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Silicon Alleys - Gary Singh

Silicon Alleys

This Must Be The Place

By Gary Singh

JUST WHEN I thought I was the only truth-seeker heroic enough to infiltrate the bums, the ex-cons, the addicts and the bodily fluids that tarnish certain throwaway neighborhoods in San Jose, along comes Holly Finn of the Financial Times in London—you know, that legendary pink bastion of global news and analysis that you see all the entrepreneurs and capitalists devouring in the airports or the Ritz-Carlton. In a recent travel piece, she found herself walking down Almaden Avenue in downtown San Jose, right in front of the Greyhound Station.

Here's what she wrote in her piece, "Hi-tech, low-key," published Nov. 3 in the online edition of the Financial Times: "An hour south of San Francisco, San Jose is the 10th largest city in the country by population and it does sprawl. Parts feel like a ghost town. Not long ago I walked past a Greyhound bus station downtown. Above the entrance was a huge B-U-S sign, the letters stacked on top of each other as if they were about to topple. Tacked to the huge streetside window below were two posters announcing 'The New Greyhound.' But not a single customer."

While the Financial Times is generally a damn good read with much more than just business news, it was highly refreshing indeed that they would include such an offbeat journey through my own backyard, so to speak. Since they recently published a travel piece on Edinburgh, Scotland, with local novelist Alexander McCall Smith spilling his enthusiasm for his native city and pointing out locales he used in his novels, I must fess up to a bit of rancorous jealousy that I didn't get a crack at that piece. If Financial Times travel editors aren't already beating a path to my dumpster, then they should be. There exist much more blighted advertisements for San Jose than that one particular block Finn mentioned.

Ms. Finn then went on to discover the standard visitor's guide tidbits you would expect—the Fallon House and the Peralta Adobe. Then, like a ship lost at sea, she weaves and bobs her way around the corner and discovers yet another historic edifice already immortalized in writing by yours truly:

"Next door, things are less inspiring: the home office of the San Jose Earthquakes, the local professional soccer team, sits shuttered and dusty. The team has moved to Houston and changed its name to the presumably more winning 'Dynamo.'"

Then, with one all-encompassing statement, Ms. Finn offers a hysterical—and true—analysis of our city with the following affirmation, one that should serve as a maxim for generations to come, a dictum for all textbooks and a guiding light for all future local city leaders: "San Jose is appealing not because it succeeds, but because it tries." In the rest of that paragraph, Finn applauds the Tech Museum and then humorously blasts Santana Row, calling it a "deluxe but dispiritingly fake outdoor mall modeled on a European shopping port—less Portofino than Pseudofino."

I myself have been through Portofino, that überglamorous four-diamond getaway village on Italy's Mediterranean coast, and Finn's analysis is pretty much spot-on. Portofino has the picturesque seascapes, the port, the beach, the sailing and the atmosphere, culture, history, architecture and continent of Europe itself. Take all that away, and you've got, well, Santana Row in San Jose.

So there you have it. With such a vivid account from an outsider like Ms. Finn, along with the Winchester Mystery House's recent appearance on an episode of Most Haunted, the Capital of Silicon Valley is "on the map" yet again.

Hey, at least we're trying.

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