Eat, Drink, & Go
Unlike many European countries I have been to where restaurant-goers stay a long time conversing and eating very slowly, most people sitting at restaurant tables here have high turn-over rates. Since a waitor or waitress gets paid primarily from tips, it is to their financial benefit to rush the customers through the meal in order to sit new customers down in their station. Don't be surprised if the waitress is already bringing you the bill while you're still eating the meal. They come by while you're mouth is full, so when they ask you "How is everything? Can I get you anything else?" Your mouth is too full to respond, so you can only nod. This serves 2 purposes: 1. They can say that they checked up on you and 2. That signals to the waitor/waitress that you're ready for the check. Pay the waitress, leave a tip, and go.
There are people who can chuck a bit of meat on a hot plate, eat it when it's done and happily say they've just had barbecue (BBQ), but these people wouldn't be American: barbecueing in the USA is serious business. Ever since 16th-century Spaniards saw the Arawaks of the West Indies with prototype spatulas in their hands, staring into a smoking pit, and yelling out something in Tainos (it sounded suscipiciously like 'Honnn-eeey! The meat's nearly done'), barbecue has been the pièce de résistance of USA-style cuisine.
Like its founding country, barbecue - and everything to do with it - is big, brash, and subject to a thousand different, and passionately-held, beliefs. Everyone has a theory on the proper 'rub' (salt, sugar and spice mix), 'mop' (meat moisturiser) and 'smoke' (cooking device); heated arguments can break out over what cut of meat is the best; sauce recipes are passed down from generation to generation like family heirlooms; and as to the burning question of whether or not tomato has any business being in barbecue sauce - just don't go there.
Sauce or rub, wet or dry, there are only a few points that everyone agrees on: the meat has to be kept away from the flames and cooking time is always 'just a few more minutes' (the meat is only ready when it starts falling off the bone in tender hunks). It can be eaten with lashings of sauce and a pile of 'fixin's' (cole slaw, baked beans or candied yams), or just slapped between two slices of bread and eaten on the run. In fact there are as many different ways to experience barbecue as there are states, from dry-rub beef brisket in Texas to chopped pork shoulder, drizzled with sauce and served as a sandwich, in Memphis.
The first quarter
The first quarter released in 2005 honors California, and is the 31st in the United States Mint's 50 State Quarters® Program. California was admitted into the Union on September 9, 1850, becoming our Nation’s 31st State. Nicknamed the "Golden State," California’s quarter depicts naturalist and conservationist John Muir admiring Yosemite Valley’s monolithic granite headwall known as "Half Dome" and also contains a soaring California condor. The coin bears the inscriptions "California," "John Muir," "Yosemite Valley" and "1850."
In 1849, the year before California gained statehood, the family of 11-year-old John Muir emigrated from Scotland to the United States, settling in Wisconsin. In 1868, at the age of 30, Muir sailed up the West Coast and landed in San Francisco. He made his home in the Yosemite Valley, describing the Sierra Nevada Mountains as "the Range of Light… the most divinely beautiful of all the mountain chains I have seen." He devoted the rest of his life to the conservation of natural beauty, publishing more than 300 articles and 10 books that expanded his naturalist philosophy.
The 20-member California State Quarter Commission was formed to solicit design concepts from California citizens and to review all submissions. The Commission forwarded 20 design concepts to Governor Gray Davis’s office for further consideration. From these, five were chosen as finalists and sent for final review to the United States Mint. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger chose the final selection from this group of five. The four other design concepts considered included "Waves and Sun," "Gold Miner," "Golden Gate Bridge," and the "Giant Sequoia" design. The Department of Treasury approved the "John Muir/Yosemite Valley" design on April 15, 2004.
It is customary to tip in restaurants here in the states which is sometimes awkward for visitors from other countries. In any restaurant where you sit down and are severed by a waiter or waitress it's almost expected that you leave at least 15% behind for the tip. If service is really good some people will even leave 20%. It's your call. If you are ina big party the tip will sometimes be included so you should always check.
Because this is Silicon...
Because this is Silicon Valley, I thought there would be Internet terminals and cafes on every corner of every street. This is not the case. The internet terminal I was able to find was at the Kinko's near San Jose State University. And I had to look at least half a day.
Wealthy but not flashy
This is a place where people are affluent (the real estate is pricey) but the locals aren't necessarily flashy (the cars are Priuses and such). People dress very conservatively and people are low key. I'm sure there are outliers who like to be flashy too but for the most part, people are pretty down to earth. I suggest that you probably remain low key if you want to blend in.
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San Jose Taiko
This is an AWESOME performing group. They do drum concerts around the area, and even the country. Their energy is so energetic, and it resounds with everyone. I was lucky to only have to drive 90 minutes to hear them. Catch a performance if you can!
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