With my son recently registered at a Massachusetts boarding school, the full force of the sheer horribleness of living in the Bay Area invaded my psyche massively as I contemplated that great day.
I moved to California in 1987, Los Angeles. Loved it. Later stints found me in San Diego, loved it, and San Francisco, loved it a lot.
But, after two decades, no more. San Francisco and the Bay Area are a living hell. Maybe if you are here on an H1B visa and MacDonald’s is a new taste sensation for you, it’s heaven on earth. But for long time denizens, it’s anything but. Take the Mission District, which I love, as a microcosm of what has happened. Earnest Googlites are destroying the Hispanic culture, replacing it with seven figure condominiums and chic restaurants. We really need more of those. Housing costs effectively gentrify all poor areas – Millbrae, South San Francisco, SOMA, Oakland, and yes, even as far north as Sacramento, as our great capitalist businesses force out all those who cannot code social media apps. The result is that the people who keep a city running, the waiters and cooks, the house cleaners and secretaries, cannot afford to live where they work. That is not right.
So within a week, emulating my son, I will also take a one way flight out of here, to the more relaxed vistas of Scottsdale, Arizona in the desert that I have learned to love on my many travels there these past two decades.
That move brings with it the inevitable rigors of packing precious possessions, though in my case they are precious by association, not by value. And one which ranks right up there is the greatest desktop computer Apple ever made, the iMac G4. Here it is after the ever amusing task of trying to figure out exactly how it fits in all those complex polystyrene pieces, packaging which is a design masterpiece in its own right:
The original, butt ugly iMac may have saved an Apple headed for Chapter XI, when Steve returned. But it was a prosaic CRT design housed in a funky translucent plastic shell which was mostly silly for all its ‘Think(ing) Different’. The G4 iMac was something else. First there was the use of an LCD display, 15″ or 17″. No one used LCDs. SSDs did not exist – at least not at affordable prices – so Apple housed the HDD in a cheeky gargantuan half-cricket ball (OK, baseball) which formed the housing for the electronics and fans. And they boasted about it on that splendid box. See above.
But the genius of the design, an ergonomic masterpiece, was the elegantly cantilevered ‘screen on a stick’. Move it up, move it down, move it toward you, move it away, move it around. It did what it was told. Burning DVDs? Easy. At a touch of the button Pandora’s Box opened, and the DVD tray magically emerged from the cricket ball. It was fun, it was new and it was magic!
And that magical G4 iMac defines exactly what is wrong with Apple today. It’s the same thing that is wrong with the Bay Area. Life is not a mobile device looking for a new app. Life is not an overpriced condo which displaces good people. Life is a contemplative experience attended by an extended attention span which rewards those who indulge in that rarest of modern pastimes: thinking.