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269 Boom Economy San Francisco, November 1999 The city was in scaffolding. Every house was being bought up at huge prices, and with all the extra money, the houses were getting gay new paint jobs, roofs, updated plumbing. Every escalator into the subterranean Muni stations broke down, groaning under the weight of throngs. The mail came at 6:30 p.m., when it came at all, thrown onto the step by a haggard, hardly uniformed carrier. Gold rush apartment buildings were being thrown up as quickly as possible. Millions of square feet of office space were not enough, and the mayor had approved millions more. Where would everybody live? Every shop had a Help Wanted sign (no doubt, there were no escalator repairers), every person did the work of two; every apartment for one housed two. Dennis didn’t have a chance on his seminarian income to find a flat in San Francisco. He stayed in Santa Clara, near the university, and always took Caltrain up to San Francisco. Today he was doing this in order to meet Jimmy, because they both had been called to the clinic where a few years back they had been part of the dosage study for the protease inhibitor. It wasn’t so long ago, but the plans to meet the appointment had the gush of nostalgia, and austere Dennis felt self-indulgent. Self-indulgence hid away; they said the HIV virus didn’t completely go away even in a body whose blood counts, not unlike his own, looked normal, virus free. It hid away in the lymph nodes, biding its time, waiting for better weather, or mutating one day, perhaps masquerading as self-indulgence. “Conversion,” he said out loud, and was suddenly aware of the people around him on the train. All of them were twenty-seven years old and looked like frat boys or sorority girls. Practically all of them, and those who weren’t looked haggard. Across the aisle, a balding man, who seemed as aware as Dennis of being out of place, scribbled madly on a legal pad. The words were big enough for Dennis to read. As far as Dennis could tell, it was an exercise assigned to him by a psychotherapist, or a creative writing teacher, or a minister, to explain why he felt guilty. “I make over $75,000 a year, just to write a little Javascript , and I don’t feel like I truly deserve it,” he’d written. It wasn’t this guy’s fault the city was being borified. In fact, it felt more the fault of Dennis’s own generation, 270 271 the selfishness of the golden-agers, who devoured the city with a weird nostalgia. He had heard that Italian matriarchs passed on their famous spaghetti recipes from generation to generation, but purposefully removed or mismeasured one key ingredient, ensuring that the great recipe was watered down through the years. At the Caltrain station, he waited with six other people for the bus. It was late, or broken down, or about to skid by them. Gleaming black funereal SUVs buzzed his face, so new they hadn’t received permanent license plates yet. Their drivers talked on cell phones about unfinished business. IPOs were only Pre-, everything started up, nothing completed. Their cars, where so much more time was spent these days, were the mode of discourse. So before license plates came little bootleg images of cartoon Calvin, pissing on whatever it was the driver didn’t like—Ford truck logos, Oakland Raiders, the Jesus fish. Dennis also saw Jesus fishes a lot, and Darwin fishes, too. The Jesus fish was often shown eating the Darwin fish, survival of the fittest. He’d never seen so much religion in this pagan town. Jimmy’s flat was rent controlled, and the landlord already lived in one of the other four units, so Jimmy couldn’t be evicted. Nevertheless, the landlord resented Jimmy’s not paying the market rate for his onebedroom place—Jimmy paid six hundred bucks a month when it could go for sixteen hundred—and he made it tough on Jimmy: the paint was peeling off the building while the rest of the Victorians in their row gleamed with fresh coats and gold leaf. He took Jimmy’s parking space because he needed it for his own gleaming black funereal SUV. Jimmy opened the door before Dennis could knock—once again, he was late. Jimmy stepped out, jacket...


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MARC Record
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