For those of you who didn’t know already, John Steinbeck is my favorite author. As a Black writer, people are often in awe that my favorite writer isn’t one of the greats from the Harlem Renaissance, or one of the most famous pillars of so-called African-American literature (I view it as American literature, not African-American literature: they all had something to say about America as a whole, not just the Black experience). In any case, for years my favorite author has been Steinbeck, though J.D. Salinger is a close second.
Anyway, I was given a surprise trip to visit Steinbeck’s birthplace in Salinas, California. It wasn’t just the town we visited, we got to go to his house. His house operates as a living museum, with personal belongings. I got to stand in the room he was born in! My first visit to the Steinbeck house was in December 2010 when I took a trip to visit San Francisco (I was living in New York at the time). This was my first time returning to Salinas in four years.
I had a delicious lunch prepared by the Steinbeck House chef (his food is just as great as it was four years ago, and it was phenomenal then). I drank something they called Steinbeck Tea (which I forget what it was made with besides pink lemonade) and it was lovely.
After lunch and two desserts, we headed over to the National Steinbeck Center. Just like four years before, I enjoyed this museum. I got to see Rocinante, ponder the significance of “Timshel,” and relive the Dust Bowl era.
I always feel re-inspired to write when visiting the Central Valley. It reminds me that there is so much more out there than we may realize, especially if we’ve lived in the same place for our entire lives. It wasn’t until I moved to California that I realized that no matter how much I love it, New York City is not the center of the world. Steinbeck, having lived in both places, agreed.
Seeing the blue Pacific Ocean instead of the grey Atlantic is really inspiring. Rolling green hills shape the valley and green and red succulents dot the landscape. And in between the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Monterey Bay, and the tens of thousands of acres of farmland lies a part of America that most people never get to see, but I’m lucky enough to have experienced it.
Life has a lot of beautiful moments, and I’m grateful for each one.
Have you had the opportunity to visit your favorite writer’s home town? Have you been lucky enough to meet your favorite writer?