Palo Alto seduces with fragrance. Wherever you go, there’s some sort of comfortably affluent smell, insinuating itself into your brainstem to reassure you that the world is fine and clean and good.
It makes one want to shop. Not so much as an orgy of acquisition, but as a way to suck in the reassuring aura of prosperity.
I was in Palo Alto yesterday to run an assortment of errands, and the day was filled with moments that ought to be shared.
To begin with, I found a barber shop that does beard trims. You can’t get anyone to actually shave you anymore, but a few places will do trims. I needed one; my facial hair is vagrant and tends to curl weirdly and give the impression of normal behavior until I touch it, at which point it becomes horribly lopsided. I recommend the trim highly; I didn’t realize such virtuosity with a trimmer was possible.
After the trim, I stopped at the 7-Eleven to get a drink. As I was pondering the coolers, I noticed a pair of administrative-looking women (business clothes, but not too high-powered-looking) standing next to me, with Slurpees in their hands, getting forties out of the beer case. I thought, beer? At ten-thirty in the morning? Then I thought, beer and Slurpees? That’s a weird combo.
They left, I got my soda, I left, and all was revealed. Outside the 7-Eleven, I discovered that in fact, they had not had Slurpees, but empty Slurpee cups. They were opening their malt liquor, putting the can into the Slurpee cup, and putting on a lid and straw. I can only assume they were headed back to work, where they could cheerfully sip their Colt .45 with no one the wiser. I wish I’d thought of that when I still wanted to conceal alcohol in public once in a while. Me and Jamba Juice could have had a whole different kind of relationship.
So then I went to the Stanford shopping center, where I kicked a pigeon. You know how pigeons tend to run away from you in a sort of sassy and insulting manner, like you’re barely worth concerning themselves with? Well, whenever pigeons are particularly lackadaisical about scuttling away from me, I usually take a half-hearted kick at one, just to put the fear of man into ’em. Apparently the Stanford pigeons, lulled by the fumes of bourgeois living, are so lazy that I was able to tag one with the tip of my shoe. It fluttered away, unhurt but offended. You’re edible, buddy; get with the program!
While I was there, I flipped through the Williams-Sonoma book on risotto and reflected that risotto is sort of comfort food for the upwardly mobile. It’s fatty, starchy, and salty, but it’s also a little pricey, it benefits from quality ingredients, it’s sort of labor-intensive, it’s mildly ethnic, and it’s slightly challenging to get right. All the sorts of qualities that Williams-Sonoma customers just aren’t getting from their Kraft macaroni and cheese. (Don’t mind me; I just reread Bobos in Paradise, and the consumption habits of the educated elite are on my mind.)
Then I drove home, and there was a teenager on a skateboard in Atherton wearing a full-length fur coat.
I have no clever analysis for that one.