“World’s most beautiful windswept beaches and romantic getaways…”

Only Carmel could take a tagline like that and denature it with rules. The rules-loving people of Carmel are the butt of jokes all over the world. They all rule and they create a rule for everything. But all the rules boil-down to this: for everything nothing will change.

In Carmel people debate the legality of the newly-arrived Tyrannosaurus Rex. And require tired old restaurants to remain open decades after the palate of modernity has passed them by (yes, Hogs Breath Inn is still going strong). And insist Shell continue displaying its antebellum logo, guaranteeing you won’t know it’s a gas station. In Carmel people run out of gas looking for gas while driving right by gas stations. A slight against the ancien regime is punishable by pine-coning. The dress code? Locals are identified by fashion evoking the Seven Dwarfs, Bilbo & Frodo, or better yet—Miracle Max and Valerie. And they’re every bit as joyless. The Carmelites love their city and love their rules but are damned if they’ll be happy about it. Is this what happens to people who live among 500 year old trees?

On the other hand, there may not be a more concentrated fauna of pretty-good-food and fine art on the planet. And you can easily walk it, including the Carmel Coffee House if you have the audacity. This local haunt is hidden away in an obscure courtyard accessible only by an obscure passageway. Decent coffee, danish, and quiche. You’re assured to be served after the locals who are called by name. The privilege of incumbency is no more on display than in Carmel By The Sea.

The art is sophisticated, the Dr. Seuss Gallery notwithstanding. Art from the Sixties is the newest thing in Carmel. And that’s how it should be. Wandering through the old-growth zeitgeist you suddenly realize you’ll never forget Carmel. It’s special. And it’ll always be that way.

san carlos street

la bicyclette

Carmel By The Sea, California – September 6 – 7, 2013 C.E.

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