Sunday 6 December 2009

A classic Ed Ricketts List

This is a great list made by John Steinbecks long time collaborator Ed Ricketts. Ricketts was the model for at least 6 of Steinbecks most memorable characters, most notably perhaps "Doc" of Cannery Row. 

Ricketts was not fictional. He was a ground breaking marine biologist, ecologist, traveller and philosopher. I would recommend the interested reader to find the recently published collection of his travelogues "Breaking Through" (edited by K.A. Rodger) which has some of the best lists I have come across.

One of the most interesting pieces of writing in "Breaking Through" is a "Verbatim Transciption" of the trip that Ricketts and Steinbeck took to Baja and subsequently retold in "Log from the Sea of Cortez" by Steinbeck. Ricketts recorded things as the trip progressed and Steinbeck later tidied it up for publication. There are some excellent lists but the one below is one of my favourites and describes the blend of human and biological impressions made on Ricketts whilst in the La Paz area on Friday March 22 1940 (this appears on page 151 of Breaking Through).

"The peso is 5-1/2 or 6 to 1 here. I bought swank-looking huaraches for one dollar and one peso (7 pesos) and a fine iguana belt for 2.50 pesos; Epsom salts at a clothing store, Casa Gomez, one peso per kilo. I liked the blonde daughter. The girl in the pharmacy, I found entirely charming. The people are wonderful here. Ice is cinco centavos per kilo; not very good ice, tho. A quarter liter of Carta Blanca beer is 30 centavos per bottle, about 10 pesos per case, with 2.50 peso bottle return. I got 3 cigars from Sr. Gomez from his personal stock for 60 centavos, twisted - not wonderful, but satisfactory - Vera Cruz tobacco.
Borette is the poisonous puffer fish; its liver is said to be so poisonous that people use it to poison cats and flies.
Cornada is the hammerhead shark.
Barco is the red snapper.
Caracol (also Burrol) is the term for snails in general, particularly for the large conch for blowing like a horn.
Erizo is urchins, both kinds.
Abanico is sea fan, gorgonian.
Broma is barnacle.
Hacha is pinna, large clam."