They really did believe their money would protect them. Shroud them from harm’s way. Turned out to be precisely the opposite. Almost as though they were just asking for “Silicon karma.” After “colonizing” San Francisco, they assumed they could do the same to Tahoe post-pandemic and that no “mitigating incident” would ensue. They bought up all the property, causing any remaining “pieces” to be astronomically over-valued. The city—the once-great “eighth wonder of the world”—was theirs now. That is, until they arbitrarily decided they didn’t want it anymore because the going got tough. And when the going got tough, the weak got going—forming a “civil” queue to board their private jets or chauffeured cars to get the fuck out of dodge.
Tahoe was now dodge. Who would have ever believed it? This nature oasis, this sanctuary for those leading their dull, lusterless lives in nearby towns like Reno. But when the lake was formed roughly two million years ago, it had no idea just what it would be forced to house. Or that houses would suddenly be worth billions of dollars within its jurisdiction. Even the “ramshackles”—by tech salary standards—were getting million-dollar offers to those who didn’t necessarily want to sell. The place had become not a boom town, but a Zoom town. A “lovely haven” for flaccid, pale-skinned ilk to set their latest flag down and stake a claim that patently didn’t belong to them. But as most knew by now, he who had the cash (even if intangible) had the power. The control. The say in whatever happened in and to a place. Even one as formerly pristine as Tahoe. That is, until the likes John Q. Techie got hold of the scene. Leaving behind his trash at every turn, complete with, of all infantile drink debris, Capri Sun husks. What the fuck kind of adult still drank Capri Sun? The kind that wanted to be “ironic,” Gillian supposed.
She had grown up on the beaches of South Lake Tahoe, only to see them overrun with people who knew nothing of and cared nothing for nature. Hence, the litter. Left behind as though they had prepaid (and underpaid) some invisible maid to clean it up. But the only ones who would were the local residents that cared too much about their town to see it be shot to hell like this. Devolve into just another rich person’s playground. And all playgrounds became abandoned and dilapidated at some point.
Sure, there had been rich people in Tahoe before. Famous ones, to boot. Frank Sinatra owned Cal Neva (in part with mobster and “silent” partner Sam Giancana, of course) and even created a “Celebrity Room” for the lodge, situated next to a helipad where Los Angeles elite like Marilyn Monroe could touch down anytime they wanted (even though Monroe, based on rumors of a gang rape she was victim of the last full weekend she was alive, might have regretted ever showing up at all). Ah, and talking of Marilyn, JFK was one of the lodge’s regular guests as well, especially in the 50s, where he could be seen having an “endless series of extramarital affairs with wealthy divorcées and Tahoe’s notoriously ubiquitous prostitutes.” The only prostitutes left there now, it seemed, were the ones willing to roll over and sell to these tech bros and their assorted wenches. Because to them, women were just as easily “bought” as property. Another “must-have” accessory to the image and lifestyle they wanted to project.
Part of that lifestyle was furnished by particular brick-and-mortar “channels.” Thus, in the wake of their arrival, coffeehouses of the most annoying variety sprouted up. The kind posing as a hybrid bookshop where the lowest price for a novel was thirty dollars. But no one was there to buy books, they were only there to use the wi-fi and be heard talking about “capital.” To be seen and heard. As if they weren’t already the most visible and listened to group in existence—as made evident by ongoing legislation in their favor.
And it wasn’t just “coffee shops” that materialized out of nowhere. It was “burrito spots,” home goods stores, boutique clothing stores—anything that could appeal to the ego of the rich person’s pocket. And the more expensive the prices were, the more at home they seemed to feel. While Gillian, instead, felt as though she was rapidly shrinking away. She was still teaching Baroque Art History at Lake Tahoe Community College, and that might have assured her of her place in town at the very least because of job security. Yet every day, she was more and more certain that she was being summarily ejected, just like everyone else who had been there their entire lives. Because you didn’t have to leave a place for it to become something else. For it to become an environment where you didn’t really fit in anymore.
But then, poof! The shoe was all at once on the other foot. After a year of being its serene, accommodating self to the neo-colonizers, Tahoe was changed once more. A fire erupted in El Dorado County (the jurisdiction where South Lake Tahoe fell under) and it changed the course of Tahoe’s population track. Suddenly, John Q. Techie was very “annoyed” and “inconvenienced” by the fire and the atrocious levels it had reached on the Air Quality Index. After all, rich folk believe themselves worthy of only the finest air, and even their most expensive purifiers could not help them get through this. Tahoe’s revenge, it decided, would be to choke them out until they couldn’t stand the pressure anymore and opted to leave. Yes, it felt bad for the remaining true locals, like Gillian, who couldn’t simply flee at the drop of a dollar (or several thousand). Unfortunately, the benefits of absorbing and radiating back all the smoke and ash far outweighed the cons. It would rather burn to the motherfucking ground than continue to play host to this douchebag lot. If nothing else, there would always be that scene in The Godfather: Part II to remember it by.