The good ole’ days

Last week, I was stuck in the sludge of Virginia Street traffic, daydreaming about how nice and breezy things were around here before you and all your friends moved up from San Jose. Let me now take you back to some of those halcyon scenes from yesteryear, so that you may perhaps understand your crimes against our town.

Yeah, it used to be that Virginia was two lanes from Plumb Lane to Peckham Lane, where it then narrowed to become a really thin two-laner. There used to be a bunch of farms out in that section, nice farms run by decent families who had the good sense to do their drinkin’ behind closed doors and keep all family beatings a secret. These were farms that were loaded with cows, chickens, pigs and horses, beautiful, healthy, happy animals that yielded wholesome eggs, rich milk, prized colts and some of the all-time great Western fighting cocks.

Further south, right about where Meadowood Mall now sits, you’d find the camps of the goat herders, whose flocks thrived upon the rich grasses that used to be so abundant in that area. Motorists would have to wait right there on Virginia Street itself, while the goat boys and their animals ambled across the road, the occasional sound of a neck bell clanking lazily in the early afternoon sun.

Those of us in our cars would smile and wave at the herders, who would smile and wave back only if the vehicle contained females over the age of 11. Sooner or later, you’d have to lean on the horn of your old sedan because the perpetually brazen goat herders would spend so much time ogling the women that they’d forget to move the damned goats. Finally we’d move on, avoiding eye contact with the rascals as they called out “gazosta poola,” a phrase from the old country we thought was a friendly farewell, but really meant “should you die tomorrow, I will warm your woman.”

Beyond the goats, you would find, right there where the new WinCo center now stands, the gypsy camp. This was a lively little action spot, for sure, where the dancing women and their poker-playing menfolk knew a thing or two about how to separate a young hayseed from the cash he just made at the cockfight arena.

They got better over time at taking money off the locals, who couldn’t resist the wild drinking games and the colorful cross-dressing sessions that were always a part of a trip to Gypsytown. But when a few especially enterprising gypsy men invented video poker, then founded Incredible Gypsy Technology, Inc. (or IGT), well, it wasn’t long before the old ways became slices of buttered toast in the roadside diner of cultural history.

I was going to describe other long gone and beloved landmarks on old Virginia, like Gimpy Bob’s Ski Shop, Del’s Burgers of Danger and the bridge over Thomas Creek where the gold-crazy troll lived. But then, it was finally my turn to get through the light at Virginia and Neil Road, and my reverie was snapped.