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Only In Los Gatos (a really short version)

September 30, 2012

In the 1980’s, as we Los Gatos artists were starting to get a little older, more experienced and more professional, we were getting a bit more savy and jaded. The good looking Los Gatos had grown up along with us, and as the new money started moving into town, we took advantage of it as often as possible; to do the sort of work we dream of but no one, before, could afford. Now, often enough, we could do some of those dream jobs.

But, as we had to live through the old days when the town was pretty run down and very funky, when some of the more “over the top” high-class identities started coming into town, we would check them out and wonder if Mister “Ultra Chic Sunglasses” store knew that his place once was a septic tank pumping company. And we would snigger at our long term memories and the unknowing pretensions of the new, glossy inhabitants of these old, resurrected store fronts. Who would ever think that the sewage company would ever have a huge spotlight in front of it, with its overbearing generator roaring at the night, scanning the dark sky for fame and success. We would smile at the irony.

Rick Tharp was a well regarded graphic designer and was my best friend. He, in his thin lapeled, black silk jacket and puffy black pants, and me in my ever present t-shirt and levis, would wander around town and we were near the top of the charts when it came to having the most sardonic and sarcastic verbal emanations when it came to just about any topic. Indeed, we had to learn to tone it down when we were around straight people, by golly, as they thought we really were such nasty assholes to say such things. We just thought we were having fun being clever. Now that we doing pretty good business, we couldn’t afford to offend so off-handidly. We had to be more careful with our smart mouths as now they could bite into our more generous incomes.

One day we were driving past Ken Keegan’s long vacant, foreign car showroom across from the Civic Center and the windows were soaped over. There were large, water colored letters painted into the white soaped background warning us that a new car dealership would soon be in that location. It was going to be a Ferrari dealership. Indeed, spanking brand new, red Ferrari’s were going to be sold right here in our town. We remember when the first Mercedes had come to town and it was a big deal among all the old pickup trucks. Now, new Ferrari!


Rick and I drove past these windows and their announcement in his beat up, twenty year old, convertible, white Karman Ghia and we rolled our eyes and, for the first time, we said in unison,
“Only in Los Gatos.”


We came to say that many times over the next many years.


Yesterday I was sitting on the ledge at Los Gatos Coffee Roasting with a bunch of my old cronies, we were all taking in the sights with a snippy little comment every now and then. We heard a new Lamborghini zip through the stop light and no one even took notice. But then we did, as when the driver tried to show off and attempted to rev the engine up real tight. But it wasn’t ready for that. As he pressed down on the accelerator, the high powered, high pitched super car motor cut in and out, and coughed all over the place. That turned all heads, all heads had slimy grins on their faces.

The Lambo jerked and popped to a stop halfway up to the next light. With an “open cockpit,” we heard the driver cussing at his predicament. We heard the starter kick in, more pops and a little revving and then more silence. Finally the engine started again, for a few seconds, so the car skipped forward a few feet but it died again, finding itself in a traffic jam and not visible to us, surrounded by taller and less expensive vehicles.
A couple of us car nuts turned to each other, asking with our eyes if we should give the guy a hand pushing the car to the side of the road. The oldest codger put his arm in front of us, “if a guy can afford to own that sort of car, he can afford to keep it running perfectly, always.”
We sat back down.


And the day before that, I was crossing Bachman Avenue to get lunch at Hannegan’s. The road was empty but from the dentist’s office next door, a brand new Mercedes roadster pulled onto the street but stopped right next to me. The electric window on the shotgun side of the car rolled down and the middle aged Los Gatos lady driver, in a baseball cap with large sunglasses on her nose, leaned across the console and asked to be excused. I asked her what was up? She told me she found a note on her windshield that she had a nail in the right front tire. Since I was standing next to that tire, she asked me to check how much air it had.

The tire looked all right to me, but I had her put the car into Park and I ran my hand round the tread of the tire til I found the head of the nail which was nearly flush with the rubber. I stood up and told her she had a big time nail in the tire but, luckily, it wasn’t leaking any air. I told her to just go and get it fixed, and definitely don’t drive on any freeway.
“But I can drive it a few miles?” she asked, me thinking she was wanting to take it home.
“Yeah, but you don’t want to ruin the tire. It’s in good shape and it’s a simple, cheap fix,” I told her.
“But I can drive it a few miles?” she repeated. I was confused, the tire store three blocks away could fix it in two minutes for probably less than ten dollars.
“Yeah,” I repeated.
“I want to get to my workout first,” she told me. I shook my head in disbelief, and with a completely “knee jerk” response, I told her
“OK, but don’t be a silly woman about it, fix it!”
She said thanks and drove off to her work out, I guess.


I walked into Hannegan’s, and being early, there only a few souls in the place, all familiar, good friends. I told the small group about what just happened, me still shaking my head in a mild disbelief. No one laughed, they all just shook their heads and rolled their eyes. The perky little waitress who has been doing lunches at Hannegan’s for more than twenty years turned back to her work, only saying,
“Only in Los Gatos.”


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