May 28th, 2008

Why is eating outside such a pleasure? I feel that I can ask this question as if it were a universal fact, in spite of my knowledge of the existence of people such as my very own sister who, when forced to consume a meal outdoors, sits tensely, examining each and every ant that should happen to cross her field of vision. Still, the abundance in the world of outdoor cafes, the popularity of the picnic and, of course, that great American staple, the barbeque, help me to feel justified in classifying her as the minority and asking again why it is so very nice to dine in the open air. Maybe there’s some great primal explanation. Or maybe I can just make one up! Here goes: The need for food being one of our most basic ties to our animal nature, what a great relief it is to the primitive being that still lies in all of us to be able to step outside of the manmade confines born of the technology and philosophy and sociology of recent centuries, and just feed this body. Sounds pretty good to me! Unfortunately, I think that if I decided to try to stay with that to its logical end, I would have to end up by saying that people like my sister, and so, therefore, even specifically my sister, are more evolved than the rest of us. Which makes me see very clearly what a bad theory it is and so leaves me with no explanation for why I look forward every year to our hotel’s barbeques. Every Wednesday evening through the summer months steaks and chickens are grilled poolside. The nights are long and warm here in the Silicon Valley summer and a cocktail and a steak by the pool after a long day’s work is just lovely, for some reason.

May 25th, 2008

Before I talked to Jonathan, one of our most senior and most trusted bellmen, the story I had heard was that at 13 he came to our dear general manager, a childhood friend of her daughter’s, and asked how old he had to be to have a job with her. 17 was her answer and so, 4 years later, as she remembers it, he came to her on his birthday, looking for a job. Jonathan himself did a neat little dance around that story. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not, is all I’m left with. Still, it becomes credible when he talks about his decision to become a police officer and the work he’s doing to get there. At 18, after a program in high school gave him the chance to see up close the work of the police force, he understood that this was the thing to do with his life. Since then, his intention has been unwaveringly set. He tells a story about a gun being pulled on him and, although he acknowledges the fear of the moment, he talks only about observing that fear and accepting it as a part of the career he chose. This is fascinating to me. He did not go home that night and question his choice, but instead just took it as a new, previously unknown, facet of that choice. This, I suppose, is exactly the steadiness we want in law enforcement. This, I know, is the solidity that has made him such an asset to our hotel for all the years he’s been with us. And this, I think, inclines one to believe that he might wait four years and then come in on the day of his 17th birthday.

May 11th, 2008

It’s May in California! Big celebrations abound! It’s Cinco de Mayo time! Unfortunately, as I am writing this on the 11th of May and Cinco de Mayo is, traditionally, celebrated on the 5th of May, I will have to acknowledge that you will not read this in time to really actively participate in the big festivities honoring Mexican independence this month. Still, I will argue, in our modern, capitalist society, December means Santa Claus, November means turkey, October means pumpkins, and, here in California, May means margaritas. And so I am sending you to La Paloma, a colorful, festive restaurant experience no matter what time of year. You can order a pitcher of sangria, beverage of the Spanish colonizers, and then vanquish it with two pitchers of margaritas, thus recreating Mexican victory in your own physical body. But be sure, please, if you take this on as your project, to order plenty of chips and guacamole and a big, fat burrito with the works, maintaining, hopefully, some semblance of personal equilibrium, even as you so generously give yourself over to a more symbolic role in the world for the night.

May 9th, 2008

Work can be stressful. Traveling for work can be stressful. Traveling with co-workers can be the most stressful thing of all. If you need to cleanse yourself of all that and find some peace and quiet, I have just the place for you. It’s called Kabuki, a traditional Japanese bathhouse in San Francisco’s Japan town. There is a hot pool, steam room, sauna, cold pool, tea, water flavored with either cucumber or lime and, best of all, a gong, to be rung whenever anyone breaks the rule of silence. You could even bring your annoying co-workers with you, just for the pleasure of being in a place where they would not be permitted to yammer on about things you don’t know how to pretend to care about. But, then, that would be mean-spirited and I apologize for suggesting that you taint what could, perhaps, be a truly transcendental experience. Oh, I love Kabuki, great healer of all physical and mental maladies! Possibly the right thing is for you to go one day, and then pass on the recommendation to those tiresome colleagues, hoping that maybe some irksome habits arose only from want of personal serenity. However you choose to use it, this is me passing on to you one of my personal treasures. Please enjoy!

May 7th, 2008

I want to paraphrase a quote I saw on a t-shirt once. Unfortunately it will only be a paraphrase, and, equally unfortunately, I cannot remember at all who was being quoted and have no idea how to reclaim this information. The t-shirt was in a shop on Haight Street, that’s all I’ve got. Anyway, it was an artist who said that he lived a chaste life so that his work could be wild. Similarly, Frederick Exely, in a book he aptly titled A Fan’s Notes, wrote about living in the same neighborhood as Ernest Hemingway and expecting to see him out in the bars every night. By and by he realized, though, that while he, Frederick Exely, sat drinking in bars every night, Ernest Hemingway sat at home every night, writing about drinking in bars. So it is with the makers of Mer Soleil Chardonnay. There is not a drop of romance in the story they tell about their wines. In the space other wineries use for the biography of their vinter, or the interesting architecture of their chateau, the makers of Mer Soleil, instead, give us detailed reports of weather and soil conditions for every year they’ve been in operation, commentaries on the length of time they allowed themselves to harvest in a particular year, and comparisons of the different techniques employed from year to year. Nothing more. It’s quite Puritanical. And yet they produce a wine one reviewer called “pure decadence.” So come, enjoy a glass of Mer Soleil Chardonnay, maybe bring a copy of The Sun Also Rises and relish in the pleasure born of the diligence of devoted artists.

May 5th, 2008

This is a little notice with a dual purpose. The first is to inform you, our guests, that the San Jose International Airport will be under heavy construction in the coming months. It would behoove you to plan for traffic delays and just mentally prepare for that extra little bit of stress. The second purpose, conveniently, is to gauge readership of this newsletter. We will know, you see, whether or not people are reading this when we see whether or not they are surprised to find the San Jose International Airport under heavy construction. How nice of the city of San Jose to provide us with this opportunity.