I walk into the bamboo-floored, decadently located house that the Dot-Com bought, or to be literal, the fallout from the Dot-Com. Perhaps it’s unethical and downright wrong, but I ended up making some great business deals near the end. Others were crying at lost millions, but I was working hard, cleaning up databases and flying around the country finishing out projects my dot-bomb left languishing as they changed their business plan every month.
I had survivor guilt on the odd weekend walking the streets of the Mission. I’d run into Eric, one of those that I thought had lost a mint, and we’d shy away from each other, embarrassed that we weren’t destitute, or maybe just unwilling to re-hash it all. One night it was unavoidable, as his girlfriend was roommates with my friend at Columbia, and they ran into each other while we were both at an extremely trendy and expensive restaurant. Then, I found out he had done just what I had- picking up a few lucrative contracts, kiting over the desolation of Silicon Valley post-boom.
Most of the other people who had felt the hills higher than me, and the valleys, had moved out of town- to Central California, Napa, Santa Cruz, Austin, Portland, Boston, all decrying how they hated the city, the stuffiness, the expense, the technology-centric conversations, the square foot price of our real estate, lack of yards, good barbecue, rain, winters, snow, open spaces, long vistas, tall peaks (viewable from the city), the new age religion, the flakiness, the unfriendliness, the friendliness, the slowness, the quickness, the attitude, and the lack of attitude.
I’m going to write the “catalogue of ships” next in this Great Gatsby book. The chapter is when he lists off all of the people who attended Gatsby’s parties one summer. It’s similar to Iliad’s catalogue of ships, something that bored me to tears for the 10 or so years after I read it, and now I read shipping news with interest. It’s like Brussel sprouts, appreciation grows with age. Friend of mine is mentioned in Gatsby’s list of ships. “What name?” I ask. “Dewar.” He says. And that’s it. It’s the reference that goes nowhere. The interesting bit of the list of ships- in the Iliad and in Great Gatsby- is that it turns fiction and narrative on its end. You want realism? I’ll give you realism.
These are the people in this cafe. 3 girls from art school working on a charcoal. A guy on his mac doing some DOS thing. Young guy watching soccer and tapping his finger. Man with good posture on a rented computer. Girl tutoring a long-haired guy on a book. New girl behind the counter, and Jason, my favorite cafe worker, making schwermas on the grill in the back.
It’s so entrenched in time and place, and in recognition of what those names stand for. It means nothing to those without context. Yes, I’m interested in what cruise line will disrupt my neighborhood for the next three days. The horn blasts will wake me up in the morning, the mobs of French/Spanish/Italian tourists asking the same questions over and over again, and disrupting my local haunts. But anyone else? Not noteworthy at all. To me catalogue of ships is the most effective method of writing to those in the know, and the least important to those not in the know. It shows the author’s hand of authority, and of distance.