For Kate, on tourists, 10/2018 – just a little something in response to your request for concerned journalism on the topic. xoxox Linda
(I will consider publishing any stories we might want to share with our tourists. Just email it to me at the email in the first post in purple.)
I drive down the road after a day of work, much of it spent talking to visitors. It’s always a kind of fan dance, what to share with guests, what not to share. Do I tell them about the cove, with all the details of the homesteaders who dynamited the tunnel through the mountain? Or suggest they stick to the overlook above the dramatic waterfall?
The road is good for contemplation, even with the traffic. I remember when I encountered my very first rattlesnake. It was a hot summer night and I was home alone. As I stood on my doorsill, sipping a glass of wine, contemplating life while listening to a chorus of pond frogs, I look down and to my left. There I spy the snaky beast, slithering past my rose bush, a mere foot from my bare feet.
I scream like I’m in a horror movie, and it buzzes, twisting its long body in the porch light. For the first time I understand the cliché, I can’t believe my eyes, because I definitely don’t want to.
I call my neighbor, who announces to her husband that they must come up right away to rescue me. When they arrive, her brave husband takes a rake and thumps it in the landscaping all around the house, until he hears the rattle. Then he expertly scoops the thing up onto the rake and into a cooler. Pop, the lid is on the cooler and the cooler is in the back of his pickup.
“Where will you take it?” I ask. “Well, down to the trailhead where the tourists go, of course,” he says with a sly smile. Then we all have a few shots of tequila, for the snakebite we dodged.
Down to the trailhead, ha ha. We love the tourists but not too much. They need to know, after all, what Big Sur is really about. It’s not a safe place, it’s not a pretend place.
My other favorite is all the folks posing for photos on the edges of cliffs. Particularly they like to climb over a certain dramatic rock, and perch on the crumbling stones that fall down to the sea, 500’ below. “Hey kids,” I want to say, “Guess what? That’s not a screensaver!”
It was Henry Miller who first realized the “plague of locusts” he had wrought by living here on the ridge. Lost bohemians wandering up to his house for wine and stories. Still happens today, despite a locked gate and a tricky road.
Over the years I have challenged visitors when I’ve seen them toss out cigarettes from their moving cars, when they’ve made absurd campfires in pullouts, when they’ve walked right up to oblivious and friendly condors for selfies.
In-your-face, diplomatically or not, wolverine-woman, that was me. Now, not so much. It would be too exhausting to confront them all. So I pray instead.
That day after work last week was comical, really.
I stop to get my mail, observing a van full of tourists spilling out onto the asphalt. One slender man smokes a skinny cigarette, flicking his ash here and there. Another lady, super-tiny, wearing a Hello Kitty T-shirt, go-go boots and enormous sunglasses, takes photos with her phone of her friends, the view, the mailboxes.
In an attempt at friendly conversation (something I’ve been doing all day) I begin to tell the story of how, I, too, was once a tourist, and took photos of these very same mailboxes. I get blank looks as the language barrier materializes. No matter, they seem to comprehend what I’m saying. At least, they laugh in high-pitched voices.
I open the door of my spray-painted baby-blue mailbox. Hello Kitty exclaims in perfect English, “Oh, those are real?” “Yeah!” I almost yell at her.
What on earth did she think? That the mailboxes were just some cutesy rural decor? Put there for their amusement? Too old-fashioned to actually be of real use?
I repeat what I’d said earlier. Once I photographed this, now I live here. “Oh, lucky you!” she replies. Then they climb back into their van and drive away.