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Photograph by Eric Carlson

Poses With Lobsters

By Eric A. Carlson


"Lies, dern lies and half truths ..."

--Buck's Woodside Menu


FILOLI, AN HONEST to gosh Irish Manor House just south of Crystal Springs Lake in Carmelesque Woodside (California), offers tours from February to late October. It is a highly recommended Saturday jaunt if one is inclined to Georgian Revival mansions surrounded by mega-acres of world-class gardens maintained by 14 world-class horticulturists. You may have already seen this stately country manor if you watched Dynasty on TV, or saw the movie Heaven Can Wait, a movie in which Warren Beatty comes very close to acting. The setting was Filoli. Yes, you can trod where Warren trod, and breathe the same air. Filoli (FIght for a just cause, LOve your fellow man, LIve a good life) was so named by William Bowers Bourn II, who named and built Filoli in 1917--43 rooms encompassing 36,000 square feet. William's dad, William, was clever enough to buy a hard rock gold mine that panned out--the Empire Mine in Grass Valley. The mine spat up gold for 106 years--from 1850 to 1956. I had visited Filoli earlier in the year; now it was time to pay Woodside a visit and motor up to the Empire Mine--for the complete picture.

"I started out so young and strong, only to surrender" the Steve Forbert song goes, and thus went my journey to the Empire Mine. I roared up Highway. 5 in search of history and God knows what and landed ingloriously at a Taco Bell in Lodi with indeterminate liquids streaming from my engine. The stretch of road from Tracy through Stockton to Lodi will stay with me forever: forlorn winds pushing Buick-sized tumbleweeds across the road, a fey redneck with pony-tail singing to himself in a Lodi parking lot--probably a good old boy, a piercing wind-driven odor of cow manure laying claim to the flat-as-Texas landscape. It was fantastic. But it would have been even better with a beautiful woman to share it with. A woman who appreciated tumbleweeds, and the aroma of manure at dawn. The next day, car up to snuff, I motored to Woodside, again without a beautiful woman.

Woodside is located in the San Andreas hills, between stubby San Jose and deranged San Francisco. It is officially a town. Only 5,000 residents do not a city make. I was fully prepared to dislike this town, expecting it to be pretentious and exclusive and hoity-toity--but couldn't do it. Woodside is a charmer. The historic buildings are carefully maintained--what there are of them, and the people I met were downright huggable.

If you plan a trip to Filoli, for heaven's sake stop at Buck's Restaurant first. Or just say to hell with Filoli and spend all day at Buck's. The last time I experienced a place as gloriously and wantonly beautiful as Buck's was when I discovered Alviso (yes, it was me, there were only Indians there at the time) and found three Citroens rotting in one yard. Ineffable, impossible. Buck's is a work of art where you can eat good stuff--including a Filoli omelette made from vegetables stolen from the Filoli gardens. Jamis MacNiven, the impresario, has done good work. A Russian space suit dangles from the ceiling, the stuffed head of a buffalo oscillates and winks a big black eye, gaudy porcelain cowboy boots fill every niche and cranny, a model of the house that landed on the Wicked Witch of the West hangs prominently-- the witch plastered on the bottom. It is an actual model used in the making of The Wizard of Oz. Jamis has no time for fake kitsch. Chris Olson, an exceptionally capable and friendly barkeep, showed me a photo of Jamis posing with lobsters, lobster posing being one of Jamis' specialties. Jamis once tried to buy the body of Lenin, in 1993. A six-figure offer was made to Deputy Minister Yuri Evanchenko of the Russian Ministry of Cultural Affairs, who was intrigued but declined. Too bad, it would have looked regal at Buck's, and trust me, it would not have clashed. Jamis' letter and Yuri's response can be found in the hallway outside the bathrooms.

How can you not love an eatery that has maps of Mount Everest on the bathroom walls. Ron Brunson, the general manager, and Marina (last name?) are part of the coterie of good people that work at Buck's. Five-star Underbelly rating.

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From the November 22-28, 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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