Saturday, February 5, 2011

S. . .S. . .S. . .

Paul Allen and Bill Gates, 1981
Beth Crowley, Boston
No, the international Morse code distress symbol is . . .  — — — . . .  The above stands not for SOS but for “Scottsdale, Seattle, San Francisco.”  That’s where I’ve been since last Saturday.  Not complaining mind you, certainly not with all that’s been going on back home in the East.  That’s the Northeast United States and the Eastern Mediterranean.  Who would have thought five feet of snow on the ground in Boston (still counting) and feats of immeasurable depth in the Mediterranean basin? 
Khalil Hanmra, Associated Press

What is the world coming to?  More importantly, where is it headed?  I have absolutely no idea, which I’m pretty sure puts me in the distinguished company of its governments, journalists, and wags.  Then again, perhaps I didn’t catch their prediction that the most dangerous, volatile region in the world would be turned upside down in a matter of hours by Facebook and Twitter.  Seems reminiscent of that Humpty Dumpty 1989 Berlin moment when an utterly surprised world chanted together, “Wall?  Coming down?  What Wall?”

We are witness to an Internet revolution in every sense of the phrase.  And here I am, on a serendipitous pilgrimage to the holiest sites of its enabling: Seattle and its environs (Microsoft calls neighboring Redmond home) and the San Francisco Bay area with not only Silicon Valley but the Stanford Research Institute that on October 29, 1969 received the first Internet message ever (the two letters “LO” out of an attempt to send “LOGIN”) out of Los Angeles—the next stop on my Revelation book tour. 
Log noting first Internet message, originating out of U.C.L.A.

As for Scottsdale’s role in all this history, well, let’s just say it’s home to GoDaddy, today’s largest Internet domain registrar business…and a television sponsor on this Sunday’s broadcast of the Super Bowl—GO STEELERS (just had to sneak that in). 
Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West

Not Frank Lloyd Wright
But these cities are known for a lot more, and with good reason.  Each has its own unique beauty and character.  Frank Lloyd Wright set up his “winter camp” in Scottsdale in 1937, now called Taliesin West, and forever changed this conservative region’s architecture.  Seattle is known for its many beautiful views, liberal thoughts, and musical groups but is Mecca to coffee addicts everywhere and home to the very first shop of the “Microsoft” of the coffee world: Starbucks.  Let us bow our heads and give thanks.
Original Starbucks, Pike Place Market, Seattle

Lombard Street, San Francisco
And then there is San Francisco.  What is there to say about this place that imagination has not already captured?   There is its beauty, its pace, its openness.  It is unique in all the glorious connotations of the word.  It also has a terrific Greek restaurant, Kokkari, where I will be having dinner with friends from Mykonos and elsewhere when this post goes up Saturday morning at 12:05 AM, Eastern Standard Time.  Hopefully, I’ll be awake in time to make my 2 PM signing at M is For Mystery in San Mateo. 

After all, book tours should be joyful pilgrimages.  See you in LA.

Jeff ­— Saturday


  1. I've never been mentioned in a blog before this! Beautiful pictures of fallen snow can only be taken before the dogs go out, the snow blowers start roaring, and traffic gets moving. Right now, it is not snowing and, so far, there isn't anything major in the forecast. What is expected is sleet and freezing rain. Panic mode is setting in because roofs (I prefer this plural to "rooves")are caving in from the weight of the snow. Sleet and rain do not melt snow, they make it heavier. So, hard to imagine, we would prefer another foot of light, fluffy snow.

    Our area of the country, Jeff, has been referred to as the Rust Belt for a long time. I think another term applies: the geezer belt. The majority of young people, those from 18 to 30, are students who swooped in for a college or graduate degree and forgot to go home. They become the baristas at Starbucks. These are generally not the kids from the warmer parts of the country. If they come from out west, they enroll at Harvard, drop out because they realize they have something better to do with their time than debate philosophy, and they return to live in Washington like the man who was, at one time, labeled the richest man in the world. Now he is only the third richest.

    Some of us geezers are not fans of hot weather and places that seem to have only one season. So we stay and complain and get in line to order a snow rake.

    The power of Facebook and Twitter is frightening. The Egyptians demonstrating against Mubarak are sincere in their desire for democracy but they don't have any experience of it. Eastern Europe had some dark days after the wall came down but they didn't have al-Queda waiting to fill a leadership vacuum.

    Starbucks coffee isn't nearly as good as Dunkin Donuts coffee. Dunkin Donuts doesn't charge a day's pay for a cup and customers don't need to be fluent in coffeehouse speak in order not to be lynched by the other people in the line.

  2. Wonderful post, Jeffrey. Makes me wish we were traveling together, although not to Cairo.

    Give my best to Ed Kaufman in San Mateo. He's a great, great guy, and in this age of fading mystery bookstores, M is for Mystery is a national treasure.

  3. Beth, I should have known better than to touch upon as politically charged a subject as one's personal coffee beliefs. It always percolates comments in drooves....

    And, Tim, I have no doubt whatsoever that being on the road with you would be guaranteed great fun for us, and fear-instilling for the balance(d) of the civilized world. Consider your regards and kind comment passed on to Ed.

  4. Jeff, "percolates comments in drooves...."? Does that deserve an ouch or a boo?