Friday, April 26, 2019

The Birds Revisited

Waning Gibbous Moon

On a tip from my great friend Jessica, I ordered a used copy of Daphne du Maurier's collection of short stories called Kiss Me Again, Stranger from a famous non-tax-paying internet bookseller. Jessica read my previous entry praising Hitchcock's movie The Birds and she wanted me to know that Hitchcock used du Maurier's short story of the same name as the basis of his film.

I knew very little about Daphne du Maurier. I remember from years ago when I drove a bookmobile for a public library that her books were popular with mainly the white-haired, chatty, bespectacled grandmas who frequented the bookmobile and checked out tens of books every two weeks. In my ignorance, I assumed these stories would not interest me, so I never even took a peek at one. Was I ever wrong!

My well-worn, faded, three-dollar copy of Kiss Me Again, Stranger arrived a few days ago and yesterday I sat down to read The Birds. It's thirty-five spellbinding pages long, concisely gripping and dark. I loved it. I will read the rest of the stories now that I know what a vivid storyteller she is.

Maybe I have grown a little wiser and more open-minded in my old age? Dunno. But Daphne du Maurier can paint pictures with words and scare the pants off you, too, people. Those old bookmobile biddies back in the 1970's were onto something!

Peace, Love, and Daphne,

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The National Steinbeck Center

Waxing Gibbous Moon

For a measly senior rate of  $9.95, I treated myself yesterday to a visit to the National Steinbeck Center at One Main Street in Old Town, Salinas, CA. The center has been operating at this location since 1998 as a memorial museum to honor renowned author John Steinbeck, a native of the area. At 11:00 a.m. on a Saturday, I expected a large crowd, but instead, for about twenty-five minutes, I had the place to myself and two other quiet patrons. This allowed for the proper slow absorption of some of the exhibits and a bit of reflection on his stories. Some of them I have read and re-read, others I read long ago and had mostly forgotten.

As more folks filed in, it was harder for me to concentrate, but I persisted. What stood out was the amazing number of books he wrote and how many had been made into plays and films. I cannot recommend this place highly enough. While somewhat small in square footage, this museum is packed with information and context for both his novels and the movies made from them. Adding to the interest is Old Town, several blocks of rejuvenated buildings on Main Street which make for a fun stroll afterwards. Parking is close and cheap.

The exhibits are arranged in a large circle, based on the most famous of his works. My two favorites, probably like a lot of folks who live nearby, have always been East of Eden and Cannery Row. I recently re-watched the classic movie version of East of Eden starring James Dean. I was stunned by how much more I appreciated it now than when I was younger. Maybe that's because I have lived in an agricultural community (just twenty miles or so Northeast of Eden) for the last fourteen years. Or maybe some misty bit of wisdom has wiggled its way through the sloppy folds of my brain over time. Regardless, this story ranks right up there with the very best.

I see Cannery Row as an environmental parable, a warning shot, and a call to awakening about human greed and over-fishing, resource-gobbling, self-destructive stupidity. The characters are sharp and the language is brilliant, too. And I still think this is the best opening line of a novel I have ever read.

Why did I wait so long to have this Steinbeck museum experience? When I was teaching I was just too busy, but I have been retired for almost six years - never once did I drive over the divide and see it. Maybe next I will head down to the Sea of Cortez - let the ghosts of John Steinbeck and Doc Ricketts teach me more about life and nature and relationships.

Peace, Love, and the Tides of Time,