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Photograph by Eric Carlson

Snow in San Jose?!

I met Santa and he is Larry ... or Doug

By Eric A. Carlson

A CURSORY EXAMINATION of downtown San Jose last weekend revealed the hulking mass of the Fairmont Hotel "Expansion" emerging from the ooze. The venerable, but rotting, Montgomery Hotel had been nudged down the street to make room for it. The Montgomery now stands where the Pestana building used to. The Pestana was grokked out of existence in 1999. All this destruction and construction is reminiscent of episodes of Fraggle Rock (a kids' show) where industrious little engineer-doozers build elaborate structures out of doozer sticks. Sadly, doozer sticks are edible, especially by Fraggles, who devour every building they stumble upon. A warning sign has been placed on the Fairmont Hotel Expansion project: "Building the New San Jose." Be afraid, and watch out for Fraggles.

I fondly recall the halcyon days of the Fairmont Hotel construction. Myriad signs proclaimed, "San Jose is Growing Up." Some malcontent had doctored the signs to read, "San Jose is Throwing Up." Probably a communist.

Christmas in the Park was in high gear this year in the Plaza de Cesar E. Chavez. "Pastoral peace transformed," a brochure stated, "into a winter wonderland." Indeed, four snow machines spewed out simulated snow (nontoxic soap) during the evening hours. A beaming little girl walked by, towed by Mom, and held up a candy cane in front of my face. "Santa" she said. And Santa was there, receiving children like a red-robed Pope. Many of the tots froze up, victims of the immediacy of coming face to face with Santa, but one 3-year-old lad was uncowed, and rattled off an impressive list of needs, in descending order of importance, starting with a functioning submarine. (Santa looked suspiciously like a fellow by the name of Larry Seabert.)

As I meandered over to Santa's Snack Shoppe for a paper-plate dinner of cheese nachos, it occurred to me that the 200 decorated trees were looking pretty sharp this year. Good job, kids. On the other hand, the animated displays, small buildings manned by elves or bears or grandmas, are quite disturbing. Perhaps the world's largest collection of banal department store window displays, and probably bad for kids' psyches.

Observations in the park: (1) The JCDecaux computerized toilet was malfunctioning--users could not open or shut the door. (2) Anti-Cisco personnel were encouraging folks to sign a referendum designed to thwart Cisco's latest Coyote Valley caper. Good luck fighting that one--Cisco has almost as much money as the Santa Clara Valley Water District. (3) Has Baby Jesus been banished from the park for espousing religious or spiritual teachings on public property? (4) The American Atheists have a tree and a plaque describing the importance of the Winter Solstice and how it was "taken over by Christians as the birthday of their mythological Christ." Those atheists seem to have gotten the last word in at Christmas in the Park. Now, let us all kneel down and pray to the Winter Solstice and Mother Macys.

Exiting the park at Paseo de San Antonio walkway, I chatted with Doug Bickle, a self-proclaimed ex-hippie, who was hawking an interesting array of inflated Santa Clauses, green aliens with Santa Claus suits, reindeer and happy faces. When I mentioned I was working on a column about the Animated Displays in the Park Celebration, he joked that he wanted "front page exposure." Doug then started singing, impromptu, the lyrics to "On the Cover of the Rolling Stone." A fair enough rendition. I told him that page one might be a problem, but page 14 or so was possible.

Final note: Christmas in the Park has been giving children warm and fuzzy feelings for 21 years. Graciela reports that the event is "kind of weird," but de rigueur to qualify as a bona fide San Josean. Poor old Quetzalcoatl is kept mercifully out of sight, tucked in amongst the porta-potties. And reports have filtered in that the baby Jesus is in the park.

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From the December 21-27, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 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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