New Neighborhood Voice

Newsletter - Edition 33 - Section 2

February 5, 2006

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Click on a thumbnail to view larger photos

Day is near


Accidents on Fleming Ave.

And Police
car crashes


Where are we
now? Paris?





East Valley
Art League


Clayton and
Story Roads

Karen Tatro at
YSI Thrift

The electronics
repair crew

Gil Decker,
major donor


Keith Bush
has "A Date
With Judy"

Barbara has
a plasma

And she creates

sculpture on
Highland Dr.


On Alum
Rock Ave.


Moving Color
on Kirk

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Felix and Hazel’s Excellent Eastside Adventure

Two classy Brits love Jack Nicklaus, California wine and Alum Rock

Two remarkable and plucky women graced our neighborhood over the winter holidays. You may have seen them striding along briskly, good-naturedly taking in our worst possible weather which, to them, was a vast improvement over the chill they left behind in the south of England. If you saw them, with their upright posture, in their tweeds and sensible leather shoes, you might not have realized they’re both 80+ years old and you could not have guessed they have a history going back to World War II when they enlisted in the British Army together.

Felix Keen was born “Felicity” which she says is a hard name to live up to – after all, the expectation is that she would be happy all the time. Perhaps that was her Scottish parents’ plan, a child named “happiness” wouldn’t dare act like a pill! She is so pleasant and gregarious that it’s clear that either she doesn’t really mind being burdened with such a name – or the positive expectation defined her personality. She needed her positivity and a measure of British stiff-upper-lip to bear-up under years of soldiering (she says she was a “gunner”) and her post-military life. She met her husband in Egypt – he was in the British army, too. Soon after they were married, he contracted polio and was invalided out of the service and sent to Kenya where he worked for the colonial government. Felix tells this story hoping we’ll understand that colonization had its positive aspects and was the order of the day. She has riveting memories of being alone with her baby Diana when her husband had to travel. It was during the beginning days of Mau-Mau and Felix was unsure of the loyalty of the native “boy” who was stationed on her porch to protect her. They were all too happy to return home. Their next baby, Fiona, was born two years after Diana in a much more settled time and place.

Hazel Wood, Felix’ fellow-enlistee was born in Scotland, too. She told us that every Scottish child is handed a golf club practically at birth and expected to play the national sport even when the wind is so strong that it blows the ball off the tee. Your editor trotted out her only golfing story – about attending Sunday School in Columbus, Ohio, with young Jack Nicklaus - and was amazed to find out that Jack is a national hero to the Scots. That Jack (then known as “Jackie”) played with a yo-yo during Sunday School was fascinating to Hazel and Felix and they said they’d be sure to tell that story when they got home! By the way, Hazel applied herself diligently in the Army and ended up with a significant rank while fighting in Italy. She later worked in the travel business and has an adventuresome bent. Recently she sold her vacation home in a French village only to turn around and purchase a flat in Paris. She said she is living up to her father’s adage that there’s no fool like an old fool.

Foolish they are not! These two women are so sharp - and warm and engaged. They seemed so interested in us and our neighborhood that it would have been difficult for a spectator to ascertain who was interviewing whom. They asked us about our new library and our schools. We asked them about their trip to visit Napa wineries with Fiona and her husband Robin Edwards who live in the East Highlands. As Felix explained, she and Hazel have to drink wine to keep their “tickers” strong. Their stiff-upper-lips can become quite pliable when they’re busy working on the strength of their tickers. They have a whole category of wine-drinking words they’ve coined to describe how much more they’d like poured in their glasses. We’re not sure just how much difference there is between a “sippikens” and a “dippikens,” but we’re sure we’ve found good models for how we’d like to be when we grow up!

Click here for photos of Felix and Hazel.

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One Eastside Boy’s Life

Survives gang beatings, enters Bellarmine and SCU, founds non-profit

By Enrique S. Flores

“I’ll take that one,” I said to my friend, while standing in front of the supermarket.

I was referring to a car that was pulling into the parking lot. As I walked over to the vehicle holding my spray bottle and a crumbled up newspaper page, I asked: “Can I wash your window sir?” (As I sprayed his front windshield, knowing it was harder for people to say no once I already started cleaning).

Newspaper pages are really good at cleaning windows, especially when I didn’t own a fancy squeegee.

I was 11 years old when I began earning nickels, dimes, and sometimes quarters at the local supermarket parking lot on Story and King roads. Me and my neighbor friend would ride our bikes to the corn dog place and buy some chili-cheese fries using 99 cent coupons that came over the mail.

I remember wondering if my mom’s car would start on cold winter mornings, so that I wouldn’t have to walk in the cold rain. Or wondering if the tires were slashed or the windows broken? Even though the Alum Rock schools I attended: Mayfair preschool, Dorsa Elementary, Fischer Middle, and Lee Mathson Middle Schools, were all located less than a 15 minute walk away, I was afraid of the older gang members who also “went to their school” in the morning. They drove in carloads. I was in 6th grade the first time I got chased into a liquor store by a carload while walking to school in the morning. I was in 5th grade when I saw my eighth-grade brother get jumped while he walked to Fisher Middle School after dropping me off at Dorsa. And I also saw my older brother come home, at age 16, with his light blue jeans stained with blood after getting stabbed in his thigh.

School was fun. I remember being a “goldee” during soccer games and lots of field trips during elementary school. I remember hating sports during middle school because none of the “captains” would pick me to be on their team. I remember the teachers always being nice to me. One math teacher at Lee Mathson gave me an extra book to keep at home, because I told her I almost lost my book while jumping over fences trying to avoid street-gang predators.

I am a product of Alum Rock School District. From preschool to 8th grade. 8th grade graduation is a big day. My 8th grade graduation day was most memorable! Why? Because I went to the graduation ceremony, with a black eye, a swollen nose, and two stab wounds.

To summarize the rest of my education path, I was granted entrance into Bellarmine College Prep, where for the first time in my life I felt safe. Where for the first time in my life I received 3-5 hours of homework per night, instead of the 20 minutes of assigned homework I was accustomed to. Without a doubt in my mind, being at Bellarmine as a high school student is what kept me away from juvenile hall, even though I still had to come home to my “Story and King” neighborhood, which was a literal war zone. At Bellarmine I learned to be a student; I learned to interact with diverse races; and I learned to appreciate a peaceful setting where I developed my spirituality. In truth, Bellarmine College Preparatory saved my life.

After graduating from Bellarmine (without a scratch), I attended Santa Clara University, (majored in Sociology) and came back to Bellarmine in 2001 to work in Admissions as the Outreach Director. I decided to face my past, and go back to Alum Rock. I told as many 8th graders as would listen that the Bellarmine Community helped me become the first person in my entire family-tree to graduate from a 4-year university. That first year, thirteen 8th grade applicants from Alum Rock school district got accepted into Bellarmine. Ten of those original 13 freshmen will be graduating this spring from Bellarmine College Preparatory! - two from Lee Mathson, two from Ocala, one from Pala, one from Sheppard, and four from Fischer middle schools. It brings so much joy to my heart, when I report that there are currently a total of 25 Alum Rock students (9th-12th graders) enrolled at Bellarmine College Prep.

Click here for photos of Enrique.

NNV Note: Enrique Flores is no longer in the Admissions office at Bellarmine College Preparatory, but is the Founder and President of a new non-profit called “East Side Heroes.” This year, East Side Heroes will be honoring the 10 “Alum Rock East Siders” who will be graduating this spring, during the 3rd Annual East Side Heroes Scholarship Fundraiser Dinner, (held this year at Bellarmine College Preparatory, 960 W. Hedding St., San Jose, CA 95126) on Friday, April 21, 2006. You can now RSVP ($150 per person) at or make donations payable directly to East Side Heroes, PO Box 1164, San Jose, CA. 95052 Tax ID# 76-0774783. If you would like to purchase a copy of Enrique S. Flores’ autobiographical book entitled From East Side San Jose, to Santa Clara University, and Back!, ($20 per copy), email:

Enrique might find quite a different atmosphere at Mathson Middle School these days. Click here to check out NNV’s recent story about Mathson’s turnaround and Principal Glenn Vander Zee.

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NNV Briefs

bulletPutting My Shadows Away For The New Year - A poem by Lara Gularte
bulletRichard Brown’s Alum Rock Park Holiday - Red-tails soaring high by Richard Brown
bulletBirds and Volunteers Defy the Rain for the Annual Christmas Bird Count by Lark Burkhart
bulletLick High School Gets Waaaay More Than Expected On Athletic Fields - Less for other needs
bulletOn Alum Rock Avenue: Village Gets Bannered! Look up! The Village gets signature signage
bulletAlum Rock Village Honored Big Time - Village Business Association cited by City of San Jose
bulletCommunity Wildfire Protection Plan for East Foothills - You’re invited to participate
bulletBig Payoff on Home Remodeling - Update will pay for itself in $$ and pleasure by Eileen Parks
bulletDog Park for East San Jose? Yesssssss! Hot dog! City/County venture for Eastside lucky pups
bulletReady For Lots of Romance(s)? Friends of Library Group has “Bodice Rippers” for V. Day
bulletOrganized Fleming Avenue Neighbors Delay Ill-Conceived Construction
bullet48Hour Film Challenge – Neighborhood producer confers with Paris-ites by Robin Edwards
bulletFuture Culinary Giants Learn Craft on Easthills Drive - Job Corps program turns lives around
bulletSet on Engineering Career? Society of Women Engineers offers scholarships by Edie Pricolo
bulletRenaissance Academy Tech Show Open to the Community - Unique ARUESD treasure
bulletEast Valley Art League Welcomes New Members - Meetings held at Foothill Presbyterian

Putting My Shadows Away For The New Year

A poem by Lara Gularte

This is the season of icons and false pregnancies.
At midnight I wake to moaning eaves,
the neighbors barking dog.
The north wind snipes at my window,
dead relatives in black and white photographs,
stare at me from the walls.
On my nightstand,
last night’s glass of curdled eggnog,
a dead poinsettia wrapped in green foil.

I gather last year’s shadows,
pictures of friends who died,
unpaid bills,
and my lost cat’s collar.
I find pieces of broken jewelry,
missing buttons from a coat I never liked,
the registration from a car I no longer own.
I put everything in a cardboard box,
bury it all under old clothes and shoes.

At the bottom of the cedar chest
I find my 35mm camera
with unused film,
travel brochures to Brazil,
and journals with blank pages.
Buried under my grandmother’s lace tablecloth,
letters from a man I tried to forget,
$100.00 stuffed in a wool sock.

On New Year’s Day,
I bless the last bottle of brandy,
the turkey soup on the stove,
and the dog next door,
who has stopped barking.

NNV Note: Lara Gularte’s poetry has been published widely including work which was translated into Portuguese by the University of the Azores. She’s a Lick High School graduate and a graduate student in the MFA Creative Writing Program at San Jose State. She now lives in Magalia where she works as a Tutor/TA of English for Butte County Community College at the Center for Academic Success and doing private tutoring on the side. She says she is working with others to set up programs for the youth who live isolated in the mountains. Click here to see scenes from Lara’s mountain surroundings.

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Richard Brown’s Alum Rock Park Holiday

Red-tails soaring high – ubiquitous TVs

By Richard Brown

I don't miss the snow on Christmas the way I used to. For a long time after my arrival from Minnesota, this special holiday just wasn't the same without the white stuff on the ground. But after all these years, I seem to have become California adapted. And there is nothing like the multi-faceted beauty of Alum Rock Park to assuage one's soul.

Sue and I were in the park Christmas morning before breakfast and it was perfectly still, fresh and damp after the rain.  The humid air promised more rain and sounds carried through the park so we could hear all the little critters. Perfume from the fallen leaves and damp wood with fluorescent green mosses everywhere. Snowy egret in the creek, red-tailed hawk on his favorite rock, juncos on the ground and, in the trees and bushes, flocks of towhees, grosbeaks, chickadees, black phoebes, mockingbirds, woodpeckers, finches and thrushes, all contributing to the chorus on a peaceful Christmas morn. The mood changes in the afternoon when the families come to visit. With that in mind, I committed Chicago at Green Bay to disk. Nothing quite warms the cockles of a football fan like HD on a 10' screen. Hoowha! Merry Christmas!

Sue's brother Jack and his wife Ramona were visiting from the LA area. Jack is a nature lover and avid bird photographer. They stayed over that night so we were really hoping for some special activity in the park the morning after Christmas. Jack takes almost daily walks with his camera through the bird sanctuary near his home and we were looking forward to providing him with a fresh environment. But being limited in time, we did not want to venture far. As it happened, we encountered many species while approaching the park and spent the entire time within the first 100 yards of the park entrance. Only a fraction of sightings will result in shots worth preserving but Jack managed several that day. We couldn't have asked for better.

Sue and I were in the park birding again on Sunday. This was the first time out with her new binoculars from her birthday last week. A quiet day as birds go, a few red-tails soaring high among the ubiquitous TVs* and of course, the jays and a sprinkling of others but nothing really remarkable.

While returning from Inspiration Point on the trail past the town homes, I was considering Sue's remark about not seeing anything exciting and wondering if we were becoming so jaded when only moments later, we were buzzed by a hawk. Was this fellow listening in? I suppose I should have expected him since I had just put my camera away. This was followed shortly after by a close-up serious aerial combat between two of these great birds. We should know by now, the park is always ready with a surprise when you're least expecting it.

* Hill dwellers’ name for the innumerable, scavenging turkey vultures which sail around the foothill skies.

Click here for photos.

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Birds and Volunteers Defy the Rain for the Annual Christmas Bird Count

Birders not cowed by bovine on trails

By Lark Burkhart, Public Information Specialist, Open Space Authority

On Sunday, December 18, a small band of hardy volunteers braved the worst weather any of them could remember to conduct a bird count along Santa Clara County Open Space Authority’s Boccardo Trail in the east foothills. The elevation at the trail’s highest point is 1,896 feet, high enough that blasting winds drove the heavy rain sideways. At times it grew so dark one volunteer joked he hadn’t thought they’d be counting birds at night.

Despite the terrible conditions, participants say they had a good — if wet and muddy — time and were successful in identifying and counting 146 birds representing 16 species. (The count is included below.) And cows that graze the property as part of OSA’s range management program were out to watch the people who were watching birds.

The Christmas bird count is a tradition dating back more than 100 years to a time when some folks celebrated the holiday by going into the field to shoot as many birds and small animals as they could. Frank Chapman, a scientist and writer, changed that in 1900 when he and several dozen conservationists staged the first bird count.

And that is why, in 2005, a handful of outdoor enthusiasts were out in the foothills north of Alum Rock Park with sleet in their faces and rain in their boots to count the birds and appreciate the vistas and natural beauty of this nearby open space.

The 2005 Boccardo Bird Count:

2 Mallard Ducks
8 California Quails
1 Cooper's Hawk
10 Red Tail Hawks
2 American Kestrels
1 Anna's Hummingbird
7 Steller's Jays
10 Western Scrub Jays
9 Yellow-Billed Magpies
30 Western Meadow Larks
2 Oak Titmice
1 American Robin
10 California Tohees
21 White-Throated Sparrows
2 Dark-Eyed Juncos
30 Brown-Headed Cowbirds

Details of the bird count provided by Cait Hutnik. For more information about the Boccardo Trail or Santa Clara County Open Space Authority, visit the OSA website at

Click here for photos from this excursion (and to see the bovine in the headline).

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Lick High School Gets Waaaay More Than Expected On Athletic Fields

Leaving less to spend on other needs

Many NNV readers have had their curiosity really, really piqued by the enormous posts being erected behind our neighborhood high school. As we reported earlier, the school was due for a new football stadium and soccer field which were to be paid for by Measure G funds. But, did anyone expect to see a forest of fifty foot tall metal posts spring up this winter? Well, hardly!

Principal Bill Rice had explained earlier that the original stadium plan was sort of serendipitously augmented when it was pointed out that “while we’re working on the stadium/field we might as well redo the baseball diamond, right?” This sounded like a nifty idea and it seemed eminently logical to address the old baseball facilities, “while they’re at it.”

Well, according to Mr. Rice, no one was more surprised than he to see those radical posts being installed. He wondered right along with the rest of us, “What the heck’s going on here!?” They’re not for lights, he was assured. There will not be any stadium or baseball field lighting unless – or until – another bond is passed in the future. So, what could they be?

Would you believe that safety concerns dictate a really tall, really expensive net to keep errant baseballs from dropping onto spectators or users of the football stadium or soccer field? Well, perhaps that’s understandable, but isn’t it a wee bit of overkill to make that net give-or-take fifty feet high? As Bill says, “If any high school athlete could hit a ball that high, he would immediately be signed by the majors!”

The other row of not-quite-so-tall poles which parallel the fence along Alum Rock Avenue are to support the backstop fence. These were expected.

So, doesn’t it cost an awful lot to put in this elaborate safety net? Well, ye-us! As a matter of fact, expenses have doubled and are so high that there may be no funds left to make the girls’ worn-out softball field usable. Another unexpected expense will be for a special fence behind the stadium needed to keep fans in the bleachers from looking down into neighboring backyards along the west fence – or throwing stuff into said backyards. Already, the stadium was moved cater-corner from its old location in order to keep folks happy.

The new facilities will be excellent, we’re happy to report. The playing surface for football and soccer will be state-of-the-art artificial turf which is expensive, but much more economical in the long run than trying to maintain natural sod over the years. The running track around the field will be asphalt with a special resilient surface. Top drawer stuff.

However, because the project has been made to conform with some pretty formidable and pricey standards dictated by the State Department of Architecture, some other planned (and budgeted for, they thought) projects simply won’t happen. The boys and girls locker rooms were to be rebuilt – including moving walls and creating restrooms which would be accessible to swimmers at the Lick pool without their having to traipse through the locker rooms to get to them. This won’t happen. There are going to be brand-new gym lockers, but they’ll be installed in the old, but “redecorated” locker rooms (think: new paint).

NNV surmises this is just another example of the tail wagging the dog. A perfectly reasonable and desirable project has been hijacked by bureaucrats. Your tax dollars, which you generously voted to be used to improve facilities for our young people, are being spent to over-engineer and liability-proof a schoolyard. What a pity.

Click here for tall photos.

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On the Avenue – Alum Rock Avenue

Village Gets Bannered!

Look up! The Village finally gets some signature signage

Christmas was special for Alum Rock Village. Early in December, workmen in a cherry picker installed eight brand spanking new Village banners high up on the light poles in the middle of the median islands. Not to be outdone by Little Portugal or Japan Town, the Village’s banners depict two scenes which characterize the block.

The designs by Redevelopment Agency Graphic Designer, Paul Asper, are based on a piece of the façade of the Village’s new library and the rolling foothills which form the majestic backdrop for the Eastside. The project is a collaboration between the Alum Rock Village Business Association and San Jose’s Redevelopment Agency. “The Association wanted the banners to reflect its rich history, hills setting and the rebirth of the area,” according to RDA’s Andrew Mendoza, who is working with Village businesses to build a strong, effective coalition.

Click here for photos of the banners.

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Alum Rock Village Honored Big Time

Village Business Association cited by the City of San Jose

Not only did the Village get nifty new banners for Christmas, but its business association won the coveted “Good Neighborhood – Pride of San Jose Award” for Council District 5. The member businesses bracket the corner of Alum Rock Avenue and White Road and extend to Manning and Millar Avenues on the east. The Cruz/Alum Rock Library and Lick High School are also involved.

ARVBA will receive this honor at the Mayor’s State of the City address on Wednesday, February 8th at 5:00 PM in the rotunda of the new San Jose City Hall. Tickets to the event are necessary – and may have been snapped up by this time (information or complimentary tickets available via or (408) 554-2972).

It would be a neighborly thing to do to stop and patronize these businesses and congratulate them for working hard to make the Village a fun and charming “destination” place.

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Community Wildfire Protection Plan for East Foothills

We are a Community at Risk!

You’re invited to participate. Want to know more?

The Santa Clara County FireSafe Council has recently been selected for a $26,100 federal grant to develop Community Wildfire Protection Plans for Communities at Risk from wildfires in Santa Clara County. They plan to use part of this grant for the East Foothills area east of San Jose. Most of this area is unincorporated and the San Jose Fire Department is responsible for fire protection in these unincorporated areas under contract to Santa Clara County. They are supported by the CDF (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection) in these Wildland Urban Interface areas.

Developing a Community Wildfire Protection Plan involves identifying fire prone areas and prioritizing appropriate measures, such as limbing trees and removing underbrush, to reduce the wildfire risk. A Community Wildfire Protection Plan also includes recommendations for homeowners to reduce the fire risk around their homes.

This grant is just for a study project – it does not include any actual work to reduce the risk of fire and will not require any property owners to do anything. The resulting plan will be used to organize work we foothill residents can do ourselves, such as the Crothers Road Fire Break, and to apply for future grants for larger projects. Assuming that this grant is funded, the Council expects to receive the first part of the federal funding soon.

If you would like to be involved in this study, or just know more about it, please contact Allan Thompson at or call (408) 272-7008.

Another Way You Can Participate
The federal grant for this study is from the Bureau of Land Management, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the grant will be administered by the California Fire Safe Council. Local matching funding is needed for the federal grant. Pacific Gas and Electric Company, San Jose Water Company and some individuals have already contributed $8,500 to the project. More matching funding is needed and grants and donations are appreciated. Please contact Allan if you’d like to help fund this work or make a donation to the Santa Clara County FireSafe Council.

Communities at Risk
East Foothills is just one of the 14 Communities at Risk from wildfires in Santa Clara County. The others are Cupertino, Gilroy, Lexington Hills, Los Altos Hills, Los Gatos, Milpitas, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill, Palo Alto, San Jose, San Martin, Saratoga and Stanford. The list of Communities at Risk is maintained by the California Fire Alliance. Their Web site also has more information on Community Wildfire Protection Plans.

Santa Clara County FireSafe Council
The Santa Clara County FireSafe Council is a non-profit organization whose participants include most of the fire departments in the County as well as local government departments, open space authorities, companies, homeowners associations and individuals. Click here to see SCFSC and some of the participating organizations at the YSI Wildlife Festival in Alum Rock Park.

Click here for the Santa Clara County FireSafe Council Web site. Click here for the California Fire Safe Council Web site.

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Big Payoff on Home Remodeling

Your update will pay for itself in $$ and pleasure

By Eileen Parks, Broker Associate, Windermere, Silicon Valley Properties

With real estate prices going through the roof the last few years, lots of people have turned to remodeling the old place and staying put. People ask me all the time about remodeling and how much of a difference it will make on resale. “If I do this, will I get my money out? Will it improve the value of my home?” I’d like to share an interesting article from Remodeling magazine, which has been doing a “Cost vs. Value” report for the past 19 years. Eighteen different projects were reviewed in 58 different markets across the country. It really comes as no surprise that the same four projects have been at the top of the heap for the past several years; kitchens and baths, windows and, in the west, decks. Looking specifically at the average cost recouped in those types of projects, the return was between 92 and 112%.

If you have ever even considered a kitchen or bath remodel, you know that products available can be attractive and functional, or they can be upscale and priced out of sight. The study shows that a minor kitchen remodel will return 112.3% on resale; a mid-range major remodel, 100% of the cost, while an upscale major remodel will return 92.9%. The numbers fall in the same range with baths, only the return is even higher for all categories.

According to the study, in the west, adding a deck will bring back your entire investment. The average cost recouped on window replacement was at 102%.

Be aware, that in areas where most homes have been updated, not doing the remodel can have a negative effect on the eventual resale price, as well as the time it takes to sell. Select your projects carefully and spend wisely, but remember, in the long run, the most important reason to remodel is to enjoy it.

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Dog Park for East San Jose? Yesssssss!

Hot dog! City/County venture will cater to Eastsiders and their lucky pups

If all goes well, we Eastside dwellers and our canine friends will have a bone-a-fido dog park at our disposal within twelve months or so. We’ve all been hearing murmurs for years about the possibility of such a park in the Penitencia Creek Road/Capitol Avenue area, but no promises ever were made. Now, it seems our dreams will become reality.

Evelyn Velez of the City’s Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Service Department’s Community Facilities Development Division, tells us that her department made a presentation to the Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation Commission in November. The County approved the plan and the City is now in the process of developing a lease agreement with the County. The very best part? “We have the money!” says Ms. Velez.

“The lease will take several months because it has to be approved by the City Council first and then the County Board of Supervisors,” Ms. Velez explained. “The next step is to get environmental clearance to use the land for a dog park, prepare the design and hire the contractor.” A lease with the East Side Union High School District will also need to be arranged for use of its nearby parking lot.

Neighbor Milli Wright attended District 4 City Councilmember, Chuck Reed’s, Conference on Priorities on January 21st at the Berryessa Community Center. The Penitencia Creek Dog Park was an agenda item. Milli says that the meeting was very well attended and that many of the attendees were interested in knowing more about the park.

She reports that the plans which were discussed and shown reveal a “beautiful facility” which is to include some artificial turf and some natural turf in separate areas designated for small and large dogs. Milli points out that, unlike other sorts of parks, dog parks have very low maintenance costs because the users pick up after themselves and their dogs. She mentioned her concern that the current plan for users of the new park to share the ESUHSD parking lot could be problematic. Maybe the positioning of the dog area within the greater 15 acre park will need to be reconsidered and other parking arrangements made?

Click here for an illustration of the proposed dog park (PDF file).

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Ready For Lots of Romance(s)? Fast Friends Group Wants to Get Cozy

Sweets and Tea and “Bodice Rippers” will rev up your libido just in time for V. Day

Well, who woulda thunk that you could get it on at the library? That’s just what the Friends of the Cruz/Alum Rock Library want you to do on Sunday, February 12th from 2:00 to 3:30 PM when they plan to steam up the windows with their entire collection of romance novels – you know the kind, “Bodice Rippers” with ravishing (but pure) damsels on the cover. They want you to take home a bunch to light your fire in time for Tuesday, Valentines Day, and they want to make you an offer you can’t possibly refuse. Who would want to turn down a 5 for $1 deal? That’s five incendiary aphrodisiacal novels for one lousy buck!

The Friends of C.A.R.L. have amassed their romance collection for you and are getting out their best cookie recipes and polishing their tea pots for this “adults only” tea party. (Leave your kids in the children’s section – they eat way too many cookies!) Be there if you dare.

Click here for a related photo.

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Organized Fleming Avenue Neighbors Delay Ill-Conceived Construction

Len and Julie Ramirez lead the fight to protect neighborhood way-of-life

Never underestimate what a passionate group of citizens can do if they get organized, build alliances and push the right buttons!

When developers, Braddock & Logan Group, wanted to build 18 new homes on the 2.5 acre Korean Baptist church property on Fleming Avenue, Len and Julie Ramirez and their neighbors figured that was the last straw! A bunch of serious traffic accidents have occurred on Fleming during the last year. The street was not designed for the traffic which it carries and mayhem is a frequent result. Their neighborhood surely didn’t need a whole bunch more traffic entering an already-hazardous intersection. Fleming suffers from a large influx of cars originating at a previous new B&LG “built-to-the-hilt” home construction project in the Warner Heights area south of Story Road – and it certainly doesn’t need more.

They tapped all the resources they could think of and made strong community alliances wherever they could. Len and Julie started an excellent blog to keep the community involved and informed. And, when push came to shove, the developers (who were unwilling to reduce the number of homes planned for the Korean church property) got a good shove and a taste of their own hard-ball tactics. The project is essentially back on the drawing boards and delayed for several months. The Fleming neighbors hope this will be such an expensive delay that the project will be vastly reduced – or shelved.

Click here for photos of the results of recent crashes on Fleming. In one of them a San Jose policeman was seriously injured by a hit-and-run driver. Also see the neighborhood blog and the NNV Letters page for letters from Len and Julie. These determined folks are excellent models for other “Davids” fighting Goliath (or City Hall)!

Click here for photos.

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48Hour Film Challenge – Next Reel

Neighborhood film producer confers with Paris-ites

By Robin Edwards

Alum Rock Film Fans, what happened next after the San Francisco 48hour film challenge?

It wasn’t springtime in Paris, it was now November, and I needed my sunglasses. Claus Drexler was nowhere to be seen, he was supposed to be here at the café and dipping into his second beer by now. I placed my Alum Rock Film DVD on the table like an oversized drink coaster along with my umbrella, and vowed to pay even less attention to French weather forecasts than those at home in San Jose.

That week was the premier of the Paris 48hour Film Festival. Claus and I had been planning and plotting over the Internet for just this meeting. This was our chance to meet like-minds from opposite sides of “the pond” both crazy enough to make short movies on subjects drawn from a hat, scripted, directed, and produced in just 48 hours. Fifty other teams of crazies would discover the winner that Tuesday, and who would be going on to the Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose, to represent Paris in 2006.

Sundance, Cannes, Nice, Toronto, Aspen, and Cinequest in San Jose, CA

Film festivals, a week of total immersion and escapism. It may be rainy and cold outside, but in the theater the sands of the Sahara are blowing, or the Paris springtime lovers are strolling. Cinequest returns again to downtown San Jose this March (1st through the 12th)

Abruptly, a motorcycle helmet plunked down on my table and the 6’2” German shook hands vigorously, and looked for an ashtray and a light at the same time. Claus wanted to know “what are the films like at Cinequest?”

“There are funny films, foreign films, long ones, short ones, good ones, and great ones, the choices are difficult because there is just so much to see,” I told him. The film listings read like a course listing at a small college, and plotting your way through them to see “the best” is just the first challenge.

Film DVD’s were traded, horror tales exchanged. Claus said, “My camera man didn't show up, the editor did not cut the movie short enough to qualify, and I worked 46 of the 48 hours without sleep.” He didn’t care, he explained; he and his family have made a movie of great quality together. And, they are happy and still talking. Now that’s a success!

We traded promises that next year would be “better and more organized,” and too soon it was time for my next café meeting with “Violina” in another part of the city. We could have gone on talking for hours; it’s amazing how a shared experience like the stress of the contest can create such a bond. I headed out on foot for Luxembourg Gardens.

Alum Rock Park is a long way from Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, but there are similarities too. Maybe you are seeking a breath of fresh air, a stretch of the legs, or just “bird-watching.” A clear day brings everyone out in force. Whoever wins the Paris Film contest will be walking in our own Alum Rock Park and maybe filming it too. I wonder what they’ll think.

To be continued:

Next,meeting a feminist team” and “the prize for best film goes to ...,” followed by “Yes, there are VIP passes, but are we really VIP’s?”

Click here for Robin's photos.

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Future Culinary Giants Learn Their Craft on Easthills Drive

Job Corps program turns “destructive” young lives around

An article in the Sunday, January 22, San Jose Mercury News (Page 1B) featured the chef-teacher at the Culinary Arts Program at the San Jose Job Corps Center on Easthills Drive. The story, written by Joe Rodriguez in an “east side/west side” piece, tells about “Chef Maurice” and the young people he is encouraging to be entrepreneurs who know “the art, the skills and the economics of cooking.”

NNV had the pleasure of being the guest of neighbor Bud LoMonaco a couple of years ago at a Kiwanis Club luncheon held at the Jops Corps Center and catered by Chef Maurice and his students. The lunch was superb and we’ve meant to write about the program ever since. Well the Merc has beaten us to it and Joe Rodriguez has written a most readable and totally fascinating story about this unusual neighborhood resource. It’s something we Eastsiders should know about and be very proud of.

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Is Your Student Set on an Engineering Career?

Society of Women Engineers offers scholarship help

By Edie Pricolo

The Society of Women Engineers - Santa Clara Valley Section (SWE-SCV) is pleased to announce its "Year 2006 Scholarship Program." Each year our Section awards scholarships to graduating local high school Seniors/Undergraduates/Graduates who are pursuing a degree in engineering.

In 2005, the SWE-SCV awarded 16 scholarships, ten to high school students and six to college students. With the generous contribution from our membership, the executive committee which generates funds for an entire scholarship, and the following companies: EFI (Electronics for Imaging), Lockheed Martin, National Semiconductor and Land's End.

Applications will be judged by a committee of engineers from the SWE-SCV who represent different fields of engineering. Applications will be evaluated based on academic achievement, references, extracurricular activities, and a personal essay.

Please note that copies of the application forms may be obtained from the Section website and can be reproduced at your school.

Deadline for applications: Postmarked 15 April 2006.

Recipients of SWE-SCV Scholarships will receive their awards at our annual scholarship banquet in late spring 2006. If you have questions about the scholarship program, please email Archana Appanna at She is the SWE SCV VP Career Guidance and Scholarship Chair FY06.

Outreach to Younger Students
For news important to younger children and their families, we have another program scheduled for the coming spring. Because of my work with the GetSET program for SWE, I have been asked to spread the word here in our Alum Rock Community about the Discover "E" outreach program that will be taking place here in the valley under the coordination of our Silicon Valley Engineering Council. If any of you can pass this on to more people, especially teachers at any level, elementary, middle or high school, it will be really great!

The Discover "E" outreach program has been a part of the activities for National Engineers Week for more than 15 years. This program matches up engineers with teachers who have requested that an engineer come to speak to their class(es). The presentations may take place during EWeek or at any time agreed upon with the teacher.

Locally, this effort is coordinated by the Silicon Valley Engineering Council (SVEC). Approximately 350 local teachers have requested classroom presentations, so this is a huge undertaking with significant impact. As the lead organization for EWeek this year, SWE is making an extra effort to encourage our members to participate in Discover"E," and the SVEC is counting on us to fill many of the teacher requests. This all ties in with the national EWeek program "Connecting Educators to Engineering."

You and/or the teachers can learn more about Discover "E" on the SVEC website: or by contacting If they are interested in having an engineer come speak to their class, they should complete and submit the request form located at

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Renaissance Academy Tech Show Open to the Community

Here’s an opportunity to find out more about a unique ARUESD treasure

Renaissance Academy, a “Small School of Choice” is a middle school located on part of the campus at Joseph George Middle School on Mahoney Drive. Its students (two cohorts of sixth graders and four cohorts of seventh graders) learn character building principles in small-sized classes, in an atmosphere of consistency where high expectations don’t change. The small staff (ten teachers including lead educator, Nancy Gutierrez) teaches the 168 students using a philosophy based on depth rather than breadth of learning.

On the evening of Thursday, March 2nd, the community is invited to attend the school’s “Tech Show” where the students will show their mastery of scientific and technical concepts. According to a Renaissance seventh grader, some of the students tackle such esoteric challenges as building (and understanding, of course) DNA models. The show will no doubt wow the socks off old codgers such as your editor who remember junior high school science from before the “Age of Technology.” Come along and get wowed by the enthusiastic and talented students of Renaissance! The event will be held at 6:00 PM in the cafeteria.

Click here for photos of Renaissance Academy.

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East Valley Art League Welcomes New Members

Meetings are held at Foothill Presbyterian Church

Local artists working in either two-dimensional or three-dimensional media are welcome to join the East Valley Art League. Their meetings usually consist of an art demonstration preceded by a business meeting and social break. They organize shows throughout the year as well as other activities such as plein air painting.

Their meetings are held on the third Thursday of every month at 7:30 PM, (that will be February 16th this month) at Foothill Presbyterian Church, 5301 McKee Road. For more information, call Sally Holt at (408) 926-4338. Click here for a watercolor by Sally.

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So, What Did You Do Over the Holidays?

Volunteers gave up their holiday to hammer, saw, scrub and reorganize YSI Thrift

Gleaming Alum Rock Village shop beckons

It took seventeen days. Seventeen of the most precious days of the year – days that every woman hoards in order to do a bang-up job creating “the holidays” for her family. But not this year. Rather than searching their eyes out for just the right gift for every grandchild, rather than preparing a feast a la Julia Child, this year the volunteers of our neighborhood’s most unique shopping bazaar, the YSI Thrift & Gift store, threw all their energies into a grand renovation and reorganization of the storefront shop at 3151 Alum Rock Avenue.

It was no small task. They worked every day except Christmas itself. It took an enormous amount of planning on the part of volunteer Karen Tatro who took on the role of Master Planner/Project Manager. Scores of YSI volunteers held massive sales in the store right up to the week before Christmas. To clear the deck for the coming maelstrom of activity, the volunteers made sure as much merchandise as possible went out the doors with holiday shoppers. Every square inch of the sales room was set for a makeover – the floor, the ceiling and every point in between.

Deep new wall shelves were installed along the west wall. Bright new fluorescent light fixtures replaced the dismal relics of old. Karen says that the lighting is truly a “win-win-win” because, working with PG&E and the PUC, they were able to get the new lighting at the lowest possible cost and their utility costs will go way down.

The check-out area has been enlarged significantly and moved from the front window to a more central location. The terrific window displays (which often rival chic Paris shops) can now symmetrically frame the front doors. Chic-and-tidy newly polished tile and cleaned carpeting on the floor and new richly colored paint on the back wall set off the clean new white side walls. There’s now plenty of space to display the large collection of for-sale prints and paintings. There’s newfound space to maneuver easily between the racks upon racks of lightly used clothing – which ranges from baby frocks to vintage couture.

“You couldn’t have paid me to do this!” Karen pointed out to the assemblage at the Grand Reopening and Volunteer Celebration held on Friday evening, January 6th. She acknowledged the complicated logistics and said she reckoned that it would have been impossible to hire the work done by professionals. They could never have gotten the countless loose ends nailed down in such a short period of time, she said.

YSI’s Executive Director Susanne Mulcahy, who was the first to volunteer for Karen’s renovation committee, had high praise for Karen’s organizational skills. “She was able to bring about the rare accomplishment of completing the project, on time and under budget!” said Susanne to much enthusiastic cheering and applause.

“The YSI ladies” (actually the members of the Guild of the Youth Science Institute include not just women, but a handful of men as well) didn’t do it alone. Many husbands and other family members offered their services – or were pressed into good-natured duty. Everyone threw dignity to the wind and got down and dirty scrubbing and polishing, dusting, packing and unpacking, sorting and arranging. More than one elegant manicure was sacrificed for the cause.

What is the cause? The thrift shop brings in about 10% (about $100,000 annually) of the budget of the Youth Science Institute. About ten years ago, the shop replaced other varied fundraising activities which the members of the guild used to tackle. Local folks (you and your neighbors) donate cast-offs to the thrift shop and take a tax deduction. The volunteers keep the racks filled with the ever-changing assortment of merchandise. Local folks (again you and your neighbors) come to the shop looking for a “new” lamp for the kids’ room or a Halloween costume or some inexpensive books or glassware. Or just about anything, actually. You can even find electronic goods – all working, of course, thanks to volunteer repair people. On January 6th you could even have bought a working telephone disguised as a mallard decoy!

What is the Youth Science Institute? YSI is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide hands-on life, earth, physical and social science programs for the children of the Santa Clara Valley. Their three nature centers are in Alum Rock, Vasona and Sanborn Parks. Drop by (and patronize) the thrift shop. Drop by the nature center in Alum Rock Park and feast your eyes on live native animals – hawks, owls, snakes and small mammals. For Thrift Shop information, call (408) 272-1301. To reach the Alum Rock Park Nature Center call (408) 258-4322. To learn more about YSI visit

Click here for photos of the new YSI Thrift.

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You Dig It?

Area gardeners, both "Master" and casual, share their wisdom and experiences with Eastside gardening and related topics here.

February Hot Topics

By University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Bracey Tiede

Call the Master Gardener Hotline at (408) 282-3105 with your gardening questions or check out our website at

Planting Bare Root: There are still bare root roses, berries and trees available in the nurseries. The bare roots of these plants need to soak from one hour to overnight (large plants) in a bucket of water before planting. Trim roots of broken, dead or spongy bits and carefully pull the roots apart. Dig a hole that is fairly shallow and wide. You want to spread the roots out sideways and have the crown (where trunk and roots meet) of the plant several inches above the soil level. This is necessary as the tree or shrub will 'settle' over time. Water in well and wait to fertilize until you see new shoots growing. Be sure to water regularly if the rains are sparse. An inexpensive moisture meter from the nursery is very handy to check soil moisture.

Pruning Fuchsias: The second half of February is the time to prune fuchsias. There may be frost damage so prune that out. Also take off most of last summer's growth but leave two or three healthy leaf buds. As the plant grows during the spring and summer, it tends to get leggy. Frequently pinch the tips of the branches as this will force side growth, making the plant fuller. Remove faded flowers to encourage new bloom. Visit the American Fuchsia Society's website ( for more plant information.

Frost Protection: Frosts kill tender plants so protection is a good idea on those cold winter nights. Place stakes around tender plants and cover with clear plastic or fabric such as a sheet or old drapery. Don't let the plastic touch the foliage. Wrap larger plants with strings of small Christmas tree lights and cover with a sheet. Turn the lights on at night. If plants are potted, then move them to a sheltered area such as a porch, under the eaves on the south side of the house or even under a tree. Be sure to uncover them during the day. Moving them indoors to a cool room would be good if possible. Don't prune frost damage on a plant until new growth starts in spring. The dead material helps protect the plant from further damage. One additional step would be to take cuttings of favorite tender plants to grow in a protected area just in case we have a hard frost that does kill the plant.

Pruning Hydrangeas and Spring Flowering Shrubs: Remove old brittle canes on hydrangeas. Leave young canes with flower buds attached. More information about hydrangeas can be found at Wait to prune camellias, forsythia, lilac, quince and other ornamental spring flowering shrubs until they finish blooming. Visit for more details on pruning spring flower shrubs.

Winter Care for Citrus: Now is a good time to cut back those branches that touch the ground or fences or other structures. Thin the tree to let more air into the middle. Trim out crossing branches and anything that looks dead. All these steps will help control scale and aphid infestations. Using Tanglefoot sticky goo on a wrapper around the trunk will keep ants out of the tree or use bait traps below the tree. The ants 'protect' the scale and aphids and harvest their 'honeydew' for food. Yellowing is normal this time of year as the iron that keeps the leaves green is chemically unavailable because the soil is too cold. When the soil warms up, then check for yellowing of new leaves. You may not need to apply a nitrogen fertilizer if the new leaves are green. The California Backyard Orchard website from UC has much more information on citrus. Visit for a care calendar and more articles.

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The Native Gardener’s Guide to the Thompson & Morgan Catalog

By Arvind Kumar

If you have been gardening for a while, chances are that you have heard of – if not been a direct customer of – Thompson & Morgan. This internationally renowned British mail order seed house has been in business since 1855, and has one of the most diverse seed catalogs in the world: ornamentals, annuals, perennials, vegetables, fruits – you name it, they’ve got it. Their rates are reasonable, and delivery is reliable and prompt, which explains their popularity with home gardeners of every persuasion.

What is not so well-known is the fact that they carry many varieties of California native plant seed, all chosen for their looks and garden-worthiness. Indeed, gracing the cover of their 2006 catalog is a plant designated “Annual Flower of the Year”: an unusual selection of the California Poppy called Summer Sorbet, a lovely white-pink offering with crinkled petals and yellow centers. It looks nothing like the orange beauties that dot our hillsides in spring, but if you like Summer Sorbet, there are eight other unusual forms of California poppy to delight you.

Regrettably, T&M rarely mentions the origin of its plants, and it is left to the customer to research what is native to which part of the world. Well, if you want to bring a slice of California into your garden, here is a shortlist of California natives from the 200-page T&M catalog. (See table below.)

Caveats: If you want plants that are true natives of your area or even the state, you are better off ordering from Larner Seeds and other seed companies that are devoted to California natives. Plants in the T&M catalog have been selected for unusual flower color, size, or shape, and not representative of the native plants one might come across in the wild. These are selections: naturally occurring but rare variants. Some are hybrids, where one species has been cross-pollinated with another closely related one.

If you live in a rural or semi-rural area, on the wildland edge, do not plant hybridized native plants and risk contaminating the local gene pool; in your case, it is better to buy locally collected seed. But if you live in the city, surrounded by blocks and blocks of pavement and concrete without a native plant in sight, using these plants should have no detrimental impact.

In addition to the individual species listed in the accompanying table, T&M also carries a Californian Mixture, a packet of wildflower seed combining many California annual wildflowers. You can sow them in swaths to create the look of a California meadow.

Because these plants are available from T&M, you can be sure they will be eye-catching and easy to grow. Growing from seed is not only inexpensive, but also leads to healthier plants with well-formed root systems that haven’t been constrained by nursery pots. You can place an order conveniently through the website ( or by mail (Thompson & Morgan, P.O. Box 1308, Jackson, New Jersey 08527-0308) or by phone (800-274-7333).

Click here for Arvind's table.

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Gardens Sought for Going Native Garden Tour – Want to Show Yours Off?

Mark your calendar now for late April events!

By Arvind Kumar, Publicity Chair, California Native Plant Society, Santa Clara Valley Chapter

Gardens are being sought to participate in the Sunday, April 30, 2006 Going Native Garden Tour, which will showcase bird- and butterfly-friendly, pesticide-free, water conserving gardens. Gardens must be located in Santa Clara County or San Mateo County, and contain 30% or more California native plants. To submit your garden, or for more information, visit or email

Participants on the free Going Native Garden Tour will learn how to attract butterflies, birds and bees, garden without using pesticides, lower their water bills, design a low-maintenance garden, and select and care for California native plants. About 30 showcase gardens will be open for viewing. Native plants will be given away at some gardens, and available for purchase at others. Talks will be scheduled at some gardens.

The array of gardens on the Going Native Garden Tour will range from established collector's gardens to those that are newly installed, and from five-acre lots to townhome gardens. A few gardens will contain mostly local native plants, others the horticulturally available suite of natives from throughout California, and the rest a mixture of natives and Mediterranean plants. Some gardens have been designed and installed by owners, the others by professionals.

What's special about California native plants? They are adapted to our soil and climate, and are easy to care for. Native plants are naturally drought tolerant. They attract native birds, butterflies, and other forms of wildlife. And, as the gardens on the tour show, California native plants are beautiful; the gardens on the tour display a sense of place that is uniquely Californian.

Visitors to can register for the tour, see photographs of gardens, read garden descriptions, and download plant lists, where available.

Mark your calendar now for not one but two outstanding horticultural events late in April. The weekend before the Going Native Garden Tour on Sunday, April 30th will be the 34th Annual Wildflower Show at Mission College in Santa Clara on Saturday and Sunday, April 22-23. Watch for more details next month.

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Deer Resistant Plant Department

Never say never when it comes to our horny, hooved, doe-eyed dears

One of our consistent suggestions for a plant that deer don’t deem delectable is Pride of Madeira (echium fastuosum), the large coarse shrub which produces the yard-long strikingly blue flower spikes each spring. However, the old adage that deer will eat anything if they’re hungry enough has just proven to be true and we find we need to temper our recommendation that Pride of Madeira is a deer-safe bet.

Just about the time the fall rains began, we set out some little plantlets of Pride of Madeira which we had started from cuttings last summer. We planted them on our front slope here on Highland Drive confident that the deer hordes would pass them over for our newly sprouting ivy. But, noooo; Jane Doe, John Deer, Bambi and Bucky decided that the tiny rough leaves on our little baby P.O.M.’s were worth the trouble to nibble right down to the stems. Not that hunger drove them to such a meager offering. I reckon they were proving another adage that says deer are frighteningly fickle and may eat certain plants at certain times or in certain places or under certain circumstances … or not.

For a couple of weeks, the three naked skinny stems sat forlornly. When it seemed that pulling them up was inevitable, we noticed some new bumpiness on the stems. Behold – new leaves have erupted just as the deer are coming less frequently. If our luck holds, when the deer come back in voracious packs later this year, they will eschew chewing the echium and will suddenly find the oleander attractive. Never say never when it comes to deer.

Click here for our Deer Resistant Plants page.

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A Date With Judy (and Barbara)

Sculptor Keith Bush welds new friendship with Engineer Barbara Springer

NNV gets taken for a ride

NNV served as matchmaker for Keith Bush and Barbara Springer. It seemed a natural to introduce the two of them because they are both passionate about the same endeavor … uh, welding! Keith earns a living creating sculptures – primarily out of Tencor steel which he cuts and welds into whimsical sculptures. Barbara earns her living as an electrical engineer, but fills her spare moments welding gates and whatever else is needed at Springer Ranch on Clayton Road. You could say that NNV chaperoned their tryst.

But first, Keith came courting on Highland Drive in his wife, LaJune’s, top-down white Jaguar convertible. I (that’s moi, your humble editor, Judy) eagerly leapt into the svelte little car. Or, to be more honest, I cranked my stiff old bod down into the passenger seat taking great care not to stir up the bursitis in my hip joints. It should be noted that Keith, too, had to carefully ease his much taller body down into the driver’s seat. There was no actual leaping going on, to be frank.

The Saturday morning air was nippy and moist, but we both threw caution to the wind (literally) and didn’t even zip our jackets. (Would James Dean and Natalie Wood have zipped their jackets?) We flew down the hill with Keith showboating through all the stop signs demonstrating classic “California stops.” I can’t recall our conversation, but I think I said little because it was so hard to speak while holding my breath.

We roared up to Barbara’s beautiful hand-made gate and tried to open it. We couldn’t figure it out, so, would you believe I had to spoil the mood by phoning my husband to ask him what Barbara’s instructions were? Talk about shattering illusions! (Would Natalie Wood phone home and ask how to open a gate? No, she and James Dean would just plow through it!)

Barbara was waiting for us in front of her old metal barn. It’s there she has her welding equipment. Keith took one gander at Barbara and her big, beautiful barn and all of a sudden I was chopped liver. He just about turned inside out looking at Barbara’s rig. And her barn has a mezzanine, yet. Keith Bush was ready to forsake his entire life on Highland Drive, his wife LaJune and their cat Bogart in order to weld the rest of his life away in that spectacular welding parlor. Barbara even uncovered her plasma cutter for him.

Knowing I couldn’t compete, I snapped photos and shilly-shallied about as they talked shop. They compared techniques in an arcane language of which I am ignorant. Or, were they whispering sweet nothings? They talked about sources, resources and blacksmithing courses. They spoke of hoists and blocks and tackles. I mumbled that I went to Ohio State and knew a thing or two about blocking and tackling, but they dismissed my conversational contribution and went on with their discourse.

We spent more than two hours together. Walking around the ranch, Keith and Barbara head-to-head – moi amusing moi-self with mon camera. The three of us must have looked like a tall, starry-eyed couple followed by a short, agitated, open-jacketed woman scuffing the turf several paces behind. (It reminded me of the time in 1950 when my brother wanted to walk a girl named Mitzi Butler home from Youth Fellowship and our mother made him take me along.)

I finally made some squeaks about needing to get home for lunch – or at least by dinnertime and, at last, they tore themselves apart and made vows to get together again so Keith can show Barbara his rig. And his hoist. And his studio. (Do you see what I see? There’s the word “stud” lurking in “studio.” Coincidence? Moi doubts it!)

We drove back along Clayton Road. I waved bravely at Bracey and Richard Tiede as we passed their house. I hoped they’d think we looked like James and Natalie. I also hoped they wouldn’t divine my deflated mood. Keith distractedly turned right at the red light at the corner of Fleming and Alum Rock. He was obviously smitten. I think his “Date with Judy” was a daylight version of a one-night stand.

Click here for the photos I took while I was cooling my heels.

NNV Note: After I wrote this, I was amazed to learn that my own husband, Allan, has never heard of “A Date With Judy,” which was an old time radio show, a comic book and a movie starring Jane Powell, Elizabeth Taylor, Carmen Miranda, Leon Ames, Scotty Beckett, George Cleveland, Wallace Beery, Robert Stack, and Lloyd Corrigan. I guess that’s not why he married me.

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

bulletIs our neighborhood fire station, Station 2, going to be torn down and replaced?
bulletWhat in the heck happened to the burnt-to-a-crisp palm tree on Alum Rock at El Campo?
bulletDidn’t NNV say the new structures at Story and Clayton Roads were affordable condos?
bulletNNV used to have a photo feature called “On the Road – McKee Road”? What’s up?

Q. Is it true that our neighborhood fire station, Station 2 (on Alum Rock just behind the James Lick athletic fields) is going to be torn down and replaced? Will Station 2 still have its water tender?

A. Absolutely! (And, most probably.) The old station will be torn down and construction of the new building will start in March, 2007, at the same location. The new station should be open in May of 2008. For a long time, plans called for remodeling the old building, but it was determined that this couldn’t be done in a cost effective manner especially since it would have to be brought up to current standards, according to SJFD Captain Jim McClure.

Because Station 2 personnel and apparatus will need to be displaced during the construction, the start date is dependent on another new station going on-line. Our firefighters will man a modular trailer during the day and sleep at the new station until our new Station 2 is ready for them. Captain McClure says he believes the water tender will remain with Station 2. (For new readers unfamiliar with local history, our neighborhood almost lost Station 2’s water tender last year despite the fact that it’s essential for fighting fires in “Wildland Urban Interface” areas such as ours.)

Click here to read more about Station 2 and here to read about the Water Tender "discussion."

Q. What in the heck happened to the burnt-to-a-crisp palm tree near the corner of Alum Rock and El Campo in mid-November?

A. Someone was going around the neighborhood torching piles of leaves and apparently decided that this particular palm had to go. (There ARE people who simply have visceral loathing of palms, but NNV rather doubts that the cretin who would set neighborhood things on fire has the intellect necessary to experience visceral loathing.) According to a neighbor, the palm was probably doused with some flammable liquid (otherwise it wouldn’t have burned so luxuriously). The shrubs up against the house near the palm were scorched severely. We’d guess that the owner counted his lucky stars that he had a non-flammable composition roof. Has anyone been caught? Nope, not yet!

Obviously Alum Rock Avenue is never an ordinary place. Not only did this frizzled palm present itself as an unusual spectacle, but two other oddities arose about the same time competing for space in NNV. For one, a poster appeared on a utility pole seeking a pooch called Smooch. A $1,000 reward was being offered for the pretty pup. So, there’s this missing pet. What else was missing was any contact information for Smooch’s owners. There must be more to this story! Then our long-time favorite Alum Rock character, the vine-covered horse’s head near the back of the Marguerite Terrace - PEO home, nickered at us through its bonds. “Ain’t it time to put my pitcher in your newsletter again, girlie?” Well, what could we do but accede to his gentle request? He does look even more bound-up than usual, doesn’t he?

Click here for photos of the toasted palm, Smooch and horsey.

Q. Didn’t NNV report that the new structures being built at the corner of Story and Clayton Roads were some sort of affordable condos? Well, you couldn’t have been more wrong – what do you have to say for your cocky self?

A. Would you believe that our reliable “sources” let us down on this one? As anyone can see, a whole bunch of he-ooge McMansions have been built on that corner. They are so big that it was easy to believe that each one could hold six families. But, we were wrong. So sorry.

Click here for a photo.

Q. NNV used to have a photo feature called “On the Road – McKee Road” to parallel your “On the Avenue – Alum Rock Avenue” photo each month. In the December/January edition McKee Road was omitted. What’s up?

A. We would love to be able to feature McKee Road on a regular basis, but we need a McKee Road “regular” to photograph notable (or weird or funny or magnificent) stuff happening “On the Road.” Barring that, we need to have readers point out neat things and we’ll take the photos. We really want to include that important neighborhood thoroughfare to reassure our readers that we’re not a one trick pony which only trots on Alum Rock.

Meanwhile, we came across a beautiful sight on Kirk Avenue near McKee in mid-January. A Vietnamese place of worship brightened up the wintry day with georgous multi-color flags dancing in paroxysms of gusty wind. The scorching pink, tomato red, canary yellow and glowing orange banners marked Tet Nguyen Dan (or Tet), the Vietnamese New Year on January 29th.

Click here for photos of the flags.

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E-mail us at or fax to (408) 272-4040. Please limit letters to a few hundred words (shorter items are more likely to be used in the newsletter and read) and include your name and phone number in case we have questions.  Contributions may be edited for content and space requirements.  Want to take photos, write articles or essays?  Please let us know!  And don't miss our new Letters page on Deer, Fire and/or Drought Resistant Plants if you'd like to share information with our readers.

Community Bulletin Board (Click Here)

E-mail to let us know about your events of interest to our readers.

--------------------------- Contact and Subscription Information ---------------------------------
Copyright© 2006 by Judy Thompson, 16174 Highland Drive, San Jose, CA 95127 
Phone: (408) 272-7008, E-mail: Fax: (408) 272-4040 
E-mail subscriptions are free. Your ideas and comments are always welcome. 
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Privacy Policy: Your contact information will not be sold, distributed or visible to others. 
Opinions expressed by other writers and contributors are not necessarily shared by NNV.

Copyright© 2006 by Judy Thompson.  All rights reserved.  Updated 2/7/06.

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