Saturday, January 18, 2014


Totally stolen from the New Yorker.

Name: Mary Duan
Age: 45
Neighborhood: Oldtown, Salinas, CA
Occupation: newspaper editor, columnist, writer, mom. 

Who's Your Favorite Salinan, Living or Dead, Real or Fictional?
John Steinbeck, duh. And I dearly wish he was still around today, because he would not believe the shit that goes on in his name. Also, former Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue, for his relentless optimism (he campaigned on the slogan "Imagine a Great City," to which I always added, "Then move there") and steadfast refusal to wear a tie to 99 percent of the functions and meetings he attended. I love Will Devoe and Imelda Suarez for bringing street art to the masses and introducing me to my new favorite artist, Cryptik. And finally, Todd Williams, owner of the Cherry Bean Coffee House, because he's angrier than me.

What's the best meal you've ever eaten in Salinas?
Look, Salinas might be known as "the salad bowl of the world," but this is not a town known for its culinary genius. Having said that, I miss the old Hullaballoo restaurant, because the did amazing burgers and great ribs and you could count on the quality, always. Our go-to place on Friday nights is Eagle Chinese, where the hot and sour soup comes with an angry red glow and the owner rolls the mushu tableside using a fork, a spoon and only one hand, always with a little smirk on his face. And Gutierrez Market, where the parking lot sometimes resembles an open-air drug bazaar (they can't help it--the neighborhood is a hellhole), does the single best take on carnitas this side of the border, and maybe outside of Michoacan. Crispy, salty, slightly fatty pork. And at Gino's Italian, the cannelloni is to die for. Very good red sauce.

Patria just opened in the former Hullaballoo space. Their cheese plate and a cocktail and I am a happy human. It has one of the most beautiful restaurant interiors I've seen anywhere, and that includes Europe.

In one sentence, what do you actually do all day in your job?
I am an air traffic controller/hostage negotiator. I keep the trains running on time. I teach reporters how to be better reporters. 

Where do you get your coffee?
If I'm getting a cup in the morning before I go to the office, it's the Cherry Bean. If I have to wait and get it later, I go to ACME in Seaside.

What was your first job in Salinas?
I was freelancing when we first moved here. For a short time, less than a year, I was the Salinas coordinator for a program which sheltered and fed homeless adult men in conjunction with the local "faith community." I was ill equipped to handle the very real problems these men had been experiencing, in some cases, for many years. I was even less equipped to handle the treachery that went on among the staff and management at the program. I left after I was asked (told, really) to take the blame for the fact that one of the guys stole the keys to all the Salinas churches involved in the programs—the churches were unaware the policy was to keep the keys on the bus in the first place, and one Lutheran minister read me the riot act. I wasn't being paid enough to get yelled at by Lutherans.

What's the last thing you saw at Maya Cinemas?
So, confession: We stopped going to Maya Cinemas about three months ago because the COO signed on to a letter being driven by a bunch of Oldtown property owners demanding the city prevent the downtown Methodist church from providing services to the homeless. This despite the fact that the church is nowhere near the Maya. The Maya is, however, just two blocks away from Chinatown (home of Gutierrez Drive In and the open-air drug market.) Chuck has refused to step foot in the Maya since. But we broke down and went there to see Her, because it's nominated for an Academy Award and we try to see all the nominees in the major categories. 

What's your favorite medication?

What's hanging over your sofa?
Nothing, because it's not against a wall.

How much is too much to spend on a haircut?
$90. $90 is too much for a haircut. And don't get me started on a good colorist and what they charge.

When's bedtime?
Whenever the Ambien kicks in. If I had my way and could set my own schedule, bedtime would be 3am, but I wouldn't have to wake up until 11am.

Do you prefer the old Oldtown or the New?
I didn't really live here when Oldtown was Old. I imagine I would prefer the new, though.

Do you give money to panhandlers?
I almost never carry cash anymore, but when I did, yeah. Now that I'm all debit, all the time, I will usually offer to buy them a cup of coffee or a donut.

Brunch: Pro or con?
Pro. I love brunch. I'd rather eat brunch than any other meal.

What do you hate most about living in Salinas.
The racism. The violence. The us-against-them mentality. The fact that a small handful of good old boys still run shit. 


  1. I like the food at Ellis. They have a blackened salmon Caesar salad, with a homemade Caesar dressing and cheesy herb bread that is to die for.

    I am with you on the carnitas from Gutierrez!

    I've always preferred Northridge Cinemas in Salinas or the Osio in Monterey.

    Viva Expresso is my coffee place since the Peet's between BJ's and Five Guys closed.

  2. I might do this!


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