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Living on Bitcoin Day 1: "It does not work"

"The point is to get people to do it to think about bitcoin, no spend it. I do not think it's good for that. It is not meant to be used as cash, "Jeremy Gardner, founder of Ausum Ventures, advised me.

"Satoshi created a decentralized reserve of value", probably summarizes his thesis that bitcoin is the best not spent, better to accumulate it as gold. For Gardner, using it as a currency is not only impractical. It is counterintuitive.

Well, I'm trying the same.

After all, journalist Kashmir Hill tried to live on bitcoin as early as 2013, so it should be easier now, right? Well, it is and it is not. Almost six years later, I am discovering that while bitcoin's payment infrastructure is advanced, its use as a payment method, at least in San Francisco, has apparently regressed.


Before referring to the conference I'm attending here in San Francisco, I had something important to do: I had to give my respect to the pioneer.

Before leaving my home in Nashville to start my experiment, I joined Kashmir Hill, a former Forbes-gone-Gizmodo journalist who did this in 2013 (and again in 2014). He kindly accepted my request to meet me to get his brain and ask for advice.

Getting to her was my first transaction without crowds. Transportation was a problem in his own experience until he got a bike, and even then, the hilly landscape of San Francisco is unforgivable, so it was not easy yet. It's a way to get around, though, and I like the idea of ​​being a bicycle addict for transport.

All my attempts to buy or rent one on Craigslist have not yet arrived at anything, so I'll have to wait.

I have Paxful to buy Uber gift cards. By opting for this, I joined the exchange (where I had to give a phone number for authentication but no name) and transferred $ 25 bitcoins from my BRD portfolio. After making a quick exchange with a "Marxsmith", I found myself with $ 25 Uber credit on my account.

Hill arrived at the Boulangerie shortly after my Uber left me, instantly recognizable, thanks to the turquoise lights that accentuated the tip of his hair.

When I thanked Hill for agreeing to meet with me, she replied that she was naturally sympathetic to anyone who made the decision to live only with bitcoins for a week. So comprehensive, he offered to pay my meal forward (the bakery does not accept bitcoins). I insisted on repaying it for Danish cheese and milk, but she said she would need to see if she remembered her login to Coinbase to give me her public address.

"I wrote the articles and practically forgot about bitcoin," he joked.

It was during the first major media cycle that came with the 2013 bubble that Hill experienced while living in bitcoins. Not many people knew what bitcoin was. Some mainstream journalists were starting to pump articles on what was, for many, a new experience in itself: buying bitcoins.

Hill's editor wanted to bring the news further: "Do not buy just bitcoins, live for a week." So he did.

"It really was on the fly – I was lucky enough," he said laughingly, defining planning and "sloppy" execution.

If his approach was relaxed, it was all else. She took part in one of San Francisco's famous "Bitcoin to $ 100" meetups, was involved in the crack-house-turn-hacker-hostel / cypher community, 20Mission, and even took a tour to Coinbase when she was "three guys in an apartment ". she put it.

As you mentioned, a waiter brought our lattes. They were absurdly served in literal cups as large as my face.

In the end, he observed that she had been very much assimilated to this community. Using the bitcoin that the community had tipped her for the whole week, she consumed about one or two at a sushi dinner, an 8-something BTC meal that, in a few years, would be worth a Ivy League.

The crypto community of 2013 was more devout but poor, and so were the places where Hill could spend bitcoins. All his experience was punctuated by the sense of arrangement. This is best encapsulated by the last row of his 2013 series: "I survived".

I compared his notes on what I expected to be my biggest hurdles for the week, making mental notes to see if I could do more than "survive" and if 2013 could have been a really easier one for the year. experiment.

As our conversation closed, Hill left me with a nugget of advice that I had adopted as a mantra for my experiment iteration.

"Do not focus on yourself, make other people, to whom the experiment allows you to log in."



Leaving La Boulangerie, I brought an Uber to the conference venue, where I made arrangements with Jeremy Gardner to visit a new project he is working on and of course visit the infamous Crypto Castle.

We had a limited period of time; he was going to Park City, Utah, that night to go snowboarding.

"You can come to the castle tonight, or later in the week, someone will let you in, show you around – I do not care."

Eventually we settle at 4:00 pm meeting outside of Monarch, a popular club wedged between the Mid Market in San Francisco and filet districts that accept bitcoins from the bottle. It's only a few steps away from the conference, which is good because my Uber credit was running out and the conference had no Wi-Fi to let me integrate Paxful / Bitrefill.

The rest of the early afternoon was dedicated to the preparation and moderation of a panel, then I climbed, looking for a USB-C charger to squeeze my phone and keep my financial life line alive (I had lost my charger that morning , obviously) . The technical staff of the conference was kind enough to lend me a magazine, one of the many acts of good will that seems to continuously enrich my experience.

When the time comes, Jeremy meets me with one of his business associates, Micah, who owns Monarch and another bitcoin-accepting club in San Francisco, Great Northern. We skip a building in their new project: a pawnshop that serves as a title page for a speakeasy, which both accept bitcoins.

The store had been a pawn for a while, Gardner said, buying, exchanging, selling and even offering loans and guarantees for years before closing.

"All the snake stuff", he said.

Jeremy clung to the carefree idea without much hesitation. He was disappointed that San Francisco had only two for his name and thought that the city should share with the rest of America an emerging cultural trend (even Nashville has four or five).

"It's more intimate and comfortable, it's not the constant traffic inside and out as in the bars, so people stay longer."

The pawn shop, with its display cases of cheap jewelry, opaque silver and surprisingly intact porcelain, is only a front, of course, but adds an authentic element of secrecy to the bar. Jeremy wants to give the front its own distinctive appeal. He wants you to accept only bitcoins.

"I'm begging people to do it," he said, flashing into a smile.

Micah rushed around, noting notes and measurements before coming to see me and Jeremy and pouring us a glass of white wine (I'm not refined enough to know which type).

"Sorry, it's just white," he said.

"It's alcohol, and that's all that matters," Jeremy replied.

Micah ran off to continue working, leaving Jeremy and me to a conversation about my experiment.

"Yes, it's interesting, people have done it before," he said. "But I do not think it's good for that, it's not meant to be used as money but as a store of value, people do not like volatility, they want certainty in their currency."

He did not understand why I would spend my bitcoin and did not hold it tight, and told him that I did not see it as spending money, but spending money that otherwise I would have had on basic necessities. Jeremy said he would be interested in a portfolio that rejected bitcoin spent, but otherwise, he clings to the maximum that it is better to hold than to spend.

"The point", he believes, "is doing people to think about bitcoin – no spend it ".


We brought the conversation to an Uber on the way to the castle.

I asked Jeremy if he considered himself a Bitcoin minimalist (he had made the comparison a bit common between Bitcoin and Friendster at the start of our talk).

"Nah, I would say I'm more a minimalist shitcoin."

Finally, we arrived at the castle. And at the height of his reputation. The exterior was as modest as any of the nicest multi-story houses in the Potrero Hill neighborhood, but the interior belied the true spirit of the castle: an eclectic center of itinerant millenarians living under the benevolent auspice of a 27 year old prodigy of the crypto-riche.

"We had an AI car startup driving a car." Jeremy pointed to the basement when we entered. "They got a couple of millions of loans and went out," he added casually.

Up the stairs, the corridors on the second floor curled away from the stairwell with countless rooms without an owner.

"Vitalik has been sleeping in this room a lot of times," Jeremy told me, which no doubt has been told countless times before me.

"But that's where magic happens," he said as he reached the third floor. At the top, there's a relaxation area with felt sofas, a gas fireplace and a kitchen with a fridge covered with stickers that intrigues Business Insider and the New York Times when they finished the place during the bullrun 2017. The walls are hung with various pieces of printing, including some by Banksy. I almost asked, as a joke, if they were original, but they held my tongue.

Jeremy had left to pack when Liz, a young real estate agent who was boarding home, joined me and Rachel, another frontier. None of them was particularly involved in cryptography.

"Some of us do nothing, but others do it," he tells me. "It's a healthy mix."

Let's go on the subject of the experiment and bring in Jeremy's last adventure. Rachel, who is apparently Jeremy's romantic interest, apparently had no idea and congratulated him when he returned to greet him.

"Oh yes, it's beautiful," he says enthusiastically. He leans over to give Rachel a little kiss on the cheek.

"When you will come back?" He asks.

"I do not know," he admits. "Probably one to two months."

Later, I asked Rachel if Jeremy meant what he said as he rushed for an Uber to the airport.

"Absolutely, it means everything that says."


Liz, aka Queen of the Castle, gave me permission to stay a few days, and I think I'll make fun of her later in the week. For the rest of my first visit, though, I charged my phone (still struggling here) and I used Bitrefill to get more Uber credit. This was much faster and easier than Paxful. Most of the KYCs that ask for it is an email, and you can send the bitcoin from any wallet to retrieve the gift card code (Paxful requires you to deposit bitcoins in your account wallet for trading).

I spent the rest of the night with my friend and colleague Christian, who bought me dinner at the Irish Bank, a pub that I thought was wrongly accepted bitcoin (I repaid it in bitcoins). The good will of friends and colleagues crypto-geek was essential and I predict that it will continue to be so throughout the week.

The rest of the night was a blur of exhaustion when we finished dinner and went back to Christian's apartment. I was awake from 6:00 in the morning. From coffee with Hill to Jeremy and Crypto Castle speakeasy, to the apartment, I covered a lot of things and met many people – some interactions and people who did not have time to deal with this sprawling account, including some residents of Crypto Castle who were building a rig for my smile.

I went around, but I spent a bit of bitcoin – unfortunately, nothing at all directly with any merchant. Hill has covered my breakfast, though if he gives me an address for the wallet, I'm going to repay it. The conference covered lunch. Bitcoin bought me dinner, though indirectly through Christian, and he bought me Uber credit for transportation – another indirect use, but as Christian pointed out to me, I was still claiming a use case and a & # 39 ;infrastructure.

I crashed on the couch around 12:30 and I was content to know that I would have access to coffee in the morning.


This is the first episode of Colin Harper & # 39; s Living on Bitcoin series. Continue reading his further adventures Here.

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