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Dog Bites 

Sticks and Stones; or, A Rare Moment of Lucidity

Wednesday, Mar 29 2000
Sticks and Stones; or, A Rare Moment of Lucidity
Dog Bites' dad, who spends a certain amount of time composing extremely cutting letters to the editor (not, fortunately, of this publication, or we'd probably be out of a job), will in conversation occasionally begin a sentence, "When I'm dictator of this country ...."

We mention this because some recent correspondents seem to be suggesting that Dog Bites is not doing enough, personally, to repel the dot-com invasion. "If you're not going to put any effort into dot-com bashing, you should just let it go," writes Matt Fisher, in an otherwise charming note (thanks for the comment about our "funny obsessions" ... we think). "When I walk to work, I pass that pathetic sticker campaign, or whatever, and I wonder, is this the best they can do? We're talking about people who buy $800,000 lofts in the Mission, park SUVs across two parking spaces, and say things like 'Sushi Groove rocks!' while waiting in line for a bread salad. And all you can think to come back with is dot-conformists? Come on Dogbites, you're better than that."

Now, when Dog Bites is dictator of this country, there will be no SUVs, but we're not exactly making our career plans around that eventuality. Although when you think about it, we could do a lot of good. For instance, we'd institute a lottery system for people who want to write opinion columns, and make publicists register with the local police when they move, and give SETI a whole bunch of money, just because aliens are cool! And we'd make Muni run on time.

But the idea that dot-coms are the worst problem San Francisco faces is, well, how can we put this tactfully? We think the word we're looking for is ludicrous.

Sure, Dog Bites has taken our share of shots at the dot-commers -- or, more accurately, at the culture to which they've contributed. And God help us, it's fun. Composing cutting commentary on the dot-coms' mores and habits is nastily satisfying; it's like when you were in high school and you and your friends used to roll your eyes at Kristi Mitchell's tight pink jeans and white boots. Sure, she was the most popular girl in school. But you had that Cramps album with the 3-D cover and had been to several all-ages shows.

However, while many of us enjoy and even cherish the belief that we are much cooler than the dot-coms, and can certainly share a cheap laugh at the expense of, say, the striving newly vested who move into $2.3 million houses with hardwood floors, 12-foot ceilings, and front rooms lined in graceful old built-in bookshelves, which now hold nothing but a collection of Dean Koontz paperbacks, The Fountainhead, and two workout videos -- well, is that actually going to make a difference in real estate prices?

As that example and Mr. Fisher's note reveal, it's awfully hard to criticize the dot-coms on more than the particulars. The complaints against them, when examined, boil down to points that are not merely obvious and petty but actually boring: The dot-commers have done well for themselves, in many cases not out of tremendous talent but because they were and are smart enough to get into the right business. And often, they're new to the place and so focused on their work, and their small circle of peers, that they have little concept of life in the city beyond.

Naturally, some longtime San Franciscans find this galling. People shouldn't move here because they want to make money. They should move here to, uh, paint! Or write! Or get multiple piercings and dance at the Lusty Lady while formulating an entirely new dialectic for discourse on feminist sexuality!

Now, let us ignore, for the sake of argument, the many people who have lived here for years -- possibly even the 10 required for citizenship in our city-state -- and who work at dot-coms because, to understate it greatly, there are lots of jobs in those businesses. Let us ignore the fact that a demonstrably wide variety of people work at dot-coms. (Memo to self: Am now agreeing with Jon Carroll. Clearly time to cut down on the meds.) And let us also ignore the fact that if things keep going the way they're going, more and more of the people now complaining about dot-coms will end up working for them, being coopted, and doing well themselves, which, if they're honest, is a consummation devoutly to be wished.

In fact, let us pretend that everyone who works for a dot-com is 25, newly wealthy, unfailingly annoying in social situations, a reckless driver, the owner of a Land Rover Discovery, an obnoxious drunk, a displacer of a large and deserving family of native-born San Franciscans, looks bad in leather pants but insists on wearing them anyway, and an uncultured blowhard.

What, exactly, is Dog Bites supposed to do about it?

We could, of course, launch a campaign encouraging people to smash the windows of expensive new cars seen parked in their neighborhoods, to vandalize restaurants catering to an upscale clientele, and to spray paint "Yuppies Out" on loftominium developments. But the last guy who did that found the SFPD was less than amused by his personal philosophy of direct action, and though he continues to get a certain amount of attention from the German media, looking around us a year later we can't say he was effective. Like, at all.

And we did, for a while, toy with suggesting the Lysistrata-inspired tactic of organizing a mass refusal to have sex with dot-coms. Eventually, we theorized, they might notice and become discouraged. But though a couple of disgruntled girlfriends evinced brief enthusiasm for the idea, realistically, our hopes for achieving the kind of solidarity required to make this work were never high; plus, many dot-coms prefer to mate within their own species anyway.

But guess what the good news is? Our own newly surfaced dictatorial aspirations aside -- we're thinking motorcades, we're thinking Dog Bites in a furry leopard-print Borsalino -- we do, in fact, live in a democracy. The larger questions, like whether anyone but the wealthy will be able to afford to live in San Francisco in 10 or even five years' time, whether we have the public will to build a transit system that will actually allow people to leave their cars or SUVs at home, whether rent control is a good or bad thing, how much influence individual neighborhoods and tiny block clubs should have over issues that ultimately affect citywide planning, are the kinds of things we really should be fretting about, not that loud guy over there with the Land Cruiser and the cell phone.

In fact, decisions that will affect you -- yes, you, personally! -- are being made right now, if you can believe Matier and Ross' weird brain-in-a-jar picture of our civic leader: "Mayor Willie Brown is as busy as ever, maybe even busier ... his mind is reaching far and wide, weighing options and coming up with plans for everything from the 49ers stadium to a new high-rise neighborhood south of South of Market ...." Exciting, right? And we didn't even get into the stuff about how Geary might be getting a light rail line, which is such a good idea that we almost knocked our tea into our keyboard when we read it.

Oh, yawn. Dog Bites has mentioned some boring politics-type stuff. Sorry. But it's time to accept it: The dot-coms are here to stay, at least until the next recession, when a lot of non-dot-coms will be screwed too, which -- ding! -- is a good enough reason not to rub your hands in anticipation of national financial implosion.

We can't promise not to mock individual dot-coms in future, as we deem necessary according to what kind of day we're having, but we do not now nor have we ever seen it as our business to run them, en masse, out of town, even if we could. Because after all, if they all left, who'd we have to kick around?

Confidential to Chronicle Books: Thanks for the invite! We'll be there!

Tip Dog Bites -- especially if you're disgruntled. Phone 536-8139; fax 777-1839; e-mail

About The Author

Laurel Wellman


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