Tag Archives: California

Nerdy Travelers Rejoice: A Bucket List of Literary Museums for Literary Travelers

21 Aug
HuntingTheGrisly
Bustle came out with a listicle entitled “9 Best Museum In The World for Book Lovers, Because There’s Nothing Like An Original Manuscript.” It has some fantastic recommendations that this nerdy traveler will undoubtedly be adding to her bucket list.
No list can ever be complete, so I’d like to add my recommendations:
The Beat Museum
It should come as no surprise that I’d recommend the Beat Museum in San Francisco. Not only can you see a huge collection of Beat Generation mementos, but there’s also a bookstore that sells first editions, signed copies, and other collectibles.
Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historical Site and Interpretive Center
Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site and Interpretive Center out on Long Island is the place for fans of the Good Gray Poet. What I love about this museum is that it gives a snoopy look into the private home life of the poet and also keeps his tradition alive through contemporary poets. There’s also a wall in the museum that makes me think Whitman inspired Kim Kardashian….
Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace
Speaking of birthplaces, the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace is a must-see. (It’s currently closed but will reopen in a few months.) Oh, sure, he’s remembered today for being one of our presidents, but he was a prolific author, and his birthplace shows how he went from a sickly reader to a big-game hunter. I wrote about the museum in the introduction to his Hunting the Grisly.
Washington Irving’s Home
Washington Irving’s home, Sunnyside, in Sleepy Hollow, New York, is also a fun visit—particularly around Halloween! I went there a few years ago with a friend and to this day we still talk about it.
Junibacken Museum
I mentioned the Junibacken Museum, devoted to Astrid Lindgren’s works in Stockholm, Sweden, in a recent post. It’s particularly fun for children, but even adults may enjoy it.
The Writer’s Museum
I would also recommend The Writer’s Museum in Edinburgh, Scotland. My sister and I visited there quite a few years ago and saw the literary lives of Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson come to life. My sister does a mean Robert Burns impersonation.
Some people go to the beach on their vacations. I visit museums and bookstores.

Correcting My Joisey Accent

28 Jan

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image via Harvard Dialect Study

“You’re from Joisey!” all the West Coasters would exclaim when I moved out to Los Angeles for college and told them I had come from New Jersey. That’s what I said, “New Jersey.” Not “New Joisey.” Yet they hoisted the accent upon me anyway.

My finger nails may have been a tad too long and I may have grown up spending every Saturday at the Garden State Plaza, but I definitely didn’t speak like some chick who over Aqua-Net her hair. In fact, no one I knew spoke that way.

…Well, at least I thought we didn’t. No one I knew pronounced “hamburger” like “hamboiger” or anything as nails-to-the-chalkboard as that, but when I really listened to the way my friends talked, I noticed there was maybe a slight accent to a few words. Some of my friends pronounced “water” as “wooter.” I also noticed I had a certain way of crunching words. “Orange juice” became “ornch juice.” “Drawers” became “joors.”

I was always a little sensitive about the issue of accents. As an immigrant with a thick Greek accent, my father sometimes was misunderstood by waitresses at restaurants, which infuriated me because I could understand what he was saying perfectly and when others couldn’t I believed it to be deliberate xenophobia. But it wasn’t just my father who had an accent. My mother was from Minnesota, another state beleaguered by accent stereotypes. My mother did not talk like any of the characters in Fargo, but she did say “melk” for “milk” and “tall” for “towel.” That’s how my siblings and I grew up speaking, and I made a concerted effort to rectify my speech.

Actually, the school system made a concerted effort to rectify my accent: I was put in speech therapy in elementary school. It was humiliating. I was the shyest kid in my grade—and probably the entire state—and yet the few times I opened my mouth I was punished by being singled out and removed from my normal class to have a therapist teach me how to talk “correctly.” That was enough to keep me silent throughout most of elementary school. Now, I had a real reason to fear talking and stay quiet. I was afraid that if I were to speak up, no one would be able to understand me.

In the school’s defense, I really did need speech therapy. As this eHow article on How to Speak with a New Jersey Accent teaches, I dropped all my “r”s—to the point that certain words, like “art,” became incomprehensible. My accent wasn’t just the issue though. On top of having a foreigner for a father and, let’s face it, as a Midwesterner my mom was pretty much a foreigner too, I had pretty severe hearing issues, which had impacted my speech. I had to have surgery twice as a kid to have tubes put in my ears.

I’m not sure if this was related, but a lot of what I did hear, I took literally instead of as an accent. I remember my speech therapist asking me what type of shoes I wore, and I said, “tenner shoes.” I think I knew that meant “tennis shoes,” but I remember thinking in that moment that I had definitely answered “wrong.” I felt so stupid as she questioned me if I played tennis. From then on, I knew the correct label for my shoes was “sneakers.” How could I have been so stupid as to call them tenner shoes? I taunted myself afterwards. I’d never even picked up a tennis racket. I blamed my mom. She was the one who called them that.

Worse, in 6th grade, the music teacher gave us a pop quiz on the lyrics to “The Star Spangled Banner.” When I got my test, it was clear she thought I was a horrible speller. I was relieved because this meant I got a better grade than I should have. I was also shocked that she thought someone could spell that poorly. Suddenly, I realized how “dumb” some of my classmates really must be, if I’d been given that much credit for my botched lyrics. In reality, I’d been misunderstanding lyrics the entire time. I thought “dawn’s early light” was “donzerly light.” I wasn’t sure of the exact definition of “donzerly,” but I pictured it as hazy white fireworks, since that’s what often accompanied the national anthem and seemed to coincide with what “bombs bursting in air” would’ve looked like.

So when that New York Times dialect quiz, based on the linguistics project Harvard Dialect Study, spread like wildfire over Facebook, I took it figuring it would identify me as having some random accent. But nope, it identified me as being from Newark/Paterson, Jersey City, and—somewhat inexplicably since it’s in northern California—Fremont.

Once a Jersey girl, always a Jersey girl.

What accent did you get?

Also, you might like:

 

Jack Kerouac Dropped Out of College. So What?

27 Jan

Is genius born or created?  By now everyone has read, or at least heard, about how Steve Jobs dropped out of Reed College and went on to become the cofounder of Apple and one of the most important entrepreneurs of our time.  Perhaps less known is the fact that Jobs continued to audit classes at Reed.  He actually credited a calligraphy course he took as having a major impact on the Mac.  When I was taking a shuttle from the San Francisco airport to my hotel out in Walnut Creek, I had a midnight conversation with a businessman who had read the biography on Jobs and told me about how the computer genius’ interest in art was fundamental to his vision for building a successful brand.

Back in September, Flavorwire posted an article called “10 Famous Authors Who Dropped Out of School.”  This is what they wrote about Jack Kerouac:

In high school, Beat hero Jack Kerouac was no poet — he was a jock, star of the football team. His athletic skills won him a scholarship to Columbia University, but he and the coach didn’t get along. The two argued constantly and Kerouac was benched for most of his freshman year. Then, he cracked his tibia and, his already tenuous football career over, dropped out of school.

I love Flavorwire, and I understand that the writer was trying to keep the text short and irreverent, but I think it’s worth dissecting the often repeated line that Kerouac dropped out of Columbia University.  Implicit in remarks about his football scholarship and dropping out is the suggestion that Kerouac was neither intelligent nor studious—the same way that many critics like to point to how quickly he supposedly wrote his novels.  If he were a computer genius, like Steve Jobs, perhaps his craft would not be questioned, but because the arts are subjective, Kerouac’s dropping out of college is often reported more as a jab than as evidence toward his natural gifts.

To say that Kerouac was a jock and not a poet in high school undermines his academic achievements.  In reality, Kerouac, who didn’t even feel completely comfortable speaking English when he went off to school (he spoke his parents’ French Canadian dialect), did so well in school that he skipped a grade.  He spent a lot of time at the public library in his hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts, voraciously reading the classics.  When he was not on the football field, Kerouac was part of a roundtable discussion group on philosophy and literature.  His father was a printer, and so even at a young age, Kerouac produced his own writing.  Like Jobs, Kerouac did not come from money, and the scholarship he earned helped him attend the university, where he studied English under the tuition of great professors.

Kerouac left Columbia, then he returned to resume his studies, and then dropped out for good.  However, like Steve Jobs, Kerouac continued his studies even after he dropped out of college.  He enrolled at The New School, where he studied literature.

 

After Kerouac moved to Ozone Park, Queens, and holed himself up writing, his friends jokingly referred to him as “The Wizard of Ozone Park.”  Do you know “The Wizard of Menlo Park” (New Jersey) was?  Thomas Edison, who after only three months of formal schooling, dropped out.

 

***

This post has been updated. I wrote “college” when I meant to write “school,” when referring to Kerouac’s ease with English.

 

 

92-Year-Old Greek Diner Shut Its Doors in Literary Neighborhood

24 Jan

Ninety-two-year-old Greek diner St. Clair has closed down, reports Grub Street, after learning the news from Brownstoner.

Owned by five Cypriot brothers, according to New York magazine, offered various Greek dishes such as the Greek Delight Platter, Corfu Salad, and Greek Moussaka alongside classic American dishes like The Best Baked Meatloaf and 14 Oz. new York Cut Sirloin Steak Sandwich. Brooklyn Daily provided a little history that when the diner was revamped in 1967 it was opened up as the New St. Clair by the Costa family. In 2007, they sold it to Spiro Katehis, who also owns the Carroll Gardens Classic Diner. The Greek diner was at the corner of Smith and Atlantic in the Boerum Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn.

In The Town and the City, Jack Kerouac housed the parents of his main character in Brooklyn and mentioned the Boerum Hill neighborhood. Of course back then, the neighborhood hadn’t gone through its yuppie gentrification—Kerri Russell and Michelle Williams have called it home—and was known as South Brooklyn or North Gowanus.

Considering the establishment had already opened in 1920 and Kerouac was in the area in the 1940s and ‘50s, it’s possible—though not proven—that he could have stopped in the St. Clair Diner.

The neighborhood is famously home to another writer: Jonathan Lethem, who told the New York Sun,  “’My image of the writer came from people like Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac.’” When he was younger, Letham hitchhiked to California and worked at used bookstores. In 2011, he was the Roy E. Disney Professor in Creative Writing at Pomona College, where I studied literature and Classical Greek.

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

 

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: 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: Garlic Capital of the World

16 Nov

The first road trip I ever took to San Francisco was with my best friend on spring break during college.  As we were driving up from LA, she pointed out Gilroy, telling me that that’s where all the garlic is grown.  She told me they even had a garlic festival!

Here’s a bit about Gilroy, California:

Gilroy is well known for its garlic crop and for the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival, featuring various garlicky foods, including garlic ice cream. … Gilroy’s nickname is “Garlic Capital of the World,” although Gilroy does not lead the world in garlic production. While garlic is grown in Gilroy, its nickname comes from the fact that Gilroy Foods processes more garlic than any other factory in the world; most pickled, minced, and powdered garlic come from Gilroy. 

Garlic ice cream?!  Uh, no thanks.  Although I have had olive oil ice cream, and it was amazing.  I do love garlic, though.  So naturally when my recent road trip from San Francisco to Monterey and back passed by Gilroy, I had to get out and take some photographs.

 

 

If Jack Kerouac’s road trip sustenance was all about apple pie, perhaps mine was about gaaaaaaahhhhhrlic!

If you have any good recipes for dishes with garlic, let me know!

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.