Organizers of this year’s Aramcon annuitants gathering in Monterey, California in October have some exciting activities planned. One that’s certain to prove memorable is a tour of the Monterey Bay Aquarium located on what was once known as Ocean View Avenue, but was renamed Cannery Row in recognition of Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck who set his 1945 novel of the same name in that location. Notably, one of Steinbeck’s main characters in the novel, Doc, was a marine biologist based on a real life character and friend of the author named Ed Ricketts, whose lab was once upon a time located at what is now 800 Cannery Row, a stone’s throw from the Monterey Bay Aquarium at 800 Cannery Row. You don’t have to be a Steinbeck aficionado, however, to appreciate the non-profit aquarium, whose stated mission is “to inspire conservation of the ocean.”
The Aquarium features a stunning array of exhibits. Of particular interest is their special exhibition, “¡Vva Baja! Life on the Edge.” The museum’s own words describe ¡Viva Baja! perfectly:
“The slithery. The scaly. The spectacularly showy. Discover incredible animals from land and sea in this special exhibition featuring creatures from the coastal habitats of Baja California. Life here thrives on the edge of sand and surf, where rugged desert coastline meets the sapphire waters of the Pacific.”
In this exhibit you’ll see such exotic marine life as the Blue spotted jewfish, the Cortez rainbow wrasse and the Golden trivially, among many.
Other exhibits certain to prove fascinating include “Giant Pacific Octopus,” “Tentacles,” “Sea Otters” and “Splash Zone & Penguins.”
To get an advance taste of what’s in store for you on your visit, visit the Aquarium’s website, www.montereybayaquarium.org. There you can take a virtual tour and download the museum’s app.
Anyone interested in John Steinbeck who hasn’t yet read “Cannery Row” who hasn’t yet visited its pages owe it to themselves to take a peek. In one noteworthy passage, Steinbeck described the area as it once was in colorful words:
“Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses. Its inhabitant are, as the man once said, ‘whores, pimps, gamblers and sons of bitches,’ by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, ‘Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men’ and he would have meant the same thing.”
Reunion organizers assure us that the city has long since cleaned up Cannery Row and that, although its denizens today remain colorful, they have cleaned themselves up a bit and civilized themselves somewhat since Steinbeck wrote those words seventy-some years ago. In fact and fiction, Cannery Row is a great place to visit.