My San Jose Adventure
Let me tell you a joke. I heard this a few years ago. The joke is now outdated, but it’s still funny:
You’re a photojournalist. You’re covering a disastrous mid-west flood. You’re standing on the banks of the river as it thunders by, carrying trees, cars, houses, and everything else that got swept up in the deluge.
You can see that half a mile upstream, President George W Bush has arrived to survey the damage. He’s standing on the bank of the river, then suddenly the shore gives way! Bush falls into the river and is immediately swept downstream. He’s flailing about, futilely trying to fight the undercurrents and stay afloat. He is rapidly approaching your position.
You have a dilemma, and you need to decide fast.
Do you use color or classic black and white?
I’ve been interested in photography my whole life. I typically pursue it as a hobby for a few months, get frustrated at my horrid results, then drop it for about ten years. I’m currently in one of those brief photo-binges. What’s different this time is I finally discovered what my problem is: I’ve been shooting in color. My photographic vision has always been about mood and perspective. I finally realized that color actually detracts from that. When I shoot in black and white, I’m sometimes actually able to pull off what I was attempting to create.
So for me, it would not be a dilemma at all. I would have shot Bush in gorgeous high-contrast monochrome.
On Saturday, I thought it would be fun to see if I could pull off some street photography. The light-rail system isn’t too far from my hotel, so I thought should ride the thing to downtown San Jose and see what I could capture.
The street photography itself didn’t go so well. I’ll have to try again in a real city. But I did see a few things on my trip that I can squeeze a blog post out of. Herewith is a recounting of some of my experiences on that fateless day.
First, a fair warning to the sensitive. I have never liked San Jose. I can’t even tell you why. It’s probably an irrational belief, but I can’t shake it. So if you live there, don’t take it personally. Your town probably doesn’t stink nearly as much as I think it does.
One reason I chose downtown San Jose for my street photography experiment is I had heard that they had revitalized their downtown. When I got there, I discovered that, yes, parts of it were cleaner and prettier, but it still isn’t a downtown that anybody has any reason to go to. The streets were mostly deserted, which pretty much killed any photo opps. I did find some other things of note.
I find it hard to believe that there just wasn’t enough demand for a Betty Boop outlet. And it’s such a great location, too, right next to a check-cashing store! Maybe this is telling me I should reconsider my plans to open a Mallard Fillmore outlet.
The above photograph is an example of the rich black and white that I like to shoot. It gives the photos a documentary look—an unblinking eye on the stark realities of life.
You’d think the Almighty could
last longer than ten minutes.
This banner was hanging on the side of a church. If they can guarantee me ten minutes face time with God, I’ll be there promptly at 12:10. If God ends up being a no-show, then maybe they should ask themselves just why that would be. They may not like the answer.
But let’s say that you really could get ahold of God for ten minutes. What would you ask him? Maybe why is he so petulant? Or why are his rules so arbitrary? Or maybe what does God need with a starship?
Not far away is St. James Park. They have a statue there of president William McKinley, who visited San Jose in 1901. McKinley’s greatest accomplishment was dying so Teddy Roosevelt could become president. Roosevelt was the first of four U.S. presidents to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and the only Republican of the bunch. That was back in the days when Republicans were interested in making the world a better place.
Take a look at how the city of San Jose has decorated the pedestal that William McKinley’s statue is standing on:
On the right side there, we have the Ten Commandments, the Christian Cross, and a book, which is presumably the Bible. There are some other things there too, not all of which I recognize (because I slept through those general ed classes. I mean come on! Who the hell schedules a class at 8 AM?).
The point, though, is why are there religious symbols on a public statue? They aren’t the only symbols on there, so the Supreme Court would be OK with it, but still. Why are they even on there?
Our laws only coincide with 20% of the Ten Commandments (don’t kill or steal), we weren’t founded as a Christian nation, and our laws aren’t Biblically based. Therefore, there is no justification for that symbology. We might as well stick Betty Boop on that pedestal; she’d be just as relevant.
I saw this on the grass as I was leaving the park. I think it’s a Spanish-language Jehovah’s Witness tract. It has been torn in half and discarded. They keep passing them out anyway. Those people sure have a fondness for rejection.
I then followed the glorious scent of barbecued chicken and the less-glorious sounds of “Stand by Me” being sung in Vietnamese, and eventually found myself at Plaza de Cesar Chavez. It turned out there was some sort of Vietnamese festival going on.
In addition to the musical entertainment, there were numerous booths targeting the local Vietnamese community. There was a voter-registration booth, a census booth, various community organizations (Horrors! Community organizers! Hide the children!), and a lot of booths peddling snake oil. This one was my favorite:
It’s even more of a scam than homeopathy! At least the homeopaths admit that you’re just getting a vial of H2O. This stuff claims to contain absolutely no chemicals whatsoever! The vials must be completely empty! Don’t open them, or the vacuum will escape.
In your dreams, kid!
Only in your dreams!
There were various other booths, such as the one that showed kids how to make a giant balloon penis.
The Cub Scouts also had a booth. They had a Pinewood Derby track set up. I used to be in the Cub Scouts. The Pinewood Derby is a rite of passage. Every Cub scout is given one block of wood, two axles, and four wheels. You then have to take your official Cub Scout pocket knife (which my Dad later swiped for his fishing tackle box) and whittle a car out of the block of wood. When you’re eight years old, just the concept of being able to whittle in public is immensely hysterical.
I carved a crude car out of the timber and painted it blue with a yellow stripe and a yellow 401 on the side (We were Den 4, and I was first alphabetically). Then I waited for the big day to arrive.
Then my Dad never took me to the big race. I don’t remember what lame-ass excuse he had. All the other kids told me how much fun it was. I’m not still bitter after all these years. That would be petty. It’s not like I put a lot of work into it.
Oh that’s right. I did!
As you can see here, the kids are now making Pinewood Humvees! This is to get them used to the idea of driving them. The odds are that many of these kids’ parents are going to end up getting divorced. This will cause the kids to get depressed and start drinking. Their schoolwork will suffer as a result, and they’ll eventually drop out of high school. Unable to find a job, they’ll be easy prey for Army recruiters desperate to supply fodder for the Iraq, Afghan, and Iranian wars, which will still be dragging on.
Bleak outlook on life? How did you ever get that idea?
Anyway, those Cub Scouts should make their little competition more realistic. They should plant Pinewood Improvised Explosive Devices next to the track. Then they can earn their Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder merit badges.
That phallic car behind the Humvee reminds me of the car that Peter Griffin bought when he was feeling insecure about his manhood. Don’t feel insecure, kid! You don’t need to use that car. Go over to that other booth and get yourself a giant balloon penis!
If you’re still feeling inadequate after that, then you can get yourself a Humvee. If that doesn’t work and you’re still feeling too small, then you can get yourself four Humvees.
San Jose has these high-tech self-cleaning toilets:
Like everything high-tech, it comes with a user’s manual:
Behave yourself! Only one adult! The city of San Jose is not interested in providing free hooker hotels.
Children under 10 must be accompanied by an adult. It’s like a ride at Disneyland. They could call it “Winnie the Pooh”. I’m surprised there isn’t a minimum height sign. “But Dad, I have to go really bad!” “Sorry, son. You’ll have to wait until next year!”
You also have to obey the time limit. Even on my worst day, I never required 20 minutes. Holy crap! Are you sure you aren’t passing your internal organs after 20 minutes?
By sundown, I decided to leave. I saw this sign on the street. What does that even mean? The only thing I can think of is it’s alerting us that the local hookers are now accepting credit cards. San Jose is going upscale!