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Photograph by Felipe Buitrago
If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches. —Rainer Maria Rilke

Living Well In Hard TImes

Just because Wall Street hit the wall doesn't mean that we have to give up on all of life's pleasures 

By Gary Singh

WITH unemployment rising, the mortgage and credit meltdowns in full swing and the economic collapse bugging the living daylights out of everyone, we must do anything to scrape by. Corners must be cut. But that doesn't mean we have to start living like mendicants.

This is where Metro's Living Well in Hard Times issue can help. We scoured the Santa Clara Valley in search of freebies, cheapo deals, hidden bargains, good buys or just simple things to do without having to drop too much hard-earned cash.

This is not a handbook for dumpster diving but just a compendium of frugal tactics to enjoy one's self even in a depression. So, meine Damen und Herren, bruthas and sistahs, fraters and sorors, monkeys, neophytes and madmen, we're here for you.

In this guide are thrift stores, restaurants, trivial pursuits, endeavors and lifestyle tips for the not-so-prosperous many. In short, some creative and imaginative ways to live well in hard times. After all, April is both National Poetry Month and National Humor Month, so go for it.

Here's an example: a surprisingly cheap bookstore actually exists inside the Martin Luther King Jr. Main Library in downtown San Jose. It's a place you'd never even know existed unless you stumbled upon it while looking for something else.

Aptly titled Friends of the King Library, the bookstore is open various hours, but generally from 10am to 5pm. One can find a plethora of hidden bargains. Hardbacks are cheap, and mass-market paperbacks cheaper (50 cents each). It's a great place to wander into if you just happen to need something read and don't want to spend more than a few bucks.

Everything is separated into categories—whether it's fiction, biographies, Cliffs Notes, politics, history or self-help. For those who enjoy a bibliographical free-for-all, every last weekend of the month they put on a fabulous sale with more than 15,000 items spread out on dozens of tables outside the university-side entrance.

On Saturday, paperbacks are 50 cents and hardbacks are a dollar. On Sunday, books are $5 per bag. They issue paper bags that you can fill with as much as you want before dropping a 5-spot on the table. And it's not just books. There are usually tables and boxes of DVDs and foreign language materials. You never know what you'll find at the event—everything from ripped-up antique books to library discards, from estate-sale leftovers to textbooks and old computer manuals.

The variety of stuff is completely unpredictable and the clientele is, well, pretty much what you'd expect at a cheap book sale in downtown San Jose: students, locals, homeless, professors, employees from the bars and even people that drive in from the suburbs—basically anyone looking for enlightenment at a fair price.

What follows here are yet more plans of attack for bargain livelihood in the valley. Since Metro has always been free of charge for some 24 years, let us be your tour guide. Away we go. (And be sure to drop us a line with any great ideas we missed.)

Stett's Top 20 Downright Cheapest Ways to Fill Up on Good Food in Silicon Valley

Sometimes the best looks come from the unlikeliest places

The best entertainment bargain around can befound at local museums and galleries

Growing and buying local can improve your diet-and-exercise program

Britney Spears may be out of reach, but the valley offers lots of better music for free 

Screen Gems on a Zirconium Budget

It is no longer necessary to pay the cable company to see one's favorite TV shows

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