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Best of Silicon Valley | Best of Santa Clara Valley 2003


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Editor's Short List
Some random, deadline-busting favorites from the editor's desk.


Now that the high-tech boom has come and gone, can we go back to being the Santa Clara Valley?

It was a mythical place of sunshine, green hills, streetcars, renegade authors, vineyards and friendly folk. Then, overnight, it morphed into a vast suburbia with freeways and industrial parks at the center of a global revolution. The geeks and captains of our industries became rock stars peering at us from airport magazine racks.

Sometime during the last half of the '90s, everyone, including this publication, felt it was very chic to identify with the slivers of electrified melted sand that formed the brains of our cell phones and CD players. (Surely, someone earlier in the century tried to call these parts Prune Valley, but the name never stuck.)

This expensive region was originally named after 13th-century Italian poverty mistress Clare Scifi. The runaway daughter of the wealthy Count of Sasso-Rosso was sanctified, because of her anti-materialism, by members of the renegade Jewish sect that became the world's most powerful religion.

So, do we go back to our rather ironic Christian name or keep the industrial moniker, even though it's cold and soulless and local semiconductor manufacturing is already an anachronism? They don't make much beer in Milwaukee or steel in Pittsburgh anymore, but nostalgia still works well on sports jerseys. For some reason, though, our major-league team is named after a carnivorous fish, even though San Jose is practically landlocked.

Our identity issues run even deeper. Most of the county's residents don't live in or identify with its largest city, even though it's the country's 11th biggest. There's no ethnic majority. And we're here for different reasons: we found a job here, we were born here, we followed a loved one or we want to live close to people who share our traditions from another land, as did immigrant communities in centuries past.

So let's celebrate whoever we are and the reason we're here in, in, ah, whatever you want to call it. Let's salute the yin and the yang, and collectively self-medicate our schizophrenia with large vehicles, extreme sports or coffee shop conversations. Let's revel in the stylish amenities of the moment, the treasures of the past and the visionary efforts to craft the future.

Here's to the restaurants of Little Kabul and the new Gucci boutique, the feed stores and the day spas! Past every crowded intersection there's a new discovery, and this year we try, for the 19th time, with this Best Of, ah, you know, to unearth and share many of the reasons why living here holds some unexplainable attraction. You know what I'm talking about if you have ever tried to defend it to someone who lives in another city. The weather's better, the people are nice and you can always find a place to park, dammit!

Fields in Santa Clara, hills in Evergreen, dorms at San Jose State University and old shopping centers on Stevens Creek are being transformed as we speak into new "urban villages." The Internet didn't make us wealthy, the transit system is near collapse and the promised 24-hour downtown will be enjoyed by your grandchildren, not you. Nonetheless, at ground zero of the new urbanism, there's a Peet's where a tumbleweed used to be. And that can be a good thing.

Dan Pulcrano

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From the September 25-October 1, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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