restaurant and gift shop. I had to get lunch from the Steinbeck House! It is run entirely by volunteers – the most precious elderly ladies (and gentleman!) that I’ve ever met in my life. The gentleman told this joke, which I found hilarious: “Everyone who works here is a volunteer, except for the cook because we can’t do that, and the dishwasher because we don’t want to! And the bookkeeper upstairs… we can’t do that either.” The ones who served the food wore Victorian era skirts that matched the window curtains, and I thought to myself that I would love to do something like this after I retire – just volunteer at the Steinbeck House. I had a Steinbeck Tea (which is a straight iced tea mixed with pink lemonade), confetti soup, a ham and leek quiche, and a creme brulee. Everything was wonderful, and I promptly bought those recipe cards from the gift shop downstairs. I also bought the Steinbeck House recipe book, which I plan to refer to often once I move into my new apartment. I want to return on Sunday for a tour, so I’ll leave the description of the house till then. I did poke my head into several of the rooms. They all still have such an antiquated beauty, and certain windows were left open to let in the most refreshing breeze. Downstairs in the cellar, which has been converted into a gift shop, I met an old lady who was also taking a road trip by herself! She had come up from Hollywood, and was celebrating her retirement. I told her that I can’t wait to retire, and she told me that the price of retirement was to be 70 years old. She was happy, and I was happy, and in that moment our shared joy of freedom made us kindred spirits.

After I had my lunch and threw an embarrassing amount of money at the gift shop, I left to visit the National Steinbeck Center. It’s a museum full of interactive exhibits featuring Steinbeck’s life and body of work. I was really excited that I could use my newly acquired student ID to receive a discount, and I proceeded to touch everything I could think to touch in the museum. I’ll post some pictures later, when I have a more passable internet connection. When I left, the lady at the entrance told me that I had spent a long time in the museum – which was a good thing, because she often saw many people who come in and leave very soon after. I cannot even fathom how anyone can leave this place so quickly. The suggested introductory videos alone were 40 minutes combined! The entire museum is so immersive; you feel like you’re inside the book, that you’re surrounded by a living form of literature. WHY COME IN THE FIRST PLACE IF YOU DON’T LOVE BEING SURROUNDED BY LITERATURE? When I left after about three hours, the parking garage charged me $1.50. Houston parking garages are robbing their patrons.

To end this post, I will describe the weather. The weather here in Salinas is perfect. The sun is shining, but it’s 75 degrees with a slight, crisp wind. I wish that I could capture this weather in a bottle and send a sample to every one of you readers. It’s elation, the thrill of flight, the sharp sense of a new beginning. I could bask in it forever.

So long, friends. Until next time.

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On the Road

After driving for two and a half days, I’ve arrived in Salinas, CA. I haven’t had time to explore yet, so I’ll leave that for later. For now, I’ll share some scattered thoughts about being on the road.

On the first day, I drove the stretch of road from Houston, TX to Las Cruces, NM. The most remarkable thing about this stretch of road were the clouds. The clouds were amazing. Their heavy, fluffy layers allowed for the most extraordinary display of crepuscular rays. I’ll try to attach some pictures later; I haven’t been having the best luck with signal/wifi on this trip. Also, at some point on this day, T-Mobile informed me that I had entered Mexico. Sorry, T-Mobile, but you were mistaken.

The second day hid the clouds and replaced them with a glaring, unobscured sun. It was hotter than the first day; the high was 111 F, and that temperature stuck around for hours. Then, in the afternoon, the temperature dropped. The clear, blue sky became tinged with rust. New Mexico and Arizona are parched, dry states. For the first time in my life, I saw signs that warned of “Dust Storms” and “Strong Gusts”. I noticed patches of sand that blew across the roads and drove through some winds that threatened to rock my little car off its path. However, I managed (mostly) to stay on course. At night, around midnight, I stayed at Castaic, CA, just north of Los Angeles.

For the final leg of my way up, I drove along Highway 101 up the coast of California. The path I chose took me through mountains that layered into themselves, sometimes posing as the backdrop to the acres of farmland that held rows of crops and ripe Napa oranges. The land was so fruitful that I couldn’t help but imagine how must it would have been during the Dust Bowl, the era depicted in Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. There’s a lot more I could say here, but I will touch on them later. For now, there is one more thing I that I will share. On the way up the coast, I stopped by a little bakery in Los Alamos. There was a man working there. At some point when I was ordering, I smiled a little. He smiled back. It was a slight smile, like mine, but for some reason it got to me. It was the most heartwarming, genuine smile that I had seen in a long time. Very innocent, but striking, and soft. I think I am writing about this here so that I will remember.

The drive was long, but not tiring. Not really. Once the driving starts, it kind of gets into you. The road gets into you. Time breaks down into chunks. Between cities, time seems to stretch on and the drive is just one long, continuous string. But then you hit the next place, the next chunk, and then it’s as if time hadn’t passed at all. You’ve jumped from one point to the other, finished a chunk of the journey. It goes on like this, chunk by chunk, each one infinite in itself, but gone when you pass it. And soon you find yourself at the end. You’re not sure how you did it, but you did. Well, I did it. And just knowing that I could travel this far on my own brings me a certain sense of satisfaction.

That’s all, for now. I’ll hopefully return tomorrow with an update.

Pilgrimage for Steinbeck

There are some books that I never finish, and some shows that I cannot watch to the end.

However, this is not because they are bad. In fact, quite the opposite: they are too good to finish. I do not want them to ever end, because then the adventure is over, and that in itself is a heartbreak. If I leave before the ending, before the conflict resolves itself, the party is still together and the journey continues indefinitely. It is a little selfish, I admit, to ignore the author’s wish for the conclusion to take place at the end of the tale, but I allow myself these small indulgences. I have never claimed to be utterly selfless.

And then, in this same vein of logic, there are some books I do not read – not because they are bad, but because I am saving them for a special time in my life, a time during which their words would make the most impact. Now is one of those times.

Steinbeck, it is your turn to change my life.

If I were to be honest with myself, I would chalk it all up to restlessness. I just gave my notice at my job, and I start my MBA program in less than a month. I have two weeks to spend as I please before the overwhelming wave of the future sweeps me away. It is not the fear of drowning that gnaws at me, but rather the fear of getting lost. I don’t know if I will match up to my classmates. I don’t know if I will find a job I love. I don’t know if I will lose myself while I reconfigure my mindset to be that of a sharpened, young businesswoman.

I cannot help but think that this, truly, is my last free summer. In years to come, I can take vacations – but I will never again be this young and untethered.

Therefore, in the spirit of wanderlust, I shall embark upon a journey with my oldest and dearest friend. This volatile me of right now will travel with the me I’ve known all my life – a girl who’s always questioning, always searching, always chasing after some unknown ideal. We are currently one and the same, but I have a feeling that soon we will split. Probably, it is time to change.

But before this happens, we will make a pilgrimage to Steinbeck’s beautiful home in the Salinas. We will sit before the sunset on Monterey Bay with the wind in our hair and the smell of salt spray washing over our skin. We will listen for the voice of Steinbeck, and try to understand.

Maybe we will learn something new.