By Royal Calkins
After a couple decades of living among the coastal elites, I drifted away from the Central Coast a few months ago, not long enough to adjust but long enough to know what I miss about Monterey County. And what I don’t miss.
Haven’t gone that far, just to the dry Sierra foothills near Yosemite. Close enough to maintain my affiliation with Voices of Monterey Bay but far enough to never have to worry about Car Week traffic or whether my fading eyesight will let me make it through the too-dark Lighthouse Tunnel again.
Moving always requires an adjustment. This move has been harder than most because I spent so much good time on the coast and because it’s a good place to be an inquisitive reporter. It seems that some of those in positions of trust aren’t really up to it. That creates a mountain range of opportunities for serious journalism of the small-town stripe.
But rather than provide an inventory of miscreants — you can do that for yourselves by putting my name into the Voices archive function — I’m here today to list some of the best things I experienced while luxuriating along Highway 68 and some of the not-best things.
THE THINGS I MISS
The ocean, of course. It defines the Central Coast and I miss everything about it, even the way it almost drowned me the first time I tried kayak fishing. What with the Coast Guard and its auxiliary being called into action, I thought I might make the news.
I miss the beaches, too. North and south and right in town. The smell. The birds and seals and happy families playing in the sand. How’s that monstrosity of a hotel coming along in Sand City? If a bunch of stores in Sand City go out of business, wouldn’t it be great if Sand City went out of business, too? Let the free market do what the Coastal Commission couldn’t.
Big Sur. When I was editor of the Monterey Herald, I was secretly proud of being editor of the paper that circulated in Big Sur. Best week I ever spent was on the beach there. College days. Best meal I ever ate was some sort of brisket thing with polenta topped with an egg at the Big Sur Bakery.
The weather. I used to put up with summer heat like the kind over here when I was young and didn’t know any better. The worst thing about the weather in Monterey is that sometimes it’s too chilly to eat outside. You poor things. Oh and sometimes the wind blows and the power’s out for an hour and you have to start the generator so you can watch “The Bachelor.” Here it’s just hot, at least so far.
The people. Not all of them, of course. If I can think of a Republican there that I’m fond of before I finish this piece, I’ll stick the name in, but for now I’m stumped. Is Marc del Piero still a Republican? There are a lot of smart, good, astute people on the Central Coast and I know some of them. I’ll miss the times I’m in the grocery checkout line and someone says, “Hey, aren’t you Joe LIvernois?” I miss Karen Ravn and Eric and Sabrina and Dale and Denise and Steve Hunt, Jeanie Marino and Pam Dozier, Susan Ragsdale Cronin, Larry Parsons, Larry Parish, the Turners, Aparna Whatshername, Gordon Smith, Peter and Robin, the Voices crew, Sara Rubin but mostly Beverly Bean partly because of her name. Marcos and Ginger. Oh yeah, and Mary Adams, Wendy Root Askew and of course George Riley, the most important guy on the Peninsula. People should do what he says.
I miss the food. Where I’m at there’s burgers and tacos but they taste the same. There’s a casino not far with foodstuffs trucked in from Vegas. The time I went I felt conspicuous because I was wearing a mask and not smoking. Best food I ever had in Monterey was seafood pasta. Second best was seafood pasta, and have you ever had fresh halibut? Most romantic: Bistro Moulin. Best deal: Chopstix in Monterey and Seaside.
I miss the diversity, which mostly means the Latinos of Salinas and Watsonville and Seaside, etc. I miss their smiles, their decency, their hard work, their food, their attitude, their children, their elders and the way they keep the area from being overrun by trust fund babies. There are Latinos where I’m at, just not enough. There are Native Americans, too, but that’s a whole ‘nother story. Have you been watching Reservation Dogs? You should.
The radio stations: In my truck here, I listen only to the Giants on KNBR and talk and banjo on public radio. The rest of the dial depresses with country music of the “She’s got her short shorts on and I’ve gone my buzz on too” variety, salvation stations, Mexican music but not the good kind, and “Classic” radio, which is not that at all. I sure do miss KPIG, and KRML and the UC Santa Cruz station and KKUP in Campbell. Send radio my way.
WHAT I DON’T MISS
The entitled people. When I started working at the Herald as city editor 20-something years ago, I’d get all these calls from people who wanted something done about something and wanted me to know that they were bigshots back home in Chili Dip, Iowa. They knew the publisher there and I’d better do something about this or I’m going to talk to your boss. Most of the publishers I have known took their calls and I never heard about it but, toward the end, there was this publisher who had been a bigshot himself back home in Corn Flakes, Michigan, so things got different. .
And then there are those Peninsula people who seem to believe they have their ocean views because of hard work but everyone knows it’s because of their grandparents’ hard work. You’ve seen them. The men with the sleeves of their yellow sweaters criss-crossed over their shoulders. The surfer dudes always at the gym or at the bar.
Car week. I like the cars but not the people who truck theirs in from Rich Guy, Connecticut.
I don’t miss the media as they are but I do miss the way it was. I have said too many times that there were like 40 journalists working at the Herald when I started and now there are six or so. I miss the way the politicians used to clean up their acts because someone was watching. I miss the great work of Virginia Hennessey and Julie Reynolds. I don’t miss Paul Miller’s editorials in the Pine Cone.
I don’t miss the political activists who seem to forget who they are when the issue isn’t environmental. The Peninsula activists who haven’t been to Salinas in years, except on their way to the SF airport, and who couldn’t find Greenfield on a map. The folks who don’t want ICE agents in the jail but aren’t sure why. The people who think they’ve done their part to end hunger locally because they tip well.
I don’t miss the dozens or hundreds of people who have read my continuing string of articles on the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Steve Bernal in particular, but who haven’t even considered getting angry about what they’re reading and joining my effort to fix things. It’s been months now since I wrote about a domestic violence case and how the Carmel police failed to make an arrest despite obvious injuries to Bernal’s sister-in-law and how the city then hired a private investigator with all sorts of ties to Bernal to conduct an ”independent, outside investigation.” What has become of that? I don’t know because city officials have closed ranks and won’t take my calls. But a lot of you know the mayor and the council members and the city manager. Have any of you made calls, put any pressure on the City Hall folks? If you have, let me know.
In a similar vein, a former Sheriff’s Department employee reported to county and state officials that she had been harassed by various co-workers after ending an affair with Bernal. What’s become of her case? It’s confidential, or so I’m told. Aren’t there some among you who hate how it’s always the woman who gets screwed over? If the media are going to continue withering, don’t you think some of you smart, progressive folks living the good life west of Laureles Grade could pick up some of the slack by calling county counsel or the Board of Supes?
What else don’t I miss? The Marina fog. The gate fee at Pebble Beach. The cost of concerts at Sunset Center. Cal Am Water. Housing prices. Rental prices.
Here’s more: How long it takes road projects to be completed over there. Faster over here. I don’t miss the way the Monterey school district spends big bucks on lawyers to keep public information away from the public or the tough-on-crime cops and prosecutors who can’t seem to find any wrongdoing among the rich and powerful.
I miss dogs running on the beach in Carmel. I don’t miss the way law enforcement can’t seem to see the flocks of fighting cocks being raised in Prunedale and Royal Oaks. I miss the secret coastal summer of September and October but I don’t miss the Naked Lady flowers that warn you that summer’s about over. I miss the sand dunes but not the sand fleas.
I don’t miss the traffic on Highway 68, the noise from Laguna Seca and the airport, the blight along Fremont Avenue and the developers who try to make all their homes sound like ocean-front property.
All in all, though, I do miss the Peninsula and the rest of the county, the sunsets and the coastal fog, the gentle people and the lovely rows of crops every bit as much as I feared I would and, some days, even more.
Photo: From Lower Presidio Historic Park | Provided
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