A conversation in California (originally posted Saturday, February 23, 2002)

Thursday, February 14th: Mountain View

The scene:

About 1:30 a.m. on Castro Street, Mountain View’s main strip. Jill and I are outside Molly McGee’s. We’ve been drinking and dancing for a while. We left as soon as the DJ started playing the Grease Megamix, a crime that should be punishable by public execution followed by public peeing-on. It’s that bad. (If you want to experience a fraction of its horror, here’s a RealAudio sample. There’s also a MIDI version.)

I wonder how Jamie Zawinski managed to live here without losing his mind.

A group of drunk partygoers — an even mix of men and women — see the accordion and ask the question that most ninety-nine out of one hundred people ask: “Do you know how to play that thing?” I prove that I can by breaking into a couple of popular tunes.

After a couple of tunes, I stop to talk to the group. One of the women is pressing on the keys repeatedly and getting frustrated.

Her: It’s not making any sound!
Me: Of course not.
Her (annoyed, as if I’m playing some kind of joke on her): Why not?
Me: Because I’m not squeezing the bellows right now.
Her: What?
Me: The accordion is just a big harmonica with buttons and an air bag. Sound doesn’t come our of a harmonica by itself; you have to blow air into it to make noise. Same here, except you squeeze the bellows to move air over the reeds.
Her (impressed by my extremely basic science): Wow.
One of the guys: Dude, you’re not from around here, are you? What brings you down here?
Me: I’m visiting my friend Jill [I point to Jill] and am attending a conference in San Francisco tomorrow.
Guy: We’re all from around here. Most of us work at Lockheed.
Her: I’m a mechanical engineer there.
Me (thinking): I am never ever boarding a Lockheed plane again.

Recommended Reading

The social situation in Silicon Valley, circa 1999. One of the reasons that I have avoided living in the Valley.

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