Kites and Kicks
By Gary Singh
THE LEGENDARY Herb Caen invented what was once called three-dot, or dot-dot-dot, journalism; that is, using the ellipsis to separate sections of his commentary. In my case, I'll call it splat-splat-splat journalism, which suits this week's musings—in honor of some local heroes.
As you read this, the world stage premiere of The Kite Runner will already be taking place at San Jose Rep (previews March 25–26, opening March 27). Adapted by SJSU professor Matthew Spangler, directed by David Ira Goldstein and based on the international bestseller by San Jose's Khaled Hosseini, the show runs until April 19. Crudely simplified, the story concerns two boys, Amir and Hassan, who grow up in the same household in Afghanistan but are immersed in different slices of the social and ethnic spectrum.
Amir is the son of a rich businessman and Hassan's dad is the servant of Amir's dad. When the Soviets invade, Amir and his father escape and later arrive in Fremont, where they deal with assimilation issues in what becomes a thriving Afghan community in that city. Amir then eventually returns to the homeland to make amends for failing to stick by his friend Hassan in times of trouble.
The novel includes vivid episodic passages immortalizing the Berryessa Flea Market, where the Afghan immigrant community has established its own little enclave, drinking tea and discussing politics and local gossip. Here is where Amir meets his future wife, Soraya, and I can't think of any more wholesome place in San Jose for that scene to occur, especially since the entire future of the flea market is still up in the air. In a now famous passage, Amir ponders the situation one evening after he gets home: "Lying awake in bed that night, I thought of Soraya Taheri's sickle-shaped birthmark, her gently hooked nose, and the way her luminous eyes had fleetingly held mine. My heart stuttered at the thought of her. Soraya Taheri. My Swap Meet Princess."
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Hosseini is not the only local hero currently putting San Jose on the map, however. Frank Shamrock, the Ultimate Fighting and mixed-martial-arts legend, is back in the news again, as he recently took over the top floor of the San Jose Athletic Club, the elite locale where executives and old-guard movers and shakers go to work out and swap stock tips in the sauna.
Originally the Scottish Rite Temple dating back to 1924, the building is a massive three-story neoclassical structure with Egyptian ornamentation. The timing was perfect. Shamrock's previous location on Winfield Boulevard was getting too small for the amount of classes he had, and the club finally decided to open the top level of the building after using it primarily for storage. Everything just fell into place. Shamrock now plans to use the Scottish Rite building for more classes as well as a headquarters from which to franchise the business out to other locales.
If you climb the seemingly ancient stone steps past the red Frank Shamrock welcome mat, you arrive at the top level of the building. One can't help but wonder what secret Masonic rituals took place in that very room 80 years ago. From that same room, you can even sneak out onto the roof through a side door.
Shamrock was the dude who originally brought mixed martial arts to San Jose in 1997. However, exactly one year ago, he lost the middleweight belt to another local, Cung Le, in a heated battle at HP Pavilion. Before that match, Shamrock touted that the arena belonged to him, so I suggested the city rename it Shamrock Arena. When he lost, a few Cung Le fans emailed and told me, in so many words, to go take a hike.
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So consider it the tale of two local heroes. In one corner, we have a SJSU professor adapting the Berryessa Flea Market for the stage at the San Jose Rep. In the other, we have the adaptive reuse of San Jose's most ornate building, the Scottish Rite Temple, for mixed martial arts and boxing lessons. Go San Jose.