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Where Am I? In The Village...
By Ed Driscoll · February 23, 2005 02:30 PM · The Substance of Style

Sorry for the lack of rich bloggity goodness yesterday--I had an article to polish and a newsletter to write, and by late afternoon, Nina and I were both feeling like we needed a break and decided to get out of the house for dinner. While northern California isn't in danger of washing into the Pacific like its southern counterpart, we've definitely gotten our share of rain this year. It's left us feeling a bit claustrophobic. Not Jack Nicholson in The Shining claustrophobic, but still.

So we did what any couple near San Jose would do. We went to the Village where Leo McKern is always interrogating Patrick McGoohan.

Say what? Read on.

There's a sort of mixed use shopping center/condominium complex that opened in San Jose a couple of years ago called Santana Row. (No relation, best as we can tell, to the psychedelic guitarist.) It's located opposite a conventional indoor shopping mall that's existed for decades. Whenever we've driven past its new opposite number, all we've seen are a few megastores, such as an enormous Best Buy and a surprisingly large Crate & Barrel. One night in 2003, we drove over there--I think to check out the Crate & Barrel, or maybe just to explore. After parking the car in the requisite multistory concrete garage, we emerged...in the Village.

[Enough with the Village stuff, OK??-Ed]

I dubbed it that when I first saw it, because its developers chose to house its group of smaller high-end boutique stores and restaurants in a sort of pretend 19th century-ish Parisian block, with condominiums on top of them. (and a high-tech network underneath. But for better or worse, no signs of evil weather balloons patrolling the parameter.) Leaving the sprawling suburban section of San Jose that it's located on and entering this alternate universe for the first time really does feel like you're Patrick McGoohan being knocked out in London and waking up in the who-knows-where-in-the-world Village.

Somebody should issue the men entering this alternate world black sports jackets with white piping like McGoohan's Number Six wore in The Prisoner. But since they don't, I was left to fend for myself. I was happy to trade in my khakis and a button-down shirt (my daily wardrobe for blogging, despite rumors to the contrary) for some grown-up clothes: gray wool trousers and my brown windowpane plaid double-vented single-breasted sports jacket-along with a club-collared shirt and that rarest of beasts in California: the necktie. (A nice navy wool knit tie to be precise.) It's always fun to be a little pretentious with clothes: I think I counted three other guys wearing neckties last night--other than the waiters, of course.

So last night we had an Indian dinner and then strolled around the corner for a few aperitifs sitting on an outside table at Santana Row's faux French restaurant, the Left Bank, part of a small Bay Area chain. (I had the drinks; happily, my wife was willing to be the designated driver.) While it was clear last night, the temperature, in the high 50s, isn't exactly conducive to café society. But fortunately, the restaurant installed heaters under the eaves to warm those sitting outside. (Incidentally, the restaurant has the Best. Artwork. Ever. in its men's room: a huge framed poster advertising the Folies Bergere with a dancer who looks like Juliet Prowse at her peak, wearing little more than a g-string, a pair of clam-shaped stick-ons, a necklace, top hat--and not much else. Sigh...)

If Santana Row all sounds a bit disorienting, I have a feeling it's intentional. I know part of the reason why Las Vegas has become a sort of Disneyland for adults is that by putting tourists in a universe that doesn't exist locally, it's easier for people to lose their inhibitions and gamble, drink, and let their money flow more freely. I wonder if that last element was part of the thinking behind the development of Santana Row--and if it is, will we being seeing more theme-style shopping malls?

And with that brief break last night over with, it's now back to the salt mines--and also back to your regularly scheduled blogging, already in progress.

Being seeing you!

[You had to include that, didn't you?]

That would be telling...

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