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Silicon Valley: The View from France



     Peter Orne reminisces about Menlo Park before the silicon rush:
     "I appreciate your remarks about Menlo Park. Beginning in the fall of 1994, I lived for three years there in a five-bedroom house, a palatial, gallumphing place with a leak in the roof and a broken garage-door opener, at the end of Oak Grove Avenue, across the street from the Catholic Church. With four couches arrayed on a shaggy wool carpet the color of grape nuts, I and my four roommates spent evenings after shared dinners lounging in perfectly middle-class, workaday harmony. This was before we'd thought about the Internet and making big bucks (which we've all still managed not to do!). Among us were a Wiccan photographer who toiled for a local biotech firm, a Stanford dropout who worked at bookstore in Mountain View, a Stanford grad doing a chaplaincy internship at Stanford Medical Center, and a Dartmouth grad who investigated hazmat sites for a consultancy to the E.P.A. in San Francisco. I worked for a publishing company. We were unmarried and unmonied and felt that we must be living in exactly the wrong part of the Bay Area for our demographic, but this was home, and it was always pleasant. I began an herb garden on the back patio; the raccoons would come and wash their food in my fish pond. To this day, a completely outdated nine-foot-tall U.S.G.S. map hangs in the hallway upstairs, placed there by our founding fathers. We had inherited the house, indirectly, from five Stanford Double E's who first rented the place in 1989. Over the years, they took on mythical significance in our minds, and we exaggerated the oral tales that trickled down to us of their magnificent six-course meals that we could never hope to match, and of their camping trips to the High Sierra with boxes of strawberries and bottles of chardonnay. One Belgian materials-science Ph.D. who'd lived there in the early 1990s ate so much cheese his cholesterol topped 300. While it was all the five of us could do to marshal a van to explore Napa Valley now and then, how many countless walks to Kepler's Books we did we enjoy, past the unmarried and the monied in Cafe Borrone, which we avoided unless some visitor came to town soaked in their own idea of Palo Alto-- Menlo Park."


     My comment: This vie de bohème looks charming in retrospect, proof that Peter is getting old. Menlo Park, once middle-class, in now a wealthy community in the richest country is the world. That doesn't make the people who live there any more pleasant. I have long disliked the place since they seem to object to everything. I suspect that the NIMBY movement started there.

Ronald Hilton - 4/11/00


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