it was just an ordinary night in flatz. the storage hustlers and the winos were huddled in the corner, leering at pictures of cluster farms in ontario. jimmy was at the bar, cleaning the last flecks of spit from the beer glasses and casting his eye over tonight’s late-night stragglers. 2 program managers were having a cat-fight by the concierge desk. nobody looked up. and I was waiting for a friend. a friend from california who’d contacted me the other night, with information he said would ‘open the lid on this like christmas’. I was intrigued. but I’d been here before, back in ’67, mr white had blown the roof off the willow road operation and all hell broke loose. some folks hadn’t forgotten that, and so he’s still hiding under a pile manuals in the bay area.
as midnight approaches, I head to my room, and I wait in the shadows for the call that will tell me we’re on. the wait seems like forever. the whole damn thing goes round in my head, until I’m dizzy with images of strip joints, barbeques, formula 1 and video games. he’s not gonna show. there’s footsteps in the hall and my hand moves over the table, where the dark wood reflects my piece in the dim light of the table lamp. there’s 2 voices talking outside the door, sounds like east coast, and I can just make out some of their drawl. “yeah, yeah. it’ll be fixed by tomorrow”, “no, no, I got danny coming over, he’s gonna give them a little piece of advice”, “yeah, we’re wired. ok, let’s go”. click. a key turns in the door. I grab my piece and I’m moving from the chair across the floor, so I’m behind the door as it bursts open.
“there you are sir, 1 bottle of zinfandel, and a blue cheese burger with fries. can I help you with anything else tonight sir?” “er, no, that’ll be fine. what time is it?” “I have 12 thirty sir.”
I got a free cheesecake. yum! saturday! excellent! dribble dribble dribble.
google are having a conference downstairs. it’s not all of google, just a few people who look like they’ve been sucked into the vortex and have just been told how much adspace to sell. they don’t like the dessert downstairs. they’ve come up to the poolside grill with their plates of free food and free beer and they’re sitting between me and NBA highlights. my pizza is nice. theirs is not. I order cheesecake. they order cheesecake. I eat mine, including that rockhard sugar swirl they drizzle on stuff round here. they don’t eat theirs and they head back down to the conference room where I can hear the fray piping up the stairs to signal the end of dinner and the start of team building. they’re all about 24. I’m 107.
I say thank you very much all the time and sound like I mean it and invariably get into a courtesy fight with the bar staff who really have to thank me more than I thank them. that doesn’t happen at home. the glasses are all clean over here as well. I retreat to my room. it has 4 internal doors. for some reason I find that funny enough to write about it. I can open them all and run around the room in a circuit. each section has it’s own lighting. if I run sideways and squint it’s like being on a train. nowehere, however, is quite bright enough to see properly. I suspect that’s deliberate somehow. the brightest spots in the room are if you are REAL CLOSE to a mirror or sat in front of my new ferrari with a screen that’s a bit like the briefcase in pulp fiction – I go ooooh like I’ve witnessed the meaning of life in a luminescent glow every time I lift the lid. I spend about 2 hours reading emails I can’t file and by the time I’m just making stuff up in monthly reports I figure I should go to bed. which means I’ll do something else for 4 hours until 3 a.m., like staring myself out in the mirror for no reason. I shouldn’t be left alone with Jane’s Addiction for too long.
I don’t see anyone else round here, so you must be looking at me, etc…
bathroom restroom toilet lavatory stand up sit down hang about get out faucet tap manbag cool neat ready all set large gaps small gaps unisex gents ladies men women ally mcbeal ally mccoist football football iwork flex flexible reservation camp tim caynes
nice to put a name to a face at last. sorry, a face to a name. so how often do you come to menlo park? all the time? oh. so where are you? right. I’ve got a meeting with x at 12 and then I”m heading all the way to the other end of the campus because I think that’s where building 18 is, but I’ll realize that it’s actually at the other end and it’ll start raining and I’ll wonder how everybody else gets from one end to the other round here only to discover that you can walk around the edge like a rat scurrying through the connecting doors between each building so as I had my pass in my jacket pocket all the time because this is the only time I wear this jacket when I come out here that’s just what I do and we’re sitting here talking about Q1 and how many countries there actually are in the world and I’m thinking about the way everybody has maps on the wall over here but they’re only maps of the US at least in the offices I’ve been in.
tonight I’ll install second life on the ferrari and buy a shirt from an alternative store in the south west corner for L$49 only to realize that what I obviously should have bought is an enormous penis as I erroneously teleport to someplace in the top 20 to see what the fuss is about.
after granola and danish I headed to menlo park, via stanford and page mill road, for some reason. you know I only come out here to drive around in circles. as it turns out, there was still snow at the top of page mill and so I threw the chevy cobalt into a left-hander and hand-braked into someone’s observatory where a cowboy was practising whipping himself in the sunshine. I figured I should probably go to the office.
halfway down the hill I get flagged down by chips and pull up at the end of a short line of SUVs with bumper stickers saying things like “sunshine country” and “the neverending sunshine state” and “I love my sunshine county” and “if you can read this, we’re not related” and poncho gets me to wind down my window, which obviously I don’t know how to do, but eventually just step out of the car instead. it seems there is a small pile-up in the middle of the road and I can see over poncho’s shoulder that a 20-something baseball cap is standing by his wrecked honda and nervously eyeing a 40-something handbag who’s pulling the wings from his wrecked BMW. some old blokes are scratching themselves and doing shoulder laughs at each other. I’m going to be late.
just then, mr bleasby calls me on my cellphone, which almost has me jumping into the path of the tow truck. nobody ever calls me. where do I want the ferrari sent? menlo park or broomfield? I dunno. the UK? you’ll want it while you’re here, right? er, I guess. are you in the office? I’m on page mill road. what? um, I guess we should send in to broomfield and I’ll throw some trousers away or something to fit it in my suitcase. is it 64-bit? etc.
about 30 minutes later and we’re snaking back down page mill, with me at the back of the snake, thankfully, lest I get intimidated by the locals and careen off the roadside into a swimming pool. I have to meet neal at lunchtime. it’s not lunchtime. it’s alright. I know I’ll take the wrong turning and end up in redwood city or something
by the time I’d gone about 5 miles on middlefield and ended up in redwood city, I was approaching lateness. I mean, redwood city is nice and everything, but I’m supposed to be 5 miles THAT WAY. where’s the freeway. ah. there. left lane san francisco. right. no. left. hang on. NONONONONO. screeeeeech. I hold up my hand to the carnage behind me because that makes it alright that I’ve just crossed 4 lanes at a 90 degree angle. san jose. let’s rock.
it doesn’t matter which campus you go to, everyone seems to be hiding. they’re all at home now, you see. if you’re going meet somebody, you have a provide a google earth file to find which flex office they’re in. as it turns out, it’s 2143 or something. lunchtime. ooh look. jonathan schwartz.
ah. homeland security. they checked all my hold luggage and put everything back in kind of like it was before. except for all the stuff like shirts and jackets, which are folded in such a way as to make one enormous crease across the front you can’t ever iron out. and the electrical adaptors and cables they scattered about while checking for detonators. I think they also took my laptop out and played solitaire for while, but I can’t be sure.
it’s cold. I knew it would be, so I’d packed my dad’s killy skiing jacket just in case and as it’s still in my suitcase, I might just put that on for the shuttle ride to rental central. I like that shuttle. I like the way it tells you to “set the luggage cart brake to on” every 10 seconds. I like the way it stops at the post office. I like the way it accellerates like it’s lost control as you drop down the incline to rental central and the group of swiss skiers who haven’t set their luggage cart brake to on are now chasing it through the carriage. I like the way I don’t have to walk anywhere unlike the fricken 17 miles I have to walk at london heathrow just to get to the next terminal to get the travelator to the elevator to get the escalator which takes me to the heathrow express which takes me to the next terminal where I walk another 17 miles to get a rotovator from mr motorvator to get the conveyor to the upper layer where the fast bag drop has a sign on top because the line has stopped because the plane’s got lost.
my names not on the board. it never is. someone concatenated my name and title as “timmr” on my avis preferred profile and now nobody can say my name or apparently type it into a hand-held device. it’s alright though, the people at the preferred desk are very nice and because my car’s never ready they always give me a nice new one that’s just been cleaned. even if it is a red chevy cobalt LT, which in this case, stands for Lamentable Throttle.
I did something on the flight that I’ve never done before. I took out a GUIDE BOOK and started reading it. yes, a san francisco and bay area eyewitness guide I got back in 1996. I don’t normally give myself away as a tourist and spend ages in queues and as planes taxi to terminals just sitting there looking like I’ve done it all before and I’m not going to panic because I know when they’re going to call my seat number/open the doors/start the baggage carousel etc. so I’m just cool waiting for the moment that I stroll up to and pick off my suitcase and wander off leaving a bunch of holidaymakers thinking “why did his bag get off so early?” and I slip through customs high-fiving the national guard and then all the stall holders give me a wave as I walk through the concourse and my butler is waiting in the rolls. well, it’s not really like that of course, but I have travelled a few times and I don’t like people peering over my shoulder so I normally just make myself invisible. today though, I’ve got a few hours to kill in san francisco before I have to get to the hotel and as I always go to Colorado these days, I’ve not had a few hours in san francisco for a while, so I’m gonna do a bit of sightseeing that I haven’t done for years. so I’m planning how much of the 49 mile scenic drive I might do in 4 hours. in the rain. in a chevy cobalt Lacklustre Traction. when I can’t really be bothered. I got really excited about the places I’d never been, like twin peaks and the zoo and the presidio, which probably all look great in the california sunshine. but not today.
in the end I decided I’d do a bit of streets of san francisco/magnum force/dirty harry and check out some of those seedy places under bridges where they always find strangled people and the mayor tells them they better not terrorize the city this time with their maverick cop antics and then they’re off the case because the chief of police is in the pocket of the main suspect who’s a notorious drug cartel leader but you go ahead and solve the case anyway with your enormous gun and some reckless driving around telegraph hill. the starting point for that cheery tour was fort point under the golden gate bridge where I thought I might at least bump into michael douglas in a callbox calling in backup. as it turns out, I squeezed in a few miles of the 49 mile drive, the piers, fort collins, the presidio and some other stuff along the way. the presidio is strange, no? once I actually got to fort point, the rain came down, but not before I’d got as close to the underside of the bridge as possible, which isn’t very close, as it’s all fenced off these days, presumably in case I had some kind of warhead in my shoe, and had a quick look around the fort, which had closed access to the roof because of the lack of railings and so all in all it was a bit miserable but I kind of liked it that way and when you saw there were people surfing under the bridge regardless, it all made sense in a california kind of way.
after that I headed to palo alto to check into the hotel and spent the next 2 hours wondering what to eat and taking self portraits using folded key cards and mirrors. I ate a burger. the oscars were on. helen mirren won. I spoke to the bar staff in my best british accent. no, I don’t know her. no, she’s acting, that’s not the real queen.
I’ve got twitchy leg stuck up british middle class paranoid delusional brain hammers going on. which means we’re only over Greenland and I already need to walk up and down the aisle of this cantankerous 747, bashing people’s nasty open-plan headsets into their chicken or beef, just to get the blood clot to move down to my foot where I can stamp around on it a bit to make it less apocalyptic. but I don’t want to disturb the plebs in the aisle or center seats next to me. british. so I’ll have to wait until they have a bladder moment and haul themselves like cattle to the folding door in the sky, at which point I’ll climb over their piles of tangled useless electronica and blankets, snagging my walkman around the throat of the person in front of me who has reclined their seat into my pelvis and accidentally ripping their head off in my haste. I can’t even keep me seat upright, but I’m tensing up my whole body for 10 hours so that it doesn’t move backwards unnecessarily. you, person in front, however, took a mere 17 minutes to push the button marked “Push here to be extremely annoying. Please ensure that you push back real hard on the seat back, so that the person behind you who is bending over his tray table, filling out his visa waiver dilligently, will lose a couple of layers of skin from his forehead. Anyway you can’t really see anything on these seat back videos, so let’s get that their viewing angle down to about 45 degrees. How annoying would you like to be today? BA can help”. after I’ve extracted myself from the window seat – which I demanded, of course, notwithstanding the pain I now cause myself but I’m british that’s what being british is all about – I’ll stand by the toilets, stretching out my legs like I know what stretches will make a difference and then wait 5 minutes each time a person comes up to use the toilet before I tell them that I’m not actually in the queue. I love that game.
I’ll go back to my seat in a minute and prepare for the next 5 hours by shaking the seat in front of me really hard as I try to manoevere into my seat and then wonder why someone sitting next to their 5 year old would nonchalently watch The Departed, not really looking, while their child is wondering why the man that looks like the devil is smashing the other mans arm with a hammer or something and mummy, is he dead eeuw, what’s that brains guts high calibre firearms graphic and prolonged violent scenes I’m not sure sweetie are you hungry THE VIEWING ANGLE IS JUST FINE IF YOU’RE SITTING IN THE SEAT RIGHT NEXT TO YOU, YOU CAN SEE ALL THAT STUFF PERFECTLY, THAT’S YOUR CHILD RIGHT? AND PUT THE BLOODY SEAT UP.
I’m not compelled to watch anything this trip. I can’t really be bothered to get the julian clary book out of my bag. I’ll just listen to the bloc party album 8 times and take pictures of ice until I dissolve.
not to bore you with the details of the previous day and night’s travel but suffice to say that the 727 did what it does and dumped me at heathrow central bus station whereupon you search for a hotel hoppa to take you to the radisson only to find the stop, but to step on the H7 which takes you to the sheraton so nah mate, you want the H2 innit that’s the other one. that’s not embarrassing. anyway, arrival at the edwardian means being greeted at the desk with “yis, we’re having a wedding tonight so you are on six floor no smoking good” and dispatched to the lifts where you have to stick your room keycard in the wall before it goes anywhere. bing! 4th floor. 72 indian party goers and a pachyderm pile in “on their way to wedding. floor 6 please”. that’s not good. as I wheel myself into 607 I hear what sounds like the birdy song in urdu or something so I lock the door sharpish behind me and watch match of the day until I start dribbling on myself and then I have to work out where the extra 17 cushions go before I can get into bed.
it wasn’t that bad really. hoppa man clutched me from reception at 8am and expelled me at terminal 2. or 1. I dunno. everything looks the same at Heathrow. hang on. I need BA check in desks. I mean, I’ve already checked in online of course, but I need to go and join the longest queue in the entire airport – the one marked “fast bag drop”. oh, I should be in terminal 1. I expect there’s a handy elevator or something to take me there. or maybe a shuttle. what? whaddayoumean I have to WALK? VIA TERMINAL 3? I remember why I hate this horrible place. it’s then I remember that I’m not flying to Denver on a nice clean plane. I’m flying to San Francisco, so we get the rickety old 747 from 1997 with the seat that never stays upright. arse. gloom.
“29K sir. you have a window seat today sir”. “I know”
someone is in my seat. they’re there on purpose. there’s 2 of them and they’re leaving the seat in the middle empty to try and get 3 seats to themselves. “hi. 29K, er, I think that’s me, by the window”. “Oh, really? I though HJK went the other way round”. “No. K is by the window, definitely”. humph. much consternation at having to relocate 1 sat to the left. I smile a smile that says I’M PAYING HUNDREDS OF POUNDS FOR THAT SPECIFIC SEAT WHICH IS TWICE AS MUCH IN DOLLARS AND IF YOU THINK I’M NOT GOING TO ACTUALLY SIT IN THE WINDOW SEAT THAT I HAVE EMBEDDED IN MY TRAVEL PROFILE AT ROSENBLUTH THEN YOU MUST THINK I CAN’T EVEN COUNT TO K and prepare not to move any limbs for 10 hours by just kind of stretching a bit. oh. my seat doesn’t stay up. that’ll be nice.
it’s a morning flight so we’ll be in daylight for the whole journey, meaning I’ve got my camera strapped to me like some appendage in case I snap a near miss or a volcano or something but will probably end up just taking 37 pictures of a wing that you can’t really see because the windows are 17 years old and covered in ice and scratches.
if I stay here for another couple of hours the curtains will open themselves and small angels singing gretchen peters albums backwards will flutter among us tipping tofu over the duvet and delicately turning the pages on the ski magazine I will of course never read while cate blanchett wafts through the walls with USA today on a stick and all you can eat in the poolside grille. after that I’ll have a shower and stuff. ok, I’ll do that now. hey, where’s my angels? I’m paying a hundred bucks for this. well, no, of course I’m not paying personally, but like Neal says, we’re all paying really.
4 hours later and I’ve spent a good 10 minutes in the rental chevy cobalt LT which stands for Like Treacle just waiting for the rain to stop because I’ve not transported a nice wool jacket all this way just to end up smelling like a dead sheep by the time I get to the lobby so it’ll have to stop before I move from here. right. good. I’m at MPK 14 because I can count that far but I’m meeting at the iwork cafe in 10 minutes so let’s take bets on how many times I walk around the entire campus looking for it before I actually go into a lobby and tell somebody I’m english and so they take pity on me and ask me if I know the queen and how many oscars I’ve got before they tell me I’ve just walked past the place I’m supposed to be in and they were watching me all the time because I look like I have no idea what I’m doing which I don’t even though I’ve been here about 20 times before but still apparently can not orient myself after I walk through a security door and a small campus becomes a mysterious labyrinth full of strange mortal creatures with huge cups of water with permanent straws and the only way I can escape it is to find the keeper of the key which will obviously mean at least a couple of hours in a badly lit warehouse crawling through pipes and stuff until I meet a talking marsupial who dictates the meaning of life to a peasant dressed like oliver twist and upon seeing me scarpers into the night talking the key with him which isn’t a key at all, you see, it’s just an alegory. the key is me. I am the meaning of life and if I just stop and discover myself I’ll also find Neal in the cafe. oh, there he is.
as I’d had the ‘healthy option’ breakfast which is pretty much just 3 gallons of coffee with cream, a strawberry, and then 17 croissants with an extra bagel, I was only interested in a ‘light option’ for lunch, which I figured might be something like chicken pasta, but with 3 pounds of cheese and a gallon of cream and a bit of brocolli, so having been shown the salad bar I took a plastic bowl and started shovelling leaves like it was the middle of october. ooh, a bit of that green stuff. and another. ooh that looks nice. this bowl isn’t bit enough. hmm, what are those?
it’s at this point that jonathan appears from some secret trap door or something and he’s right in front of me with his own plastic bowl, tongs at the ready. I mean, he’s pushed in, which is a huge affront to an uptight middle class englishman, but I’ll let him off. as he goes around with the tongs, he’s talking to somebody who’s kind of over my shoulder somewhere about really important stuff, but all I’m really interested in is seeing what pulses he scoops up and whether balsamic caesar is the dressing du jour. I want my own jonathan schwartz salad and so I’m going around the salad bar picking off everything he’s picked off and trying not to look like a weird food stalker but failing but he’s so fast he’s already in a meeting in santa clara by the time I’ve picked up an apple from the fruit stand so I’ll never really know if I got it right. I look at my bowl and I don’t even know what half the things in there are, but I’ve got mental picture – I considered a real picture but I would have weirded even myself out doing that – and so when I get back home next week I’ll try and recreate it and then sell it on ebay. I was also saying hello to Martin and Sean as I was putting the salade de schwartz together, so I probably got a couple of things wrong. I don’t think he used french and balsamic together. eeuw.
I walked. no I didn’t. I got on that cog railway and sat next to Bob from Canada who was in Colorado visiting his half brother JD who he only realized was alive because he came across him on the internet via his wife who was related to him via his other mother or something. I said it’s a small world, and I’m from the other side of it. we were full to the brim as the red boxes cogged up the incline and even though I spent the first 30 minutes bemoaning the fact that I ended up on the 2-seat side which sticks to the side of the mountain, eventually I chilled out. literally. we slid the windows up as we approached the halfway point, but not before I’d done my obligatory sticking my upper torso out the window when you’re not supposed to thing and taken a couple of pictures of a place where you can sometimes see goats but they’re at home today fixing up their shed.
when we got to the summit we were allowed 40 minutes to stumble around in the snow, waiting for a gap in the cloud, before we had to head back down again because fat people at 14000 feet have a tendency to drop dead after about 45 minutes. I spent most of that time stumbling around in the snow, waiting for a gap in the cloud, but also managed to slip down a bank next to the railway while taking a picture of a red truck and plaster a thick layer of frozen clay over my backside which I spent the next 10 minutes trying to wipe off without bringing attention to myself even though it was like trying to push wet flour across a tablecloth and so in the end I just went to the toilet block to wash caked mud from my frozen hands and the water felt like it was boiling my skin and I ended up leaving a trail of clay all the way back down anyway and my coat is still brown at the bottom.
ah, right. that would be, well, it’s not so bad in real money. I am rather peckish. I don’t know what that is, or that, or that. that looks like some kind of evil granny biscuit. 2 quid for a snickers. I don’t even think I could bring myself to claim that back. hang on, what’s this key for? ooh. I see. nicely hidden under the tv like it usually is except it’s locked like it usually isn’t so it must have something really special in there. it’s got a nice little window at the top. never seen a window on a fridge before. ooh, look. they’ve put the very thing in that window that you’re likely to have an uncontrollable urge for after 18 hours of travelling having missed dinner and feeling like you have a mouthful of gravel and a brainful of lint. that’s right. sour cream and chives pringles. only a small tube mind. it’s hardly a tube at all, more like a tub. or maybe a tu. but it’s got pringles in and they is the sweet nectar of the gods of corporate hospitality, divine in their scallopness and at the same bewitching in their potatoiness. you can literally trip over the delicate crunchiness of those 32 holy cheesy wafers and immerse yourself in their soft duvet of saltiness. without doubt, you can expire and elevate to the paradise beyond this life after popping the last one.
but I’m not paying 4 dollars for them. you can swivel. I’ve still got a fruit bar I stole from British Airways.