I’m new here. Those words can be intimidating, but for me, they’re invigorating. I’m excited to be here, in the midst of a community that offers grace and passion in equal measures. Isn’t that the perfect blend for an artistic masterpiece?
I can recognize such a masterpiece when I see one. Artistry often ventures outside the lines, looking to express itself in ways unique and varied. Cambria is no exception. Even the roads here twist and turn in wondrous swirls as though laid out by an artist’s brush rather than some city planner confined to the notion of directional grids.
It’s easy to become so transfixed by your surroundings here that you lose track of where you are. For a long time, I was mystified by the designations “East Village” and “West Village.” I clearly recalled traveling north on Main Street after exiting the highway, but then I found so much to see along the side of the road that I failed to notice it shifts a full 90 degrees in an easterly direction as it reaches the south edge of town.
For instance, there’s the pink building that houses the Heart Glass Gallery & Gift Shop. My wife was drawn to a large, brightly colored orange tapestry fluttering in the breeze, so we pulled over to have a look. When we stopped in, I noticed an old black-and-white framed picture of a gas station; it turned out to be a photo of the very same building in an earlier incarnation.
I’ve long been intrigued by old gas stations, and I understand there are a couple of others in town: at the Old Stone Station in West Village and the converted lube bay of an old Shell station, which now serves as the French Corner bakery. Finding new uses for old buildings is a mark of resourcefulness and character, and Cambria’s got plenty of both.
It would be easy for a town that thrives on tourism to become lazy and lapse into the generic; to open its doors to any number of national chains offering cookie-cutter kitsch. But one thing I noticed about the North Coast right away: there’s nary a Starbucks or a McDonald’s or a Disney Store in sight (sorry, Disney, but I liked you better when you were an artist named Walt, not a multibillion-dollar leviathan gobbling up galaxies far, far away).
Like any artist, Cambria hasn’t created something out of nothing, but has made use of the materials at hand. And oh, what fine materials you have here: a breathtaking forest of Monterey pines; 430 acres of open space, trails and habitat for endangered species at the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve; Moonstone Beach, a place that seems tailor-made for
sunsets; and Piedras Blancas to the north where elephant seals congregate (they have good taste, too, it seems). It’s a panorama that extends from Cambria up the North Coast to San Simeon and beyond, toward Big Sur, and down the other direction to Harmony and Cayucos.
I have a lot of exploring to do all up and down the North Coast, and I intend to make the most of the opportunity.
I’m an explorer by nature and an artist by choice. Journalists enter this field for a variety of reasons: some are crusaders determined to set right any number of wrongs; some are news junkies who can’t get enough of current events. I’m both of those, but I got into the business to be a storyteller. I live to tell the stories of people and places past and present. My palette is the alphabet and some carefully placed punctuation marks, and the keyboard is my paintbrush.
As managing editor of The Cambrian, I want to help the residents of Cambria tell their stories. A good newspaper is, indeed, a community talking to itself … but not just talking; informing and inspiring. And, just as important, listening and learning. I plan to do a lot of that in the time ahead as we discover together what stories are out there, waiting to be told.
Yes, I’m new here, and I think I’m going to like it a lot.
Email Steve Provost at sprovost@thetribune news.com; follow him on Twitter @cambriansteve.