by Bob Sparrow
Twenty-thirteen portends to be an unusual year for me, perhaps even paranormal, what with all the ‘other side’ things that helped usher in a year with a 13 in it. No, I’m not superstitious, but like Michael Scott, I am a little ‘stitious’. While most New Year’s days I’ve watched the sun set into the Pacific Ocean somewhere along the ‘left coast’, this year I welcomed in the new year on the ‘other side’ watching the sun coming up over the Pacific from Hamilton Cove on Catalina Island – truly a unique experience. OK, truth is there haven’t been too many years when I’ve even seen the sun on New Year’s Day, but that’s another story.
If you’ve never been there, Hamilton Cove looks like it belongs on the ‘other side’ of the Atlantic, perhaps on a Greek island coastline or hanging somewhere off the Amalfi Coast in Italy. I suppose if you have been there, it still looks that way, but as if getting away from it all in Catalina wasn’t enough, several of us wanted to get away from the people who wanted to get away from it all – to the ‘other side’ of Catalina. I discovered that Catalina is a little like the moon, in that most people only see one side, although I can tell you now from experience, that the ‘other side’ of Catalina is not dark . . . unless you go at night, then it’s really dark. Like the moon, it’s not easy to get to the ‘other side’ of Catalina, you have to have a pass that gets you through the gate on the road to the ‘other side’ that goes through the infamous ‘Airport in the Sky’, Catalina’s private airport where planes don’t really take off from the runway, the runway simply drops out from under them after several thousand feet and, presto, they’re airborne.
We were fortunate to be in the company of one Michael Amoroso, whose family has lived on the island for over twenty years and owns and operate the Glenmore Plaza Hotel, ‘the second oldest continuously operating hotel in California’, so says Michael’s brother, Jimmy, who manages the hotel. I thought it odd that a hotel in this relatively remote location would have such a distinction so I asked Jimmy Jr., Jimmy’s son who works at the hotel, “Whose #1?” He replied like someone who’d studied hotel history his entire life, “The Hotel del Coronado.” I decided to see what Google had to say on the matter:
- ‘Oldest hotel in California’ – the Benicia in northern California – est. 1852
- ‘One of the oldest hotels in California’ – Murphy’s in the gold country – est. 1856
- ‘One of the oldest continuously operating hotels in Calif’ – National Hotel (also in the gold country) – est. 1859
- ‘Largest resort hotel in the world’ – Hotel del Coronado – est. 1888
- ‘Second oldest hotel in California’ – so stated on Google about the Glenmore Plaza Hotel, but it doesn’t say who’s first or when the Glenmore was established. Wikipedia probably got their information from Jimmy Jr. too.
I also found on Google a picture with a caption that said, ‘Second oldest hotel in California’ – it was not a picture of the Glenmore.
Meanwhile, back on the road to ‘the other side’, just before reaching the airport we see a buffalo standing alongside the road. I’ll tell you the history of how buffalo got on the island . . . another time. After a brief stop at the airport, we start down on the western slope of the island; the paved road turns to dirt. We drive past El Rancho Escondido, a ranch, Michael tells us, started by the Wrigley family back in the ‘30s for breeding Arabian horses – another story too long to tell here. We also pass a vineyard – yes, another story. The road leads us to a west coast inlet called ‘Little Harbor’, where there is no man-made harbor, but a small campgrounds and no campers, no nothing except a beautiful uncluttered coastline, which is pretty much what all of the ‘other side’ of Catalina is. We walked along the beach on this beautiful January day and enjoyed the fresh air, sunshine and solitude.
Our return to civilization is uneventful except for the stories Michael tells us of the ghosts that inhabit the island. Back in Avalon we thank Michael for exposing us to the many stories and sides of Catalina, particularly ‘the other side’.
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