Monterey and the Ghost City

By the time I left Big Sur, I was pretty fed up with taking pictures of beautiful topography, but I passed an old naval lighthouse perched high on an island that I just couldn’t pass up.

Further up the road I stopped again to grudgingly capture the beauty of this surf spot.

Several miles and a few delicious fruit stands later, I had arrived in Monterey. It proved to be a pretty place, if a bit stodgy and quiet. I was so starved for human contact though, that it was an ecstatic joy to be in a city of any sort. I wandered about for a while and took in the new setting. One of the first things I noticed was this awesome tile mural:

Soon I came to the heart of Monterey, the wharf and marina. Monterey seemed to be focused around the vibrant sea life of the Monterey Bay, which is the largest marine sanctuary in the United States.

The shore was alive with various marine animal noises. I was able to trace some hilarious and familiar barking  and find this cluster of sea lions fighting for position on a raft:

Near the end of the wharf was “Rappa’s Seafood Restaurant,” where the presumable owner, Tony, made a redundant and preposterous claim on a billboard:

While driving around, I also saw this, and said aloud to myself, “Wow. They actually did it.”

Note: I’m talking about the small brown sign farther up the pole.

I called my host, Walter, and he told me to meet him at a local monthly market. I showed up and wandered a bit, and saw a face I recognized in the crowd. It was a girl I had seen days ago wandering in Big Sur. When we originally crossed paths days ago, I tried to talk to her, but failed because she didn’t seem to understand english. But after meeting the same person by chance in 2 places miles apart, I felt compelled to at least try again. Our eyes met and we both recognized each other, and I said hi again, and this time, she understood me. Through her heavy accent and broken english, I learned her name was Aurelie, she was from Quebec, and she was WWOOF-ing (WWOOF is an organic farming organization) at a farm nearby. Now that the awkward language barrier was broken, we talked freely, and she turned to her companion and said “Allen, I present to you, Marc of France.” After this unintentionally hilarious introduction, I talked a bit with Marc, who was charming, had a discerning taste for wine, and a much better command of the english language than Aurelie.

He was confused by the vendor’s hip decision to serve their wine in mason jars, and after much confusion and stumbling of words, the best explanation that I could get through the language barrier was “It’s for fashion.” He immediately understood and laughed. Talking to foreign people is often illuminating; I always learn something from the way the language gets boiled down to a very primitive and concise version. I often realize how few words I can use to get the same point across. I probably would’ve spent several minutes lambasting the contrived nature of wine in jars at open air markets if I was with a native english speaker. Yet we got the same effect and shared laughter with 3 words. ‘It’s for fashion’ indeed.

Eventually I met Walter, who was tall, funny, and perfectly eccentric. We walked around a bit before departing to his quaint home. I learned that he is a Meteorologist, and has excellent taste in music, as well as humor. I slept well on his large couch.

——————Day 2——————-
The following day I decided to explore the town of Carmel, located to the south and on the coast. A friend had grown up there, and confided that Clint Eastwood served as mayor for many years. This painted a strange and intriguing picture, so I headed down.

The first place I found was some sort of country club type of thing that looked out on the water. The white things are sheep.

I found the beach and walked down it amongst the housewives and their lapdogs. My death metal shirt made them a bit uncomfortable but I was feeling quite serene.

After the beach I took off down the avenues to find downtown. After navigating many narrow European-style neighborhood streets, I found a dense cluster of overpriced emporiums that was apparently downtown. I saw a candy shop, and was struck by a foolish but persistent notion that Carmel would have good caramel. I bought some and this was quickly smashed. Freshly disillusioned, I trudged around the boutique nerve center. The shop names steadily degenerated from trendy platitudes into the absurd. This one was the last straw:

Before I came to Monterey, I asked my friend Josh about the area. He said, “Carmel is nice, you’ll hate it.” His words echoed in my head like that of a father’s forewarning from years ago. Between the shitty candy, the “Material Goods” outlet, and the looks of disdain, it was definitely time to leave now. On my way out of downtown, I spotted this on a billboard:

And this on a telephone pole:

This pretty much sums up my time in Carmel.

I returned to Monterey and tried some busking out by the wharf. It was a huge hit until a disgruntled park ranger came to break up the party. She started giving me a hard time, and just as I was about to walk away from the inane cop-talk, I saw she had a gun. I asked if she was a police officer and she said yes. Apparently prime busking area, a tiny 20×50 foot strip of land in front of the touristy wharf, was a national park somehow. This lady and several armed cohorts lorded over the most minuscule jurisdiction I had ever seen  She detained me and ran my name for warrants, but ultimately had nothing on me and had to let me go. I informed some other buskers before she had the chance to bust them as well, and we all moved 50 feet over, and continued to exercise our free speech just outside her little fief.

I returned to Walter somewhat dejected at the ranger/cop/feudal lord incident, but he quickly lifted my spirits by informing me that the great Bill Murray was in town for a golf tournament, along with ex-presidents Clinton, Carter, and Bush. The latter three interested me less, because, while they may have been presidents of the United States, Bill Murray was the president of my heart.

Aurelie called soon after and we arranged to meet at a cafe, before searching the town for signs of Bill Murray. Apparently he had taken a sharpie to the walls in several spots, leaving his signature behind as some kind of grandfatherly omen. I wanted nothing more than to run into him. We even invaded the town’s nicest hotel and surveilled the exclusive bar social, but to no avail.

We did, however, find some enormous sea lions and got super close to them by climbing down an industrial wharf. They barked at us inquisitively and flopped around. It was exciting and honestly a bit scary, because they were so big.

Also found this, the greatest and most inexplicable bike accessory ever:

yup, that’s a can of Skoal in its hand.

After several hours I relinquished hope of finding Bill Murray, and we parted ways.

——————–Day 3——————–

I was just about ready to head out of town when Aurelie called and asked if she could tag along. I obliged, and she came over and got to know Walter while I packed up.

Walter was feeling patriotic. God Bless America.

After some organizing of gear and a bittersweet goodbye to Walt, we were on our way up the road. Between Monterey and Santa Cruz there was an enormous old abandoned military base called Fort Ord that a friend had tipped me off to. We found it pretty easily, and hopped a fence in. First thing we found was a church. I used my hatchet to pry/smash off a piece of plywood covering a window, and we found a scale model of a failed development plan from 2003. I quickly seized my rightful place as Godzilla and stomped destructively through the little town.

Aurelie took a turn, although considerably more daintily.

I was a kid in a candy shop, and thew my hatchet around breaking things wantonly. I threw it so hard into the balcony that the handle got stuck in the wall.

After I had smashed enough things we set out towards an ominous and older-looking building.

It was a big ol’ decaying theater. Even though it was daylight, I had seen too many zombie movies to fully relax in this setting. I mean, really, it’s straight out of a movie. Also there was asbestos everywhere, which explains why all these building haven’t been demolished.

Next was a wash house. The showers were eerily Auschwitz-esque. Aurelie swung around by the piping.

We wandered from building to degrading building, smashing things as we went. I was in heaven. There was much more than I even imagined. A whole abandoned city to play with. At its peak, it could’ve support a population of thousands. Every single structure you see in this series is completely abandoned. I can’t help but imagine how much fun it would be to have a large scale paintball war here. Why the hell hasn’t anyone done this?

Dining Hall:

Boiler or something? Weird for it to be in the middle of the central room though.

Terrifying pitch black basement. The camera flash lit it up, but trust me – zombie central.

A cryptic 19 year old inscription:

No rats as indicated by the writing, but some awesome and super antiquated equipment.

After several hours we had only scratched the surface, but the sun was going down and we had to get to Santa Cruz and find a place to sleep.

We came in just as the sun was setting, and watched the surfers down by the lighthouse. Santa Cruz seemed a very laid back, stoned sort of place. This was cemented when a large fire-spinning group lit up as soon as the sun set. They were really talented and it was some of the best fire spinning I’ve ever seen. I got out my guitar, and several drummers and percussionists materialized out of the night to accompany me. Soon my friends from the Big Sur campsite appeared as well, and we all had a blast under the stars. Aurelie got some awesome long exposure shots of the fire poi:

My pictures pale in comparison, but this guy had some unusually large poi:

Here’s a handful of em going at it:

The night seemed to be winding down when Dyami, the de facto leader and most talented of the group, muttered something about a “I wanna do a naked burn.” Before I had the chance to ask, he dropped his pants and was joined by several other nude cohorts for what was a true Santa Cruz welcome. A girl even joined in topless to help balance out the sausage fest.

After being greeted by naked guys flinging fire around their genitals in 40 degree weather, I decided that Santa Cruz was a pretty cool place. I got in touch with Mitch from couchsurfing, and he gladly welcomed us into his home at the last minute. We slept like babies on his futon matress.

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