Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Happy 16th birthday Olivia!

What a day 16 years ago. You came into the world a happy baby with a mop of black hair on your head and blond streaks. You didn't come out crying and even after cleaning you up, the doctors were concerned with your breathing or low oxygen level and then you surprised them with a loud cry. 
That's been the story of your life; quiet demeanor but with a rage of emotions right underneath. 
And now you are 16. 
This is your day to enjoy and be
To enjoy the company of those who love you
To enjoy a great milestone in your life. 
To be.
To be 16.
Soon the world will be yours, every path and road will be open to your choosing.
Soon you will be your own person.
A woman who will be forged by a combination of love, tears, pain, sadness, happiness, tenderness.
A woman who will love unconditionally 
A woman who will dream and cast away sadness and pain to emerge behind clouds and mountains like a new sunrise.
A woman who will stand on the love of those left behind.
A woman not yet to be.

Happy Birthday My Darling Olivia.
Love, Dad.

Cake by Mommy

Not quite finished

Mom and Grammy

Kevin, Bill, Kevin and Jack

The twins and Olivia

Daddy always supporting his baby

Kitty eating watermelon

Kids playing at Pappa Rick's new toy

The Ladies

The Kids

Aya and Didi.

Anthony and his gramma Yolanda

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

San Miguel Cajonos

San Miguel Cajonos, Oaxaca. Mexico

It is much easier to tell people that I am from Mexico City than to tell them I am from Oaxaca or even say "San Miguel" - There are probably hundreds of towns in all of Mexico with the name of a very revered Archangel. Saying Mexico City then is much easier to explain and some will know of the city because of a layover there or trips in past times.
I was born in this town in 1965. (You do the math). A town high up in the Sierra Madre where the fog envelops the mountains from early in the morning and you are truly awoken by the far cry of roosters and dogs. 
Modern times have arrived along with the dollar remittances from places as far as California, Minnesota and New York.Yet, the town still holds a tight grip on some people that year after year, documents or no documents, return to pay their homages to the Virgin or to San Miguel, who dutifully watches over his flock.
I lived here for only a short period of my life. From birth to about my 6th year of life. I remember many people along its muddy streets during the rainy season. Streets that are now covered with concrete but still get flooded with rain.

My father at the time was the only one of the siblings who did not emigrate to Mexico City like his brothers, perhaps because he was the only one who was married then and with kids. Eventually we'd all move to the big city to join my uncles.
While growing up there, I also remember trips to the fields of corn along with my grandfather or with other relatives. Harvest time required all family and extended family members to join in. 
My first language is not Spanish but rather the indigenous Zapotec of which exist many variations even from one town to the next. I was introduced to Spanish when I began attending our local elementary school, General Ignacio Zaragoza. (Big building in center of picture). I still remember my first teacher and perhaps of many in mine and other generations. Don Bernabe Crisantos.
It's been many years since I left, not just there but also Mexico City where I truly grew up. Even though more than half my life has been spent here in the Estados Unidos, that pull still exists and whether it is through pictures or stories of others, I relieve my infancy with each word or Images from San Miguel Cajonos.

(Thanks to my cousin Fernando Zarate for the pictures of his recent trip.)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Tripadvisor Review

This is a follow up to my previous post regarding the guests who left without eating.
It is more of a statement with regards to the reviews posted by people at travel sites like, Yelp, Tripadvisor or many others that serve more as a platform or tool for disgruntled, unhappy customers.
The percentage of good reviews overshadows most of the negative ones, unless a place completely drops the ball in all categories, most reviews are on point. (tripadvisor is where our restaurants are reviewed the most)
My issue is with the disgruntled or unhappy guest that posts an exaggerated review in hopes of hurting a business, just because of a slight crushed ego.
Consider the guest I previously blogged about. I believed my staff and I did everything in our power to not only keep them from leaving but to "guarantee" them a great experience.
They ended up leaving, which is OK for anyone to do at any place, where they are not happy with product and or services. However this people did not even give us a chance and yet, they feel empowered to rate us on: food, service, value and atmosphere.
Granted, their main complaint was about the atmosphere and indeed, that could be rated as low as they pleased.
Unfortunately, the site does not distinguish between the different categories.
So be it. It's the nature of the beast!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Fine dining vs Coffee Shop

Last night an elderly couple walked into the restaurant and immediately notified their server that, they were appalled that we called our restaurant "fine dining" they insisted that this was no more than a coffee shop because of the the way some of the patrons were dressed as well as the level of noise from people talking, laughing and engaging in their dinner.
I walked to the table to apologize and find a way to make them feel welcome. The gentleman was a bit more receptive than his wife who immediately told me the same that she had told the server. "this is disgusting, look at the way people are yelling and it's too bright in here, this is not your steak house this is just your coffee shop" 
I informed them of our new initiative to address dress codes and also told them that I could move them into a quieter area of the restaurant, which they refused. I the told them that we would do everything to make them feel welcome and forget that it was noisy or too bright. 
I walked away to let the server know my expectations with regards to them and to wow them with his service skills and if that didn't work, to Code Red them. (I'm kidding here, we have no code red - disclaimer)
I actually felt sorry for them. Late seventies, maybe older searching for a bygone era. Working in the casinos in Vegas, you come to meet a lot of the old timers and after engaging in conversation, they always speak of the "good old days" and point at the current ways in which people dress or talk or even going as far a pointing at minorities that somehow don't fit in their world. I know they see the color of my skin when they make these kind of comments, or perhaps they don't or don't care.
Not ten minutes later I saw them walking out the door. I could only thank them for stopping by and wish them a good night. To be so full of anger and unhappiness that you'd be willing to go hungry just because you did not like the ambiance in our restaurant. 
Fine dining is: white linens on tables, candles, fresh flowers, subdued lighting, some kind of music fitting of the room, servers in jackets or vests, extensive wine list, etc, etc.
Coffee shop: placemats in place of linen, maybe rolled up silverware, servers in pools or long sleeved shirts, perhaps a tie, two, three page menus, "fun drinks" as options, you get the idea.
Don't go hungry because you may not like the looks of the place, give service a chance, most of the time, that is what makes the fine dining experience possible even in a coffee shop.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Les Mis

It's been years since I last saw Les Mis. I could have seen it last year when it came to The Smith Center here in Vegas. I could have seen the production put on by the Las Vegas Academy but I guess I've always been a purist or call it a bit of a snob when it comes to Broadway shows.
Last night was quite an eye opener.

The show they put on last night was as good as any you see in NY, SF or LA. Of course you'd expect the show to be put on at any of the theaters along the strip and probably because of resources, they chose the Summerlin Library. We are talking about a stage as small as you would find in your local neighborhood theater. An IMAX theater or cineplex is much bigger than this stage and yet, they made it work.
All the actors were right on spot. Javert was more credible and sang much better than his counter part in the most recent Les Mis movie. Jean Valjean could have been plucked from one of the big productions across the country. The Tenardiers were also just as credible and I could go on about every character in the play. They were awesome, they had my wife in tears and she was not the only one. In such a small venue you could hear the sniffling and see the wiping of tears. That proves that this production is as serious as any other one playing anywhere else.
Don't miss it!
Buy your tickets at:
Les Mis tickets

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

The Linq

One of the things we "locals" dislike the most, is having to go to The Strip for entertainment. Traffic, long walks, tourists, and the list goes on, don't make for a good experience. If you're not from Vegas, it's OK. At some point I been a tourist in your town and behaved as such.
Yesterday was one of those occasions. I decided to take the babies out for a ride and I wanted to check out the new attraction in town. Of course it's not easy preparing and packing for the girls, there's finding outfits, shoes, getting them to stand still while I get them dressed and then getting them into the van. That's another saga.
By the time we got on the road it was just over 10:00am. So off we go on our adventure. They love adventures.
We quickly got down to the strip and along Flamingo, even before you get to Las Vegas boulevard, you can see a big sign indicating where The Linq is, so I followed the sign in the direction indicated. As I turn into the street, I can see a lot to traffic in addition to construction traffic. No worries, I slowly make it towards the entrance to The Linq. 

There is no entrance or parking dedicated to this place. Your only luck is going to be to park in one of the adjacent casinos (Flamingo or The Quad).
So I pull into the parking entrance for The Quad and lo and behold, it is only for registered guests or for those who have a "player's card" for their casino. Sorry, not me. 
On the way back out I ask the security guy where else I can park. He tells me that the back parking lots behind Flamingo are an option. As I exit, I see some lots full of cars and I'm not sure if this is what he was talking about. I figure I try the parking structure at Flamingo but before I got there, I had to get back onto LV blvd. and deal with traffic all the way down to Spring Mountain, basically from The Flamingo all the way to The Venetian. 

I end up again along the same street I turned into originally, only now I am looking for the entrance to The Flamingo, which I quickly find. No luck here either, same deal as The Quad for patrons or guests only. Now I'm rethinking my "adventure", go home or find another solution. 
I decide to park at Caesars. 

Caesars is such a huge place and their parking lot is behind what used to be the original Caesars. ( the building you see in Rainman). Now parking is surrounded by so many other towers.
after driving through one of the lower parking levels with no success, I end up on the roof. Finally I find a parking spot and begin to gather everyone. I have a stroller with one seat in front and one on the back. Two babies end up in back seat and one in front and off we go. I can see our destination from the roof of parking lot. Now we just have to walk a good half a mile through the casino, onto the street and across the strip to get to The Linq.
Eventually success!
We get to the big observation wheel and after asking around for directions, there is no signage anywhere. I line up behind some people purchasing tickets to the observation wheel. Finally my turn to get tickets and I have to wait till 1:00pm. It is now 11:30 and I know the triplets will not wait that long.
I say thank you and instead opt for lunch. 

We make our way to Brooklin Bowl and find out we can bowl free for an hour. This deal was worth all the driving around hassle. Babies had a great time bowling, enjoyed their pizza and followed by some very expensive cup cakes at "sprinkles" $12.00 for 3 cupcakes. While we are there, we run into a local celebrity journalist. Norm Clark, who proceeds to interview us and take lots of pictures in the process.
It was a great day on The Strip.

Monday, February 17, 2014

But we've been through a lot

I was going to post this on FB but i figured it was a good story that needed its own page. 

True story at work.

Employee: Hey Cisco, you're married so can I ask you a question?

Me: sure

Employee: how do I tell my mom that I just got engaged?

Me: perplexed look on my face, "just tell her"

Employee: yes, but what do I say.

Me: now I'm intrigued so I begin to ask questions as if she was my daughter. "Where's your engagement ring?

Employee: we just picked it out on line, we'll get it soon.

Me: How long have you guys been together?

Employee: four months.

She must have seen the look on my face, because she followed with.

"But in those four months, we've been through a lot"

 I'm still standing there trying to comprehend what she is saying and she sees this.

Employee: I'm just afraid of how she's going to react.

Me: she's going to react just like I am. Surprised. 

Employee: well, I don't care what she says, "we've been through a lot and from the moment I met him, I knew he was the one"

I am saddened by the thought process of someone I thought was smart, intelligent, etc. 

What is the hurry in trying to grow up so quickly? I'm not saying people have to be together for years before tying the knot but four months? 

Am I being too judgemental?

Maybe I'm just afraid that my daughter(s) would come up to me with the same nonsense.

I don't get it.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Starving and Whining Guy at Door with No Reservation

Dear Whiny guy with no reservation.
next time you show up at a restaurant without a reservation, be nice, patient, and a bit flexible if you "really" want a table.
I am sorry my hostess was slightly busy at door with another guest who had many questions, perhaps - as you suggested- she could have excused herself with the person she was busy with to let you know that she would be right with you.
I doubt you would have just said, "OK"
I doubt it because of your interaction and conversation with me.
Whiny: Are you the manager?
Me: Yes, sir, how may I help you?
Whiny: Me and my companion would like a table but I overheard that you don't have any unless you have a reservation.
Me: That is correct sir, I'll be glad to write your name down and we should have a table in no longer than half hour.
Whiny: You mean to tell me you have reservations for all these empty tables?, as he pans the entire restaurant with his right arm outstretched.
If you've ever been in this position, (As a restaurant manager, supervisor or other), That is the first sign that the person in front in front of you is not going to be very cooperative about getting themselves a table.
After panning the room, Mr. Whiny continues with his "pleasant ways" despite the fact that he stopped me at door with dishes in my hand. Luckily another staff member came by and quickly took the dishes I had and proceeded to prepare the table I was initially headed to.
Whiny: Well, your hostess should have told me that the wait was going to be a long time before she left me standing there for over 20 minutes!
Second mistake Mr. Whiny - exaggeration.
I know you were there perhaps 5 minutes waiting behind the Lady with many questions. I know it was not over 20 minutes. Since I was walking from table to table, cleaning, helping to clear tables, retrieving wines (no pun intended there) for other guests, all while scanning the entire room to make sure everyone is taken care of.
I did notice the distressed look on your face when you got caught behind Lady with many questions and perhaps I should have approached you then, however, I figured my hostess would be able to help you.
Getting back to the exaggeration.
After your comment about such a long wait at door, the only thing I could do was apologize.
Me: I am very sorry that you waited so long and you are absolutely right that my hostess should have taken the time to let you know of the wait.
Whiny: I drove from the other end of town just to come here since you've provided such great service in the past and usually you're never this busy and I never need a reservation.
Me: Again, I can put your name down and as soon as I can get a table for you, well be glad to take care of you.
Whiny: That woman that's waiting was offered garlic bread and I am diabetic and she offered me none.
Third mistake - Using sickness as a way of getting a table.
By this time, I've had it. For a third time, I apologize to you and AGAIN, offer to write your name down. But your obvious intention is to be sat right there immediately.
Me: If you'd like some bread while you wait, I can make that happen.
Whiny: I just cant believe its going to be so long for a table.
As he walks back to his companion, he's obviously upset and not happy. His friend asks me about a "service card" I know what he means by his request but I sort of give him a look that means, where have you been for the last twenty years? This is not IHOP's.
Me: After you check out you will be sent a survey where you can include your comments and experience.
Friend: No, we're not staying here.
and then they walk away.
This is how it should have been:
Whiny: I understand there is a wait and I would appreciate if you could find us a table as soon as you can, I am not feeling very well.
Me/Hostess: I'm sorry about that, let me write your name down and I will seat you as soon as a table becomes available. We do have some reservations in place but I will do what I can.

End of story.