Silicon Valley Fox

The sly ghost of Menlo Park slinks cross country to Wisconsin

lake ellen

This episode contains harsh language

Thanks to Adam, Gretchen, Sam

Music by Brian Travis

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Welcome to FG, a show on America’s changing spiritual values.

I’m back at the farm in Wisconsin where I deliver fire wood to state parks. I’m sitting at the breakfast table with a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of coffee that I brewed too strong…again… I’m looking out over lake ellen watching the sun rise over the trees to my right. It’s a lovely moment of the day: in early morning, when the sun meets the dewy grass after a chilly night under the stars. The nocturnal animals retreat to the shadows, tagging off to the creatures of the day. Like one especially twitchy chipmunk that visits my window cil every morning.  He stands on his hind legs, directly in the path of the sun. Licks his paws, look up. Scratches his ear with his wrist look up. He may be shivering but he’s probably perpetually nervous. And rightfully so. He’s in the spot light. And a fox lives here.

I, on the other hand, have no excuse. The silence here is making me anxious. My only explanation is that I’m adjusting from the place I just left.


3 days ago I was in Silicon Valley bumping shoulders with CEO, SVP, COO, CFO’s and VC’s, of companies like, intuit, youtube, pay near me, Chegg, and My hair was combed. Pants hiked up, and uncomfortable shoes squeezed on.

I was at a conference honoring the legacy of William Campbell, a larger than life character who’s professional accomplishments can insufficiently be summed up as: the head coach of Columbia University’s football team, a sales guy at apple, CEO of intuit, then eventually the mentor of people like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and Steve Young.

RR: We met the people and toured the places of Silicon Valley: like Facebook, intuit, and google. Facebook’s  campus resembled a disorganized movie set. Complete with a 50’s diner, ice cream shop, and a sprawling food court. I was ready, at any moment, for the director to emerge around the corner and yell “that’s a wrap”. The droney Facebook employees would drop their Mac Books, yank the electric drill off their tool belts, and begin tear down. With the number of employees here, it would go pretty fast. According to our tour guide, “2 years ago there were 6,000 employees, now there are 10,000 and we are never going to stop growing”. 


“Sometimes”, mentioned our guide, “there are foxes here. This used to be their home until we moved in. Now they’re our mascot. We don’t feed them. We just take pics and share them.


Within 28 minutes, we were herded in and out of Facebook and back in the bus. In a confused daze Adam walked down the isle with wide eyes, he slouched into the seat next to me. And said, “that was scary”. Together we spoke like 2 unlikely survivors of George Orwell’s 1984

I’m Adam



** 300 The scary thing is the world they are working in is nothing like the world they are shaping.


The bus came to a stop and Adam and I went our separate ways. But not before connecting, on FB.

At the networking happy hour I made the rounds, then found a seat at a table against the wall, distancing myself from the elbow bumps and sport coat back slaps that had become increasingly clumsy as the hours rolled on. Gretchen was across the table and to the right. Her life in Silicon Valley is much different from the frosting I saw today. She agreed to speak with me outside.


Down the street from me, a couple of young guys were waiting for an Uber. There’s about to be a lot of swearing.




Now the sun is setting and there’s a nice breeze as the nocturnal animals stretch there legs to prepare for the night’s hunt. I’m not sure where Mr. Chipmunk is but hopefully he has chosen a safe home. I imagine him burrowed a nest of soft grass rhythmically breathing in and out. But I know that’s not happening. He’s in danger. There are foxes here.

I’m not relaxed either. The silence is still making me anxious. I thought it could be written off as an urban to rural culture shock. But I think I’m dealing with a fox of my own. The sly ghost of Menlo Park, imprisoned by the very empire that stole his home, has followed me here.

The water is flapping against the neighbors dock. And the halyard, that hoists a 48 in American flag, jingles against its pole. With the grey lake as its backdrop, the red stripes and blue square seem so out of place. Red and blue, rural Wisconsin, urban California. It’s all the same, stolen time on stollen land, “This used to be their home until we moved in. Now they’re our mascot. We don’t feed them. We just take pics and share them.


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