Archive for June, 2009


June 13, 2009

Mmmmmmmmm Friday.  Armies of weekend wankers swarming upon the hotel like a plague of locusts, and that’s a slight upon famine inducing locusts.  Sorry, locusts.    Locusts are more organized, have better manners, and have better taste in food.

Hmmmmm...biblical plague?  Must be Friday.

Hmmmmm...biblical plague? Must be Friday.

There’s something about Fridays – being cut loose from the week and thrusting themselves into the weekend – that puts people in a fucking frenzy.  Understandable, but for someone who’s weekend typically starts at 11pm on a Tuesday?  Fuck you.  I’m no more amenable to your acting a needy, arrogant twat because the horrendous traffic is putting your massage appointment (or – satire adjusted for current economic situation – your consumption of deep dish pizza) is being put in jeopardy.  And of course when my shift starts – 3pm – is when guests seem to be whipped in to the greatest of froths.  I swear our front doors somehow magically caffeinating each and every already agitated spazwit coming through them.  But then that wouldn’t account for the very first phone call I picked up today, from Philadelphia, which only served to frame the rest of what was an archetypal Friday:

  • Larry from Philly calls and before anything else wants to know about strip clubs in Chicago (in hindsight, I’m shocked this guy was able to refrain from saying “titty bars” at least once).  He’s vetting what are ultimately the only 2 strip clubs near downtown to make sure they’re worthy of bringing his girlfriend.  Great.  And once I assure him we’re dealing only with places of the highest quality where lonely boners go to be teased, he inquires about getting a limo to take him and his girlfriend there.  Ya know – gotta do it right.  And when I tell him his options, he is sure to ask if they’re classy – “They’re not old, right?  They’re nice?  Classy?”  A classy limousine is like a classy leopard thong.  But I ensure that I will enlist only the finest of carriages to transport him and his vaginal punching bag to – and since Larry is splashing out tonight….FROM! – the house of $20, two minute dances that have more to do with pastie-obscured nipples than they do laps.  Arranging such a high class operation requires a call back, and Larry tells me that when I do, he may be forced to be aloof because – although his girlfriend is fully aware they’re going to a strip club (he yelled to her while on the phone with me “BABE – WHAT TIME?”), the weinermobile was a surprise.  And FYI – he asked, but $250/hour and a four hour minimum was too rich for Larry’s blood.
  • While I’m on the phone with Larry, I’m watching the pockets of Minnesota Twins fans, in town for their first trip to Wrigley Field in eight years, navigate the lobby, the first built structure they’ve been inside in presumably the last 20 years without copious amounts of stained hardwood.  Hey guys!  Love your frayed ball cap bills and sandals!  I suspect Wrigleyville apartments will suddenly find themselves 20% more rented after this weekend.  Ditto for douchebag Wrigleyville bars – this could be like Muslim pilgrims stumbling upon Mecca after eight lonely years in the American League.
  • Who’s next……you sir!  A one way car rental to Cincinatti,  Ohio?  Great!  Sure you wouldn’t rather just have me direct you to the nearest cliff to drive off of?  No?  Ok – dead man walking!
  • Then on to the Eurotourist who won’t leave until he is 110% certain Magic Slim (“mah-jeek sleeeem”) is playing at Kingston Mines.  I’m sure Magic Slim is looking forward to singing just to you, Fabrice.  Can’t wait for the connection you guys will make when he’s wailing about losing his wife/job/life – definitely a metaphor for when you can’t find your kids the Nintendo DS game they want at Best Buy.
  • Then the lady who wanted a birthday cake in her room upon arrival.  The card should read “Happy Birthday Barb.  Love, Jen”  Great – shall I send up a pack of hockey cards, a softball glove, and 6 pack of Fruit of the Loom tighty whities as well?
  • Next – couple who decided against having me order theater tickets before them because they’d end up being about $20 over face value.  Eek!  And the loudmouth fucking Boca Raton bystander who couldn’t stop telling them how great Jersey Boys is.  I SAW IT IN NEW YORK!!!
  • After that, the winner who had to know “the best” way to get to the Allstate Arena.  Andrea Bocelli concert.  Thank you for having me explain in regimented detail the intricacies of taking public transportation there, as well as devising a mindbendingly convoluted plan to catch a cab back (“yeah, I think walking 4 blocks to a Pizza Hut and waiting 30 minutes to catch a cab is a great plan”) and then revealing you have a car and are willing and able to drive.
  • Finally the guy who said he had a really Dumb Question – “Can you bring wine glasses to my room?”  Why yes!  That is a dumb question!  Not as dumb as you having the wine store, where you purchased your wine, open the bottle for you because you didn’t think a 4 star luxury hotel would have a corkscrew, but pretty fucking stupid nonetheless.  Will you be calling us later with another Dumb Question like “are you able to replace the towels we’ve used with laundered ones???”

And that, my pets, was the FIRST FUCKING HOUR of my shift.  Seven more to go!  Plenty more fun after that – shitheads to need heart to heart talks on “REALLY GREAT restaurants” where they can wear man sandals (mandals – it was 70 degrees tops in Chicago today), and stroller pushing twits who demand “REALLY GREAT restaurants” they can bring their 2 year olds.  Yes madame, may I suggest the Gilded Pacifier?!

I’ll leave out the bit where Larry checked in, douchebag uniform well intact (head to toe Ed Hardy – including Louis Vuitton-esque Ed Hardy bag), along with his Newport menthol spokesmodel girlfriend.  And then harped on me to make sure the limo was on time.  Then called me at 10pm when it arrived to say he’d be down for it in about 15 minutes.  Then finally came down at 10:45pm.  To get a band aid.  And take two martinis back up to his room.

God can eat a bag of shit – I’m only thankful when Friday is over.

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Sunday
June 8, 2009

If you watch Seinfeld, or obsess over it like I do, you’ll recognize the following exchange:


Kramer: What’s today?
Newman: It’s Thursday.
Kramer: Really? Feels like Tuesday.
Newman: Tuesday has no feel. Monday has a feel, Friday has a feel, Sunday has a feel….
Kramer: I feel Tuesday and Wednesday…
Jerry: All right, shut up the both of you!


I think maybe I’ll write a multi-part piece on days of the week.  In the concierge world, days do indeed have a feel (though the jury is still out on Tuesday).  Let me start with Sundays, which most definitely have a feel.

They suck.  Sundays fucking suck real bad.  The majority of the hotel checks out each and every Sunday.  Occupancy typically goes to about 25% from a turgid 90-100%.  You think I’d be fucking thrilled, and believe me, I am happy to see most every one go, but I’m about as happy to have the remaining 25% left behind as I am dingleberries.  The people still lingering come afternoon, for my shift (the skank shift), either don’t know what they’re doing there, don’t want to be there, both, or are just clueless altogether.  I’m suspicious of anyone that approaches my desk on a Sunday after noon, and I brace myself (read as: preemptively drive my blood pressure to boiling and hold back exploding on those who say hi in passing) accordingly.

The dessert that 9 out of 10 baby seal clubbers prefer.

The dessert that 9 out of 10 baby seal clubbers prefer.

Today was naturally a typical Sunday, though defnitely not as annoying as most.  Observe today’s very emblematic happenings:

  • deal with a guest who asks us to reserve a suburban taxi for him – against our advice, knowing they’ll be late – and who is annoyed because the suburban taxi is 25 minutes late
  • deal with the annoyed taxi driver who is pissed the guest left in another cab, despite is egregious tardiness; that one was at least satisfying in that I was able to let the taxi driver know what a dumbshit he was being, without any repercussion;  if only more people whom I could be a complete dickhead to without career ramifications would fuck with me, I’d be a happier, healthier me
  • the guy who insists he ate at an Italian restaurant at “14th and State” a year ago, but doesn’t recognize the names of the only two Italian restaurants in that area, and pauses furtively when his wife suggests he call the concierge at the Hilton who recommended the restaurant way back when – pause all you want, fellah!  I know how this “I ate at a restaurant in ’93…” game goes, and if you want to play it with the Hilton, leave me the fuck out.
  • the guy who wants to know if the restaurant in a nearby mall is open at 8pm on a Sunday – for cake.  And then acts like any other recommendation on where to get cake on a Sunday evening after 8pm is idiotic
  • the couple who very humorlessly asked where to get strawberry shortcake – “Your restaurant doesn’t have it???”  Isn’t there some fucking absurdity (or at least shame) to asking a complete stranger for strawberry shortcake???  I’m not saying I’m exactly wandering barefoot in a bombed out Dresden in a Vonnegut novel, but Christ – who eats strawberry shortcake?
  • the obligatory “First time here, what should we do?” question.  How about buy a fucking guide book 3 weeks ago?  That’s what you should do.  The “What should we do” question could easily be interpreted as “I will stop by  your desk at least 10 times a day for the next 72 hours and I guarantee you will not see a dime from me.”
  • the woman who went through a list of Chicago’s most mediocre restaurants and casually followed them all up with “So you’d say that’s one of the best?”  Huh?  Did I give you that impression by simply not farting into the phone when you mentioned them?
  • the 40-something Spanish yuppie (my favorite!) who interrogated me about somewhere to go for live music – preferably rock – or house music, and that would have people of a “similar age”.  This encounter led to a near record amount of “Well today is SUNDAY…” utterances, as if there are rock bands and house DJs trampling one another to get to the places where they can play for shallow, arrogant, asshole Spaniards sporting khakis and Tag-Heuer watches on Friday and Saturday.
  • the girl who was fucked off I couldn’t be bothered with the question of who, other than Northwest, KLM’s corporate partners might be – and that was a hotel employee

You see, the idiotic questions aren’t limited to just the hotel guests.  And today was a glaring exception to the Standard Sunday rule of someone who’s not even staying at the hotel asking for something totally outrageous.  It rarely lacks the audacity equal to asking for a fucking kidney, and when you ask for their room number, they get all apoplectic.

I hate Sundays.

The Ocean
June 5, 2009

db11

Guests often email us questions about their trip before they arrive.  I responded to one such fellow from Dublin who replied “Oh with a name like that you must be Irish!”  I do have a real mick name, so I admitted to the guy “yeah, I’m Irish, my family comes from County Cork,” blah blah blah.  He had a few more questions and emails after that, was always excited to make his first trip to Chicago, and kept throwing in “we’re both Irish!” references like he couldn’t believe they were giving  filthy Irish sheepshaggers jobs over here in America.  But he wasn’t an ignorant, self-important asshole, like most of the emails I respond to, so I replied in kind.

I forget about it until yesterday when the guy checks in.  Introduces himself, and says he has something from “the homeland” for me when he gets back from dinner.  Great – I’m thinking it’s Paddy Whisky or a cable knit something or other.  I don’t see him before my shift ends, but my colleague says he went into the bar (insert Irishman in a bar joke here).  Sure enough he’s there cradling a pint of pish, and I tell him I’m off for the evening and he says “Oh great!  Come with me!  You’ve got to see what I’ve brought for you!”  I did have visions of him pulling out a hand grenade, or a teddy bear or something equally frightening, but I was prepared to run if need be.  He reaches into his jacket and pulls out a plastic bag with two store bought Clonakilty sausages – one blood pudding, one white pudding.

“Are you married?  Do you eat breakfast?  Do you know what this is?  You do?  This is sausage, blood sausage.  Have you had this?  You have?  Good.  Listen, you cut the stuff up into discs like this, and you fry it, and you cook an egg, and you have a proper – oh fook it’s so good!  I had the fookin stuff in my suitcase and I was afraid fookin customs would see it and think I had a fookin nook-yoo-ler bomb. Oh fuck!  This here is from Clonakilty, I think you said you come from Cork, yer family does, and this is made in Cork, so I brought it for you, and oh fook!”

Conakality Black

And he goes on.  And I love black pudding.  I haven’t had it in ages.  I can’t believe this guy went out of his way to go through the trouble of lugging two fucking sausages across the fucking world to a schmuck like me just because I told him not to take the airport shuttle and where to get a good steak.  I thank him profusely, and went straight to the store for butter and eggs for breakfast.  This morning I’m up at the crack of 11.30 and into the pan go the soft, coarse sausage discs; suet, fat, and various other animal products sizzling and popping.  Oh man, I forgot how good this stuff tastes.  Upon swallowing the first bite I envisioned myself cooking it for dinner too.  That good.  And I couldn’t get over the fact that a complete stranger would be thoughtful enough to make it all possible.

So I wolfed down half the black pudding, and maybe a quarter of the white pudding along with scrambled eggs and a piece of toast i made by sticking it in the pan with the pudding and letting it sop of the greasy goodness.  Fast forward about 5 hours, and, well….let me just put it this way – ever take a dump that smells like the Jersey shore?  Like you pooped out horseshoe crabs, rotting seaweed, and part of the Atlantic Ocean?  That’s when I started thinking about sausage, and how I usually see it in a refrigerator, and it’s probably not good for sausage to travel 3,000 miles in suitcases, which generally provide little to no refrigeration.  And then I started thinking how much fat goes into blood sausage, which surely must preserve it, even for transatlantic voyages.  And then my stomach exploded again, and I went into a trance where all I could see was this guy pulling sausage out of his jacket and the smell of polluted ocean with a hint of sweaty gym.

So I guess the lesson here is for me not to be so nice to guests.  I guess.

Best Guest Ever
June 2, 2009

Well I finally encountered the ideal guest.  It’s taken me nearly 7 years, but it happened.  I wasn’t sure what shape the Best Guest Ever would take.  It turned out to be a Cool Dude from California.  Equal parts:

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He looked like a worn down Tom Selleck, was in the pre-leathery stages of maximum sun exposure, was unpolished, a bit brusque, but only to get to the damn point and move on, though definitely not in any hurry.  He’s from California, wine is his thing, and he likes to try new restaurants.  He made sure to mention he was going out on his own, but couldn’t promise he’d be dining alone for the entirety of his stay.  Normally that would creep me out coming from a guy with a Magnum PI mustache, but when uttered with the coolness of The Narrator from The Big Lebowski, I could only think “well sheeyut.”

I first encountered him when he came by the desk to ask about the restaurant Avec.  It is an amazing little contemporary American and mediterrenean enoteca with incredible food and wine, great informed and laid back service, a really cool crowd, and somewhere I never, ever recommend to guests.  Avec is tiny, doesn’t take reservations, employs communal seating on rigid, utilitarian furniture, serves food and wine with imagination – just waaaaaay too many pitfalls for the overprivileged, bloated, self-important, nitpicking ninnies I spend most of my time advising.  Occasionally I do get someone sophisticated (the cuisine) and equally unpretentious (no reservations accepted) enough to send over to Avec, but most often it’s still some sort of New York Times/Zagat guide badge of honor that they’ve been there, more of a trophy to check off their list.  It’s flabbergasting how many people hone their palates simply to impress others, rather than enjoy food.

But not Cool Dude.  He did a minimal amount of research about Chicago restaurants.  He landed in our friendly city, struck up conversation with people – probably over cocktails – and got their opinions on said restaurants.  He stopped by the concierge to make sure he wouldn’t need a reservation, and even if he did, hell, he might go anyway – he was flying solo and preferred to eat at the bar anyway.  And so he went to Avec, and god dang it if he didn’t love the place.

He stopped by the following afternoon to report his findings – varied, well curated, reasonably priced wines, knowledgeable servers, delicious food.  He sat at the crowded bar, went with what the knowledgeable servers suggested, and had a cool time.  He did mention that he nearly got in an argument with the executive chef, but she is, by just about all accounts rather cuntish, and he apparently relayed it to one of the restaurant’s owners, who he rubbed elbows with most of the night via sitting at the bar.  Not bad.

So we talked about what the next restaurant should be – he had gotten recommendations from people at Avec, a restaurant with good food, knowledgeable servers, and a cool crowd (how novel!), and lo and behold they were damn good recommendations.  But he wanted to think about it over a good bottle of wine he had brought with him.  He needed a corkscrew.  At 3 in the afternoon.  (Well sheeyut.)  I asked him if he needed wine glasses – red or white?  “It’s a white Burgundy and it’s just me, unless you guys want to try it too.”  I declinded on account of a hangover (and my colleague just looked incredulous), and felt not unlike The Dude when he crosses paths with The Narrator, but all too briefly and unwittingly passes up an opportunity to meet minds with some kind of Wild West oracle.  Again – you don’t hear something like that come out of a mustache framed mouth and not clinch your goosebumped buttcheeks unless it’s clearly a Cool Motherfucking Dude.

That night he went to The Publican, another altogether kick ass restaurant, sort of a sibling of Avec, and best described as a contemporary American version of an Old World beerhall with simple, but incrdeible food focused on oysters, snout-to-tail pork, and artisinal beer.  Just like Avec, it’s a mindblowing restaurant that I rarely send guests too, because, well – shellfish and pork?  Oy vey!  But naturally Cool Dude loved it.  He actually had the same server he had at Avec, and basically put himself in her hands as far as ordering.

The next afternoon, Cool Dude – presumably after smoking Marlboro Reds most of the morning – asked where he could get a good cheese plate in the hotel.  I laid out his choices, and he just asked for the simplest, since he had a “great bottle of wine” in his room and just wanted to polish it off before going out to yet another fantastic restaurant (The Bristol).  So let me get this straight – the routine is stay out all night eating incredible food, try to get some pussy, get up around 11 the next morning, scratch your ass, start drinking kick ass Napa and Sonoma wine at 3, maybe with some cheese, then go to another incredible restaurant to drink more epic wine, and try and get laid again.  Well sheeyut!

I still can’t decide if I admire this guy because he made my job so incredibly easy, or because I want to be him.  It just can’t be bad to travel to great cities – with top drawer wine in tow – and be bothered to do nothing more than eat and drink well, and maybe get ass.  I sent an email to a friend who is essentially the closest embodiment of a real life Jeffrey Lebowski I will ever know describing Cool Dude, and his response was:
“wow,
I like the sound of this dude
operates on our plane
refreshing
(respect a dude who brings his own.)”

I’m not sure how long it will be before I encounter another guest with such good taste who will forgo their self-importance for experience, or effortlessly trust my opinion, or take such easily rewarded chances in lieu of going to the shithole that the asshole next to them on the plane said to go to (I’m looking at you, Rosebud), or with such a mind melting mustache.  I am conditioned to advising complete and total wankers with endless niggling requests, idiotic requisites, and hankerings for food that speak to their offensively boring or obnoxiously convoluted palates.

Which is why I was so durned taken aback by Cool Dude.  He knew what he was doin.   I don’t know about you but I take comfort in that. It’s good knowin’ he’s out there. Cool Dude. Takin’ ‘er easy for all us sinners. Shoosh.  I sure hope he makes it back some day.

Say, friend - you got any more of that good sarsparilla?

Say, friend - you got any more of that good sarsparilla?