Friday, April 29, 2011

Soledad: A City to Watch

Yesterday, due to what you like to think of as the frustrations of technology, you were at home, essentially with the same gadgets before you at this moment, more than a little frustrated over maintaining and keeping an Internet connection for any great length of time.

Today, you are a tad over two hundred miles from home; you are sitting in a favored place, an open field, its dense growth of mustard rippling in a steady wind.  You are in an industrial park in the central coast city of Soledad, known for having a grotty mission, one of Father Serra's originals, known also for having a correctional facility, which designation is a euphemism for medium-security prison, and what you have come to think of as a funky, ingratiating solitude, which is to the point in that the name of the city is Soledad.  As you set up the same tools you had last night--a cell phone with a wireless hot spot generator, and a MacBook, the seven o'clock train came barreling in from some southern destination, heading to the rail station which is more or less in downtown Soledad.  You say "more or less" because as such things go, it is difficult to tell where anything begins or ends here except for that quality of solitude, which is one of the things you like about the place to the point of fantasying a small studio here where you and Sally could repair to experience solitude and hope for something more viable that the Starbucks ahead of you in the shopping mall that parallels the 101 freeway.

Were you to act on your fantasy, you would not leave coffee at Starbucks to chance, you would bring along a Rametta stove-top espresso maker and a quantity of Peet's coffee.  It is not lost on you that here, virtually in the middle of little, there is Internet reception through your wi-fi hot spot, a steady signal in fact, which does nothing to take the sense of solitude away from your technical tool kit.

Ahead of you, a large American flag, flapping in the wind with such vigor as to remind you of towel snapping in boys/ locker rooms, your presumption of course that girls have better things to do in locker rooms than snap towels.

Because of the open fields about you, the part of Soledad from which you write these vagrant lines seems agricultural, although the fact that you can see no actual crops nor furrows where there were once crops or, indeed, presently intended for crops, does nothing to dispel this agricultural aura.  The buildings, such as they are, loom as stolid steel corrugated boxes, as defiant in their attitude to wind as teen agers are to authority.  Soon the corrugated metal will not be shiny, nor the teen agers young and defiant; this is the way of things.

Beyond a few stucco buildings, eager to have their interiors rented as an office, thus to add to the sense of industrial park-ness, there is the previously mentioned mall area which in itself has nothing to suggest you are with any specificity in Soledad.  You could just as well be south of here in King City, whose own prospects for projecting any kind of uniqueness beyond Rotary signs that bid us welcome to King City, or somewhat to the north, where Salinas awaits with some potential for inducing you to say, yes, this is more like it; this is Salinas, California.  But then you would seek to add something you would not find here in Soledad or King City, or Gonzalez, or your favorite, a hamlet, really, named after the Spanish name for a type of grass that grows there, Chualar; you would seek, but you would find more stucco industrial parks, more corrugated sheds, and signs everywhere announcing forthcoming businesses and opportunities, standing aslant in the wind, conveying the slightly beaten down demeanor of Eskimos, left to die while the rest of the family traipses over the Aleutian Strait after the water has receded.

You have been a fan of ghost towns much of your life, having visited and frolicked in a number of them.  The most recent ghost town you visited was Bakersfield, California, which also has little to call identification to itself except for its postal code, but perhaps this is why you are drawn to Soledad and places like it, because of the ways it evokes within you metaphor for loneliness, remoteness, a sturdy defiance against the wind, and no identifying marks.

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