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When Cloudy Was the Weather; or, Pyramid Schemes; Warmth: A Contrarian View

Wednesday, Aug 9 2000
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When Cloudy Was the Weather; or, Pyramid Schemes
In August in San Francisco, there's something a little weird and wrong about waking up to the sound of cars hissing down the street below your window, the unmistakable indication of rain on a city morning. So, though Dog Bites hesitates to launch back into the Great Weather Debate (is this year's summer weather actually worse than that of previous years', or does it just seem that way?), we can't help ourselves.

(Note to those who don't like it when we talk about the weather: Don't read this column, then. Do something else. Take a walk. Put a competitor out of business. Replace the battery in the remote control. Write your own column.)

We're chilly, we're cranky, we're disgruntled, and at Dog Bites' apartment, if you try to use three or more appliances at the same time -- the relevant ones these misty moisty mornings being the toaster, the electric kettle, and the space heater -- one of the circuits often blows, necessitating a trip down the algae-slippery back steps to the electrical box in the passage under the building. This -- this! -- is what your money buys in the city. Damn it!

However, the place is rent-controlled, so we're thrilled to be living there anyway, and can of course never move, although we certainly felt a momentary frisson of excitement on hearing the rumor that 11 floors of the Transamerica Pyramid were to be converted from office space to luxury condos. Imagine the social credit that would instantly accrue to anyone -- well, us -- merely by virtue of living at such an address! In fact, while we're on the subject, imagine the décor of the Dog Bites residence au Pyramid! After all, now that Wallpaper magazine has beaten the whole '70s thing so long and so mercilessly that harvest gold shag carpet no longer has any irony value whatsoever, even when accessorized by wan and vaguely bruised-looking teenage models, we think it's time for a sort of early '80s revival, a sort of mirrored-coffee-table, ficus-tree-in-a-black-ceramic-planter, vertical-blinds, cream-leather-sectional decorating moment.

OK, it struck us as a good idea, but then, being weak-minded, Dog Bites was possibly a little overset by Luella Bartley's fall 2000 collection -- genius! -- and the consequent news that ankle boots paired with fishnets are about to make a comeback. We can't wait we can't wait we can't wait!

Still, the whole Pyramid scheme seemed unlikely, given that the kind of office space you get at similarly swanky addresses in the Financial District is now renting for an average of about $81 a square foot per month. But since Dog Bites is an optimist, and (more or less) a journalist, we called Transamerica management agents Jones Lang LaSalle and inquired as to availability. Perhaps now might be the time to note that it appears the condo rumor was started by a Weekly staffer who has a column a mere page away from this one; still, we thought it best not to admit where we'd heard it.

"I have dibs on the 48th floor!" exclaimed Jones Lang LaSalle's receptionist, when we asked her about the alleged condoization. Unfortunately, she went on to dash our hopes by telling us the Pyramid will remain as office space -- and very popular office space indeed; in fact, if your company requires an entire floor you'd better move fast, because there's only one available.

Well, it's not as though we would have qualified for the mortgage anyway.

Sigh.

Warmth: A Contrarian View
Of course, before we got off on this tangent we had been hoping to annoy our more easily annoyed readers by discussing the weather further. Recently, we were interested to receive one correspondent's thoughts on the subject, which on consideration might be termed the Antibody Theory of Microclimates: "I have noticed the fact that as more yuppie fucks move into the city, so does more fog, wind, and generally shitty weather," writes Lyubov Muzichenko. "It is the city's natural response to fight back against this yuppification."

Economy good, climate bad. Then again, the standard line is to deny the weather is any worse than it always is, and suggest that anyone who thinks otherwise is unworthy of living in the city. As we'll explain below, we now believe those who make this argument are in fact working at cross-purposes with themselves. "You know why else people in San Francisco say the weather is OK?" demands another correspondent, who, perhaps fearing for his own safety, requests anonymity. "Because they are so pasty-faced and physically unappealing that they don't mind having to wear multiple layers of clothing all year round. They like staying bundled up, because it allows them to continue to lead their dissolute lifestyles without a shred of body-consciousness. I mean, look around! Walk down Market Street, then compare it to what you'd see on a stroll down Melrose or the Avenue of the Americas. Our people are not pleasing to the eye!"

There is, sadly, a large degree of truth to this observation; Dog Bites joined friends at the brand-new Butterfly one night last week (our advice: Skip the calamari) and had the opportunity, while there, to develop a sort of corollary theory about why, even though L.A. would like to think it's becoming the burning heart of dot-com-dom, because it can't stand not to be the world center of everything, it never will be. Look, as long as San Francisco has a climate which provides an excuse for people -- men, say -- to go out eating and drinking at the city's alleged hot spots wearing combinations of clothing that include fleece pullovers, pleated khakis, baseball caps, and black dress shoes, we will retain our high-tech supremacy indefinitely.

Therefore, it follows that those angered by the dot-com invasion would do well to pray for better, not worse, weather, thus driving their enemies northward, ever northward -- perhaps to Redmond -- like migrating caribou in search of untouched lichen, or in this case, larger Gore-Tex jackets. In the meantime, however, we make official note of the anti-gentrification forces' other recent efforts, particularly the amusing sign painted on the side of the Central Freeway suspiciously close to Butterfly, promising "brighter, whiter tablecloths" in the Mission.

The beauty of our weather/high-tech theory is that it also helps explain why, despite its Proposition M-free civic landscape, Oakland has yet to benefit much from the Bay Area's boom. The weather is too nice. (And yes, it's warmer down the Peninsula, but we believe the lack of sidewalks in office parks there plays a significant role, by freeing the dot-com population from the threat of possible public interaction and the shame of revealing their T-shirt-clad selves to the world at large.)

Still, tooling around downtown Oakland early Sunday afternoon, the disfigured yet characterless leasemobile virtually the only car on the empty, sunny streets, Dog Bites was startled to see that the glorious former I. Magnin building on Broadway is to become the new home of biotech company DoubleTwist, whose business plan apparently involves using the Web to make information on the human genome available to researchers; how this results in profit is admittedly opaque to us, since we tend to panic and block out the conversation whenever anyone starts throwing around buzz phrases like "B-to-B" and "back-end e-commerce infrastructure," but we're sure they've thought the business plan through thoroughly.

And no, we don't know who invented polar fleece. But Lord, whoever it was has a lot to answer for.

About The Author

Laurel Wellman

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