A Night at the Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco

2 11 2014

The doors to the 8th floor open from the elevator. The hallway of The Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco is the color of cream, decorated with gold-framed photography and glittering sconces. A comfortable feeling of luxury is present, however, I don’t feel as though I might break something.

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I have expectations. Who doesn’t when they travel to a new city? San Francisco had been the center of my conversations for weeks. I had asked nearly everyone what I should do, where I should stay, and what I should eat. The result was an overwhelming number of personal anecdotes that took me north of Sausalito, to a hole-in-the-wall eatery above a laundry mat in China Town. Suffice it to say, after several days of traveling up the coast, I was exhausted and in no mood to entertain such friendly advice. What I really wanted was a cocktail.

“Good afternoon, Miss Butler.”

The concierge behind a desk sits handsomely in a suit. I laugh uncomfortably, unsure of how he knows my name. In jest, I ask him.

“Because I must.”

Well, aren’t you mysterious.

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It seems impossible to talk about San Francisco as a locale, a place to be, a place to visit. The City by the Bay and the stories it offers are transcendent, as though existing simultaneously betwixt millions of separate realities. The sum of San Francisco’s metaphysical equation looks like a kaleidoscope. Somewhere out there, Tony Bennet is looking for his heart, an artist paints a picture, a businessman gets ready for work—I find it all incredibly romantic, yet exhausting on my first trip here.

The Club level of The Ritz-Carlton is alternatively constant. It provides a welcome sense of order, shelter, and rejuvenation from the bustle of life just a few stories below. I wave politely as I pass the concierge and head straight for the Club Lounge doused in wonderful afternoon sun. Dozens of brilliantly crafted edibles await, a sommelier is discussing a vintage and pouring wine, a small refrigerator has several bottles of cold beer. In a city where literally anything can happen, it’s nice to know that should I need another glass of Malbec to accompany my smelly plate of fine cheese, I can surely get it, and with a smile. The food service inside this private lounge changes throughout the day: breakfast, lunch, light appetizers before dinner, and evening desserts. It’s complimentary for all Club-level guests and is a wonderful place to mingle with friends, make new acquaintances, and attempt to discuss the endless activities planned for an evening.

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Inside my room, the calming neutral tones of good taste further relax my mood. The recent renovations where done respectfully to not overshadow the history of Nob Hill, nor discourage the reputation one might expect from The Ritz. White crown molding, classic fixtures, and a deep, very deep, marble bathtub. Proof that contemporary design can coexist with tradition, if one cares to try.

Less than 50 square miles define the borders of the second-most densely populated city in the United States. The busy intersections, lengthy lines at famous attractions, and crowded nightlife can be overwhelming. Therefore, The Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco has all the facilities one might need to exercise or rejuvenate the body or soul, including a fitness center, luxury spa, and personal concierge services.

I press my little black dress, step into black stilettos, and head to the place my soul needed most: Parallel 37.

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In a city known for its epicurean cuisine, The Ritz-Carlton stands proudly behind Parallel 37 as a dining destination worth noting to travelers and locals alike. While waiting for my company, I enjoy a craft cocktail called 8th Street East. It’s prepared slowly with Hooker’s House Rye, Carpano Antica, Campari and burnt orange. I sip slowly, watching as fading light crawls through orange shades covering the windows. The day is about to end—quite deliciously.

Chef de Cuisine Michael Rotondo asks if I have any dietary restrictions before he devises a tasting menu. My response, and recommendation to anyone every in this situation, is complete abandonment. Don’t worry about carbs, gluten, or strange meats. Allow the artist and the team to work, and I swear you will be dazzled.

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The server opens a bottle of Lanson Rose Champaign to begin the meal, presented with delicate slices of tuna belly over lemon puree. It’s esthetically beautiful. My soul is at peace. The seaweed sorbet that rests over a salad of grilled octopus and garlic melts slowly as I taste Domaine Daulny Sancerre, a classic expression of Sauvignon Blanc from France. In the 4th course, and in true abandonment, I delight in my first taste of sweetbread, prepared alongside game bird from South Africa, and paired with Merry Edwards pinot noir. A final course of antelope and rustic assortment of mushroom and pickled beat is the last savory note, accompanied by Hendry cabernet sauvignon from Napa Valley.

Not to be outdone, pastry chef Andrea Correa presents a deconstructed cherry pie and pistachio crumble. The cherries are in season and burst with each bite. I contemplate the meal in its entirety—California cuisine with unexpected global notes mixed with exciting techniques used to amaze taste and presentation. I leave happy and full, rested and lively after good conversation and extremely professional service.

Outside, the white and polished exterior of the luxury hotel hints at a San Francisco I will never know—the architecture belonging to days long since passed, repurposed by the Ritz Carlton to start something brand new. An eager bellboy asks me where I’m headed. And as the door to a black Lincoln Navigator is opened for me, I remember, anything can happen.

“Take me somewhere fun.”

And off I went.





Bloody Knee

21 12 2011

I was late. The merge for the 8 was blocked, probably because the city transit workers knew I would be needing it and decided to test my punctuality. So I redirect the GPS on my phone and get to my interview with two minutes to spare. Whitney 1: city transit workers 0. I jumped out the car, portfolio under one arm, purse under the other, and I trotted like a horse in 5 inch heels down a steep, black driveway, simultaneously trying to pump myself up before I went in, get my mo-jo ready, flip my hair out, chin high. Then, quicker than I could yell any profanity, I was knees flat on the asphalt. The pages in the folder flew up in a confetti of mockery. I pulled my feet under, and popped up as fast as I could without dislocating my ankles. I looked around to assess the damage. I was so stunned that I didn’t even know if I was injured. I was going to be late. Dammit. I picked up the papers and holding back an anxiety attack, tried to reconstruct my confidence. I looked up at the windows to the building. Did anyone see? There wasn’t anyone else in the parking lot, thank God, but I feared that someone above had witnessed my crash. I could just see it. I walk in, and someone says to me, “Hey! Are you okay?” And if that did  happen I would have no choice but to chuck my portfolio of dreams at them and scream, “No! I’m not okay!” Then run out the door crying.

I was in the elevator when I realized something was wrong. My left ankle was throbbing and my right knee was sore. I was too nervous to look. For all I knew I had two inches of tibia sticking out my calf. What a first impression I would make! That’s dedication! I greeted the receptionist and took a seat to wait. Maybe I wasn’t as late as I thought. Now that the adrenaline was slowing, I began to feel pain. My knee was on fire, so I took my hand and pressed it over my thin black slacks. There was blood all over my hand. Perfect! So the entire time I was being interviewed I had blood running down my shin, sticking in coagulated pools to my pants.

I didn’t get this job, but now I kind of wish I had brought up this spectacular display of commitment and self-control. Lifting my pant leg up and revealing that mess of flesh would have definitely been memorable… or gross. Whatever.

I slipped down the stairs yesterday. No one saw that either.





Unemployment Soup

21 11 2011

I have officially moved back to San Diego. I live in a house with three roommates. One of which happens to be a one-year-old. There’s nothing sexy about living with a teething toddler, but I myself am dealing with wisdom teeth pushing through my gum line, and with no dental insurance to cover the cost of the minor surgery, I’m in the same boat the little one is: reduced to screaming and crying, annoying her parents, my other two roommates. At least it hurts to eat.

I am currently looking for work in the general field of my degree, mass media, which includes anything from public relations to sign spinning. I’ve sent out about 20 applications and see only about one interview per week. It’s a slow process, but I feel optimistic. I’m holding out for something that really rubs me the right way. I’m not looking for some one-night-stand. I want to take root somewhere, grow and reap the harvest. This is my full-time job right now: looking for work.

But I guess that’s not just it. I’ve also been babysitting for my roommates when I can; learning that small children are not at all as scary as I thought they might be. We actually have a really good time together, singing and dancing in our pajamas while mommy and daddy are out working and being adults. I’ve started my first book, a memoir, and I’m about 50 pages deep into it as of today. I’ve been running, a lot. I’d like to get back into long distance running, and though it’s been absolutely revolting, the thought of 4 to 5 miles a day, I am pushing past it and finding myself totally consumed by runners high. I sing every Wednesday in Carlsbad, I walk the dogs, and I drink tons of coffee. I checked out the complete collection of Kurt Vonnegut’s work. And when I have time, I write college papers at competitive prices for students. Some people seem to think there’s an ethical problem with this activity, but I disagree.  As long as University of Phoenix is in business, I have no problem helping people achieve a bachelor’s degree. If we’re talking standards of excellence and intellectual achievement, today is not the age to argue over who wrote a silly paper about trade, deficits, and misconceptions in our political economy. I’m just saying. I write almost everyday, but lately it’s been geared towards finding employment and impressing those people with the way I use the word. Funny story:

So last week I had an interview with a reputable travel/timeshare company here in San Diego. Now, this was a very important interview because the job itself seemed almost too perfect. I was interviewing with a woman over a position that would basically require me to manage social media projects for resort destinations in Mexico and Hawaii. Writing stories about travel! Yeah I know. Needless to say I was very excited and didn’t want to mess it up. But I was nervous as hell, and totally sweating as I walked down a long hall to the reception desk where the woman sitting there had seen me coming for at least 2 minutes. The eye contract was weird for that length of corridor. Anyways, afterwards it was really hard to say how it went down, because I didn’t do a whole lot of talking. The interviewer talked mostly about the company, citing the abundance of intellectual capital established within the team of people who had been there for decades, which to me translated to: Everyone here is old, and you…you are very young. And I get that. I just turned 25 this month (thank you all for the birthday wishes), and to an established company with lots of money on the line, I don’t know that I would hire some hot-shot who struts up in a leather jacket. Yeah, I did that. I actually changed my outfit in the last seconds before I left the house because I didn’t think the blue Ralph Lauren oxford was an accurate representation of who I am as a writer/employee. So I threw on a yellow blouse, stilettos, leather jacket and eye liner and headed for the door. I thought I looked pretty cool, which in my opinion, is important for any marketing professional. If you don’t look cool, how is anyone ever going to believe that you’re capable of creating coolness? Which is essentially what we do.

Like I said, the interview went okay, but it was hard to read the woman across from me, a woman who I had done extensive Google searches on in the hopes of gathering any personal information that would give me a leg-up in conversation with her. So when I mentioned that I knew she enjoyed photography, and shoots with a Canon DSLR camera, I wasn’t sure if she was impressed or ready to call security. In this economy, even the person being interviewed should come prepared. Know who you are dealing with. Be ready to make small talk if the opportunity presents itself. But with the interview not affording many opportunities to reveal what a super-secret-internet-detective I am, much of what I learned fell flat. At the end of the conversation I had with her, I didn’t know if I had been interviewed or If I had just had a 45 minute anxiety attack; both were possible, but I wasn’t sure. But then, I was totally surprised when the woman brought up this blog. She said that she had seen it, enjoyed the writing/story and gave me the opportunity to meet with her because the blog ‘stood out’ to her. I thought that was awesome. The pet-project I started over a year ago is now working to get me interviews with perspective employers. Who would have thought? In retrospect, it reveals my growth as a writer in an almost tangible form. I can see the transitions, the shifts from one thought to another, and I’m just glad I was able to write it all down. To keep it as record the things that I have done, the  ideas I’ve had, and the dreams that I hope to accomplish in the future. I’m still not sure if I got this job yet, but I have another interview tomorrow, and so on. Maybe it’s not a funny story, but it’s pretty cool I think. And since cool is part of the business, I guess I’m on the right track.

So that’s it. That’s where I’m at. It’s not as adventurous as I wish it was, not as inspiring as living and working abroad. But it’s a new kind of adventure, one I look forward to sharing with all of you.

The man checking me out at the grocery store yesterday says to me, “You sure are buying a lot of soup.”

And so I say, “Well, it’s cheap. And my erupting wisdom teeth make chewing difficult. And, oh yeah! I’m poor! I’m unemployed, and I have no income and can’t collect unemployment! So yeah! I’m buying a lot of fucking soup!”

I have my bad days too.








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