Hello from the center of the holiday season. The solstice, along with all the different cultural iterations of celebrating it, has passed. Every day for the next six months will be lighter than the one that preceded it. We’re on the precipice of 2014. By the end of the week we’ll all be out jogging, biking, doing crunches, lifting weights, many of us with brand spanking new gym memberships. Kale smoothies for breakfast, followed by quinoa and unadorned chicken breasts for dinner are going to make us all feel so clean and good in just a couple of days. But for now, we’re still in the sweet spot. Cookies and cocktails and pies and pancakes are our just desserts, if you’ll forgive the pun, for this one little moment of global celebration of the return of the light. I hope you all are enjoying it as much as we are here at this little hotel.
Don’t forget, if generosity, charity or giving back in any form ends up on your list of New Year’s resolutions, our canned food drive is in action through January 10. Not that putting a single can of beans in our little collection vessel will allow you to check “be more giving” off your list, but it’s a step in the right direction. Ten cans might qualify as a little hop. Ten a day for the length of your next stay here, now that might really get you somewhere.
And if you feel like you’re generous enough, or like you need to focus on other things in this year’s resolutions, remember that we’re giving away one drink ticket per can brought in. Unlimited.
Happy New Year everyone! We look forward to taking this next spin around the sun with you all!
Jeff Bezos is such a tease. For weeks I kept being told that Amazon was starting to use drones to deliver packages. At first I thought it was a joke, some kind of internet hoax. I wasn’t coming across any articles about it, just hearing from friends that they had heard it from one place or another. It sounded too outlandish, too much like science fiction and so I dismissed it. Then, one day, someone referenced it on NPR, just one little sentence, and my ears perked up. If it’s on NPR, maybe it’s for real. Amazon is going to start delivering packages by drone!
I pictured myself ordering a silk scarf and then hanging my head out the window of my second story apartment to catch it as it was dropped from the sky. I got emotionally prepared to go back to reading real books, since the reason that I read so many e-books these days is that kindle offers me the ability to be reading a thing as soon as I have the idea that I might want to. And what a beautiful scene: great literature raining down from above. Gifts would maybe be the best, though. How much better would any little trifle be if it fell into the receiver’s hands from the heavens? Not to mention the Hunger Games angle. For those one or two of you who are unfamiliar with that reference, there is a contest called the Hunger Games within the books and movies of that name, and in that contest it is possible to have a life saving supply parachuted down to a contestant at just the moment when that thing is most needed. Imagine, then, going on a long hike and, instead of carrying heavy jugs of water, having bottles dropped at certain landmarks along the path instead.
Finally, wondering whether this system was going to be operational in time to have all my packages swooped in on Christmas morning, I went looking for the real story. It’s true enough, I guess. Amazon is planning to make deliveries by drone. Jeff Bezos says it’ll hopefully be up and running in four or five YEARS.
And so I say to you, my techie friends, don’t do things like that to us laymen. The disappointment I felt when I learned that this was a story about the distant future made me feel like I had been swindled. I felt like Amazon had given me something and then snatched it away. Be careful with our delicate hearts.
The best minds in the world are writing and speaking about Nelson Mandela this week. This humble hotel can’t pass up the opportunity to pay respect to the man, who blew apart so many ideas of what it’s possible to do with one small lifetime, but nor can we think of adding anything significant to all that’s being said. So, instead, here’s one more place to find Mandela himself speaking to us from, as Obama said, the ages.
• I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
• For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
• I came to accept that I have no right whatsoever to judge others in terms of my own customs.
• It is never my custom to use words lightly. If twenty-seven years in prison have done anything to us, it was to use the silence of solitude to make us understand how precious words are and how real speech is in its impact on the way people live and die.
• There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.
• Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.
May he rest in peace.
Next week, as we all know, is Thanksgiving. Some of us will have big family dinners; for others it will be more intimate. Some of us will spend hours in a kitchen; others will choose to go out. Some of us will enjoy the festivities; others of us will show up bearing the heavy weight of obligation. One nearly universal truth about next week, though, is that on Friday morning we will wake up feeling overindulged. We here at this little hotel have two little amenities for you to keep in mind when that feeling comes for you.
Number one is the exercise balls you now find in your room when you’re here with us. It’s amazing what a few crunches first thing in the morning will do for your general sense of fitness and willingness to take care of yourself. Never mind that a handful of sit-ups are not quite the anecdote for eating an entire pie alone. It’s peace of mind you need to strive for in the immediate aftermath of the chaos of Thanksgiving. Christmas, after all, is just around the corner, so you may as well not bother shooting for perfection just yet.
Number two is our canned food drive. A giant feast is really nice, and a day designed especially to give thanks for all we have is great, but when all that you have contrasts so sharply with what some of those around you do not have, feelings can get a little conflicted. Bring the canned version of your favorite Thanksgiving foods in to us. Share your bounty.
First, though, you get to do the indulging. Enjoy!
Friends, the holidays are upon us. And whether that sentence fills you with tingles of eager anticipation or a dark foreboding, we’ve got a treat for you: Our annual holiday canned food drive.
If you’re the type for whom the holidays bring the joy of family reunion, if you rejoice in the sacred act of giving thanks for all the blessings the world has bestowed on you and those you love, then a bring a can or two in to our drive. It’s another chance to spread the love and bounty that this time of year reminds you of. We’re only too happy to be the intermediary in this small act of generosity that can have such a big impact.
If, on the other hand, you’re more the bah humbug type, this drive will help your holiday cheer in a different way. As you all know, drinks in our bar are free for our guests from 5-7pm every night and after that we make you pay. However, at this time of year, there’s a little caveat. For every can you bring in, you get a free drink. Whether it’s a 99 cent can of beans, a 20 year old mystery can from the back of your pantry, or some fancy Amy’s organic curried something-or-other, you’ll get a ticket for a post-7pm cocktail of your choice.
Please, no frozen items. And please, don’t bring anything that you’ve taken from the mini-bar.
For all that’s good about the weather in California, there is one thing that’s kind of bad, and the season for that one bad thing is upon us. We all know that to use the word winter to describe what happens here at this time of year is kind of a joke, relatively speaking. There’s already a 25-degree temperature difference between here and New York and it’s only the beginning of November. Still, it gets chilly out here. We put on sweaters and jackets, and sometimes even hats and gloves.
The problem is that, because it never gets truly cold, our winters never get the respect given to “real” winters. Nowhere is this more in evidence than in restaurants. In the winter months in California it is typical to go to a restaurant for dinner and never take your coat off. Maybe you’ll remove your hat, out of social considerations or because it’s itchy and you don’t like to eat with an itchy face, but it’s just as likely you’ll keep that on too. We’ve done away with social conventions out here, synthetic fibers almost never itch anymore and taking off your hat very likely means being just a little too cool all through your meal. Restaurants, you see, do not turn on heaters and often they’ll keep their doors open all night long. Can you even imagine such a thing in New York or Chicago? It would be unthinkable; it would be dangerous. Here, though, where on any given night someone could say “it’s not THAT cold” people don’t really bother to change anything.
The truth is that it’s possible to be colder in California in the winter than in Chicago. In Chicago, the inside of everything is heated like a furnace and people have the right clothes and bundle up well. Here, somehow, people can’t quite be bothered. Heaters are neglected. People opt to leave coats at home for fashion reasons, or choose flip-flops out of laziness. We shiver through our winters because it’s not dangerous to do it, but we’re all kind of mildly suffering. It’s silly, but we’re all in on it. See if you don’t fall right in line when you’re out here with us.
I know I’m a little late with this news, but Lou Reed is dead. And so there followed a week of sweet remembrances, well deserved for someone who contributed so much to our culture. There’s something, though, in the story of his death that has me questioning reality as its always been presented to me. I wonder if any of you are feeling the same way.
First I’d like to start with the Velvet Underground song Heroin. It’s not my favorite song that Lou Reed ever sung, but somehow it’s the one that sticks in my head, revisits me when I least expect it. I’ll be walking down the street, minding my own business, and suddenly finding myself humming “heroin, it’s my life, it’s my wife.” The power of pop music is strong. The point, though, is that that was not a work of fiction from Mr. Reed and matrimony is a serious commitment.
Next I’d like to move on to the obituary written by his final wife, the inimitable Laurie Anderson. She writes that he “spent his last days… being happy and dazzled by the beauty and power and softness of nature.” This, of course, was four decades after his first marriage to Miss Heroin.
According to everything I ever learned, one should not be able to have all that Lou Reed had in one lifetime. It would seem that he got to the furthest reaches of both the darkness and the light. I think we can look at his example and know that way more is possible than what we have been allowed to imagine.
Is this the most inappropriate business hotel blog ever written? I apologize.
The Oakland A’s just lost in the first round of the playoffs. Last year the Giants won the World Series, for the second time in three years. The San Jose Sharks go to the playoffs every year; one of these days they may even win. The point is, it’s no secret that the Bay Area is a nice place to be a sports fan. Recently, though, it became official. ESPN put all the cities in the country with pro teams through some kind of convoluted algorithm and came to the conclusion that the Bay Area is the best place for professional sports. I believe it took into account things like how often teams played in the post season, but somehow it also accounted for things like the ineffable insanity of the Raider Nation. (Have you all seen the Raider Nation first hand, by the way? It’s a big experience, highly recommended. And it’s football season right now, so you don’t even have to wait and hope to remember.)
Everyone likes to brag about the place they’re from, especially to an audience of non-natives. Sports fans can, arguably, be the worst on the subject. In England people have been bludgeoned to death for choosing one city’s soccer team over another’s. Mostly it’s subjective grandstanding, completely unverifiable. Here, though, we have ESPN, a brand that, if not universally trusted, at least can’t be accused of having any dog in this particular race, devising the kind of mathematical equation sports junkies love so much and coming up with little old us. Our beloved Bay Area is the best place to be a sports fan. We could have told you so, but it’s so much better this way.
When you’re traveling for work, time can slide by pretty quickly. Trying to get as much out of every day as possible often leads to some pretty tight scheduling. Plus you’re in an unfamiliar place, so all the details of a day take a little bit longer and are just a little bit more of a hassle to do. Running to the store for a bag of chips or a soda, for example, might take five minutes at home, but in an unfamiliar city that simple errand can turn into an hour-long project. Add jet lag into all of this and the time warp is complete; hours dissolve into nothingness before you’ve even registered their arrival. So, although you may intend to take advantage of the access to local gyms that we offer, as often as not that’s the thing that’s easiest to let go of.
But what about your resolve to have a six-pack by Christmas? Well, friends, I’ve got good news for you! We now have an exercise ball and resistance bands waiting for you in your room. With these there, you can roll out of bed just a few minutes earlier for some pre-breakfast calisthenics. Or maybe you prefer waiting until after work, burning off a bit of frustration before meeting your coworkers in the bar at night. This option could save you from the other, less productive ways of diffusing tension that can be found in bars, if that’s useful for you. Another fun choice is to wait until after you’ve had your nightly cocktail(s) and then bring those coworkers up to your room for tests of strength and agility. However you choose to use them, they’ll be there for you. Good luck with those abs.
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.