Best of Silicon Valley - Taking Stock of Our Assets

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Best View to a Takeover

Ridge Vineyards
17100 Monte Bello Rd., Cupertino 408.867.3233

Three brokers fired in a single month. A favorite index fund is up, but the mutual account has flattened like the Dead Sea. Some space to reestablish fiscal feng shui is required. The best place to get high is on top of Monte Bello Ridge, where the eponymous Ridge Vineyards has conveniently placed itself for maximum viewing enjoyment. Just clearing out the neural nets is a good way to get a better fix on one's investment future. So take down the top, leave the cell phone off, and head up Foothill Expressway to Monte Bello Road. Hang a right and begin one of the most interactive drives available to South Bay humans. Hairpin turns will help take the psychic sting out of discount brokering. Such amazing visual dividends. Rustic vineyards planted a century ago line this gorgeous road. Soar above the fog line and watch the entire South Bay laid out like the Dow Jones far below. At the top, inhale deeply and consider options. To raid a rival's senior R&D staff--or simply sit tight with that bottle of Monte Bello Cabernet? On the weekends, tastings of winemaker Paul Draper's legendary zinfandels are available. A few sips and that takeover strategy will become clearer. CW

Best Role Model for Monster House Builders

Filoli Center
86 Cañada Road, Woodside 650.364.8300

If that lucrative IPO has inspired an urge to build a home that's literally a castle, there's no better domicile to fashion a personal palace after than the Filoli Estate in Woodside--a tasteful display of wealth from the last turn of the century that's open regularly for tourists' awestruck perusal. Sure, it's huge, but the brick mansion still exudes serene elegance. Particularly appealing: its myriad tall French doors, which open onto acres of gorgeous, perfectly tended gardens. (There are even beds of flowers patterned after the stained glass windows of Chartres Cathedral.) Since the mansion starred as the residence of oil baron Blake Carrington in the '80s greed-fest Dynasty, dwelling in a copy of it could make one feel like a magnate--but a generous one, since building one's own Filoli guarantees that the shadow cast on the neighbors' tiny homes will at least be a beautiful one. HZ

Best Long-Term Asset

Bethesda Community Church
765 Story Rd., S.J. 408.926.7634

Bethesda Community Church is no boring, stand-up, sit-down kind of a church. Well, there is standing up, but it's to sing, dance and clap along to the soulful singing accompanied by a tight drum and organ duo. Praising of the Lord is loud and proud, as Pastor John Erwin moves churchgoers to lift their hands and shout their thanks. Bethesda welcomes people from all walks of life, including the dreadlocked and tattooed. But be ready to stand up and clap; if there's one requirement at this church, it's showing love. An added bonus: a bongo drum at the front of the church. JT

Best Place to Get Noticed

Mousumi Shaw, co-founder of Boston-based, talks like someone from the East Coast. Over the phone, she speaks rapidly and breathlessly, as if I'm asking her to give a two-minute pitch. And in a sense, that's just the nature of her business, which is dubbed the market meeting place for "constituents of the new economy: investors, entrepreneurs, job seekers, professional service providers and universities." Shaw says she and her partner, Jessica Meng, thought if deals could be wrapped on the golf course, then why not at another setting? To get noticed, companies meet with a regional representative to discuss goals and marketing strategies. Though not always, the brainchild is a "Hot Spot" gathering at, say, a hot Palo Alto restaurant, which agrees to sponsor the event. In one weeknight, between five and six companies make fevered pitches to an info-seeking audience over some light refreshments and drinks. Word about the Hot Spot is passed along via email or by mouth. The site also posts company directories, seminars and even college reunions (I spied an MIT function at Stoddard's in Sunnyvale), all free of charge. "We're bringing together all kinds of different players," Shaw says. How very valley. GR

Best Key to Success

Silicon Valley Culture Project
San Jose State University, S.J. 408.924.5314

All right, it's official now. We've got culture. Since 1991, two professors, Drs. Charles Darrah and J.A. English-Lueck--both at San Jose State University--have been studying Silicon Valley's inhabitants in their natural habitat. Their evolving conclusion? Silicon Valley has become a mythic territory where bright young nerds, holed up in a garage, can create democratic corporations by harnessing the entrepreneurial spirit. According to the profs, we're not just any run-of-the-mill California coastal town. The valley has become a metaphor for tomorrowland, a theme park of global corporate enthusiasm. We may have been agrarian once, but yee-haw! It seems now us San Joseans have got the bull by the horns. DC

Best Place to Trade Secret Stock Tips

25-cent automated public toilets
Downtown San Jose

Or rather, best place where you can do anything the hell you want for the 20 minutes of sealed privacy these digital donnickers give you. As for me, I'm not going to go into detail about all the possibilities available in these Jetsonesque johns, but I'll be willing to name one: I've used them to do morning push-ups I didn't have time for because I was in a hurry to catch the last train to work--the privy is spacious enough for them. It's also perfect for when you want to have a clandestine cell phone conversation. But remember, these computerized crappers give you only 20 minutes, no more. If you forget that, the door will automatically open, and all of downtown will be exposed to insider information--and I don't mean the phone conversation. JA

Best Sign of Old Times

The Diving Lady
Motel & City Center Neon Sign South First and Reed streets, S.J.

There is something beautiful about the simple silhouette of a swan-diving woman on the old neon sign at the corner of South First and Reed streets. More ostentatious displays, such as the Gotham City-inspired Knight-Ridder sign now hanging over downtown, may be the order of the day. But the now-retired Motel/City Center sign hangs as a reminder that roadside signs once had an unmistakable artistry about them. The once-glowing vision is entirely old-fashioned, down to the woman's swim cap and vintage suit. It may not scream modern Silicon Valley wealth, power or stock options, but the old motel sign stands tall as a reminder that money just can't buy class. MS

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From the September 28-October 4, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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