September 24th, 2012

Friends, a big day is upon us! Finally, finally, we are about to be released. The grandstanding hyperbolic pissing contest that has held us captive for so long is at last nearing its legal limit. Yes, the 2012 presidential campaign is about to end! No matter what side you’re on, no matter which offenses have raised your ire, and which have felt justifiable, you must agree that this has not been pretty. We spent weeks talking about the way Romney’s dog travels. A reality television star had the state of Hawaii so overrun with requests for Obama’s birth certificate that they had to change their laws. For goodness sake! We need to be free from this!

Well we’re nearly there! And we here at this little hotel think that a party is in order. Election night 2012, which will mark the end of a long and humiliating stretch of political hopefuls cum reality tv self-exploiters dominating our every waking moment, we’re having a bipartisan celebration of the cessation of the madness. Sure, we’ll be monitoring the results just like everyone else. And, yes, we’ll have champagne on hand for calmly toasting whoever will be our president for the next four years. And, no, we do not expect you to have no emotional attachment to one or another result. We sure have some opinions of our own. Still, this will be a strictly nonpartisan affair and when the results are in, no matter what they are, we’re gonna have a toast to a saner future. We hope you’ll join us.

September 23rd, 2012

Finally, after all these years, I’m remembering to write about Dia de los Muertos in time to tell you to go to it! This has been a huge failure on my part, so, now that I’ve remembered, I need all of you to pay attention because I’m sending you to one of the best things that happens in San Francisco. But it’s a one-day-only thing, though, so you’ve got to get it together and go, OK?

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, for those of you who don’t know, is a smashing together of ancient Aztec practice and All Soul’s Day. It’s meant both to remember friends and relatives who have passed away and also to illuminate the link between life and death. In Mexico it’s a two-day celebration that includes picnics in graveyards and plenty of mescal.

San Francisco’s Dia de los Muertos is a carriage of old tradition into the modern world. Every year, a park in the Mission, the city’s Latino neighborhood, is filled with altars made by local artists, and this collection of altars becomes the starting point of a giant procession. Everyone is welcome and many come painted as skeletons, wearing vivid colors, and carrying the mementos of their beloved dead, to parade all night through the city streets. It’s ghostly and celebratory and deeply peaceful. This parade is one of the things that San Francisco comes together to do that shows its eccentric, loving nature in the fullest light. This city this is a place unlike any other, and Dia de los Muertos is a great way to see exactly what that means. It’s on November 2nd this year, and the parade starts at 7pm. Please come out for it!

September 22nd, 2012

This month, instead of writing about a particular employee, I’d like to involve you in a little hotel scandal. Or controversy, maybe controversy is a better word. As some of you may have noticed, when both the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s got into the playoffs this year, the staff here started showing up in gear devoted to whichever of those two teams they preferred. As I write this, some are still coming in in orange and black. This was not optional, if you were wondering, but decreed from above. Fun, said our dear general manager, good old mandatory fun.

Except, if you noticed the jerseys and t-shirts behind the front desk and the wheel of the limo, maybe you also noticed that your breakfast was being served in the same white shirt and vest as always, your room cleaned in the same old pastels. That’s because the housekeeping and kitchen staffs were forbidden to obey the temporary change in dress code by their respective managers. Carlos, our kitchen manager, is said to have said that those who made the change looked like clowns and he would not permit his employees to disgrace themselves like that. For my part, personally, I can’t really disagree. Still, is this treason?

I saw poor Sammy, who works on the kitchen staff in the morning, but then tends the bar at night, which is not technically a kitchen position. Carlos had told him that he was absolutely not to wear anything baseball related to work, and yet there he was, Sammy, being asked by the general manager why he was heading behind the bar in a tie.

By the time you read this, surely, the Giants will have lost and gone home and everyone will be back to normal. But I thought it might be a fun little peek behind the scenes for you, our guests.

September 21st, 2012

Sometimes eating in restaurants is really tiresome. This is the space that normally gets used to recommend one or another Silicon Valley dining spot, of which there are many, but this month I would like to proclaim that eating out can be terrible. You don’t actually know what it is you’re eating, your stomach is always a bit of a mess and you have to kind of detach yourself from the emotion of watching your money just leave. Are any of you travelers out there relating to me? Having just spent a week in New York, living off of the delis, the street gyros, the crazy expensive restaurants and the goddamn late night pizza, I find myself with absolutely no enthusiasm for restaurant recommending this month. But what’s a traveler to do? What are you, my readers, to do when business takes you away from your kitchens?

No, we are not now offering a portable, fully supplied kitchen set at check-in, and, actually, I don’t really even have a full answer for you. But I have a nice little idea for a fun way to get fresh food when you’re here with us. Stop by the farmer’s market! There are quite a few in the area nowadays, as this is an unquestionably trendy idea I’m sharing with you, and the ones in Sunnyvale and Santa Clara are pretty close to this here little hotel. Even if all you do is get some fruit to keep in your room, it’s guaranteed to make you feel better than anything you’re gonna find in our mini-bar. And, who knows, with just a little more effort, you could be making salads for lunch. Not a full revolution, maybe, but the possibility of a little more control.

September 20th, 2012

The story that the Trefethens, of Trefethen Winery, tell about themselves is distinctly American. When the Trefethen family decided to buy land in the Napa Valley in the 70s, they say, it was an “agricultural backwater” and they were thought crazy for their dreams of a winery. They make the point by saying that there were “fewer than 20 operational wineries” in the area when they came in. Not such a small number; they weren’t quite the inventors of the idea of wine in Napa that they might like us to believe. Still, it was early, we can grant them that.

Next they would have us believe that John, eldest son of the founder, developed a passion for fermentation that led to his blowing up a friend’s college dorm room attempting a batch of cider, but that a mere three years later this same plucky youth was the mastermind behind a Chardonnay that was named best in the world at the wine Olympics in Paris. That’s right, in three short years, this mere boy outdid centuries of French winemaking tradition. I wonder if he had any help? Still, the award is real and both winery and boy were very young.

Now that boy is the winery’s head and his children work below him. One family, one estate, one passion is their motto. It’s the Trefethens against the world. I, personally, don’t understand why we Americans must declare that we’ve invented everything that we do, totally ignoring all the learning that we’ve leaned on along the way. Still, it’s a good wine and you, our guests, can come drink it for free in our bar every night that you spend with us.