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Photograph by Eric Carlson

Escape From Sunnyvale

By Eric A. Carlson

"The best way out is always through."

--Robert Frost

LEAF BLOWERS roar to life at 4:30am, drunks scream obscenities as they pour out of Murphy Avenue taverns, unending construction/deconstruction of the Sunnyvale Mall disrupts transportation and parrots are banned from the Sunnyvale Art & Wine Festival--cruel and unusual punishment. Sunnyvale is going straight to hell in a handbasket, and if one lives there, as do I, one must seek refuge elsewhere from time to time.

Downtown Sunnyvale has its quota of charm: the Samoan church emits heavenly choir music several times a week--in the Samoan language. And the Target store at the mall has everything one will ever need in life, including George Foreman's Lean Mean Fat-Frying Machine. Planes zoom overhead as they descend into Moffett Field, providing a soul-satisfying din. Indeed, a symphony of powerful aircraft, like the tones emitting from Harley-Davidson motorcycles, is a blessing. Savor the joy and power.

One can always escape Sunnyvale by barreling down Monterey Highway in the direction of Gilroy. Signs from long-gone eras populate the highway: surly and ominous Coyote Inn, 15-Mile Stop (long defunct), countless faded motels and mobile-home parks, an old Snow White Drive-In and the spectacular Paradise Motel--looking none too paradisiacal on a lot of parched gravel. Always opt for Monterey Highway in lieu of Highway 101. Not just for the ambience, but because 101 is usually chockablock with traffic.

I rode down Monterey recently, taking a left at Gilroy to Hollister and Tres Pinos. In Tres Pinos, I stopped at Flap Jacks Country Cafe on Highway 25. Feeling frisky, I ordered a patty melt, which is a food item I had never tried before--to the best of my knowledge. A patty melt turns out to be a hamburger on bread with fried onions, and the Flap Jacks version is exquisite. Phil and Karen Barrett own and run Flap Jacks, which has acquired a reputation around Hollister and environs for its fine cuisine. Tres Pinos is actually Tres Pinos No. 2. Clyde Arbuckle's History of San Jose explains: "The original Tres Pinos, now known as Paicines, appeared on state maps at least 11 years before it got a post office on Jan. 24, 1871. It changed its name to Grogan on Aug. 4, 1874, and to Paicines on Oct. 19 of the same year. The present Tres Pinos got its name when the Southern Pacific's Hollister branch line established a railhead there on Aug. 12, 1873."

An escape closer at hand is Diddams Party Store in Mountain View. It is my understanding that an inflatable coffin filled with eyeballs is on display there--leading into Halloween. I recently purchased a dashboard hula dancer--for my dash. The store supplies joke gum, disco balls and paraphernalia for every holiday under the sun.

Or escape Sunnyvale by making a pilgrimage to the newly erected Fallon Statue, at the tattered end of downtown San Jose. Thomas Fallon was the first--or was it the ninth, or third or fourth?--mayor of San Jose. The truth may never be known. Controversy rages. One thing is for certain: the statue was a lot funnier when it was locked up in a warehouse in Oakland. Displayed, it turns out to be regal, not funny. One must search elsewhere now for civic folly. It could happen at the Carly Fiorina HP Pavilion--which is not a pavilion (or even a cheap computer)--or it could happen at the Norman Yoshi Mineta San Jose International Airport (gasp for breath). Or anywhere.

Seek sanctuary from Sunnyvale in Alviso. Visit Emmett Dingel's mural on Gold Street. The mural, titled Historic Alviso, depicts a topographical map of Alviso with points of interest labeled and numbered--including a "You Are Here" helpful flag, to get one oriented. It is an extremely pleasing work in rich blues and greens, and a fitting complement to Emmett's other mural, on the same building, of the Alviso Yacht Club.

Final Note: My favorite escape--from everything--is television. Especially Bachelorettes of Alaska--may it return next year--and Survivor. Which reminds me, it's on tonight.

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From the October 10-16, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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

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