San Jose, California, September 23, 2011—WE VIRTUALLY NEVER visit this city, the largest in the Bay Area, the third-largest in California (after Los Angeles and San Diego, and well ahead of San Francisco). And so I always forget how different it is from our usual haunts. The climate and demographic are different. The difference sets in as you travel down the Peninsula, whose smaller cities and towns — San Mateo, Palo Alto, Redwood City — seem more like Southern California than the Bay Area.
We're here for two nights, for entirely cultural reasons, as a friend wryly pointed out. Last night we saw Mozart's Idomeneo, a great opera all too rarely produced; tonight we go to the opening of an art exhibition for which I wrote a modest (very) catalogue essay. In between, a runout to Berkeley for an appointment; tomorrow, on our way home, a cruise on the Bay.
Before I get to Mozart, a few comments on the hotel. I keep a list of restaurants we eat in, updating it every month or so; I haven't until now thought of doing the same with hotels. We generally use Priceline to reserve hotels, because we like our hotels cheap: we sleep cheap, in order to eat dear. Sometimes we book conventionally, but we often use the blind "bidding" process, by which one chooses area, star level, and names a price, content to take what's dealt.
That's what we did this time, and the result has been rather a delightful find, the San Jose Airport Garden Hotel. This is a cluster of five or six twostorey buildings, each on the order of an ordinary Motel Six I suppose, surrounding a complex of lawns, pool, exercise rooms and the like. The "gardens" are set about with fountains and statues, and the lobby and corridors are hung with dozens, scores, perhaps hundreds of framed prints and paintings, all collected by a single former owner, a Persian with a curious eye attracted to gods, goddesses, philosophers, birds, and botany.
Statues, or at any rate reproductions of statues, reflect Greek, Egyptian, and Indian antiquity. One corridor boasts at least two dozen prints of good quality all of birds, and those on only one of the two long walls. Our own little bedroom boasts two original oil paintings, not particularly interesting: a Dutch or Belgian twostorey house by the side of a country lane and a vase of dahlias painted in high-relief impasto. But there is also quite a nice botanical print of anemones with leaves, flowers, and buds in various stages of maturity, nicely triple-matted and framed in plain oak.
The hotel has a history: it was the first Hyatt hotel in Northern California, built in the early 1960s. (So I was told by the present manager here.) It's surprising to be reminded that Hyatt hotels have not always been everywhere, and have not always been the interchangeable manystoreyed metropolitan behemoths so familiar today; a lot has changed since the Eisenhower administration.
We just came in from a decent Martini by the swimming pool. Although the cocktail hour, we were alone except for two jet-black squirrels and one grey one, tame enough to come when I called them by clack-clack-clacking tongue between teeth.
On, this evening, to an opening at the Triton Museum of Art, where Kenjilo Nanao is being given a mini-retrospective, along with Jamie Brunson and Heather Wilcoxon. I'd met Brunson many years ago; she recalled tonight that I was one of the first to review her work in the press; I liked the work here a lot — meditative yet retinally jumpy painting with very strong colors, monochrome, setting up persistent after-images.
I liked Wilcoxon's paintings too: in the Roy DeForest tradition, clearly post-Guston as well, intelligent and sassy and slyly organized behind their seemingly frenetic surfaces and subject-matter. (You can see this work at the Triton website.)