by Stowe Boyd
I was spun up in the now-typical Web 2.0 party frenzy, a few weeks back, and I found it particularly interesting to see the San Francisco tech scene reflected in the eyes of out-of-towners (which I guess I am still a bit, too, since I am in San Fran more than 50% of the time these days, but not 100%).
First of all, most folks from elsewhere can’t believe there are so many tech parties. I heard that many times. I know that in other locales, like DC, there might be a half-a-dozen parties or social gatherings a month. In the Bay Area, it’s possible that there could be six in a night.
I believe that this aspect of the tech scene here is one part of the glue that makes it work. It’s not just the VCs providing bank and the Universities churning out new entrepreneurs by the boatload: there is a social swirl through which people discover each other, develop relationships and partnerships, and swap ideas (and, yes, spit).
There is a sensual element to the hothouse atmosphere of today’s Bay Area, an almost narcotic scent that invisibly infiltrates every party and reception, the pheromones of invention, that desire to create that’s almost a tug in the genitals. And of course, there is still the foundational lust — real lust — underneath it all, too.
The out-of-towners fly in, get drunk on this buzzy, fizzy, heady mix, and they never feel right when they return to Cody Wyoming or Australia; they can’t wash the mouthfeel of San Francisco out of their heads when they return to Berlin or Boston. It’s like a tattered postcard of hootchie dancers, smuggled home, kept under a sweaty pillow, and they can’t shake off the sense of missing something, something very hot, pressing and immediate, like getting caught in traffic en route to what you bet was going to be the best date of your life.
I tell these folks — late at night in Mel’s, or having a nightcap at the Paragon — the only hope is to move here. Otherwise, you will feel unfulfilled, rootless, bored, and forsaken in some bywater.
I guess a national government, like in the UK or China, could somehow create most of the pieces that make the Valley hum: great universities, venture capital, the sprawling network of buildings and services that form the tangible and financial infrastructure of a great capital of innovation. But the yeast, the starter that makes the dough rise, the jizzum that makes San Francisco the epicenter of whatever-it-is-we-are-up-to-now, that you can only really capture out at night, when the displays are dimmed, the conference rooms are empty, and the future magnates are shaking it at Otis or scribbling on napkins at Bacar. I don’t think that Parliament or the Emperor of China could make that happen by fiat.
So, they go back, with something like a toothache, with something like lost love, with something like hope, a lump in their luggage. And they know that they will have to migrate if they want what this is, if they want in on what it is.
And so they come, and that makes it what it is. The place we have to be, the place we can’t be without.