July 28th, 2009

This hotel and I are both having a coming-of-age-in-the-modern-world moment right now. It’s a bit delayed for both of us, it seems, which makes me a little self-conscious. But then, I’m a little sensitive; I can never really manage to be very up-to-date and I sometimes get called things like “Luddite,” which just pushes me further back in my old-fashioned, self-conscious corner. It’s nice, then, for me, that we can both be going through this at the same late date. The hotel is unfazed by her tardiness. She does not really understand why a hotel should need to be on a social networking site and only did it because of overwhelming peer pressure.

I’m sure you’ve guessed it by now. Yes, it’s true: we’re all on facebook. And I know that all of you are too because what I’ve learned in my two days of online community membership is that everyone in the whole entire world, or at least every single person I’ve ever met in my life, is already on facebook. Everyone I went to college with is there, being very cool and saying that “facebook is the devil, but… “ A more straightforward friend welcomed me by saying how nice it is because “it takes so much less energy than the real world.”

What does it mean for the hotel to be on facebook? Perhaps you all can “tag” her in photos so she can have the embarrassment of letting the world see that she let you get so sloppy drunk in her beautiful rooms. Maybe you’ll want to check out her relationship status before you’ll come sleep in one of her beds. I don’t know. I’m told there are more practical, business type reasons why a hotel should be on facebook, but I barely understand why I’m on it and I guess you all probably know better about both of those questions than I do. This, then, is just an announcement. Find the hotel, be her friend. I’m told she’s Twittering, or Tweeting, or something too, but this is truly beyond me and I leave that entirely up to you to figure out.

July 24th, 2009

Jack London, famous adventurer and author, invested enough of his life in the Bay Area to have a square named after him. Interestingly, the section of Oakland that bears the name of the man who wrote The Call of the Wild, is a place of respite in a city that is known as an urban wilderness. Is this irony? Maybe, but it’s certainly the bitter kind if it is. Oakland has been immortalized in recent years by rappers like Eazy-E and Tupac as a place of gang warfare and merciless violence, and there are statistics to support every word of it. Just this year, a New Year’s Eve shooting led to days and days of riots.

But Oakland is not a wasteland. There is a thriving arts community and quite a lot of natural beauty, and Oakland deserves visitors. Jack London square is a good place to start. It’s right on the water and so, although it’s kind of a haven for big chains, the very unique local scenery can assert itself loudly enough. From there, you’re a short walk to downtown Oakland, a bit longer walk from lovely Lake Anza, and practically already at Yoshi’s, which does not need my help getting known as a place for world class jazz and blues.

It’s taken me a lot of months of suggesting places to go in the Bay Area for me to tell you to go to Oakland. But the time has come. Go to Oakland, have lunch at Jack London Square, and then stay and look around a little bit.

July 16th, 2009

Our bellman Tony is patient. He spent his formative years as a serious soccer player, serious enough to play for Cal State Monterey, which implies a not insignificant amount of hard work and, yes, patience. But when he understood that his career would not be in soccer and that he was at Cal State Monterey, paying an increasingly heavy tuition, solely for soccer, he decided to step back. He transferred to a much more affordable junior college, where he could take the same major, kinesiology, and he traded soccer in for, well, us. This will take more time, but, he says, he’d rather spend the time now when he has it. An incurable athlete, he knows his future lies in fitness, but he’s not sure quite where and he’s not interested in forcing the question. He takes his classes, genuinely interested in the material, and waits to know what he should do with it all. He’s repeatedly offered personal training jobs at the gym where he works out, which he turns down. It’s not the time to be getting into that, he says.

And as long as Tony waits for these answers, we get to keep him. He likes working in a hotel because he gets to meet so many different people from so many different places. As he sits in Silicon Valley traffic now, he knows to be calm because an Indian guest told him how much worse it is when you have to share the roads with cows, and he loves that he knows that. He’s glad to be at this hotel in particular, instead of a big, corporate chain, because he feels like he can have real, personal relationships with the whole staff, from management through kitchen, in this smaller environment.

What we get, then, is a calm, easygoing guy with a smile almost as bright as the giant diamonds in his ears, who really likes the time he spends with all of us, and all of you.

July 10th, 2009

In Amarillo, Texas, there’s a place that serves a 72 oz steak and says that if you, one person alone, can eat this steak, and the salad and baked potato it’s served with, in one hour, you can have it all for free. I had heard rumors about this place from my brother, but now I know it’s true because I’ve driven through New Mexico and seen billboards that promise exactly that.

Last night I went to a restaurant in Saratoga called The Basin. The woman sitting behind me was served something that was, at first, kind of difficult to recognize. (If my family is the only one in the world that looks around at other people’s food in restaurants, then we sincerely apologize and promise to never dine out again. Somehow, though, I think maybe other people do it too.) So, anyway, she had this big thing on her plate that kind of looked like an entire meatloaf, but clearly wasn’t, and we were all looking and guessing, and it took quite a while for us to figure out that it was, actually, a steak. It was the largest steak I have ever seen in my life. Maybe it wasn’t 72 oz, but it was about the size of a paperback copy of War and Peace. My stepdad was excited and gleefully ordered one of his very own, but neither he nor the woman sitting behind me did much serious damage to their respective dinners. Each, in fact, ate about a normal steak size portion and had as much and more to save for the next day’s lunch.

Here, then, is my challenge to you: Finish this steak, plus all the broccoli and potatoes that come with it, and I’ll buy you as many drinks as you can take in two hours. You’ll have to take a witness, but the menu is full of amazing, delicious things and it will not be a chore to find someone who will go with you. And you’ll have to take photos of your plate, before and after. When I get one email with photos and one email from your witness, I’ll meet you, and your friend, too, down in our lounge at cocktail hour and for two full hours, whatever you and your friend drink will be my treat. Happy eating!

July 5th, 2009

The proprietors of the Bearboat Winery have made an unusual marketing choice. They have created a very strong internet presence. There are many, many people from all around the country on all sorts of wine drinking forums, asking why they can’t find any information about this excellent wine that they just drank. There are favorable ratings of Bearboat Wines to be found from more professional tasters and it’s possible to buy Bearboat Wines from a number of different online vendors. The Bearboat Winery itself, however, gives nothing. They have no website, no email address that I can find. It’s possible to find directions to their winery, on someone else’s web page. It seems strange that a winery should be reclusive, but so they are. They’ve created a real air of mystique around themselves and a lot of people are frustrated and confused.

Perhaps the right thing for me to do, then, is to suggest a pairing. Reclusive wines with reclusive authors. With a white I would go with JD Salinger. Franny and Zooey, I think, would be just right. It’s got an easy cadence with just a hint of melancholy that you’ll want the wine to help smooth away. But if it’s the deeper character of a red you want, then Thomas Pynchon is your man. For casual, after work enjoyment, something you don’t need a crystal clear head and a math degree to keep up with, it’s got to be The Crying of Lot 49.

Maybe stay away from their winery, though. I’ve heard nasty stories about what happens when people have, after extensive searches, finally found the two above mentioned genius men, and I would hate for anything like that to happen to one of you. We’ll always keep Bearboat wines behind our bar.