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May 20, 2009

Met a reader, met a weaver, and slashed $192 off a hotel rate

May 20. Day 324.

Triple wammy.

1. Met a reader!

After trading a few emails with Claire, whose comments here I always enjoy and who started her own daily blog a few weeks ago called We Love Escondido, we decided to "make the leap" and meet in person. Claire's blog has news and views about her community, she takes her own pictures (here's one), and it has already caught the eye of some well-placed peeps in her city. Nice work, sista!

Escondido is about 30 miles north of San Diego, so we picked a cafe in the middle and, over caramel lattes, talked about blogging, life, careers, Paris, photography, writing, east versus west coast, and, yes, asking.

It was a lovely encounter, and it's making me think more about everyone else out there, typing in a few letters or clicking on a bookmark to reach this page every day. Thank you for following my adventures. It's a strange process -- to broadcast info about myself into the ether and occasionally have something bounce back as a comment or email. But if you're ever in San Diego, oh reader, and you want to team up for coffee or even a joint asking one day, by all means, drop me a line.

2. Met a weaver!

On the way back, I dropped off Mr. A's car at a mechanic for a much needed tune up (a key errand before this weekend -- see below). I took the bus back, and walking from the stop to my house, I noticed a man looking at me curiously. Not "come hither" or "go away," but just with a certain unabashed curiosity. Like, "Do you know me?" or maybe "Wow, you look exactly like my daughter."

He was standing in front of a business called Wonder Weavers. I'd always wondered about the place -- who owns it, and what exactly does a wonder weaver do?

Our eyes met for an instant, I passed by, was about the cross the street, and then turned around and walked up to him.

"Are you affiliated with Wonder Weavers?" (Nothing to lose -- if he was not, I'd just keep walking.)

"I'm the owner," he said.

"Really? Wow! I've always wanted to know who owns this place. What exactly do you weave?"

He invited me into his office.

(Maybe, to those who don't know me, and maybe more to those who do, I seem crazy -- talking to some strange dude on the sidewalk and then following him into his office. But don't worry. I'm actually very cautious, and I'd never ever interact with someone, or somewhere, if my gut told me not to. And I talk to my gut a lot, for various reasons. On the other hand, if I ever stop posting for more than a week or two with no explanation, feel free to call the cops.)

In his cramped office, surrounded by swaths of fabric and spools of thread, Stan the wonder weaver explained his craft. He showed me the antique needles he uses, told me about the industry, how all of his former apprentices have opened stores that try to compete with him, but how he still loves teaching all the same. His mom learned the trade from a French woman early last century, and they've been in business since 1950. Now he works for antique collectors and theaters around the country, restoring fabrics. The rest of the time he sews up holes in moth eaten or otherwise damaged suits, dresses, coats. A few blocks away, his sister and mother repair knits and crochets.

As we talked, a lanky middle aged man came by to pick up a jacket. I figure that, outside the antique clothing collectors, that's the prime demographic: businessmen who care enough to buy quality suits and are smart enough to repair them rather than replace them. (As you can guess, his business is thriving in the recession.)

"There's one weaver for every 10 million people," he recited at one point.

Fascinating!!! Never have I ever wondered how many weavers exist in this society. My asking for the day would be complete, were it not for...

3. Lake Tahoe Discount-o

Mr. A and I decided to head up to Northern California for Memorial Day. It's one of his rare days off, and we're going to milk every minute of it. At first we thought Napa Valley, but I think I'd rather hike rather than let the weekend pass me by in a drunken stupor. And I don't need to ask twice if he wants to go hiking. So we opted for Lake Tahoe.

I couldn't tell you how I did it, but after about a dozen phone calls and 3 hours looking for hotel rooms, cabins and various specials online, I managed to convince a woman at Forest Suites Resort to give me a one bedroom suite for the price of a discounted standard room, as advertised on -- i.e. $90 per night instead of $185. I explained that it's rare we go on vacation, and we're trying to stretch every dollar. She was sympathetic and told me she does the exact same thing.

Since she was very friendly, I tried to get some tips for next time.

"Well, I'm actually always wondering if there's some better deal I missed. Even when I got a great price like this. Silly, right?" I tried.

"No, I do the same thing," she said again. "And since I work in the hotel industry, I know there's probably something they haven't advertised, or something extra they can throw in."

"So in this case, is there anything else I could ask for? Discounted lake cruise, 2-for-1 cocktails at some bar? A final 10 percent off?" (That what I'd seen on other hotel websites.)

"Actually, $90 a night for holiday, you did pretty good. And it's a holiday, so it's going to be really hard to get someone to throw in any extras. But it's something to keep in mind for next time, definitely."

Gained: I'm not sure how to quantify it. I could count the difference between what I paid and the normal price for the one bedroom suite, times three nights, i.e. ($185-$90) * 3 = $285. I could also subtract $90 (online price of a simple room) from $123 (online price of a one bedroom suite) to show what I gained by calling and asking for the best deal possible, rather than booking online. So ($123-$90) * 3 = $99.

To stop overthinking it, for now I'll just average them to $192.
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