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Lifestyles of the Poor and Pathetic

What the hip are doing in Silicon Valley. 3_7_1001.xml hed: Lifestyles of the Poor and Pathetic dek: What the hip are doing in Silicon Valley. blurb: What the hip are doing in Silicon Valley. number of pages:1 by Lincoln Spector

Silicon Valley! Land of Enchantment! Land of the American Dream! Land of the Instant Ex-Billionaire! Nowhere on Earth will you find such a hip, with-it, and totally def congregation of the nouveau broke. Let’s take a look at the exciting Silicon Valley lifestyle.

Bob and Marcie are the very epitome of that lifestyle. Bob is the founder and CEO of Fallgoboom.com, a company whose Web site still promises to one day offer something worth buying. Bob personally owns more than 100,000 shares of Fallgoboom stock; a holding that was valued at more than $85,000,000 at the beginning of 2000. Today he uses that stock to line his birdcage.

Marcie works as a chip designer for Leeky Intelligence Timesync Inc. Although she survived the round of layoffs this past April, she was forced to take a 70 percent cut in salary. Also, since she is now the only employee in her department, she must do the work of five engineers, two managers, and the janitor.

Bob and Marcie live on the cutting edge of Silicon Valley society, residing happily in the six-bedroom Mountain View home they bought last year for $ 2.8 million. “We’ve fixed up the garage to make it truly beautiful,” says Marcie, bragging about the one room in the house that she and Bob now have to themselves. “We’re slowly turning this home into the ultimate upscale boarding house. Next on the agenda is redoing the upstairs bathroom. That will allow us to rent out the garage.”

Fast connection

Like all Silicon Valley couples, Bob and Marcie need a fast connection to the Internet. In 1999 they signed up to get DSL through a local ISP named WireDuct, paying $200 a month for an extra fast synchronous connection (“We felt our clicks should go out as fast as the pages came in,” recalls Bob). At first, Bob and Marcie thought their new financial situation would force them to give up DSL, but they were saved from that humiliation when WireDuct went bankrupt.

“Then we worked out a deal with our tenants where we all chipped in for a T1 line through Thickminds Inc.,” he says. We had to all use modems during the six-week wait for installation–that was awful. But then, six weeks to the day after we called and arranged for service, Thickminds went bankrupt.”

Over the next six months, Bob and Marcie subscribed to five others ISPs, four of which closed before or soon after offering service. The fifth, Skinofourteeth.net, has proved more stable and is still offering fast Internet connections. Last month, in fact, Skinofourteeth.net closed Bob and Marcie’s account for nonpayment.

But the couple is still enjoy high-speed surfing. “That’s what libraries are for,” says Bob.

Schedule for success

The traditional Silicon Valley lifestyle is built around work, driving, a strict exercise regimen, and toys as a substitute for free time. Bob and Marcie are no exception to this golden rule–except that their toys are less likely to be clothes and cars and more likely to be rubber balls and kazoos.

It’s true that work for Bob isn’t as intense as it was when Fallgoboom.com was a growing concern, but he keeps busy. “I’m at the library every morning at opening time to check the want ads, make phone calls, and surf the Web looking for openings. I also find the movie review and porn sites useful.

“And, of course, I spend a lot of time driving around, talking on my cell phone. It looks good.”

Marcie still works a 99-hour workweek at Leeky Intelligence (“They wanted to make it an even 100, but I insisted on getting a dinner break on Sunday,” she says). It’s true that she receives less pay than the 40-hour-a-week receptionist, but she tries to be philosophical about it. “The folks in charge know how hard I work and they appreciate me. Any day now they’ll be giving me more responsibility.”

Keeping in shape

Exercise has been a problem since Bob and Marcie were forced to quit their gym. For a while, they regularly visited another couple who owned a pair of stationary bicycles. But in the end, that didn’t work, either. “The problem,” explains Marcie, “is that Suzie and Tim live five miles away, and we can’t afford the gas for the round trip–at least not since Bob has to drive around talking on his cell phone. We considered bicycling there, but that’s too much bother.”

But Bob and Marcie still love to eat well, and dine out at the Valley’s best restaurants at least once a week. “You’d never catch us at a McDonald’s or anyplace cheap. We’re strictly a Spago kind of couple–much better class of Dumpster.” And, of course, they eat well at home, as well. “When one of our tenants brings home something extra special–like Skippy Peanut Butter–we can generally beg some off of them.”

What does Bob see in their future? “It’s getting harder to find tenants who can pay the rent,” he admits. “Marcie and I may have to move to a mobile carry-all unit in East Palo Alto.” If they do, we can be sure it will be the most stylish cardboard box in the neighborhood.

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