June 23, 2006

Notes From San Jose

We spent last week in lovely San Jose; the original excuse was a wedding on Saturday (of one of Shelby's friends from her days at IBM), and we bracketed that with a week of work for me (best not to let my paymasters up at HQ forget what I look like) and a trip up to visit our friends Marc and Wendy in Sonoma County, where Wendy runs a Christian camp and Marc works as a therapist.

(We'll have to put up some pictures from the trip soon; I've been doing a really poor job at putting any pictures up on our website for months and months now.)

It was during this trip that I finally hit on what San Jose reminds me of — a miniature version of Berlin! Like Berlin, San Jose appears wealthy and prosperous to the casual observer, with lots of high-profile, flashy building projects to catch the eye. But yet, if you look a few streets over from the shiny new buildings, things are vacant, derelict, and forlorn. (The comparison falls down in that you can't find cheap rent anywhere in San Jose. But you could probably squat in an empty storefront or office for quite a while before anyone noticed.) San Jose even has its own Reichstag dome — but not having a historic building to put it on top of, they built it at ground level and called it their City Hall.

Across the street from that shiny multi-million-dollar City Hall is the empty shell of an Albertsons — downtown's only supermarket — that closed earlier this year. Even when it was open, it was no great shakes; we called it "the Albertsons Of The Damned" when we were living downtown. Just down the street from the empty supermarket is an empty set of buildings that used to be San Jose Medical Center — downtown's only hospital, closed in 2003. Downtown residents may not have easy access to food or medical care, but at least they've got the pleasures of public art! An object lesson in just a few blocks about how San Jose's 'leaders' valued flash and satisfying their own prodigious egos over meeting the actual needs of their community.

When I come back to most places that I've spent time in — Berkeley, Hamburg, Orange County — there are strong feelings of nostalgia. But when I come back to San Jose, the overwhelming emotion is relief that we got out.

Posted by Kevin at June 23, 2006 08:44 AM
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