Friday, August 31, 2007

Carmelite Convent - Santa Clara's Oasis of Tranquility

A few days ago, someone told our Weekly photographer Christy Kinney that he was delighted to read this week's cover story about the Carmelite Monastery on Benton St. The reason was that he had just visited it for the first time and found a wonderful tranquility in the grounds and the church.

That's what makes our efforts worthwhile.

The convent is one of my favorite spots around Santa Clara. I discovered it shortly after moving here in 1983 and often went there on Sunday afternoon for vespers. It was very healing for me at a time when I often felt disoriented after moving from upstate New York to work for a now long-defunct Silicon Valley startup.

The Carmelite convent was also a favorite of my mother's. When she visited, we often walked in the olive orchard and sat by the shady, secluded shrine of Virgin Mary. Afterwards we would ride out to Alviso for a light supper at Val's and a walk past the now "high and dry" early 20th century yacht club.

As soon as we crossed the border into Alviso, my mother would announce, "Well now we're in John Steinbeck's California." She liked that California better than Silicon Valley. She would be sad to see relentless gentrification pushing ever deeper into the faded, sleepy little town at the tip of the Bay.

Alviso has a close connection with Santa Clara history.

Santa Clara pioneer Harry Wade built a wharf in Alviso to accommodate freight shipping from South Bay locations to San Francisco. Harry's son Charles married Estafina Alviso, daughter of Ygnacio Alviso, majordomo fo the Santa Clara Mission and grantee of the Rancho Rincon de los Estros — where today's Alviso stands.

We don't do the best job in Santa Clara of promoting the historic charms of our city. One of the few times they get in the spotlight is the Historic Home Tour in December. I'd love to see a Santa Clara history and neighborhood tour. What are your favorite spots around town? Maybe we can talk it over some time over a cup of coffee at Val's.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Getting Connected

Let's face it -- City Council meetings are pretty dull most of the time.

You've got to hand it to Council Members, whatever you think of them or their politics. It takes a special dedication to plough through those meetings every two weeks -- not to mention enduring verbal rotten tomatos thrown on a regular basis by Santa Clara's unhinged and perennially malcontent. Like I once read about the Queen of England: She attends more boring events in a month than most people do in a lifetime.

However, for those of us who find it necessary on occasion to be physically present at a meeting -- instead of watching it on TV -- things have gotten better recently.

I'm referring to the free WiFI Internet access that the City provides as a courtesy in the Chambers. Now while you're waiting for your agenda item to come up, you can handle your email, IM your buddies, post to your blog, do your Christmas shopping or Google your ex-husband.

Also worthy of mention is that the City recently added an electrical outlet for the press table so members of the fourth estate can charge up their laptops during marathon meetings.

Now if we could just click "close" on some people's mouths....

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I got an email this morning urging SaveBAREC supporters to turn out for tonight's City Council meeting, where Council Members will have to vote to either rescind the zoning changes that enable the Santa Clara Gardens project to go forward or refer the question to voters in a special February election.

My first thought, was Not another marathon. I mean, give it a rest, guys. At this juncture, either way SaveBAREC has won this battle. Save your breath for the election.

Then I happened to scan the distribution list. Among the familiar local media names there was this one:

Neil Cavuto?

The guy who said last week that Karl Rove's departure from Washington was going to be a "loss for Wall Street" despite the evidence of ongoing panic from some of the administration's financial policy highlights like the unfolding mortgage loan catastrophe? That Cavuto?

It's said that politics makes strange bedfellows. But what could SaveBAREC possibly hope to gain from attention from Fox News' "premier business reporter" and Bush administration water carrier? If anything, I would expect Cavuto to come out strong for blanketing the BAREC site with $2 million zero-lot McMansions -- the hell with granny -- and skipping the cleanup -- after all, a little arsenic never hurt anyone.