The Lonliness of the Long Distanced Traveller
Trip Start May 30, 2008
28Trip End Ongoing
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In truth the loneliness was another name for boredom. I had started to realise that planning activities for 10 weeks is a hard thing to do successfully. Sometimes you pay for six nights at a place and have seen everything in half the time
Life Isn't bad. How can it be when I have time to do and see what I want without the hassle of someone telling me to clean my room and wash behind my ears. Brother's can be so demanding when you live with them.
Arriving in Monterey had been something of a godsend after my train journey from Portland. Amtrak trains had so far been very good to us, but following a recent train crash in California, this journey took four hours longer than the 21 billed on the ticket. 25 hours on a train - was I out of my tiny mind? Obviously, I was. America had just got bigger - and by four hours.
The positives though of train journey's do outweigh the negatives, pure and simply because of the characters that also use this mode of transport. My travelling companion was Larry Hardy, another middle-aged gentleman who was also travelling to Monterey via Salinas
However, for all the conversations that I enjoyed over dinner and breakfast with the various people sharing my table, none of them interested me more than the waiter. This guy was in his early 20's and from the first time he opened his mouth you knew he was new to the job. His mother obviously hadn't dressed him or combed his hair because he had a slightly dishevelled and unkempt look that a feminine touch would have straightened out. If that wasn't bad enough then his personality for the job was; and I felt that this dude wouldn't make it past probation - especially after seeing his boss
Eventually at around 3.10 the train pulled into Salinas, from where Larry kindly asked his friend if he could give me a lift to my hostel. This was indeed nice and was in keeping with the hospitality I'd experienced by Americans on this trip. The delay had been beneficial to me because when I was dropped off I only had five minutes to wait before the Hostel International opened it's doors to another traveller. As Hostels go it was okay. It's vibe seemed quieter than the last one, but this had been going on since Seattle, so was to be expected.
Monterey had been chosen as a destination a long time ago, primarily for the Jazz festival and John Steinbeck. The initial vibe of the New Monterey area seemed good, especially the terribly named British Bulldog pub. Unlike other British associated things in America this was owned by a Brit and a few Guinness's were had in this establishment
I didn't know quite what I had expected of this Californian region. One thing I was sure of and that this weekend would probably be packed with people visiting the 51st Monterey Jazz festival. However, what I felt was that Cannery Row and all the John Steinbeck tinged themes of the area were tarnished in a way that would have seen him turn in his grave. This was a typical tourist resort, which whilst pleasant soon became boring. Steinbeck's name was used from Jewellers to shopping centres. Funny thing was that in this region I didn't see one shop actually selling his books. I suppose all his memorabilia was in Salinas at the National Steinbeck Centre. It was strange though because pictures of him and Ed Ricketts (Steinbeck's good friend) were everywhere to be seen.
And so the moment had arrived when Jay Jefferson Jay adorned his Jazz outfit and headed off to this prestigious festival. Nice! Armed with a list of artists on the bill I headed off to the Transit Plaza to pick up the bus to the venue. I didn't actually ask what the Transit Plaza was, although it became pretty obvious as I approached and saw buses
As for the event itself it was good. The venue was small and compact, although the price of my ticket prohibited me from the main arena - thus the main acts. That said I didn't come to see anyone in particular. I came for the experience and to enjoy an evening of Jazz. I think three days on my own at this event would have driven me mad, so I was pleased with my choice.
Unlike Bumbershoot you could get a beer, where a Thelonious Monk Belgian beer was the star attraction. I didn't actually drink any alcohol here, but if I would have done then this beer would have been chosen - if for the curiosity as to what was in it. I'm sure as well as hops and yeast there probably was a hint of piano in there to give it that soft and lemony freshness. I had heard of the Dead Poets Society, but now a Dead Jazz Beer Society. Great!
Over the years the amount of music festivals I've been to has been relatively few, so the irony of going to two in a month in a foreign country had an amusing ring to it.
All the artists on the various stages that were spread out at this prestigious event had their own charms. I felt as I watched the George Young Quartet perform the songs of Billy Strayhorn that my mother, father and step-father would have enjoyed the traditional Jazz that was provided by these guys. I had really enjoyed it as it started off the evening with a traditional sound. I'm not a Jazz snob and I wanted to watch something old, something new and hey, something blue. So I couldn't wait for the Lick My Lovepump All-stars to hit the stage. I'd heard these guys went up to 11 as well! Far removed from George Young was Rudder who were very Jazz/Rock and pretty fucking good to boot. However, for me the star of the evening was Israel's Anat Cohen. Anat played a damn fine Clarinet and Saxophone and danced around the stage in a sexy manner, which rendered seeing the All-stars pointless. Like a puff of smoke the 51st Monterey Jazz festival had come to a close, well for me anyhow, but it certainly wouldn't be forgotten.
In order to keep up the cool vibe which the Jazz festival had left was pretty easy to do as the Steinbeck National Centre beckoned next. John Steinbeck's birthplace had been in Salinas and so a 45 minute bus journey was needed to reach the destination. What made this bus journey different was that I felt the Salinas area reminded me of bus journeys I had taken in Israel where framed land boarded either side of the road. The museum itself was excellent. Strange thing was I should have paid 11 bucks entrance fee, however as no one was at the front desk I wandered in free of charge and enjoyed the centre even more. Everything you ever wanted to know about him, his stories and the Salinas area were explained in depth as you got a feel for the man and the area that inspired him to pen numerous best selling novels.
All that was left to see was Carmel. Carmel was known to me through banning ice cream cones and for Clint Eastwood briefly being the mayor. It was more than that with art galleries at every turn, fine shops and a beauty made even better by classic Californian sunshine. Yet the star attraction was the beach. This beach's charm was possibly the fine sand; but then you can't always describe a place that has a feel to it that lives up to all it's billing, and Carmel home to the rich and famous ticked all the boxes. It certainly put Monterey in the shade.
California was a unique experience and another adventure achieved on this trip, which was continuing to be fruitful in it's pursuits. John Steinbeck said 'A journey is a person in itself, no two are alike. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.' Wise words indeed and with Minneapolis and Claire up next I had to bow to his supreme prowess and left life follow it's natural path - wherever that lay.