Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The view from afar

I can’t believe how bad the Santa Clara Valley (Silicon Valley to you younguns) looks these days. Driving down from Northern CA, taking the freeway that is now called 680 into San Jose, looking ahead into the thick haze that now virtually obscures the foothills surrounding the valley. If you didn’t know they were there, you might not know you were in a costal interior valley that was maybe 15-20 miles wide, surrounded by what was once oak covered round hills. Along the stretch of freeway that turns into 17, the tall conifers are still there, lining the freeway, but they look so damaged now, like chemo survivors. The branches that were once so deeply green are hanging on, but rusty, with bare spots, straggly and sparser than in years past. Living along the freeway has no doubt taken its toll, but the air in that fetid depression has been their undoing, I can tell. They look fried. This valley was once orchards and strawberries and big open fields. I know it had its “peak” of high tech expansion and crazy money – that’s about when I bailed, in the early eighties, knowing the little suburban postage-stamp lots with their ordinary little ranch houses and million dollar price tags would remain stratospherically out of my reach. What makes me sad, driving along a freeway that every exit has a memory attached to it, is how it looks now. Burgeoned beyond its capacity, then allowed to go a little fallow, this valley now has the look of someone you used to run around with, but haven’t seen in a while, and their hard living ways haven’t slowed down, and now it shows on their face and body in unmistakable ways. I try to discern the ridgeline of the foothills that once were so unmistakable, and I can barely see them.
I had some good times here, in this Pit that I never wanted to move to in the first place. It was the scene of our undoing, the Valley, though it wasn’t its fault. I was too much a child of the redwoods, the cool shady forested hills, the little creeks and the smell of inches of rotting leaves and ferns. I never fit in, and I got away from it as soon as I could, though that ended up taking close to 20 years.
Lately I’ve been remembering some moments that had their part in defining me. I shouldn’t have been so hard on me then. I would be nicer to that girl who worked so hard and flailed around so bad trying to find something that made sense. That girl had hootspa, and she shouldn’t have been so alone in a sea of people.
I’m glad that girl moved to Colorado and found her way. I’m glad she’s going back.


  1. I'm just so happy for that girl. ;)

  2. I almost feel guilty reading these introspective posts. It is as courageous as it is generous for you to share them. This was beautiful.

    To me so much of California is perfect; the place is mostly mythical to me, having only been out there a few times, and never to the Silicon/Santa Clara Valley you describe. It's sad to read how its lost so much of its natural advantages in the last few decades.