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July 19-25, 2006

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Silicon Alleys - Gary Singh

Silicon Alleys

They Don't Get Us

By Gary Singh

NORMALLY I would never flip through the extravagant heap of über-gloss that is the magazine San Francisco, but one particular splotch of "street detail" in their current issue completely rams home the image of San Jose that folks in S.F. have. If you're a San Franciscan, having to go to San Jose is like having to go to Lodi. That's what they think. Really.

The current issue is their "Best of the Bay Area" installment, and on page 58 they write about the SoFA district in San Jose—you know, that stretch of South First Street that is finally returning to the artsy, funky bohemian drag that it was originally supposed to be before the dance clubs took it over. Here's how San Francisco portrayed it: "After decades of being the place not to go, San Jose's downtown has become a center for the arts, and, believe it or not, a scene with nightlife beyond rough-and-tumble clubs. These days the neo-mods and art-lovers are infiltrating the clubbers' territory, along with theatergoers enjoying the reopened California Theatre."

And the subhead says this: "San Jose's new SoFA district mixes up art with nightlife, just like its big sister SoMA." The key words being, "big sister." You see, San Jose will always be a suburb of San Francisco in their eyes. And why shouldn't they think that way? After all, SoFA, as the magazine alluded to, was basically just a piggyback moniker—to them, it's our puny attempt to imitate SF's SoMA district.

I won't bother pointing out all the mistakes in the article, as the author pretty much got everything wrong, but I have to note that the whole piece is riddled with thinly veiled insults to San Jose in general. They refer to Original Joe's as an "outpost of San Francisco's Italian institution." They also mention the San Jose Museum of Art's penchant for local work and then cite a San Francisco artist as an example. Arrogant bastards, I say!

To prove how grossly unqualified they are to write about San Jose, San Francisco then coupled the piece with four glossy photographs, three of which have nothing to do with the SoFA district. One shows the Tech Museum, one shows the City Hall and one shows a punk kid walking through that lime-green pedestrian atrocity next to Zanotto's. Of the four shots, only the photo of a painting at Anno Domini actually represents the SoFA district.

This is a prime example of why San Jose will never be anything more than the sticks, from a San Franciscan's perspective, no matter how many festivals happen during the summer. The magazine pointed out several locales—from the Naglee Park Garage to the Dakao Vietnamese sandwich shop—that have nothing to do with the SoFA district. Why? Because they hail from a real city where the word "district" actually means something more than just two linear blocks, unlike San Jose's SoFA. If you think about it, calling SoFA a "district" is about as ridiculous as calling the corner of Market and San Carlos the "hotel district."

And of course, they couldn't finish off the magazine without bashing Ron Gonzales. Not that he's undeserving of pie-in-the-face ridicule, but here's what San Francisco did. The last page features a full-color breathtaking shot from inside the City Hall Rotunda and a small blurb titled "The Mark of a Man," in which they slam Gonzo and rattle off all the scandals. And they end the passage by quoting historian John Motley: "Deeds, not stones, are the true monuments of the great," stating that Gonzales must be hoping Motley was wrong. There you have it. All hail the new City Hall.

Now, should San Joseans care what the hell San Francisco thinks of them? No, of course not. But I'm calling for a panel session on the matter. It relates to the image of S.J. that everyone else outside it has. Just a few months ago, I eavesdropped on a conversation in which a woman was carrying on about how wonderful the view from the 18th floor of the new City Hall was. And why did she like the view? Because she could see San Francisco. That's what she said.

Contact Gary Singh or send a letter to the editor about this story.