Saturday, May 12, 2012

May 11th

"Surreal" is the only word that comes to mind when I think of eating a BLT Sandwich in what used to be John Steinbeck's parlour.  I have to confess I swiped the coaster under my glass, unnoticed by the ladies in the frilly aprons scurrying between the kitchen and the tables.  If Steinbeck had only known his house would become a restaurant! But, then, he came to hold his hometown of Salinas in disdain - that seems to be the way of home towns. The people there are never that pleased when one of their number breaks free. They really don't care for it, and it can lead to acts of vengeance, like removing his books from the local library and burning them. I wouldn't feel so happy about that either.
The people of Eastwood, where DH Lawrence grew up in England, didn't think to highly of poor David Herbert either. They thought he was too big for his boots. They didn't like that he took those boots and marched far away from them. That said something about them that they didn't like.  In Ireland once I heard a Dubliner comment that upon running into Bono (of U2 fame, very big fame) it was best not to let on that you knew who he was, in case he "gets a big head." It's hard on home-towners when they produce a star.
In the tourist office in Monterey, the lady at the desk was a seventh generationer. and some of her family had known Steinbeck. She pulled her lips tight as she said it: "I could tell you some stories." Well, old John wasn't too respectable. He made a point of that. "The code," not as it runs through nature, but as it is configured by men ( and I do mean "men") does not seem to apply. Part of being a hometown star is seeing that. But it doesn't go for making friends. It might even make you hard to live with. But John Steinbeck, DH Lawrence, Emily Bronte (line 'em up - there have been many) never belonged in a church pew or among the moral majority. It's what propels them away from the family parlour "to walk up the stairs of their concepts and emerge ahead of their accomplishments" [Steinbeck.] It's the difference between a frilly apron and a Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

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