From Pacific Standard:
Dispatches From the Russian River: Pioneers and Profiteers
Like the '49ers before them, modern-day techies arrive with a dream and feel as if they deserve to realize it.
The man-child standing before me in the coffee shop was wearing a faded Facebook hoodie, which means something very specific in San Francisco. He wanted people to know that he was an early employee of Facebook, and that in 2012, when the company went public, he became a millionaire. He looked to be in his late 20s, and since it was 11 o’clock in the morning on a Tuesday, it was clear that employment was optional. He could do as he pleased, and being told “no” wasn’t to his liking.When I first moved to San Francisco from New York, I hadn’t been aware of these kinds of men. Wall Street frat guy? Neurotic comedian? Nathaniel P. Brooklyn writer? Of course. But these guys are different. I had to learn that I wasn’t just turning down his offer of coffee; I was embodying B.M. (Before Money), his personal dark age. It’s a period he would rather forget, and from which he, like so many young men like him, seemed permanently scarred.
“Do you realize that I could charter a helicopter right now, and we could be having dinner in Napa?”
I knew all this, so I went out of my way to thank him kindly, and with a sweeping gesture, pointed to my reasons: My own cup of coffee was filled to the brim, still too hot to drink. I was guest teaching, and had stacks of student’s papers piled up in front of me. I was holding a red pen. I excused myself and turned back to my work, which is when I saw his fingers drumming on my table, as if I had acted out in his classroom.
“Do you realize,” he sneered, “that I could charter a helicopter right now, and we could be having dinner in Napa?”The techies are only the most recent wave of newly wealthy men with big appetites and a fathomless sense of privilege; their kind has been around since my beloved state’s inception. San Francisco’s modern day techies have more in common with the '49ers than just their demographic profile, which is overwhelmingly young, single, and male: They arrive with a dream, and they feel as if they deserve to realize that dream—very quickly. Mining, panning, and coding are hard work, but no one intends to do it for a long time. A flash in the pan, a gold nugget in a sluice, or a successful iPhone app is all they need to expand or cash out and move on. That’s the pioneer spirit.Women have always been a hot commodity in San Francisco. There were 50 men to a single woman in San Francisco in the 1850s, and that lopsided ratio grew as wide as 300 to one in Gold Country. Early settler Mary Jane Megquier wrote that women put on “aprons full of gold” when they arrived, enjoying the rare opportunity to make money and, by extension, gain some freedom. They were laundresses, teachers, prostitutes, cooks, merchants, and entertainers....MORE