Schedules and responsibilities float overhead like a droopy cloud saturated and ready to dump. Bosses nag and clocks stall as precious hours are traded for a handful of dimes. A palm pilot overflows with meetings and a notepad begs for doodles. The sun rises to an alarm clock and sets to realty television. Like a toilet stagnant with the night’s villains or a sponge saturated with greasy sink water, the day’s worries can be cleansed by the swift flush or fierce squeeze of a long, aimless road trip.
Our rental car swerves around high cliffs green with tall pines and moist from the thick fog blankets of the Central Coast. Cattle graze and seagulls fall form the sky. The air, unlike earlier hours through Los Angeles, massages my nose like the relaxing sensations of a tickle back rub. The sea is strong in the air and marine life flourishes below the many cliffs and bridges we pass over. Away from a calender, clock and alarm, I am only reminded of time by the dull glow of the hidden sun overhead.
After a numb slumber inside the compact rental car, we pack up and begin our first full day of our adventure. The small village which we stumbled through late the previous night introduces itself with a lazy handshake. We putter through the slowly awakening streets and marvel at the personality in the peeling paint, splintering decks and cracking flower pots. Antique stores and small town art galleries showcase local culture and the preservation of a nearby mission gloats with history. We breath deep and sigh as visions of slow days in a small village drag their feet through our jealous minds.
The road carries us from the small village and through the manicured hills of agriculture and dirt. Oversize wood cutouts of farmers pay homage to the laborers of the land by standing 20 feet in the moist air along the main drag. Farms throb with activity and mills stand swollen and rusty. Roadside dirt blows in the wind with each passing car and low greens glisten from their last watering. The land I observe reminds me of the pages written by John Steinbeck and a weathered sign confirms my connection. The city of Salinas boasts the literary history with the frequent sign and sculpture of John Steinbeck. I flip through the pages of my paperback and imagine days when men worked with their hands not their fingertips.
Like Salinas, Monterey also boasts its relationship with John Steinbeck. A full size statue looks down a street and novels are for sale in storefront windows. We park our car by another splintery house with peeling paint and an address that conflicts with our Northern adventure. A steep hill lined with sturdy trees guides us to the ocean and the short stretch of Cannery Row. Unlike years ago when it hustled with fish guts and rubber boots, it now keeps afloat with tourist t shirt shops and the hallucinogenic current of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Steep fees deter our desire to gaze upon the artificial under world of the aquarium, but are replenished by the perfect timing of a local looking for an extra buck. The back door swings open and we enter the chilly world of aquarium. The many currents of the puddle scattered hallways glimmer with bright colors and creeping tentacles. Hours of a world stuck in a montage of slow motion leaves me numb and tired and we escape back out into the moist air under the dull sun.
A lonely man plucks favorite songs on a wood bench and I stop and watch. His song, recognizable, but extremely altered, whines through the foggy streets as I point my camera. Though the aquarium was impressive and the Cannery Row was soggy with history, my highlight of this bay was the high pitch songs of this lonely old man. His only responsibility is a warm blanket and his schedule is his next song; his life is simple and detached from all stresses. This lifestyle became my theme for the remaining days of our trip.
The campsite which we picked stood high above the rest which gave us a view of the surrounding camping families. Trees grew thick and healthy with dark green branches interlocking in a chain of marching redwoods. Smoke blew in the wind from the nearby wildfires and chainsaws roared late into the night. A spontaneous photo shoot experimenting with long exposure and trails of flame passed the dark hours and a fuzzy dawn under smoky fog greeted us early the fallowing morning.
Hours of each day were occupied by the aimless wanderings of wind blown bluffs, ice plant covered slopes and rocky paths. Never did we ask the time nor the day and a schedule was that of a worry in the mind of a content hobo. The sun rose and set the same way each day and our adventure was the same…simple and detached from all stresses.
Upon our return, I realized that a mild foundation of responsibilities is necessary for stability, but this foundation works best when cleansed by the intermittent detachment of schedules and worries.
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