Do You Know The Way To Alviso?

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One of my pet peeves is how the national news media represents California in general and Silicon Valley in particular. When Los Angeles had a sharp four-point-something earthquake a few years ago, CNN carried on as if California slid into the ocean and ran a video clip from a grocery store surveillance camera that showed very little shaking going on. As for stories filmed in Silicon Valley, San Francisco is a convenient backdrop despite being 50 miles away.

While browsing Bloomberg BusinessWeek, I came across a video feature called “Welcome To The Ghost Town of Silicon Valley” about Alviso, a small town abandoned to the marshes and the residential area annexed by San Jose in the 1960’s. As I watched the video, I started moaning at the factual errors being made by the reporter.

Alviso is nowhere near Mountain View (Google) or Palo Alto (Facebook). What’s over there is the Shoreline Amphitheater built on top of a landfill. The early rock concerts literally went up in smoke as the grassy viewing area behind the seating caught on fire from the methane gas bubbling up from the landfill underneath. Pumping stations pump out the methane gas to make the grassy area safe. The only grass that goes up in smoke is the joints that concertgoers bring themselves.

The train tracks that passes through Alviso and the marshes doesn’t go to San Francisco. The northeast tracks follow the coastline of the east bay and the delta into Sacramento. After my parents retired to Sacramento in the 1990’s, I took the Amtrak Capitol Corridor to visit them because the fare was half the cost of gas for a car but took twice as long to get there. I didn’t mind since I didn’t have a car and loved to travel by train. This is the best way to view the ruined houses and boats left in the marshes.

If you want to travel through Mountain View and Palo Alto on the way to San Francisco, you take Caltrain on the northwest tracks. Board either train at the downtown San Jose train station. The tracks split into different directions in after the San Jose/Santa Clara border.

You would think that Bloomberg BusinessWeek could afford a few fact checkers—or consult an amateur historian who could correct their mistaken reporter.

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