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[whitespace] Man in Coyote Mask
Photograph by Eric A. Carlson

Notes From the Underbelly

Coyote Diablerie

By Eric A. Carlson

"We live . . . in the city of dreams."

--David Byrne

COYOTE MADE THE MILKY WAY, throwing a bag of stars over his shoulder in a fit of pique, and I suspect he is meddling in San Jose politics as well. A katzenjammer in the Redevelopment Agency offices.

With the possible exception of "organic" restaurants or sportswriters woefully ignorant of the subtle nuances of golf, nothing rankles me more than the 1902 renaming of El Dorado Street to Post, or the selling of the Alum Rock "meteor" in 1917--to make a quick buck. Those were unique San Jose items . . . chucked out by do-gooders and greedy marketeers. There are plenty more examples of that kind of thing. It is happening as we speak.

Some officials, purportedly sound of mind, have proposed digging up Plaza de Cesar E. Chavez and St. James Park to put in underground parking garages--and promising to put back the trees and flowers when they are done. An interesting concept that will prove to be hilarious in the undertaking--call it San Jose's version of Boston's "Big Dig." Distinguished Oxford scholar Dave Hickey recently opined that one solution to San Jose's parking problem would be to not destroy any more existing parking lots. (Especially the one on San Fernando between Second and Third--which is free after 6pm. But it is, of course, doomed.) No doubt, in the future you will find a lot close by where you can pay $28 to park for the afternoon. In the "new" San Jose, you better have bucks.

Prior to 1902, El Dorado Street was doing just fine, catering to the needs of fun-loving folks in need of a whiskey and/or a sampling of the demimonde--to ease their tension. In fact, there was so much tension being relieved on the street that nonsinners, distressed at all the carnal activity, passed an ordinance to change the street name. They believed that a name change from provocative El Dorado to meek and mild Post would encourage the hell-raisers to move out of town--perhaps to San Francisco or Bolinas. And thus El Dorado fell victim to San Jose tea sippers. There is an El Dorado Street in Alviso--and in no immediate threat from the pious.

Burt Lancaster, in the film Atlantic City, mused with a sigh, "The Atlantic Ocean was really something back then." As was Alum Rock Park and its "meteor." Clyde Arbuckle described it thusly: ". . . the greatest noncommercial attraction was a huge black boulder, known as the Alum Rock Meteor." It wasn't really a meteor, of course, but a big chunk of manganese. Clyde, in his History of San Jose, neatly captures the local sentiment toward the giant stone: "This massive object was undoubtedly there before the dawn of civilization--a fact that had little effect on the local imagination of old-timers who said they saw it streaking incandescently through the sky to land "ker-plop alongside the creek." San Jose sold the 389-ton boulder to a mining company in 1917, thereby depriving itself of a prize tourist attraction.

I pondered San Jose's greatest blunders as I strolled the serene garden pathways of the Filoli estate in Woodside with Howard and Mme. J. William B. Bourn knew how to live and he applied his life motto to his estate: Fight, Love, Live. Take first two letters from each word to arrive at Filoli. William and his wife, Agnes, gave parties even when they were too sick to attend themselves. The invalids enjoyed listening to the revelry from their rooms on the second floor. Living life to the bitter end.

Final note: Photograph is of vocalist/multikeyboardist Howard Fredric wearing a coyote mask in the Cantor Arts Center gift shoppe at Stanford University. Earlier he had appeared despondent in front of the faux-Rodin Gates of Hell, and before that was seen mocking the World's Crummiest Statue--de Kooning's Standing Figure--which is, in fact, faux as well. The original is in New York, stinking up Central Park. De Kooning is the pits, the dregs and the alimentary canal.

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From the June 28-July 4, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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