September 30th, 2013

It’s still pretty hot around here, still the season of flip-flops, tank tops and sundresses. If you’re here on the weekend, it’s still a great idea to head over the hills to the beach and get a little tan. Things are shifting, though. It’s darker earlier. The cool night air has begun to bite a little. Walgreen’s has its costume aisle set up. Of course nowadays that might only mean that the 4th of July has just passed and they figured they might as well bust out the costumes. But, actually, the year is passing.

Around here, all this change means it’s time for our annual Monday Night Football tradition. Every Monday night through football season, down in our lounge, you’ll find the game on the TV and a bountiful stadium spread on the table. We’ve got hamburgers, hotdogs, peanuts and beer for the traditionalists. But you can also enjoy the game with a plate of cruditÈs and a martini, if that’s what you prefer. The best part of Monday Night Football at our hotel is that you get all the excitement of the game without the sports bar scene. Not that there’s anything wrong with sports bars. Also, I guess that, though the non-sports bar atmosphere might provide a welcome haven for some of you, it’s possible that you might think that the best thing about Monday Night Football at our hotel is actually that everything I’ve just mentioned is free for our guests. Also, we extend out happy hour, so that it’s all even more free than normal, which, too, could be way more pleasing than any experience of anti-sports bar snobbery. In any case, all statements of value and hierarchy aside, Monday Night Football is on and it’s great! Come join us!

September 29th, 2013

In line with the exceptionally popular and fun Nerd Night series, I’ve recently discovered a whole other realm of organized adventures to have with a cocktail in one hand and a teacher in front of you. This one is called Paint Nite and it’s a series of painting lessons held in bars and restaurants. Like Nerd Night, these events are being duplicated in cities all around the country and, also like Nerd Night, the Bay Area being as rich as it is, has two cities running Paint Nites within an hour of one another, whereas, for example, there’s only one in the whole state of Arizona.

What’s fun about Paint Nite is that, rather than making you start at the very beginning and go through the rigors of learning technique, not to mention the trials and confusion of personal creativity, they just pick a painting someone’s already done and teach the assembled crowd how to replicate the exact same thing. It’s genius. And so gratifying.

The other cool thing about Paint Nite that’s way more gratifying than Nerd Night, is it that it happens really often. With Nerd Night, the monthly thing can be kind of a bummer. It’s easy to get really excited about going the night after it just happened, be determined to go to the next one, and then not remember it until it’s just passed yet again. It’s even worse for you, the travelers, who either will or will not be in town when it’s on, end of story. Paint Nite, in contrast, happens at different venues around both San Jose and San Francisco three or four nights a week. The particular night you want might sell out, it’s true, but chances are you can just go the next night instead. So, the next time you run out of things to talk about with the coworkers you’re somehow stuck living with too, keep Paint Nite in mind!

September 28th, 2013

Lily leaving meant a big hole not only in our hearts, but also in the smooth function of our day-to-day operations. She wasn’t promoted, after all, just because we all thought she was so nice. Lily kept the ever fluctuating, necessarily unstable front desk madness going at a steady, friendly, reliable clip. Who would fill those small, but so firmly grounded shoes?

Well, when we looked around at our staff, it turned out there were lots of strong candidates. It was, actually, a nice moment to appreciate how well resourced we are. After a more-difficult-than-anticipated decision making process, Joe Carmona became our new front desk manager. He’ll be an unfamiliar face to a lot of you, when you run into him, though he’s been with us for years. Those of you who do recognize him will maybe only have him in blurred memories of late arrivals, early departures or nights of insomnia. Joe’s been working the graveyard shift ever since he got here, a slot he stayed with because his girlfriend, a nurse, works nights too and they were living their inverted life together. For the chance of promotion, though, Joe decided to reenter a life of circadian rhythms.

To work nights for years on end takes discipline and an independent spirit, so we have every faith that Joe is going to excel in his new role. We also know, though, from having just looked more closely than usual, that our staff is full of outstanding individuals who will not falter in a time of transition.

September 27th, 2013

If you’re hungry, you’ve got some time to spare and you don’t mind a little drive, there’s a place you really might want to check out. It’s called the Tribune Tavern, in reference to the Oakland Tribune, whose real estate it shares. A bit of a drive, you were warned, but oh-so-worth it if you can be bothered.

Walking in, it becomes obvious pretty fast that this place is in deep with all the foodie trends. Try, for example, ordering a Belvedere martini, which you may be used to thinking is more or less a classy kind of a drink, and you’ll quickly earn the waitress’ pitiful contempt. They do not carry any commercial brands. Sad as she is about your ignorance, though, she’s perfectly willing to give you the paragraph she’s memorized on each of the organic, local labels they do serve. And that’s just cocktails. The food goes the same way. The staff has all spent quality time with every one of the animals you might choose to eat and so can vouch for both their humane treatment and the fortitude of each animal’s individual character. You’re free, in fact, to ask about each and every step of the process of the making of your meal, from seedling to plating, if you can stand the tedium of listening to the answers.

When this much care and attention to detail goes well, though, it sure is a pleasure. The food we ate there, the night I went, was some of the best I’ve had in recent memory. And, almost in spite of their best efforts, it’s a really comfortable, easy place to be. The crowd isn’t too hipster-ish, there’s no wait. In the end, you can’t even blame them for all the soliloquies on the merits of their ingredients when, really, the result is kind of spectacular. Find a night and give it a try, you won’t be sorry.

September 26th, 2013

I recently learned that the color blue doesn’t come up once in classical literature. Homer, it turns out, uses color in really bizarre ways, including describing honey as green, which, ick. The most bizarre of all, though, is that the color blue is entirely absent, and not just from Homer but from his contemporaries as well. Some say the ancient Greeks didn’t have access to the same visual spectrum that we do now. Others say, instead, that it’s a failure of language, that they just were describing the world differently than how we do it now. The only thing that’s really true, in the end, is that there doesn’t seem to be a way to know for certain why Homer’s sky wasn’t blue.

Blue is a color that, in this modern world where we agree that this word blue refers to the color of the sky, symbolizes tranquility, but also sadness. When someone says they feel blue, everyone knows it means they’re down. But if you were to wander over to, for example,, you’d learn that blue stones are used to “promote peace and…calm ragged emotions.” Down, when you get into it, can mean not so happy, or just not crazily up with agitation.

All this to say that we’re serving a wine in our bar now that’s named Blue Rock, taking its moniker from the fact that its grapes actually grow out of blue rocks in the soil of their vineyards. What does the color blue bring to this wine? Well, we can know for sure that it’ll be a different wine drinking experience than anything that was happening in ancient Greece. But will it make for the kind of sad drunk where one has to revisit all of life’s mistakes? Or, instead, the kind of ease where every sip leaves one anther pound lighter. There’s only one way to find out, I suppose. Good thing it’s free.

September 25th, 2013

Now that our wifi is running smoothly, maybe the most prudent course is to just never, ever mention the word wifi ever again. The only thing that’s real, after all, is the present moment and in this present moment we have a rock solid wireless internet connection that you, our guests, can access with very little trouble. We can act like it’s always been that way and maybe someday we’ll all forget and believe that that’s the truth. In the meantime, who cares because you can get online when and how you want to when you’re here and that’s all that really matters.

Still, though, the memory of that unconnected time lingers. For so long we could not figure out how a technology that was fast becoming ubiquitous, stayed unattainable to our little hotel. It was shameful and we hung our heads and apologized to every one of your derisive comments. You accused us of trapping you in the stone age and we wrung our hands and agreed and couldn’t figure out how to fix it. All of us believed that everyone, everywhere else in the world, had a fast easy wireless connection.

Last week I was in Hamburg, Germany. I stayed in a large hotel, directly across the street from the hauptbahnhof. It was nice and also very commercial. I brought my iPhone and my iPad, thinking what a relief it is to not have to lug my laptop around on trips like these anymore, and because of that choice I did not go online once in the week I stayed there. In this large, bustling hotel in the center of one of the major cities in one of the most powerful countries in Europe, the only way to get online was via Ethernet. I brought nothing that would plug into it, so no connection for me. Luckily it was the kind of a trip where that wasn’t such a big deal, luckily I could take it as a vacation from obsessive connectivity. A week without words with friends and facebook was pretty nice, actually. Still, though, I thought it would be nice for all of us, from all sides of the shame of this hotel’s former wireless troubles, to acknowledge what’s going on over in Hamburg.

September 19th, 2013

The new Miss America, and the way she was received by Twitter, has exposed yet another facet of racist ignorance this week, just when we maybe thought we had seen all there was to see about it. Stephen Colbert’s observation is the most astute and succinct description of the illogic of the response to her crowning, so I’ll just quote him and move on. “People saw a woman in a bikini and thought ‘Muslim extremist.’” That’s nuts.

One great thing about the age of social media is that the people who would call an Indian American an Arab, or say that because of the color of our president’s skin, he must be working for Al Qaeda, they expose themselves. It’s not that people weren’t saying things like this in the past, it’s that the rest of the world didn’t know about it, so they all just got to keep on believing they were right. In this new day, where everyone can share whatever they want with whomever will pay attention, people are outing all their craziness, and then they have to deal with the world calling them out on it. All those people who tweeted hateful, and even just geographically false, things about the new Miss America this week, they’ve been publicly shamed. They’ve been taught that India is not the Middle East, and maybe next time will know, when they come across that particular shade of brown skin, that they don’t necessarily have any information about where that person’s ancestors came from. It feels awful to have to look at every new version of racism that the internet digs up, and it can seem like it must be worse now than it’s ever been before because we’ve never seen so much all at once, but maybe this is actually the beginning of the end. First we have to let all the racists show themselves, and, little by little, we can hold them accountable.

September 4th, 2013

As you may have heard, as of yesterday, our new bridge is open! A mere 24 years after its predecessor collapsed in an earthquake, the half that failed has been replaced. And what, you ask, about the other half, the half that was, presumably, engineered in the same way as the part that fell down? Well, we’ve been assured that that side is OK. Only replacing half the bridge, we’re told, may be coincident with a lack of funds, but it’ll also be safe enough. It stayed up last time, after all.

The new half is spectacular, to be sure. It’s wide and open and so it lets you see how wondrously expansive the bay is. Driving on it, there’s a momentary sense of being far out into the remote reaches of the world, even though a couple of seconds later you’re smack in the middle of downtown San Francisco. It’s got a path for bikers and pedestrians too, which I’m guessing will give all the above feelings, magnified about a thousand times. The San Francisco bay is one of the world’s beautiful treasures and this new bridge shows it off very well.

But, that bike path leads only to Treasure Island. Rather than, finally, a way for bikers to access the city from the East Bay, we’ve been given a tourist adventure. We can now ride out to Treasure Island, where there are neither stores nor restaurants, enjoy the (truly) magnificent view, and then turn around and go back to where we came from. And I suppose it’ll continue this way until another earthquake comes around and knocks the old half down and then, 24 years after that, we can have the matched set.

Our new bridge, in conclusion, is beautiful and imperfect.