Checking in, after 12 months in the trenches.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
F.Scott Fitzgerald begins The Great Gatsby with a description of Nick Carraway’s move from the Midwest to Long Island.
“It was lonely for a day or so until one morning some man, more recently arrived than I, stopped me on the road.”
“How do you get to West Egg village?” he asked helplessly.
“I told him. And as I walked on I was lonely no longer. I was a guide, a pathfinder, an original settler. He had casually conferred on me the freedom of the neighborhood.”
I started working at this paper about a year ago – it was Car Week, so of course I couldn’t find a hotel for love or money and ended up staying overnight at one of Fremont Boulevard’s finer establishments. After the thrill of it all wore off, I eventually found a suitably anonymous apartment in one of the condo complexes around town.
It’s been a time of discovery. Since this is our annual Student Guide issue, here are a few of the things I’ve learned since entering this incredibly complex new environment, which combines some of the most heartbreaking, staggeringly beautiful natural scenery on earth with some of the most intractable problems in the country: apparently insoluble gang violence, devastating a community that deserves so much better. The ravages of the recession. Exposure to dangerous pesticides – and immigrant-bashing – faced by the people who work in the fields to bring us our food.
Relentless small town, small time politics that erode the soul and corrupt the sense that we are all in the same boat, and should be rowing in the same direction.
Unresolved differences between the dueling ideologies of sustainability and survival.
I’VE NEVER ENCOUNTERED A COMMUNITY THAT SO COMBINES POETRY WITH THE PROSAIC, IDEALISM WITH INANITY.
Ardent eco-activists and ranchers/growers who frequently don’t seem to take the time to understand the others’ point of view.
A beautiful, still relatively new CSUMB campus, now forced to turn away new students for the first time. Ambitious community colleges like Hartnell and Monterey Peninsula College that are scrambling to adapt to their new economic circumstances, while at the same time helping out the young people here who need them the most.
A military community – from Fort Ord veterans to the faculty and students at the Defense Language Institute and the Naval Postgraduate School – that coexists in uneasy proximity to the aggressively progressive leanings of other residents.
Boho stalwarts in Big Sur watching in consternation as the state park service goes on red alert for shutdowns due to shortsighted policies in Sacramento.
After facing financial extinction, The Center for Photographic Arts was saved through the heroic efforts of a group of (almost entirely) volunteer staffers. There were first-rate exhibitions by the Monterey Museum of Art, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, that would do any community proud, and a series of sterling, sold-out performances by the Carmel Bach Festival despite straitened circumstances and a foreshortened schedule.
Last weekend, we walked through the Custom House between Fisherman’s Wharf and Custom House Plaza, only to be told by one of the guides helping us out that she’d been informed that she was losing her job while on summer vacation in Indiana, and that the facility was closing down due to budget cuts by Sept. 8.
There are countless good deeds I’d love to get to, and many acts of villainy I’m leaving out. It comes with the territory.
I’ve never encountered a community that so combines poetry with the prosaic, idealism with inanity, multiplicity with myopia.
Just keeping your eyes open, taking things in, can be adventurous – and exhausting.
It’s also been an adventure to work with my colleagues here at the Weekly, who don’t seem to have gotten the memo that the newspaper industry – however one defines it in this multi-media age – is a goner, and are dedicated to putting out the best paper they can, no matter the hours, or the odds. I want to acknowledge and thank them, foot soldiers and generals alike, for their work.
Most especially, I want to express appreciation to Weekly News Editor Jessica Lyons, who is departing after eight years at the paper to embark on her own personal life adventure. She has been an invaluable resource to the paper: her unique combination of tough, stylish writing, smart editing and badly needed perspective and balance when the rest of us are melting down.
The rest of us will soldier on. With Jessica’s help, we’ve been given the freedom of the neighborhood.
Me, I’ve moved to Seaside.