The Great Plotnik

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Inside the Bubble

Every time we drive down to see a play at the Mountain View Center for Performing Arts, we are struck by how beautiful that stretch of the 280 is, how easy it is to park for free right next to the world-class theater, how many good restaurants there are right across the street, and how fast we fly home after the show.

As we turn off the 280 and drive down El Monte and Cuesta and Miramonte, we pass modest homes, mostly ranch-style on small-ish lots. We comment on how so much of the world's innovation is taking place right here, within ten or twenty miles of these neighborhoods, fueled by ideas from the people living in these houses. They might have grown up next door, or in New York or L.A. or India or China or Israel or France. Now, they're here.

So it is possible, at this stage of our children's lives, to imagine one or both of them working at a university or high tech company or think tank right down the street in Mountain View, or Cupertino, or Menlo Park, or Santa Clara or Palo Alto.

It used to be a never-to-be-questioned axiom to their parents that cities were for intelligent people and suburbs were for acquisition and large floor plans and a three car garage. But there are no big cities down here. And suburbs don't have cities in them. If you're going to work here, you're going to live here, in one of these ranch houses, where the schools are good and the kids in them come from around the globe.

Probably not from Oakland, probably not from San Leandro, probably not from East Stiletto or East Palo Alto and probably not from Gilroy or Hollister either.

The other night Plot and Duck went to see Jared Cohen and Eric Schmidt speak. These are major Google idea people who have written a fascinating book about our new age. Before the talk, Plot stood up from his seat in the Nikko Ballroom and looked around: out of perhaps 700 people, he saw not one black face. It looked like a typical theater audience. Indians, Chinese, yes, but mostly anglos. Where are the American people of color?

They were here, doofus. These are American people of color. They're just not African-American people of color.

Why was he looking? Because, that's why. If rising tides float all boats, where are the rest of the boats?

Great Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Thai and Korean food in Mountain View. Plot and Duck ate bulkogi and bib-im-bop, then walked across the street and saw a show written by a gay, black playwright starring a gay, black cast. In the audience there were a few black people, maybe a dozen or two, which is more than usual at the Mountain View Center for Performing Arts, where one generally runs into more walkers and oxygen units than minorities.

Why was he looking? What is Plottie obsessing over now? He isn't sure himself.

The Cheery 0's are over, it's the Teens now. Things are changing faster than we can even feel. We shop, eat, educate and entertain ourselves differently than we did when our children were growing up. Not that much time has passed, but everything else has.

Isn't it possible that our modern world may have very quickly changed its mind about everything else too? Perhaps the color wheel matters less than the innovation wheel now?

Hey, it's Sunday and the sun is shining inside the Bubble. Anything is possible.



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