Saturday Lunch Isn’t Easy

OK–let’s hit pause for a second. In this life the lowest form of low is the person who says, “Don’t you know who I am?”

I’m not sure how to tell this story. I got a call Thursday from my friend Mike. Mike and his wife Patty were coming to Connecticut from Nashville. Would we like to have lunch Saturday? Uh… yeah.

There are lots of reasons to like Mike. Yes, he’s my former boss and the guy who brought me to Connecticut, but that’s not enough. America is littered with guys (and women) who used to be my boss. He’s a really good guy and, in my presence, has always done the right thing.

Mike is gregarious. He laughs spontaneously more than any person I know. I can still close my eyes and hear him cackling after I said something moderately funny on the news. He was also into computers early. I remember his (and my) mid-80s obsession with “Seven Cities of Gold” for the Commodore 64.

Finding a restaurant for Saturday lunch isn’t as easy as it sounds. I called Assaggio in Branford where I’d gone for my birthday. Nope–dinner only on Saturdays. I continued down my list.

As I was finishing my next call the phone rang back. Assaggio. “The chef will be there preparing for the evening. He insists you come,” said the voice on the other end.

OK–let’s hit pause for a second. In this life the lowest form of low is the person who says, “Don’t you know who I am?” I won’t do that. But I understand why this offer was made and that it might not be available to everyone. I get it. So, I was uncomfortable, sure… but this restaurant is so good and they were being so nice.

Our lunch was great. Unfortunately for Mike and Patty they also had dinner plans. I have no idea how they’ll do that without waddling back to Tennessee.

Rest assured–Ryan, our waiter (excellent) got somewhere between a 40 and 50 percent tip.

The Desert Riviera

“Take some snacks.” Those three words best summarize what this little hotel, the Desert Riviera,” is all about. They were spoken by Larry, the owner, as Helaine and I were about to leave for Joshua Tree. He was offering bags of pretzels, chips and cookies.

This is a definite departure for us. Helaine and I try to stay in well known national chains when we’re on the road. Not so this time. The Desert Riviera is an independent boutique hotel.

We looked at TripAdvisor, where the first Palm Springs listing was for this hotel. Not bad, since order is dependent on member rating.

The comments associated with the hotel fit within two categories: “I love this place” and “There are too many good reviews without any bad – it can’t be true. Beware!”

The reviews are true. This place is a gem. I can’t think of anything bad to say… OK, a few little things, but so tiny as to be inconsequential.

The Desert Riviera is a ten room hotel run by Larry, his wife Patty, and his sister Judy. As he tells it:

Our love affair with the hotel literally began just a few months ago, when Patty and I happened to stroll past and noticed a For Sale sign in front of a very tired but charming small old hotel. As they say… the rest is history. Little did we know, we were about to add another gem to the growing number of mid-century masterpieces brought back from the edge of oblivion.

Our room is modern with accents that scream 1950s. It’s dominated by a king sized bed. On the wall is a large flat panel TV. Off to the side are a bathroom with stall shower and stoveless kitchen. Our room… in fact each of the ten rooms borders the pool.

Every time I walk out of the room, I see what’s in this photo. It’s like I’m in a private residence or club. There’s the pool with stark desert mountains as the backdrop.

There are chaises – certainly more than there are guests. Around the clock, each chaise has a pool towel folded over its reclining head. The pool (currently an amazing 88&#176) is lit and open around the clock.

Adjacent to the pool is the fire pit I’ve written about before (and where I’m sitting now, writing) and a hot tub. There are also a few round tables with umbrellas to block the harsh desert sun.

Limo transportation is provided for free, both to the airport and into town. There are also a few bikes (including a bicycle built for two) in front of the office.

Either Larry or Judy is always here. They run the place as if it’s their reputation on the line. Of course, it is.

Yesterday, Helaine pointed out there are no telephones in the rooms. They’re really not necessary anymore, are they? I can’t think of any adult who doesn’t travel with a phone in his pocket. Anyway, the office is only a few steps away.

As if to make up for it, there’s a cordless phone in the vestibule leading into the office. It’s available to guests for making free calls around-the-world.

There is no way a chain hotel or even larger independent could be as accommodating as Larry and Judy are. With ten rooms, they really do know our names.

So, what’s the downside? The hotel is pretty close to a main road, so you do hear the traffic a little. It was worse when the motorcycles were in town, but I’m guessing that was universal within Palm Springs. I also found the water temperature in the shower fluctuated a lot (though the pressure is great and the towels are large and fluffy).

This was a very positive experience for us. I would definitely come back. It’s also encouragement to find this kind of place when we travel elsewhere… if this kind of place actually exists elsewhere!

The Speaking Season

I would guess, for most people the prospect of speaking in front of large groups would be scary. Not me. Over the course of a year, I’ll speak publicly in dozens of situations. So, by now, I’ve got more than a little experience.

This week it’s the Connecticut Association of Schools on Thursday and Juvenile Diabetes Association on Saturday. Helaine and I plan on being at a walk for autistic children on Sunday – probably no speaking, but lots of hand shaking.

This is my twelfth year for CAS. Usually there are a little over a thousand people at the Aqua Turf in Southington. There is a ‘real’ after dinner speaker, so my time is short and I’m just the emcee&#185.

What is a little nerve wracking is the fact that my emceeing comes in the middle of our 6:00 PM news! So, at the last minute I step off the dais and do the weather with all these people looking on.

It’s sort of cool, because the teachers get a look of me ‘at work,’ if you will. And, a backstage view is always fun.

Saturday I’ll be emceeing for Juvenile Diabetes. I’ve been working with JDRF for about 15 years.

I’m looking forward to Saturday for a few reasons. First, Helaine is coming! That’s very unusual. No one on Saturday will appreciate that but me.

Second, Chris Kirby has put together another video for JDRF, which will be shown. I’ve just watched it and it’s amazing. He shot it (two cameras), edited, did the graphics and post production. His wife, Patty, wrote the copy.

Though I voiced it, that was my only involvement. Believe me – I deserve none of the credit. I’ll try and post a copy as soon as I get one.

I am glad I can use the power of the television station for these good causes. No one tells me I should, but I know it’s the right thing to do. And, I always feel good that I did.

&#185 – Last week I got an email asking what I wanted for dinner. Going to the Aqua Turf and not getting the prime rib is like going to Italy and not getting the Italian food.

Southwest Airlines Understands Customer Service

Possibly you remember how in January, Helaine, Steffie and I were scheduled to fly to LA from Hartford for a cruise? Though we left ourselves more than a full day of leeway, a major snowstorm was coming.

I called Southwest, and after some cajoling and pleading, our reservations were changed without charge. I wrote about it when it happened, calling the entry Southwest – May I Kiss You On The Lips?.

I’ll complain when things are bad, so I should compliment when they’re good. I did, by writing a letter to Southwest (as much as I love them, they’re very email un-friendly).

Today, I got my reply from Customer Relations (read it here) and a copy of the note Colleen Barrett, Southwest’s president, sent to the people who helped me (read it here). Do you think that note will help the next folks in my situation?

Damn right it will.

Just as important, the note from Southwest’s Kaye Kelly to me said, “I, of course, did back flips when I read how Patty and Linda were able to “bend the rules” and change your itinerary as you requested.”

Amazing! At Southwest, employees get rewarded for bending the rules to help a customer. This customer couldn’t be more pleased to let you know.

Sometimes You Just Get Lucky

I’ve been working with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation for well over a decade. I’ve mentioned it here before. I am lucky enough to have the ability to give away my bosses TV station for charity – and I do.

A few months ago, one of the people I work with, Chris Kirby, also decided to get involved with JDRF. I’m not sure why he did it, just as I’m not sure what drew me to them. It happens.

Chris called the local chapter director and made an offer. He wanted to put together a video. Chris is the perfect person to do this. He’s our art director at the TV station.

He once told me he couldn’t draw. Maybe he can’t. Truth is, he’s an unbelievably talented designer totally at home with the digitization of art.

You’ll see. This is leading to an example.

The day of the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes, Chris was there with his home video camera. After the walk, his wife Patty wrote a script, I voiced the track, and Chris created a presentation that will help JDRF get out the word and raise more money.

Virtually everything in the video was created by Chris. It’s an astounding undertaking. It runs 6:30 and you can see it by clicking here.

I am honored he allowed me to voice it.

Another Perfect Day In Nashville

IF I ever say I want to play golf with you – say no. Do not encourage me.

I’m not sure I want to say anymore, except, in a fair and just society, some law enforcement entity would swoop down on my house, take my clubs and burn them – publicly.

I am not exaggerating. This is not hyperbole. I should not be allowed on a golf course.

‘Nuff said.

The rest of the day was very nice, including a drive around the Nashville ‘burbs. There are a boatload of new, huge, beautiful homes going up. I guess I was surprised to see that.

Tennessee, with no state income tax and labor laws that favor business, has become a mecca for economic growth.

My hosts, Mike and Patty, have been more than nice to me. I called Helaine on the phone and told her, if they keep this up I might try to get myself adopted.