“They say San José is going to become another Los Angeles. Believe me, I'm going to do everything in my power to make that come true.”
— "Dutch" Hamann, 1965. Sachs, A (1999)
San Jose’s urban sprawl was designed by City Manager Dutch Hamann, in office from 1950-1969. Like much of the post-50’s landscape in america, it is a city that was predestined for displacement. In this sprawl it makes it difficult for communities to flourish, and personally, I couldn't feel a sense of place from which I could be displaced. The design keeps individuals from connecting. Hamann resigned leaving the job incomplete but set a trend nonetheless. “The city had defined its sphere of influence in all directions, sometimes chaotically leaving unincorporated pockets to be swallowed up by the behemoth, sometimes even at the objection of the residents.” Safford, P. (2010).
When my mom was pregnant with me, my parents found a typical tract house in a neighborhood of streets so wide, they would be concrete playing fields for me and my WASPY neighbors. I never felt a connection to community. There was a haunting distance I felt whether it was the metaphysical idea of going into the world or having to literally drive 30 minutes to do anything. I might as well have been in the country. At least then I would be connected to nature and less indentified with stipmalls and business parks. Nature; being the first displaced victim in San Jose’s growth as a city. “That asphalt there is covering some of the best land in the world,” says Charlie Olson of Olson’s Cherries, one of the last remaining fruit stands in the Valley. Sachs, A (1999). In my neighborhood I felt a false sense of safety and I lived in fear because of it. I noticed a lot of dichotomized social groups around me. Either kids were overachieving computer/math nerds or jock bigots. My small group of friends were into skateboarding, music and smoking weed. I couldn’t really skate so I would come home high and stay in my room playing guitar, making 4 track recordings of sloppy tripped-out rock songs.
Music was my life but I felt so far from it, where did it come from? Who were these communities and what cities support them? My dad took me to many shows at medium sized venues; clubs and bars that would have all-ages nights. Most of these were in San Francisco, however. In San Jose I would occasionally venture to the Cactus Club but that was rare. Radio Free Records would have in-stores with bands like Duster and I would go to as many shows as possible but I was too high to communicate with anyone except Ethan who owned it. I brought my own self-fulfilled alienation. Originally, the sprawled nature of San Jose bred this alienation in me. Some punkish friends would inform me of shows at places like the Campbell/Camden Community Centers, The Cupertino Library, Pirate Cat Records, Channel One on The Alameda; venues that could not survive the advent of the Silicon Valley tech-bubble and exorbitant rent. Most of the shows were 90’s emo-hardcore, powerviolence, or just regular punk shows. I was scared of these crowds even though I had a small collection of punk records. This fear can only be traced back to a lack of connection. I didn’t understand the aggressiveness for years and going to shows where people would be touching me wasn't appealing. I was already pretty uncomfortable in my skin yet comfortably numb in my self-medicated burnout haze. It took me leaving San Jose at 18 and living in 7 different cities to realize how displaced I was with my lacking sense of self and belonging. In that time I had taken refuge in d.i.y. punk communities. Coincidentally, I had also drifted into a very dark realm of drug abuse.
I came back to live in San Jose coming off a speedball addiction and wondering what I had been missing for 13 years. I had faced my issues with drugs and had conquered my social anxiety. Also, I began to see the privileges of growing up white in upper-middle-class suburbia and how it manifested in my own unconscious racism/prejudice. This continues to scare me because fear lives where the light cannot. Yet, upon my return, I consciously sought out a connection to San Jose’s subculture. I noticed that many venues for music and art would come and go; sometimes only lasting for a season. Friends from the House Of The Dead Rat had moved shows to warehouses that are currently no more. Empire Seven, a gallery where my friend had his studio, had been consistently turning out events and exhibits that would impact the community for 10 years only to have the building sold without any support from the city. San Jose has surpassed LA in its GDP. Hollywood is now pale in the light of Silicon Valley. When I came home to get sober in 2013, I read that we had the largest homeless camp in the nation at the time. This is a shadow of affluence. For artists and communities who care more about creativity than commerce, there is little space or voice amidst the megalithic greed machine of our technocratic climate. Consider too the environmental suffering that has resulted from our booming city. The soil and water utterly poisoned by high-tech chemicals, Silicon Valley is home to one the most dense concentration of hazardous waste dumps in the country. Bay area biotech entrepreneur Gregory Stock is a futurists who celebrates the virtual and inspires scorn for our natural environment. Confronted with arguments about the need to uphold biodiversity, Stock simply shrugs, and opines that there are only a few animals in the world that really matter. Sachs, A (1999). “There is an immense roster of species,” he notes, “that neither affect nor interest the vast majority of humankind.”
Sachs, Aaron “Virtual Ecology A Brief Environmental History of Silicon Valley”. World Watch Magazine, January/February 1999, Volume 12, No. 1
Safford, Pat "The legacy of Dutch Hamann plagues Cambrian residents, Annexation Background" Campbell Express. 59 (45). p. 1. (November 17, 2010)
JOHN ROOT says "After ten years struggling as a solo musician i found a community of open arms in Olympia Washington where I wrote and played guitar in weird t.v. My bandmate Ben Trogdon had his punk fanzine, Nuts! I contributed often as did many friends from the local scene. 4 years later I moved back to San Jose to deal with a bad drug addiction. In SJ I finished College getting a degree in psychology while writing painting and making video mixtapes, all forms of expression dealing with aleatoric or chance, examples which can be found on my WordPress. I currently live in San Francisco and teach music at the School Of Rock in Palo Alto. I am vegan-straightedge, I practice vipassana meditation and I am a long distance runner. levelanchorage.wordpress.com@"