Life has been pretty good at this hotel lately. Our rooms have a steady stream of guests, our bar is full of laughter and life almost every night, and mornings see who-knows-what kinds of important business decisions being made around our little breakfast tables. Spring is quickly turning to summer, after work swims will soon be an enticing option, as will taking your evening cocktail out to watch the swimmers. The internet is working. We’re in one of those sweet spots that you get every now and then, everything’s kind of going well.
And yet, even now, insecurity creeps in. Yes, our rooms are full, and, yes, that makes it seem as if you all want to stay here with us. But Silicon Valley has the number one economy in the nation right now, so it’s possible that our little hotel is full because hotels in general are full, and not because anyone’s choosing us in particular. And, yes, our bar is full and bustling every night and that makes it look like it’s fun and cool to come here for a drink at night. But, then, we’re giving away free alcohol, which is not unlike paying the cool kids to hang out with us at lunch and, ultimately, it’s equally alienating.
What am I asking for? What will pacify these nagging insecurities and give us our Sally Field moment, that is, a chance to think you really like us? It’s so simple, really. Just like us on Facebook. A moment of your time and this hotel will drop its shoulders, puff out its chest and stand proudly in the world. Please?
Here’s a funny little thought that our general manager was rolling around the other day: How much of the technology that we at the hotel use every day was developed by someone who we feed and house a couple of days out of every month? Without getting specific, I can look around at just what I’m using right this moment and know that the answer is a lot. And much of what I’m using, I’m using because I’ve talked to one or another of you and have been seduced by the particular qualities of a product that you, or your company, has made.
And, as those of you non-tech regulars are protesting to yourselves right now, gadgetry is only the most obvious starting point of this conversation. Through our customers, there are those of us who’ve learned all we ever might want to know about citrus fruits, the superiority of Italian motorcycles, robots performing surgery and much more.
I suppose this is just one of those moments where we get to brag about this business we’re in. The contact that we get to have with such a wide range of worldly ventures is, at the risk of sounding cliché and cheesy, such a great way for each of us as individuals to learn about fields that we have no real right to have access to. At the very least it makes us, if we pay attention, smarter consumers. For some of us it even broadens our ideas about what’s possible in life.
How about you? What have you gone out and bought after talking to someone you met in our bar? If the answer is nothing, I’d say you need to strike up a conversation or two. You never know who you’re sitting next to.
It’s the holiday season. My nights have been filled with cozy parties and I’m looking forward to many sweet reunions in the coming weeks. As I write this, the dough of the pastries that I will send off to my grandfather and pass around to my friends is rising in my oven. But I made it while listening to one after another radio host and his or her expert guests try to make some kind of sense out of last week’s shooting. As I kneaded my dough, clips played of my president crying.
We, as a nation, will spend the rest of this holiday season in mourning. Simple sadness, though, is not enough. People want to know why this happened, what could have been done to prevent it, what action can be taken to make sure it never happens again. On that subject, there is one thing that I’ve read in the last days that gave me an actual moment of solace, as opposed to stoking my grief for one or another pre-existing political purpose.
To give you this quote I have to confess to following a Chinese astrologer on facebook. It’s fun, you know, and he’s kind of a cool, quirky guy. And a couple of days ago he posted this little paragraph that made me feel like I could go on with my preparations for a happy holiday, that I didn’t have to feel guilty for the joy I was trying to cultivate. I’d like to pass it on to all of you, in the hopes that it will help you the way it helped me. I copied it as I found it, so forgive the grammar.
“People asked me about the incident shooting in my country and I said on the same day many many kindnesses were made … Great numbers of basically good actions … But they do not reach news media so we should celebrate every good act with joy n gratitude bec it is true we are all doing the best we can … To obsess with wrong or dark action will only bring that darkness into your heart … Thank you to everyone who has not killed anyone today in action, thought and energy … I feel fortunate to live in the world you are helping to create”
Reading that quote gives me the courage to try to be happy in such a broken world. And sending it to you on behalf of this little hotel feels even better because, as only just a little blip in the operations around here, I can say to you in good faith that this is the kind of place that’s helping the world become better.
This is a strange and beautiful moment to live and work in Silicon Valley. Maybe some of you feel this too. As the country struggles to get itself out of recession, with unemployment numbers making grudging micro-shifts and foreclosures still on a rampage, somehow we, here, are back to living in the land of opportunity. A storm named Sandy just tried to do away with the east coast, but in the Bay Area it’s 70 degrees and sunny. This is a comfortable place to be in an uncomfortable time. Whatever combination of good choices and dumb luck got each of us here, we sure have landed well.
With that in mind, and with the holidays upon us, we’ve decided to have a canned food drive. This is your invitation to participate. Bring us any non-perishable item between now and the end of the year, and we will give you, in exchange, a ticket for a free drink after happy hour. Not that “after happy hour” is a rule, it’s just that all drinks are free from 5-7, so using drink tickets during that time is probably unwise. The one and only rule, actually, is in the word “non-perishable”. This means that you may not take an apple out of the bowl that’s sitting near the front desk and exchange it for a drink ticket. I’m not naming names here, but let’s just say I didn’t invent that idea. Aside from that, though, you can play this however you’d like. If you want to bring in 100 cans of soup, we’ll be happy to give you 100 free drinks. We probably won’t be quite so happy to give them to you all on one night, but the tickets won’t expire either. We’re looking forward to both the generosity and the merriment of this project, so let’s all have fun with it!
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.
This year I’m going to admit something to you all: I hate when it’s time to write about the return of Monday Night Football. Not that I’m not announcing a fun little ritual here at our fun little hotel. It is fun. We have hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill starting at 5pm. Peanuts too, just like if you were out at the game, except it’s warmer in here and everything’s free. Speaking of free, the complimentary drinks go an hour later too, til 8pm. It’s a real party, and we do it every Monday night all through football season.
The problem is that if football season is here, it means summer is over. When these games start, daylight will last almost until they finish, but pretty soon it won’t even be light out when they start anymore. Right now it’s still hot outside, and we all feel like it always has been and it always will be hot, but that first Monday night burger builds a link to winter. You know how it is, one Monday rolls into the next and pretty soon it’s dark in the middle of the day and your skin looks like white bread dough for months and months and months.
But I can calm down and enjoy the first few Mondays. No need to get crazy. It is fun. And the room is big enough that you can enjoy the free burgers and booze with or without actually watching the game, which I suppose gives away my own personal preferences. The point is: Live in the now. A warm afternoon BBQ is such a nice thing. And maybe winter won’t come this year.But I can calm down and enjoy the first few Mondays. No need to get crazy. It is fun. And the room is big enough that you can enjoy the free burgers and booze with or without actually watching the game, which I suppose gives away my own personal preferences. The point is: Live in the now. A warm afternoon BBQ is such a nice thing. And maybe winter won’t come this year.
Some time ago, our dear general manager did something that seemed completely crazy to me. Does that not shock you? Well, I guess most of you have met her. Still, this, for me, was too big of a risk. She asked one of our regular guests, someone who not only, himself, was one of this little hotel’s fixtures, but whose company represented kind of a lot of our monthly business, to start painting pictures to hang on our walls. He was asked to work with Silicon Valley’s agricultural history, but otherwise given total freedom, and the first piece was to hang, not small and forgivable in a bathroom, as would maybe be safe for an artistic trial like this, but right over the front desk. Both agreed that if she didn’t like it, it would not be hung, but, really, could both of them really stay cool enough to keep their same old friendly relationship if he worked for months on a painting and that she then rejected? I was not so sure. Luckily, no one ever had to find out. Both parties deemed the project a success, and I’m sure none of you have failed to notice the vivid flashback of a rural past that now greets you when you check in.
And that was just the beginning. Mr. Dwayne Holst now has four paintings up on our walls, with more to come. I’ll bet you can figure out for yourself which ones are his. Plus, she’s now commissioning work from the legendary Pete Escovedo, who stayed here for a few nights last year, to hang in our guest rooms. Of course, it’s his music that he’s known for, not his painting, so I was, again, scared when I heard that she was doing this, convinced that our fearless leader had been seduced by his name. Wrong again! You may already have seen for yourself, or else you will very soon. His work is slowly meandering into more and more rooms, a little band here, an abstract there. They’re simple and lovely, and just personal enough to not be random hotel art.
It’s a fun little game our boss is playing here, finding the artists in our midst. Our humble home away from home is getting denser, more complicated, and our community more interwoven. I’m sorry for being scared. She’s completely right on here.
I don’t know what got into me this year, but somehow, starting somewhere around the day after Christmas, I got obsessed with the coming of summer. I first fixated on daylight savings. March 11th. I looked it up, marked it on my calendar, and then every day I would note that I had gotten one day closer to the light. March 11th came, though, with rain. For the weeks and weeks that followed this expansion of lightness that I had so anticipated, the days stayed gray and dark. I began, then, looking at the seven-day forecast everyday, because everyday it would tell one more day into the future. I need the summer this year.
Well, my wait is finally at an end. No, it isn’t officially summer yet, but the days are long and warm and my favorite thing has started back up again: Our Wednesday night BBQs! These Wednesday BBQs, for me, are one of the big landmarks of the best season of the year. What better way, after all, to spend a long, warm (though never hot, this is California, after all) night than poolside with a cocktail and a steak just off the grill? Or chicken, if that’s how you roll. Either way, it’s right here waiting for you when you get done with your day’s work. Plus we’ve got a variety of salads, baked potatoes, and some beautiful desserts. Just about everything you might stock up at your very own BBQ, except we do it for you. It’s so easy, like a mini-vacation, mid-week. Just the way a summer night should be.
Most of us who work here at this little hotel are more or less always glad that we have no giant corporate overlords. There are no brand standards to adhere to, no weird rules that stink of bureaucracy and hang like lead weights around real life. Plus it just feels better, you know, philosophically. Maybe we don’t think of it everyday, but it’s a general feeling that we all carry around with us.
Every now and then, though, we get a shining, glorious example of just how sweet our freedom is. Now is one of those times.
It started a few years ago with a harebrained idea from our general manager. As these things usually do. “I want our keys to be like baseball cards,” she said. “Yeah, whatever,” we said, no knowing what that meant and thinking, anyway, that it would pass. Well, it didn’t pass and eventually someone had to figure out what she meant and how to get it done and now, finally, we have what turns out to be the most fun new addition to our business in a long time: Employee key cards. From now on, when you check in, your key will feature the smiling face of someone on our staff. The first round is all front desk, bell staff and bartenders, but soon enough everyone who works here will be on a card. The full vision will be complete when you, our guests, start collecting them and trading amongst yourselves for favorites. Why she thinks it’s a good idea to make key cards that no one wants to turn in is a little unclear, but, really, they are kind of amazing. Come see for yourself.
It’s March, which means St. Patrick’s Day, which means the fetishizing of all things Irish, which inevitably reminds me of the time I went to Ireland. Those of you who have been there know that there are parts of Ireland that redefine the word beauty; the ragged cliffs, the endless meadows, the unfathomable variations on the color green. But every place has its idiosyncrasies and in Ireland it’s illegal to serve or sell alcohol after 10 pm. I’m sure the locals have their strategies and maybe there are more house parties and everyone saves lots of money. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t stop very many people from drinking. For tourists, though, it’s just crazy to not be able to go to dinner at, say, 8 pm and then go afterwards to a pub for a drink or two before bed.
But, of course, this is exactly the problem we’ve left you, our guests, with for all these years. Sure, happy hour is great. We have a complimentary drink waiting for you when you come in from work in the evening, even a couple if you want. Clearly we’re coming from a good place and have your best interest at heart, if I do say so myself. Closing the bar at 10 pm, though, and denying you the opportunity for a nightcap, well, it’s been kind of a travesty.
No more! Starting this month the bar will stay open until 11 pm. Not quite nightclub hours, I know, but a bit more civilized. And, as always, our guests drink free from 5-7.