[Best of Silicon Valley 1999]

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In Praise of Nuts and Bolts

A back-to-basics guide

Here's a dirty little secret: Right here in Silicon Valley, the nerve center of the Information Revolution, there are decent, respectable citizens walking around who don't own computers.

It's true! You could be standing next to one. Throwbacks look like everyone else, except ... well, maybe they're a little more relaxed, especially the ones who haven't even bought answering machines yet. They're very relaxed.

And their serenity has not gone unnoticed. Among those of us who dwell in spheres accessible only by password, an awareness is taking root of the need for balance between old and new, between fast and slow and between time spent indoors with blue light and outdoors with sunlight.

The rest of the world has us pegged as a bunch of golf-shirt-wearing, cell-phone-toting, wired millionnaires who wear jeans on Friday and have computer keyboards permanently affixed to our fingertips. But everywhere we look in this valley we still find people doing things the low-tech way, using materials and making products that have nothing to do with gigabytes or microprocessors, things like gopher traps and saws and old-fashioned donuts. And with all the bellyaching over Y2K, we got to thinking it might not be a bad idea to know where to find these people, just in case we look at this emperor called technology and see right through his breathable new fabric and find he's an underfed weakling. Just in case the only navigating anyone's Palm Pilot does on January 1 is the arcing flight into the trash compactor (which won't be working, either).

It's nice to know there are lots of places around here that will survive no matter what computer programs grenade. That no matter what the future brings, there will be biscuits and gravy and bottomless cups of coffee at Jim's in Palo Alto, a store with sturdy old Schwinn bike parts in downtown San Jose, chickens for sale in Alum Rock, typewriters for rent on Fourth Street, a farm in the heart of Sunnyvale and functioning biplanes and pedicabs to get us there. There will be fruit stands and bait-and-tackle shops in Coyote, a feed store in Los Gatos and a saddlery in Cupertino. Our low-tech guide tells you where to find it all. And if the technological apocalypse never happens--well, visiting these places is a great way to to slow down, to take a break from the keyboard and the cellphone, and remember that, contrary to popular belief, Silicon Valley still has a heart.

This year's Best of Santa Clara Valley issue has the usual lineup of Readers' Survey results and Editor's Picks, plus a few special features in honor of the century's (and millennium's) close: the top 10 films of all time, a thousand-year retrospective on the natural best of the valley, and tributes to consistent winners of our Readers' Survey. There is also a postmodern exercise in making a message of the medium once removed: results of the Readers' Survey ballot contest, in which we identify the most interesting voters in our survey. Now that's complicated.

Which makes the return to simplicity all the more appealing. We hope you enjoy this issue. We did. Maybe we'll see you around the feed store.

Readers' Survey
Readers select their favorite everything

Goods and Services
Sports and Recreation
People, Places and Ideas
Arts and Entertainment
Food and Drink

Editor's Picks
Metro writers weigh in on the best

Durable Goods & Quality Services
Pastimes: Good for Body and Soul
Notions We've Taken Into Our Heads
Amusements: Cultural Attractions
The Greatest Chow on Earth: Fine Foods and Libations

Hall of Fame
Year after year they win their categories in the Readers' Survey. Our tributes to the best of the best

Streetlight Records
Andy's Pet Shop
Vasona Park
Susan Hammer
Recycle Books
JJ's Lounge
Cactus Club
Mirassou Winery
Original Joe's
Black Watch

A Cinematic Centenary: Richard von Busack picks his all-time favorite films

Best of the Millennium--A Thousand-Year Perspective: Silicon? Who needs it? Corinne Asturias on the real best of the valley

Best Fillers Under the Big Top: The best ballots in the bunch

Writers: Corinne Asturias, Suzanne Barnecut, Justin Berton, Broos Campbell, David Cohen, Christie Cooley, Liza Fournier, Sarah Gaffney, Will Harper, Traci Hukill, Eric Johnson, Shari Kaplan, Jeff Kearns, Michael Learmonth, Jessica Lyons, Ellen Murray, Mick Normington, Sarah Quelland, Jim Rendon, Genevieve Roja, Jesse Taylor, Michael J. Vaughn, Christina Waters.

Photographer: Larry Brazil

Designer & Production: Mark Venezky/Appetite Engineers, Marty Stevens, Shannon Stillman

Copyeditor: Sharan Street

Proofreader: Carol Bee

Issue Editor: Traci Hukill

[ San Jose | Metroactive Central | Archives ]

From the September 30-October 6, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 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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