From Macedonia, I crossed the railroad tracks to Kathmandu without even leaving Milpitas.
Just north of the Great Mall, past the cookie-cutter housing, in a pedestrian-hostile region of vacant lots, railroad tracks, weeds and sprawling auto distribution yards, a dead-end street called Hammond Road runs north alongside the tracks for three-quarters of a mile. Then it turns right and becomes a piece of Sinnott Lane.
It is here that one finds Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church. I know nothing of the place, or why it’s named after the ancient lands of Macedonia, but it was a great starting point for the traveler-columnist to merge the real with the symbolic.
This area of Milpitas feels like the middle of nowhere, which explains the United Rentals yard, filled up with scissor lifts, four-wheel cherry pickers, boom lifts and all sorts of heavy equipment jutting up into the skyline. A few residential houses fill in the gaps, perhaps leftover from 60 years ago when Milpitas was nothing but ranchland and the Great Mall was still the San Jose Ford plant. Even now, the whole area remains a flat, wide open land. You don’t feel like you’re anywhere near Santa Clara County, let alone a block away from Main Street in Milpitas, although even more cookie-cutter condos are coming. They cannot be stopped.
This piece of Sinnott Lane is about 500 feet long, although for some reason the second ‘t’ has been vandalized. The other piece, a tiny alley perpendicular to Main Street, is on the other side of the tracks. It no longer goes through.
Now, before I go any further, before I cross those tracks, allow me to explain that Sinnott Lane is named after John Sinnott (1800-1883), a valley pioneer originally born in County Wexford, Ireland. He first emigrated to Quebec, where his children were born, and then eventually came to California with his family in 1851. The first Catholic Mass in Milpitas was performed in Sinnott’s original ranch house and he was one of the prime movers who built St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. His house and 575-acre spread were on the land that eventually became the Ford plant.
Which gave me even more reason to begin my symbolic journey at the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church. The Bogomils of Macedonia, an ancient dualist sect of Christian heretics in the Balkans, are sometimes cited as the inspiration for the Cathar Heresy in France, the troublemakers that were eventually stomped out in the Albigensian Crusade.
This simple Baptist church in nowhereville, Milpitas, had nothing to do with any of that history, but since heresy was on my mind, I stepped off Sinnott Lane, went down the embankment and then onto the railroad tracks. On the other side of the tracks, a hole in the chain-link fence then allowed me to step through to the other piece of Sinnott Lane, which then took me right to Main Street and seemingly a zillion other religious institutions besides the Catholic Church.
As I poked around this section of Milpitas, it was a multi-religious, pluralistic jamboree of experience. The Jain Center of Northern California, a gargantuan temple complex, sat right next to a Taco Bell. There were two Indian grocery stores down the street. Nearby, the Bombay Chaat House even had a special Jain menu. The Taco Bell did not.
There was also a Chinese-language Christian church, a Spanish-language Pentecostal Church and the Avatamsaka Buddhist Lotus Society, also Chinese. In the latter case, it was near the Kathmandu Nepalese Restaurant, my final destination.
I could have walked all the way up the railroad tracks and then illegally hopped the fence into the Kathmandu back parking lot, but I chickened out. Instead, I sauntered up Main Street.
Again, travel is not just a spatial activity. It is also an interior voyage, an intellectual pursuit dissolving all barriers between the physical and the symbolic, especially if one begins in Macedonia, the cradle of Western Civilization, and then finally arrives at Kathmandu and the Himalayas, the ancient pinnacles of the East.
I began in the west, so now I conclude my journey in the east. After a fantastic plate of aloo gobi and garlic naan at Kathmandu, I became enlightened.