The Cambrian

Pacing Through the Pines: Misty morning musings

Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway COURTESY PHOTO

Pacing through Fiscalini Ranch Preserve greenery on a chilly, misty January Cambria morning provided a chance to check the progress of the Monterey pines I helped plant a few years back. It brings a smile to plant trees and go back years later and see them healthy and hearty — reaching for the sun.

Musing as I meandered, I came up with some interesting Cambria-related postulations in the mist:

What play would Tennessee Williams write if he were alive and productive today in beautiful Cambria? Perhaps “Cat on a Hot Tin City Roof”? If William Shakespeare had visited here during July and walked our beaches, might he have written “A Moonstone Midsummer Night’s Dream?”

And Ernest Hemingway: let’s say he had been here in our fair hamlet on the day of his final demise (at age 61), which in fact was Sunday, July 2, 1961. Imagine the renowned novelist coming to terms with his own mortality, preparing for that mysterious journey into the unknown at a home on Eton Road.

He certainly would have heard the ringing calls to worship at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church nearby. Would Hemingway have thought that it was he “For Whom the Bell Tolls” ?

Speaking of St. Paul’s, curiosity about that bell that rings five minutes prior to services on Sunday mornings motivated me to phone Father Fred Heard, rector. He informed me that the 375-pound bell was cast in Spain—another link to Hemingway, who wrote about the bullfighting and civil war in Spain — in 1796 and the church obtained it from the Hearst Estate.

Meanwhile, perhaps not many Cambrian residents are aware that in 1981 novelist Joseph Heller suffered a serious bout with Guillain-Barré (G-B) syndrome, a debilitating disease that left him temporarily paralyzed. Heller made a full recovery by 1984, albeit he passed away in 1999.

With my thinking cap still on, I imagined that Heller had traveled to Cambria for a vacation after his recovery, and with a couple friends launched a boat from Leffingwell Landing to do some fishing off Marine Terrace. Would he have been terribly disappointed if the goal was to have his

fishing party catch 23 but at the end of the day they only caught 22?

I left Fiscalini Ranch Preserve and later that day headed over to Shamel Park. I noticed that some visitors to this treasured community resource had thrown cigarette butts in the grass. Instinctively I retrieved a couple of them. Sure enough, someone had been smoking a Camel at Shamel. True story.

In my car’s CD player I have Tony Bennett’s album “Duets: An American Classic.” On that CD is Tony’s hit “If I Ruled The World.” It is not hard to imagine that if Tony came to Cambria to perform a benefit concert, he might sing that tune. Meantime, to show his knowledge of the locality, he could change the words slightly: “If I Ruled Top Of The World, Every Day would be the first day of spring, Every heart would have a new song to sing ….”

There were some happy hearts and smiling faces in the East Village as I strolled past the shops that afternoon and tapped into my right brain for a final idea to go with previous musings.

Hmmm. What if the woodwind section of the London Philharmonic Orchestra paid a visit to Cambria, and was seeking a venue to perform in that was the absolute antithesis of their classical genre? I can see it now: “Mozart at Mozzi’s — the London Philharmonic Woodwinds perform Symphony 39.”

Meanwhile, it was Hemingway who said, “All good books have one thing in common — they are truer than if they had really happened.” Ditto the hypotheses in this narrative.

E-mail freelance journalist and Cambrian columnist John FitzRandolph at