Cupertino Inn Blog

June 18th, 2013

Around age 19 I had kind of a hard time. I see now that there are certain people, overly sensitive and totally unwise, for whom going off to college to read Neitzsche and Lacan and Kafka will just not go well. And so there I sat, for a bit, with my first bout of existential angst, having just learned that life has no meaning. It wasn’t so fun, but, then, it’s hard to take too seriously now because I see how many people fall into exactly that same hole. This is not a story about unhappiness; it’s a story about its antidote.

I was in Thailand, with someone I really liked. It was New Year’s Day, or morning, really. We were on our way from the huge beach party we’d greeted the new year with, headed back to the little hut we were paying $4 a night to stay in. I was riding on the back of the motorbike he’d rented. We passed a little bay, lined with palm trees, smattered with fishing boats, awash in the pastels of sunrise and as we rode by I felt happy. But not just happy, I felt surprised at this vision of beauty that was so outside of my previous experience, with that particular light and my particular state of mind, and just in that moment, my idea of what existed in the world expanded. After all my months of wondering why I should bother with anything, here I had been shown this bit of magic that I didn’t even know I didn’t know about. And suddenly I had to assume that there was a lot more wonderment in my future.

That was a long time ago, now, and I’ve other moments of beauty and joy since, but that one morning, the snapshot of that bay that I keep in the back of my brain, has come to be my symbol of the wonder and joy that will come, as long as I’m willing to stick out the hard bits.

I’m writing this story here because it’s a story about travel. What a huge privilege it is to live in a time, and to be among the lucky few, that can wander the world like we do.

June 11th, 2013

A couple of days ago I found something really offensive on the internet. I know all your mouths are now hanging open in shock. Something offensive on the internet! My goodness, how can that have happened? Still, though, this particular thing hit close to the home that you and I share, that is, it was a blog written by someone who used to work in a hotel and who claimed to be outing all of the dirty little secrets of every hotel in the world. It’s not very likely that many of you read it, but I want to address it here anyway because it definitely carried the potential to make you, our guests a little bit more paranoid and cynical when you’re here with us, which I definitely want to stamp out as quickly as possible.

First, and most disgusting, he claimed that all housekeepers in all hotels clean mirrors, but also drinking glasses, with Pledge. On my honor, I swear to you that you are not drinking from glasses cleaned with Pledge. It’s gross that that’s what was happening in whatever dump he was working in, but it’s not happening here.

Next he tried to make you all feel guilty for not having the bellman bring your little rolling suitcase up to your room, implying that you were denying him his raison d’etre and putting his livelihood at risk. First, I promise you that our bellmen have plenty to do and they will not ever be fired because you take your own bags up. Second, the last thing we want is for you to feel guilty about, or responsible for, the well being of our employees, while you’re here. You’re here for some reason, business, pleasure, whatever, and it’s our job to make that as easy as possible for you. Period.

He went on and on, but I only want to address one more. He asserted that the cost of maintaining a hotel room is $30 and that paying anything over that is extortion. He came up with that number by calculating the cost of paying the front desk staff and the housekeeper, plus laundry. He ignored the rest of the staff necessary to maintain a property, he ignored things like landscaping, all taxes, insurance. He ignored so much, and yet the clear assertion of his ignorant lie could really make guests feel bad about having to pay to stay in a hotel.

Everyone has their dirty little secrets, I suppose, but those are not ours and I hope that the man who wrote that little expose finds some other way to make his way in the world and leaves us alone.

June 4th, 2013

On a recent evening, sitting down in our bar, I accidentally happened to overhear something that horrified me. One of our international guests, a man from India, asked Sammy, our bartender, to recommend an American beer. He likes, he said, to drink the beer that’s native to whatever country he’s in. Fair enough; I hope we’re all doing some version of that whenever we travel. But Sammy, our dear, beloved Sammy, recommended Budweiser!

As we all well know, Sammy is a fantastic bartender. In addition to his charm and that ever-present smile, he’ll mix up anything your heart desires and put a smile on your face to match his own. Ask him to recommend a whisky, a tequila or a wine and he does just fine. But, listen to me now and be warned: Sammy does not drink beer and Sammy, as was proven to that poor, unsuspecting Indian man, should not be trusted to recommend beers!

While I’m on the subject, and forgive a little snootiness, but when you’re here in California, try thinking of beer the way you think about wine. You would never ask for an American wine. Who knows what that’d get you? You ask for a California wine. Beer is the same, start specifying California beer and, I promise, your life will get better.

May 28th, 2013

When Arrested Development first came out, in 2003, I remember that I had a dial up internet connection and a laptop that weighed about 20 pounds. It would take something like 5 minutes to load a page and I was definitely still calling people instead of writing them emails or texting them. You all, my techie friends, were probably long into communicating via email only, but I’m sure you were still stuck at your desks doing it. It was possible to rent an entire series back then, at the local video store; I had gone through Sex and the City and The Sopranos that way, but only well after they had aired.

Arrested Development came on on Sunday nights, in a lineup with The Simpsons and The Bernie Mac Show and I think it was the last thing I ever looked forward to, and planned my week in order to be able to watch, on television. Half and hour felt crazy, like my appetite for the quirky insanity of the Bluths was only just whetted and then it was over, but to skip the weekly dose and wait for it to come out on DVD was unthinkable.

And now, suddenly, after waiting six years instead of six days, I can sit down and watch a whole new season of the exact same show? Are any of the rest of you feeling confused by this possibility? I feel like my enjoyment of this show was based on a whole other model of TV watching, first of all. Second of all, the fact that I could, in one night of binging, be back exactly where I had been just earlier in the day, which is with no more Arrested Development to watch ever again, feels very imperfect. And yet, my habits have adapted with the current technology. I no longer accept the longing for more that the end of an episode leaves me with. Instant gratification is the new norm. I don’t know what to do and so I’m avoiding it. How are all of you handling this?

May 26th, 2013

When you travel a lot for business, you’re more or less living the rock n’ roll lifestyle. Sure, you might not be getting up onstage in front of thousands of screaming fans, but I’ll bet a lot of you are doing a lot of presentation making, traveling from place to place saying the same things to different people. And the never-ending string of airplanes and hotels is just exactly the same, give or take a bit of debauchery here and there.

As you move through this rock star lifestyle, then, it seems that there are two very distinct ways of feeling about it all. On the one hand, it can be a monotonous drudge, on the other, a gleeful opportunity to explore. These two points of view are very neatly described by Bob Seger and Willie Nelson, respectively, and I thought, why not go for a little poetry at the start of this holiday weekend?

Here’s Bob to start with:

On a long and lonesome highway
East of Omaha
You can listen to the engine
Moanin’ out his one note song
You can think about the woman
Or the girl you knew the night before
But your thoughts will soon be wandering
The way they always do
When you’re ridin’ sixteen hours and there’s nothin’ much to do
And you don’t feel much like ridin’,
You just wish the trip was through

Here I am
On the road again
There I am
Up on the stage
Here I go
Playin’ star again
There I go
Turn the page

Well you walk into a restaurant,
Strung out from the road
And you feel the eyes upon you
As you’re shakin’ off the cold
You pretend it doesn’t bother you
But you just want to explode

Most times you can’t hear ‘em talk,
Other times you can
All the same old clichés,
“Is that a woman or a man?”
And you always seem outnumbered,
You’ don’t dare make a stand

Here I am
On the road again
There I am
Up on the stage
Here I go
Playin’ star again
There I go
Turn the page

Out there in the spotlight
You’re a million miles away
Every ounce of energy
You try to give away
As the sweat pours out you body
Like the music that you play

Later in the evening
As you lie awake in bed
With the echoes from the amplifiers
Ringing’ in your head
You smoke the day’s last cigarette,
Rememberin’ what she said

Here I am
On the road again
There I am
Up on the stage
Here I go
Playin’ star again
There I go
Turn the page
Here I am
On the road again
There I am
Up on the stage
Here I go
Playin’ star again
There I go
Turn the page
There I go
There I go

And now, with a little more optimism, here’s Willie:

On the road again
Just can’t wait to get on the road again.
The life I love is making music with my friends

And I can’t wait to get on the road again.
On the road again

Goin’ places that I’ve never been.
Seein’ things that I may never see again

And I can’t wait to get on the road again.
On the road again
Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway We’re the best of friends.
Insisting that the world keep turning our way

And our way
Is on the road again.
Just can’t wait to get on the road again.
The life I love is makin’ music with my friends

And I can’t wait to get on the road again.
On the road again

Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway
We’re the best of friends

Insisting that the world keep turning our way

And our way
Is on the road again.
Just can’t wait to get on the road again.
The life I love is makin’ music with my friends

And I can’t wait to get on the road again.
And I can’t wait to get on the road again.

We, of course, would like it if everyone who came to stay with us was on team Willie. If there’s anything we might do to help you get there, don’t hesitate to ask.

May 20th, 2013

It’s maybe a little silly writing this to a readership comprised entirely of grownups, but as I am, also, a grownup and I find this news very exciting, I thought maybe you would too. As of next Monday, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk goes into full summer operation. That means all rides open all day, every day, from now until fall.

If you’ve never been to The Boardwalk before, let me assure you that this is not just a piece of personal childhood nostalgia that I’m trying to pawn off on you; it really is a pretty amazing place. A stretch of rides, games and decadent treats, running alongside the Pacific Ocean should, to begin with, not be such a hard sell. What’s really great about The Boardwalk, though, is that it’s more or less exactly the same as it was when I was a little girl. And I think, actually, that it’s been the same for quite a while longer than that. I mean, sure, there’re one or two new rides. The last time I was there, there was a game where you hit a piece of metal with a mallet, with bigger prizes for harder hits. I think that was new. But there isn’t a Subway sandwich to be found. Nor is there a McDonald’s or a Burger King or anything of that ilk. You can buy t-shirts to commemorate your experience, but the shops that sell them are exactly the same as they’ve always been and do not bear a recognizable name. I don’t understand why The Santa Cruz Boardwalk is so resoundingly old-school, all I know is that it is, and that it feels something like a haven. I highly recommend a visit.

May 18th, 2013

With a group of travelers as my audience, I’d like to take a moment to brag a bit. It’s a small little detail, this piece of superiority that I possess, but, then, the best parts of life are hidden in the details, are they not? Ok, ready for it? I’m going to come out and declare that I have the best luggage tag in the whole world.

I can’t actually take credit for this amazing piece of identification; it was a gift from my sister a couple of years ago. She had a photo of her, our mother and me printed on a piece of plastic, with no name, no address, no phone number added on. There is, in fact, not one word printed on the thing, and yet, at an airport, in that tense time of waiting to see whether or not your luggage took the same flight you did, my bag is more immediately identifiable as mine than anyone else’s. When I first tied the thing to by suitcase it seemed funny and ironic, as time passes I’ve come to understand it as a kind of profound security measure. A person cannot steal my luggage and say they did it because they were confused, because not just me but me and my tribe are there, staring at whoever might inquire.

I kind of wish that my sister had done this DIY style, printed the thing herself in some non-replicable way, because I do so enjoy a bit of superiority, but I have to be honest and say that she got it off of one of those websites that you send photo files to and have them print your face on whatever you’d like it on. And, given that it really is that easy, I guess I have to go one step further and say that you all should get your own. It really is a great little thing to have.

May 17th, 2013

When I was growing up, the people who were already grown up would always say that they remembered when this valley, whose name wasn’t Silicon yet, was full of orchards. I remember being annoyed, or maybe disappointed, because it was always a story about how much better things used to be and I didn’t like feeling like I came around after things got bad.

But when I was growing up there were still cherry orchards all over the place. There was one, in fact, right next door to the daycare center my brother and I went to, and another on the path from that house back to ours. Back then, when cherries were the only thing left but there were lots of them, this was the best time of the year. Cherry season isn’t long, but in the few short weeks that they’re ripe and available, a person can really gorge herself. Cherries, starting just about now, would be everywhere for these few short weeks. In stores, yes, but also spilling out of roadside stands on just about every corner in town.

Those days are gone. This valley is in a whole different kind of fertility mode, as we all know. But there are still some cherries orchards to be found here and there. One of the last, actually, is just down the street from this hotel. And, anyway, cherries are still growing somewhere, and wherever that may be, this is the moment to get them. Stop by Olson’s, just down the street at the corner of El Camino and Mathilda, or any one of the weekend farmer’s markets to get your fill of what used to be the specialty product of the area, before all of you started using the valley to turn life into a science fiction novel.

May 10th, 2013

Business travel, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, can be kind of a bummer. Sure, it’s exciting at first. Maybe when you started doing it, staying hotels was still a novelty, eating in restaurants every night still an enjoyable decadence. After a while, though, the nights get lonely and the restaurant food gets monotonous, not to mention inescapably heavy. Packing and repacking your suitcase, and keeping your things always ready to be packed, can make you feel a little unsettled, even when you’re home. After a while, you might start to wonder what the point of it all is, you know? Why bother?

Well, friends, if you find yourself asking those questions, I have a solution for you! According to a study done at the University of British Columbia, Tylenol, or, rather, acetaminophen can cure symptoms of existential angst. Sounds bizarre and fishy, I know, but some crazy Canadians really, truly put a lot of time and money into this idea and, in the end, are willing to defend the claim. I say, why not give it a try? The next time you find yourself in an airport security line that you could swear was written by Kafka, pop a Tylenol. Tracking the results will, for sure, be more interesting than continuing to track your own rage and helplessness, so at the very least there’s a guarantee of some version of success. And, who knows, maybe you’ll suddenly feel a calm awareness of the importance of the screening process that will maybe lead to a sense that there are systems in the world that are in place to take care of you and then, maybe, you will even go one step further and believe, for four to six hours, that your individual life matters to your government. That would be so cool.

May 4th, 2013

Last night, listening to an archived episode of Radiolab, one of my favorite ways to use the internet, I learned about something they were calling “the Cupertino effect”. It was an episode called “Oops”, and the phrase was introduced just after a story about the Unibomber, so I got a little nervous about what “oops” our humble hometown might have inflicted on the world. It turned out to be merely hilarious. According to a man named Ben Zimmer, “the Cupertino effect” refers to an early version of spell check that only accepted the word co-operate spelled like that, with a hyphen. Do you see where this is going? Because this early spell check didn’t understand that cooperation is also possible without a hyphen, it told those hyphen-less peace-makers that the word the were looking for was spelled “cupertino”.

Who, you might be wondering, would allow themselves to be corrected in this way? Well, let’s just say that when writing in another language, sometimes the tools the computer gives you are life savers and sometimes they lead you astray, as I and some of you may well have experienced ourselves. Zimmer gives an example of a German NATO officer writing about “the cupertino with our Italian comrades,” and another from the EU scientific and research committee talking about “stimulating cross-border cupertino.”

I, personally, love this. When future generations, or aliens, or whomever you believe will be doing it, are combing through the remains of our civilization and they’re poring over NATO and EU documents, there is some possibility that they might think that cupertino is a synonym for cooperation, I mean co-operation, I mean cupertino. And, if you follow my logic, the next step would have to be imagining that this here, the real Cupertino, had been the source of peace and unity. And it’s also just very, very funny.

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