May 28th, 2010

In LA the temperature never falls below 80 degrees and the whole purpose of people’s lives is what they look like and who’s seeing them look like that. In LA there are many many restaurants where you can sit outside. In Europe meals take longer. An entire night’s plans will be only to go out for dinner, as opposed to dinner, a movie and drinks afterward. Plus everyone smokes and, though it’s still mostly ok to smoke inside, even the Europeans must have to admit that sitting with cigarette smoke is more tolerable if you’re outside. All over Europe there are lots of places to eat outside as well. Are these the reasons why the open-air restaurants are there, or is it only what I have been able to observe about people because the open-air restaurants are there? I only ask because I want to know why there are not so many places to dine al fresco in Silicon Valley. Our weather is almost as nice as LA’s in the winter, and much nicer in the summer. We’re surrounded by mountains (the “valley” part of the name having not been randomly generated). Even if we don’t have the sprawling European plazas, still it’s beautiful here! What’s missing? If supply follows demand, then why have we, the people of Silicon Valley, not demanded dinner outside?

What I have to offer to you, now, in response to my own questions, is dinner outside every Wednesday night. That’s right, it’s summer BBQ time again! Steak and chicken, grilled to order, baked potatoes, a salad buffet, and dessert. And, of course, drinks are as free on BBQ night as they are on every other night of the year!

May 24th, 2010

There is a lot of grandeur in California’s nature. Mountains, oceans, cliffs, etc., and over the years I’ve tried to send you to some grand places. This month, though, I want to tell you about someplace that is not grand or majestically beautiful, but quaint and lovely. It’s called Putah Creek. It’s near, but not in, Napa Valley. It feeds into, but is not, Lake Berryessa. When I was there I sat on top of a big rock, of which there are quite a few to chose from, and watched otters. I had never seen an otter before, so for me this was an activity I was prepared to give lots of time to. The otters, it seemed, were also curious about me and so we sat and watched each other. The sky, the rocks and the water were gray and everything else was green. Except for me and the otters, and we were keeping an eye on each other.

Later a man showed up with his son and his dog, to do some fishing. As if it were 1950.

I could imagine there being more people there on a sunny day. There were chalk marks on some of the rocks, so I think people come to climb them. Maybe people swim in the creek and maybe this makes the otters hang out someplace else. But this is what’s nice about Putah Creek. It’s not a place to go witness magnificence and feel small, it’s a delicate little environment where you are just as important as the otters. I liked it there. Maybe you will too.

May 15th, 2010

It’s time for me to let you in on a little secret we’ve been keeping at this hotel. For quite a while now we’ve had a licensed aesthetician on staff. That’s right: facials, waxing, all the usual spa treatments are available at the hands of Rachel, who can be found behind the front desk. It’s been over a year since she got her license and for most of that year our dear general manager has talked about how nice it would be to offer the possibility of in-room facials and the likes to you, our guests. But time passed, weeks turned into months, and now that we’re over the year mark, the only one who’s gotten any in-room treatment from Rachel has been the aforementioned general manager. She has her eyebrows waxed in her office ever other week these days. (Which, by the way, if you’ve noticed how much better those eyebrows are looking these days, well that’s a nice example of the quality of Rachel’s work.) Our fearless leader has gotten herself a nice little morsel of decadence and the only question is, why is she being so stingy with it? Rachel would be happy to give treatments to all of you, as I’m sure you’d be happy to receive them. The broken link is a sometimes devious little lady who maybe just wants to be sure she can always have a pot of wax ready when she wants to get beautiful. I’ve been suspicious for months. And, so, today I’ve decided to break this thing open. Rachel is available. Nee to relax after a hard day at work? How about a facial? Got a knot of unsightly hair that needs attending to? Have you considered wax? Rachel’s gentle, professional, licensed and, best of all, will come right to your room!

May 10th, 2010

When I was 21, a very lucky and spoiled little girl, I spent 3 weeks on a beach in Thailand with the most exciting man I had met thus far in my life. My mind is a little hazy on the subject, the idyllic part of a relationship that did not end well, but something I do remember is that some parts of the menus in all the restaurants we went into were translated into English, and some parts were not. Too spicy for anyone who couldn’t read it, we were told. My traveling companion, a young man wanting to play with extremes, was constantly incensed. Over and over he tried to convince waiters to bring him something they thought he couldn’t handle, just to try, and over and over again he was refused. Me, I was already sweating over what they would let us have. I trusted the wisdom of these places that, if nothing else, understood the average tourist’s palate.

Besides shameless bragging, I guess there are two points to telling this story. One is to say that I am not without bias on the subject of Thailand, Thai food, or Thai anything. The other is to show that my taste for/ability to deal with spice is in the average range. And all that is just to tell you that my brother took me to a Thai restaurant the other day, Thai Pepper it’s called, that I found endlessly pleasing. I had a pork salad with mint. Not super easy to eat, for me with my average spice capabilities, but very rewarding. It was a fun little adventure for my mouth, without any sense that my strength or will were being tested. All the flavors, like mint, onion, and lime, got to stand tall and proud, instead of getting dwarfed by the chili. Together with the swirly nostalgia of being someplace that kind of really looked and smelled like Thailand, I was a very happy girl. Perhaps this is a bit too personal and specific to be a very good recommendation, but, anyway, it’s a rave review!

May 4th, 2010

For years I’ve been hearing rumors about all the property that RJ Reynolds is keeping. This land sits patiently on hold, people say, as marijuana weaves its path toward freedom. Millions of acres waiting to turn into billions of dollars, or so the story goes. It’s a bit scandalous, this anticipation, but not nearly as scandalous as the stories of all of those who have chosen not to wait. Marijuana is a multi-million dollar industry in California; cash only, no taxes. Now, as it seems that we are preparing to legalize it, the conversation is about who will profit and who will lose. Will all those people who’ve spent decades perfecting cultivation techniques be able to transform themselves into a legitimate boutique industry? Or will RJ Reynolds and the like plow in and mass-produce all the little guys away?

I’m reminded of this question when I read that the Merryvale Winery was the first to open in California after Prohibition. It’s a fun little fact, all these years later, but it makes me wonder about the back-story. Certainly they did not, on the day after Prohibition ended, say, “Hey, I know, let’s start making wine.” This is not the path toward being first. Was this a family that had been making wine to drink with, and distribute among, friends, and possibly friends of friends, if they seemed cool, the way marijuana is sold now? Prohibition ended and they got themselves a little organized, perhaps. Found a bigger, more obvious place, since they could be out in the open. Or was it a shrewd business plan launched with cool detachment by someone who had been successfully monitoring the political climate and knew just when to strike? A few men in suits, maybe, who never drank themselves, and so were able to get up early enough every morning to be the first. I don’t know. That part of the story isn’t being told anymore. What matters is that they won the race, not how. And all these years later, it’s hard to tell if the wine is good because of techniques that have been passed down with love over the years, or if it’s good because when you have a successful winery, you can afford to hire very well trained vinters. Either way, it’s good, and it’s free in our bar every night!