Don’t misunderstand, I love the plains of Atherton but even more the hills where I can gaze over the Silicon Valley and dream I’ll someday be part of this. I know I’m not now. I live in a Section 8 studio in Modesto and can only drive to the Bay Area once a month for a few hours. I used to park my car in the hills and spend the night but got arrested a couple of times so now have to figure out how to get a job and make a fortune.
This beautiful home – they’re all big and elegant and styles don’t matter – lures me through an open wrought iron gate. I walk to the front door and firmly knock. There’s a car in the driveway so I believe someone’s here. Fine, I ring the doorbell several times, and a slender man in his mid-thirties, my age, answers the door and frowns.
“Sir, I first just want to congratulate you,” I say.
“For being smart and disciplined and, let us admit, lucky enough to buy your way into this paradise.”
“What do you want?”
“I want to know how you did it. Are you a computer guru? Rich people lived here even before computers exploded. You know Ty Cobb resided here. He was a great baseball player but also a farsighted investor who bought blue chip stocks like Ford more than a century ago.”
The man tried to close the door but I kicked hardwood and knocked it out of his hand.
“Leave at once or I’ll call the police.”
“Listen to me. You’re living in a sacred place of beauty and wealth, and I need to know how to get here.”
“I told you: beat it.”
“You’re lucky I’m not Ty Cobb or I’d have already kicked your ass. He didn’t take shit but I do. I take shit every day and I’m sick of it.”
He again tries to shut the door but I push both palms hard and keep it open and right kick the man’s left knee, sending him to the tile floor, before I say, “Thanks a lot,” and dash out his long driveway.
Figuring that arrogant bastard really would call the police, I jog several houses up the hill and climb the stone wall next to a closed gate leading to another fabulous place where I ring the doorbell. Another slim young man answers the door. This being Sunday, the servants must be off here, too.
“Sir, I’ll tell you straight: I aspire to live in Atherton but, frankly, have not been able to accumulate the necessary wealth. How’d you do it?”
He looks at me as if I’m an extraterrestrial.
“Don’t try to close the door on me,” I say.
“Who are you?”
“I’m Daniel J. Gibbs. Who are you?”
“None of your business.”
“Perhaps I should be talking to someone more eminent. Can you tell me where Willie Mays lives?”
“Who’s Willie Mays?”
“You may be a wizard in technology or some other business but you’re otherwise a nincompoop. Willie Mays was even better than Ty Cobb and he’s still alive.”
“Then you should go talk to Willie Mays.”
“Just tell me what you do.”
He hits me with an uppercut to the belly, leaving me bent over and gasping, and says, “I hit the heavy bag every day. Now leave.”
I gasp several seconds before saying, “All right, open the gate. I can’t climb the wall again.”
He complies and I walk out, peeking both ways, and jump back against the outer wall as I see a police car drive through the entrance to the first estate I visited. When the car’s out of sight I walk fast as I can to the home next door where, thankfully, the gate is open. I consider hiding in dense bushes but decide that’s for cowards. I’m on a mission. I ease to the front door and try to open an immovable knob. Fine, I head around back and on the patio encounter a fiftyish man and a young woman I sense isn’t his daughter.
“Good afternoon, I’m your neighbor, Joe Montana.”
“I thought I read you moved a number of years ago, Joe.”
“Just a ruse to elude my fans.”
The gentleman rises, brandishing his steak knife, and says, “You’re talking to a lifelong 49er fan who dislikes intruders.”
“Can you please tell me what line of work you’re in?” I ask.
From afar he twice thrusts his knife and says, “Don’t force me to approach.”
Meanwhile into her cell phone the lady recites an address and says, “Please hurry.”
I pivot and run out the gate and want to roll downhill but that’s where I came from so instead head up the hill about a minute before I hear a siren and see a squad car brake beside me and an officer, gun drawn, shoots out and says, “Hands up and don’t move.”
“Relax, sir, I’m just looking for my good friend Larry Ellison.”
“The founder of Oracle?”
“Yes, and one of the wealthiest men on this earth.”
“Did you kick a man a few houses down the road?”
“You’re under arrest. Put your hands on the squad car, spread your legs, and don’t move or you’re dead.”
“Surely you’re not taking the word of these dolts over a friend of Larry Ellison.”