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Abroad in the Hoochie Nation
How we got the idea it would be a simple matter to show up at Pac Bell Park, buy tickets from a scalper, and watch the San Francisco Demons kick the L.A. Xtreme up and down the field is, now, obscure to us. But when the plan was first proposed we thought it seemed feasible, which was how Dog Bites ended up struggling through the crowds outside the stadium half an hour before kickoff, trying not to lose the people we came with or bump into anyone who looked as though he would take it the wrong way.
"Hey, I'm going to look at the girls," said a guy to his friend, who was stuck in the will-call line that wound around Willie Mays Plaza.
"OK," replied the friend.
There were, doubtless, a lot of girls to look at. "Hoochie ma-mas!" remarked Dog Bites' male companion, and indeed many of the women milling before the gates looked as though they had been surgically enhanced for professional reasons. Of course, it was a record-breaking 73-degree February Sunday, but even so the sheer volume of halter tops, patent leather baby backpacks, fluffy faux-fur shrugs, pink-lensed frameless aviator sunglasses, skintight Earl jeans, gold chain belts, metallic platform sandals, high-shine lip gloss, and deeply tanned cleavage was mildly staggering to Dog Bites, who is starting to think Ms. Donatella Versace and Messrs. Dolce and Gabbana have a lot to answer for. Last spring's designer coke whore look has trickled down to the mass market, and the result is a lot of women who have taken to matching their eye shadow to their turquoise rhinestone-studded tube tops -- for day wear.
Across the street a dozen or so stoked and crew-cutted blond youths disembarked the N Judah, chanting, "Here we go Demons, here we go!" as they charged the crowd.
"That worries me," said one of Dog Bites' friends.
"Extra tickets?" called a man.
"No, but we're looking to buy," we told him.
"Seventy-five each," he answered coolly.
We repaired to the bar at MoMo's to formulate an alternate plan; a round of Bloody Marys later the only alternative plan that had emerged was to repair to the bar at Twenty-Four, where our companions could get shots of Fernet. Dog Bites does not drink Fernet; call us unsophisticated -- many have -- but we think it smells exactly like Scope, which is not a quality we look for in a spirit.
From our sunny table we watched a young man wearing a full-head latex demon mask stroll by talking on his cell phone; hoochie couples strutted under the palm trees, flashing gold chains and Louis Vuitton bucket bags. A little later, two of the Silver Guys, doubtless displaced from Union Square, showed up with their enormous boombox and seemed to be trying to talk their way into the game until a pair of bicycle cops rode up and remonstrated with them.
"What happened?" we asked the cops as the Silver Guys wandered disconsolately away.
"Oh, security called us," said the first cop. "They were trying to get in, saying they had to do a show or something."
"Yeah, they were the halftime entertainment," said the second cop. They laughed.
Though it was warm and pleasant on the patio, Twenty-Four had stopped serving lunch, so -- vowing we'd buy tickets to the next game well in advance -- our party decided to go elsewhere for food, and walked back to the car past a row of immaculate vintage Harleys parked on Berry Street and a tricked-out black Bronco with a garter belt collection hanging from the rearview mirror.
In Cow Hollow, where we ended up, the Hoochie Nation was flying its hoochie flag proudly. A black Range Rover stopped in the middle of Union Street; the man driving it was wearing a Gucci logo visor. "If you're not in the 415 area code ... I'll tell ya," another man wearing a huge silver watch said to his friends, loudly. Pairs of women in tiny halter tops and frameless sunglasses and spike heels and miniskirts paraded up and down the sidewalk looking deeply dissatisfied while the guys at the outside tables nudged each other and sniggered; the vibe was inexplicably aggro despite the good food and the meltingly golden sunlight and the warm cherry blossom-scented air. Everybody seemed angry at everybody else, and nobody liked anybody else's clothes, and everybody was mad he wasn't seated first.
We left to go home and found a woman in pink aviators, high-heeled boots, a calf-length alligator-print patent leather coat, and high-test lip gloss standing by our friend's truck, raging. "Is this your car?" she demanded. "This is my boyfriend's space. He's really pissed off. It says right therenot to park here. Can't you fucking read?"
Dog Bites' friend, who'd parked there because our other friend said we could use the spot, muttered that he hadn't known, and we got into the car, but she charged toward us like a Valkyrie, still yelling, and her boyfriend ran up, yelling too, and Dog Bites' heart was pounding as we drove away. Then we noticed the truck's antenna had been bent over, which our friend rightly observed was extremely uncool, and which could have led to more unpleasantness, but by that time we'd convinced ourselves it was our duty to fight the nasty hoochie vibe at large in the city, so we went home and burned candles and did laundry as a kind of personal hoochie cleansing.
Later we stood on the roof of our apartment building in the warm evening looking toward downtown, and realized the dome of City Hall was missing from the illuminated skyline. We thought about power shortages, layoffs, evictions, and rats in cages.
Some Leading Economic Indicators
One would think that one of the perks of being a columnist is being able to work at home part of the time -- and one would be right. Still, Dog Bites' work ethic occasionally prevents our enjoying this as much as one might otherwise expect, as it did this week when, after a frustrating morning of unreturned phone calls and fruitless note-taking, we decided to head to the gym.
We had finished our cardio -- 30 minutes on the eliptical trainer while watching a CNN report on the slowing economy -- and were doing obliques and stretches when two other patrons emitted mild exclamations of mutual recognition. Subsequent clues in the conversation revealed they had both recently been laid off by the same dot-com.
"So what are you doing?" asked the guy.
"Oh, you know. Hanging out, going to Tahoe. Partying," answered the tanned young blond woman, whose coordinating Fila outfit Dog Bites had been envying earlier. "It's going to be hard to go back to work."
"Yeah," the guy agreed, stretching his quadriceps.
"You started looking for another job yet?" she asked.
"No," he answered.
Hard to go back to work! Dog Bites repeated mentally, our tiny mind reeling. Hard to go back to work! Like it's a sabbatical, instead of a full-on freaking recession! Haven't these people ever been laid off before? Do they even understand this is reality?
The pleasant sensation of taking a well-deserved yet productive break vanished, and we found ourselves eyeing the elderly lady on the ab crunch machine, wondering if she suspected Dog Bites, too, was an unemployed dot-commer, loafing around the gym in the middle of the day in the vain pursuit of perfect glutes instead of looking for gainful employment.
We skipped the lat machine and hurried home to get dressed in one of our more businesslike outfits before driving to the office.
Do please feel free to disagree, but it strikes us that many of the recently laid-off dot-commers haven't quite grasped the fact that they're not just taking well-deserved breaks from their strenuous $100K-a-year biz-dev jobs -- which, God knows, they need, after several entire years in the workplace -- sleeping late and meeting their friends for drinks at G and Eastside West to plan trips down to Mammoth and Cabo. They've been canned. Canned.
But the latest buzz in more branché dot-com circles is that some of the laid-back laid-off are about to be brought up short by the AMT. Dog Bites, who is nearly as frightened of acronyms as we are of tax forms, was appalled to learn these letters stand for alternative minimum tax. It turns out that when someone exercises stock options and then holds onto the stock into the next calendar year, the IRS says the difference between the fair market value of the stock on the date he bought it -- vs. what he paid for it -- is taxable income. These paper profits have pushed many high-income dot-commers into the bracket in which the alternative minimum tax applies -- only lots of them don't know it yet, because this particular tax rule is on the obscure side.
"A lot of folks didn't cut their stock options loose in 2000," says IRS spokesperson Chips Maurer, who says most government estimates are that about 1.5 million taxpayers will owe the AMT this year. "Get thee to a tax professional for advice, but be prepared to set up an installment agreement."
Of course, if the NASDAQ had continued to rise, dot-commers would have been able to cover their April 16 tax bills by selling some stock. But -- well ....
Wow, and you thought it was easy to get into Butterfly now.