A Scouting Life: To the Sea

May 11, 2010 | Sam Hutchins

So I sat back and pouted like a petulant child. Aside from flinching a bit when I threw the map at Stephane, it was as though Kar Wai was unaware of what was happening. Such a tough egg to crack, that fellow. Obviously he saw what was going on in the car. Two of his people just had a violent argument in front of him. A word or two from him would have gone a long way to defuse the situation, and to do so would have behooved him. Feuding like this certainly did not help his film get better, after all. But he chose to disengage, once again retreating inside himself.

So we wandered. After a while Stephane started working his way back up to full conversational speed.

“You know, eet ess dangerous to throw things at the driver.”

Fuck him, I wasn’t going to engage. I pulled my own personal Wong Kar Wai and stared off into the middle distance.

“In France the passengers defer to the driver.”

I remained silent.

“You should have said something earlier.”

“I don’t need a map. I just have to keep going west.” Tapping the dashboard compass and snorting a laugh as he said this last bit. So we went, with Stephane furrowing his brow and making turn after turn in an attempt to keep the digital readout reading “W.” To my great delight, we wound up in a subdivision, snaking around cookie-cutter houses until we wound up at the end of a cul-de-sac. The compass still read “W” but the nose of the truck faced a steel barrier backed by open green fields. I couldn’t resist.

“So, Stephane, you still going to keep going west?”

“Fine, fine, I’m sorry. Can you please tell me how to get to the ocean?”

“Depends. You going to actually listen and follow my directions?”

“Yes, yes, yes. Now please tell me how to get out of here.”

With a shaky truce declared I picked up the map and studied it for a moment. Soon enough we were back on course and headed south.

I only wish there was some excuse to explore the area more. It truly is amazing, this valley running north-south over roughly two-thirds of the state of California. It’s Steinbeck country, flat and green, surrounded by mountains, the heart of agricultural America. Truly the land of milk and honey. I cannot even imagine the effect it had on the pioneers to first lay eyes on this place. Having crossed the plains, deserts and mountains and discovered land so fertile it was unimaginable. They must have thought it was the Garden of Eden. Alas, there was no place for the Central Valley in our film.

We rode south for a while before cutting over towards Salinas. The skies remained gray and a light Tule fog clung to the land. It was the very tail end of the rainy season, which seemed entirely appropriate to our situation. Aren’t we all just trying to get through the rain to the sunshine on the other side of the mountains? Passing through Salinas I offered a silent prayer for James Dean, patron saint of unfulfilled potential. From there it was a quick jog to the coast and the northern terminus of 17 Mile Drive. Turns out it was too late in the day to enter the drive. I had forgotten that the Pebble Beach Corporation owned the road, and no amount of cajoling or bribery could convince the guard manning the gate to make an exception.

We cut back to Rte. 1 and began making our way south. If you’ve never driven that road I strongly urge you to. Easily the most beautiful road in America. And there it was, at long last, the Pacific. We pulled over at first opportunity and got out to savor the moment. Like Balboa long before us, we stood and took in her majesty. The wind blew hard as the waves crashed on the shore under the darkening sky. The elements took their best shot at a Cypress tree but it held its own against them, unbowed. Stephane and I gave each other a long look. All was forgiven. There was nothing for any of us to say. Our petty arguments and differences washed away in the salt spray. None of that mattered. We had at long last made it.

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