Yesterday was another infusion day, so I spent the morning hooked up to an IV drip in a comfy bed at the Infusion Center reading "Cannery Row" by John Steinbeck which I had not done before despite my enthusiasm for Steinbeck and his dyspeptic vision of California's Central Coast and its society.
In that regard, I should mention that my (new found) cousin sent me a journal kept by her mother and our aunts that has an extended section telling tales about their cross country rail expedition from Washington DC (where they were working at the WPA headquarters) to The Coast, where they did and saw everything. They saw all the sights from the Redwoods to San Francisco's Golden Gate and International Exposition at Treasure Island to Hollywood and Beverly Hills where they hob-nobbed with the movie stars and studio honchos. They went out to the beach and sunburned lobster red, they even went to Mexico, briefly, and saw a disgusting bull fight.
This was 1939. They passed through the Salinas Valley on their way to Los Angeles, but I can't imagine they noticed much. Certainly not the wretchedness and waves of travelers up from Mexico and still crossing the country from Oklahoma. What they reported and what they saw was the idealized tourist vision of California. There was always some truth to it, but it never told the whole story. Not by a long shot.
Steinbeck fills in some of the blanks, but he was hated for it in and around Salinas. His stories of his home place and the people there were stories you weren't supposed to tell. I grew up in other parts of California being socialized to that same notion. There are simply things you do not mention. If you're smart, you won't even look into them.
For example, I spent years studying the Gold Rush and the people who made their way to California between 1849 and about 1855. I reviewed all kinds of original documents kept at the California State Library and other places, and scoured the Gold Country for remaining clues to what was going on in those days.
The picture that emerged was nothing like the glorified and romantic image of the Gold Rush we were taught in school -- and I guess is still widely believed. For many who made the trek, it was horrible. Many died along the way or shortly after arrival. It cost a fortune to make the trip, and the chance of finding gold or even surviving more than a few months was slim to none.
And yet they kept coming. By the hundred thousands and ultimately by the millions they kept coming. My mother and her mother and stepfather among them. Most of my father's siblings -- but not himself -- came and settled in California, too.
Ms Ché and I left, though. She was born in California, and I lived there almost all my life, and the two of us could hardly wait to move to New Mexico.
Where I think we've never been happier -- health issues for both of us aside.
And so it goes.
Yes, there are plenty of challenges in front of us, and many memories left behind (along with a storage unit full of... stuff, including some of those memories...)
Perseverance, yes. But ultimately relaxation and freedom, too.
More to come.