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At Large: St. Francis of a see-saw

At Large: St. Francis of a see-saw

I'm writing this from San Francisco, California, USA, the Golden Gate City, home of historic 3Com Park.

I'm here visiting an old friend of mine, who moved out here a few years ago to make his fortune when the Nasdaq was about four times its current size.

After an extremely tumultuous time, the two of them are still here, on the fringes of Silicon Valley, waiting and hoping that what came so crushingly down will eventually head back up.

Last time I was here I wrote a column about yet another friend of mine who worked for a dotcom in San Francisco (back then it was a bit tricky to find someone in San Francisco who didn't work for a dotcom). Now he lives in Chicago, where he has a job with a company that sells products and services in exchange for currency. He's amongst the many who believe what comes down stays down.

For curiosity's sake, I went to the street in South San Francisco where most of these dotcoms had set up. Once upon a time it was a row of derelict warehouses along the train line, then it was hastily converted into a district of competitively hip places to work. As much as the companies vied to be successful in generating money (or perhaps more so) they competed to offer their employees ridiculous perks. Pizza ovens, air hockey, saunas, scooters . . . you get the picture.

Today, this has been hastily converted back into a row of derelict warehouses. A couple of the warehouses are still being used, but I get the impression the companies that have managed to survive the crash might prefer to find a less haunted address.

And I use that word - crash - advisedly. In Australia, we're far enough removed from it to say "downturn" or "slump" or even "correction". Coming to California, it's impossible not to say "crash".

This sounds terribly pessimistic, doesn't it? I'm probably being more gloomy than usual because this is the first time I've been this far away since I got engaged. I'm hoping, while I'm away, to hear that our reception venue has become available. Last time I spoke to the mother of the guy who's booked it, she wasn't sure which way the relationship was going. He's asked for the ring back, but she hasn't given it. And rightly so -- since when is it his property that he can ask for back? She ought to dump him on principle.

But then, I may have a certain bias.

Matthew JC. Powell left his heart in Sydney. Transplant organs to mjcp@optushome.com.au.


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