Dog Bites

Apocalypse Pretty Soon

Dog Bites realizes that, in any relationship, there are two possible scenarios that may result from separation. These are conveniently summed up by a pair of popular aphorisms:

1) Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

2) Out of sight, out of mind.

So it is with a certain empty feeling of rejection that we observe that, ever since we went on vacation -- for five days! that's all! -- it's been really, really quiet around here. But whatever -- if that's how you feel, then fine. We guess we know where we stand.

Well, OK -- a few people did leave voice mail informing us that Mallory Keaton was the name of Justine Bateman's character on Family Ties. "She was the airhead older sister of Michael J. Fox," explained one caller, helpfully. Well, duh! Did not Dog Bites once own a hunter green plaid blouse with a high collar and ruffles around the sleeves -- which we frequently wore with jeans, navy pumps, and white ankle socks? Was not lip gloss a constant balm to our teenage soul? Does not "I Melt With You" play over the closing credits of Valley Girl? Come on. Of course we know who Mallory Keaton is.

Uh, we can see now that Associate Editor David Pasztor's directive about this week's column ("Make sure it's really fluffy") isn't going to be hard to obey.

But then there was the earthquake, which was a little more interesting. Dog Bites, who almost never -- really! -- shops in Neiman-Marcus, had been waylaid at the Prescriptives counter and was earnestly discussing eyeliner and lipstick (some things never change) when all the glass cases and light fixtures began to rattle most dramatically. Naturally, our first thought was that it would be really embarrassing to be found -- like one of those unfortunate residents of Pompeii who died in the local tavern -- clutching a tester of Restless and a hand mirror.

We would like to assert that this experience has cured us of vain self-regard, but that is, sadly, not the case, although thinking back now we realize we must have been somewhat shaken, at least enough that we forgot to make our traditional shoe department detour in order to genuflect before the alcove housing the Manolo Blahniks.

Still, the tremor, minor as it was, did bring on a few somewhat millennial thoughts -- like that it's only a week and four months until the year 2000 and we don't have any really good champagne in the house, that the mayoral and presidential elections are fast approaching, and that the stock market can't trend upward indefinitely. In fact, a few weeks ago the New York Times Magazine asked six experts to tell readers how they use "real-world economic indicators" to predict recessions. One suggested that Starbucks would start serving weaker coffee; another thought consumers might actually begin to care what kind of gas mileage their SUVs were getting; another noted that high-quality TV commercials are a sure sign that the end is nigh. "I always identify commercials that are not too bad to watch with the late stages of a boom," said Paul Krugman, an economics professor at MIT. "When things turn bad, they just repeat the product 15 times."

Here in San Francisco, a friend in the restaurant industry tells us he and his professional associates have noticed with mingled wonder and dread that the scene at a certain group of favored Russian Hill eateries is becoming a surreal merry-go-round of paella and pepper-seared ahi. "It's Baraonda, Yabbies, I Fratelli, Antica, Frascati, Zarzuela, Sushi Groove, and the Hyde Street Bistro," he says. "You can practically know what day of the week it is by who's dining where. Everyone [the restaurateurs] does really well."

As the town fills up with 28-year-old $100,000-a-year new-media marketing executives who know, in their secret hearts, that this madness can't continue forever and that their stock option ships may never come in, our source says he's seen a strange edge develop in the once-relaxed San Francisco dining scene. "It's like, everybody's making a ton of money and they want to spend it now. They feel they haveto go out. Another way you see it is the amount people drink. I mean, people have always drank, but there was still at least a fun element to it. Now you see more and more people just deliberately getting drunk."

Well, keeping up the facade of being middle class like your parents -- despite forking over $2,200 a month to rent your one-bedroom apartment and having no savings whatsoever -- can be a strain, and Dog Bites can understand the need to run up a bar tab in order to cope. Sure, you could go to Whole Foods and, you know, be all frugal by buying $40 worth of stuff from the deli and the pasta bar and whatnot, but then you'd have to give up your parking spot and cross Van Ness and everything, which hardly seems worth it.

Besides, if you don't go out, you'll miss all the gossip, the chance to speculate on whether the Red Herringor the Industry Standard will have its IPO first, and whether either event will take place by the end of the first quarter of next year. (Dog Bites was entertained to hear someone offer a $50 bet on the Herring.) You won't know that "not owning the dot com" has become a reason to seriously consider renaming your company -- surely a dire warning to would-be domain name speculators everywhere. And you'll be ignorant of the way Web businesses, like multinationals three decades ago, are suddenly beginning to worry about how their corporate identities translate in a borderless economy -- or, as one expert succinctly put it, "All those companies with names like BuyStockNow.com are screwed the minute they get to Germany."

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