Previous installments: part 1, part 2, part3.
A number of neighborhoods stand along side of the Santa Clara. Most are quiet working class enclaves. Some are small business groupings. Others are full of small shops and numerous schools. A modern senior center and gym anchors the Roosevelt Park area. But there is a darker, sinister area as well. Over in the San Antonio 'hood, the dealers in slow death ply their trade, virtually unmolested. The place is a haven for heroin, crack, meth, and God only knows what else. I hate them. I have watched a dear friend of mine, my first friend on Santa Clara street actually, slowly deteriorate under the destructive effects of heroin. True, she was an addict long before I came on the scene, but the pain of seeing her mind and personality slowly disappear with every high is deeply felt by me. I silently weep for her.
On the opposite side of the Santa Clara, to the north, lies Julian street. Here once more you will find the usual collectives of apartments and small homes. But behind this facade lies the the pot smoker hangouts, and the taggers have the place covered in street art. Here too are the homeless in their semi-hidden jungles. And one will encounter that other life form so common in this type of environment: the thieves. I have lost a number of valuable items to these human rats, including at various times my good attitude. But what is to be expected of a group that can not be bothered to put their trash in a receptacle right at their side, preferring instead to just drop it on the ground next to it. These kind seem to proliferate every where you go.
Walk through the better neighborhoods with an alert eye and you will find all kinds of fruit trees. I have personally enjoyed oranges, grapefruits, lemons, apples, plums, and avocados. Besides these there are several types that I cannot identify, but someone is apparently utilizing them for no fruit remains on the tree or the ground when it is ripe. What makes it such a treat is that the fruits appear in their appropriate seasons, which conveniently for me run roughly concurrent to each other. So the skillful urban forager can find apples still ripening right about the time the oranges start coming on, etc. Nice. There is one fruit that I try to avoid all together. That fruit is the product of the ginkgo tree. Now I have to admit that the brilliant golden leaves of the ginkgo are a must see in the Autumn, but the fruit that drops to earth from this tree has to be the stinkiest stuff I have ever come across. As I said, I avoid it whenever possible.
I never knew roses bloomed year round till I landed here. The bushes around the Five Wounds Church are a wonderful example, bearing blooms up to six inches across and in an amazing variety of colors. They stop blooming only when the bushes are trimmed back by the gardeners in early spring. Within weeks they put forth fresh buds. In fact the area of the Santa Clara and its environs are an amalgam of flowering plants, bushes, and trees, that delight the senses with an orgasmic display of color and form year round, even in the hardest cold. I want a camera just to record this fantastic sight.
Palm trees. The place is full of palm trees. Several kinds. And they are tall palm trees. There is one particular palm next to the bell tower on SJSU campus. It is many feet higher than the tower which appears to be over three stories tall in its own right. I had no idea a palm tree could get so tall. In fact I had no idea there were so many varieties. They seem impervious to the cold. And when the wind passes through their tops it reminds me of the sound of the sea. A soothing sound from my childhood. I could lay in bed of a night and listen to the heartbeat of the ocean come up from the ground and into my bed frame and through my pillow and thus into my ear. What a way that was to fall off into sleep.
The local branch library was my oasis when I first came to the Santa Clara. I was a stranger in a strange land. The little lady librarian, being much amused at my daily requests for a temporary pass to use the local computers, helped me get an official library card. The woman has since moved on from her post, but wherever she is now, I thank her for that bit of kindness. It meant the world to me. Computers and books. They are my hobbies and my tools. Now I could check out books, surf the net, and when I finally acquired my netbook, I could access the wifi. And not just at the local branch, but at the main library on the SJSU campus as well. That library has books that I really was not expecting it to have. A treasure trove of information. I am hoping that they will soon have books to lend for the Kindle. That will be a hoot.
Crossing the bridge over Coyote Creek takes you into the downtown area. The Seven/Eleven's, Walgreen's and numerous shops and eateries. I must confess that I have never developed a great liking for large metropolitan areas, preferring instead to circumvent them whenever possible. At least till the flow of life brought me here, to the Santa Clara and San Jose.
MLK library on the San Jose State campus is superb. The city has several modern high rises, but it is not an LA or New York. It is home to the San Jose Sharks hockey team, who play at the very modern HP Pavilion, and may soon have its own football stadium. But what impresses me the most is how it has managed to keep a great deal of its Victorian architecture in tact. It reminds me very much of a larger version of my old hometown. It spreads out more than rises up.
City Hall is definitely in a world all its own. The architecture seems to have been inspired by both a computer tower and the Lick Observatory. The building style causes a self generated wind flow year round, which is a good thing for all the flags on the flag poles around the water feature in its spacious plaza. The plaza host numerous ceremonial events throughout the year and I have seen every thing from an Asian wedding to an Iranian religious event. Most recently it hosted the occupy San Jose camp. I believe it must have been the most peaceful of all the occupy events. But that is the style in San Jose. You can be political and do it safely. Not bad really.
I could go on and on about the Santa Clara and the "capitol of Silicon Valley." Perhaps I will at some future time. But for now I wish to close by saying: thank you Santa Clara, and all who live around you, for giving me, a total stranger, so much. I love you.
Travel in peace.