Mailbag: Steinbeck's daughter-in-law says 'Travels' is true

Any educated scholar who has studied that journey knows that Bill Steigerwald simply hasn't enough facts to "debunk" that journey ("Sorry, Charley, Was Steinbeck's 'Travels with Charley' a fraud?" Reason magazine, April 2011").

For some reason the press continues to give this guy way too much ink ("Letters From The Editor: Somewhat let down by a boyhood hero," Coastline Pilot, April 16). As far as I'm concerned, and I know mountains about that journey, the author of that Reason article is just another individual who wants to build a career on rumor and innuendo. Please let his absurd story go away.

If you were at all moved by "Travels With Charley," and have done as much research over the years as I have, and if you really even care, you should speak with Dr. Susan Shillinglaw, scholar in residence at The National Steinbeck Center, to get the true facts of the journey. After all, she has read all of the letters, while Steigerwald claims to have read the rather limited collection of letters at the Mercantile Library.

When we saw this guy's first article, we thought, "Well it's just another one trying to follow the journey and sell a book." That's something we deal with all the time and frankly, there is some wonderful work out there by others inspired by the original journey, e.g.: "Travels with Max," by Gregory Ziegler. But this fellow decided it was his duty as a "journalist" to invalidate the entire work, "Travels With Charley" and John Steinbeck, as an aside. It's one thing to do the proper research and quite another to simply look for a point of view that will "stir the pot," as it were.

Normally, the Steinbeck family would step back and let the story run its course, but Steigerwald has managed to keep the story running ad nauseam. To tell you the truth, I would never have jumped into the fray, but he is so ill-informed and has managed to reach such a wide audience, that it has become a little creepy. He is misleading the public and the problem is that he is incorrect in the majority of his assumptions.

My husband, Thomas Steinbeck, author of "Down to a Soundless Sea" and "In the Shadow of the Cypress," wrote a screenplay for HBO based upon "Travels with Charley" and the research we did for that project was voluminous. Thom was also a teenager at the time of the journey, and he agrees that while his stepmother was on board for short segments of the trip, she would never have agreed to make that sort of a trip in a camper. She was used to a rather different sort of travel and lifestyle.

Basically, the Reason story is bogus. There are some wonderful scholars out there who are more capable of giving you the facts than I am, or certainly more so than he. As I mentioned earlier, Dr. Susan Shillinglaw has read every letter and article ever written on the subject, while Thomas and I have been busy with our own life journey. Sadly, Steigerwald missed the entire purpose of the journey and of course the spirit of a nation to which John Steinbeck was bidding adieu.

I only wrote to you because it made me sad to think that you were being duped.

Gail Steinbeck

Santa Barbara

Editor's note: The author is the daughter-in-law of John Steinbeck. She wrote to Daily Pilot Editor John Canalis in response to his column about the controversy surrounding "Travels with Charley."


No new fees to preserve open space

Regarding the news item that a group wants us to pay for more open space for them ("Group wants tax to buy open spaces," April 21). It is outrageous that a group of well-off environmental extremists want to stick the rest of us with a tax increase to satisfy their own goals.

We have paid for years for the green space around Laguna that they forced on us years ago. This is a nice scenic space for the people in the Saddleback Valley to view and use without paying a cent and a huge costly fire and flood hazard for us.

I suggest that if this group wants to own these parcels of land, that they collect the money from their own gang and buy the land themselves, not force the rest of us to pay for their desires.

It is totally illogical to buy the lots in question. Obviously the land is open now, so why buy it since they should already be happy? If someone owns a piece of that open land that is buildable and wants to build on it, that's fine since someone gets a home, we get a new neighbor, the government gets more tax money, working people get jobs and the ever present fire danger is diminished a little.

The last thing the average person in Laguna needs is a tax increase. Gasoline prices are going out of sight, utilities costs are increasing, working people are losing jobs or getting less paid hours, food and clothing costs are increasing, and if the oil prices stay this high or go higher the cost of everything will increase dramatically.

It is totally irresponsible for people to propose any form of tax and/or fee increase at any time, even for things we need; but it's even more irresponsible in these difficult times to buy something not really needed at all. Please don't sign their self serving Initiative and don't vote for it. If the rich want it, let them buy it with their own money. Notice that the money they want to collect from us is by the lot, not by the value of the assessed property. Nice for some and bad for others, since richest property owner in Laguna won't have to pay any more than the poorest property owner.

Dave Connell

Laguna Beach


Ready for another summer at West Street Beach

West Street Beach, South Laguna, entered into a Google search will produce 11 pages of references for this internationally known gay and lesbian beach, which is actually about 1,000 yards north of the picturesque West Street stairway.

Reviews include comments like "I was pleasantly surprised at how nice people were." Or West Street beach is "Orange County's gay beach heaven." And ,"years ago there was a radio station that broadcast from the beach."

West Street Beach got established when gays were blocked from Main Beach during its construction. Before that, there was a popular gay-lesbian beach south of the Main guard tower, where it wasn't unusual to see a silver service luncheon being served by a gay man or woman on a big tablecloth on the sand and nearby one of California's first gay bars, which actually had a heterosexual bar on its south side — across from the Laguna Hotel.

If the weather is warm on Memorial Day weekend, hundreds of gays and lesbians will start another summer season at West Street, just minutes from the beautiful Village Green park at Catalina and Virginia Way — with its cozy picnic tables, barbecue braziers and expanse of grass.

A short walk will take you to numerous cafes, beautiful Treasure Island Park and the picturesque and reasonably priced Aliso Creek Inn, which has Laguna's largest hotel swimming pool. West Street is Orange County's "gay beach heaven" and symbolic of Laguna being a different place. Enjoy the summer. Take a free trolley or OCTA'S Route 1 bus, but make sure you go!

Roger Carter

Laguna Beach


Skateboarding ban is an unfair limit

Did you know that they actually opened a skateboarding park in a warehouse in Afghanistan? True story. Maybe we could bring our soldiers home to reestablish freedom for our skateboarders?

How is skateboarding criminal? Who is the injured party? Sorry, but the right to travel peacefully, minding my business, not causing injury or harm to another, falls under inalienable rights. Not given by man, not taken away by man either.

The city wants to hold me criminally liable? How long before I am not allowed to walk? People, wake up! Realize you no longer live in a "land of the free"?

When did we become a Third World nation intimidated by rather than protected by our public servants?

I can't travel on my skateboard? Does that apply to the multitudes of cyclist? No? So it's clear discrimination against one class of traveler but not the other?

ACLU, anyone? Would a cyclist ban include bike cops who violate traffic laws? Can't stop that revenue stream.

I hope the next elections produce voters who will stand up, show up, skate to the booths and vote out City Council members responsible for criminalization of basic freedoms simultaneously encouraging discrimination.

Pierre Balasuriya

Laguna Beach

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