Where he was when he said, “I have never smuggled anything in my life. Why, then, do I feel an uneasy sense of guilt on approaching a customs barrier?” Was he at the airport? Was he reflecting on travel as he lay in his hammock? Was it over dinner with his best friend Ed Ricketts or had Ed died by then?
“A sad soul can kill quicker than a germ?” Was that a commentary on the collective soul or just his?
How about, “I hate cameras. They are so much more sure than I am about everything”? Was he laughing when he said that? Were others?
“It has always been my private conviction that any man who puts his intelligence up against a fish and loses had it coming.” There must have been a smirk with that one.
Steinbeck ended his life thinking it had been wonderful. I ended my 45 minutes thinking he was right. And somewhere between the hammock and the studio I found my last paragraph.
Harry, who I consider a true friend because we have never exchanged a word, called out from the corner, “So, if you are Steinbeck then who is in the grave marked Steinbeck?” He laughed again and said, “I have no idea. Maybe it’s empty but I’m in no rush to find out.” And that was that. It was over. And he had won. If anyone in the bar still wondered about the details and the authenticity and the probability they kept their mouths shut. It turned out to be a rather nice night. Mr. Steinbeck was the last to leave. I offered him the cot in the back but he said he had a car waiting out front. As the door closed, I saw his wallet had fallen to the floor. I picked it up. Another license fell out. I slid it back in, went outside and caught him just as the car was about to pull away. He rolled down his window. I handed him the wallet. He saw that I had seen. He waited. I said, “Goodnight Mr. Steinbeck.” He smiled and said, “Do you know what my favorite Steinbeck quote is, “No man really knows about other human beings. The best he can do is to suppose that they are like himself.” As the car drove off I wondered if he’d ever be back. I hoped so. I’d like to meet Steve McQueen.
“Joyous Garde” Steinbeck’s writing studio
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