The darkness of Palo Alto


Note the impressive warning sign
Note the impressive warning sign

After work this evening, I ran down Camino Real to the AirBnB that one of my friends had been staying at, to drop back the house key. This was all sorts of fun because Palo Alto is full of very rich people, who apparently have great distaste for pavements. Well, sidewalks, in the American vernacular. I ran for about a mile and a half and then the sidewalk ended. Not like some Shel Silverstein poem; no, just an end to the pavement, and a road full of cars driving as fast as they possibly could.

The Palo Altans also hate streetlighting, so you’re blinded by the lights of oncoming traffic and unable to see anything that you might trip over or into. (And this is a real threat – just over the road from my hotel is a great big hole in the ground, and the only warning around it is a sock on the end of a stick – I assume that’s not an official hazard sign put out by the local government, but who knows? This is Silicon Valley, where local councils are probably seen as against the libertarian ethic.)

I crossed the street, and there was more pavement for a while, and then that ran out, and there was just dirt, or the edge of the road itself, and of course no street lights. All the houses are enormous but although the owners are dot-com billionaires (or perhaps because of it) there’s no light emanating from any of them. It’s like everyone counted their money and then went to bed at 9pm. Good for them, I suppose.

So this meant that the 2 mile run there and the 2 mile run back were both pretty terrifying, but the awe-inspiring thing is that without any streetlights, in the moments when there were no phalanxes of cars rushing past, you could see the beauty of the night sky. Stars, and such, whereas the most I can usually see in Singapore is the winking navigation lights of planes coming in to Changi. I suppose that was more than worth the utter terror of running in the darkness assuming you’re about to be run down by a Suburban.

Next time, I’ll stick to running around Stanford.

Today was also the official sports day for Facebook, so we were all bussed down from Menlo Park to San Francisco for fun and games. In years gone by this was the sort of orgiastic revelry where drunk frat boys stood on an aircraft carrier and hit golfballs into the bay, but now that everyone has grown up and had kids, the whole thing is much more family friendly. This is precisely what I didn’t want, because my family is way across the ocean, and I’d rather either get horribly messy without them, or not be reminded that while my youngest is taking her first steps across the floor, I’m contending with a horizontal rain storm in the freezing fog of the Bay. But it would be ungrateful to decline the chance for fun, and I did get to take part in the Improbable Sports as such they were, by racing two young engineers on bicycles on a computer screen. (I won, but that’s because the legs, they spin spin spin – the old geezer has something…) There was an awful lot of food there, and a bouncy castle or two, and a freestyle rap competition where you had to recite the works of Dr Seuss, so that was just what it should be, but again, it made me worry that this is all some strange dream, quite divorced from reality, and I’m going to wake up. Somewhere.

Maybe somewhere very dark with lots of stars.


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