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[whitespace] Shark
Photograph by Eric Carlson

Notes From the Underbelly

Sharks Saving Grace

By Eric A. Carlson

"... men and women worked with a wild will to build a more imperfect world."

--Cordwainer Smith

THE SADDLE RACK, a venerable urban cow-bar for the last 25 years, has turned its mechanical bull out to stud and no longer pours Jack Daniel's down the gaping maws of patrons. Almost simultaneously, across town at the Bay 101 Club, the San Jose city attorney suspended music and dancing in the Dolphin Cafe. An ill wind blows through stubby San Jose. On a positive note, 100 life-size fiberglass sharks--handsomely appointed--have appeared on downtown San Jose sidewalks.

Change is usually for the worse, but the plan to raze Saddle Rack and replace it with a 40-acre free-range chicken farm and apricot orchard seems reasonable enough, and might be an indication of the extent of the dotcom demise. I visited the Rack on its final Sunday fandango, and would have ridden the mechanical bull if it weren't for a nagging bowling injury. Others rode the bull--but with very little success. Even lean fellows with working cowboy boots and grim, determined faces were flung off with impunity.

Next to the bull is (was) a niche called Margaritaville. And whoever came up with the concept is an artist. The apparatus consists of a barber chair operated by a beautiful woman. The customer is seated, levered into a reclining position, and then has Jack Daniel's lovingly decanted into his or her mouth--straight from the bottle. At the conclusion of this tender administration, a bell is rung to the heavens. (The ritual brought to mind a scene from a Jim Harrison novel wherein the protagonist recounts--sarcastically--that his ancestors would seat themselves into large vats of potato wine--when they were too drunk to lift a glass--so that alcohol might rise osmotically via the primary fundament.) Again, my bowling injury prevented participation--in either event.

The banning of music and dance at Bay 101 is particularly troubling because I know the people affected. Black Pearl, the Friday night musical lounge act, consists of Liz Lake and Howard Fredric. To quote Metro ("Best of Silicon Valley"), they are "... the quintessential lounge act, with vocals and instrumentation that are simply spectacular." These are good people who were given no warning that their gig was about to be stymied. Also affected are their fans--several hundred devotees of classic crooning who are prone to dance until the music stops--which it has. And to whom Friday night was a pretty big deal--which it was.

I am hopeful that Bay 101 and the City of San Jose can resolve this issue (it's a permit thing). There are no villains that I can discern, but both camps can be foxy. And there are agendas as murky as San Francisco's tap water. Perhaps if each side met on neutral territory--say, at the Quetzalcoatl Statue--and gave each other a big, sloppy kiss and a warm hug, they could accelerate the process. It makes no sense not to have Black Pearl playing at the Dolphin Cafe. Pearl is not a threat to the surrounding community and neither are the dancers--unless you consider the samba sinning.

Storm and stress. But downtown, on the glittering streets of San Jose, you will find happy sharks aplenty--100 fiberglass sharks, tricked out, painted, welded and otherwise made presentable for viewing. (For details, swim to www.sharkbyteart.com). This project was dreamt up by party-meister, history buff and co-owner of Waves Smokehouse & Saloon Joel Wyrick--who serves barbecued sandwiches in an honest-to-God ex-whorehouse at 65 Post St. If you have any interest in San Jose history, go there, eat and read the place mats.

The toothy piscines will be receiving full treatment in an upcoming column--Shark Ahoy (I have dibs on the title).

Final Note: Photo is of Joel & Wendy Bartlett's shark, Saludo a Zurich, which is on the Paseo de San Antonio walkway. (Already there are signs of vandalism, so monitoring is recommended, as is a shoot-to-maim policy.)

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From the August 16-22, 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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