Best of Silicon Valley 2001 - Editors' Picks

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[whitespace] Dancing at the Starlite Ballroom Glide N' Stride: Couples gracefully float across the hardwood floors of Starlite Ballroom.

Editors' Picks:
Tribal Rythms

Best Place to Meet Men to Meet Mom

Starlite Ballroom
1160 No. Fair Oaks Ave., Sunnyvale

While dating unemployed drug addicts offers a certain, walk-on-the-wild-side thrill, eventually it's time to start wading outside of the shallow end of the gene pool for serious marriage material. What better place than a nondrinking, nonsmoking environment that also teaches the basics of panache and grace? Starlite Ballroom has been around a dozen years and serves up a winning formula on Friday nights. For only 12 bucks, take a beginner's lesson in swing, fox-trot and salsa, then join the hundreds of other (often) eligible bachelors and bachelorettes as they float and dip across the wide wooden floor. When all is said and done, the tango is much sexier than a spin through drug rehab. KL

Best Place For Starving Dotcommers to Admire the Tenacity of Starving Artists

San Jose Museum of Art
110 S. Market St., San Jose

Want some quick lunchtime art? Need to keep some out-of-town visitors occupied for a couple hours? The San Jose Museum of Art is now free. Since dropping the charge in June, museum officials have been getting exactly what they wanted: Foot traffic, which has more than tripled. Museum staffers say they were able to drop the admission charge because it only made up a small part of the San Jose MOA's $5 million annual operating budget, so museum board members decided it would be the best way to make art more accessible to the community. Right they were. These days, cheapskate art lovers can check out the Urban Invasion exhibit, featuring darkly humorous landscapes of garbage by Chester Arnold and the surreal large-canvas visions of Los Angeles by James Doolin, through Oct. 14. JK

Best Escape From the San Jose Airport in The San Jose Airport

Martini Monkey Cocktail Lounge
Terminal C, 1661 Airport Blvd. #3B, San Jose

As one jostles through Terminal C, bowels in an uproar after receiving bad information from the airlines, stressed at the prospect of yet another Marquis de Sade sojourn through the unfriendly skies of bad air, bad food, and fear of death, take refuge for a moment in the Martini Monkey Cocktail Lounge, located just outside the food court in a dimly lit green shadow. The mural behind the bar features world-class cheesy pulchritude in the form of a pagan jungle woman wearing a leopard-skin bikini, posing before angry volcanoes and frowning tiki gods. And yes, that is a green plastic monkey in that Cuba Libre. Kick off your shoes and stay awhile. EC

Best Sign That Apocalypse Is Imminent

SharkByte Art Attacks

This summer's SharkByte Art exhibit was the single best idea that simultaneously recognized San Jose artists and gave residents a dose of civic pride. One day in August the colorful creatures appeared on the streets without warning and for a couple days there, the mysterious sharkies were a subtle little--dare we say--"Only in San Jose" item.

And then.

And then the Merc covered the story to death with three front-page stories.

And then a blind person allegedly bumped into a shark's snout and almost hurt themselves--shark attack! Two more say-it-ain't-so stories followed, construction crews were called, federal lawsuits were threatened, new barriers were installed.

And then. Idiotic vandals pummeled a handful of the sharks. Add a couple more front-page stories and an I'm-mad-as-hell column.

Just when it was safe to get back in the water, more than a month after the first shark found downtown, another front-page story appeared in the Sunday paper, this time announcing a special pullout section including tips on "how to view" the sharks.

Yeah. Right. Only in San Jose. JB

Best Place to Enjoy a Fire on Someone Else's Bill

Fireside Lounge at the Peppermill
2909 Lakeside Dr., Santa Clara
10690 N. De Anza Blvd., Cupertino

The first time I saw this place I remarked to friends that it looked like a giant Sizzler with a sprawling landscape. Originated in Reno, Nev., the Peppermill Restaurant serves up all-American fare for the family. The Fireside Lounge is the restaurant's younger nighttime personality, drawing on '70s concept lighting and channeling the decade's kitschy come-on. On Friday and Saturday nights, hipsters tap this lounge, which features a sunken tile bar, comfy velour couches, red and blue neon lighting, waitresses in bolero jackets and tap pants serving fluffy tropical drinks like Mai Tais and Tequila Sunrises, and of course, the circular, bubbling fireplace. If this lounge were in San Francisco, there's no question it would gain hypertrendy status and an in-house DJ spinning Thursday nights, but alas, its true digs are in the most bedroom of communities. No matter; the lounge is best enjoyed this snuggly and obscure. GR

Best Neighborhood Bar Decorated in WWI Memorabilia

Blue Max Cocktail Lounge
828 W. El Camino Real, Sunnyvale

Blue Max is a standout among WWI- themed sports bars. A wooden propeller is nailed above the cash register, biplanes droop from the ceiling, and a framed photograph of WWI aviators decorates the back wall--is that the Red Baron? Christmas lights--red peppers and parrots--glow above the bar, and a friendly crowd huddles beneath. This neighborhood tavern comes to life during Monday Night Football and other televised gladiator events. A weathered Irishman seated next to me reminisced about when Murphy's Law (a Sunnyvale bar on Murphy Avenue) was named Pastime and had a bathroom around the back. "It was the most dangerous 50-yard walk you would ever take," he said. Blue Max has inside plumbing, and the walk is peaceable. EC

Best Thing Outside The Movies

The Capitol Drive-Ins
Snell at Capitol Expressway, San Jose

What's that? The thought of standing in a two-mile-long line to buy a movie ticket doesn't tickle the toes? The ensuing 30-minute plod through popcorn alley sounds like a stroll through hell? Sitting in between crying kids cramps the brain? Well then, cruise to the Capitol Drive-In Theaters to experience the movies without the experience. Box office lines during the week are always short, and the wait for snacks runs quick--provided there's more than one cashier working. But for an economical $6 per ticket--for a double feature!--there's few complaints. JB

Best Mural in a Bowling Alley Bar

Cabrian Bowl Lounge
Camden Ave. & Union Ave., San Jose

The Bowling Dwarves mural in the Cambrian Bowl Lounge is on a par with any painting ever daubed, be it Caravaggio, Botticelli, Rembrandt, or even Thomas Kinkade. Bowling dwarves should not be confused with dwarf bowling--using dwarves as bowling balls. The mural at Fourth Street Bowl, of a foxhunt, is very good, but it is no match for the elegant composition, brushwork and pathos exhibited in the dwarf oeuvre at Cambrian Bowl. The artist is unknown, but is thought to be a Disney animator down on his luck, wandering from tavern to tavern in search of work--timeless murals in exchange for a few dirty glasses of gin and a stick of beef jerky. EC

Best Reminder of Class Consciousness

Rodin's 'Burghers of Calais'
Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University
Lomita Drive at Museum Way, Stanford

What did the bourgeoisie look like in the 14th century? Well, at the time, miserable. "Burghers at Calais," on display at Stanford University's Memorial Court, in front of the church, is a cast of the original bronze sculptures depicting the six bourgeoisie in Calais, France. In 1347, King Edward III of England had invaded France at the onset of the Hundred Years War. Ever the merciful king, Edward III said he would spare Calais if six citizens surrendered. The catch was that each citizen must abandon his family, come to the king barefoot, with a noose around his neck and a key to the city in his hand. They were later released at the bequest of Queen Philippa of England. Good thing modern society doesn't spear its social class this way anymore. We can only imagine the sculpture: six Dilberts in a semicircle, sans Kenneth Cole shoes, with a mouse and cord around their necks and a stock quote and a Palm Pilot in their hand. Oh, the humanity.

Best of Silicon Valley 2001 Table of Contents

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From the October 18-24, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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