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Triggering incident

September 12, 2000
6:00 p.m. Fairmont Hotel
Mountain View, California

At a conference on business innovation in the software industry, a venture capitalist sneezes. I say, "God bless you." He says, "Thank you." I say, "God also bless America."


January 25, 1971
4:32 p.m.
Bien Hoa, South Vietnam

I’m down in the shit as usual. I call out for Mullin, "Where are you?" No reply. I cry out for him again. He’s been gone too long.

Fucking VCs are everywhere, and we’re stuck waist-high in the elephant grass. Mullin appears out of the haze looking groggy and distant.

"Mullin. Where were you?" I say.

"Taking a leak. What is it?"

"It’s McCain." John McCain is a fellow soldier who has been called as brave as I am responsible. "I’m worried that he might be in the Hanoi Hilton. If he is, I’d sure like to save him so that we can work together to woo independent voters someday." McCain and I agree on many things—from the power of Janis Joplin’s artistry to the necessity of passing strong campaign finance reform legislation should the spending of money on political campaigns escalate dramatically in the 1980s and 1990s.

Mullin explains that we’re hundreds of miles from Hanoi, and we would be considered deserters if we attempt to save McCain, even though I have a foolproof plan to get him out. It all starts with a sharply worded editorial calling for the release of POWs.

"Okay," I say. Instead, I hope and pray that he is released. "Fucking VCs are everywhere."

"What are you talking about?" says Mullin. "We’re in a goddamn restaurant. They’re goddamn busboys."

"Where did the elephant grass come from?" I say.

"We’re smoking it, asshole," he says.

This is Nam, I think. Nam is complicated. This is Nam.

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