Thursday, May 8, 2008
Forget chess as a metaphor for life. Consider fire, instead. Hot and hypnotic at best; raging and destructive at worst. It’s consuming and dangerously beautiful and, unlike chess, fire is never boring.
A new public plaza in downtown Monterey offers both.
On Munras Avenue, between Peet’s Coffee & Tea and the historic Cooper-Molera Adobe, stands an 8-by-10-foot fire pit. Cut and shaped steel-plate flames rise from the center. In the early-morning hours, and after 6pm, real flames dance with their metal siblings. Recycled Carmel stone (from the wall that used be located on the street facade of the old Safeway store, now a Trader Joe’s) surrounds the base of the pit and provides seating around the fire. A cast bronze chessboard sits atop the stone, in the southern corner.
The shopping center’s developer, Douglas Wiele, says city officials wanted sculpture in the project’s plans. Wiele, his wife, Carol, and LMNO Arts (which designed and fabricated the flames and bronze railing around them) came up with the concept of a public fire pit.
Like the fire that is art, the chess board is public, too. Ask for the chess pieces inside Peet’s – just return them before the store closes (9pm weeknights; 10pm Friday-Saturday).
The fire also dies when Peet’s shuts its doors. But the flames return the next day, giving warmth and dwarfing the empty chessboard. Someone sipping a cup of coffee will stare into the fire until the flames burn out everything else, and all that’s left is flickering light.