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Photograph by Eric "ug" Carlson

Notes From the Underbelly

Shrunken Cities of Kandor

By Eric "ug" Carlson

"Beethoven's Ear is in for repairs."
Anonymous reference librarian

A TWENTYSOMETHING bum was rooting through a trash barrel in front of the brand-spanking-new Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library as I approached. A seedy omen, but not reflective of the new library, which is a winner, and studded throughout with objets d'art by Mel Chin. My favorite objet being Golden Gate, which should rightly be titled 88 carburetors, as the work consists of 88 gold-plated carburetors, each one a shrunken city of Kandor. (Also, Golden Gate sounds a bit touristy, and it has unhealthy associations with frisky Frisco, a decadent city to the north.) Carburetors are fascinating enough without being gold-plated. Gilded, they are spectacular. This work is found on the fifth floor, as one nears the incomparable California Room.

It is acceptable to use the term "Frisco" now. I read that in the SF Chronicle the other day, which related that "young, hip" people are now using the word. I suspect traditional Friscovites are waxing wroth.

After leaving San Jose's new library, I crossed Third Street and witnessed a deranged, bearded man accosting the moon. "Your famous last words will be your last mother-f***er!" he howled as he pushed a bicycle down Third Street, probably to lovely St. James Park. An ode to the waning gibbous moon, and a man no crazier than the drivers on Highways 87 or 280, I reckon. No crazier than paying $2.25 an hour to park at the Fourth Street Garage. By the by, check out the Fourth Street Garage at night; the side of the building fronting San Fernando is checkered with pastel blocks of colored lights. Just don't get too distracted, because the traffic surrounding the library is a moat of death. Pedestrians need be fearful.

One of the 33 Mel Chin sculptures I was hoping to see was Beethoven's Inner Ear. Alas, I was informed that the ear is in for repairs. In where? And the broken door at the entrance of the library (reported in the Mercury News several weeks ago) is still broken, with a hand-scrawled note on a piece of paper warning, "Don't Come In." The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library website inscrutably states, "Welcome to the largest, all-new library west of the Mississippi." All new it is, and it is a joy. Still, I am haunted by images of larger, grander, all-new libraries east of the Mississippi. Damn Easterners!

Report from Half Moon Bay: The recent elephant debacle is over in Half Moon Bay. John Cozzolino (4C's Christmas Trees & Pumpkins on Highway 92) was keen on bringing in two Asian elephants to provide rides for swarming pumpkin tourists. This plot was thwarted by an animal rights group and jealous pumpkin patch proprietors. My secret Half Moon Bay source revealed to me that a compromise was worked out, allowing John to substitute two llamas for the elephants. I presume the llamas can be ridden.

It seems mere pumpkins are not enough anymore. For a patch to succeed it must offer animal rides and/or other amusement. Some of the local pumpkin farmers balk at the new requirement, and to them I suggest reading Who Moved My Cheese--a book simplistic to the point of sheer idiocy. The laugh will do the balkers good and make them realize they are on the right path. Screw the animal rides. All change is for the worse.

Report from Sunnyvale: Every morning, circa 4:30am, I am abruptly shaken from sleep by leaf blowers roaring to life on Murphy and Washington avenues. The concept of leaf blowers is an abomination in the first place. At 4:30am, it is downright discouraging. I hereby place the dreaded Billy Goat curse on the Sunnyvale City Council until they cease and desist with the early leaf blowing. And for the love of humanity, please make the corner of Washington and Carroll a four-way stop. The din of cars smashing into one another--and the screeching tires of near misses--is discordant. Other than that, I'm fine--continue on with the high-density destruction of Sunnyvale.

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From the October 23-29, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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