Sitting on Cannery Row

In 1998 I lived in Northern California, right in the belly of Silicon Valley. I worked at a typical start up, based in an old house without heat or air conditioning. The biggest perk was the kidney shaped pool that was about twelve feet from me out the drafty french doors beside my desk.

I’d moved to California on a whim, a spur of the moment decision after a late night (early morning?) phone call with a friend who had already made the move. Three weeks later I had my tiny convertible loaded up, had sold everything that wouldn’t fit in it or that I couldn’t haul up to Oklahoma from Dallas to store in my sister’s garage, and made the drive west.

It was the second time I’d ever been in California and the first time I’d ever been north of Los Angeles.

Living in the bay area is, as they say, something everyone should do once. But make sure you have some money stashed away. It ain’t cheap.

I was making nothing, especially after rent and car payment. Weekends were mainly made up of filling my gas tank (gas was cheaper then, thankfully), putting the top down and driving up and down the Pacific Coast Highway, Highway 1.

It was those weekends I fell in love with the Pacific, with Monterey and with John Steinbeck.

With no money to my name I would check books out of the library and sit on a beach and read.

I ready Cannery Row sitting on Cannery Row. I’d walk around and try to line the story up with the historic road which barely resembled the one in the story.

That year in California brought back my love of reading and reminded me that I love writing as well. I wrote a short story during those months, emailing it back and forth to my Dad for edits and reviews, that I eventually submitted to the John Steinbeck Short Story Competition. My dreams of becoming a published author so easily were dashed quickly. An author from Hawaii with several published books won the award.

But I had written my first complete short story since college, and in my opinion, my best one. It’s been more than fifteen years since then and I still pull it out and read it when I need inspiration. I figure if I could write those 7,000 words and be happy with it, why not 50,000 words?

If only the next chapter of my book would write as easily as this blog post.