Cannery Row is one of the funniest and most heart-warming books I have ever read. The cast of characters is composed of the unseemly individuals most of us never spend a moment’s time with in our entire lives – outside of possibly spooning them some soup while volunteering at a local shelter. These are the cast offs, outcasts, prostitutes, derelicts, bums, crooks, hustlers, immigrants and the lost. All of those souls who never show up on our TV programs or at our local churches – yet they are out there, they live among us – hidden by our ignorance, dismissal and, possibly, guilt.
This is not a story about the suffering of the down and out. It is not about oppression, poverty, or the plight of the poor. It is a story the takes us through the everyday life of those who live on the other side of the tracks. It is ultimately a story about community and life – about appreciating what you have, enjoying those you are with and supporting one another in whatever way you are able.
This is a needed tale in the land of more.
We live in a culture that is paralyzed by “the missing tile” syndrome” In essence – we tend to fixate all of our energy and thoughts on the things, traits or features that we do not have. We could be in great health, have a wonderful marriage, a fulfilling career, healthy children, and a home of our own – all blessings in the real world – but we will often think only of the vacation we weren’t able to take, the new car we can’t afford, the six-pack abs we don’t have and on and on and on. We spend our days lamenting what we don’t have, what our neighbor does have – meanwhile, our neighbor looks at us with the same feelings. Happiness will forever elude those who cannot be grateful for what they have, enjoy it completely and share it willingly.
It is called contentment – which is the enemy of a consumer economy. Sometimes, we all need a reminder of what we have, how much worse off we could be – to just stop looking at those who are “above” you, but instead look at the billions who are “behind” you.
Reading about Mac and the boys makes me remember that every one of those people who are on the “outside” are individuals – they have a history, a family, life experiences and a story to tell – of where they are from and how they arrived where they are today. Check out the song “Moments” by Emerson Drive – the lyrics are amazing and it hits you in the heart– we have all been loved, but how do so many get lost?
I could read Steinbeck all day long, he is an amazing writer who brings you into the hearts and minds of his characters – they become your friends and you will carry them with you for the rest of your life. I know I will.
Be Strong. Stay Hungry. Walk Tall.