Home From Pacific Grove

Kage Baker loved the little town of Pacific Grove.

It’s an exquisite small community of highly individualized shops, world-class restaurants, Victorian homes in all sizes from estate to seaside cottage, and paradisial natural beauty. It’s one of the few places in the world where Monarch butterflies winter over; when they grace its trees, the air is full of floating embers. Otters loll about just off-shore, being criminally cute. Whales sport in the deeper water further out. Cypress trees are everywhere, frozen in dancers’ poses. The waves are huge and majestic, and even the foam carries a tint of cobalt blue.

Being right beside Monterey – itself a treasure trove of food and art – doesn’t hurt, either.

What drew Kage there originally, though, was that Robert Lewis Stevenson spent a lot of time in Monterey (and Pacific Grove) when he came to America in looney pursuit of his American divorcee. He won the lady, and eventually wrote Treasure Island based on the wild rocky sea coast. So for Kage, that indicated that the area was a cool place to pursue personal art and dreams.

When she had tracked Stevenson’s progress through every section of both cities he had ever visited, and visited every adobe in the area (Monterey is reputed to have the most adobes still in use of any city in the U.S.), and taken all the tours including the Ghost Tour (where we were pursued through the Old City Cemetery at night by geese) – Kage decided the charm and beauty of Pacific Grove was perfect for Writer Escape Weekends.

These were predicated on being someplace here we could not be found easily, in peaceful and amiable surroundings, and doing nothing but eat, sleep and write. No tourist activities. We started out in motels with kitchens, so we could do our own cooking and only go out once a day for dinner; we eventually graduated to the all-embracing comfort of the Green Gable Inn. Our room was a temple of quiet and beauty and the view was nonpariel. Being a B&B, the Green Gables provided us with breakfast, afternoon wine and cheese, and cookies and sherry at night. It became an annual retreat.

When Kage died, Pacific Grove and the Green Gables went on my emotional “Never Again” list. I didn’t see how I could bear it, or justify it, or ever need what those weekends had given. But I did have to write …  So, last year, I screwed my courage to the sticking point and went back. Sniveling coward that I can be, I persuaded my friend Neassa to come with me for emotional support – and, mirabile dictu, it worked! I wrote stuff, stuff worth keeping! It was pleasant and calming and downright restorative!

This year, I reserved my favourite room in my favourite B&B once again. I took us to dinner at The Forge In The Forest, a restaurant that some portion of Kage must surely haunt from time to time, enjoying cocktails by the lit forge in the bar. Writing happened, and I found the seeds of a new Ermenwyr story, and we got into such a fit of giggles in the room Saturday night that the next-door neighbors came knocking on our door at 1:30 AM to suggest we might want to shut the hell up … I think they expected a pair of college-age idiots doing all that giggling. But it was only two middle-aged ladies, telling Faire stories till way too late at night.

It can be rather healing to get busted for loud giggling late at night, when you’re as old as I am. Thanks, grumpy neighbor. I needed that.

I don’t think we’re going to repeat the Ghost Tour, though. Kage must have been rolling her eyes quite enough as it was.

Oh! To top the grand weekend off, I got home and found that my stuffed Anomalocaris had arrived by mail. A picture is enclosed, just because it’s cute. Explanation to follow!


About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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8 Responses to Home From Pacific Grove

  1. Tom says:

    It sounds a fine place indeed. We took a trip up to Monterey and Carmel in winter of 2001 or early in 2002. Blue the Black Bounding Bollide (a forty-lb. lump of mixed Staffordshire muscle and wit) came with us, and insisted on traveling wrapped around my neck, as she did when she was a six-lb. puppy – only a real problem on the twisty road through Big Sur. She was happy, and I was glad to see her smiles and Mary Lynn’s. I had just finished reading SKY COYOTE, if memory serves, and was starting on MENDOZA IN HOLLYWOOD, trying hard to see through Kage’s eyes (and yours, I now know) as we traveled.

    I don’t remember where we stayed in Monterey, or the name of the place we dined in Carmel – but well-mannered canines were invited with their humans. Mary Lynn made a subdued leopard-print jacket for Blue, with old-gold fringe. Blue was very impressed to be dressed with her humans and seated at the table.

    Those “No, Never Again” thoughts afflict me, too. But I think you’re right. For the right reasons, it would be the right place to go work.


    • Kate says:

      Ocean View Boulevard in Pacific Grove is lined with B&B’s – all of them right across the street from the sea, and lovely. Green Gables is just my favourite. There is also a cluster of wonderful hotels back above the beaches, set in the butterfly neighborhoods.

      One of the many idiosyncratic wonders of Carmel is allowing dogs in certain restaurants. I think it’s charming. The dogs always seem to be quite happy and polite, often more so than the humans.


  2. maggiros says:

    You make me long to be there. 🙂


  3. Lynn says:

    We’ve stayed at a B&B in Pacific Grove also – at the Martine Inn right across the street from the beach. Breakfast in old silver warming dishes, sherry and finger foods around 5:00 and binoculars on the sills of the wall of window overlooking the bay so we could watch those criminally cute otters floating on their backs amid the kelp. It was the weekend right after the Loma Prieta earthquake and, although downtown Santa Cruz right across the bay had been demolished, Monterey and Pacific Grove were untouched – and empty of tourists. It was a lovely weekend. You make me want to go back again. Maybe my next door neighbors will have fits of giggles and I’ll think of you and Neassa giggling together and I’ll smile.


  4. Kate says:

    I had never seen the point of B&Bs until we stayed at the Green Gables – it all seemed unnecessary fluff. But when the whole point of your stay is to live in a specific building for a few days, then the welcome available in a B&B becomes paramount. It really was like staying in someone’s home, and all the luxuries were so subtly laid on that it wasn’t uncomfortable. Kge, I must say, took to it immediately … if your neighbors are cracking up at 1:30 in the morning, Lynn, you can just remember Faire nights: after those, one can sleep through anything!


  5. Brad Campbell says:

    Many an Easter vacation or cool summer, I spent wonderful hours on those highbrow lanes of old PG. I dreamed of Steinbeck and wondered if James Dean had wandered over from his time in the East of Eden. Poorer even than you two, I slept on the sands…sometimes under the watchful eye of the giant Monarch. So, between ’64 & ’84, if you ever saw a 6’5” skinny scruff in black jeans & tee, it might have been me. Would that I had known that two of my favorite writers were up there in the green B&B writing & giggling & watching the ocean attack the shore. God, I love PG.



  6. Kate says:

    And between 1964 and 1984 was when Kage and I were indeed looking at scruffs – Kage was especially fond of skinny young men in black … Would that we had known, too! Pacific Grove is full of magic, and Time is both disturbing and gentle there. You never know who you’re passing along Ocean View. Or when.


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