[Metro Best of the Valley]

[ Metro | Metroactive Central | Archives ]

People & Places

Windows on the World: Wishful thinkers can see what life looks like in the fast lane at Ferrari of Los Gatos, dubbed Best Dream Car Dealership.

Best Dream Car Dealership
Ferrari of Los Gatos
66 E. Main St., Los Gatos
408/354-4000 Few of us will ever nestle into the fine-grained leather interior of an F355 Spider and race away into an Italian Alpine fantasy, but it doesn't hurt to indulge the imagination now and then. Ferrari of Los Gatos specializes in exotic collectibles and vintage race cars. Gleaming Morgan roadsters share garage space with a Maserati and the fleet's two regal Bentleys. The outside lot is packed bumper to bumper with Jaguars, Lamborginis, Rolls-Royces and American classics. Two-thirds of them are red. All inspire lust. And inside the showroom, a 1967 Corvette Stingray of heartbreaking beauty neighbors the cosmetically challenged Personal Community Vehicle, a street-legal electric cart with a blistering upper limit of 22.5 mph. These beauties are best viewed in person, but Ferrari of Los Gatos has kindly provided the public with a Web page--www.ferrari-losgatos.com--detailing its current stock of dream cars.
Traci Hukill

Best Place to Spot Chupacabras
Chupacabras Hill
Kelley Park, San Jose

On dark nights, chupacabras (Hallucinatius unlikelius)--mysterious, beautiful, rare and endangered creatures that they are--flitter about in search of nanny goats to suck dry. Eyewitnesses describe them as looking like scaly, fanged, winged bat-monkeys. Goat milk is available at most local health-food stores and could be used as a lure to draw them out. Petting is out of the question--you don't know where they've been. The flea markets now sell T-shirts depicting the ravenous goat-suckers, more evidence of the chupacabra invasion. Can you prove they don't exist?
Richard von Busack

Best Civic Center
Mountain View Civic Center
500 Castro St., Mountain View

One frustrated councilmember dubbed Mountain View's Civic Center the "Taj Mahal." But as the years pass, and the painful memory of its $45 million price tag fades, pride has replaced pique. Color, design and light collaborate to create a modern, Italianate grouping that outstrips any similar civic project south of San Francisco. Light pours though immense glass windows mounted in a seven-story octagonal tower at the entrance to City Hall. A similarly shaped smaller tower fronts the state-of-the-art performing arts center. At the heart of City Hall is a four-story art-glass atrium ringed by offices.

Municipal officials aren't the only ones enjoying this public building. Both buildings host rotating art exhibits. The current display in City Hall's rotunda showcases antique toys. Another gallery, located on the fourth floor of City Hall, will host an Anne Frank exhibit Oct. 12­Nov. 11. Since the center's construction in 1991, residents have watched their children in plays and dance recitals at the performing arts center, while community groups have used the first floor of city hall for fundraisers, dinners and graduations. In an era of civic boondoggles, this civic center is a public boon.
Laura Stuchinsky

Best Window Display
Turner and Martin
540 Emerson St., Palo Alto

There is no schedule for changes in the Turner and Martin window display--it's necessary to look every time. Each new display is a work of contemporary art, six parts style to four parts whimsy. A recent pass revealed a precious set of clear, hand-blown Mexican bottles filled with anthuriums, one stem in each.

"It's a hands-on store--it changes from day to day," says co-owner John Martin. He and partner Dave Turner keep things moving, offering "objects of style" and original artwork for the home and office in a neutral palette of blacks, whites and earth tones--except at Christmas, when they cover the windows and transform the store's interior, adding candy-apple red or sapphire blue. Turner and Martin has survived and thrived since 1988 by selling imaginative and tasteful home accessories. "Bigger doesn't mean better," notes Martin. "And now, it's a very special store."
Ami Chen Mills

Best Place to Light Up
Blue Rock Shoot Cafe and
Saratoga Book Market

14523 Big Basin Way, Saratoga
book market: 408/741-5180
cafe: 408/867-3437

Anti-smoking legislation permeates California like secondhand smoke pervades the air at Blue Rock Shoot Cafe and Saratoga Book Market. While most California cafes and restaurants turn smokers away, Blue Rock Shoot welcomes the Monte Cristo Man. In fact, the cafe offers ashtrays the size of fish bowls, sells cigars and pipe tobacco, and welcomes the "Friends of the Leaf" cigar club every Thursday. Outdoor seating and a patio ornamented by a babbling faux stream make the cafe the perfect place to light up, sip espresso and pore over a book from the market's quality literature selection.
Bernice Yeung

Best Line of Defense
Against Gophers
Bill Maryott
Maryott's Iris Garden,
1073 Bird Ave., San Jose

Bill Maryott has a vested interest in decimating the local bulb-chewing varmint population. No man has a more steely gopher will, so the squeamish shouldn't start a conversation about gopher mortality unless they are prepared to see it through to its gory conclusion. He will describe the intricacies of trapping devices, including the metal, spring-loaded, body-puncturing clamp available at most hardware stores. An experienced trapper and bane of small game everywhere, Maryott knows all about scent camouflaging, choosing the best time of day for hunting and the subtle art of tricking the fatso gopher. For serious gopher-haters only. Best time to have the conversation: late March or early April, when amateur gardeners can stand in the midst of a brilliant field of blooming iris and place orders for bulbs, which will be shipped in late summer--free of gopher bites.
Corinne Asturias

Best Visual Inspiration
The Quilting Bee
357 Castro St., Mountain View

Diana Leone's Quilting Bee, one of the largest quilting stores in the valley, offers a feast for the eyes and a quick tour of the history of the traditional folk craft. Dozens of quilts hang from the rafters and on the walls of the long, narrow shop. Along with traditional quilts, such as log cabin and double Irish chain, the Quilting Bee displays many more contemporary quilts--Leone's forte. The latter lean more toward fiber art than craft, although they employ many of the same techniques. One style, called "crazy quilting," a spin-off of a Victorian-era technique, uses irregular pieces of fabric to create an abstract painting in cloth. Others "paint" landscapes with fabric. Many belong in a frame, not on a bed.
Laura Stuchinsky

Best Llama and Angora
Goat Breeders
Magical Menagerie
16020 Robinwood Lane, Los Gatos

Like most animal lovers, David and Linda Lee Johnson own a dog and a cat. What sets them apart from run-of-the-mill pet people are the chickens, rabbits, llamas and angora goats running around their Los Gatos residence. The couple's home doubles as the Magical Menagerie, which specializes in the breeding, training (including a "stupid llama trick" involving a refrigerator box), sale (as pets) and showing of prize-winning llamas and angora goats.

Linda, a professional storyteller, incorporates the animals into her tales while teaching children to treat "animals as partners, not things to be dominated." Indeed, the Johnsons treat their animals like family, giving each one the tender, loving care a parent would give a child. "We don't go out of control with breeding," Dave explains. "We want to keep Magical Menagerie small and high quality, and we focus on the health of the animal first." The Johnsons often hang out with their llamas at parks, coffee shops or beaches. "They love to go in the water and jump around," Dave observes, "or meet people and look around." Chupacabras? What chupacabras?
Bernice Yeung

Best Place to Ponder the Disposable Society
BFI--The Recyclery
1601 Dixon Landing Road, Milpitas

The New York Times Magazine recently caused a stir with a story claiming that recycling was a huge waste of time. Don't tell that to the folks at the BFI Recyclery, who claim that recycling a pound of aluminum saves 10.5 gallons of oil. For the curious, Mobius, the jovial recycling mascot whose superhero outfit is made entirely of aluminum cans and other former trash, accompanies visitors on a self-guided tour through the recyclery.

The tour is worth the (free) admission if only for the enormous "wall of garbage" that indicates what the county disposes of in only three minutes of activity--and the U.S. in only one second. The highlight is the observation window to the Materials Recovery Facility, the enormous warehouse where workers sort all the junk we put into our recycling bins. Finally, check out the Buyback Center, which puts a price on recyclable goods. The figures are an economics lesson showing which materials are in demand and which materials BFI already gets enough of.
Richard Sine

Best Study in Aesthetics
Hakone Japanese Garden
21000 Big Basin Way, Saratoga

Saratoga's Hakone Japanese Garden is an aesthete's utopia. The garden's meticulous landscaping and classic Japanese architecture are modeled after Japan's Fuji-Hakone National Park. The gardens consist of two houses, four gardens, a tangle of paths and a cultural center for art classes, social functions and lectures. Architectural precision can be seen in the Upper "Moon Viewing" House (a building constructed entirely without nails) and the Lower House, which is used for monthly Cha-Shitsu (tea ceremony) demonstrations.

The four major gardens (Hill and Pond Garden, Tea Garden, Zen Garden, Kizuna-En Bamboo Garden) also provide serene lessons in naturalistic beauty. The Hill and Pond Garden, the heart of Hakone, explodes with floral scent and color, while a gentle waterfall cascades into a pond.
Bernice Yeung

Best Place to Run Away To
Casa SAY
Mountain View
415/961-2622; 408/253-3540

For 19 years, Casa SAY has been putting a roof over the heads of runaway Peninsula teens. The nonprofit house, one of three in the county that serves runaways, shelters approximately 15 troubled youths a month, typically from Mountain View, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, Los Gatos, Saratoga and west San Jose. The organization recently renovated its home on View Street, two blocks south of Castro, expanding from six to eight beds to provide services to disabled teens.

Casa SAY's first priority is to ensure the safety of the runaway. Then staff members try to help families work through the crisis that prompted the young person to flee. At least a dozen Mountain View businesses and community service organizations, from a taqueria to the local fire department, hang "Safe Place" logos in their windows, announcing their willingness to help runaways and to hook them up with Casa SAY.
Laura Stuchinsky

Best Local Coach
With a Nose Plug
Chris Carver
of the U.S. Synchronized Swim Team

The grueling hours that Saratoga resident Chris Carver puts in as coach of both the United States Synchronized Swim Team and the Santa Clara Aquamaids proves that synchronized swimming takes more than just nose plugs and sequined suits. Under Carver's coaching, the U.S. team brought home two gold medals from the Atlanta Games. To get the 10 U.S. team members--eight of whom are Bay Area residents--into gold-medal shape, Carver had the team swimming 6,000 yards a day. Carver says she's seen the sport change from the glamorous routines of Esther Williams to the extremely athletic competitions of today.

Carver started synchronized swimming almost three decades ago as a junior high­schooler. Swimmers of that era practiced for an hour a day for three to four months, whereas Carver's Olympic team was in the pool for six to eight hours a day, 11 months of the year. After practice, Carver logs in yet more time by editing music for the routines. "And I like it," Carver says. "I wouldn't do it if I didn't like it."
Bernice Yeung

Best View of Silicon Valley
Mission Peak
Mission Peak Regional Preserve,
Diablo Range above Fremont

It's prickly with radio transmission towers, but Mission Peak offers a superb vantage point from which to eyeball the Silicon Valley. For that matter, on a good day, it's possible to see San Francisco as well as Oakland. Two dirt trails lead to the top. One starts from the back side of Ohlone College; the other begins in the Mission Peak Regional Preserves. The steep trails weave in and out of copses of oak along the hillside, leaving behind the sprawl of Silicon Valley. The mountain rises as a heap of hills piled randomly one on top of another until the peak rears 2,750 feet above the bay.

The best time to come up is in the late afternoon, when the sky blazes in the wake of the setting sun and the valley stirs alive in the waning crimson light. From this lonely peak, weary climbers can watch the sunset, then the embers of its passage and at last the fading amber clouds. When those are gone, the valley twinkles like a quilt of lights and the stars follow in sheets. Too bad the park closes at sunset.
Andrew X. Pham

Best Way to Help Yourself
and Help Others

For 78-year-old Eleanore Zebrowski, participating in SHARE--the Self Help and Resource Exchange--is a way to stay involved in the community since her retirement from a job with the city eight years ago. Plus, it helps her keep her food costs down. For $14, and two hours of volunteer time, SHARE supplies its members with a monthly box of fruit, vegetables, meat and staples. The nonprofit gets a break by buying in bulk, so members pay about half the price of standard supermarket rates.

The organization, which was founded in San Diego in 1983 and has since spread across the country, also takes pride in the community-building aspects of its work. Members can do their community service anywhere they like: at their church or synagogue, their children's school or by helping a disabled neighbor with her housecleaning. The Northern California office, which coordinates food distribution to more than 30 counties, estimates that its members donate more than 24,000 hours of volunteer time to their communities a month.
Laura Stuchinsky

Best Place to
Contemplate Mortality
1675 Monterey Road and 1065 Commercial St., San Jose

A few centuries ago, painters used to depict skulls in their work as what was then called a "memento mori," a reminder to the pious of death, and the reckoning to come. The preferred caption under the skull was a few words to the effect of "All flesh is grass. As you are, so I was. As I am, so will you be."

Nowadays, skulls are just something cool--though, no doubt, some sensitive people still pick up the subliminal message. To feel fully the sense of mortality--the sense that you're here today and are going to be gone tomorrow--go to Pick-n-Pull to consider what will happen to your best chum in this world. Namely, your car. The picked, scavenged carcasses arrayed on the bare ground of Pick-n-Pull's lots--hoods gaping, dashboards trepanned, headlights blind, cryptic messages from the police parking patrol scrawled in spidery yellow enamel letters on the smashed windshields--these unfortunates were once someone's fine ride.
Richard von Busack

If I Only Had an Ear: The "Vision" sculpture­known as the "Tin Man" or "Trapped in the Corporate World"­gazes toward Shoreline.

Best Place to See a Vision
"Vision" Statue
Charleston Road Near Shoreline Avenue, Mountain View

Although some Mountain View and Palo Alto residents fume about decibel overload from Shoreline Amphitheater, at least one "resident" appears pleased. From his 30-foot-high vantage point, the statuesque figure on the lawn at the North Bayshore industrial area leans wistfully toward the concert venue. Alas, he's got a tin ear--as well as the rest of his body. The proper title for this sculpture is Vision, but neighbors have dubbed the piece with more descriptive names: Tin Man, Boy in a Cage or--our favorite--Trapped in the Corporate World. City officials claim that Vision is one of Mountain View's most popular pieces of public art, in a city that boasts the largest public art collection per capita in the Bay Area.
Laura Stuchinsky

Best Feeding Frenzy
Koi Pond, Japanese Friendship Garden
Kelley Park, 1300 Senter Road, San Jose

These koi are anything but coy. A quarter buys a handful of fish pellets from a dispenser near one of the foot bridges over the pond that meanders through the exquisitely groomed contemplative confines of the Japanese Friendship Garden. The resident piscine porkers, sensing yet another free (for them, anyway) lunch, push greedily to the edge of their pool. As the goodies hit the water, the gold-, orange- and black-mottled ornamental eating machines flop and wrestle in the shallows for every morsel. Long after the handout has been consumed, the sound of their frenzied thrashing fills the air. It's not exactly the WWII shark attack that Robert Shaw described with such loving detail in Jaws, but it's a lot safer way to view nature red in tooth and fin.
Michael S. Gant

Best Place to Be
in the Case of Fire
The Hayes Mansion
200 Edenvale Ave., San Jose

When the Hayes family of Wisconsin settled in California, they built a beautiful Victorian house. But in 1899, the 40-room house burnt to the ground. The deeply spiritual Mary Hayes was certain the tragedy was God's will: "The house was needed for some other purpose, and we needed the experience, else it would not have burned. If it is right and best for us to have another house, we may have a finer one." True to her words, the family built an even grander domicile in 1905.

Architect George Page designed the new residence, creating an opulent 41,000-square-foot Mediterranean dwelling of more than 60 rooms. With the memory of the conflagration still flickering in their minds, the Hayeses made sure their new home would be able to withstand another fire. The walls were made of double brick, and fire-hose cabinets connected to water tanks on the third floor were scattered throughout the house. Since then, the estate has been transformed into an elegant conference center, housing executive meetings and social gatherings. It was good enough for Presidents William McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover--can Motel 6 say that?
Bernice Yeung

Best Place to Be
Stephanie Seymour
Heaven on Earth
127 S. Murphy Ave., Sunnyvale

There's something about lingerie that brings out the woman in women. And there's something about Victoria's Secret model Stephanie Seymour in lingerie that brings out the tiger in men. At Heaven on Earth, any body can emulate the woman who never wears street clothes. The selection is lacy and racy; the atmosphere, intimate and cozy; and the stock embraces everything from bras to bustiers. Heaven on Earth also sells massage oils and videos to, uh, enhance the mood. The dressing rooms, with their satin curtains pinned to one corner, exude boudoir glamour. It's enough to make even Liddy Dole slip on a silk teddy, suck in her cheeks and strike a pose.
Shweta Govindarajan

Best Plan to Save the Youth
Community Development Institute
321 Bell St., P.O. Box 50099,
East Palo Alto

Inside these walls, one basks in the positive energy emanating from the all-ages staff. Founded by community worker Frank J. Omowale Satterwhite, the institute uses pragmatic stratagems to improve life for East Palo Alto youth.

The Black Male Rebirth Program and the Leadership Training Academy--two of the institute's principal organizational tools--have been remarkably successful. The program's objective, explains Kphra, a program associate, "is to create brothers that will be leaders in our community." Of the academy's goals, program director Makissa Bevels says, the Leadership Training Academy "puts youth in an environment that allows them the opportunity to develop leadership qualities and to become more resilient in these challenging times."
Nicky Baxter

Best Day Trip to Europe
Maria's Antiques
288 First St., Los Altos

Although Maria Armstrong, a plump, diminutive lady with a gentle Italian accent, likes to play "Volare" on the stereo, her real passion is for the rustic furnishings of England and France. Strolling through her chateau--originally built as the Los Altos train station in 1904--one might find turn-of-the-century posters from Barcelona and the Côte d'Azur; a Henry James­era school desk; or a 12-foot-long china cabinet full of pottery from HB Quimper, a 300-year-old factory in a tiny French town. Armstrong's two daughters each run similar stores, one located across the street and one in Los Gatos.
Rafer Guzman

[ Metro | Metroactive Central | Archives ]

From the 1996 Best of the Valley issue of Metro, September 19-25

This page was designed and created by the Boulevards team.
Copyright © 1996 Metro Publishing, Inc.