The Best Of Time
A seasonal tradition returns.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
The first whiff of spring arrived last weekend. On the way back from a walk at Molera Beach, as we approached the Big Sur River, Traci took note of a spicy fragrance in the breeze coming down the valley and wondered aloud: “What is that?” A second later, she answered her own question: “Spring!” Realizing that, the air smelled even sweeter. Being reminded that the days will soon be longer and warmer, the flowers blooming, baseball season starting, all that good stuff—who doesn’t love this time of year?
A similar thing happened Sunday out at Toro Park, right around sunset. On the way down the trail after a short hike in the hills, I heard a bird going wild, singing its head off, its clear notes ringing off the canyon’s sandstone walls. It took half a second, because I hadn’t heard that tune for a while, to realize that it was a robin—a sure sign that springtime is on its way.
Again, that brought on an extra-good feeling.
Both of these moments of everyday joy were deepened because I know this place. Familiarity can give meaning to fragrant breezes and pretty sounds in the woods. It’s true about familiar birds and rivers and also about beaches and bands, nightclubs and even hardware stores. If you’ve enjoyed a memorable meal at Pacific’s Edge, then just hearing that restaurant’s name conjures pleasant thoughts.
we all enjoy seeing a bunch of the things we love about this place all gathered together.
I think that feeling of familiarity is part of the reason so many people love this annual compilation of our readers’ picks for the Best of Monterey County.
All we have here is a list, with some simple descriptions, of people and places that we all know pretty well, and yet it is always our most popular issue of the year. I’m pretty sure that’s because we all enjoy seeing a bunch of the things we love about this place all gathered together. It gives us a better sense of where we live, and reminds us that this is our home.
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Here inside the Weekly’s offices, the issue we short-hand as “Best Of” makes things a little crazy. There are only a few weeks between the final tally of the Readers’ Poll and the print deadline, so we have to do a lot of work in a short amount of time. The editorial staff is busy researching and writing and shooting photos; the display sales team is out congratulating winners and working with them to create thank-you ads; the classified folks are helping their clients get into our biggest paper of the year; and the art-and-production people are building ads and putting the whole big book together. (For the distribution crew, the work—getting 40,000-plus 176-page papers to 1,000-plus pick-up spots—starts when the rest of us are done.)
Creating this issue is like taking a 50-person expedition up a big mountain. Somehow everyone here seems to love it.
Last Saturday, Maureen, our newish arts editor, who’d never worked on a Best Of issue before, walked into my office grinning, after hours of proofreading copy on a gorgeous weekend day when she should have been at the beach. She was wagging a sheaf of marked-up pages. “This is so good,” she said, “I’m just…I’m having so much fun!”
OK, so this is our thing, and of course we love it, but I know that it isn’t just us. Last Friday, half-buried by a list of Readers’ Pick winners that I needed to write up, I called PG Hardware (2007’s Best Hardware Store) to get some info. When I was told that I’d have to hold for a minute or two because the owner, Bill Derowski, was on the floor helping customers, I was grateful for the opportunity to sit back and stare out the window. Soon after he got on the line, my lethargy vanished.
I went through my spiel: “I’m calling from the Weekly, and we’re working on this thing we do here, the Best of Monterey County,” I said, in case he hadn’t heard of it.
“I look forward to it every year,” he said.
“Well, you guys won,” I told him, and he lit up like I’d told him he won the lottery. He was excited hearing he’d get a Best Of Monterey County certificate to hang on his wall. “I see them down at Goody’s every time I go to get a sandwich, and I’ve always wanted one,” he said.
Bill Derowski has worked at his hardware store for 25 years and is a big part of the PG community. He’s also part of the Weekly’s bigger community, which encompasses the whole of the county and includes upwards of 100,000 readers.
Every week, we work hard here to help build this community. A lot of the time, as our readers all know, we cast a critical eye on local issues and events, and point out things that by our judgment could be better. And once a year we celebrate the Best. Over the past 17 years, it’s become a much-loved familiar ritual. It’s a local rite of spring.