February 28th, 2008

In general people like to describe work environments in familial terms. At these hotels people like to say that the team feels like a family. In this very newsletter I have written the words “like family” as few times as possible although every employee profiled here uses them to describe their relationship to this job. The thing about clichés, of course, is that they become so ephemeral. What does “like family” mean? Whose family? I think we’re far enough along in our modern world to acknowledge that there is no such thing as a template family. If I write that the staff here is “like a family,” why should I assume that you’ve read that as a positive statement?

I now will offer you proof that our beloved general manager is trying to recover in all of us, staff and guests, the instinct for nurturing that she lost for her own children many years ago. Reliable sources report that she very lovingly, and not without skill, prepared hearty homecooked meals for her three kids throughout her first 12 years of motherhood. And then came the infamous bagel and cream cheese revelation: It turns out that a bagel and cream cheese can be dinner too! And if you want meatloaf, lasagna, pork chops, well, that’s what restaurants are for! The family moved on. Takeout menus, rather than recipes, were passed on to daughters.

Suddenly, all these years later, she’s back in the kitchen! No, there are no grandchildren. She’s decided to put her apron back on, bring out the old scraps of recipes and start cooking for the banquets here at the hotels. All her old standards can now be found on the catering menu. Come have a meeting with us, eat up, grow strong and healthy, and do it fast before the bagels and cream cheese come back!

February 25th, 2008

It’s February and I would really like to avoid mentioning the artificial, depression inducing “holiday” that’s approaching. Eventually someone will find a way to sue Hallmark for pain and suffering and we will be free. But until then, I’m just as sucked in as everyone else. Here’s my compromise: I’m going to tell you all about a classic romantic spot as trite as Valentine’s Day! Seriously, I’ve been taken here by so many men, promising me something unique, that I had to start feigning illness when I saw what direction the car was headed in. It’s called Fort Funston, it’s just a couple of miles away from the San Francisco Zoo and it’s astonishingly beautiful, really. Green and lush at the top, especially when it’s been raining like it has been, the view is breathtaking. There’s a very small hike to get to the actual beach, so your blood gets pumping a little. Then you stroll down the shore and find the cozy little caves to sit in. This place was made for romantics, they all find it and so I was introduced to it.

I have to tell you, though, I really liked it when I started going alone. Something about the cliff, the wind, some variables I know nothing about, make it a popular spot for hang-gliders to take off from. When I was being taken there for the purpose of being seduced, I never noticed that on a good day you can sit for hours and watch people fly. Depending on the day, it’s either a revelation of simplicity and ease contrasting our modern technological world, or else it’s a visual reminder of man’s inherently solitary path through life. Or it’s just nice. Nice in a subtle way I couldn’t notice while trying to analyze the intentions, and my feelings about the intentions, of whatever guy happened to be feigning casual ease next to me.

Take someone there if you want, I won’t hold it against you. But maybe forget something in the car that you just have to go back for, try out a few minutes of solitude. You’ll see that I’m right.

February 20th, 2008

This employee profile may seem a little confusing to you at first. As a guest of our hotels, you must often have marveled at the honor of employment with us. How, then, could one possibly continue to have career ambitions once one was already a member of our staff? Strange as it may seem, Andi is working as hard as she can to get away from us! Every morning she gets up and goes to a full day of nursing school, then comes straight to a night shift at the front desk of either the Cupertino Inn or the Grand Hotel. That’s one sixteen hour day after another, and if you’re a little slow with the math, that leaves only eight hours for three meals, a shower and enough sleep to get through the next sixteen hour day! Pediatric nurse in a public hospital is her stated goal in this, her first year of training. Apparently something about the five months she spent in South Africa helping victims of HIV/AIDS led her to believe that taking care of underprivileged children is more noble than taking care of you, our guests. Try as we might, we can’t convince her otherwise, and so she’ll go. For those of you who’ve known her for the almost six years she’s been with us, meaning that you’ve known her since she graduated from high school, you’ve still got a year and a half to say goodbye. As do we.

February 14th, 2008

Is it just me, or does Italian food seem almost quintessentially American? Spaghetti and meatballs slips off my tongue just like apple pie. It is a model “melting pot” example, at the very least. So it was kind of an affront when I found myself, last week, in a restaurant, being told by a man with a thick accent about how the food he was serving my sister and me was definitively authentic Italian. Something about simplicity of ingredients, I think. Who knows. He also took the liberty of laughing at the way I ordered my salmon. His restaurant being exotic and ethnic and having a menu printed in a foreign language, I was supposed to pronounce all the letters, including the completely superfluous e that was tacked onto the end. Salmone. So cocky, this guy, as if my sister and I didn’t know all about boiling pasta and dumping sauce on it. Stop reminding us that we’re paying for something we could do just as well at home, we thought, your cuisine has Americanized and you’d better hurry up and do the same.

But then the food came and it was good. Clean and simple, just like he said. We were eating off each other’s plates. We made them leave the plates so we could sop up the sauces with bread. Really exceptional food, and truly unlike anything that we had had before.

And so he came back, this time talking about how pasta should be served al dente only, the way it’s done in Italy. And this time we noticed what a handsome man he was. Foreign, exotic, knowledgeable. Oh, yes, we said, we think everything’s better when it’s a little stiff, tell us more. Converts! Go to A Bellagio for authentic Italian cuisine!

February 8th, 2008

I hope it’s now safe to write what I’m about to write. The country seems to be swinging in a new direction. I’m reading about all the Republicans who are voting for Obama, opening up to something new. We’re so out of touch here in the Bay Area, though. Gavin Newsome, liberal heathen, won his first San Francisco mayoral election as the conservative candidate.

Ok, though, I’ll just try it. The Jordan winery takes pride in emulating the great French wineries that came before it. Sorry, there’s just no way I can paste in the word freedom there. The California winemaking tradition is only just half a century old and its roots are French. The Jordan winery emphasizes the art of winemaking, believing that a beautiful wine will flourish in beautiful surroundings. The winery is modeled after a French chateau. There are French gardens out in front of it. I am trying to sell this to you as proof that the people at the Jordan winery are making an effort to remain connected to the heritage of their craft on all levels and so are consciously producing wine made rich by its history. I hope that it’s now politically acceptable to draw connections between American and French culture. If I’ve turned you off, I apologize and our bartenders will happily pour you a Bud Lite instead.