The Quarter-Century Sellout / 17 January 1998

Thus I squat, back twisted into a permanent hunch (“permanent hunch” sounds sort of like a hit song by an intense, soulful alternateen band or perhaps one of those nonsensical erotic thriller/Bond-type movie titles), distance-vision fading into a comfortable, soothing blur, hands cramping into arthritic talons (and to no avail do I punch a rusty nail [not the drink] through my palm à la Roy Batty and/or J.H.C. to keep my fist from clenching), bowels falling into a disturbingly regular rhythm not unlike menstrual cycles following the phases of the moon, and the latest development in my headlong rush into maturity: a pad in the burbs.

That’s right, my cronies, here on the verge of my 25th birthday, I’ve taken the plunge and am holing up, roommateless for the first time, in the thriving cultural mecca that is Mountain View. Mountain View. The name conjures up sweeping vistas and obscenely verdant valleys, or at the bare minimum, a View of a Mountain. In truth it’s the heart of Silicon Valley’s particular brand of darkness, home to crucial and vibrant locales such as the Holiday Inn Express, Netscape, Purple Moon (entertainment software for girls), Intuit, Silicon Graphics, Knight-Ridder, DermaScan Laboratories, Inc. (manufacturer of products for hair removal by waxing and electrolysis), the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute, and, as we all know, the American Cryonics Association. Mountain View is life, basically, at its fullest and most diverse, where you must use your windshield wipers to keep the relentless love and genius from blocking your view as you drive around looking for a Burger King that still has Anastasia paraphernalia. It will soon be my home.

Is it the upcoming landmark birthday that prompted this rash, possibly ill-advised move? Was my nonstop stimulant- and cleaning-product-fueled party life getting too much for this old man? Was I getting burned out by the brilliance, innovation, beauty and wit of my fellow San Franciscans? In a word: No, no, and yes (but really no). The lease is up on my current Tenderloin slum and I’m fleeing like rats fleeing a rat-infested Tenderloin slum (that was clever) and I’ve also never been particularly enchanted with good ol’ San Francisco and believe that I’ve been subtly brainwashed into thinking it’s “all that,” as the kids say these days. Certainly it’s a gorgeous city and there’s plenty to do and there’s culture and diversity and life coming out of its collective ass, but because of this it attracts masses of achingly hip, overeducated youngsters. Example: Movies (“films”) that would close after three days due to lack of interest in my hometown of Denver, CO are met with lines around the block in SF, with everyone in that line sporting a goatee similar to mine (even the women! Kidding!). You see, everyone here is fabulously cool and interesting in exactly the same way (italics mine), thereby canceling out said coolness and interestingness. It’s the oft-commented-upon “post-ironic” (and you see how it gets further complicated [more “texts” are added] by me putting that phrase in quotes? Postmodernism is fun and easy!) society we live in, wherein individuality has become co-opted by advertisers, etc., and it’s like: “Let’s ALL be individuals” by drinking the same drink, wearing the same panties, seeing the same movies, reading the same magazines. You know the drill.

The end result is, of course, a slew of boring people who are hauntingly similar to you (me), which is distressing and also means you might as well kiss the whole concept of parking your car goodbye.

Now, I’m not saying that Mountain View, and all that Mountain View stands for, is the solution. It’s an escape, plain and simple. But I like to justify it in this way: In Mountain View (or its ilk), a land of mini-malls and convenience stores and people who work and do little else, you have to put some effort into both being interesting and also finding people who are interesting. In San Francisco, you can’t throw a rock without hitting a fabulously fascinating person (“Jesus, throw a rock in here, you’ll hit one. And do me a favor, Fink: Throw it hard.” —Barton Fink), but in MV, you’ve got families, drones, dullards, etc. You can’t just rely on your environment to make life (or yourself) interesting; you have to put a little elbow grease into it. You have to rise above your surroundings, or be swallowed/pistolwhipped by them.

We’ll see how it turns out. We’ll see if this little pep rally for myself works or not.

Joshua Green Allen

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