The Velawesomeraptor Himself (clayrobeson) wrote,
The Velawesomeraptor Himself

The day they knocked down the Palace... my sister stood and cried...

I started working at LaPastaia in early December of 2004.  Shortly after I started working there, when I'd figured out the whole parking situation, I discovered the abandoned nightclub at the other end of the block.  Labeled "Tropicana", I didn't know that it was San Jose's last remaining Big Band Era building...

The Tropicana was originally called the Palomar Ballroom, and it was at one time on the edge of what was "downtown" and what was "the barrio" in San Jose.  It was the only integrated building in the city.  Whites, Blacks and Mexicans all hung out and listened to people like Tito Puente, Desi Arnez, Fats Domino and other jazz greats.

Of course, I didn't find all this out until much later.

At the time, it was "The Tropicana," and it was the fact that it was a Big Empty Building that pulled me out of the funk I'd been in (after being unemployed for almost a year and a half) and rekindled my desire to run my own theater in California.  From what I could tell walking by (and around) it almost every day, it was just this huge open space with a lobby up front.  There were thoughts running thru my head about how to divide up the interior into a theater space, and some classroom space and some studio space for Moron Life.  So each day, as I would pass the entrance to the building, I would stop and say hello, and imagine myself with keys, opening the building for business, or locking it up after a great night's show.  In the block and a half walk from parking lot to Restaurant, I would fantasize about how fantastic it would be, and how cheap I could get the building, cause-- well, it was abandoned, apparently!  This went on for most of a year while I tried to figure out just how to get my hands on the building.

And so I started to do some research.  The county records website actually proved to be helpful, and I found out that the property had previously been named Club 54, and had had several other names before it had been sold about two years ago for the sum total of three million dollars.

Now, that may seem like alot, but it was for that building, the building next to it (an empty warehouse), and the parking lots next to BOTH those buildings as well as the one next to the hotel.  So essentially the entire block except the hotel where my Restaurant is located.  Eventually I was able to uncover the name of the new owners, and Google helped me to discover that they were real estate developers.  And that information led me to the city planning commission's website where I stumbled upon their proposal to rip out the entire block (except the hotel) and build a 22 story condo right in the flight path of the airport.  Duh much?

I was disheartened for about a week, until I realized that it would take AGES to get something like that approved, and so I returned to my fantasy recharged, and printed out the entire 60 page Environmental Impact Report to see if I could get some clue as to when this thing might be okayed.  Because if I had three to five years, I could SURELY convince the developers to let me use the space until then while I developed a name for myself in the SJ theater scene.  It was in the reading of the EIR that I discovered that the space was originally The Palomar Ballroom, and learned about its history.  It's also when I learned what a bunch of self serving butt heads the local businessmen are.  The Palomar was eligible to be put on the National Register of Historic Places.  One of the issues brought up in the EIR was that if this happened, the entire plan for the condos would have to change, or the building would have to be physically moved.  Attached to the back of that section, however, were letters from several local businessmen expounding on how the place was unsafe because of the Latino community hanging out there when it was still a nightclub, and how it was an eyesore, and how it should just be razed and ignored.

Never mind that the hotel where my Restaurant is was a fucking drug den sixteen years ago, and now it's one of the gems in San Jose's crown of coolness.  Never mind the fact that the ballroom could be restored and turned into a community center or some other community facility (like a theater/performance space).  Cause who would want to use a culturally significant building to do something like that?

But I still thought I had a couple years to plan.  I was wrong.

They started gutting materials out of the building a month or so after I found the EIR.  A sign went up saying that the building was going to be demolished in 60 days, and that anyone who wanted the building could have it, and if you took it, the $30K cost of demolishing it would be donated to help move it.

And so I actually went to my contact on the San Jose Redevelopment Agency and said "If the city is interested in preserving this bit of history, I'll spearhead the effort to make it happen.  But I can't do it without the city behind me."  She said she'd check into it.  She never got back to me.

So the gutted building sat there.  I actually got to stick my head inside once, and it was even more awesome that I had imagined.  2/3ds of it was "ballroom" 1/3 of it was Bar/Dining room.  It would have been the perfect setup.  It would have been amazing.

And one day, would have been started coming down.

Not once did I stop saying hello to the building as I passed it on foot or in my car.  Not once did I not stop to put my hand on it to try to pick up some sense of the history there.  Not once did I stop caring about it as a piece of San Jose's history.  But one day fences went up around it, and it started coming down.

And I got pissed.

But there was nothing I could do except apologize to the building that had taken on an amazing personality in my mind.  I promised it I'd stop and take a shit on the cornerstone of the new building that would replace it.  And then I said farewell as it came down in huge chunks of wood, concrete and re-bar.

You may wonder why the hell I wrote all this down.  What does it have to do with anything?  Why am I focusing on a (barely) could-have-been situation?

Well, about a week ago, construction finally started on the empty lot.  No, I didn't go in and take a shit anywhere (but that doesn't mean I'm not going to).  The thing is, about the same time construction started is when all of this good stuff started happening to me.  It's almost like every hello went into a piggy bank of goodness, and now that they're building, I'm reaping the rewards of that year and a half of hellos. 

Today I watched them drive three story girders into the ground at the edges of the lot and surround them with cement.  The big machinery is pretty impressive, honestly.  And today I realized that all the good things started happening when they started construction.

What does this go to show?

I have no fucking clue.

However, it's become evident to me that dreams, even ones that can't come true, still have power.  So don't neglect them.  Never stop having them.  And don't ever, ever give up on them, because they just might find a way to manifest themselves in a manner that you were TOTALLY not expecting.

More on THAT later.

Done philosophizing
Tags: theatre

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