Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

Cannery Row was in Monterey, California.  It was a junky town and was inhabited by whores, pimps, gamblers etc. Men and women worked in the fishing industry and helped to harvest the sardine fleet.

Lee Chong owned a grocery store which was well stocked. It opened for long hours. Almost everyone owed him money. He was a nice guy who didn’t chase too much for outstanding debt. He lived well and was well respected by those around him. Lee was not concerned about losses. In the store, Lee had a friendly demeanour while manning the counter. There was a building which was used as a storage place for fish meal. It was owned by Horace Abbeville, who had 2 wives and six children. Lee came to him to collect debt. Horace wanted to sell the building to Lee to clear the debt. Lee agreed and the deal was clinched there and then. After that, Horace shot himself. Lee tried to help Horace’s family with the funeral proceedings as much as possible. Then, Lee met Mack. Mack was the exploiter of a group of men who had no families and no ambitions. Their group of men consists of Hazel, Eddie, Hughie, Jones. Mack suggested that he and his friends would take care of the building to prevent break-ins. Lee wanted to charge a nominal rent for them to stay. Everyone was happy about this. The house would be safe from then on.

The Word sucks up Cannery Row. Lee buried his grandfather. In this town, the men were destructive and often ruined themselves. Mack and his boys were considered beauties. Mack and his boys were not well liked by the others.

There was a railroad track and a whore house near his grocery store. Dora owned the whore house, which was actually well managed. She often was kind and ensured that the women would not starve. Alfred also worked there as a watchman. Dora was especially charitable and good to society, for fear that her whore house might have to shut. Her staff are all well-trained. The previous watchman was William and he tried unsuccessfully to bond with Mack and his boys. They didn’t want to hang out with a pimp like William. William was depressed and wanted to quit. He started talking to Eva, one of the show girls. William later killed himself in the kitchen with an ice pick. Unlike William, Alfred was well-liked.

There was an old Chinaman in the streets. He disappeared and then re-appeared during dawn again. He was carrying a wicker basket. Andy was a kid who wanted to find out who this mysterious man was. He intercepted his path one day and was frightened by the experience. He seemed to hallucinate after the entire experience.

Dora also owned the Bear Flag Restaurant. Western Biological sold lovely animals of the sea. There were jars of preserved animals. The basement of the store was used to embalm and inject animals. Doc was the owner of the Western Biological Laboratory. He was a passionate and small man. He was also very helpful despite the nature of his job. Unknowingly, he was the foundation of philosophy and science and art in Cannery Art. He lived in wonder of nature. Everyone felt indebted to him because of the way he helped others.

The doc often collected marine animals. There was plenty of beautiful sea creatures. Doc and Hazel worked in the pool. Hazel lived in the Palace Flophouse with the other boys. Hazel was born in a huge and poor family. Now, he was a 26 year old uneducated man. However, he was very hardworking and willing. Hazel didn’t know much but he knew questions were a way to keep conversations going. The starfishes caught would be sent to Northwestern University for research purposes. Gay was moving in with them in the house because his wife abused him. There was a guy who took apart his boat and changed it. Everyone was nutty in their own way. His name was Henri. It took him 7 years to build a boat, only to dismantle it again. He liked boats but didn’t like water that was why he was reluctant to finish building it. Hazel and Doc flipped a stink bug over to examine it. The stink bug liked to put their tail up in the air for no reason. Doc thought that they were praying.

The remarkable thing isn’t that they put their tails up in the air – the really incredibly remarkable thing is that we find it remarkable. We can only use ourselves as yardsticks. If we did something as inexplicable and strange we’d probably be praying. – Doc

The Palace was run down. They were a group of individualists. The palace was dilapidated and the boys wanted to do something about it. Now, they all chipped in to decorate it. Everyone contributed something to the place. Later on, they pooled money together to buy a huge stove. It was the highlight of the Palace. Eddie was an understudy bartender. Everyone felt more at home in the Palace now. Eddie often made cocktails for the rest with leftover alcohol from the bar. The boys were planning to throw a party for Doc. They contemplated how to go about doing it without letting Doc know. The old boiler was left in the vacant lot by Mr Randolph. In 1934, Mr and Mrs Sam Malloy moved into the boiler. At that time, Mr Malloy also rented the large pipes for men to sleep on.

The boys helped Hazel carry in the sacks of starfish. Mack went to chat with Mr Malloy. Doc was now arranging the starfish in long lines. Mack and the boys wanted to earn dough by killing animals in which Doc needed for his research. Doc wanted frogs and Mack agreed. Lee approved of the fact that Mack wanted to use his truck. However, before that, Mack had to fix his truck as it wasn’t able to move.

Frankie came to Western Biological since he was 11. He wanted to help Doc and he didn’t go to school. Nobody wanted him to go to school. There was something wrong with his co-ordination and his parents didn’t pay for it. Some of his uncles used to hit him real badly. Doc and Lee took care of him. Frankie was essentially a good boy who wanted to work hard. He enjoyed helping out at parties that the Doc hosted from time to time. One day, his co-ordination failed and he spilled the beer on the lady’s lap. Frankie ran off and started crying.

Lee’s Ford Truck had a history to it. Gay was an inspired mechanic and knew how to repair trucks. Now, he started fixing the car. Gay was a wonder. Now, the truck was ready to go. Gay chose back streets for the expedition. Later, while on the road, the truck broke down. Later on, Gay was jailed after he got into some trouble.

The city had a long literary tradition. There were many literary men still living. Josh Billings, a great humorist, was well worshipped after his death. Mr Carriaga came upon a small boy and a dog on the street. Apparently they picked up his liver and intestines from the rubbish after he had been embalmed. The city people took them back, for it didn’t show respect to a literary man like Josh Billings.

Eddie finally came back after obtaining the needle from another Model T’s Truck. Eddie now installed the new carburetor. They came upon a river. The place was perfect for frog hunting. They needed to wait for night before it would good to hunt. The boys were also cooking chicken at the same time. Suddenly, they wondered what happened to Gay. Mack admitted he lied to himself. He felt that he was taking advantage of Doc because there were 5 of them. Mack wanted to give him something where he wouldn’t get most of it back. They thought of giving him their whiskey instead. A man appeared and pointed a gun at them, demanding them to leave and said hunting, camping was not allowed. Mack offered to help that man’s dog who was sick and in return, the man told them were to go frog hunting.

It was early morning in Cannery Row again. There were two soldiers flirting with two ladies. Later, the watchman told them to scram as it was private property. The caretaker left eventually when on one listened to him.

Mack tried to cure the dog from its tick bites. The puppy appeared lonely. The captain offered Mack a puppy and he accepted. He started serving Mack and the boys some liquor from an old keg. It was brilliant in taste. There were thousands of frogs in the night. Mack devised a new way to catch them, which involved following them into the pool etc. Many of the frogs were nabbed and they were very successful in their adventure. There were at least 6 to 7 hundred of them. The captain really enjoyed their company. He even wanted to live with the rest on Palace Flophouse. Everyone was happy that they had the required numbers of frogs for the Doc.

Some of the girls were injured and could not perform on duty. Dora had issues with the income tax. There was an influenza epidemic in town and Mrs Talbot and Tom Work had it. The doctors were all very busy. The doc was very busy going from house to house to take care of the people. Some of the kids were indeed very sick. He suggested that Dora keep some of the lonely kids company. The girls started giving free soup to the needy and the sick. It was a lovely sight.

Despite all that, the Doc was a lonely man inside. Mack knew this as Doc couldn’t socialize well. Doc kept up with his collecting. Doc knew the exact moment when he could fish for certain animals. Doc had to go alone as he couldn’t find anyone else to accompany him. One of his favorite drinks was beer. Deep inside, Doc was a nervous man. Along his trip, Doc considered whether to pick up hitchhikers. The doc finally agreed. The hitchhiker encouraged Doc to cut down on his alcohol intake while driving. Doc was pissed and told them to leave. Doc tried to order a beer milk shake from a café. It was just beer and milk mixed together.

Now, the Doc reached the area for catching octopus. He managed to catch 22 octopi. Suddenly, he came upon a dead girl floating in the water. His heart pounded deeply. He was in deep shock by the way the girl stared at him. A man came by to speak to him. The doc knew that he needed to call the police station immediately. He wanted the man to report the incident, while the Doc started to leave.

Many people came to see the flag-pole skater perform. One day, an old Doctor Merrivale started to shoot at him with his air-rifle. The flag-pole skater started drinking and appeared lonely in the middle of the night.

Mack and the boys were back with the captured frogs. However, the doc was away. They tried selling it to Lee but Lee didn’t want the frogs. Mack offered him a trade-off of giving groceries in exchange for frogs and that Lee could attend the party too. Lee agreed to it. Lee was a shrewd business and wanted the most value for his products before he could let them go. The boys didn’t seem to mind and they were still happy at being about to eat bacon and eggs. Their dog was named Darling. She was mischievous and difficult to control. The boys were thinking about the party to throw for Doc. They were waiting for Doc to return home. Lee seldom offered discounts at his store. Eddie started baking a cake for Doc. The boys bought party accessories and moved them to the laboratory. Many people from the neighbourhood came to join in the party. There were many mishaps that night. The floor was littered with broken glass and the entire place was in a mess. Some of the frogs got loose as well. Many of the frogs managed to escape.

The rats in the lab cages escaped too. Doc finally returned home. He realized that the rattlesnacks escaped. He was fuming inside. The doc saw Mack and punched him immediately. Blood spurted from his lips. Doc kept hitting him. Despite this, Mack didn’t retaliate. Finally after a while, the doc was calm enough to start speaking. Mack said he wouldn’t learn anything from this episode especially after being hit. He offered to pay for everything but Doc said that he and the boys didn’t need to. Doc related this episode with his fiery relationship with his wife. Mack also had a wife which ran away.

Henri was not his real name. Finally, he decided to give up painting. Henri was a superb boat builder. It took him months to build the boat but he seemed to want it that way. His galley was an amazing piece of art. He had been building his boat for 10 years. Many people loved him but couldn’t stand his weird habits. Alice left him. However, after a period of sadness, he felt free. Later, Henri had a bad dream of a man slashing his baby with a razor. Henri claimed it was real. The doc dismissed this case as a ghost sighting.

A gloom settled around the Flophouse that evening. Mack was sad as the party turned out bad. Only Darling was happy. Mack and the rest felt like social outcasts now. Everyone in town thought that they were evil and weird people. Thankfully, their friendship kept them together. Now, the boys started polishing the palace. From afar, the doc commented that the boys survived in this world better than others. They didn’t want excessive things and didn’t want to keep wanting for more. The doc bet that the boys wouldn’t turn to watch the Independence Day parade. Richard lost the bet and had to treat the doc a beer. Dora was closed for a few weeks because of changing regulations. Things were looking bad around town. It was always easy to blame yourself. Darling fell sigh too and she was skeleton skinny now. Doc was called in by the boys to examine her. Finally after much care, she recovered. The wall of evil was broken now. Mack approached Dora and wanted to make it up to Doc by asking her whether she had any suggestions. She suggested a party where the Doc was sure to attend.

For there are two possible reactions to social ostracism – either man emerges determined to be better, purer, and kindlier or he goes bad, challenges the world and does even worse things. This last is by far the commonest reaction to stigma. – John Steinbeck

It has always seemed strange to me. The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second. – The Doc

Mary Talbot was a lovely lady. She also loved parties. She was the wife of Tom Talbot. Mary enjoyed organizing house parties for friends. She had a cheery disposition and always aimed to care for her husband. To her, it was important to organize events. Their family was deep in debt. Later that year, Mary would throw a pregnancy party where everyone would have fun.

Things would need to start looking up now. Mack knew that he just needed to sleep on it and thinks might change for the better. Darling was growing up to be a good and charming dog. The whole mood was looking up. The business at Bear Flag improved. Most of the girls had recovered and could work. The boys wanted to throw the Doc a birthday party. Mack asked when his birthday was and realized that it felt on Oct 27. The doc that Mack was up to something.

The boys had to make sure that Doc would be at the party. They were planning on having it at his place. Dora’s girls were making him a blanket. Lee bought firecrackers and China lily bulbs. Sam would give Doc a rod and a piston. Another of his presents would be cats. Gay also would be attending the party. Henri prepared a giant pincushion for Doc. Doc finally knew about the party from a bartender. He felt both warm and queasy inside. Now, doc started planning for the party too. There would be many guests.

Frankie saw a nice piece of jewelry and wanted to steal it in the night. Frankie was caught by the police eventually. The police asked him why did he take it for, Frankie replied ‘I love you, Doc’.

It was his birthday and Doc made sure that the animals won’t run loose. Dora was clad in a splendid dress. The girls drank a little before heading to the party. Now, Doc was feeling a little mellow. Everyone was waiting for each other before they would show up at the party.

Parties don’t usually go the way they are planned. All the guests were treated to whisky. People arrived in droves. The girls conducted themselves properly. The doc started cooking his steaks. He was feeling much better. The doc started reciting a poem. He was reminiscing his previous love. The party was wild yet fun.

A fat gopher took up residence at the vacant lot on Cannery row. It was seemingly a perfect place to live and he was deeply satisfied. He was sad because there were no females nearby. Finally he decided to move away.

The place was in a mess when the Doc woke up the next morning. Cannery Row was quiet and sunny. Lee came to visit and they started chatting. Doc picked up his book and continued reading. After reciting, he saw the rats and the snakes escaped from their cages and were staring at him.


Tao Te Ching (道德经) by Lao Tzu

It consists of 81 short poems in traditional Chinese. It is known as ‘The Book of the Way’. It is a book of deep wisdom on the art of living. From his teachings, Lao Tzu did care about society. Non-action is the purest and most effective form of action. The doer can vanish completely from the deed. He emphasises a lot on softness. Give up to Tao and be compassionate. The more solitary you are, the more compassionate you can build and better you can distinguish good from evil. It is a deeply moral teaching. Evil isn’t a force, but simply seen as something opaque. The author has interacted with the actual Zen masters. The author attempts to translate his mind.

Only the unnameable is eternally real. Free yourself from desire. Mystery and manifestations arise from darkness.

Opposites support each other, for instance, difficult and easy. The key is let things come and go. Do not possess and expect. Then your work will last forever.

When people see things as beautiful, other things become ugly. When people see some things as good, other things become bad.  – Lao Tzu

Do not do things excessively. Weaken your ambition and toughen your resolve. Practice the art of non-doing. Lose yourself.

Tao is a well that can never be used up and is filled with infinite possibilities.

Tao is not biased and welcomes everyone. Use it, but do not talk of it, in order to understand it better.

Tao is always present inside you and you can use it any way you wish.

It is infinite because it has no desires and eternal because it has never been born, and thus cannot die. Detach yourself.

Be contented. Be yourself and don’t compare or compete with others. Others will start to respect you.

In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don’t try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present. – Lao Tzu

Do your work and take a step back.

Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife and it will be blunt. Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench. Care about people’s approval and you will be their prisoner. – Lao Tzu

Be original. Keep supple. Cleanse your vision. Love others without your imposing your views. Deal with only the vital matters. Step back from your own mind.

Work with being, but non-being is what we use.

Trust your inner vision. Keep your heart open.

Success is as dangerous as failure as your position is precarious. Keep your feet grounded. Hope and fear are just thoughts of our mind.

Realize where you come from and that is the key to wisdom.

The master welcomes everything and is incredibly patient. Wait for the situation to change.

Empty your mind of everything. Understand yourself. Everything is serene at the source.

There is no need to talk as a master. Act by example instead. Trust your people.

Filial piety emerges when there is no peace in the family. Patriotism is born when the country is in chaos.

Throw away holiness and wisdom, morality and justice, industry and profit, and people will do fine.

Do not want what others want. I am expressionless. I possess nothing and drift around. I am different from the others.

Tao doesn’t cling to ideas. Let the light in. I see the Tao in myself.

Live by Tao, and you can be true to yourself.

Because the Master doesn’t display himself, people can see the light. Because he has nothing to prove, people can trust his words. Because he doesn’t know who he is, people recognize themselves in him. Because he has no goal in mind, everything he does succeeds. – Lao Tzu

Open yourself completely to experiences and be honest with them and how they make you feel.

Just do your job and let it go.

The beginning of the Universe can be known as Tao. It flows through everything. Man follows the Earth, Earth follows the Universe. The Universe follows Tao. Tao follows itself.

Do not allow yourself to be blown to and fro. Stay firm.

Embody the light.

A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent upon arriving. A good artist lets his intuition lead him wherever it wants. A good scientist has freed himself of concepts and keeps his mind open to what is. – Lao Tzu

Be a pattern for the world. Accept the world as it is.

You can’t improve the world. See things as they are. Stand in the centre of the circle.

There is a time for being ahead, a time for being behind; a time for being in motion, a time for being at rest; a time for being vigorous, a time for being exhausted; a time for being safe, a time for being in danger. – Lao Tzu

Do not dominate events and understand that the Universe is out of control. Because he accepts himself, the whole world accepts him.

Peace is the highest value. How can you be content once peace is shattered? Rejoice in victory. Do not sadistic.

Know when institutions should stop and understand that names are provisional.

Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich. If you stay in the centre and embrace death with your whole heart, you will endure forever. – Lao Tzu

Be humble and do not be aware that you’re great.

When you grasp Tao, you will have peace in your heart. When you look for it, there’s nothing to see.

Have subtle perception of the way things are. Let your workings be a mystery, just show people the result.

Centre yourself in Tao and the world will be transformed. Have no desire and peace will be abounded.

Don’t try to be powerful. The Master has no will of his own. He only dwells in reality.

The Master does nothing, yet he leaves nothing undone. The ordinary man is always doing things, yet many more are left to be done. – Lao Tzu

View the world with compassion. Understand the whole.

Return and yield. All things are born of being. Being is born of non-being.

It is seemingly difficult to locate Tao. However, it does complete everything.

Male and female combination leads to harmony. Embrace your loneliness and be at peace with the Universe.

Non-action has huge value in this world. Teach with words is the Master’s way.

If you look to others for fulfilment, you will never truly be fulfilled. If your happiness depends on money, you will never be happy with yourself. Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you. – Lao Tzu

Allow things to happen and let Tao speak for itself.

See through your fears. Fear is an illusion. Do not prepare to defend yourself. Have no enemies.

The Master arrives without leaving. The more you know, the less you understand.

In Tao, things are dropped and non-action is practised. Let things go along by nature’s flow.

In Tao, it trusts everyone. Everyone is treated and taken care by Tao like children.

Give yourself up to the moment. Hold nothing back. Be ready for death.

Be spontaneous. Tao comforts and nourishes everyone.

If you close your mind in judgments and traffic with desires, your heart will be troubled. If you keep your mind from judging and aren’t led by the senses, your heart will find peace. – Lao Tzu

When you are extravagant or greedy, you are not being in line with Tao.

Look inside yourself and if you believe in Tao, you will prosper much.

Never expect anything and you won’t be disappointed. Thus, your spirit will never grow old.

Be like the Tao and give yourself up continually.

Stop trying to control. The more rules you have, the larger it will backfire. Let go of religion, economics and the law.

Do not impose your will, but still be pointed in a certain direction.

Be a moderate man and make sure of whatever that comes your way. Let go and care for others.

Give evil nothing to oppose and it will disappear itself.

Do not meddle in the affairs of others and see those who point out your faults as being very benevolent.

Offer to teach your new leader, Tao. Tao will forgive your mistakes.

Confront the difficult while it is easy; accomplish the great task by a series of small steps.

Nip danger in the bud and prevent it from escalating. Remain calm as a Master.

By non-knowing, you will not be stubborn and become more open to experiences.

If you want to lead, you must know how to follow. Place yourself below others. Do not compete with anyone.

I only teach 3 things: simplicity, patience and compassion. Be compassionate towards yourself.

The best businessmen only compete in the business of play. Follow the will of others.

Observe before moving. Do not underestimate your enemy. Victory will go to the one that yields first.

If you want to know Tao, look inside your heart.

The Master is a physician who heals herself of everything. She is whole again.

The Master steps back so that people won’t be confused. They have nothing to learn.

Tao doesn’t let a thing slip and overcomes without competing. It is constantly at ease.

All things change. Don’t cling on to one too tightly. The future can’t be controlled. Go with the flow.

Trust the common folks and leave them alone.

Whoever is stiff and inflexible is a discipline of death. Be soft and yielding.

The master can keep giving without fear.

Remain serene even when upset. Do not allow evil to enter your heart. Life is paradoxical.

Treat failure as an opportunity. Correct the mistakes yourself and do not expect things from others.

A master doesn’t need to travel. He is content at home and takes delight in everyday activities.

Wise men don’t have to prove anything. Do not dominate or force others.

The master has no possessions. The more he does for others, the happier he is. The more he gives to others, the wealthier he is. – Lao Tzu