I hate graffiti. It gets my blood boiling and makes me fantasize about bad things happening to the people who litter our valley with tags.
But I have to admit that over the past several weeks one bit of graffiti has provoked another emotion in me: Curiosity.
I'm talking about the huge message that reads "RIP TOMMY" that's visible to anyone driving on southbound Interstate 280 near the Highway 87 junction. The letters -- all yellow except the "R," which is pink -- were painted on a train overpass. And they have me wondering, "Who's Tommy?"
A photo shows something that's almost impossible to catch if you're driving by: Two sets of dates, "1/27/92" and "1/19/13," creating a tombstone memorial for someone who died a week before his 21st birthday.
Nearly every time I see the huge letters, I think about the painstaking effort it must have taken to put them there. Someone was possibly suspended or hanging onto a ledge for a very long time to paint and fill in each one. Why is the "R" pink? Did the vandal run out of yellow paint? And it had to be done under cover of darkness, making it even more treacherous as cars still sped beneath the painter.
If you Google "RIP Tommy 280," you'll find pictures people have snapped of the graffiti. Nobody's bragging about it, they're just wondering what it means.
A tip from a reader pointed me in the right direction. A 20-year-old San Jose man named Tommy Martinez Jr. died Jan. 19 after slipping on loose gravel and falling from a 300-foot cliff above Davenport Beach in Santa Cruz County. Police say he was intoxicated, a situation that likely turned an avoidable accident into a tragedy.
In that light, the graffiti takes on a new meaning. I'm still not happy that it was done. Vandalism is vandalism, even in grief. But I won't be driving by again without thinking of the message and warning contained in those letters. Excessive drinking combined with bad judgment can be fatal. It was for Tommy Martinez.
It's tough to say how long the letters will remain. The overpass isn't city property, so the city can't get out there to remove it without permission. And if you've seen other train crossings over South Bay freeways littered with tags for months, you know this could be a message that hangs around for a while.
That might not be the worst result.
GALA PRODUCTION: The San Jose Rep's upcoming "Blue Box Bash Goes Bollywood" fundraiser on April 20 gala is borrowing its theme from the company's current production, "Disconnect," which is set in India. The evening includes an Indian "fusion" dinner served on the Rep's stage, followed by a Bollywood-style dance performance.
And Rep board president Sharon Kirsch tells me that there are some auction items that will definitely resonate with fans close to home, too.
Lew Wolff, who owns the Oakland A's, San Jose Earthquakes and several downtown properties, including the Fairmont Hotel, has signed on for lunch with four people at the upscale Grill on the Alley. Especially with baseball season upon us, it would make for a fascinating conversation.
Law firm McManis Faulkner has donated its penthouse suite at HP Pavilion for the Sharks' last regular season home game on April 23. With the team's recent surge, that game against the Dallas Stars could have serious playoff implications.
Tickets are $250 a person, though $150 of that is tax deductible. To purchase tickets online, go to www.sanjoserep.com.
CELEBRATING FRONTIER VILLAGE: Bob Johnson, a retired librarian of the California Room at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library, will return to the library Wednesday to talk about his new book about Frontier Village, San Jose's long-gone, Western-themed amusement park.
The 7 p.m. event on the library's second floor will include a talk and slideshow, and Johnson also will be selling and signing copies of the book, "Frontier Village," which is part of Arcadia's Images of America series.