Saturday, May 16, 2009
For this week's Weekly Geeks we're taking a literary tour of our hometown. Or, in my case, my home county.
I live in Morro Bay, California, a small coastal town of about 10,000 (mostly retired) people. Morro Bay is in San Luis Obispo County, which is smack dab between San Francisco and Los Angeles...it's about a four hour drive each way. There's not a whole lot going on here in SLO County, although we do have a nuclear power plant, a fault line, a state psychiatric hospital and a state prison. Despite all that, it's actually a gorgeous place to live (and visit). See...
And if you dig deep enough, we also have a few literary connections.
Christopher Moore used to live up the coast in Big Sur. While Big Sur isn't in SLO County, he did borrow one of our towns for three of his books. The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, Practical Demonkeeping and The Stupidest Angel are all set in the fictional town of Pine Cove, which bears a striking resemblance to Cambria, a small town about 20 miles north of Morro Bay. Cambria is also the home of Catherine Ryan Hyde, the Pay It Forward author...but since I haven't read her books, I'll move on.
Another author that uses a fictionalized version of my county is Earlene Fowler. Her Benni Harper quilt-themed mystery series is based in our biggest city, San Luis Obispo. Although she has renamed it San Celina, the town is definitely San Luis Obispo. And the northern ranching part of the county makes an appearance, too. I read the first few books in the series years ago, but then moved away from mysteries and lost track of what the author was up to. Imagine my surprise when I recently saw the cover of her latest book...with a picture of Morro Rock on the cover!
Other than the fact that the town and the sand spit seem to have disappeared, it's pretty recognizable as Morro Bay.
Jay Asher is another local author, and his debut novel 13 Reasons Why has received lots of notice. I have no proof, but I highly suspect a couple of the locations in his book are based on actual spots in San Luis, particularly the movie theater and the coffee shop (oh wait, according to his blog, Linnaea's is the inspiration for Monet's...I knew it!).
And recently I learned that Jack Kerouac lived in San Luis Obispo for awhile. In 1953 he came to SLO to work for the railroad. This article in our local free weekly paper describes how SLO pops up in some of his writings. From the first paragraph of The Dharma Bums:
"Hopping a freight out of Los Angeles at high noon one day in late September 1955 I got on a gondola and lay down with my duffel bag under my head and my knees crossed and contemplated the clouds as we rolled north to Santa Barbara. It was a local and I intended to sleep on the beach at Santa Barbara that night and catch either another local to San Luis Obispo the next morning or the firstclass freight all the way to San Francisco at seven p.m. Somewhere near Camarillo where Charlie Parker'd been mad and relaxed back to normal health, a thin old little bum climbed into my gondola as we headed into a siding to give a train right of way and looked surprised to see me there."
Okay, so it's a brief mention and not even descriptive...the article has better examples. But still...Jack Kerouac and SLO. I've lived here for 32 years, and spent 6 years at college in San Luis Obispo. I can't believe this was the first time I'd heard the two mentioned together!
And finally, the same New Times that I just linked to for the Jack Kerouac article is the creator of 55 Fiction. New Times, which is based in San Luis Obispo, has run a yearly contest since 1987. However, before you get too excited about me living in an area with such a cool weekly newspaper, I'll add that they usually manage to offend some part of the population on a weekly basis. This week it was me, with an extremely offensive editorial cartoon. So it's pretty much a love-hate relationship we've got going on.
I hope you've enjoyed this brief glimpse of San Luis Obispo County...if you've come across this area in any of your readings, let me know!