I began writing about the three communities a few months ago, and discovered in the process that I enjoy documenting the life of the communities around me. So I decided to post Part 1 of “Documentarian” (revised), which was originally posted in another blog:
After a pretty rough day at work, I find it oddly comforting to document my surroundings. I was thinking, today, of the two communities nearest to my house; these two places provide my basic provisions.
The first is Castroville, also known as the “Artichoke Center of the World,” and the place where one Norma Jean (yes, Marilyn) first won fame as the — you guessed it — artichoke festival queen. Local hype makes much of these two facts about the town. One fact it doesn’t mention: Castroville is the site of probably the only cooperatively gay/straight bar in town (and in the Monterey Bay Area, for that matter). Initially named after Norma Jean, it is now known as Franco’s. It’s also the site of the Islamic Center of Castroville.
This is Castroville’s main street. There’s not much going on in Castroville at 6:30 in the evening—at least, so it seems; I may be wrong about that, however. In town, I purchase things like toilet paper, dish soap, and dog biscuits; I go to Ace Hardware for tools. The first time I went in there, to replace a missing screw for the kitchen table I had just bought, the teenaged clerk walked out to my car to get a look at the table, to make sure the screw fit. When was the last time a clerk volunteered that kind of service for you in the city or suburbs?
Most of the population of Castroville is Mexican. They work in the fields, and they own many of the stores, beauty shops, garages and gas stations. I had my first taste of freshly squeezed betabel y naranja (beet and orange) juice at the Michoacan Meat Market here in town. YUM!
The other nearby community that I frequent is Moss Landing Harbor, about 5 miles north of Castroville. Local hype makes much of the seafood, antiques and fishing excursions in the area, and the fact that the Marine Research Labs are located here. I go to the Harbor to buy seafood, because it’s good and fresh. You can get it right off the boat — the Tina Louise, which is painted bright pink.
When I visited Moss Landing years ago, the Harbor was full of run-down, rotting warehouses, along with a handful of struggling antique stores. It was also notable for a certain bar (now gone) that was patronized by local motocycle clubs like the Hell’s Angels and the Flying Coffins. Now, the Marine Labs, affiliated with UCSC and Stanford, and MBARI (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute) have lent an air of busyness and importance to the place.
I think it’s safe to say that most of the people who live at the Harbor are more or less Anglo, although I have heard that there is a small population of Vietnamese here, who run some of the fishing boats. Moss Landing is a working harbor, with all of the stink and noise of same.
The power plant is located on the other side of Hwy. 1 from the harbor. It uses seawater for “cooling purposes” and discharges the heated water into the Bay. It is northern California’s largest non-nuclear electricity facility.
The MBARI website says this about Moss Landing and Monterey Bay: “Monterey Bay is one of the most biologically diverse bodies of water in the world. The Monterey Canyon, which bisects Monterey Bay, is one of the deepest underwater canyons along the continental United States.”