I watched a little bit of the World Cup this year. Really just a little, little bit, but it seemed to be on everywhere I went and so sometimes I paid attention. One day I found myself watching the American team. As it turns out, it was the last time the American team won, and watching that moment of victory, those young guys with all their hope and excitement and pride bared for the whole world to look at, was not unemotional for me. What a surprise that was! I’ve been getting more and more ambivalent about sports every year; I thought I had grown out of them. But suddenly here I was, teary eyed over a team I hadn’t even known existed the day before. I couldn’t really understand what was going on.
And then it hit me. These were high-level professional American athletes who were not getting paid more in a year than my immediate family and myself will collectively make in our lifetimes. They looked different to me, fresher. Or maybe it was only me; maybe I could be more receptive to their game and their emotions because looking at them didn’t plunge me into the overpaid-players-supported-by-delirious-fans death spiral I started experiencing around the time my older brother went into near permanent debt paying for an 11 year “personal seat license” that allowed him permission to buy, every one of those 11 years, a new season ticket to go watch the Raiders lose. Before that I used to like sports.
I like to think that if there’s a place to re-find a love for Monday night football, it’s here at the hotel. Here we are free to enjoy the game without in any way contributing to the excruciating amount of money the NFL rolls around in while it’s fans still struggle under the weight of recession. We, as individuals, are not even contributing to their ratings. And, on the contrary, we are being given free food and drinks just for showing up. For me, personally, it’s still difficult. But I come and I try. I like hamburgers a lot, and you really can just eat as many as you like. Plus the room is big, big enough, even, to forget about why the free hot dogs are there at all.
A recent addition to this hotel’s modest but enthusiastic fan club is Cherry Vanilla. No, she’s not an over-exuberant Ben & Jerry’s fan; this was a moniker she chose while protesting the Viet Nam war. She gained fame as a rock & roll groupie and for playing the title-role in Andy Warhol’s only play, PORK, in 1971. From there she moved on to work as David Bowie’s publicist. After that she became a cabaret performer and then formed her own rock band, and often played at the legendary Max’s Kansas City in New York. When she moved to London in 1977, she hired Sting as her bass player and Stewart Copeland as her drummer, before they became famous as the Police. This woman was a mover and shaker throughout the 70’s glam and punk-rock scenes. And though she will never be the household name some of her friends have become, she truly has a place in our cultural history. The last time she was here, I sat watching her, wondering what that feels like.
Thinking about it, though, a lot of you, our guests, do know what that feels like. Or you will. On a day-to-day basis, I think that we here at this hotel take a bit too much for granted that we’re running our little operation in the Silicon Valley. We give you all your breakfast, send you off to a day of abstract “work,” and have a drink waiting for you when you return. But do we really recognize that what many of you are out there doing for eight or more hours a day is changing our modern world? Maybe not. So, this is something I’m really interested in and some of you, my readers, can answer my questions. What does it feel like to have been a part of something that shifted the entire culture? To be a part of what’s changing it now? Does it fill you up with pride everyday, or is it more of an idea to sit peacefully with, just from time to time?
Maybe we humble hotel hands can even get a little bit of vicarious pride for ourselves from this. After all, it’s well documented that a good night’s sleep can affect a day’s productivity. So, it’s maybe just a little bit possible for the providers of said night’s rest to feel that we have our own tiny role in history. And if you want to know more about Cherry Vanilla, she’s got a new book out (Nov. 1), a memoir called LICK ME – How I Became Cherry Vanilla (by way of the Copacabana, Madison Avenue, the Fillmore East, Andy Warhol, David Bowie and the Police).
It’s a sad and exciting time here at our little hotel. To be honest, we’re just not so used to turnover. People will move around a little bit, sure. Sammy used to prepare the food at night, now he prepares the drinks. Jerry went from bartender to Director of Sales and Marketing. Adam does something different everyday. Internal movement is fine, it breaks up any potential monotony, lets people broaden their resumes and still stay in the family. I guess we try not to think so much of why they they’ll want those resumes, focusing instead on how cool and multi-skilled our family has become over the years.
But now, suddenly, we’ve been blindsided. This month will see the departure of two managers. Two. How will we even recognize ourselves come August?
Panic, however, is not the solution. And so, with the idea that talking helps in times of crisis, I am going to tell you who is leaving and why, and who will replace who and why. That’s right, in true California style, the next pages will be devoted to processing our losses, coming to terms with impermanence and trying to understand the finite nature of all human connection. But I also promise debaucherous stories of drinking and gambling, so don’t leave me!
Let’s start with Mike Pinsel. Leaving after only (three?) years, it would seem as if we had barely enough time to get to know him. But, considering that he was given a room at the hotel when he was first hired, just until he found a place for himself, and then never left, he managed to accumulate hours a little faster than the average employee. Add to that his unquenchable thirst for staff gossip and one can begin to understand how Princess Pencil, as he is every so often referred to, fully knew and was known in such a comparatively brief little wisp of time.
But lest, in the wake of his departure, you should think about a nickname like “Princess,” or maybe stumble on a facebook group called “I hate Pinsel,” I will tell you now that he leaves with all our love and support. Well, support is maybe a strong word, but we are doing our best to understand that he needs to go, finally, and give into his true calling, at least for a while. And so, Mike Pinsel leaves us to become a professional poker player. He’s not going far. If ever you should miss him, he’ll be just down the street at Garden City. The question is, who, now, will step up and give a curious but reticent general manager her daily update on the love lives of her staff?
It’s also true that we lose a little bit of our cool when we say goodbye to the princess. A professional poker player, after all, is pretty hot. But, fear not, we’ve found a way to replenish the cool deficit with his replacement. What hotel do you stay at (sad as it is to think of you in any other but ours) that can boast of mother and daughter managers? Maybe not so many. Perhaps not any. Until now, that is.
Laura has been our housekeeping manager since round about the time when her daughter, Liliana, was learning to write her name. A couple of weeks after little Lili was big enough to not need daycare, she started working at the front desk. Since then she’s graduated high school, been to college. She even left us for a little while; a little youthful rebellion I guess. And now she’ll be our front desk manager. I like to think of mother and daughter managers together in a managers’ meeting. They get along extraordinarily well, is the thing, so they could be like a team, where everyone else is an individual. Subtly threaten the general manager’s authority. Could be good fun ahead!
But looking back for just another moment, we have also to say goodbye to Aaron, our reservations manager. After 13 years. Truly we lose a brick out of our foundation when Aaron goes, and yet he is making the right choice. He’s been here with us since he graduated from high school, working his way in and around just about every position we had to offer him. He has said that this was his college and, as such, he fully completed his course work. He went from the front desk to reservations to manager, was taken on business trips, organized events. He even moved into the hotel for a brief little moment. But he also deferred his graduation for quite a while, knowing that he had come here to prepare himself for something else, but unsure quite what that something was. Earlier this year he took a second job, working something like 12-hour days on the weekends. He was very optimistic at first, but when he started posting on facebook the number of days he’d worked without one off, we knew it was not the solution he was looking for. I think we all started preparing ourselves to say goodbye around then, even though it was the weekend job he let go of in that moment.
This, I guess, is the reality of a young staff. Mostly they are preparing for their lives and, so, will eventually be prepared and leave. I guess we got Aaron for a little longer than we, or he, expected. The work is to appreciate what’s there and not always have to long for more. This is some heavy life stuff here.
His replacement will be Jazz. It’s just fun to write about Jazz, I don’t care what he’s doing. Jazz has already been the sales manager for meetings and events for the last few years, plus he is manager (and sole member) of our IT team, so this is kind of a lateral move for him, probably just our dear general manager trying to stump him a bit because if he stays comfortable too long he gets smug. How could he not? His name is Jazz. Jazz is a slick character and someday he will leave us and make millions of dollars, probably doing something that will improve the general quality of the world, but don’t tell him I said that. Humility is not among his many natural gifts.
Taking over Jazz’s old management position will be Jonathan. The last time I wrote to you about Jonathan, he was en route to becoming a police officer. Had he stuck to that plan, he would have been done and gone long ago. When I talked to him back then he was very idealistic about his future career, full of all the fantasies of being a good cop that had stayed with him since childhood. Little by little, however, he started getting disillusioned. It takes a strong character to really scrutinize an old dream, and then to walk away from it, and this is exactly what Jonathan did. He’s taking business classes now, a little uncertain about how to proceed. Sad to say it, but we’re just the littlest bit happy for his existential crisis. The longer he wavers, the longer we’ve got with him and he is exactly the kind of caring, thoughtful person we rely on to keep the core of our hotel intact.
And now, just to change the subject for one moment, I would like to acknowledge how good it is that we say bellman now, instead of bellboy. I do have two questions though. First, why, given that a moderately strong woman can easily lift more than a moderately weak man, are there never any bellwomen? My spell check won’t even accept that that’s a word! Second, and this is perhaps more immediately pertinent, why is it that, although the head of every other department in the hotel is called “manager,” the head bellman is “captain”? I see nothing significantly militaristic in their duties. It’s true that a captain is many steps below a general, whereas manager seems only a little half step away from general manager. Is that it? Just a way of clearly saying that even though a man may be the boss of all the bellman, still his place is low?
Well, the next man who gets to negotiate that question around here will be Jesse Hicks. Jesse is easygoing, super relaxed and I would imagine that it would never occur to him to feel the imbalance of his title. What’s nice about Jesse is that he makes people laugh; people look forward to him being around and, for his part, he says that the best part of his job is the community. He’s pretty young and hasn’t been manager, or captain, of anything yet. It will be nice to see how the responsibility opens him.
So, that’s it. That’s what’s happening around here. We’re a little emotional, so don’t be shy with your hugs this month. And we promise to try not to cry when you leave, though even the most normal goodbyes are proving kind of challenging just now. Making reservations for your next visit as you check out helps. Just so you know.
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.