By lex, on July 20th, 2007
When we lived in California’s central valley back in the 90′s, our family would often seek refuge from the crushing summer heat by escaping on weekends to the Monterey Peninsula. It was a pleasant trip across the Diablos and then up the 101, passing the town of Gilroy – home of the Gilroy Garlic Festival! – on the way through Salinas – a city whose stout farming and cowboy roots were even then giving way to a vicious gang and drug culture – and eventually into Seaside and Monterey itself.
Monterey is the home of the Naval Postgraduate School, as well as being an entertaining ville in its own right. Friday nights at the Mucky Duck can be a real adventure. If we were lucky we could stay at the BOQ in Monterey, which was the old Del Monte hotel, taken over by the Navy during World War II. I guess we never quite got around to returning it. Just down coast a bit is Carmel-by-the-Sea, an town full of art galleries and pretension, and over which Clint Eastwood once presided as Mayor while running a watering hole of his own. I recommend the seats by the fireplace when the sun goes down.
One trip back in 1998 I think we decided to drive the old Army base at Fort Ord. It’d been home to the 7th Infantry Division (Light) for many years, but after a round of base closures in the early 90′s any units that weren’t disestablished were sent up to Fort Lewis, Washington. Part of the base was still open – the excellent golf course had been turned over to a commercial outfit run by the city of Seaside, and the commissary and exchange were still open. But much of the industrial plant and base housing had been abandoned to decay.
The base housing was a particularly sobering site, since military family housing looks the same just about everywhere – it was as though “any town USA” had become a ghost town, like some plague or disaster had only recently swept through, leaving the swing sets still gently swaying in the breeze even as the people had all been snatched away. It’s difficult to describe, but this photo exhibition ** gives you a sense of it.
We were happy to clear the base and drive down to Monterey.
** 08-11-2018 Original link gone; replacement found – Ed.
08-12-18 – Editor’s note: This particular post of Lex’s was particularly meaningful for me. Ft Ord was my home from Sep ’72 to November ’72, during basic training. If you know the roads and go to the Monterey Historic Races during Pebble Beach weekend (every August) you know the quick way to the course is the back way – through some of old Ft Ord. Because they had ranges for things such as mortar practice, you will see fences and signs along the side of the road warning you that it is dangerous to cross the fence (unexploded ordnance) and to stay out.
As you drove down Hwy 1 by Seaside (“don’t go into Seaside!”, the Drill Sgts would tell us) – you used to see a mile of more of rifle ranges facing the ocean. We would double time down there. So many memories and to see it abandoned…I suspect it would be – for Lex – like being able to go aboard his beloved Constellation (where so many of his stories are based) before it would be scrapped and with flashlight, walk down the lonely and abandoned corridors.
And think about the past.
During Vietnam Ft Ord was a small city – and I was told years ago, next to Camp Pendleton, the largest base in the country. All abandoned now. As Lex might say, “it makes a fellow ret pondersome”.
So here is a picture of me at Ft Ord. I am the easy one to spot – I have a white stripe across my fatigues (called BDUs today, I guess). I was pulled out of KP and that was the flour below the apron) and told to report by the barracks for a platoon picture 🙂