fucked.md 7.06 KB
Newer Older
Gwen Bell's avatar
Gwen Bell committed
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
74
75
76
77
78
79
80
81
82
83
84
85
86
87
88
89
90
91
92
93
### The Valley is Fucked

I left SF at the start of 2012. Here's why.

I'd just left Saint Francis Fountain, where I'd had some French toast and coffee. As I was coming out of SFF, I happened to see a man who carried all his possessions in a shopping cart defecate onto the Mission street, in full view. 

He dropped his pants and took a shit before I could look away.

I left because it struck me that the level of homelessness, the level of mental instability, the level of public sick, was intolerable. Getting work done in an addicted society is one thing; getting work done in the company of bout-to-flip-their-shit-at-any-moment addicts is another. I thougt maybe there was another place in the world that might be doing the tech thing well. [EB](http://evbogue.com) was into Singapore. 

Singapore is a hop away from Japan, a second home to me. So at the start of 2012, I flew to Singapore.

Singapore is fucked too, but in a different way. Singapore's an island of poseurs in a dengue-ridden mosquito pond. That's another story. My heritage isn't Singaporean thank all that's holy so I'm not qualified to speak on it. Though William Gibson did in Disneyland with the Death Penalty.

The Valley is fucked because there is no place for you to go if you don't have the money to live in a house. 

And increasingly, people don't have the money to live in a house. 

SF has no place for you to fall. (Really, the same can be said of America if you don't have a family support network.) There are no slums. There are no marginal areas. 

In 2013, I gave it another go. I'd gotten my tech skills up, and I lived with some of the most talented up and comer programmers in the Valley/Bay. One person came into the living situation with under 12 hours advance warning. He'd been traveling the country, though he couldn't afford to. He threw some bills on the counter. "I'm staying here, because my name's on the lease. I have $25 to my name."

Then he proceeded to do the equivalent of the man in the Mission: he took a shit all over everything. He did not pay rent. He did not take responsibility for what he was doing.

That is The Valley now. 

#### Communist Coffee Shop

Thinking everyone will just pitch in and help out because the 'economy is so bad' is what I call Communist Coffee Shop thinking. 

Thinking people will wash their dishes up after themselves or go buy a roll of toilet paper when it runs out? That's wishful thinking. In the house in which I stayed, if I wanted there to be toilet paper, I bought it myself. The thing is, if you're a conscientious human it will always end up being you who picks up the slack. Who washes the dirty dish. Who cleans the filthy bathtub. Who cares for the neglected-and-left-to-die chickens. 

If you care, and you find yourself living in a Communist Coffee Shop situation, you have two options: work double, triple, 10x as hard as you should to pick up the slack. 

Or, give up, let it go to shit and live in a mouse-infested, flea-ridden house.

That, or double down. Leave. That's your third option.

#### I Left the Valley

I left The Valley. I left America. 

I took my tech skills and moved abroad. The Valley is supposed to be, and was, an example of American hard work, striving and what's the word? Oh, yes, meritocracy, at its finest. 

It is not that now. Most people who are 'making it' -- which is always very loosely defined -- spend their days in air conditioned buildings, having their own version of a terrible time. I know, because I was there during an acquisition. It was 2008. Those kids were having a terrible time. Instead of merging the acquired code, the monolith, now a dying company, simply killed the project.

It was an acqui-hire.

You know who gets acqui-hired? White guys. The occasional cute blonde.

And you know what else? I was living with white guys in The Valley/Bay in 2013. They aren't making rent. They're too proud to go strum their guitar to earn cash from passersby. 

They're looking at each other going, "well, we could just squat here and not pay rent for a coupla months." 

What none of them wants to say? Shit's fucked.

#### Tech Skills Still Pay the Bills

Tech skills pay my bills. You have to know Git, but you have to know it in the same way you have to touch type at 70 or 80 words a minute. Not because it's going to _get you ahead_ but because it is _the new bare minimum_. If you can't touch type, you're not in the game. If you don't know Git, you don't know shit. If you have a Tumblr site you haven't updated in six months and you call yourself a programmer, you're an embarrassment to the language you claim to know.

Tech skills pay the bills if you live in a place that's within your reach with people _also_ doing the work. Not talking about doing it. Not sitting around the fire talking about how they don't love tech, they just do it because if they don't, what else would they do?

I left The Valley and America. You don't see photos of my life now. That's intentional. 

When I posted photos of the cleaning I'd done to the Communist Coffee Shop living situation, I inadvertently alerted the person whose name was on the lease. He could see in a few photos just how good it'd gotten - how good we made it. He wanted back in, from what I gathered, because it looked better than sleeping on the street.

#### The Few and the Proud

There are a some people in the Valley still doing the work. One of them I pinged three times before he was willing to sit down with me. Not that I blame him; I'm just a biddy with some opinions. And tech skills. And writing skills.

I have mad respect for this guy because he's doing the work, even if he never updates his copyright dates. I sent him a gift card to offset the coffee he bought when we met. 

But y'all. If the Valley is still a dream, let me put a nail in the coffin for you. 

The Valley is fucked. 

It's a mess, not a meritocracy. If you're a white dude in your early twenties you _might_ have a chance. Even if you are, what I'm saying is this: you don't _want_ a chance out there. The Valley is a mess.

#### It's Shit Sad 

The levels of suffering are off the charts. 

It's hard to get the work done there, especially if you find yourself in a Communist Coffee Shop that thinks of itself as above reproach. The number of laptop campers is sky high everywhere; people updating their Fxxxbook status and resumes. 

If you find yourself in a mainstream coffee shop you see all manner of things: people coming in and throwing bags of coffee at customers, people sneaking in instant coffee to add to hot water they also snuck in. 

People are using third spaces as homes because they don't _have_ homes.

If The Valley was sad at the start of 2012, it was doubly sad at the end of 2013. 

That doesn't mean you shouldn't do hard things on the command line. It just means if your dream is to hustle to get out there, or hustle to make it there, you might be better off finding a place you love, using Git to keep your work cryptographically secure, and live and work where it's quiet and chill. The Valley is not that place.

If The Valley is the pinnacle of America right now, Americans are _in_ a valley. A pit is more like. Upshot: no dengue mosquitos.