When I recently contemplated the possibility of letting go of my employment at this hotel within earshot of our dear general manager, I learned a fun fact. I am a marketing tool. Sure, it seems obvious to you. Roll your eyes at me all you want, I don’t care. Probably I even knew it myself. Charming though I may be, I would have to be good for business or I would not be getting a paycheck. Still, the chill of actually being called a marketing tool was a new experience for me. Perhaps I will start consulting polls and statistics and things before I write to you. At the very least I should think about perhaps checking some facts.
In the mean time, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce to you yet another marketing tool. I am questionable in this role, I think, but this new one is great. We have a commercial up on our website! For those of you who visit us regularly, it’ll give you that special, kind of childish glee at seeing familiar things on video. Well, that’s what it does for me anyway! And if you’re new to us, or maybe even just still considering the possibility of us, I do believe this commercial will win you over. We look stylish and debonnaire, yet relaxed and easygoing. We got every employee caught on camera to button his or her shirt and tuck it into pants or skirt. We even, and I will confess this to you here, rejected the original voiceover work because you could just hear in the woman’s intonations that she didn’t understand us. And now it all fits. We feel ourselves to be well represented. We feel proud. Go check it out for yourself, and please try to resist the urge to immediately book a month long stay.
I’m going to give you a suggestion now that may seem time sensitive, but it is not. In the past I’ve told you about little things to do in Berkeley, but never without some warning about being aware of whether you were going during the school year or not. This is a big consideration in Berkeley, which is super dense. The student population tends to dominate anything worth doing and must never be forgotten when planning to spend time there. But when I tell you now that the campus of UC Santa Cruz is a beautiful place to visit, the actual campus itself, I am attaching no stipulation about hurrying there before classes start at the end of the month. Registration at the UC schools is at an all time high, Santa Cruz is one of the more popular campuses, yet you could wander its hills any time of the year and only know you were on a well funded piece of government property by the how curiously well-maintained those vast expanses of meadow and forest are. Pack a lunch to eat on a cliff overlooking the Pacific, perhaps visit the organic farm. The last time I was there I found deer so tame they would eat out of my hand. And if you do happen to see some young people wandering around, but fail to identify them as students for lack of the harrowed, underslept, overcaffinated look that defined your undergraduate years, look back out over that cliff and remember that while letter grades are now a possible option at this school, essay evaluations are still the norm. It’s ok to consider jealousy, as I always do, but then I try instead to join them in their relaxed enjoyment of a beautiful life. I try.
For the last year I’ve been having a conversation a month with different employees of this hotel. I talk to them about their jobs and about the lives that surround those jobs. Many are young, many were hired straight out of high school. Many, therefore, are at the beginning of their lives and are full of dreams and ambitions. They are generally happy with these jobs, the people I talk to, and allude to similar feelings of contentment and freedom. But it’s all allusion and so I come away with individual stories and only the sense of a common experience. Mike Silva, who has been with us for six years, having been hired the summer after he graduated from high school, finally summed it up pretty succinctly for me. He told me that this is a great job because it gives him financial stability and a relaxed work environment so that he and his fiancé can live peacefully enough to be able to develop the broader dreams they have for their lives. I recognized that immediately as the thing so many of the others had been trying to say to me. It sounds simple and it is simple, but it’s also rare for people so young and with so little experience and although most appreciate that, it was Mike who was finally able to put the feeling into words. Mike’s ambition? He’s a writer, it turns out. And so it makes sense that he was the one to find the words for me. To the best of my understanding, and I do have a literature degree, it’s the job of the writer to find words for common experience. I’m glad to have found a way to showcase his natural talent in this for you.
I also have a fun side note in talking about Mike, and proof either of what a tolerant person he is or just of his appreciation of fiction. Our dear general manager decided, immediately upon meeting him, that he resembled some obscure basketball player from her youth. And so she has only ever referred to him as Vinny. Sometimes Vin. Six years later I would not still be responding to it, but he does.
I don’t want to put too much pressure on you here. And I know that I should be avoiding getting overly personal with you. But I’m about to tell you about a winery that I feel that you need to consider supporting. The Stevenot Winery and I have a few very fundamental things in common, is the reason. To start, we began our journeys in the same year, 1978. More interesting that our age, though, is that the Stevenot wines are made in a little town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada called Murphys which, incidentally, is where I spent the second year of my life. There I was, miniature and still quite blond, learning to walk a little, talk a little, and the Stevenot wines were doing whatever the wine equivalent of those things is right there next to me. In our most formative times, we were nourished by the same water and soil. If I could find a bottle of that early wine, it would be like mother’s milk for me. We have the same core. And so I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to connect your opinion of the Stevenot wines with your opinion of me. We have bottles behind the bar every night for our guests to try for free. Go for it. Nevermind that it will be something like looking into the deepest parts of me and making a judgement. I won’t be watching.
I thought I would never do what I’m about to do. I’m sorry if it’s disappointing to you. I can only promise that I have full confidence in the recommendation I’m about to make. Not for a moment do I feel like I’m passing off a dud this month. I truly love and have full respect for the chain I’m about to start writing about. That’s right, I said it: chain. This will be the first I will mention to you, in a non-derogatory way that is. It feels something like a betrayal, even though I know for myself that Fresh Choice is an exceptional chain. Some of you may know it for yourselves too, which is one of the many drawbacks in recommending this type of establishment. There is one that is very close to the hotel so if you are already a fan, I am actually giving you a useful piece of information, but still I cannot pretend to be letting you in on a cool local secret.
Ah, but enough with my guilt! It was chosen because it’s great. An all-you-can-eat salad restaurant is a wonderful idea. I’ve been going to these places since they first started opening. I was there when they added pre-made salad options. I saw the addition of small pizzas and pastas. The frozen yogurt, if I remember correctly, was there from the beginning, but the topping selection increased over the years. In high school I would stuff my backpack with lowfat muffins, just because I could. And it’s an exclusively Californian franchise, though not by choice. Attempts to open branches in different parts of the country proved fiscally unviable. So it is, actually, a culturally specific kind of a place. We Californians are not exempt from the infamous American gluttony, hence the all-you-can-eat aspect, but with Fresh Choice at least we can believe we’re doing it the healthy way.