I first moved to the Silicon Valley in 1984. That was before……..well………pretty much everything. No Twitter, Facebook, Google. No Internet. Steve Jobs was about a year away from getting kicked out of Apple. The most sophisticated computer users (like, err, myself) were on 1200 baud modems dialing up to the likes of CompuServe.
Even so, the Valley back then was the home of at least a few riches. Intel, Apple, Hewlett Packard, and other public firms had flooded new money into the area, but in spite of that, it still had very much a homespun college town feel to it. If you just dropped someone into any given neighborhood in Palo Alto – – even the nicest ones, like Crescent Park or Old Palo Alto – – they might guess they were strolling a pleasant suburb in Ohio or Illinois.
I was somewhat shaken, then, to see this on the front page of our town paper:
I was instantly reminded of this brilliant routine by the comedian David Cross. Listen to the whole thing. If you’re impatient, you are welcome to “cut to the chase” and jump to the 3:30 mark, although it’s funnier to just listen to the entire bit.
As David says, laying down a sheet of gold onto food to eat (and, two or three days later, defecate) is the ultimate “fuck you!” to poor people. I couldn’t have said it better myself.
I’ve paid close attention to this town for decades, and honestly, until about 2013 or so, it hadn’t changed – – not even during the Internet bubble. In the past few years, though, I’m seeing the garish signals of riches that were hidden before – – – super-exotic cars, women walking down University Avenue that look like models, and other signs of conspicuous consumption like the food mentioned above.
It’s a real shame, too. Andy Bechtolsheim, the investor behind my little company in 1992, is one of the richest men on the planet, and yet you’d never know it. He’s extraordinarily soft spoken, drives a production car, and dresses in such a way that most would assume he was an engineer (and maybe even a bit down on his luck). One of the great appeals to me of the now-gone Silicon Valley was its understated nature.
And now we have gold to eat. At least a few of us do.