Note: First published on Blogger on April 25, 2007
Unfolding the Map
Sal is working his way down California, which is a long way since it's a long state. You can work your way down California too by clicking on the map to see where we've come (and a little of where we are going)!
"The sun goes down long and red. All the magic names of the valley unrolled -- Manteca..."
On the Road, Chapter 12
I remember, when I was growing up, that we only had two television stations for the first few years of my life, both out of Eureka, California. Just before I hit my teens, my parents splurged on cable, which gave us a total of about 12 stations, most of them on VHF but at least a couple in the UHF area. These stations opened a whole new world for me, because they were San Francisco stations with new and different programming. I actually saw new cartoons after school like Speed Racer and Kimba the White Lion. I also began to learn about place names around the Bay Area that I hadn't known before. These names were often exotic, like Sausalito, or simply descriptive, like Mill Valley or Stinson Beach. One TV station, advertising its reach with a catchy jingle, threw the name "Manteca" into the mix and that was probably the first time I ever heard of that particular place.
I write this because not just because I wanted to highlight my ignorance of Manteca, but also because the names evoke images that are hard to replace. When Jack Kerouac writes about "all the magic names..." I can identify with that because growing up in rural California in an isolated spot on the coast, these names created some imaginary scenes in my mind. I would have never pictured Manteca as being a simple and small San Joaquin Valley community surrounded by farms. Manteca to me sounded much more exotic and fantastical. The fact that the TV station celebrated its name in a jingle made it that much more likely that it was a special place. I don't mean to imply that it is not special in many ways, but you may see my point, that we often create images where the reality is probably less than the imagination.
Even when traveling as a teen with my family, on our occasional trips to the Bay Area (which were often fraught with tension because my parents weren't comfortable driving in urban areas) the simple act of passing a road sign pointing to some town off the freeway often made me wish that we could take a side trip. Now that I'm an adult, when I drive and notice a sign that seems interesting, I will go there. I remember one memorable trip I made when I was younger where I visited Salt Lick, Kentucky and Pee Pee, Ohio. Who can resist stopping in such places, if only to take a look around and say "Well, that was interesting/uninteresting?" Of course, any place that had some variant of my last name got a visit if I was passing by. It was magical, in a way, and only heightened at sunrise or sunset, when people were either getting up to start a day's work, or going in to have their suppers and settle in for the evening. At those times, passing through such sleepy places often seemed to me like catching them in a private moment and that I should be honored that they let me view them, illuminated almost mysteriously in the first or last rays of the day.
If you want to know more about Manteca
City of Manteca
Manteca Chamber of Commerce
Manteca Convention and Visitors Bureau
Next up: Madera, California