Monday, August 9, 2010

Episode 2

From the studio that brought you The Robert Louis Stevenson Silverado Museum, comes the next installment in the thrilling series How to Visit a Closed Historical Literary Site. I was in the Monterey area over the weekend and, of course, nothing would do but that I must find Stevenson House, yet another footprint of the author's California travels. Well in keeping with my methodology for visiting such sites, I was only nearby thanks to a Highland Games. . .and by the time Sunday's massed bands had finished, Stevenson House, which is only open for a few hours on Saturdays, had been closed for over 24 hours. Even the gate had a "closed" sign, if I might presume to interpret the heavy padlock, so I saw what I could of the gardens (Monterey gardens are unfailingly vibrant) by leaning over the fence. I am reasonably sure that whatever else one can blame Stevenson for, teaching pigeons to panhandle was not one of his offenses. Someone since his time, however, had implied to the pigeons of Houston Street that a flightless biped was an unfailing source of nourishment. They came trooping up to me over the grey, silent asphalt and looked much taken aback when I did not offer to stand them a round. I was busy staring at the windows and wondering, unpoetically, if RLS actually used to look through them, or if all the glass has been replaced.
The sign on the front of the building was marvelously economical, being both the old and the new titles of the place at one go, though again, I haven't the slightest as to whether the "original" sign is, in anything but name, the original; trivial things like paint do not endure salt Monterey seasons unscathed.
I'd had fair warning; I'd looked up the museum hours even before I left home, and I knew it wouldn't be working out to go inside this trip, but still I felt a little wistful. It is an odd thing, I know. There is the Bohemian Stevenson whose main purpose in California was a typically Bohemian love-affair, an at times irresponsible, and certainly impractical man, but somehow that's the same man who invented Alan Breck Stuart. I don't mean the historical character, of course; I mean the John Roy-like little hero who stole the show in Kidnapped. And that is what brings me to look at the outside of closed, fog-dulled buildings. I don't know if I was half as interested in knowing that Stevenson had looked out of the window (as much as I admire his writing) as I was in knowing that some minute spark of Alan Breck had once been there.


Mahri said...

Nice pics. I'll have you know that as a result of your posts on how to visit a closed historical literary site, I have put a hold on "From Scotland to Silverado" which will be a nice break from WWII.

Molly said...

Oh, grand! You'll probably beat me to finishing it. . .well no, actually, I *finished* it, since the Silverado bit was the last part, and I read that right after I got back from Napa. I just never started the book properly, even going so far as to skim back to the Monterey bits last weekend--still without starting at the beginning! But now I have no excuse.