Kage Baker adored the gracious old city of Monterey. I think if we could have stayed in the old Shipping Warehouse, or the new Maritime Museum, she’d have been ecstatic. I can imagine her camped out happily next to the Fresnel light upstairs in the Museum, blissfully sleeping in its revolving beam of light.
Since they don’t let people stay there, or even camp out in the Plaza, we usually sought out a hotel in the adjoining little town of Pacific Grove. It’s that southern end of town on the other side of the Aquarium, where all the houses are from the last two centuries and the narrow strip of park on Ocean View Boulevard twists along the edge of the sea. It’s an utterly exquisite place, and for us it was always a destination of its own – we could go to Pacific Grove just to be there, and need no further adventures or delights. Sometimes we went and stayed in the Butterfly Grove Motel, and went no farther from our suite amid the eucalyptus trees and swarming Monarch butterflies than to walk down and admire the Lighthouse.
Pacific Grove was even more a destination resort when we stayed in the Seven Gables Inn. This is one of the lovelier B&Bs that throng in Pacific Grove like the butterflies; an old family Victorian that has converted seven of its rooms into bed chambres of astonishing beauty and comfort. It also offers the living room and parlour and breakfast rooms intact and still serving their original purposes, and there are more modern (but almost as lovely) rooms in the stable wing … it’s enough just to stay there, you really don’t need any other entertainment.
Being on Ocean View Boulevard, it faces the Pacific Ocean across a single narrow street; you can walk out the front door, cross the road and walk straight down onto what passes as a beach there – which, at high tide, is nothing at all. Very exciting. Seals and sea otters bask on the rocks; sea birds float like pearls in the kelp beds.
Kage went there for writing weekends; working holidays in an atmosphere of peace and beauty. I just unashamedly cocooned, spending my happy time in knitting and reading, surfacing to justify my existence in the window seat by debating What Comes Next with Kage. Other than that, I was as useful as a potted plant …
But there am I bound tomorrow, and this time I will be aiming to produce several thousand words myself. I’ve got my Buke, and even had the sense to update my Verizon wi fi service: the Seven Gables does not boast such extraneaties as computer connections. Or televisions. Or phones. Or, for that matter, coherent radio stations – there’s a radio in every room, but all we’ve ever managed to pull in on it has been UFO sounds and rhythmic static. Maybe the nearby Army base has something to do with it – Kage could speculate on why it happened for an hour at a time – but I am now armed with a Pandora account, and so can provide a nice classical soundtrack on my Buke.
Since I think I would dissolve in tears like Naiobe if I tried to stay at the Seven Gables alone, Neassa is coming to support my wavering courage. This was one of Kage’s most special places, most fertile creative nodes: it’s going to be hard to be there. I must admit to an urge to cut and run, and spend the weekend in the Motel 6 out on Highway 1 with a bottle of Macallan whiskey and a box of tissues. But not only do I need to do this, I owe Neassa a massive treat.
Not only has Neassa stood in for me when various disasters have struck me down at the last three Dickens Fairs – which is a dreadful task, my beloveds are indeed all sweeties, but directing them is like herding cats on drugs and Southern Comfort. Also, Neassa was one of the two people who took turns coming and spending time with me after Kage died. She and Kimberly are the primary reasons I survived. At all. In any condition fit to continue a life, with all my faculties and clothes.
I’ve been trying to make it up to Kimberly by buying her household appliances – red dryers, painted iron fences, plum trees. For Neassa, a fellow writer, I am hoping this writing weekend at the Seven Gables will at least demonstrate the enormity of my gratitude. There’s no way to really make it up to her. But she saved my life.
The least I can do is make part of hers really cool for a weekend. Home-made muffins for breakfast, tea and cookies at bedtime, and 4,000 words on her Regency novel: writers are easy to get treats for, if you just think a little way outside the box.
And I shall report from the delightfully weird little town of Pacific Grove, Dear Readers. There’s more to it that B&Bs and golf, you know. Wait’ll I tell you about the graveyard …