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Metro's 20th Anniversary Issue
Thank You, Silicon Valley!: A founder looks back.
How We Barely Survived a Publishing Startup 20 Years Ago...: By Julia Smith.
A Letter to 1985, From the Year 2005: By Richard von Busack.
Growing Up in Public: A look back at some of Metro's most talked-about articles.

Cover illustration by Max Kisman


A Letter to 1985, From the Year 2005

By Richard von Busack

IIn 2005, the last pitiful remnants of humanity are slaves to evil Palominodroids from the Horsehead Nebula. We reach out to you in the past: Only hydrogen peroxide can repel them! You'd better go buy at least a few cases of it. While you're at it, you're going to need some pails of steam, a can of striped paint and a left-handed monkey wrench. Suckers!

The year 2005 is plenty horrible. Saying that, I realize 1985 was no box of laughs either. On the bright side, today we don't have a president goofing about sending the nuclear missiles out. Incidentally, he finally died, but it took so long, there was hardly any fun to be had out of it.

There's always a trade-off, there always is. "I adore the past. So much more restful than the present. And so much more reliable than the future," says an actor called Anton Walbrook in a movie called La Ronde. Thinking of the past as an age that was more peaceful and pretty isn't just the blubbing of depressed old crocks. There was, what, a billion fewer mouths to feed 20 years ago? Imagine how much less noise, strife and minimansion development goes along with that figure.

Still, 2005! The world made it! So far. And leisure life—especially in the Santa Clara Valley—is much more cushy than it was. As long as you have the money, the medicine, the food and television are much better than they were 20 years ago.

The cars are so much more reliable. The people today are better looking, and they stay better looking longer. I wouldn't credit exercise and plastic surgery, because those supposed breakthroughs also make hideous monsters out of 65-year-old former starlets and professional athletes. Rather, let's honor immigration, for bringing out new and unique combos of physical types. That's a process you jerks of the past used to call "miscegenation." (Now, there's a word going extinct, except to fans of bullshit old words.)

The coffee of 2005 is terrific. The average quality of a bottle of beer today is so much better. Oh, you can't possibly imagine. Just choke down a bottle of dark Henry Weinhard's and dream of the far-away future, you peasants! We who dwell in the paradise of 2005 don't have to hang our heads in shame every time we run into a German in a tavern.

And discount airlines—another fine development. Amazing what a li'l union crushing can do. If you have 200 bucks and a week of free time (and the best of American luck getting both at once), zip, you're in New York. New York isn't what it was. Times Square is like Disneyland, only grosser. The chain stores turned Alphabet City into Staten Island North. Anyway, you're there.

Sadly, cheap flights have made those once-fascinating Greyhound buses only a refuge of the poorest of the poor. And cheap airfares cut off fly-over country from a lot of cross-pollination. The Midwest goes ultra-right-wing at exactly the same time bohemians stop riding the Greyhounds. Coincidence? That's a puzzle I'll leave for the tiny minds of you unfortunate 1985ers. Enjoying your mind-boggling Pac-Man machine, dummies?

We of the advanced year 2005 laugh like cartoon woodpeckers thinking of you blighted 1985 buggers, existing as you do without that technological blessing: the mobile bass woofer. Live in a city of more than 10,000 and at night you're sure to have some ass-clown driving by your apartment, booming away like a Malaysian siamang with a bullhorn. The emphasis on rhythm over content in popular music made it, in a word, stupid. Jump-rope chants. Just yesterday, I literally heard a hip-hop track with the chorus "George Porgie, puddin' and pie." If I wanted to hear that mess, I would have got my teaching credential, you can bet your unfashionable 1985 boots on that. Seeing school-age twerps, hooded in their monk hoods, listening to their doleful chanting, makes me feel like I'm in some monastery of the damned.

Do you know what's real popular in 2005? Something called American Idol. Confidentially, it's Ted Mack's Amateur Hour, but only smelly 1985ers can be expected to remember something like that.

Now, I know what you want to ask about the future, and it's not, "Will there be a guy named Scott Peterson, and will he kill his wife and waste a lot of money and bandwidth trying to skate?" Enough throat clearing. Yes, eh, we have done basically nothing about the essential problems of 1985. Birthrates are too high. Fresh water's running out. Oil is being sucked out of the earth, and as yet there's no plan B alternative to massive war and depression when the oil runs out. The communist world is gone, but what's in its place is a wide stretch of depleted turf between the Danube and the Pacific. Sorry. But really, again, the coffee's just great in the future.

As for that consolation, cinema: Academics used to rhapsodize about "the haunted screen." No one's ever going to talk about "the haunted DVD player." "DVD player? What's that?" you ask, oh 1985 mouth-breather. Well, that would be telling, but here's some friendly advice from the Future—sell that Betamax while you can still get $50 for it. Anyway, it's hard for us future movie fanciers to understand what you primitives would have seen in a movie. How could it have been that in your long-ago era, you'd watch a film and then see it vanish, and then have it brought back years later—"revived" is the word, as if it had died. Now we get movies by the carload. And so very often they look like something that fell off a truck. And in answer to your next question, no, Tom Cruise didn't go away.

Let's see, what else can I tell you 1985ers that you'd possibly be able to comprehend? Go see the Kilimanjaro ice cap now while you can, and no, it's not a band. And if you run into a policy wonk named Paul Wolfowitz, do us Futurians a favor and push him in front of something large and fast. If you do, maybe we'll send you back the amazing secret of the triple-bladed razor or one of the other astounding breakthroughs we've got lying around here—a laser pointer or a cloned cat or a box of low-carb pasta or something like that. We have spoken.

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From the April 27-May 3, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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