Monterey always catches me a little off guard when I visit. Growing up in Southern California I was accustomed to beach grunge chic: wind and salt and the scouring sands made a pristine exterior out of reach for even the most dedicated (and wealthy) residents and merchants. Beachside buildings were always a little bit dirty, a little bit faded, even in tony Belmont Shore or Newport.
When I moved north to the land of rocky coastlines the sand became less of an issue and the homes and businesses more spruced up to match. Stained but not painted board and batten or shingle-sided structures sat pretty next to their more durable Cape Cod and stucco cousins – requiring more labor, certainly, but not weathering to salty grey seemingly within a week of refinishing.
What Monterey brings to the party are pockets of simple urban blight. Walking from a Cannery Row hotel to the aquarium one passes a long stretch of tall chain link fences and decaying buildings, a goose or two picking his way among the weeds. Graffiti is prevalent – if quirky – and seems to enjoy a longer lifespan that it would in other communities.
I’m sure there’s a reason that, not being a local, I’m not privy to. But it’s always a surprise, in a town bracketed by world famous golf courses and where hotels boasting $1500 a night penthouse suites are not uncommon, to see the waterfront in such a state of perpetual disrepair.