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Doc’s Drive To La Jolla From Monterey


Monterey, California

March 20, 2021


In Cannery Row, Doc makes the drive from Monterey to La Jolla. I smiled when Steinbeck described the places he stopped along the way I made roughly the same drive, although mine started in LA . I put in bold the cities I also passed through.


At some point I will need to plot the cities mentioned in Blue Highways, Travels with Charlie and Zen and The Art... and see how many i have been to so far. Doc didn’t stop in Salinas for a hamburger. But he stopped in Gonzales, in King City, and in Paso Robles. He had hamburger and beer at Santa Maria — two in Santa Maria, because it was a long pull from there to Santa Barbara. In Santa Barbara he had soup, lettuce and string-bean salad, pot roast and mashed potatoes, pineapple-pie and blue cheese and coffee and after that he filled the petrol tank and went to the toilet. While theservice station checked his oil and tyres. Doc washed his face and combed his beard and when he came back to the car a number of potential hitch-hikers were waiting. “Going south. Mister?” Doc travelled on the highways a good deal. He was an old hand. You have to pick your hitch-hikers very carefully. It’s best to get an experienced one, for he relapses into silence. But the new ones try to pay for their ride by being interesting. Doc had had a leg talked off by some of these.

Then after you have made up your mind about the one you want to take, you protect yourself by saying you aren’t going far. If your man turns out too much for you, you can drop him. On the other hand, you may be just lucky and get a man very much worth knowing. Doc made a quick survey of the line and chose his company, a thin-faced salesman-like man in a blue suit. He had deep lines beside his mouth and dark brooding eyes. He looked at Doc with dislike. “Going south. Mister?” “Yes,” said Doc, “a little way.” “Mind taking me along?” “Get in!” said Doc. When they got to Ventura it was pretty soon after the heavy dinner, so Doc only stopped for beer. The hitchhiker hadn’t spoken once. Doc pulled up at a roadside stand. “Want some beer?” “No,” said the hitch-hiker. “And I don't mind saying I think it’s not a very good idea to drive under the influence of alcohol. It’s none of my business what you do with your own life, hut in this case you’ve got an automobile, and that can be a murderous weapon in the hands of a drunken driver.” At the beginning Doc had been slightly startled. “Get out of the car,” he said sofdy. ‘What?” ‘Tm going to punch you on the nose,” said Doc. “If you aren’t out of this car before I count ten. One — two — three " The man fumbled at the door catch and backed hurriedly out of the car. But once outside he howled : “I’m going to find an officer. I’m going to have you arrested.” Doc opened the box on the dashboard and took out a monkey wrench. His guest saw the gesture and walked hurriedly away. Doc walked angrily to the counter of the stand. The waitress, a blonde beauty with just the hint of a goitre, smEed at him. ‘What’ll it be?” “Beer milk-shake,” said Doc. “What?” Well here it was and what the hell. Might just as well get it over with now as some time later. The blonde asked : “Are you kidding?” Doc knew wearily that he couldn’t explain, couldn’t tell the truth. "I’ve got a bladder complaint,” he said. “Bipaly- chaetsonectomy, the doctors call it. I’m supposed to drink a heer milk-shake. Doctor’s orders.” The blonde smiled reassuringly. “Oh I I thought you was kidding,” she said archly. “You tell me how to make it. I didn’t know you was sick.” “Very sick,” said Doc, “and due to be sicker. Put in some milk, and add half a bottle of beer. Give me the other half in a glass — no sugar in the milk-shake.”


When she served it, he tasted it wryly. And it wasn’t so bad — it just tasted like stale beer and milk. “It sounds awful,"’ said the blonde. “It’s not so bad when you get used to it,” said Doc. “I’ve been drinking it for seventeen years.” Doc had driven slowly. It was late afternoon when he stopped in Ventura, so late in fact that when he stopped in Carpenteria he only had a cheese sandwich and went to the toilet. Besides, he intended to get a good dinner in Los Angeles, and it was dark when he got there. He drove on through tind stopped at a big Chicken-in-the-Rough place he knew about. And there he had fried chicken, julienne potatoes, hot biscuits and honey, and a piece of pineapple- pie and blue cheese. And here he filled his thermos-bottle with hot coffee, had them make up six ham sandwiches and bought two quarts of beer for breakfast. It was not so interesting driving at night. No dogs to see, only the highway lighted with his headlights. Doc speeded up to finish the trip. It was about two o’clock when he got to La Jolla. He drove through the town and down to the cliff below which his tidal fiat lay. There he stopped the car, ate a sandwich, drank some beer, turned out the lights and curled up in the seat to sleep.


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