Tag Archives: California Coast

Big Sur Debuts Today at Sundance Film Festival

23 Jan

Big Sur debuts today at Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah:

When I first saw the trailer for Big Sur I felt a sense of relief. While I enjoyed the film adaptation of On the Road, the Sal Paradise character (based on Jack Kerouac and played by Sam Riley) fell flat for me. Jean-Marc Barr plays the Kerouac character in Big Sur and at least from the trailer seems to embody him much better.

The film is directed by Michael Polish and the cinematography is by M. David Mullen, who worked together on Stay Cool and The Astronaut Farmer, and it is gorgeously lush.

The story of Big Sur is in many ways On the Road‘s opposite. On the Road brings to life Kerouac’s early adventures roadtripping across the country. His zeal for life explodes across the page. Big Sur, on the other hand, shows the writer in the later years of his life, after fame and alcohol had taken a toll on his life.

The first time I read Big Sur it depressed me greatly, reading how Kerouac struggled and obsessed over death, but I read it again last fall when I was roadtripping down the California coast and saw how Kerouac really was a master at style. There’s a repetition and rhythm of the book that echoes the cyclical nature of the ocean.

This isn’t the first time Kerouac’s time in Big Sur has been the subject of a film. In 2008 there was One Fast Move Or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur.

Here’s a synopsis of Polish’ Big Sur from the Sundance website:

Big Sur focuses on a moment in Jack Kerouac’s life when, overwhelmed by the success of his opus On the Road and struggling with alcoholism, he retreats to his publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s cabin in the small, coastal California town of Big Sur, which eventually inspires his 1962 novel of the same name. Kerouac’s time begins with quiet moments of solitude and communing with nature. But, struck by loneliness, he hightails it to San Francisco, where he resumes drinking heavily and gets pushed into a relationship with his best friend Neal Cassady’s mistress, Billie.

While writer/director Michael Polish (Twin Falls Idaho) explores a less glamorous moment in Kerouac’s legacy—one of alienation and mental breakdown—Big Sur equally examines the beauty of this time in the writer’s life, witnessed in the romance of friendship and the purity of nature. Jean-Marc Barr embodies Kerouac’s intelligence and masculinity, but also portrays him at his most contemplative and vulnerable. Luscious and breathtaking, Big Surapproaches a religious cinematic experience.

Director: Michael Polish

Screenwriter: Michael Polish

Executive Producers: Mark Roberts, Eddie Vaisman, Jim Sampas

Producers: Ross Jacobson, Orian Williams, Adam Kassen, Michael Polish

Cinematographer: M. David Mullen

Production Designer: Max Biscoe

Sound Designer: Chris Sheldon

Costume Designer: Bic Owen

Principal Cast: Jean-Marc Barr, Kate Bosworth, Josh Lucas, Radha Mitchell, Anthony Edwards, Henry Thomas

 

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Road Trip: Hitchhiking to the Mission

24 Nov

 

By the time my poor bus rolled into Carmel, the day was fading and the shops had closed their adorable doors.  Music from a live concert rose up out of the heart of the main shopping plaza, and the moon made his appearance even though the sun hadn’t quite set yet.  I was a little disappointed not to be able to stop into the cheese shop that the wine guide back at the winery had recommended, but I was intent on getting a little culture out of the trip.  Man cannot live on cheese alone.  I set off to visit the Carmel mission.

I was a little annoyed that I’d paid all this money for a tour that basically amounted to the driver talking over the intercom as he drove the bus and then sleeping while we wandered off on our own into the unknown.  That was the point when I actually needed a tour guide.  I didn’t need someone to tell me to look out the window because by golly there’s a strawberry field.  I needed someone to physically walk me to locations because I’m for someone who loves to travel I’m notoriously bad with directions, and I hate wasting time getting lost when there are things I want to see!  I asked the driver to point me in the direction of the Carmel mission, and he told me the twosome up ahead of me were also headed there and honked the bus horn at them so they’d wait for me.

I awkwardly approached, not knowing if I was encroaching on some romantic rendezvous.  As it turned out, they were ex-brother and sister-in-law.  The woman had married and divorced the guy’s brother.  They couple had been divorced for many, many years now, but the woman and the brother had remained good friends and travel companions.  Hm… was there maybe something more there?  No.  He’s gay and in a committed relationship, and she is currently in a serious relationship.  They just like to travel together.

Alrighty then!  Onward ho!  (Actually, I found the relationship backstory out on the return trip.)

The woman once been given a beautiful painting of the San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo and always wanted to visit it.  We set off down the road, the driver having told us it was only about a ten-minute walk.  That was a lie.  As we were trying to figure out which way to head, a woman in an SUV pulled up and asked us if we wanted a ride.  Now, if you’ve read my “Nightmare of a Trip” post, you know that I’m well versed in the dangers of hitchhiking, but I figured I was with two other people.  Plus you had to have seen the woman in the SUV.  She was skinny with bleached blonde hair and wore these ginormous heels and what may have been a dalmatian-fur coat.  I couldn’t tell if she was actually old or if her skin was damaged from too much suntanning.  We were grateful to her, though, as she took time out to give us strangers a ride.

The San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, like all the shops, had already closed, so we could only peer in over the fence.  It was a beauty!  Established in 1771, the Community of the Carmel Mission is a working church.   The Basilica Church is a registered National Historic Landmark and there are five museums on the grounds.

Of course, the bus also made a stop at the Carmel mission when we left the area, but we didn’t have time to get off the bus at that point, so I’m glad I ventured off to enjoy its peaceful presence.

 

 

I’m not sure which mission he’s referring to, but in Big Sur Jack Kerouac writes of Cody, the character based on Neal Cassady, saying:

“Now dont walk too fast, it’s time to stroll along like we used to do remember sometimes on our daysoff on the railroad, or walkin across that Third and Townsend tar like you said and the time we watched the sun go down so perfect holy purple over that Mission cross–Yessir, slow and easy, lookin at this gone valley…”

Road Trip: Cannery Row

23 Nov

What’s a road trip to Monterey without a stop to Cannery Row?!  I had read Cannery Row during my layover in Wisconsin so I was all prepared to visit John Steinbeck country.

 

 

 

Road Trip: Wine Tasting at Bargetto Winery

20 Nov

 

 

 

Nearly 90% of American wines come from California.  While Napa and Sonoma Valley are the most recognizable names associated with California wine production, there are many other fertile regions for grape growing and winemaking throughout California.  While I was in Monterey, I stopped by the Bargetto Winery shop for a little lesson on winemaking in the Santa Cruz Mountains and, of course, some wine tasting!

Visiting the Bargetto Winery was one of the highlights of my road trip to Monterey.  It was also one of the most unique wine-tasting experiences I’ve had.  I’ve gone wine tasting in Tuscany, Long Island, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Vermont, as well as sampled wines in Oregon.  Along the way I’ve encountered some exquisite wines.  What made the tasting at Bargetto Winery stand out was the diversification of wines I samples.

The standout wine at Bargetto Winery, for me, was the the Chaucer’s Cellars apricot wine.  I was at first hesitant to try this fresh fruit wine.  Although I was intrigued, I imagined it would taste like marmalade.  What I discovered, though, was a refreshing dessert wine bursting with flavor.  It’s sweet but also light.  It’s certainly not a wine you’d want to drink glass after glass of, but it is the perfect ending to a meal.  The expert who was helping me suggested it also went well with spicy chicken cashew dishes; the website also offers recipe ideas.  As the website says:

CHAUCER’S CELLARS, produced by BARGETTO WINERY, has won gold medal winning dessert-style wines for decades. These elegant wines are produced from 100% pure fruit or natural honey without the addition of artificial flavors. The distinct taste of these wines can be enjoyed in the tradition of Medieval England. In the spirit of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, experience these unique wines as a pilgrimage in sensory delight.

“A pilgrimage in sensory delight”!

The other dessert wine I tried was definitely my least favorite of all the wines and that was Chaucer’s Mead:

Take a step back in time and enjoy the flavors of this popular Elixir. Our Mead is made with similar recipes used in Medieval Times.

The honey for this specialty dessert-style wine is produced in hives throughout Northern California. It is composed of a blend of three types of honey: alfalfa, sage and orange blossom. Each type brings a unique quality to the blend and contributes to the overall complexity of the Mead. Alfalfa is neutral in flavor but yields a dark, amber color. The orange blossom brings a floral bouquet to the nose of the wine. Sage brings subtle nuances into the blend.

I’m a big fan of all things honey, and I appreciate the blend of three different types of honey produced in California.  I’m not a huge fan of mead in general, and the particular mead I was served contained a spice packet of cinnamon and cloves.  It tasted like Christmas tea.  Not necessarily a bad thing.  I would certainly enjoy a hot cup of spiced mead on a snowy winter’s night — but no more than once a year.

I also tried a pinot grigio and a pinot noir, both of which were delicious.  The pinot noir had a sexy spiciness to it that made it perfect for drinking on its own or with a strong, peppery cheese.

Two brothers in the Bargetto family emigrated from Italy and started a winery in San Francisco that was shut down during Prohibition.  The Bargetto Winery was then established in 1933, meaning it was around during the time Jack Kerouac and his friends were road tripping along the California coastline.

Today, the Bargetto Winery practices sustainability in their winemaking:

There are three aspects to winegrowing sustainability as it applies to our winemaking operations:

  • The first is Environmentally Sound , in which we strive to produce wines in a green manner. Each month herein we post one of our winery practices like insulation of cooling pipes for energy conservation
  • The second is Economically Feasible , in which we maintain practices that will allow our winery to continue our long family tradition. Producing consistently quality wines that retain devoted customers and efficient business practices are two examples
  • The third component is Socially Equitable , in which we strive to provide a healthy and dignified work environment for our employees. Our giving back to the community , especially our LA VITA Fund is another example of this aspect to sustainable winegrowing.

The Santa Cruz Mountains is a beautiful area, which overlooks the ecologically diverse Monterey Bay Sanctuary. We believe we have a duty to do our part in maintaining and improving this natural beauty while being good business citizens of our community.

The Santa Cruz Mountains pass through San Francisco and head all the way down to Monterey Bay and the Salinas Valley.  It’s worth noting that the agricultural towns of Salinas and Gilroy, which I also passed through on my road trip, are also known for their wine.  The Santa Cruz Mountains is an American Viticultural Area (AVA) that consists of Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and San Mateo Counties.  There are more than 200 vineyards in this area.

You can visit tasting rooms of the Bargetto Winery in Soquel or Monterey (which is where I went).

Speaking of Chaucer, you may also be interested in my earlier post:

Road Trip Writing: On the Road and The Canterbury Tales

Road Trip: Monterey

19 Nov

Most people associate John Steinbeck with Monterey.  Many of his famous novels, including Cannery Row, were set in Monterey.  Not surprisingly, there are many tributes to him in the toursity little town.

 

Steinbeck photobombing me

Jack Kerouac also wrote about Monterey.  One of the most beautiful passages about Monterey in Big Sur is:

But it is beautiful especially to see up ahead north a vast expanse of curving seacoast with inland mountains dreaming under slow clouds, like a scene of ancient Spain or properly really like a scene of the real essentially Spanish California, the old Monterey pirate coast right there, you can see what the Spaniards must’ve thought when they came around the bend in their magnificent sloopies and saw all that dreaming fatland beyond the seashore whitecap dormat–Like the land of gold–The old Monterey and Big Sur and Santa Cruz magic….

 

Road Trip: The Salad Bowl of the World

15 Nov

One of the reasons I was excited to travel the California coast from San Francisco to Monterey was because we’d pass Salinas.  John Steinbeck and Jack Kerouac wrote about Salinas Valley.  Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men was set in Salinas.  In 1960, Kerouac published a piece called “The Vanishing American Hobo” in Holiday magazine, which in part said:

I myself was a hobo but only of sorts, as you see, because I knew some day my literary efforts would be rewarded by social protection — I was not a real hobo with no hope ever except that secret eternal hope you get sleeping in empty boxcars flying up the Salinas Valley in hot January sunshine full of Golden Eternity towards San Jose where mean-looking old bo’s ‘ll look at you from surly lips and offer you something to eat and a drink too — down by the tracks or in the Guadaloupe Creek bottom.  

Kerouac also wrote about Salinas in Big Sur.  Even though it was in Selma, California (called Sabinal in the novel) — the Raisin Capital of the World — that Kerouac wrote about picking crops with “the Mexican girl,” Terry, in On the Road, I imagine it to be very much like Salinas.

The Salinas Valley, which begins south of San Ardo, and runs all the way to Monterey Bay, is known as “the Salad Bowl of the World.”  Most of the green salad produce you eat in the US comes from the Salinas Valley.  Named during California’s Spanish colonial period, Salinas means a salty lake or marsh.  The climate and growing conditions make the valley particularly fertile.

I saw signs promising 7 avocados for $1.  Do you know how much I pay for an avocado here in New York City?  $2 for a single avocado!  I was super excited — “stoked” to use the lingo I picked up while living in Cali (yes, people really talk like that there).  However, in keeping with the everything-going-awry theme of the trip, we did not get to make the stop because our bus had broken down earlier on the trip and we were already two hours behind schedule.  I took these photos from the window of the bus.

Road Trip: By Night

30 Oct

In honor of Cabbage Night and Halloween, I thought it would be fun to post some photos from my road trip that I took at night.  A midnight road trip is deliciously scary.  The moon taunting you from above.  Tree branches that look like claws.  Eerie silence.  On the bus, we watched the psychological thriller Vertigo, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, which was filmed in part at the 17-Mile Drive, which we traveled through on our road trip, but you could listen to an audio recording of a horror story if you have to keep your eyes on the road … and the rearview window!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Road Trip: Lone Cyprus Tree

25 Oct

We stopped real quick to see the Lone Cyprus Tree as we took a road trip along the famous 17-Mile Drive on the California Coast.  It’s such a beautiful symbol, a tree enjoying the salty ocean air.

Here’s a little bit about the Lone Cyprus Tree from Wikipedia:

Chief among the scenic attractions is the Lone Cypress Tree (36.568738°N 121.965321°W), a salt-pruned Monterey cypress (macrocarpa) tree which is the official symbol of Pebble Beach and a frequent fixture of television broadcasts from this area. In 1990 the Monterey Journal reported that Pebble Beach’s lawyer, Kerry C. Smith, said “The image of the tree has been trademarked by us,” and that it intended to control any display of the cypress for commercial purposes. The company had warned photographers that “they cannot even use existing pictures of the tree for commercial purposes.”[3] Other legal commentators have questioned the Pebble Beach Company’s ability to invoke intellectual property laws to restrict others’ use of such images.[4]

 

 

We also passed the Ghost Tree, which is a cyprus that’s turned completely white, but I missed it as we drove by too quickly.

Road Trip: Pebble Beach Is Not a Beach

23 Oct

Part of my road trip down the California coast included a stop to Pebble Beach.  As it turned out, Pebble Beach is not actually a beach.  It’s a prestigious place to golf.  I kept seeing everyone take photographs with this clock so I took one too.  I have no idea why.  I know nothing about golf and this clock means nothing to me.

 

Road Trip: 17 Mile Drive

22 Oct

On my road trip down the California Coast, we took the 17 Mile Drive.  I’d never heard of it before, but everyone talked about it as if it were the highlight of the trip even though we spend a lot less time there.  What I discovered was that California’s 17 Mile Drive is a stretch of road associated with luxury.  Millionaires build mansions that overlook the Pacific Ocean.  Golf is the sport of choice.  The art scene is thriving among the cultured citizens.

Here’s a bit about the 17 Mile Drive from Wikipedia:

At the north end, a portion of the early route through Pacific Grove begins at the intersection of Del Monte Blvd and Esplanade Street. The famous portion of 17-Mile Drive then begins a few miles south of this point. The crossing of Highway 68 (Holman Highway/Sunset Drive) and 17-Mile Drive marks the entrance to Pebble Beach.

From the Sunset Drive/Pacific Grove gate, the drive runs inland past Spanish Bay, then adjacent to beaches and up into the coastal hills, providing scenic viewpoints. Travel along the road takes as long as the traveler likes, a minimum of 20 minutes south to Carmel without stops. Numerous turnouts along the road allow stopping to take pictures, or getting out to stroll along the ocean or among the trees. Visitors receive a map that points out some of the more scenic spots. In addition, a red-dashed line is marked in the center of the main road to guide visitors, and help prevent them from venturing into the adjacent neighborhood streets.[2]

The road provides vistas of golf courses including Spyglass HillCypress Point and Pebble Beach. After reaching Carmel Way, and the exit to Carmel, the 17-Mile Drive then heads northeast to the Highway 68/Highway 1 interchange, where one can exit, or continue to loop along the higher vistas of 17-Mile Drive, some of which offer views from more than 600 feet above sea-level. The full loop will take you back to the Pacific Grove Gate at Sunset Drive — a distance of 17 miles.

 

The driver slowed down and pointed out various homes.  I was not impressed.  I grew up with parents who trapped us kids in the back seat while they drove around looking at the mansions in Alpine, New Jersey.  I’ve seen beautiful, large homes before, and it just doesn’t impress me.  Interior decorating and architecture are passions of mine, so it’s not that I don’t appreciate nice homes.  And I’m by no means against luxury.  I rather enjoy a certain lifestyle.  I’m just not impressed by it.

Do you enjoy driving around looking at mansions?

 

In case you missed last week’s road trip posts:

everything on my trip went wrong

cocktail recipe for what Jack Kerouac drank in Big Sur

writing tips from Big Sur writers

save the sea otters and sea lions