The Upgrade: A Cautionary Tale of a Life Without Reservations

The Upgrade: A Cautionary Tale of a Life Without Reservations by Paul Carr

Book: The Upgrade: A Cautionary Tale of a Life Without Reservations by Paul Carr Read Free Book Online
Authors: Paul Carr
Tags: General, Travel, Special Interest
“spring break for geeks.” My decision to attend was all Zoe’s fault: her readings in New York had gone well, and her publisher had secured her two gigs at South by Southwest: a reading and also a spot on a panel about online privacy. She had found a place to stay in Austin—an “amazing” two-bedroom condo right across the street from the conference center, and emailed to ask if I wanted to share it with her. Despite my not really knowing what a “condo” was, I agreed.
    The price was $100 a night and I had nothing better planned after San Diego. The whole idea of the festival being a party for geeks fascinated me and on the flight from San Diego International Airport to Austin I wrote a pitch to an editor I knew at the Financial Times , likening the event to Woodstock in 1969 …
    Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook is headlining and then there are a thousand other acts booked to speak on pretty much all aspects of interactive media. It seems that almost everyone in the UK and US dot-com industry is heading there—and not just for the legendary parties. Oh, the parties! And yet behind the scenes, it’s a really critical time for the industry where increased consolidation and lots of “cool” businesses coming to the end of their first funding round means that young
entrepreneurs are under pressure to find a “liquidity event,” preferably through acquisition. To grow up, in other words. Like Woodstock in 1969, this year’s SXSWi could well mark the end of an era—and I’d very much like to get under the skin of it.
    I titled the pitch “Fear and Coding in Austin, Texas” and felt very pleased with myself for the rest of the flight.

    On the second night of the conference I stumbled through the door of the condo at about 3 a.m. Right behind me was a girl called Eris, an interactive designer from San Francisco who I’d met a few hours earlier at a rooftop party.
    The circumstances of our meeting at the party had been slightly odd. Zoe had just introduced me to some famous website editor on whom she had a crush and, as required, I was making polite small talk about what a nice—and, unbelievably, available—girl Zoe was. My friendly duties complete, I was just about to leave them to their flirting when a small brown-haired girl ran the full length of the roof deck and jumped onto my back.
    “Heeeyyyy!” she shouted, swinging from my neck like one of those stuffed monkeys you sometimes get, “how are yooooooouuu?”
    “Heyyyyy!” I replied, “uh … whoooooo are yoooouuuu?”
    The girl let go and landed in front of me. She stared in my face, confused but still beaming: “I’m sure I know you,” she said. I swear to God, I had a horrible feeling that her next words would be “Kos sent you.” But, actually, the crazy brown-haired monkey girl probably did know me. I have a terrible memory for faces at the best of times, but I also meet a lot of people when I’m drunk and then have to deal with the embarrassment of having absolutely no recollection when I see them again.

    “Oh, yes,” I said, desperately looking for clues “where was it I last saw you?”
    “I think it was in San Francisco,” said the girl.
    “Ah,” I said, “then we definitely haven’t met. I’ve never been to San Francisco.”
    “Oh, well,” said the girl, “let’s meet now. I’m Eris.” She kissed me full on the mouth. “And by the end of tonight I’ll have convinced you to come to San Francisco.”
    I liked Eris immediately.

    As Eris and I spilled through the door of the condo, drunkenly kissing and grabbing at each other’s clothes, I realized that I should probably have phoned ahead. Zoe’s bra was in our fruit bowl and a line of her clothes, plus those of a mystery stranger, formed a path from the leather sofa to her bedroom. A pair of thick-rimmed glasses was lying on the countertop.
    I led Eris into my room and closed the door, wondering for a split second who the lucky guy Zoe had brought home

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