Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Hose Gazetteer Entry

Winter of Our San Jose

Primordial Associations
I read Jack London's White Fang when I was in junior high. The story opens at the Judge's ranch in the beautiful Santa Clara Valley. For White Fang, it is dog heaven, he's everyone's favorite dog and he gets to chase sheep on perfect golden, oak-studded hills, in a broad, sunny valley, surrounded by mountains, and verdant orchards that stretched nearly to the horizon. London spends an entire page describing this idyll before the Judge loses White Fang in a bet, and he gets dragged off by villains on a series of disasters, as is often the fate of the titular characters in London novels. He described the quintessential western paradise, the one that fired the imaginations of my Dust Bowl ancestors, of fertile, watered valleys and abundant room for farms.

A California Tragedy
In the ensuing hundred or so years, the beautiful valley got a new name*, lost its orchards, its ranches (okay, there might be a few left in the hinterlands), its farms, its famous clear air, its wide open spaces, its virgin hills, its horses, its cows, its farmers, its campesinos and its soul. In exchange, it gained a million people who wish they lived somewhere else, traffic jams, ugly strip malls, a fake Egyptian museum, endless suburban sprawl, endless suburban sprawl, endless suburban sprawl, ugly strip malls, even uglier malls, freeways, overpriced parking, high salaries and really homely strip malls. Its name is now synonymous with a Ring of Hell.

Cons Ugly strip malls, ugly condos, ugly developments, traffic, smog, ugly office buildings and overpriced parking.

Pros abundant burritos, The Martin Luther King Library (with embedded art), two blocks of ancient downtown that date to the Judge's time (if you shut your eyes and concentrate very hard you might be able smell the memory of the citrus trees).

footnote* The Valley is no longer the "Sacred Light", or whatever poesy that Spanish phrase translates to, it is now named after the non-stick-safe material your rubber spatulas are made of.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The story was not White Fang but Call of the wild in which the dog's name is buck.

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