That old real estate mantra came rushing back to me when we made a quick stop at a friend’s house to drop off a bag of oranges. Joan met us at the door, visibly shaken. A neighbor of hers had a jarring experience the previous day when ‘someone’ jacked up his car during the previous night, and stole all four of his tires!
Even in this theft ridden world of today, THAT is a new one! Her neighborhood is a collection of owner occupied condominium townhouses, where the sound of children playing can be clearly heard, and small speed limit signs dot the road between all of the units. My friend Joan, age 85, has lived there for several years. The location was chosen due to its proximity of several family members, and GG loves to babysit her little ones. Unfortunately, at the time of purchase, she was unaware of the major thoroughfare running behind the complex, and what that implied. That road is the dividing line between ‘good’ San Jose, and ‘BAD’ San Jose.
So called ‘bad’ San Jose is populated by recent Mexican and Philippine immigrants, that have taken over the area, and destroyed much of the housing and community centers. This area is where much of the criminal element of the Bay area is born and raised, in festering squalor. The city officials have tried many times to go in and clean it up, building support structures anew. Recently installed windows are smashed within days, with spray painted epithets decorating newly plastered walls. This group feels that they ‘deserve’ better than they get, so theft and destruction become a way of life. Stealing from the ‘have’s’ is a right and an entitlement.
Joan worked all of her life , while raising five children of her own, since her husband left soon after the fifth child was born. The amazing thing about Joan is her determination to manage on her own, despite having lost an arm when she was a small child. She sewed her kids’ clothes, grew vegetables to feed the lot, all while working wherever she could get a job. Her final position was as an office manager/bookkeeper, but she then added her employer’s two children to the mass she cared for and fed.
The thing that took me aback when we stopped by was the sparseness of furniture in her unit. She had a Lazyboy rocker facing a 14″ tv, a love seat, small round dining table with a couple of chairs, and…….that was it save for a toy box! It was a large open room, but one’s voice echoed when you spoke. She had a large window/patio door looking out on to a patio, so it was quite bright. What stopped the room from being cheerful was the echoing emptiness. I had always pictured her in a cozy, comfortable little nest of family memorabilia, not this!
My first reaction to her enclave was that it was cute, and nicely laced with plenty of greenery. The TO part of the drive was my chance to look around and admire the parts that impressed me, since I’d not been in this area before. But on our way back to our home, the less attractive features appeared. Dusty street corners with broken glass sparkling on the ground, and spats of spray paint spelling out parts of words with which I was not familiar. Boarded up buildings with peeling paint became more prevalent. We took a slightly different route on the return trip, even though it was through the same neighborhood. It was just that the outbound trip went past recently built shopping areas, featuring bright orange Home Depot anchored plazas, as opposed to the older downtown type of shopping on the homebound route.
We were greatly relieved to get back to Santa Clara, with its cute little homes with dogs barking and lawn mowers humming. People can be seen strolling happily, waving and chatting with neighbors. Many discuss the newly formed neighborhood information group that has formed online, called ‘Next-door’. This is such a good way for everyone to share news, inform each other about community meetings, and discuss what changes are afoot in the area. Now that the police are part of the group, they keep us up to date on any crime in the area, and provide helpful hints about how to stay safe and protect your property.
I guess you could say that living here gives us the same warm fuzzy feeling we always had living in Canada, so I guess we’ll put the idea of buying a house and moving away from here on the back burner for now!