Santana Row

Santana Row was a several million dollar open-air strip lined with shopping centers, specialty stores, expensive restaurants, and other attractions. Not long before nearing its completion, a huge grassfire erupted across the highway. Strong winds blew flaming bits of debris across the highway and Santana Row burned to the ground. It would be another year to rebuild, but Iím glad they did.

Santana Row has become a bustling strip of culture and activity. Unlike Cupertino Village, which is entirely Asian plaza, Santana Row included Italian restaurants like Pasta Pomodoro, Japanese restaurants like Blowfish Sushi, not to mention French, American, and many other restaurants. There were fashion stores and cooking stores like William Sonoma. All sorts of foreign (and domestic), and not to forget, dead-sexy and very expensive cars were always on display: Ferraris, Lexuses, Mercedes, Corvettes, Mustangs, Lamborghinis, etc.

There were smaller, but still expensive (everything was expensive), bread shops and bakeries. There were flower shops, electronic stores, and jewelry stores. Even Borders (the bookstore), Crate and Barrel, and Best Buy had found spaces at Santana Row. There was a cinema too competing with Century Theaters, which was located right across the street. And many of the upper floors of the buildings were actual apartment rooms.

My favorite spot in Santana Row though was next to this fountain. There was an artificial garden and in the middle was a life-size chessboard with toddler-sized chess pieces. Many normal sized chess tables surrounded the garden. I remember going one day to play chess there with my friend Austin during our lunch period (we were very late back for class).

Of course we choose the life-sized board on the ground. Something about things being big just always attracts me. I think itís the feeling of being in that world. Playing life-size chess was much different than the tournament games I had played on my high school chess team or the Regional Championships at the Santa Clara Convention center. My whole perspective of the board was skewed. I didnít feel like God or a general commanding my little pawns and knights and bishops and rooks, and most certainly not the queen or king. I felt equal to the pieces I controlled, like a comrade. Chess on such a big scale felt a lot more like a warriorís war (chess is a simulation of war) instead of a generalís war. I maneuvered around each piece and felt like I was one of the pieces battling. It was a lot more exciting than playing chess normally. It became more about feeling the pieces, touching them, and moving them. Normal chess was more about strategy and the big picture. Itís odd how the same simulation, the game of chess, could feel so different simply by changing the scale of the pieces.

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