There is a there there

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Chinese New Year In The Year of the Goat, chasing the dragon

Gold Mountain (San Francisco) – There are few right angles in the old Swiss American Hotel, North Beach, now called the Green Tortoise Hostel, a relay station in a stage line for backpackers that stretches coast to coast with stops in Austin, Portland, Seattle, Chicago, New York and Boston.

Passengers camp under the stars at scenic spots in national parks and monuments both desert and rocky top, riding an old inter-city diesel bus modified to sleep a dozen or so youthful travelers.

Most angles are either totally obtuse, or extremely acute, and the women wear the form-fitting, very revealing tights affected by yoga devotees on the lower slope of Telegraph Hill where this old building snuggles up to the hard rock cliff on the corner of Kearny and Broadway.


In the days of Barbary Coast, it was the site of the City Jail, but these days it more resembles a ship at sea with sturdy bunks built of long-nettle yellow pine in a completely wireless electronic redo of an old show biz hotel where horn men and stand-up comedic talent once shared the spotlight with painted ladies and the crowds lined up around the block as more arrived every quarter hour by jetliner.

A committee of angry junkies once threw Lenny Bruce out an upper floor window because they thought he snitched on someone, and the Hungry I and Purple Onion impresario Enrico Banducci’s sidewalk trattoria is across the corner on one of the steepest streets in the world.  The sick comic later destroyed himself in a one-man assault on the obscenity laws of this city, New York, and Chicago, though Allen Ginsberg’s publisher, Lawrence Ferlinghetti of City Lights Books, triumphed in his commitment to market Ginsberg’s epic poem, “Howl,” in the late fifties . It’s all still there; the more The City changes, the more it stays the same.


These days, international travelers on techie missions throng the Green Tortoise to attend conventions such as the virtual reality design and programming that just concluded in the frighteningly modern SoMa’s (South of Market) Moscone Center, hard by the BART transbay tube station. The world of communication is no longer a telegrapher’s inear scheme, but an ever-expanding, spherical and global techno-world.

There are seminars daily on the danger of losing one’s place in this brave new world and succumbing to an avatar’s role in an all-too-real, yet virtual matrix gone mad. They take place over coffee and confusion in the old hotel’s ballroom. Said Bonnie, a young finance expert from Beijing, “One of the major trips people are on today is the terror of hackers being able to penetrate the UAV net and take over command and control of the rockets and cameras.”


Verily, most survivors of the murderous terror attack mounted by the U.S. Army psychiatrist,  Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, at first assumed that it was just another training exercise – until the high-powered bullets bit into their tissue and the blood began to fly. Perhaps the most terrifying aspect of the tale is that Hasan spent his initial enlistment at Ft. Irwin, California – The National Training Center – playing the role of an Arabic-speaking insurgent in real-time training scenarios. He had shouted “Allahu Akbar” many times before beginning a murderous simulated onslaught of gunfire, long before his medical training ever began.

Matthew Nowacki, a veteran virtual reality designer/programmer traveling out of Austin with experience at Disney,  speaks of a conditioning process that will guarantee the overweening success of the discipline in the decades to come. His name is well-known in libertarian circles throughout central Texas.

Nowacki tells of growing up with in the techno-glitter of Austin with  a personal relationship with Google. “I learned early on that Google is my friend – GIMF – in a world of information…”

He concludes his visit by predicting that soon towers, laptops, tablets and phones will become obsolete, replaced by wristwatches that will control all functions, including a virtual perception viewed through wrap-around shades.


A desk clerk plugs in his phone and pipes stereo of enhanced native drumming accompanied by techno-wizard keyboard effects, and rattles off the name of the collective who travel the world capturing the sounds.

Bonnie concludes that, since it’s often to see across the street in Chinese industrial cities, much less discern the skyline, it could be well to equip people with virtual perception equipment to make it appear that there is no such visual impairment in the atmosphere.

Here’s looking at the Year Of The Goat with an old tune about the Cat:

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