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Sipping a Cappuccino in Oldtown Salinas
I drive Main Street past the National Steinbeck Center, watching the zooming and vrooming. Since the Center opened in 1998, I’ve seen visitors from all over the world showing all possible driving styles and street-crossing habits. I ease off the accelerator and remain alert for joggers.
the health nut
sucking in the fresh
I go down Salinas Street till I reach a seedy parking lot behind the Cherry Bean Café where the Steinbeck Feed Shop used to be.
Oldtown starts at the National Steinbeck Center at 1 South Main Street and ends at Main and San Luis. Three blocks, that's all. "Oldtown is so big," a nudnik says, "the signs, 'Welcome' and 'Bye-bye' are both nailed to the same post." Well, close. I love it, though. It’s homey. Three blocks, tons of guts.
The Steinbeck Center is full-blown postmodern, but it sits well at the head of Oldtown, lifting its dome off globing fruit, fading its hues into furrows, and sucking its warmth from the sunbaked Toro breast.
suddenly the school bus
doesn’t blend with the hills
I park my Mustang, grab my scratchbook, and slam the door. My horse sinks well into the lot, sponging and fixing the smells of the hood.
Greek god smashed
on dusty shelf
Taking in the air—a blend of rosebuds and bath salts—I look down Main Street to Mount Toro. City parts like a mouth for a breast. Farmland is felt. Fresh furrows fly open for seeds. I smell the sweet smell of dirt. The perfume of globing apples, plums, and peaches thickens, making me slightly sick.
clog the cracks
Cherry Bean is full of laughter. Before the mechanical horses hit the road it was full of horse laughter.
wasting the time
at the sidewalk café
I like to plop at the table overlooking Main Street, sucking in the perfumed air, nibbling on my cup, and giving things a thought. I get a kick from the klezmer weeps and reggae chills they pump in through the loudspeakers. For long, when I was rustling up pennies for their basic fare, the Steinbeck Blend, they let me thief refills. One perfumed morning, they gave me hell.
to the other side
wine shop shut
The Steinbeck Feed Shop closed. The gas had pushed the oats out, but the horse laughter took root. No wonder, bookish men horse around, firing up the imagination.
between the sheets
Big brainstorms hit me here, like that day—years into trying to nail my Mexico tale down—when it hit me the tale wasn’t my tale at all, but a biblical bubbie mayse about getting tossed for bad behavior. I just happened to have lived it.
zooming and vrooming
fading into espresso