Thursday, February 24, 2022

Left in a Cloud of Technological Dust


I am one of those who has missed whatever economic boom is attributable to the Internet. I had long ago bought into the Michael Eisner late 20th century theorem that “…the only people making money on the Internet, were those who sold coffee and donuts at seminars about making money on the Internet.”

The former head of Disney had it wrong, of course, but I didn’t know that then, and even now, any actual means of monetizing the Internet is something I have found to be elusive.

It is as if I had a fine buggy shop with access to the best teams of horses around… and then Henry Ford happened with his automobile, and I am frozen in time, unable to make the life adjustment that is necessary to be able to cope with it all.

I find I am no longer of this world. I belong to something that once occurred… in the long ago. It is all okay. I manage to get along. The good news: I was in the right place at the right time, I worked hard, got a little lucky, and all of that has  gotten me here to my warm Island just ahead of the explosion of the Internet and the debunking of Michael Eisner’s analysis of the future.

My father went through very little of this. Born in Los Angeles in 1917, there were electric lights illuminating the streets of LA outside of his mother’s hospital window. The City of Angels had an airport in 1917, and there were automobiles on the streets. When he died, 81 years later, the LA streets were still illuminated at night, the airport was still there… larger… and, like the cars in the streets, the planes were faster, but their fundamental design had not changed all that much. The world at my father’s demise still looked a lot like the world did when he was born.

That was not true for my grandfather. He had to go from an oxcart to an automobile, from candle light to the electric light, from a home without indoor plumbing to what would then be called modern living. Those changes, no matter how positive, had to make my grandparent’s life much more stressful than that of my parents… and it is beginning to dawn on me, that in terms of fundamental change, the impact of “modern living” on my life will be something closer to that felt by my grandfather than of my own father.

I try to avoid these every day stressors. To bask in my ignorance, to revel on my Island and to avoid the reality checks of the outside world. Still, I am not totally insulated even in paradise.

Ms. Cruz wrote to me today. She wanted to know if I was still salivating over that custom Rolls-Royce Dawn she would be only too happy to have delivered to me. I wrote her back, capitulating to the world as I have come to know it. I am 84 years old. I own a beautiful, albeit 15-year-old, Bentley GTC. No doubt it is the last car I will ever own in my life. So, thank you, Ms. Cruz, but no thanks.

That is a big admission for a “kid” from the California of the 1940s and 50s. It was  California… and Los Angeles in particular… that came to be the major testing ground for all the promotional propaganda General Motors, Firestone Tire & Rubber, and Standard Oil could produce. Pre-pubescent boys may not have been their primary targets, but we fell under their spell.

While our adult parents and their representatives tore down a perfectly good public transportation system to build super highways…ironically called “freeways”…and granted all sorts of special tax privileges and land grants to the rubber, oil, and car manufacturers…their kids were content to worship the white wall tire, the chromium hubcap, the internal combustion engine, and the sleek metal sculpture work exemplified by the makers of something called a Buick.

Seventy some years later, I still have that rush in an automobile showroom. It is what Ms. Cruz detected that day as I roamed through the luxury car emporium in downtown Miami, killing time while waiting for my Bentley to be delivered from the service center. Not for one moment did I take the time to calculate that the technology that propelled this fabulous work of steel, rubber, and leather might well be outlawed by the EPA before the final payment would be made on its purchase.

Ms. Cruz is not so easily dissuaded. She knows her stuff and she can spot a potential customer when she sees one. But how could I even consider her “offer?” I no longer take those annual cross-country jaunts from Miami to LA, primarily sticking to the blue-lane highways while avoiding the more modern and efficient Interstate highway system. Those were leisurely, adventure filled trips. A drive that would take a professional trucker three days and nights would take me at least 22-24 days. It has been years since I have ventured out on one of those.

My kids have not yet threatened to take the car keys, though my wife denigrates my ever-diminishing driving skills. I speculate that if I could get a negative enough medical prognosis that the Dawn by Rolls-Royce might be a flamboyant way of compensating prior to “checking out.”

Assuming I would pay cash… or designate a way for the car to be paid off at my  demise… I could leave instructions that I be buried in the car. A stylish way out for a kid from the low rent side of LA. It would be necessary to also designate whether the burial would take place with the convertible top up or down. Something to think about.


Barney Rosenzweig


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