Before going on to describe some of the adjacent 'hoods that align themselves along the street, I have to spend some time indulging in the colors of the Santa Clara. By colors I deliberately mean those subjective sense colors that we are all familiar with. For example, every one knows what the color green smells like. That is what I'm driving at here.
Of course the area is vibrant with Spanish/Mexican type colors. Though they tend toward the earthy hues, it is not uncommon to be completely startled by an eruption of bright and brilliant combinations, especially among the younger folks. Otherwise, most people tend to wear black or browns as a primary dress. It can all get to feel a bit morbid after a while. I myself have taken to wearing darker patterns, mostly because of the desire to appear always neat and clean. But I confess that it is not my natural inclination, preferring instead lighter earth tones.
Beyond fashion, colors explode in the most unexpected ways. You can walk through neighborhoods of completely bland and neutral tones then be startled my the most garish spectacle of purple or green that one could ever envisage being applied to exterior of a domestic domicile. The automobile has also been subjected to various color combinations that would not necessarily find a natural affinity for each other any where else on earth. If it is not color then chrome. I must admit that I have never seen so many well restored and professionally chopped autos as you will find on any given sunny Saturday at Roosevelt Park. Real low-riders. Amazing.
The graffiti that adorns any unprotected space ranges from the cheap gang type to the most artistic and intricate I have encountered. Some of the small commercial panel trucks have just been left completely adorned in this layer upon layer of street art. They definitely stick out. I suppose the owners simply took the path of least resistance and allowed that it was cheaper to just let the stuff stand. Some of the graffiti has taken on mural proportions. Indeed the area has a great many such murals most of them executed on purpose. Three street bridges crossing Coyote Creek were at one point creatively decorated in ornate mosaics, and bright hues, but time and vandals have desecrated their beauty.
Nature adds her colors as well. The summer sun seems to burn with a bright white light, so unlike the yellow light of the east coast. Shade is very welcome in the summers, where the air can be as much as ten degrees cooler. Nice outdoor cafe weather. Mountains rise up to the east bearing a mostly tan and spotty dark green facade throughout most of the year. but with the return of the winter rains the hills become covered in a vibrant bright grassy green. They may even sport a coating of snow once in while. When that happens the air becomes brisk and the good folks of the south bay will shiver until it melts away. Winter winds clear away the duller air and allows the bright white buildings of the Lick Observatory to shine in the sun high upon their perch on Mt. Hamilton.
And speaking of the rain, that is a rush all by itself. Always the early riser, it is my great and solitary pleasure to walk in the quiet that the pre-dawn rains bring. The glittering damp upon the fallen leaves, the muffled sounds, the fresh air, is for reasons unknown an exuberant delight to my senses. In summer the noise seems all pervasive, what with the traffic roar from the 101, the screaming ambulance and fire engines, the whining sirens of law enforcement, the jet planes leaving the airport, and the general hum drum of workers prepping for another day. But in the winter, when it rains, or the air turns brisk and breezy, the sounds become subdued, and I find that most precious of all jewels: silence. Or near nuff to it.
There is yet another color that delights me, the color of language. Spanish flows all around me. At first it was so foreign to my ears, but now it is a familiar tune, almost a musical piece, that has variety and texture, and even detectable accents! Then there is the expressive choppiness of the Asian tongue. So impenetrable yet somehow understandable through the gestures and body language that are an essential part of it. Being caught up in the constant ebb and flow of this verbal color I have began a journey that is leading me out of my cocoon of ethnic prejudices. Growing beyond the confines of my American identity I have found in these wonderful people the same human needs and desires, the same human expressiveness, that I am accustomed to within my own cultural enclave. Beyond all outward appearances we are truly, basically the same.
Next time: the 'hoods.
Travel in peace.