This interview is part fiction. Susannah Greenwood has been a longtime Bay Area arts enabler, supporting the local arts and music scene. Originally written for a SJ-based publication it was left unpublished when the editors realized that it had some fictional elements. But, come on, a good story calls for some embellishment! It’s up to you to decide what you’d like to be real.
Author Susannah Greenwood and I have been scrambling to find places and times to conduct an interview since late-April. Between my busy touring and rehearsal schedule and Susannah’s job as lead wrangler doing content management for the SJ Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, playwriting, acting and hat making we’ve managed to conclude a three-part interview spanning over 400 miles.
After three meetings, one in San Francisco and one in LA , only once have we managed to sit down in downtown San Jose to talk about her latest book, 100 Things to do in San Jose. A love letter of sorts that is part travel itinerary and what Greenwood terms, “a prompt to make other people write about the other 100 million things to do. The 140-page book lists everything from food and drink suggestions to arts and entertainment. It’s a travel book with a dry wit in its voice and a distinctive San Jose attitude.
Talking about San Jose in Los Angeles.
It is a hot June day. Greenwood and I sit side-by-side on a park bench overlooking the bubbling La Brea tar pits while picking at Banh Mi sandwiches talking San Jose’s future. We laugh at the absurdity and bit of irony in our conversation and our current surroundings.
“Of course we have an interview about 100 things to do in San Jose everywhere but San Jose!” she exclaims, her red locks bouncing in the LA sunlight.
When asked what compelled her to write 100 Things To Do in San Jose, Greenwood answers in a dry witted humor the standard questions she has been asked countless times, “I wanted to create that prompt to get people talking about what was left out. They’re suggestions! Just a starting point!”
Talking about San Jose in San Francisco.
We begin our second interview in San Francisco sitting at the famous watering hole, “Café Vesuvio,” in North Beach. Its beatnik sensibility and mellow vibe of fogged over hipness. Greenwood orders an IPA and begins to speak in earnest about San Jose.
“We’re so busy doing,” she begins, “We just don’t care about promoting what we’re doing. Everyone has this weird obsession with creating things to do in San Jose, and by everyone I mean non-San Jose residents,” she takes a pause to sip her beer. “It’s a DIY culture.”
“It’s pretty fucking punk rock,” I add. “What do you think San Jose’s mission statement would be if had one?”
She laughs and states matter of factly, “Suck it! San Jose is going to do what it wants every time. This city dances to the beat of its own drum.”
While we sit overlooking Kerouac Alley and the large mural blanketing City Lights Bookstore, we both take a moment to reflect on the arts scene in San Jose. I tell Susannah the primary reason I was drawn to San Jose was the visual arts scene and the eclectic community that makes it up. We laugh as we list all the eccentric movers and shakers of the arts scene all of whom seem to operate in tangent despite some territorial disputes. The best thing about San Jose is the people who make the arts scene happen in this town.
We know the way to San Jose! Talking about San Jose in San Jose
Sitting at Good Karma Susannah Greenwood orders its famous Chana Masala and an IPA. It’s one of those San Jose afternoons. It seems as though every local character has dropped by during our final interview. For a moment, author and reporter Gary Singh sits down with us and joins our interview. At one point our table is crowded with SJ residents all chiming in on all the things that weren’t mentioned in Greenwood’s book.
“See? I told you,” she leans towards me, “you can’t fit all of San Jose into one book, it clearly objects to that!”
Greenwood fields interrogations about why certain places were left out before declaring, “Let’s go! Let’s do all the things I didn’t list!”
We spend the rest of the day roaming San Jose. Greenwood has forced our table of SJ characters to ride the VTA light rail up and down 2nd street wearing her handmade hats. We visit the places that went unmentioned in her book including the Quilt and Textile Museum and JJ’s Blues where we listen to a metal show and drink a few too many cocktails. We convince Greenwood not to break into Sam Liccardo’s office where, “The best views of the city are to be had!” Instead Gary Singh drives us to the Lick Observatory.
It’s at the top of the Observatory overlooking the whole of San Jose where Susannah Greenwood utters a beautiful soliquoy, “San Jose is this creative place. We are the cool teenager right now. We’re iconic without an icon. Right now we don’t care what other people think because we are rebels and we do what we want. San Jose is this diverse, visionary place of innovation.”
“It’s absolutely inspiring,” I add.
Greenwood turns her gaze from the stars to me and says, “Do you know the way to San Jose?”
We look at the city looking back at us. The stars have never seemed nearer.