Thursday, December 14, 2006
The three events took place on three successive nights within a three-block radius. They were completely different and totally unrelated: one explored political science, one celebrated local history, and the third combined guitar-rock and freak-folk. Each was captivating; and collectively, they offered stirring evidence that the Peninsula’s cultural-intellectual character is in good health.
The first event happened Thursday at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and focused on the future: Renowned physicist and author Amory Lovins detailed the ills of the country’s energy policy. “It’s the biggest threat to national security,” he said. “I have spoken with three former secretaries of defense about this. They all said, ‘That’s it.’”
He laid out an elegantly simple solution: small, decentralized solar- and wind-power plants. His data was troubling, but mostly inspiring; the packed Irvine Auditorium gave Lovins a standing ovation.
The next night a different tribe of locals gathered nearby in long velvet dresses, made hot cider, and turned their focus to the past. At the candlelit Christmas in the Adobes tour, their historical knowledge layered fascinating texture over downtown Monterey: Robert Louis Stevenson stayed here while wooing a married woman; diplomat-merchant Thomas Oliver Larkin, whose house on Calle Principal was built in 1834, had a secret government charge to win California from Mexico peacefully.
The final event was resolutely rooted in the present: Persephone’s Bees, a band that got its start here and has since exploded in San Francisco, ravished a delirious throng at Monterey Live. Local guitar-hero Tom Ayres spoke between sets about the band’s history in that very room (back when it was Viva’s). One local painter couldn’t contain her awe. “I can’t believe they’re here,” she said, “I just can’t believe it.”