A set of spiffy new light-pole banners in downtown San Jose are getting the attention of visitors, possibly as much because of their message as the splash of color they provide.

The banners, decorating the transit corridor on First and Second streets, mostly display active verbs in all caps -- "Love," "Thrive," "Create," "Enjoy," "Belong," -- and at first it seems like a campaign George Orwell might have written about. But the banners all have a second half that shows people downtown declaring "I create in this place," "I belong in this place," and so forth, making it much more a stream of celebrations than a set of commandments.

"It really started with 'love' and 'create' and 'belong,' " said Scott Knies, executive director of the San Jose Downtown Association, told me during a break at Thursday's Music in the Park concert in Plaza de Cesar Chavez. "We were trying to convey the diversity of the place we're in, matching images with these active verbs."

The banners were installed with the help of the Valley Transportation Authority and the downtown Property Based Improvement District, which has been responsible for other beautification efforts such as planter boxes and the Groundwerx cleanup and ambassador crew. The last time banners were installed by the light-rail stations was about 2001, when activity in downtown San Jose was at an ebb, stunted by the dot-com bust.


Advertisement

This campaign, dubbed "Find Your Place," comes as activity downtown is on an upswing, with restaurants filling up with lunchtime diners and construction cranes moving overhead. It might just as well refer to the packed parking lots and garages.

CHILLING MOMENT: The ice bucket came for me and nearly four dozen other people Thursday night at Municipal Stadium, all of us participants in the San Jose Giants Ice Bucket Challenge. The entire team, along with mascot Gigante, took their frozen lumps to raise money to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.

I was seated on the field with San Jose City Councilmembers Sam Liccardo and Madison Nguyen on one side of me and KRTY's Indiana Al Breiten and Adam Herbel on the other. The media folks got their ice bath delivered by longtime Gilroy Garlic Festival volunteers Gerry and Jeanne Foisy, better known as Mr. and Mrs. Garlic. All the money raised went to the ALS Emergency Treatment Fund, and its managing director Jess Rabourn got doused along with the rest of us.

STEINBECK AWARD: Celebrated novelist Khaled Hosseini will be presented with the John Steinbeck Award at San Jose State University on Sept. 10. The 7:30 p.m. benefit for the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies will be held at the new Student Union building, where Hosseini will have an onstage conversation with KGO Radio Host Pat Thurston.

Hosseini said in a release from the university that he's honored to receive an award named for Steinbeck, whom he calls "an unrelenting advocate for social justice."

"Both as a person and a writer, I count myself among the millions on whose social consciousness Steinbeck has made such an indelible impact," he said. How fitting that one of the people expected to be in attendance is Jan Sanchez, the teacher who presented Hosseini with his first Steinbeck novel at Independence High School in San Jose.

Tickets are $25 ($10 for students) and can be purchased at the San Jose State Event Center box office or at Eventbrite.

WICKED TICKETS: Broadway San Jose is bringing the musical phenomenon "Wicked" to the Center for the Performing Arts starting Wednesday, and a day-of-performance lottery for a limited number of orchestra seats will be held for each performance until the run ends Sept. 14.

People can enter the lottery 2½ hours before each performance at the Center for the Performing Arts box office, and a small number of winners will be selected to purchase up to two seats for $25. You've got to have a valid ID and bring some dough -- the tickets are offered cash only. Go to www.broadwaysanjose.com for more information on the show.

POTTY HUMOR: My Mercury News colleague Mike Rosenberg, who's been following the ups and downs of Levi's Stadium, tweeted a photo of a sign above a urinal in a stadium men's room that read: "Recycled Water. Do Not Drink."

I really hope that wasn't another one of those Candlestick Park issues that Levi's improved on.

Contact Sal Pizarro at spizarro@mercurynews.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/spizarro.