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A Googley Good Time

We woke up refreshed on Monday morning, excited at what the day had in store for us. The weather was beautiful with hints of gloominess looming in the distance. We got ready and left, with Ted driving towards Mountain View. It’s so strange, Prakash and I go years without seeing each other and today would have been the second time in as many months. Go figure. We make it to The Googleplex before 11:30 AM as requested and after a slight detour and some trouble with parking, we walk into the Building 41 lobby and check in. On the way up the long sidewalk we saw a funny scene. There was a Chrysler 300 parked in back of a maroon Prius with the plates “NOPRIUS“. I had to take a picture. At the front desk they have a custom made program that lets you enter your name, company, city, and employee you are visiting. Then after reading a non-disclosure agreement, you sign a digital pad and out comes a printed badge. Prakash came down to meet us and we went off to have lunch before the rush.

Prakash took us to Cafe 7 which was a few blocks away. He explained that Google had a total of 11 places to eat with 8 under construction, each with a new daily menu and each with a specific theme such as Pan-Asian, vegetarian, organic, etc. We dined on sliders, roasted chicken, puff pastry “butterflies”, and even got bottled vanilla cream soda and ginger ale. Everything was premium quality and everything was free. I had to ask to make sure the “gourmet” sodas were not extra. Two large projectors played Tomb Raider on screens. Some employees brought their kids to lunch and we certainly weren’t the only friends there. The executive chef came out and said hi to Prakash and after hearing where we were going for dinner, he told us to send our regards to Thomas Keller.

After we disposed of the dishes and put our trays in a motorized caddy, Prakash took us back to the main buildings for a tour. We saw the differences between buildings that Google bought versus new ones that they built which can only be described as being “more Googley.” After hearing so much of their culture, we weren’t surprised by much but it would be a lie to say we were not impressed or had our expectations surpassed a few times. We saw cool things like laundry rooms, gaming consoles hooked up to plasmas for anyone to play, and huge gyms with saunas and personal trainers. Each treadmill had a large dedicated LCD display hooked up to DirecTV. There were bounce ball bins to play in and conference rooms that looked like Outbreak containment tents. Kitchenettes were scattered throughout every floor on every building and you could get any number of snacks you wanted. Even between meals you could come into one of the cafes and pick up boxed food, soup, or a salad.

We thanked Prakash and took a picture before we left. He had to get back to work and we had to go into the city.

Both Karen and Ted had no opinion of where they wanted to go and after checking in with them a few times, I told them where I wanted to go. There were a list of shops that I always wanted to visit and never had the chance to; stores that you hear about and here was my chance. First we went to Haight Street, near the infamous Haight and Ashbury. I’ll be honest with you – I’ve never heard of either, but judging by the amount of hippe t-shirts and postcards I saw in the neighborhood windows, it must be famous. I fell in love with this street. There are at least 5 really good shoes stores and almost as many good clothing stores. My focus was on Villain’s Vault and FTC Skate but ended up visiting other stores such as Villain’s, Stussy and even an Adidas Concept store on the second story of a (shoe) store.

After checking out the stores I found there was no advantage to going to them. Most allowed phone orders and unless you lived nearby, you didn’t have any better chance getting the limited editions as I did, hundreds of miles away with the Internet at my fingertips. I couldn’t find a thing to buy but Karen bought enough for the three of us. Next we went to Huf on Hayes Street and, again, Karen found something to buy across the street. Next we went to American Rag on Van Ness and while Ted and I shopped next door at BevMo (I picked up some Chopin vodka thanks to some glowing reviews), Karen was spending more money! After a pitstop at Starbucks we headed straight to Yountville. By my calculations, we were 45 minutes early but we went anyway. Oh, I am so glad I was wrong.

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