Lynch Land

I grew up in Almaden Valley, which is far south San Jose, and is definitely David Lynch land. San Jose has been getting a lot of Blue Velvet comparisons lately, because of the Wendy's Chili Finger, but I think the comparison is long overdue. Almaden Valley is as south as you can get; it's where highways come to die. When we moved there, our house was still farmland; all of Almaden used to be acres of farms filled with horses and grape and peach crops. We lived across rolling hills which, blithely ignoring "No Trespassing" signs, I used to escape into for hikes. (I once had a sudden encounter with an irritable bull, which would have been comical if it had been The Three Stooges rather than me). The nearest bar to either of our houses was the Feed & Fuel, a country-western themed bar where truckers line-danced and fueled up--in all sorts of ways.

People are always surprised at this description of San Jose, but it only became Silicon Valley headquarters in the early 80's. That's when hordes of over-educated Asian and East Indian immigrants poured in--where IBM went, they followed. Living in San Jose was being in the center of constant change, trickling south. Tomato canneries and meat-packing plants were replaced by Sun Microsystems and Oracle headquarters. Downtown San Jose acquired opera houses and jazz clubs and a decent (for California) public transit system. San Jose teenagers grow up drinking beer the backseat of Corvettes, getting stoned in stadium rock concerts, and being extremely elitist about our "alternative" taste in music.

But, except Constant Construction of Three-Bedroom Houses, Almaden Valley has stubbornly refused to take part in the change. For most of the upwardly mobile population here, the lengthening of the highways and expansion of the malls has been a good thing, but there's still an Almaden Valley hidden in the hills. I used to like to drive when I had things to think about, or when the going got tough at home, and a few wrong turns had me up in a strange new world. Driving through the foresty country roads, you'll find the old inn and restaurant which resembles nothing less than the Country Bears Jamboree House in Disneyland, complete with a big-wheeled wagon out front. It promises food, lodging and live, banjo-themed entertainment. You keep driving and pass the Blue Barn--an old Victorian house with a blue barn that always seemed to packed with pick-up trucks in field and raucous parties. The road thins into a sliver, which is tough since it's a two-way road, and you have to pull over if you see another car. There's the New Almaden Museum, which looks like a little house converted into a littler musuem. It's differentiated from the other houses by the painting of an Indian with a tomahawk. Soon, a gorge opens up and the road gets winding; you travel over bridges like a Grimms' Brothers fairy tale. Below, there's a swampy looking lake, and driveways become long and lean, sometimes leading to a bored looking horse in a makeshift corral. Eventually, when the forest gets deep and the bridges get rickety, the road ends abruptly into a gate. At this point, a uniformed soldier emerges to let you know that you've hit The Mysterious Army Base, and it's Best If You Turn Around.

Our favorite show growing up was Twin Peaks, but though we recognized the tall redwoods and oddball mentality, it was still Lynch land, a blue velvet world removed from ordinary, boring reality. It was clearly as far away as you could get from suburban, tech-obsessed, single-family home, hyper-educated San Jose. Right?


(btw, the Feed & Fuel is still the closest bar to my folks' house).