Pink Elephant Safari
By Gary Singh
PEOPLE ARE always asking me why my alter ego, the urban-blight exploration junkie, doesn't spend more time on the East Side. But last week, the junkie found himself at one of east San Jose's most legendary landmarks and definitive strip malls, the Pink Elephant Center on King Road. Located in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, the place has been there for decades and reminds you of what this neighborhood was like before 680 was built. Simply put, there cannot exist an "east San Jose" without the Pink Elephant Center. The old-school sign includes a pink elephant carrying a shopping bag, and the entire building is the most dramatic, eye-catching shade of faded pink anywhere. Among the tenants, one finds the Pink Elephant Barbershop, which goes back to 1958. All you see is a door underneath a Peluqueria sign.
Right across the street is the awesome Pink Elephant Bakery, which actually used to be inside the Pink Elephant Center about 20 years ago, if my memory serves me correctly. And next door you have the Pink Elephant DeliCafe as well as the Pink Elephant Laundry Mat. As I crisscrossed the parking lot of the Pink Elephant Center, a Mexican man older than dirt staggered up and asked me something that ended with mota, and he dragged the word out for nearly five seconds.
From that glorious intersection, one only has to ambulate off King Road down Virginia, past a few faded beige apartment complexes, before turning left on 34th Street to arrive at PAL Stadium—which, on the evening in question, was the site of a practice match between the new San Jose Earthquakes and the old San Jose Earthquakes.
As a lifelong San Jose soccer fan, I couldn't help but enjoy the beautifully odd circumstances of this particular match. You see, the current version of the Quakes, a new expansion franchise, is coached by Frank Yallop, who also coached the previous incarnation of the Quakes to two championships in 2001 and 2003. When he originally left, assistant coach Dominic Kinnear took over for two years before the team moved to Houston following the end of the 2005 season. Renamed the Dynamo, the team won the next two championships, in 2006 and 2007, with predominantly the same team that he and Yallop had built here. So last week, that same Houston team, formerly the previous Quakes and still coached by Kinnear, returned to play a practice match against the new expansion Earthquakes.
Are you following me? Good. It gets even better.
Two former SCU Broncos and members of this new Quakes franchise, Joe Cannon and Ryan Cochrane, are also involved here. Cannon was an All-American and began his pro career for the previous Earthquakes in 1999, except they were still called the Clash at that time. Cochrane also played for the previous incarnation of the Quakes and went along with the squad to Houston when the franchise relocated. As of this season, he's now back with the new Quakes expansion franchise, so he is the only current player anywhere who can claim to be facing his former team while playing for a new version of the team that his former team formerly was. Whew.
In any event, the Quakes are back, and until the new stadium deal gets done, they will play most of their home games at a revamped Buck Shaw Stadium at Santa Clara University, the same field where both Cochrane and Cannon played before they went pro—with the previous Earthquakes franchise.
Unfortunately, Buck Shaw Stadium doesn't have a city-defining landmark as killer as the one near PAL Stadium. Mission Santa Clara just can't hold a candle to the righteousness of the Pink Elephant Center. íVivan los elefantes rosas!