Monthly Meme XII   1 comment

Following up Megan‘s pointing me to Caffeinated Joe‘s tumblr/blogmeme… (Kitty‘s doing it now, too)

Day Twelve: Where Your Family Is From

Like many Americans, this is a complicated question.  Go two steps back in the family tree, and things get really muddled (see Meg’s version for a brief glimpse).  However, if you were introducing me or my immediate siblings/parents ringside, the announcer would likely say, “In this corner, from San Jose, California by way of Pasadena (or current residence)…”

Silicon Valley, as viewed from Alum Rock Park

San Jose is an odd town to be *from*.  My parents both grew up in the area, but back when they were teenagers the area was still predominantly agricultural and the “summer job” was “cuttin’ ‘cots” down at the cannery, or working at some other agricultural-based job (Mom still won’t use ketchup, she saw how it was made in 1963 and it damaged her for life).  By the time I was born, Intel and HP were changing the local economy for good.  Silicon Valley was birthed the same year I was, albeit a few months earlier… we grew up together.

We moved quite a bit in my early childhood, but spend a solid block of 9 years living in what could only be called the ‘burbs, in a two-story house on a street largely populated by other two story houses plopped down from one of 10 or so different floor plans.  Ours was one of two on the street with an old-growth pine tree that towered over the house, undoubtedly the tree predated the conversion of the immediate landscape from agricultural plots to a community of houses.  The tree has been gone for years now, it was cut down almost immediately by the people who bought the house from my parents.

We just visited the place this last weekend for my aunt’s 80th birthday, and we drove the van around and I pointed at things and told my two kids in the backseat stories about the area that they probably didn’t listen to and aren’t really old enough to grasp anyway.  It’s odd, what has remained the same, and what has been torn down and replaced with newer buildings… Eastridge and Valley Fair (the two malls I remember from my teens) have both been torn down and rebuilt by Westfield, and they look like every other Westfield mall in the country.  The old Harley dealership on San Carlos has been torn down and replaced with a Starbucks.  Western Appliance is still there (with the same godawful 1950s marquee sign), as is a quarter of the smaller strip mall where my first job was, cashiering for a pharmacy.  The pharmacy is still there, but it’s a CVS now, and the smaller shops have all been bulldozed, probably years ago.  The Burger Barn is still there, and it’s a Burger Barn again (having gone through two periods of being something else that I can remember, I think that location is cursed).  The two Burger Pit locations that I remembered were gone, but we drove past one on Koosier/Blossom Hill that I didn’t know existed, I hope it’s still there next time we’re in town.

The big domes of the Century theaters are still there on Winchester, next to the Mystery House, but Town & Country mall across the street has been replaced by a giant monstrosity of a mixed-use area that seems to be designed primarily for pedestrians to act like they’re in New York, but without having to deal with New York weather.

Andy’s Pet Shop appeared at first glance to still be there on The Alameda, but the store itself was closed.  My friend Shaun mentioned that it had been shut down for about two years now, with nobody moving in.

Kitty made the astute observation that someone from Albuquerque would make: San Jose appeared to have started its boom in the post-war years, with a lot of early 1950s construction, but whereas Albuquerque has had a relatively stable economy, San Jose has gone through many boom-and-bust cycles, with each boom leading to some sort of development fad replacing a chunk of the older construction with “new and improved” buildings.  There are chunks of the San Jose area that reminded her of Albuquerque, each chunk sitting like a island surrounded by post-1970, then post-1980, then post-2000 seas of redevelopment.  It gives one the sense of moving through an odd museum run by a mad curator, if anyone ever cared enough about post-war U.S. development to make a museum of such a thing.

Sometimes I miss it, usually I don’t.  There are new freeways now, but the town never was intelligently laid out for what it grew up to be, and the traffic patterns are still awful.  People can gripe about the traffic in Los Angeles, but the worst commute of my life was still the five months I commuted from Walnut Creek to San Jose to finish off my last semester of high school (and I’ve had some colossally bad commutes in the LA basin).  The hills of San Jose really don’t look like anywhere else, though, this time of year.  Blasted-white grasses over rolling hills dotted with deep green oak trees.

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Posted June 14, 2010 by padraic2112 in memes

One response to “Monthly Meme XII

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  1. Santana Row is not my favorite new thing, that’s for sure.

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