The 7 Wonders of the San Jose World

The Taj Mahal. The Great Wall of China. Chichen Itza. And…Lick Observatory?

Okay, it might be a BIT of a stretch to say that San Jose houses any world wonders, but we certainly have distinctive landmarks that leave visitors thinking “hmmmmm,” historically significant buildings, and structures that “inspired” (were stolen) other, arguably more famous structures (how dare you, Gustave Eiffel).

With that in mind, we humbly offer up to you the 7 Wonders of San Jose that represent South Bay heritage–if not world heritage.

1. The Winchester Mystery House
I don’t think anyone could legitimately argue that this confounding “beautiful but bizarre” mansion of eccentric heiress Sarah Winchester should be at the top of the list of wonders in San Jose.

A pre-1906 view of the house from the south.

Designated #868 on the National Register of Historic Places (though #13 would have been more apropos), Sarah’s place is 24,000 square feet of utter weirdness featuring 10,000 windows (including an incredibly expensive Tiffany stained glass window through which light will never pass), 2000 doors (including one that leads to a 2-story drop to the ground),160 rooms (including a seance room with 3 ways in but only 1 way out), 52 skylights, 47 stairways (one that leads to nowhere, and one that takes you up 44 steps and 7 sharp turns to go just 9 feet up), 47 fireplaces, 17 chimneys, 13 bathrooms, 6 kitchens, 3 elevators…and just one shower.

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2. Mt. Umunhum
The spelling of this San Jose wonder is a wonder in itself, let alone its intriguing stories where Native American culture meets military history. “Mt. Um” is the 4th highest peak in the Santa Cruz mountain range, and sitting atop it like a Christmas tree angel is a cement structure known as “The Cube”–a radar tower that operated from the late 1950’s to 1980 and was used to keep an eye out for enemy airfighters in the Cold War.

Top of Mt. Umunhum

Perhaps the thing that San Jose natives remember most about Mt. Um is that it was closed off to the public for many years due to hazardous materials, hazardous footing, and just hazards in general. But, in 2017, the newly hazardous-waste-free land was opened to the public and has become a popular hiking, biking, and gorgeous-view-taking-in destination. If you dare, you can hike or bike to Mt. Umunhum by way of Hicks Road (9 miles)…but, as we’ve explored before, venturing out onto Hicks road isn’t for the faint of heart. (Especially if you’re anxious about a run-in with the “faint of skin pigment” colony of hostile albinos rumored to hide along the roadside). Our pick? Drive up to Bald Mtn. Parking, and hike the more accessible 3.5 mile trail to the summit.

3. The San Jose Light Tower
In 1881 a gentleman by the name of Gustave Eiffel visited San Jose to marvel at, well, the wonder that is San Jose naturally, but also to take a gander at an incredible structure that had been built there — the pyramid-shaped San Jose Electrical Light Tower, meant to eliminate the need for expensive gas street lamps. Eiffel took a gooooood hard look at the design of the 237 foot tower looking something like this:

And wouldn’t you know it! Something BIZARRELY similar ended up in Paris less than a decade later looking something like this! :

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Je sens un SCANDALE.

The original tower deemed “too dang bright” for farmers and San Jose dwellers of the late 1800’s ended up collapsing in 1915, but today, you can visit a smaller replica at History Park in San Jose and decide for yourself if the urban legend of one of the greatest thefts of IP in all of history is, perhaps, ultimately true.

4. The Oldest Residence in San Jose — The Peralta Adobe

Right smack dab in the middle of some of downtown’s best nightlife in San Pedro Square stands a lone adobe structure — the historical centerpiece of the public market. This humble abode is the Peralta Adobe, built in 1797 by an Apache Indian who was also the first resident of San Jose. Luis Maria Peralta, who served in a high position as commisioner of the community, moved in after him in 1808.

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After a series of Peraltas lived in that house, it at different points served as a storage facility for wine, fruit, and even plumbing supplies. The City of San Jose bought the “fixer upper” in 1966, restored it, and got it placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

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San Jose celebrates its birthday annually through festivals around the adobe house (we turn 244 this year!), and–perhaps in its greatest claim to fame–it was featured on a California postage stamp in 1977. If that doesn’t say “you left a legacy,” I don’t know what does.

5. Lick Observatory

Nestled high atop Mt. Hamilton is an observatory that has been serving seasoned and aspiring astronomers since 1888.

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Owned by the University of California now, it was originally founded by…a well-known astronomer? No. A starry-eyed, planetarium-dwelling, space-obsessed academic? Incorrect. It was founded by James Lick — real estate investor, carpenter, piano builder, and–as it happened– one of the wealthiest men in California (THE wealthiest, at the time of his death).

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He was also, evidently, totally full of it; sources say at one point he wanted to build enormous statues of himself and construct a pyramid resembling the Great Pyramid of Giza in his honor (World Wonder tie in!). While not an astronomer, he was a science nerd, and allocated the largest portion of his fortune to Lick Observatory, which at the time housed the most powerful and biggest telescope ever built. Today, visitors can tour the observatory, hear a variety of lectures, enjoy special events including symphonic music under the stars on warm summer nights, buy a pair of Lick Observatory Celestial Socks, and yes–even get married.

And while Lick didn’t end up using his hard-earned cash to erect pyramids or statues to celebrate the wonder that was himself, he did manage to secure an out of this world honor: Lick Crater on the moon? That’s all James.

6. Heritage Rose Garden

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Spanning 5 acres, featuring 4000 plants and 2,800 varieties of “heritage, modern, and miniature roses,” it’s hard to believe that The San Jose Heritage Rose Garden was once a weed-covered dirt lot blemish on the outskirts of downtown San Jose. According to the official website,

A joint venture of the City of San Jose, the Guadalupe River Park Conservancy, the South Bay Heritage Rose Group, and the many dedicated civic volunteers who continue to propagate, plant, fertilize, prune, weed, catalog and care for our precious collection of roses.”

And, if that’s not enough, they also compellingly add,

“We’re on the list of Top Fun Things to Do in San Jose!”

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This lovely oasis is dripping with charm and beauty. Meant to be a version of New York’s Central Park in the heart of San Jose, the garden is bowl-shaped with a middle that’s 5 feet deep, and sources say from that vantage point a visitor could see every plant from any point in the garden. You can adopt a rose for $50/year, but even if you’re overcome with amorosity don’t pick one whatever you do or you’ll be out $500 for the most expensive bouquet you’ll ever give.

7. The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

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Step through the doors of this museum established in 1927, and be prepared for a legit blast from the past. In fact, the experience starts well BEFORE the doors on the karnak-style front entrance to the museum featuring grand columns, statues, and plenty of photo opps to feed your Instagram need.

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The museum’s claim to fame is that it houses the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in the Western US, and among the most popular exhibits (through which over 100,000 visitors tour each year) are a variety of mummies, a full replica of a rock-cut tomb that visitors can walk through featuring gorgeous artistic scenes from The Book of the Dead, an extensive alchemy exhibit, and galleries featuring artifacts pertaining to daily life, rulers, religion, and Egyptian beliefs regarding the “great beyond.” Take a walk through the gardens outside to encounter koi ponds, a fantastic labyrinth, sphynx statues, and–once again–plenty of areas to pose for Insta-perfect pics.

The site also features the 5th planetarium built in the US housed in a building of Moorish design.

An…8th wonder? 

HONORABLE MENTION: The infamous Quetzalcoatl statue in Cesar Chavez park downtown. As in it’s a WONDER we paid for this. (Nailed it).

Take the “7 Wonders in One” Challenge! We bet you can’t visit all 7 Wonders in one day!

Orchestria Palm Court: Where the players play

Close to the convention center, a hop, skip, and a jump away from Cesar Chavez park, and right next to The Stage Theater (also a new SJ favorite haunt–more on that in a future post!) you’ll hear the delightful, twinkling sounds of a multitude of pianos…but only a couple nights a week for a few hours a day.

The hidden San Jose gem we’re featuring today is the truly unique Orchestria Palm Court, a walk back in time to the early 1900’s where the comfort food is outstanding, the waiters wear sleeve garters, and you’re entertained by player pianos that come to life one-by-one, providing a merry soundtrack for your meal.

Surrounded by invisible musicians

Orchestria features music written in the ‘teens and 20’s of last century, played as you would have heard it then—on music machines. Fitting, really, that these machines, considered “high tech” in their day, are now at home one of the world’s most important birthplaces of modern technology. The owners plan their musical selections based on seasonality, including French music for Bastille Day, specific composers’ music for their birthdays, and carols for the whole of December. That said, they’ll also take your special request for your favorite jazz or ragtime song from the era—you know you have one.

Is that a…phone booth?

The decor and ambience is like nothing you’ve ever seen before—especially in San Jose. The building itself is a refurbished brick building from 1910, and the inside is made to look like a bar or restaurant from the early 20th century—complete with kitschy lamps and chandeliers, travel posters, rolls and rolls of player piano music stacked high, and–of course—the aforementioned plethora of pianos. Also featured is a self-playing violin from 1925, the “Violano-Virtuoso” which uses electromagnetic technology to play along with a piano accompaniment.

Tips:

  • RESERVE, RESERVE, RESERVE: Because they’re only open about 6 hours a week, they’ll likely be fully booked if you try to walk in.
  • Order the Austrian Goulash. Your life will be changed for the better.
  • Don’t just dine and dash! Get up and look around—this place is like a museum, restaurant, bar, and concert all in one.

The Fight for the Swine Sign

Across the street from Poor House Bistro and Diridon Station is a pig not quite as famous as Wilbur, not quite as well known as Babe, but to San Jose, is his own special, porcine celebrity.

The Dancing Pig on the vintage Stephen’s Meat Products sign has been proudly hoofing it since the 1950’s…even after the business closed. But, contrary to what people believe, weather happens in San Jose, and the iconic sign fell into disrepair. Cue pigpen jokes.

This didn’t sit well with the Preservation Action Council of San Jose (PAC*SJ) who has been trying to raise money to revitalize the sign for quite some time. And with “Google Village” slated to move into town riiiiiight around Montgomery, they’re working even harder to raise awareness.

Ideally, they note, Google would absorb this piece of San Jose history and physically feature it in some way. (Or digitally– it would make a HECK of a Google Doodle). 

 

We caught up with John from Preservation Action Council of San Jose (PAC*SJ) during their most recent fundraiser at Poor House Bistro on February 25, where 25% of food and beverage sales went to perking up the pig. Here’s what he had to say about why they’re doing this at all:

 

 

Landmarks. In a city that could easily be seen as just corporate buildings and suburban sprawl, there’s still a need to “find yourself” in this place. Some find themselves in our history, even with something so ordinary as a vintage meat products sign. Others find themselves in looking ahead to the future, with new businesses and buildings that facilitate the constant innovation happening here. 

And there’s certainly enough room here for both. No snout about it. 

Cool Runnings: An Interview with Treatbot

It’s a hot Thursday in June. You want some ice cream. But dang it, you also want to SING.

 

I’m sure we’ve all been in this predicament before, and the good news is, San Jose’s infamous Treatbot karaoke ice cream truck is the answer—bringing the songs AND the sweetness to delighted San Jose residents for 7 years.

To kick off our new summer series featuring the best of the best in San Jose ice cream, we were lucky enough to catch up with Treatbot owner Christine to get answers to some of the questions that have been chilling in our readers’ and our minds.

 

What led to the birth of the Treatbot?

We started Treatbot in 2010 hoping to have  a “side business” after I had my son. We had paid all our debt off and had quite a bit of savings and money to invest from other sources so it was either buy a house or start a food truck. So we decided to start a food truck. With the economic downturn at the time all our equipment and labor was inexpensive and it was a good time to get our foot in the door as food trucks were up and coming at the time in the Bay Area. Everyone was doing fusion food but no one was doing gourmet dessert, so we decided to go for ice cream sandwiches and then add karaoke onto the truck to give us a niche but also add our personal “flavor” to the truck, because we love karaoke. After all the love we got from social media and fans loving the concept, it was hard to stop the momentum and it became more than a side business and has become our passion and livelihood.

We need the ‘dish’: What’s your most popular flavor of ice cream?

It’s “408” hands down—our caramel ice cream, fudge ripple and crushed oreos. However Eastside Horchata comes in a close second, which is our cinnamon flavored ice cream fashioned after the Mexican rice drink. Closely after that is our Filipino flavors Macapuno (young candied coconut) and Ube (purple yam).

What’s the weirdest flavor you’ve put out there?

Bacon and Cheese, Durian, Banana, with peanut butter and bacon.

Talk a bit about the “karaoke” part of the Treatbot Karaoke Ice Cream Truck. Do you still give people the opportunity to sing? Or are you pretty stationery in San Pedro Market Square now?

At our store at the San Pedro Square Market we have karaoke every Thursday night from 7:30-10:00 pm. We are revamping our karaoke on the truck so that we have it available for the masses more often for public events. It’s a big part of our roots. Being of Filipino descent, karaoke is a huge part of family parties, so it’s a special thing. Add ice cream to that and you have good clean fun!

What’s the strangest song choice someone’s made when singing with Treatbot?

Strangest song….hmmm that’s a tough one. I can’t say, to be honest, because karaoke can be strange and wonderful all in one fell swoop whether you know the song or you don’t. It really depends on the person singing.

What’s a song you WISH people would do?

My personal preference would be some older R&B. A lot of pop gets done, and show tunes, but not enough oldies. That’s my jam and I’d love to hear more….maybe we’ll start doing themed nights so we can hear some of this stuff!

We want an invite to the first theme night if you do! Final question: How do you feel about San Jose, and what makes you passionate to operate here?

What makes us passionate to operate here is that this is our home and we want to make our home awesome to be in. We want to put it “on the map.” There is so much diversity here that breeds our creativity along with the innovation of Silicon Valley. It truly is a special place a diamond in the rough.

To get a scoop of 408, visit Treatbot in San Pedro Public Market, or learn more at https://treatbot.com/.

San Jose Celebs: Places Woz Eats

Guys — we love Steve Wozniak, amitrite? He’s integral to the tech world, he has a street in San Jose named after him, his dancing skills are unparalleled, and most importantly, he’s a lover of some of our favorite franchise eateries. Woz is known for taking to Twitter and noting the (very ordinary) culinary delights he’s enjoying around San Jose.

Want to run into Woz? Try heading to some of the favorite haunts he’s been frequenting this year:

Outback Steakhouse, Campbell — seems to be a fave of his lately! 

 

Marie Callenders, San Jose

Famous Daves, San Jose

Mandarin Gourmet, Cupertino

Jalisco, Campbell

The Old Spaghetti Factory, San Jose

Hickr’y Pit, Campbell

Bonus!

Got dogs? Have a canine playdate with Woz and his pups Ziggy and Zelda at Butcher Dog Park or Blossom Hill Park.

Interested in seeing a movie? Sit shoulder to shoulder with Woz at AMC Saratoga 14.

San Jose’s 2017 Resolutions

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You’re not the only one that wants to hit a few key goals this year.

We at Searchlight SJ think that our fine city would want to make some changes for itself too. Here are just a few ways San Jose can win 2017. 

 

Resolution 1: Get the kids to stop drawing on the walls

We love the art on the power boxes throughout San Jose. On our overpasses and city signage however? Not so much. The city is already working on solutions to problems, including crowdsourcing ideas through Unleash Your Geek San Jose, where the Mayor has called for groups to come up with creative solutions for fast graffiti removal for a cash prize.

Resolution 2: Lower rent prices

As of December 2016, a one bedroom apartment rents for nearly $2500/month on average here in San Jose. Many of us have reconciled ourselves to the fact that in order to live in one of the most pristine climates in the nation, we’re willing to also live in an expensive shoebox. Nonetheless, it would be great to see those prices drop and make San Jose an awesome AND affordable place to live.

Resolution 3: Get another Michelin star restaurant

San Jose saw its first Michelin star restaurant with the contemporary Portuguese cuisine at ADEGA, where it can take months to secure a reservation. Why not improve our chances of getting in and up our culinary cred by adding another Michelin-worthy eatery?

Resolution 4: The ultimate Shark attack

We missed the mark on the Stanley cup by thismuch last year. Currently, our San Jose Sharks are leading the Western Conference, and with any luck, the mayor will be receiving a goody basket this year, not giving one.

Resolution 5: Fewer tents, more shelters

Homelessness has become a major issue for San Jose that we’re actively working to fix by developing solutions such as modular temporary homes and “recycling” those run down, shady motels and turning them into viable housing options.

What do you think should be on San Jose’s resolution list?

A bet, a beating, and a basket: Mayor Liccardo’s San Jose-themed gifts to Pittsburgh’s mayor

By: Vaughn and Jordan

As many of you know, the Sharks didn’t bring home the Stanley Cup. (I know, I know–sorry to reopen the wound).  What you might not have known is that Bill Peduto, the Mayor of Pittsburg and our very own Mayor Sam Liccardo had a friendly bet riding on the series. First, the losing mayor had to take a picture in the opposing team’s jersey and post it to social media. (It’s too painful to repost here. We’re sorry. We just can’t do it). Second, the losing mayor would send a gift basket full of treats representing his city to the winning mayor.

 

If you missed Mayor Liccardo’s basket on social media, here it is:

Mayor Basket

Looks like a great assortment, but what IS all of that in there? And more importantly, WHY is it in there? And most importantly of all, what’s missing that should have been included?

 

Let’s take a closer look at the contents:

 

Schurra’s Fine Confections

Schurra’s has been in business on the Alameda for over 100 years providing fine confectionary treats to young and old alike.  A strong choice from the Mayor regardless of if he went with chocolates, brittle, or the delightful Beethoven Bon Bon’s (and why not, as readers know San Jose is home to the Beethoven Center).  See’s Candies might be the first shop people think of concerning Bay Area candies but do yourself a favor, skip the chaos and go to Schurra’s instead.

 

La Vic’s Orange Sauce

La Vic’s has become so synonymous with their oddly addicting and widely adored orange sauce that they proudly proclaim themselves as, “the home of the orange sauce” and after Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto polishes off the bottle of J. Lohr and the sixer of Gordon Biersch he too will undoubtedly fall in love with the delightful concoction.  While Liccardo can share the La Vic’s orange sauce he’ll never be able to tell about its ingredients.  La Vic’s, who claim that the sauce originated in their first restaurant near the SJSU campus, continues to keep the recipe secret to this day.  

 

Greenlee’s Bakery Best Cinnamon Bread

Liccardo continued his stroll a bit further down the Alameda to visit Greenlee’s Bakery and pick up a loaf of their nationally renowned cinnamon bread.  Greenlee’s has been baking in San Jose for over 90 years and thanks to QVC, Amazon, and Costco the delightfully tempting and aromatic bread has become available beyond the South Bay.  It’s unclear how Greenlee’s cinnamon bread earned the honor of being the best but take one bite and I’m sure you’ll agree.  

 

Gordon Biersch beer

Arguably, the most popular brewery in San Jose is the beloved Gordon Biersch brewery and bottling facility, opened in 1997 and designed by Dan Gordon himself. It’s state-of-the-art, uses San Jose water so you get a taste of San Jose in every sip, and offers fact-filled tours of the brewery throughout the week. Not to mention a few other secrets we’ve uncovered as well. A perfect addition to the basket; we can see Mayor Peduto pairing it with one of those Pittsburgh pierogis now…

 

Fruit cocktail

Yes, ladies and gentlemen: the familiar go-to serving of canned fruit from our childhoods has its origins here in fine city of San Jose. The first reference to delicious, syrupy pear, peach, cherry, and…whatever other chunks are in there being referred to as “fruit cocktail” was right here in San Jose in 1930. Ignore that this can is Raley’s brand; the original San Jose fruit cocktail was produced by Herbert Gray of San Jose’s Barron-Gray Packing Company. (Though the jury is out on this. For a rundown of the great “Fruit Cocktail Mystery” check out the online History San Jose exhibit).

J. Lohr wine

First of all, if you’re not having a sip of J. Lohr wine as you read this, stop right now and go pick some up. I’ll give you a few minutes…

Back? Okay good. And cheers.

 

J. Lohr Winery, established in 1974, has become a local favorite in a city not known for its fine wines. In 2013, it was named Tasting Panel Magazine’s Winery of the Year. It’s become so popular, the mayor’s basket wouldn’t have been complete without it. You can find their wine in most grocery stores around the city, as well as at the winery itself. (Which you should definitely plan to hit up for your next date night; check their events calendar to see when they have live music and special pairings/tastings).

 

Chiaramonte’s Sausage

We reached out to the Mayor’s office to find out Liccardo’s sausage of choice from Chiaramonte’s Deli & Sausages however aides declined to comment (ok, fine they didn’t even reply)*.  It doesn’t really matter if it was the Italian hot sausage or the Portuguese smoked sausage, we know regardless that Chiaramonte’s is San Jose’s go to for handmade sausages.  Contrasting the burgeoning La Vic’s, Chiaramonte’s has quietly remained a South Bay staple of sausage for over 100 years from its quaint deli just outside of Japantown.  Come for a taste of Sicily, stay for the cool collection of antiques and the beautiful vintage sign outside.  

*Mayor Liccardo responded to confirm that it was the spicy Italian sausage.  A fine choice indeed.

So what’s missing? While it poses shipping issues, Eggo waffles invented in San Jose in 1953 (and a LOVELY accompaniment to fruit cocktail, I might add) would be a critical addition to this basket. Also burnt almond cake from either Dick’s Bakery or Peters’ Bakery (don’t even get us started on THIS rivalry!) has become a food synonymous with the city. And, seeing that San Jose was the first commercial producer of broccoli, for good measure—and a pop of color—a nice heap of broccoli would top this whole basket off.

And perhaps a challenge to a rematch next year.

The Sarah Winchester Movie: A Former Winchester Tour Guide Weighs in on What Should be Included

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Will the Sarah Winchester movie be a hit? Or will it go…nowhere?

As many of you San Jose enthusiasts already are well aware, Helen Mirren is slated to play our beloved Sarah Winchester in a movie sometime in the next year. We’re already dying of curiosity to see what type of angle this movie takes.

So what should the movie include? We thought that the best person to ask is someone deeply familiar with the Winchester story, and the mansion itself. Cue our resident Winchester expert Brian, former Winchester Mystery House tour guide. Here are his thoughts on some ways Hollywood can maximize the story.

The earthquake
“If there’s one scene that I would love to see put to screen, it would be the 1906 earthquake. The mansion used to be considerably larger than it is now, and the most spectacular piece was the large, 7 story tower. Following the earthquake it was so damaged that it had to come down (and an entire wing of the mansion was sealed off to boot), but it’d be very slick to Hollywood that up. Add in the shrieking of angry spirits and so forth as the gigantic 7 story tower goes toppling down to the path below. And it should also probably explode.

In seriousness, though, it seems like the earthquake had a pretty profound effect on Sarah. She was trapped in an unfinished room for several hours, and while I’m not sure that she blamed the spirits for the earthquake, she definitely blamed them for her being stuck in that part of the mansion. She boarded it off (basically the entire front part of the mansion, aka the only part of the mansion that actually looks a little bit nice) and focused more on cheap, rapid, eternal building. That’s one of the reasons for the varied designs you see when you walk through the house. You have her initial, crazy stage where she’s trying all sorts of fun, kooky stuff (the secret passages, traps, and so forth). Then she gets to the, “Oh… wait… I’m rich…” portion, where she tries to make things look like a rich person’s home. Then the earthquake hits and suddenly she goes into the “clearly I’m not building fast enough” phase, where she just builds as cheap and fast as humanly possible.”

The supernatural

Meet Brian!

Meet Brian!

“If they’re going to go with the ghost angle, it might be fun to have the workers (who are supposed to be the current ongoing residents of the mansion, not Sarah) start developing their unnatural connection to the place. Like you could have one of them quit and move away, but the work crew continues to see him around the site. They could even telegraph him to make sure he’s not still around, but he’s just sort of left this permanent imprint. Or you could have them develop their own superstitions and paranoias about various portions of the house.

There was one spot in there that always freaked me out at the end of the day. When we would shut the lights off and begin to close up, there was a long hallway that had an intersection with another long hallway. No matter which way you looked: in front of you, behind you, to the left or to the right, the hallways stretched straight away into dark eternity. I HATED that part of the mansion. I can’t help but imagine that the workers would develop their own aversions, maybe particularly to the sealed off front part of the house.”

The Winchester rifle victims
“Another supernatural angle: what if the ghosts of the people killed by the Winchesters forgot how to be human, and so they started imitating the workers whose routines were predictable and constant? So the ghosts at the mansion today are actually the same ones Sarah was afraid of, only they behave like the workers they observed for so long.”

What do you think should be included in the movie?

San Jose – Where Beer and Baseball Met

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It’s opening day and a great time to remember just how well baseball and beer go together.  In 1997 Dan Gordon and Dean Biersch were in dire need of space.  For nearly 2 decades Dan and Dean had been successfully brewing their Gordon Biersch beer out of a small restaurant facility in downtown Palo Alto but the pair was finally ready to hit the big leagues of bottling and distribution.  One problem, brewing and bottling mass quantities of beer takes a massive amount of space, something that was sorely lacking in Palo Alto.  Enter Mr October; Reggie Jackson.  By this point the hall of famer was enjoying retirement and his hobby of collecting classic cars, many of which were housed (along with 81a-MTfWWLL._SY355_an alleged mistress in a top floor penthouse as the tale goes) in a large warehouse facility on East Taylor and 9th just outside of Japantown in San Jose.  Fortunately for Dan and Dean, Reggie had found a new space for his vehicles in Monterey and was vacating the San Jose warehouse.  Gordon and Biersch snapped up the space (presumably without said mistress) and the South Bay’s largest brewery remains there to this day.

Fortunately for Mr October, if he’s missing his San Jose digs Gordon Biersch offers free tours of the brewery and bottling facility Monday through Thursday by appointment.  The tour is a fantastic way to learn more about the colorful history of Gordon Biersch (followers of 16th century German beer purity laws), the brewing process (Gordon Biersch uses San Jose water!), and the business of beer (Gordon Biersch restaurants are not actually owned by the brewery).  Check out the Gordon Biersch Brewery website to learn more and to schedule your group’s tour!

Juuuuust to the north of Hollywood: Films shot in San Jose

You find yourself looking around San Jose with it’s not terribly high skyline, corporate offices, and lack of landmarks, and think that it’s not exactly a highly sought-after location for filming a major motion picture. Well, this is why you and I aren’t location scouts. Turns out there are PLENTY of nooks and crannies here in our beloved San Jose that film directors deemed perfect for a few key scenes. Here’s just a smattering:

Beverly HIlls Cop 3 (1994)

California’s Great America

Eddie Murphy appears to hang from a giant ferris wheel ride in a nightmare-inducing scene from 1994’s Beverly Hills Cop III, and it happened right in the heart of what’s now California’s Great America. At the time, the park was owned by Paramount, who also released the movie. The ride in real life was called The Triple Wheel (called “The Spider” in the film), but is no longer in the park. Fun fact: my family was at the park the day they were filming this scene. I never went on the ride again.

The Rookie (1990)

I-680 Freeway

The freeway chase scene in this 1990 classic was filmed on what appears to be I-680 (you can see street signs for Capitol Expressway and Alum Rock Avenue in one scene) and boasts actually really lovely aerial views of the city at night.

 

Marnie (1964)

Diridon Station

Alfred Hitchcock loved using Bay Area locations for his films, and Marnie is yet another example. This 1964 classic, crazy-female-pathological-liar thriller begins in Diridon Station in San Jose. It’s the very first scene of the movie, but was the last to be filmed.

Marnie

 

 

 

 

 

 

And speaking of Alfred Hitchcock…

Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010)

Nha Trang Restaurant
Okay, yes. It’s not EXACTLY The Birds, BUT it sure wants to be! Birdemic was made on a $10,000 budget and is thought to be one of the worst movies of all time. The director, who went to school in San Jose, filmed a few scenes (potentially with birds? I mean, who actually has seen this?) at Nha Trang Restaurant located at 1820 Tully Road. And I hear their Nem Nuong Cha Ram Ninh Hoa is delicious.

NhaTrang

 

 

 

 

 

Flubber (1997)

San Jose State University, San Jose, California, USA
The late Robin Williams lived in San Francisco, which might explain why movies like Flubber and What Dreams May Come include so many Bay Area locations. In Flubber, you see a house in the Rose Garden district, a classroom at San Jose State U, and the Adobe building at 345 Park Avenue.

Edtv (1999)

SAP Center

At 1:48 in this trailer you’ll see the SAP Center and Ed riding on the zamboni machine. The scene was filmed during an actual game (Sharks v. Mighty Ducks), and the 17,483 game attendees got to be extras.

Lots of other movies including Kiss Shot (featuring Whoopi Goldberg),  Larger Than Life (with Bill Murray), and Mad City (starring Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta traipsing ALL OVER San Jose) include scenes from San Jose as well, but I’ll let you schedule your own movie night to do those SJ sightings.