The Tuesday Quotable

In 1970, I was, thank God, finishing high school. Mornings as I was getting ready, I always had my radio on. The song I remember hearing most frequently was Dionne Warwick’s perky “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” In fact, I always thought it was just a little too perky.

The song was written for her by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. It deals generally with the eventual disillusion of life in L.A., and escaping its freeway sprawl to return to San Jose.

Do you know the way to San Jose?

I’ve been away so long. I may go wrong and lose my way

Do you know the way to San Jose?

I’m going back to find some peace of mind in San Jose

L.A. is a great big freeway

Put a hundred down and buy a car

In a week, maybe two, they’ll make you a star

Weeks turn into years. How quick they pass

And all the stars that never were

Are parking cars and pumping gas

You can really breathe in San Jose

They’ve got a lot of space. There’ll be a place where I can stay

I was born and raised in San Jose

I’m going back to find some peace of mind in San Jose

I graduated from high school. Time passed; I went places and did things. In 1981, the man who would become my husband in a couple of years and I moved, thank God, from Minneapolis to San Francisco. I learned the way to San Jose. I’ve got to say, it’s not my idea of a place in which to find much peace of mind.

First, you’ve got to get there. Navigating Highway 101 is about as much fun as the 405 in L.A. Plan to be in the car for a while.

As for the “lots of space” thing, remember the song “Little Boxes?”

It’s been rumored that it was written about San Jose.

And Dionne Warwick is the only person who has ever called it San Jose. Locals, which means basically anyone in California, pronounce it “Sanizzay.”

For the record, Ms. Warwick was born in East Orange, New Jersey, which doesn’t have the same snap as San Jose. So the song had more to do with a rhyme scheme that can generously be called gratuitous, than any sort of existential angst in search of peace and quiet. All it had to do was get lodged permanently in your brain and make its authors and singers famous. You were never supposed to examine it too closely.

But it got me through my senior year of high school and eventually to San Francisco, where I actually did find abundant peace of mind. And for that, I am grateful.

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