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The wonder of Fun…

by | Nov 6, 2020 | Cake, Fun, wonder

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I have traveled to the Silicon Valley area that is now so revered since early in the ’80s at the start of my career.  When I first went out, there were still lots of cherry trees that were native there, and the “Valley” included stands that sold baskets of them by the side of the road.  You would land at SFO and head south down 101, and see a blend of normal businesses – car dealerships, restaurants, punctuated by Aerospace and Tech firms that were slowly changing the landscape.  There were of course Marriott’s to support the traveling executives, one that looked like a large English Tudor you could see as you drove down through San Mateo.  I was standing in a large conference hall there, a nice place for a big important meeting which this was, with a man yelling at me at the top of his lungs “Who the F— are you?”

Other people might have found that offensive, even bristled at the implications, but with my years in Debate, I had learned an important fact – if they’re yelling, your winning. So I simply stood there and let this guy go off.  And what was even more Fun, no one seemed particularly upset – it was just “_____” being “_____”.  I knew his name the rest of my life, and pretty sure he didn’t remember mine by the time the meeting was over, but my work was mostly done at least for this meeting. With the help of my Palo Alto friends, we were in the process of porting Unix to the Intel Card, resulting in something that could plug into the PS/2 and be a high-end workstation – a direct threat to the Texas groups product line, the RS/6000. Their leader had worked through the back channels and up through the corporate structure to try and shut us down, collectively, only to run into Pete’s Godfather, who politely invited them to a meeting to resolve our differences.  So there we were, a group from Boca supporting this card, the group from Austin that were trying to kill it, …. and me.

This is Cake at their best I think.  Remember McCrea’s original thesis for the band was to have something would have at LEAST 3 things simultaneously. Start with the thundering Bassline (of course I notice that first)… that is doubled by a fairly clean lead guitar to establish a clear line.  The Monotonic singing doesn’t distract from the music – simply layering on the ironic description of desire for a woman, which McCrea said later was a commentary on the bizarre human mating ritual. Then the percussion elements that show up at the start of each verse, again supported by the thundering drums that power the track through from start to finish.  Add the chorus singing and responding to “call” of the lyrics, punctuated by a trumpet line that – goes all over the place and yet fits perfectly even though it is mostly in a minor key on top of a fun bouncy major melody.  The cherry – what other group or song includes a reference to a White Chrysler LeBaron?  When I want to feel more upbeat, this is one of my first go-to tracks…. and if you don’t’ feel the Fun, you need to keep listening 😉  The video is set to one of my favorite stars of the era, long before #meToo, and shows how strong women of that era had Fun with it… 

With my cloak of “intelligence” and with the support of my own division President, I didn’t have to back down, and there was really nothing that these guys could do OTHER than threaten me. Being REALLY bullied as a kid and surviving with my wits, I had seen this rodeo.  Their senior person eventually stepped in, closed the meeting out as politely and firmly as he could, with some great executive speak – content free but sounded nice… and we all agreed to disagree and leave.  We were not done, but this particular skirmish was over, and we had minimally fought to a draw, which being a team of 10ish against around 5,000 – not bad.  We celebrated at a local bar that had a lovely beer garden out back, still a meeting place that has survived the sprall of the tech world transforming the valley into what it is today… sadly dominated by a lot of people who like to yell a lot. 

This may not sound like Fun to you, but was enormously that to me.  Being barely 30 helped, as I really had no idea what was ACTUALLY happening, that my Debate skills were actually not that helpful to me or others long term.  But for today, it was a win, and as the song says, I was picking up steam, cutting out red tape. It was also in the era of IBM in full suits, and one of the other Fun parts of the meeting was another young guy had flown out without his dress shoes. When we met for breakfast, he was dressed to the nines in a beautiful Blue Pin Stripe Suit (the standard-issue uniform for IBM) and bright white, brand new Sneakers. He was really embarrassed… until we walked in and most of the Texan’s had on Cowboy Boots…. and as real Texans would say were actually “all hat, no cattle”.  My hope for you is that you have similar stories in your own background, that remind you in some way of the Fun of the journey…. and if you don’t, as we get back to “normal” you start to take some risks, and try a few things that may go who knows where.  And don’t forget your best uniform for the work – a Short Skirt, and Long Jacket 😉 


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