Cannery Row

I’m currently reading an Italian translation of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row (Vicolo Cannery). For anybody who hasn’t read it, it’s a romantic, sentimental depiction of a real place and based on real people, a community of outsiders in old town Monterey, California during the depression. Cannery Row was the popular name for Ocean View Avenue. It’s in an industrial part of town at the waterfront and was home to the old sardine fleet. The fish were abundant then, and Ocean View Avenue was lined with canneries. The main characters in the story are a man who owns a biology laboratory and warehouse, a bunch of bums and winos who spend their days in a vacant lot drinking, a Chinese grocer, and a madam with a heart of gold. The book sympathizes with these outsiders. In the mid-1940s, the sardine population began to crash, eventually putting the canneries completely out of business. The book Cannery Row was so popular that the town renamed Ocean View Avenue after it and turned it into a tourist destination.

Last week, Judy did a special screening of Pelican Dreams at the aquarium in Monterey, and they put us up in one of the Cannery Row hotels. Because I’m reading the book, I was interested in checking out the locations. Today the old canneries have been turned into restaurants, hotels, and upscale boutiques. It’s extraordinarily expensive and quite tacky, like Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. The morning we left I was walking along a bike path/pedestrian thoroughfare that used to be train tracks when I happened upon two homeless people guzzling a bottle of beer. It amused me highly because I was certain that if they’d been noticed by the police, they would have been run out of the neighborhood. Yet they were the only true part of the book that was left.


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7 Responses to “Cannery Row”

  1. stiegem Says:

    I have followed you for some time now (being a guardian of maroon bellies and parrots and such). Your journey continues to inspire me in so many ways. You and Judy are the “true part” of many books. Just wanted to comment this time to let this audience know how I appreciate your lives.

    • markbittner Says:

      I often feel as though I’m just floundering, interested in things that few others are interested in, talking about things that nobody cares about. So thanks for the affirmation.

  2. Tim Mueller Says:

    1) How’s this for affirmation? I’m predicting that Fisherman’s Wharf will one day be renamed, “Street Song Plaza”.
    2) Emotions are curious things. “I feel” has replaced “I think” as the true stamp and seal of more and more of our utterances. Many times my students will give me a response that they think/feel is irrefutable because it FEELS right. Is it possible to feel like you’re floundering when you’re standing on solid ground? Of course. Which sensation carries the most validity?
    When we think that there is little or no consensus, when we think that there is little or no common ground, our thinking turns inward. In many ways, that’s a survival instinct. Is it possible to FEEL alone on a planet with seven billion other people? Certainly. Far too many of us do it every day. Right now, I feel like the philistines (or the Flintstones) have taken the reins in public education and sent their spawn and/or minions to populate my classroom, as if to double my despair.
    “Welcome to McDonalds!” is meant to be a sign of affirmation and welcome. (The exclamation point is meant to suggest that they REALLY mean it.) But when I go there to get a cup of coffee on the way to school, and the person who said that is staring at the milkshake machine, I don’t feel very affirmed.
    3) Is the process of baring one’s soul to the world more unsettling than the world’s ultimate response? I’m getting that feeling.
    I feel like I’ve said enough. I shall go to Facebook now and see just how many cyber-affirmations I’ve received…

    • markbittner Says:

      Philistines/Flintstones is the most succinct description of modern times in these here United States I have ever heard. I hope it’s yours.

  3. unhoppy Says:

    Yes, Philistines or Flintstones. I love that too.

    Fisherman’s Wharf certainly did seem tacky when I visited a few years ago. That word ‘tacky’ describes it perfectly. It was more like a carnival than a fisherman,s wharf, everything so overpriced. I liked Telegraph Hill much better.

  4. joe Says:

    I very much like stiegem’s phrase “i appreciate your lives” 😉 rare is the individual who can use such an expression,it suggests to me that he,like you & judy,is Whole as an individual,all of a piece,as opposed to the far more common near-schizoid playing “one person at work,another at home,a 3rd with “social” friends” ,& then,occasionally,actually being themselves;usually most people cave to this way of being for fear of solitude or being the odd man out.(historical social side note, the Oddfellows (kinda like the masons & shriners) called themselves Odd because they helped others & at the time of their founding it was considered by the majority Weird to be doing such a thing;thus their name was a declaration of their full acceptance of their particular social status),I too,appreciate your lives:we currently live in an age (i think ) where walking the talk/leading by example/being one’s Actual self as an idea to be lived has become the Ghost of what it used to be; but there are still plenty of us out there,i volunteer a few of my favourite “authentics” for anyone interested:

    “thingsifindinthegarbage” -wordpress
    ideas in the afternoon-cbc
    tapestry-cbc (of particular interest for you,mark 😉
    writers & company-cbc

    spring (nothing below 32 farenheit,no more snowfall) up here in montréal,qc,finally showed up 3 days ago,(’cause climate change is an NDP socialist plot according to our p.m.stephen harper ;)! so i’m off to spring clean the vegetable beds,cheers!
    happy spring everyone! 😉

    • stiegem Says:

      I bow to your compliment, Joe, regarding your comment on my comment. Yes, I do feel the Oneness. We are all made of stars.

      There are certain exceptional people, like Mark and Judy, who shine forward in so many ways. Light follows the Light. I am grateful for them.

      It’s 73 degrees here in Michigan today. And the sunshine is beautiful! I’m thinking of you really in your vegetable beds!

      Carry on. 🙂

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