Excuse Me, What Exactly Did You Mean By That?
The Cannery Row Marketplace struck gold when they dug up a letter last week from Thomas Myles Steinbeck (John''s son) to the Monterey City Council, touting the Cannery Row Marketplace development and denouncing local activists who wield his father''s name with too much freedom.
But when locals opposing the project read it, they had a collective coronary that Steinbeck''s son would use his father''s name to advocate a shopping mall proposed by out-of-towners. They then found a champion in Nancy Sommer Steinbeck (John''s daughter-in-law and Thomas'' sister-in-law,) who wrote a letter criticizing her estranged brother-in-law''s letter. You get the picture.
Both letters made the local news. But no one ever bothered to ask Thomas what the heck he meant by it. Indeed, it was difficult to decipher his letter which was wrought with contorted metaphors and overblown language (i.e.; "spurs of developmental avarice," "partisan conceits of operatic proportions," and the misspelled "Gordeon [sic] Knot"), ostensibly in a strained attempt to appear exceptionally literary.
Nonetheless, Thomas told Coast Weekly, he couldn''t care less if the shopping center gets built. All he cares about is the proposed San Xavier Foundation history center to be housed in the 1940s-era Stohan''s building which comes as a package deal along with the Cannery Row Marketplace, and which he hopes will recapture and interpret some of the Row''s history--a history all but nonexistent save a few scattered fragments such as a Steinbeck statue, the worker''s shacks and Doc''s Lab. If the city is too cheap to put out the money for a museum, he says, then why look a gift horse in the mouth?
Thomas says he wrote the letter ''cause he''s just plain fed up with the Monterey community that had every chance to save Cannery Row decades ago, but instead cowered to the pressures of property owners who turned the Row into a wasteland of T-shirt shops and mediocre restaurants.
"I''m not promoting a development. My only interest is for the museum," says Steinbeck. "I don''t care if it goes in that building, I don''t care if it goes in someone''s attic, just as long as people are going to see it. The rest of it is really none of my business."
The Marketplace is, however, the business of the city of Monterey, as well as local residents and merchants. So whom should they take literally?