I’m choosing a questionable topic today, and I’m sorry for those of you who I’m about to lose. Still, from looking over shoulders in public places over the last year or so, I know that deciding to vent my Words with Friends woes here is surely not going to alienate so very many of you. Or, maybe it’ll be inane drivel to all but one of you, who will totally relate and pass it on, and that person will pass it on, and on and on, until finally it gets to Alec Baldwin, most famous of all Words with Friends players, and then I can have a game with him. Which I know I would win.
The thing is, I’ve been playing this one game against my brother for weeks and weeks now. It’s been neck and neck the whole time. Although, just to say, I have pretty consistently been the one with five or ten more points. Anyway, now we’re at the end. I have three letters left and I’m eight points ahead. This could be the setting for the best kind of victory, the close one. I should be able to find minute gems of words to maintain my skanty little lead, but I can’t do it. I always say that it’s a sign of a weak player to blame your performance on the letters you draw, but, listen, my last three letters in this epic finale are i, i, and u. It’s a catastrophe! Should I have planned better? I suppose. But the points were too close to do anything but go for maximum on every turn. But is that wrong thinking and the reason that my brother is the superior player? Ugh! My brother cannot be the superior player. I’m paralyzed. I’m spending way too much time staring hopelessly at that little screen. Now I’m even writing about it here. I can’t figure out how to win, but I’m unwilling to lose. I hate this!
Thank you for indulging that tantrum. Best of luck in your own games.
I want to name a few facts that have popped up recently. Most of them you’ve probably already heard, but it seemed to me that it would be fun to make a little list.
Santa Clara County, meaning the Silicon Valley, meaning our home, meaning this place you come to visit us in, was just reported to have the strongest economy in the entire country. Not that it hasn’t been clear for some time that our recovery was happening faster than that of our neighbors, but being given that first place prize is always a sweet moment.
The San Francisco, San Mateo, Marin area was named number 36. Not so impressive until you think about how many counties there are in this country.
Last October the San Francisco Giants won the World Series. For the second time in three years.
In two weeks, the San Francisco 49ers will play in the Super Bowl.
Something that you may not have noticed is that our governor is no longer the Terminator. The man in that office today is sitting in it for the second time. His first stint was in 1975 and in the interim he went to Japan to study Buddhism, worked with Mother Theresa and invited his spiritual advisor to share his home. Most recently he did some kind of a mind meld where he actually convinced Californians to vote to raise our own taxes, and he’s just balanced our budget for the first time in who knows how long.
Also, I’m writing this on January 25th and it’s 65 degrees and sunny.
I guess the point of all of this is that I’m having a moment of feeling like I’m living in the country’s sweet spot. And aren’t you lucky that you get to stop by from time to time?
Yesterday morning I got an email invitation to a little dinner party that was to happen last night. Something like fifteen people were invited, so it was to be small but not tiny. I was the first to respond, saying that it was going to be my first day out of bed after the flu, and I’d have to see how I was feeling a little later. Within the hour, three quarters of the list had bowed out, each with a description of which stage of the flu he or she was in. Even the host chimed in, saying he was just over it himself, and promising medicinal cocktails to whoever managed to drag themselves out. In the end I think three people showed up. I was not one of them.
My qi gong teacher took this rampaging flu as an opportunity to say that this is why we should all be bowing to each other when we meet, instead of shaking hands or, god forbid, hugging. But she sniffled her way through the practice and finally admitted that she, too, had spent the last few days curled up in bed, so there went her hygienic authority.
And you, poor travelers, how are all of you holding up this flu season? There’s nothing quite like the exhaustion of time zone shifting, plus being removed from the comforts and routines of home, combined with a nice long incubation in the stale air of an airplane cabin, to suck all the power from your immune system just when you need it most, no? Let me tell you, though, if you land here with the flu, stuck in a stupid hotel room, all alone, please don’t be afraid to ask us for a little help. We understand how hard it is to be sick away from home and we’ll support you however we can.
The world has gotten wildly connected in the last years. Every new place we go, the first thing to ask for is the wireless password, and when we’re outside the protective field of one or another wifi network, 4G is there to make sure we never have to wonder about any little bit of trivia that should cross our minds. And yes, it’s a great new time that has given us, for example, the Arab Spring, but there are some downsides too. The expectation that work emails will be seen no matter when they’re sent, for example. Playing Words with Friends instead of paying attention to the real friends you’re actually sitting with, also.
Well, over at the Cupertino Inn, we tried to provide a bit of a safe haven for all of you. We thought that if our internet never worked properly, it would turn your nights with us there into a welcome vacation from connectivity. Sure, you might grumble to your coworkers in the morning, but secretly you would revel in the old-school freedom and thank us for our unwillingness to join the masses. Years of hate mail have convinced us otherwise.
And so, I’m pleased to announce that as of this week, the Cupertino Inn has joined the modern world. Our wireless network should be, from now on, as smooth as it is everywhere else. We apologize for all the many, many inconveniences.
For a while there it seemed like a personalized TV screen on the back of the seat in front of you was the new standard for air travel. It drastically changed my experience of flying, being able to zone out with whatever movie or shows I wanted. I was less aware of the ergonomic evils of the seats, the swelling of my feet, and the awkward proximity of the stranger or strangers by my side/s. A lot of things about flying were getting increasingly annoying, but this one small thing, allowing the TV to do what it does best and numb me out, was a big source of solace.
I don’t know if I spent a lucky couple of years, only landing on newer aircrafts just by accident, or if there was a backshift in the industry, but suddenly last year I found myself back in the days of shared screens playing some movie for everyone to watch together, whenever the flight attendants could be bothered to turn the things on. And more than once, let me tell you, that shared film was Ice Age II. Which, even assuming that the Ice Age series is not a piece of trash, what is the justification for playing a sequel to a randomly assembled group of travelers? Worse, though, was the day I flew internationally with an entertainment system that was broken.
As I write this I know, of course, that most of you are traveling with one or another device that allows you to play whatever you want, at any time other than takeoff and landing. I even have a couple of devices like that of my own. I don’t know why, but the effortlessness of flipping through channels on the seatback in front of me was a comfort, with no stress about battery life, plus the possibility of indulging in trash that I would never download myself. There was a certain amount of giving away of responsibility that soothed me, and that feeling was denied to me in all of my travels last year. Tomorrow I will fly for the first time in this new year. I’m really hoping I get a little screen.
Happy New Year everyone! I hope that all of you are enjoying your new gym memberships, your morning kale juices and the fresh feeling of newly flossed teeth. I myself recently roasted a chicken on my own, even though the grocery store is still happy to do it for me. My mother is going back to Weight Watchers. I watched a woman run around the lake I live by yesterday in an insane way that I know she learned from the internet. I love this time of the year! This is us at our best; the way we could always be, if we wanted to.
What we need now are strategies for success.
Might I try tempting you with anger? I recently heard on the radio that gyms hire temporary employees at this time of year. Meaning that, for those of you who have just joined one or another fitness club, certain that you’re ready to change your lives, most of you are expected to quit by mid-February, so all the staff that are there to support you now are scheduled to leave around then too.
Or, how about easing immediate expectations? Flossing your teeth three times a week, for example, is really good. Way, way better, say, than doing it only when a piece of food gets stuck in one. Who cares if it’s not quite as good as doing it every single day, when asking that of yourself is only going to mean that the first day you forget, all faith is lost and you won’t pick up the floss again until next January 1. And I know that this is what happens because I heard the statistics about it on that same radio show the other day, so think back to last year and calm down with the denial.
I want us to succeed. All these things that we dream for ourselves, we can have them. Let’s keep it together this year!