Big Sur: The Way It Was
"I fell into Big Sur by accident. I never knew of Big Sur and I was just taken one day by Varda, whom I was living with in Monterey. He brought me down, put me up at Lynda Sargent’s home in a log cabin, where Nepenthe is […] That’s where I was living. I must have stayed two or three months with Lynda before they found me a cabin. I had never had any experience living in the country, doing all the rough work, fending for myself. Suddenly I had to do everything, cook, you know.
"I’ll never forget that climb up and down that hill on Partington Ridge for the mail every day. […] I lived at Anderson Creek in that shack, one of those convict shacks, do you recall, at the edge of the cliff. That was marvelous. Marvellous. Though we had no conveniences, we paid seven dollars a month rent; think of it. When you look back, those days of poverty are the best."
A few other quotes from Henry:
"The most important thing about Big Sur, I think, was the neighbours. Never anywhere in the world did I find people like in Big Sur. The good neighbour. One felt absolutely secure there […]
Another thing I like about Sur: it kills off the weak. Only the strong survive there, I think."
The documentary--shot in the late 1960s-- features many Big Sur-era photos of Henry that I've never seen elsewhere, as well as a shot of Miller's mailbox, where the letters of Lawrence Durrell, Anais Nin and others were once stuffed.
Miller's loyal assistant at Big Sur, Emil White, is also interviewed on camera. “[In 1944] [Henry] was the only one on Partington Ridge, " says White. "He needed help. He’s not very handy with his hands, except on the typewriter.”
Besides the Miller footage, the documentary also provides an overview of Big Sur, it's history, its culture in the 1950s, and a profile of the hippie-active Big Sur of the late 1960s. Miller is heard on voice-over, criticizing the young. "The adults have failed," he says.
I had touched on Miller's life in Big Sur in this post here.