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July 12-18, 2006

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Silicon Alleys - Gary Singh

Silicon Alleys

Mess Appeal

By Gary Singh

EVERYONE knows the adage, "A clean desk is the sign of a sick mind." I used to spout this a lot when I had a low-paying student tech-support job at San Jose State, where I worked for a bunch of old hens who were hysterically obsessed with cleanliness. All cubicles had to be spic and span at all times. Yup, if I had six computers torn apart all over my cubicle in various states of repair—which was my job, mind you—the hens would go apeshit. If one empty box sat around anywhere in the office, they would get hysterical.

But looking at my cubicle upstairs at Metro recently, I wasn't so sure about that saying anymore. No one can even see the surface of my desk due to piles of stuff. Allow me to elaborate. I can't even find my stapler or my tape dispenser, because they're both buried beneath stacks of books, 2 feet high, which have spilled over and spread out like an ocean over the entire left side of my corner-shaped cubicle. On the top of the pile, one immediately can spot a few of the books: a new photo essay on Alviso; the MIT Press fall 2006 catalog; James Stark's Punk '77: An Inside Look at the San Francisco Rock n' Roll Scene 1977; a January 1957 issue of True Detective, courtesy of Joey Myers, which contains a great article on the lynching in St. James Park; a few Taschen catalogs from a year ago; two British volumes on slasher flicks; and a 2003 media guide for the San Jose Earthquakes.

And that's just the top of the pile. There are also a few 2006 World Cup schedules; various press kits from the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco; a ladies' stole made from three dead ferrets (don't ask); and books by Hunter S. Thompson, Gore Vidal and R.U. Sirius. I don't even know what's at the bottom of the pile. I'm too scared to look.

The other side of the desk, to the right of my computer, offers a much simpler muddle of disorder: piles of business cards and cocktail napkins with phone numbers scribbled on them; empty boxes of sinus medicine; a Chinese tea mug; a broken computer mouse; and a few unopened bottles of ice wine and iced cider from British Columbia and Quebec.

On the floor between the cubicle and the walkway, one finds a few bags of promotional material from various media conferences throughout the last few years. And several items have also spilled off of the desk into the same area: the newest issue of Found magazine, a few promo CDs from bands I'll never care about and several T-shirts and used manila folders. And behind the chair sits a pile of back issues of Wine Enthusiast.

To keep a messy story clean, I won't bore you with what's in the drawers because that stuff hasn't seen the light of day for at least two years. But I do know that buried beneath some UFO books sits an unopened bottle of Captain Morgan Passion Fruit Rum that Metro food editor Stett Holbrook palmed off on me about a year ago.

And then there are the walls. I've got it all, brutha: a photo of former Mayor McEnery shaking hands with Krazy George to celebrate the 1982 San Jose Earthquakes, right next to a 1981 Record Factory ad featuring the newly released Back in Black album by AC/DC. There are also a few business cards that verge on collector's items: one from fallen City Councilmember Terry Gregory and one from former KSJO DJ Tim Jeffreys. Of course, only a lifelong San Josean would find any value in those tidbits whatsoever. Rounding out the wall is a Suicide Girls postcard and a sticker that says, "Canadian girls kick ass."

I was having some initial doubts while rummaging through a load of material on the Rosicrucians in my filing cabinet. But I no longer have any doubts whatsoever: a clean desk is absolutely the sign of a sick mind and I am completely mentally stable. I love my desk. Bring on the hens!

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