In LA the temperature never falls below 80 degrees and the whole purpose of people’s lives is what they look like and who’s seeing them look like that. In LA there are many many restaurants where you can sit outside. In Europe meals take longer. An entire night’s plans will be only to go out for dinner, as opposed to dinner, a movie and drinks afterward. Plus everyone smokes and, though it’s still mostly ok to smoke inside, even the Europeans must have to admit that sitting with cigarette smoke is more tolerable if you’re outside. All over Europe there are lots of places to eat outside as well. Are these the reasons why the open-air restaurants are there, or is it only what I have been able to observe about people because the open-air restaurants are there? I only ask because I want to know why there are not so many places to dine al fresco in Silicon Valley. Our weather is almost as nice as LA’s in the winter, and much nicer in the summer. We’re surrounded by mountains (the “valley” part of the name having not been randomly generated). Even if we don’t have the sprawling European plazas, still it’s beautiful here! What’s missing? If supply follows demand, then why have we, the people of Silicon Valley, not demanded dinner outside?
What I have to offer to you, now, in response to my own questions, is dinner outside every Wednesday night. That’s right, it’s summer BBQ time again! Steak and chicken, grilled to order, baked potatoes, a salad buffet, and dessert. And, of course, drinks are as free on BBQ night as they are on every other night of the year!
I was born in California and have thus far spent my life in California. Without actually exposing my age, plus acknowledging that one doesn’t actually, consciously remember much from before around age 5, let’s say I’ve got a good quarter century of California weather observation in me. Give or take. And so, let me tell you that we have two types of year here. The first is what people will call drought. Most of my years in California have been called drought, which leads to a sense of vicitmization at the hands of Mother Nature. Actually, though, most of California is a desert and deserts don’t get much rain. So, mostly we don’t get much rain and people fret and complain, but we’re in shorts and t-shirts by March, deeply tanned by April, and sort of abstractly concerned about the future in general.
The second type of year is called “El Nino.” I do not know why. The El Nino years don’t come very often, but when they do it rains and rains and rains and all the reservoirs fill up, but so do the streets and the parks and the schools because even though people act like the dry years are abnormal, actually it seems that nothing in California was built to accommodate more rain than what falls in a “drought” year. And people fret and complain and do not understand how to be cold and wet in April. Myself very much included.
This was an El Nino year. It seemed like the rain would never stop. I, personally, gave up on the possibility of sunshine. One doesn’t need the sun for energy, I thought, when there are yoga classes and coffee to be had. It could be ok.
But it came back! The sun came back! It’s here now and it’ll stay until September, at least; and with it comes the kind of heat that makes bones sit easily in joints and ice-cold soda taste like heaven. I love summer! And so, with that, let me recommend our pool. True, it’s open all day long all year long, but now is the time when it turns from a means of getting one’s exercise, into a relaxing destination on a well deserved day off. And, after all, there’s nothing quite like a California glow to take home as a souvenir of your business trip!
We’ve finally done it! In the midst of global recession and the state of chaos that is our modern world, we’ve finished remodeling our little hotel. Maybe you’re surprised to hear that it’s only just finished now. You’ve been sleeping under fluffy down comforters for quite a while. It seems like ages ago that we traded the stiff floral sofas in for what I believe are the most comfortable couches that exist in the world. Does anyone out there remember the weird piece of 3-D hotel art that used to hang over the bar and was actually missing pieces?
This may have been complicated, I guess, also, by my writing stories that could possibly have implied that the remodel was done more than a year ago. Sorry for the confusion. We were so excited. We had these great new rooms, a real built-in bar, and it just seemed right to get you all in on the enthusiasm. Well, the thing is, this remodel worked a little more like time release antibiotics than a mainline shot of heroin. We did a little at a time, carefully considering each decision, making sure you still always had a place to sleep while you were in town, and, though it took a few years, the Cupertino Inn is now healthy and whole. (What would the heroin equivalent of a remodel be, I wonder? Shut the place down for a few months, reopen it stuffed with a whole lot of trendy uncomfortable junk that would fall apart when looked at with crossed eyes, perhaps.) So, anyway, though you may have been sleeping in a room with two flat screen TVs and an iHome, thinking we were resting on our laurels, the room next to yours, in all likelihood, still had the clunkier counterparts of said gadgets and a flimsy, flowery “comforter” to boot.
Now, though, we are really, truly done! I promise. And so, in celebration, we’d like to offer you a glass of champagne, any night you’d like, for free in our bar. (Sorry, I never get tired of making that joke. Yes, all drinks are free for guests every night. Including champagne. Every night. Always.)
An outrage has been committed against this hotel and we are not going to stand for it! An article just ran in the San Jose Mercury News, listing all the “best” hotel bars in Silicon Valley. We here at The Cupertino Inn read eagerly along, wondering if they had been able to find the perfect adjectives to describe Sammy, butterflies in our stomachs in anticipation of this little moment of fame. Imagine, then, our shock and disappointment when we discovered that we did not make the list. No funny little anecdotes stolen from our lounge, no charming history of a signature cocktail. Sammy’s pomegranate martinis, and the way he learned to make them, would have made a cute, appealing little yarn, but I’m still the only one who would think to spin it.
Admittedly, our first reaction was shame. We did not make that list because we were not good enough, we considered. The pity party was short lived, though. Of course we should be on the list, we should be on top of it! One of these places is described as “a ski lodge that’s been frozen,” for goodness’ sake! This same one, they go on to say, is a place where older women go to pick up young men. The author’s credibility, and I am unclear about whether this was written by an older woman or a young man, having been sufficiently shaken, I would like to go on to say that not one of these places seems to offer complimentary drinks to anyone at anytime. Just the opposite, is what it looks like. These are the kinds of places, in fact, where you can pay lots of money for a drink called “recession proof.” Places, the author says, that are great to “see and be seen” in.
Well, actually, it’s true, that’s not us. No one cares who you are or what you look like in our bar. No one here wants to see you spending lots of money, in times of scarcity and poverty, on novelty drinks whose main purpose is to brag about your wealth. We hired a couple of the friendliest guys we could find to pour whatever you most like to relax with after a hard day’s work. We bought a few very comfortable chairs and couches to sit in with those drinks. We put up a big TV for the following of games and elections and such things. We put out a few of our favorite board games, thinking you might like them too. That’s it. The ambition of our bar ends there. If that’s not enough for this Mercury News writer, then we aren’t interested anyway.
Someone recently remarked that our dear general manager runs these hotels more like an innkeeper than a proper general manager. It was said fondly and, I think, it’s kind of apt. I have two favorite pieces of evidence to share with you on the subject, though if you’ve been around I’m sure you have a few of your own as well.
The first is that she has, for some reason, gotten excited about cooking lately. Famous for her declaration that “a bagel and cream cheese is a perfectly good dinner,” this culinary turn is a bit of a surprise, but she’s going at it with gusto, declaring that, until recently, she didn’t even know it was possible to buy fresh herbs and now she can’t stay away from them. But now that she’s finally gotten interested in looking after people’s nourishment, she finds herself with no more children in her house. So, she’s taken to doing her cooking at the Grand Hotel, feeding staff and guests alike. Last week it was balsamic chicken with a Greek rice salad, the week before the chicken was cooked with lemon and parsley and served with traditional Armenian pilaf. If you’ve been lucky enough to share a meal with her, you know that no polite indulgence is necessary either. She’s a pretty good cook for someone who took a 20 break from the practice.
The second is that her boyfriend, Bob, can, of late, be found trolling around the hotels‘ lounges, looking for chess games with computer programmers. Cocktail hour rolls around, all of you tech wizards start rolling in and there’s Bob, sometimes with a martini, sometimes a bottle of water, looking for a little post-retirement mental stimulation. He doesn’t win much. Ok, he doesn’t win, but he’s come to the right place to learn as there aren’t many of you code writers out there who don’t know your way around a chess board.
Do you have a story like this to share? Send it in.
My mother always likes to talk about bad years. She’ll say that she can’t wait for a year to end, feeling like all the bad things belong to a calendar year, and will pass when that year does. In the past, this has seemed silly to me. To think that crossing an invisible line into a new year will make you safe from all that was bad just the day before is precisely the kind of delusion I love to make fun of her for. This year, though, was a doozy, as they say, and, so close to it’s end, I have to admit that I’m crossing my fingers, holding my breath and waiting for January 1st. Maybe some of you are, too. It’s been a rough year.
Still, in the hardest times, people laugh. At least sometimes. There are always some little things that keep people moving, and keep moving people. In the last days of a tumultuous year, here are some of the things that have kept us energized at this hotel, and that will give us our first energy in not just a new year, but in a new decade:
I have to step back in here, now, and tell you all about how I collected these. Last week we had our annual holiday party and little strips of paper were handed out to all the employees asking the question: What is the best thing that happened in 2009? What you’ve just read are less than half of the responses; all the rest said that the most important thing about this year was that they were able to keep their jobs.
I want to talk a little bit, then, about our general manager and about you, our guests. To confess that business has been rough for us this year won’t be a big revelation. Very few businesses passed easily through this year and we were not one of those lucky few. But our captain kept us together. She kept every one of us employed. Every one of us still has health care. Every one of us is still able to be well in the world because she treated us like the family we are and would not let go of any one of us. But she couldn’t have done all this without you, without your loyalty. We are coming through this year because, and only because, we have created a community, a real interdependent web of lives. Thank you for weaving yourselves in with us. We look forward to seeing you in the new year.
This hotel and I are both having a coming-of-age-in-the-modern-world moment right now. It’s a bit delayed for both of us, it seems, which makes me a little self-conscious. But then, I’m a little sensitive; I can never really manage to be very up-to-date and I sometimes get called things like “Luddite,” which just pushes me further back in my old-fashioned, self-conscious corner. It’s nice, then, for me, that we can both be going through this at the same late date. The hotel is unfazed by her tardiness. She does not really understand why a hotel should need to be on a social networking site and only did it because of overwhelming peer pressure.
I’m sure you’ve guessed it by now. Yes, it’s true: we’re all on facebook. And I know that all of you are too because what I’ve learned in my two days of online community membership is that everyone in the whole entire world, or at least every single person I’ve ever met in my life, is already on facebook. Everyone I went to college with is there, being very cool and saying that “facebook is the devil, but… “ A more straightforward friend welcomed me by saying how nice it is because “it takes so much less energy than the real world.”
What does it mean for the hotel to be on facebook? Perhaps you all can “tag” her in photos so she can have the embarrassment of letting the world see that she let you get so sloppy drunk in her beautiful rooms. Maybe you’ll want to check out her relationship status before you’ll come sleep in one of her beds. I don’t know. I’m told there are more practical, business type reasons why a hotel should be on facebook, but I barely understand why I’m on it and I guess you all probably know better about both of those questions than I do. This, then, is just an announcement. Find the hotel, be her friend. I’m told she’s Twittering, or Tweeting, or something too, but this is truly beyond me and I leave that entirely up to you to figure out.
I might get a little too personal here for a moment. I’m sorry if it’s uncomfortable and I promise that this will end with a way for you to get free drinks. The thing is, last night I kind of felt like my life was not such a good one. Perhaps you can relate? There are some days that just feel bad. So, sitting alone with my computer, as is the modern way, I googled myself around until I found Ricky Gervais, simulating a conversation between Hitler and Nietzsche. His Nietzsche was scolding Hitler for so grossly misinterpreting his, Nietzsche’s, work. His Hitler hung his head in shame, mumbling the answers to questions, apologizing like a little child. It was funny, though my retelling might not quite be hitting its mark, and, forgetting all the endless loops of banal yuckiness that had been swirling around in my head, I laughed out loud.
Maybe you agree with my idea that comedy can save us all, maybe you just think it’s fun to laugh. Either way, what I have to tell you is that, as a guest of this hotel, and thanks to some super secretive backroom negotiations between our beloved, though somewhat shady, general manager and her Rooster T. Feathers counterpart, you, as a guest of our hotel, are welcome to go for free to this, our friendly neighborhood comedy club. And, as I hinted at above, you even get a free drink, to help get you in the mood. So, enjoy! (And I promise that this will be the last time I try to foist any of my half-baked-modern-world-coping-mechanism/improvised spirituality on you!)
My assignment this month is to write to you about our meeting rooms. I’ve done this in the past and I’m gladly doing it again, but, I must say, if the meeting rooms are not at peak performance levels, it could perhaps be merely the fault of a little semantic laziness. Maybe, just maybe, if someone would take a few moments to properly, yet still succinctly, describe the full range of services these rooms are available to provide, then I could go back to writing about monks and bluesmen.
At first glance, the name seems self-evident. This is a hotel that sees a lot of business travel. If you are traveling for work and need to arrange a meeting, our meeting rooms are available. If, however, you’re getting married and looking for a room to hold your reception in, why would you ever even come look at the meeting rooms offered by a business hotel. Ditto for graduation, birthday and retirement parties. Even knowing, intimately as I do, the versatility of these spaces, I would have to give serious thought before telling my wedding guests to come join me in a Silicon Valley meeting room. If anything, I would say that we can know that we have some reputation out in the world. People tell each other about the multicultural, homemade menu options, I guess, and about our lively and accommodating staff. The simple elegance of the rooms and the way they take so nicely to decoration must be talked about because these rooms, in spite of themselves, get used for parties.
So, what’s the solution? It’s not so easy. “Party rooms” disrespect the business meetings. We cannot just make the opposite mistake. “Event rooms” is too cold. This is not a convention center after all. “Mixed-use hospitality rooms” is too clunky, but I think it’s on a better path. Do any of you have ideas? Send them, please, and so release me from my annual “sell the meeting rooms” duty!
My friend Sean last week talked to me about the collective unconscious. Perhaps there is some common pool of knowledge that we all could draw from at will, if only we would take the time to learn how. He told me a story about a New Jersey housewife who picked up ancient Sanskrit, seemingly, out of thin air. Information exists, he says, we only need to learn to access it.
Welcome to California, my friends. Sometimes this is how we talk here.
I bring these things up now because BB King was, very recently, a guest at our little hotel. It’s possible that you were sharing space with genius in these last weeks, breathing the same air, tracing his footsteps even. Our housekeeping staff is very good, I promise, but, still, one of you slept under the sheets that had kept a legend warm the night before. Which one of you drank your morning coffee from the mug that had last helped ease the great man into his day? Don’t you want to try to believe that there’s something to pick up from him, some kind of residue that such a legendary soul could potentially leave in its wake? I do. Things like this make me want to chase down any esoteric belief system that would tell me that I could be a richer, wiser person from mere proximity. So, indulge me for just a moment, please. Perhaps there is some common pool that we all draw from. I am not a student of Jung so I will leave his terminology out of this, but I think I can be really general and still show you what delusion I’m trying to cultivate. BB King, holder of a great store of the world’s treasure, sits with his knowledge and wisdom in our rooms. Energy drips off of him and so enters the common space where we all are free to absorb what we can. We are, thus, deeper and richer, our souls more expressive, from just random happenstance. I am bastardizing a lot of very deep beliefs here, I know, and, simultaneously, sounding like the typical California flake. But I feel the passion of blues somewhere in my body! How about you?