May 28th, 2009

My assignment this month is to write to you about our meeting rooms. I’ve done this in the past and I’m gladly doing it again, but, I must say, if the meeting rooms are not at peak performance levels, it could perhaps be merely the fault of a little semantic laziness. Maybe, just maybe, if someone would take a few moments to properly, yet still succinctly, describe the full range of services these rooms are available to provide, then I could go back to writing about monks and bluesmen.

At first glance, the name seems self-evident. This is a hotel that sees a lot of business travel. If you are traveling for work and need to arrange a meeting, our meeting rooms are available. If, however, you’re getting married and looking for a room to hold your reception in, why would you ever even come look at the meeting rooms offered by a business hotel. Ditto for graduation, birthday and retirement parties. Even knowing, intimately as I do, the versatility of these spaces, I would have to give serious thought before telling my wedding guests to come join me in a Silicon Valley meeting room. If anything, I would say that we can know that we have some reputation out in the world. People tell each other about the multicultural, homemade menu options, I guess, and about our lively and accommodating staff. The simple elegance of the rooms and the way they take so nicely to decoration must be talked about because these rooms, in spite of themselves, get used for parties.

So, what’s the solution? It’s not so easy. “Party rooms” disrespect the business meetings. We cannot just make the opposite mistake. “Event rooms” is too cold. This is not a convention center after all. “Mixed-use hospitality rooms” is too clunky, but I think it’s on a better path. Do any of you have ideas? Send them, please, and so release me from my annual “sell the meeting rooms” duty!

May 23rd, 2009

I once dated a male model. (What a great sentence! I think I only did it so that every now and then I could say that to someone.) It was very brief because, unfortunately, he was a little dumb. He was quitting modeling when I met him because he wanted to write a book. One day he showed me what he had written thus far. It was three months after I had finished my literature degree and perhaps I was a bit ungenerous and we never saw each other again.

But I digress, as they say. I only brought him up because, having spent my entire life in the Bay Area, before I met this guy I didn’t even know Bolinas existed. Not that this is entirely my fault. It is purposefully hidden. A New York Times article once called it “the Howard Hughes of towns.” Locals have torn down all the Highway 1 road signs that make reference to it and commonly tell inquirers that it is a burned out wasteland. The question is, how did a New York fashion model find his way to this reclusive hippie enclave?

The legend of Bolinas is that, in the early 70s, there was a big oil spill in the Bolinas Lagoon and a bunch of hippies came from San Francisco to clean it up, and then they stayed. The beach is beautiful, the mountains high and dramatic and the location made isolation easy. Today it’s full of artists, poets and other like-minded spirits. Lawrence Ferlenghetti’s son lives there, as does Huey Lewis’ mom. If I haven’t made this clear enough by now, this is not a place that encourages tourism, but this is why it’s a charming place to be a tourist. Go with caution and care, but go.

May 16th, 2009

Mike Pinsil, or Pinsil (pronounced like the writing implement) has the honor of being the only one on staff who was recruited from afar. A college friend of our sales manager, he was living in Southern California when the front desk manager’s position opened up. Said sales manager knew he’d be perfect and pretty quickly our general manager agreed, and so the two of them set about convincing the man to relocate.

Now, the question is: What is it about Mike Pinsil that made those two determined to get him? Certainly they had Bay Area candidates. Normal procedure in this hotel, anyway, is to promote from within. But they both felt that they needed Pinsil.

I will say that he’s a nice, easygoing guy. Uncommonly easygoing, even. He’s a guy that people always want around, and just as he was invited to move up here, once he got up here I watched him be constantly invited to anything and everything people were getting together to do. There is an instinctive feeling of comfort around him. To take this one step further, I’ve also watched people treat him as something of a father confessor in the two years since he’s been with us. Mike Pinsil hears a lot of secrets. In short, this is a guy who probably always has been and always will be sought out. Instead of wondering why we felt we had to get him, we should just be glad he picked us.

If you want to strike up a conversation with the man, but feel unsure of how to begin, I have a suggestion! Ask him what he thinks is the bare minimum number of baseball hats one should bring on a three day business trip. He’ll love to answer it, I promise.

May 9th, 2009

My sister grew up with an instinctive aversion to a restaurant called By Th’ Bucket. Instinctive, meaning that she hated it without ever having been there. Never, never would she agree to go, and a youngest sibling’s refusal can be a treacherous thing to try to overcome. Which is such a shame because, in fact, it’s the perfect place for a family to go for dinner. The menu is enormous and includes everything that, to me, is normal American cuisine, with an Italian bent. Steaks, fish, chicken, lots of pasta, pizza, big salads. What makes it worth recommending is that, for all the many, many different things you can order, you can’t get anything bad. The place gets zero points for originality, but I think you can’t find a better standard, hearty meal in the area.

We won my sister over, finally, by tricking her. We started getting take-out, but salads only. Enormous Greek salads with all her favorite stuff: feta cheese, Kalamata olives, hummus, grilled chicken. We said they came from “the salad place,” and waited until she started being the one to suggest “the salad place”. Once we were sure she was a proper fan, we let her in on the true identity of the mysterious “place”. She was very confused for a bit, trying to maintain her position of hatred in spite of evidence to the contrary. It could never last. Just a few weeks ago, I watched her go three days in a row.

May 4th, 2009

Normally this newsletter is divided into five sections. Of the five, one is reserved for some activity that I think visitors to the Bay Area might enjoy and another is used to tell you about a nice local wine you might want to sip at our bar. This month I am forced to bleed those sections a little bit because I want to tell you not just about the David Girard wines, but also about the David Girard Winery. There are, very nearby, quite a number of lovely estates where people can go to admire the landscape and tranquilly sip wine. There are lots of ways besides this newsletter to find your way to each of them and I can’t say this is not a great idea. I am not recommending that you go to David Girard because it is the best example of one of those wineries, I am saying that you should go because it’s something different. It’s a place where things happen, I place with a community around it. There are concerts, cooking lessons, grape stomping parties. There’s an audio book swapping library, in consideration of the long drives people take to get there. It’s full of energy and life, as, I imagine, David Girard himself must be. The founder of this winery started off working in a gas station in Detroit, went on to get an MBA, a law degree and a PhD. He taught, practiced law and ran marathons. And at some point along the way he went to France to learn the winemaking techniques of the Rhone Valley. This is the kind of man who makes me wonder if some people get extra hours in their days and just have to keep it secret from the rest of us.

But, to use this space more in its intended way, if you can’t get away, and have to settle for drinking your Girard wine in our bar, you’ll be drinking the creation of an overachieving, fun-loving, perfectionist. It’s not like it’s going to be a bad glass of wine!