Ethan Fast

Old Palo Alto

15 July, 2012 -- Menlo Park, CA

I walk sometimes through Old Palo Alto. It’s where some of the richest people live, a few miles outside the main drag, a place where property values reach beyond the tens of millions. I find it amusing to pretend to be a person who lives in one of these houses, a bit of young money out for a stroll. Of course I don’t particularly want to live in that neighborhood, and I don’t care about money (at least, not for that reason), but it’s a game of mine.

So in Old Palo Alto I turn up my shoulders and walk with that relaxed, confidant air you see sometimes in people around here. I play sidewalk chicken with my fellow pedestrians (who are rare), and I generally enjoy the scenery. In Old Palo Alto, trees always line the streets. It is very beautiful.

Today I walked by Steve Job’s house.

I think it was his house, anyway. It was on the right street. I don’t actually know what his house looks like. But this particular house had a group of four eastern Europeans lounging on the sidewalk before the front lawn: two men and two women.

They saw me approaching, and I had an intuition that something would happen. You probably know it, that slight tension which seems to build before two strangers enter into a conversation. I was still yards away, so I tried to look more imposing to ensure they wouldn’t bother me.

I thought I’d made it past them, when one of the men spoke. His hand hailed me with a yellow rubber ball.

“Is this Steve Job’s house?” He waved at the property across the sidewalk.

He had a thick accent, and I had him repeat the question. The house he meant was undergoing renovation, but I wasn’t sure whether this made his suspicion more or less likely. I told him I didn’t know.

“But don’t you live here?”

“I live around here, but not here.” I shrugged and gestured at the ground. “It might be his house, I don’t know.” I took a step forward.

“You’re not sure whether this is Steve Jobs house?” he said. I suppose he might have thought I was lying. He looked incredulous. I should have asked him why he wanted to know, but I didn’t. I just shook my head and kept walking.

That’s life in Palo Alto.