Friday, June 18, 2021

3. THE GARAGE

 


Photo: Van Stein



We wander out to the heart of Silicon Valley—University Avenue—to absorb the elements, feel the vibes, figure out what makes it beat.

Doesn’t take long.





The landmark Stanford movie theatre draws us close.  


It isn’t showing the latest blockbuster. 








Instead, the old marquee trumpets Something in the Wind, from 1947, and Up in Central Park, from 1948.

A large display window features a magnificent poster of James Stewart holding Donna Reed aloft—a promo for It’s A Wonderful Life.


Van Stein looks up and down the avenue in awe.  


“This isn’t Palo Alto,” he says.  “This is Bedford Falls, late 1940s.  Has our delusion taken us into the past—or into a movie?”


And that’s what we first uncover about Silicon Valley: 


Its people, while bringing the future to everyone else, cling to the past; longing for the way it was.


Just like George Bailey, I say, “I need a drink, that’s what I need.”


Down a side-street called Ramona, we dip into NOLA and order bourbon called Breaking & Entering on the rocks—a lotta rocks.


“Sonofabitch, there is he!” hollers Van Stein.



Indeed.  

Hanging from the ceiling, over the bar, is an old wooden chair whose back features a classic portrait of the devil, horned, eyebrows arched, pointed mustache and goatee, and on the side of the seat these words: 


DEVILS LUCK.







I sip bourbon.  “Didn’t take long,” I say quietly.  “I thought it would be more subtle, organic.  But this is pretty damn blatant."

"The devil is sassing us,” adds Van Stein.





In the corner, a skeleton plays a trombone while overhead a clock without arms symbolizes all eternity. 








And everywhere, tits galore, one pair surreally paired with martini olive nipples.

“It’s making a mockery of mankind,” I say.






“And can you believe,” says Van Stein, shaking his head, “people don’t believe us?”

“They’re just scared,” I say. "And deluded by the devil."


After draining our drinks and stepping outside, everything turns black and white, as if we’ve entered an old movie.




“What was in that bourbon?” I ask, still feeling like George Bailey, downtown Bedford Falls, gone back in time, or I'm in a movie, Christmastime, trees aglow with holiday lights.




“Time for The Garage,” says Van Stein.  “It’s a portal.”


The Tablet directs us to 367 Addison Avenue where, in 1938, William Hewlett and David Packard started a company that gave birth to Silicon Valley.  






In their garage, they developed an audio oscillator.

You’ve heard of Born Again Christians?


This Garage is where the devil got re-born.


This residential neighborhood off University Avenue is a charming grid of craftsman houses, many with porches, an old-world coziness. 


Among them is a house and garage owned by Hewlett-Packard with a bronze plaque identifying this location as Silicon Valley’s birthplace.






Behind a gate, down a driveway, is a simple, old-fashioned garage with a wooden door. 

I realize, transfixed by the bold, luminescent green garage door, it is the first color I’ve seen since leaving the bar.


Everything is still and quiet.  
No other people are around. 

Not even, it seems, inside neighboring houses, which, though lighted, display no life.


“This is friggin’ eerie,” says Van Stein.


This is what bounces around my brain:  


It’s about The Garage.  The Garage.  It’s about The Garage.


I snap a few pics on my digital camera.




In them, the footpath lights stream upward in waves, as if the whole driveway and garage are, well, oscillating








Another stream of light, with no source, shoots ten feet upward from the garage, crowned by faces of the grim reaper and (in profile) the devil.



I show my digital screen to Van Stein.

He gasps.  “Un-friggin’ believable.”


Another round of shots produces two orbs, each with a face.







“Hi Bill..."





"Hi Dave...”   








I pause.  “Why does this happen to us?”


“It's because we put ourselves out there,” says Van Stein.  “We’re open to it.”  


A magnetic force field holds us in place. 
Or so it seems, because we just can’t seem to pull ourselves away from this iconic symbol of startup and ingenuity… and… and… whatever else we’ve uncovered.

We finally pull ourselves free and retreat to a homey wine bar on Ramona to sip good cabernet and watch the nerdy hipsters and hip nerds mix it up around us.  


Money is plentiful in Silicon Valley, bad economy be damned. 


They made their Faustian pact a long time ago…


Later, in my hotel room, I note that the framed photographs on the walls are of… garages.