Palo Alto Hermit, 2006

I live two blocks from the Apple store, don’t own a cellphone or a TV, don’t have an internet connection. Some weekends I unplug my landline and I’m an ascetic, surrounded by my volumes of John Muir, Jane Kenyon, A Buddhist Bible, and my journals of poetic plodding. I’m between girlfriends, single by the strictest definition. I watch them on their headsets, talking to the air, talking about technology into technology. They fill the Starbucks on University Avenue with their napkins, sketching schematas of the next IPO. I’m a walking anachronism, a luddite they call me, voluntary simplicity, I call me. Doing the mental math, I calculate whether I’m the only one in all of Palo Alto, completely disconnected. Maybe a couple of Stanford religion majors without TV, but none would be internet free, no, that is just me, 1 out of 66,000. There is Greg, that isn’t his real name, no one knows his real name, he drags his feet through downtown Palo Alto, toes sticking out of his shoes, his long, unkempt blondish brown hair jutting in all directions. Greg and the other homeless people by the creek are my kin, my kind, fiber-optically missing, invisible, off the grid. One night I meet Larry Page at a Stanford pub, we don’t talk about his company, Google. He tells me he likes Dance Dance Revolution, but only does it in private. The seven-minute conversation sticks with me, like the mornings when I see Steve Jobs at the farmers market. Me, Steve, and Larry, we’re in this thing together, makes me feel like I’m a part of the team, the future. But all I teach about is the past, the Cherokee, the Californios, the buffalo, the removed, the replaced. I hike miles on Sundays, Butano Ridge Loop, Foothills Park, my fern-filled temple, my isolation, my solace. I try to make sense of it all, the movement of time, my standing still. After many days, maybe hours, I plug my phone back in, walk down Kipling Street, go to the library, check my email.