Features & Columns

Silicon Alleys Highlights of 2012

In 2012, opposing forces came together in surprising
harmony to explain the San Jose condition
best-of-silicon-alleys-2012.jpg Silicon Alleys Highlights of 2012

Whenever someone asks, "How the hell do you explain what it is you write about?" I usually say, "the San Jose condition." Following that, I add: The whole city seems off the beaten path, filled with metaphorical alleys, calculated secrets, undermarketed microcosms, percolating furtive subcultures and ignored red-headed-stepchild identities.

In all probability, you have to be an artist to fully appreciate it that way. You can't just distribute tacky brochures to convention delegates or write business journalism about how much office space is available. That won't explain anything.

To recap 2012, aside from writing my 400th straight column in this very space, what stood out above all else was an understanding of the San Jose condition through a harmonization of opposing forces: highbrow/lowbrow, urban/suburban, art/science, East/West. It did not manifest itself in that fashion every single week, but it was always there beneath the surface.

Many local folks did good this year. Silicon Valley strategist Sheridan Tatsuno wrote a book about growing up in San Jose. Another native, Thollem McDonas, wrote about his life as a peripatetic musician for The Deep Listening Institute's new anthology.

Artwise, Bruni opened up a new gallery in Willow Glen, while over in Santa Clara, the Triton Museum's Preston Metcalf lectured on hidden symbols in pre-modern art. Our most famous esotericists, the Rosicrucians, allowed their park to host exotic tree tours.

When it comes to sports, the San Jose Earthquakes broke a world record for the largest number of folks participating in a stadium groundbreaking. Several columns emerged documenting San Jose's rich history of the world's game and how the old league in the 1970s helped launch a youth soccer explosion, the aftershocks of which still resonate.

But in particular, travel is what often facilitates new ways of confronting one's local condition, and 2012 provided two distinct scenarios where that occurred in this column. The first one emerged via the triumvirate of Steve Caballero, Metallica and Tony Alva in Alva's art gallery in L.A.'s Little Ethiopia neighborhood.

In that column, the anti-man-about-town recalled how, in 1985, the only folks in high school who appreciated his Metallica shirt were the skaters, thanks to Caballero's influence at that time. And now, 27 years later, there they all were—skate legends and Metallica—in the same gallery, at the same time. The mind-blowing circle of events enabled the columnist to dislodge negative imprints from high school and the healing came from within.

While that scenario allowed the narrator to expunge the suffering from his high school days in San Jose, a later trip to the Banff Centre in Alberta subsequently helped banish some repressed suffering from his college days in San Jose. That is, his rebellion against academic compartmentalization at SJSU came full circle at the Banff Centre, where such rebellion is emphasized and supported. He first traveled there in 1995 and then went back earlier this year, everything coming full circle in the process. Likewise, the healing came from within.

In both of those columns, the pillars of self, time and space underwent a profound transfiguration with San Jose as the mystical vortex. I probably could have smoked DMT-laced cigarettes and momentarily achieved the same effect, but writing columns works much better.

All of which means, in 2012, I needed no more proof that the past, present and future of San Jose continue to expand and contract like a rubber band, merging together into one timeless "now" process. Concerning the past, one of the city's most treasured historians passed away earlier this year and was enshrined in this column. Jack Douglas was perhaps the last of his generation of beautifully cantankerous researchers who gave so much to this town by writing about its history for decades.

Concerning the future, the ZERO1 Art Biennial erupted again, interconnected with a slew of projects, conversations, installations and artist residencies that took place for most of the year, all seeking the meaning of Silicon Valley. And just last week, San Francisco 49er Vernon Davis opened up an art gallery and said he was proud to be in "one of America's future cities."