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January 3-9, 2007

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Silicon Alleys - Gary Singh

Silicon Alleys

What Hit Home in '06

By Gary Singh

ONE OF THE luxuries of being born and raised in San Jose is that one is provided with a lifetime's worth of absurdities from which to generate zonked story ideas. People are always asking me things like, "How the hell do you come up with all this stuff?" My response is that it's pretty much the opposite situation. There's too much to write about. There's enough hysterical nonsense going on in this city to write about for the rest of one's life. Being a local asp-tongued guttersnipe, I just can't imagine not writing about it all. I'm just scared to death that I actually will wind up doing this for the rest of my life. The Silicon Alleys column debuted in April of 2005, but now that 2007 is upon us, I must engage in some spirited navel-gazing and reflect back on some of the more side-splitting experiences from this column throughout 2006.

In one piece, my old partner in crime from music school, Lisa Dewey, decided to give me her "tour" of San Jose's underbelly, fondly recalling Eric Carlson's former column of the same name in this very paper. That one was a blast. Investigating the garbage, the bricks, the bottles and the discarded clothes behind the old Hart's warehouse was an endeavor that I would normally engage in anyway, and it was downright moving to find someone else my age who would relish in such delights. It was like our senior recitals all over again and she received a slew of emails on that one.

In another column, I hooked up with veteran freelance writer Larry Tritten in Vancouver, British Columbia. Having read his stuff six years ago, the sheer variety of it all is partly what convinced me that I should do the same. Having to specialize in one area was death, in my opinion, and precisely the reason why, at least most of the time, I try to be unpredictable and write about as many different things as possible. That particular column also instigated a family reunion of sorts, as a friend of mine knew Tritten 30 years ago and hadn't seen him since. I hooked them up and the drinks flowed. It would never have happened if not for that column and that trip to Vancouver.

And speaking of things that would never have happened, here's proof that something good can come out of MySpace. I found the page of an old punk band I used to check out in the mid-'80s, Verbal Abuse (VA), and then just a few months later, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a sappy piece about the 25th anniversary of Journey's Escape album, so, being the reactionary type, I had to respond with a dark, violent piece about the 20th anniversary of VA's Rocks Your Liver album. The darkness just poured off the page and the drummer's ex-wife then found me through MySpace from Idaho after reading that one. Holy Toledo.

The CD rerelease of that album now sits on my desk, among piles of other stuff, the subject of yet another column that received mixed reviews. Yeah, one week I decided to write about all the crap on my desk because I thought it was rockin' story. That was it. One friend told me that column was one of the worst things I've ever written, and another friend told me it was one of the best things I've ever written. Go figure.

But nothing topped the reaction I received after a pal showed me around the Elks Lodge on Alma Avenue. You see, this is where my sense of humor gets me into trouble sometimes. In a yarn titled "Got Elk?" I slithered through the lodge and painted it precisely as it was presented to me: a beautifully decrepit cross between a dive bar, an RV park and an old folks home. I loved it. But some Elks didn't get the humor and I got slammed with hate mail on that one.

Enough is never enough, and all I can say is that I look forward to 2007. Happy New Year.

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