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Do You Know the Way to San Jose?
By Diannek, editor

Is that song really music to the ears of people who actually live in San Jose? As most of us residents have come to realize, very few people actually know where San Jose is located, either on the map or even within California. When I travel and am asked where I live, I'm usually greeted with blank stares if I just say San Jose. When I add California, I get smiles. Then I'm informed that they have relatives in El Centro or Redondo Beach. Like we're neighbors, or something.

So just where is San Jose anyhow? The answer is: about forty-five minutes south of San Francisco, when the traffic is light. You can take Highway 280, the scenic route, or 101, the Bayshore, also known as the commute from hell. If you head south on either of these freeways, you'll eventually reach San Jose. You can also fly directly into the San Jose International Airport. But the only folks who seem to be aware of this fact are commuters from Austin, Texas, and San Jose residents. Well, it's a secret, you know. We don't want our private airport to become another O'Hare.

At least 800,000 people have found their way to San Jose so it must be a decent place to live. On the plus side we have sunny and dry weather when it's not an El Niño year, lots of job opportunities, decent wages, close proximity to the ocean and other pretty places; and San Jose is considered one of the safest big cities in the country. On the minus side, we have continual traffic and commute nightmares, outrageously high housing costs, more drought years than wet ones; and we have graffiti, homelessness and all the other assorted urban problems.

Plumed Serpent
The Plumed Serpent:  a controversial piece of public art

San Jose lost its inner core in the 1960s, like many other big cities, when the downtown retail businesses closed and moved out to shopping centers and malls. But for the last ten years or so, our politicians have been trying to reverse that trend, with some success.

Here's a list of things we boast about in downtown San Jose:

The San Jose Arena, home of the San Jose blue and teal Sharks hockey team
The Center for the Performing Arts
The new San Jose Rep Theatre
San Jose State University
The McEnery Convention Center
The Technology Museum
Numerous up-scale hotels and restaurants
Lots of small theatres, film art houses and a cineplex
Many (maybe too many) clubs, bars and coffee houses
Guadalupe River Park (currently under construction)
The Winchester House
Valley Fair (now known as a Westfield Shopping Town)   

As you can see from this list, we like to party, drink, eat and watch other people doing interesting things on stage.

When visitors come to San Jose, there are a couple of items on their short to-do lists. The Winchester Mystery House is usually on it. After that, the list contains Chinatown and Fisherman's Wharf (both in San Francisco, of course), and Carmel (on the Monterey Bay, of course) and sometimes they want to see Silicon Valley. Well, San Jose is the heart, if not the soul, of Silicon Valley. That's what I tell them, anyhow. So, just what else is there to do in San Jose? I pulled out the phonebook and discovered that, in San Jose, there are the following:

20 or more new and used bookstores (not counting specialty stores)
9 museums
4 public gardens
James Lick Observatory
1 Flea Market (nation's largest)
1 Winchester Mystery House
2 wineries
4 theme parks
1 zoo, 1 Japanese tea garden, 1 historical park (combined)
30 nightclubs/bars
3 billiard/cardrooms
4 comedy clubs
2 dinner theaters
5 public auditoriums
5 sports bars
9 Performing art theaters & entertainment complexes
1 sports arena
53 yellow pages devoted to "Computers"

Restaurants: Afghanistan, American, Arabic, Armenian, Barbecue, British, Cantonese, Caribbean, Chinese, Continental, Creole, Cuban, Ethiopian, French, German, Greek, Hawaiian, Indian, Indonesian, Iranian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Lebanese, Mandarin, Mediterranean, Mexican, Mongolian, Peruvian, Russian, Sushi, Swiss, Thai, and Vietnamese.

And as if that wasn't enough, you can easily find access to the following sports activities: golf, tennis, kayaking, paddle boats, skate boarding, wind surfing, water skiing, hiking, biking, horseback riding, ice skating, fishing, boating, swimming, volleyball and just plain old picnicking.  After looking up all this stuff and taking several hours to think about it, I'm not sure I really want total strangers to know too much more about San Jose. They might want to stay.

Oh, and by the way, that photo of the Plumed Serpent, Quetzulcoatl, you just looked at (above) is located in Cesar Chavez Park in downtown San Jose. It is quite controversial because some critics think it looks more like dog-doo than a respectful ethnic and cultural symbol.  Be sure to add it to your list of things to see the next time you're in town.

Summer of 2001: The Sharks - a public art display ~ Here's a photo essay of San Jose's newest attraction!

Find it here!     

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