I fell into a twitter rabbit hole the other night and read a thread that started from Nolan Gray, an urban planner who lives in Southern California. He asked the question, “What is the darkest city in America?” If it had been a joke, the punch line would have been, “And why did you choose San Jose?”
Amazingly, the Twitterverse did not rise as one, proclaiming San Jose as a unanimous selection. People argued for Jacksonville, Charlotte, San Antonio, and even San Diego as places that live much more in the shadows than the Silicon Valley capital. (And no, I don’t mean Palo Alto, smart Aleck.)
Don’t you remember when stat nerd site FiveThirtyEight cracked some numbers and declared San Jose the Most Unforgettable American Big City in 2016? If you take our darkness away from us, what will we have left? But San Jose’s reign as the Rodney Dangerfield of Cities has been seriously challenged by people who didn’t even know we were the 10th most populous city in the US
“From a popular culture perspective, Houston,” wrote user Mark R. Yzaguirre. “Huge city, but can you name a lot of recent movies or TV shows that represent it?” The lack of pop culture attitudes was almost cited as a reason for Phoenix’s potential obscurity. And just five years ago that would have caught on in San Jose. But now it’s the setting of ABC’s “The Good Doctor” and Mayor Sam Liccardo briefly appeared on HBO’s “Silicon Valley”. But wait – unlike San Jose, both Phoenix and Houston have teams in the NFL, MLB, and NBA. They are featured on a small TV show called “Monday Night Football”.
Indianapolis has been described as a “total mystery” by one respondent, but come on, it’s a state capital and it hosts one of the most famous auto races in the world. How much more do you need to know? San Jose, on the other hand, has a real “Mystery House” as the main tourist attraction. Of course we also have the San Jose Sharks and Zoom, everyone’s new best friend, is headquartered in downtown San Jose. (Having zoom in San Jose is a point against the dark; no one knowing that fact is a point for it. The mind confuses.)
Then you had a group that argued that the Inland Empire – the vast suburban chaos that swirls around Riverside – deserved the dubious honor. As many, many people pointed out, the Inland Empire is not a city, but the nickname of an MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area, if you’re not talking about a planner). Even so, the Southern California area had a legion of fans who passionately defended the notion that they were cared for.
Josh Kammerer argued for El Paso as it is “500 miles from anywhere”. Then, without taking a digital breath, he interjected, “You San Jose people have big league sports and are part of ‘The Bay Area’ and ‘Silicon Valley’. Go down there. “
We’d love to do it, but Chloe Meyere, who spent three years on the city of San Jose communications team, can attest not everyone received this memo. In her Twitter response, she said reporters from outside the area would ask her, “How far are you from LA?” and “Costa Rica?” Nobody goes into journalism to defend my job because of their strong map skills.
Gray, the originator of the thread, said all the “right” answers – Charlotte, Columbus, Jacksonville, Fort Worth – were booming in population and probably wouldn’t be obscure 25 years from now. But even he said, “San Jose is absolutely dark. I guarantee you a third of Americans east of the Mississippi don’t even know they’re there. “
To be honest, after reading all of these tweets, we’re fine with that.
OPERA GOES BEHIND THE SCENES: Opera San Jose premiered its new streamed show “Three Decembers” on Thursday evening and kicked off with a Zoom reception with the general manager of Opera San Jose Khori dastoortogether with the composer Jake Heggie and singers Susan Graham, Maya Kherani and Efraín Solís. Together with other members of the company and the staff, they gave a real insight into how the show came about.
However, if you didn’t get that, you can check out the same findings by watching The Making of ‘Three Decembers’, a documentary on Vimeo that shows how Opera San Jose managed to become the first opera company are in the US to debut a new fully staged work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Spoiler alert: It is an infrared particle scrubber, a cast in a remote “pod” and miles of plexiglass.
You can watch the 15-minute documentary at vimeo.com/479958804. And after seeing the opera’s production efforts, you probably want to see the show, which is sung in English with English, Spanish, and Vietnamese subtitles. It’s available until December 31st and tickets can be purchased at www.operasj.org.
TENOR FOR THE TIMES: San Joses Italian-American tenor Pasquale Esposito has “Il Tempo”, its third PBS special premiere on Monday on PBS, which celebrates the 10th anniversary of its album of the same name. The show was recorded on the stage of the historic Teatro Politeama in his native Naples, Italy, in January.
Espositio is supported by the Talenti Napoletani Orchestra, led by Maestro Ettore Gatta, who sings his way through 150 years of music that has most influenced his career and life, including the music of his Neapolitan colleague Enrico Caruso and the American tenor Mario Lanza. The show will be broadcast on December 7th at 9:30 pm on KQED and will be broadcast again on December 12th at 9:00 pm on KQED + (Chapter 54)
BROADWAY BOUND: One of the joys of the annual children’s musical theater at the annual San Jose Gala is that the company’s alumni – many of whom are now professional actors – come home to perform with the stars of tomorrow. But with the pandemic, CMT has changed its plans and is offering the virtual benefit “CMT: Home for the Holidays” on December 12th. “We will be going coast to coast connecting with our alumni and local artists all over San Jose, in their homes and more,” executive director Dana Zell said.
Tickets for the 6:30 p.m. show are $ 75 and can be purchased at www.cmtsj.org.