About sixteen years ago, I to together with a couple of my buddies for a trip to Key West. The whole island is a conch-fueled fantasy for Jimmy Buffett fans. I say this because I had a special moment of recognition when I found myself walking down Caroline Street. What's the big deal? Steve Goodman and Jimmy Buffett wrote a song titled "Woman Goin' Crazy On Caroline Street" for the "Havana Daydreamin'" album. And there I was, going crazy with the recognition of being in a real place referenced in a song. Keep in mind I was just a few blocks from Hemingway's house, and probably even closer to the Margaritaville Bar and Restaurant - but this was the obscure reference that made me stop and say, "Huh."
Another moment like this came on one of my visits to the Bay Area before relocating here. My wife, who was then just my girlfriend, was driving me through Marin on our way to the Golden Gate Bridge. She looked up as we made a turn and pointed. "That railroad bridge was in 'Dirty Harry' I think." I knew in an instant exactly what she was talking about. Near the end of the film, Harry stands on a railroad bridge and jumps onto the school bus that the bad guy has hijacked. It was another moment of media crystallizing with my mundane life. I think I decided to marry her then and there.
Then there was the strange case of the Timberline Lodge and the Stanley Hotel. I knew that Stephen King had based his novel "The Shining" on his experience with an old hotel in the mountains of Colorado - the Stanley. When the movie was made, there was a very brief establishing shot of the foothills outside of Boulder, then the action moved up to the hotel. Only this wasn't the Stanley. It was a beast of a place in Oregon called the Timberline Lodge at the foot of Mount Hood. When I lived in Colorado, I made a few trips to the Stanley, once with the expressed purpose of getting drunk just like the main character, Jack Torrance. I sat down at the bar and asked the bartender for a "Martian" - just like Jack did in the book. The bartender rolled his eyes and asked if I wanted him to call me "Mister Torrance" and tell me "Your money's no good here." I slumped back on my bar stool and finished my martini in silence. Years later, while visiting friends in Oregon, I had a chance to walk up to the Timberline Lodge. It was every bit as imposing as the slate grey sky that hung above it. I didn't drink anymore by that time, so I had a cup of cocoa and imagined the goings-on in its labyrinthian interior. Stanley (coincidental first name?) Kubrick filmed the rest of the film on stages in England, so there was no haunted rooms to visit there.
These days I wander around streets that may have been traveled by Jack London and Gertrude Stein. I keep waiting for that same little charge, but I think it's more likely I'll feel that way the next time I wander across Sproul Plaza in Berkeley, looking for Elaine and Benjamin.