Me and Steinbeck's Ghost

Wednesday, 22 September 2010 11:20 PM Written by 

SAG HARBOR, N.Y. -- Steinbeck's House

Before the sun set on the last day of summer, and before the harvest moon rose, I drove out to Steinbeck's seashore house on Bluff Point Lane. The GPS Girl had no trouble finding it, but the house hides at the end of a narrow private gravel road.

I didn't pull in the driveway because John Stefanik's car was there. He's been taking care of the house for 28 years -- when widow Elaine hired him to do the job.

The wood-sided house and its outer buildings and thick shaggy grass were looking pretty good beneath the heavy shade of the lot's tall and muscular oak trees.

The oaks are much bigger than they were when Steinbeck lived there, of course, and the house and other structures -- dark green 50 years ago -- have been painted slate-gray. But Steinbeck would have recognized it in its preserved state. DSC_1536_copy

Stefanik said on Monday a New York Times reporter and photographer went with him to the house to do a story about the 50th anniversary of Steinbeck's "Charley" trip.

Though he usually asks for appointments from pushy media-types like me, as soon as I explained why I was there he let me wander around and take pictures as the sun set over the waters of Morris Cove. DSC_1556_copy

Stefanik couldn't have been nicer. While he and his son ran noisy garden gadgets and did yard work, I did my best impression of a real photojournalist and tried to document the scene in the failing orange-red light.

When the Stefaniks drove off they left me in the driveway with my cameras and, I guess, Steinbeck's ghost.

 

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