A Treasure on the Sand

CORONADO, Calif. – I like April in Paris and autumn in New York, and all those evocative old Vernon Duke phrases.

“Summer on Coronado” would be the California equivalent, especially at the Hotel Del, that magic castle on the sand. Room rates start at 18 million bucks (not including taxes and resort fees, of course).

Worth it? Totally. The sun glints off this alluring old hotel like ice cream on your chin. Indeed, it probably has that most-California quality of all: a fetching profile. Plus star power.

Were the Hotel Del Coronado in need of a Writer in Residence, I would raise my hand. I would lead guests through the funniest phrases in American literature, while touring its many swanky bars.

By the time I was done, guests would all know one limerick, one dirty joke, one Dorothy Parker witticism that they could casually toss off at weddings, as you would your shirt on a warm evening.

As you know, there is always lots of talk about fashion, facials, manicures, brows. But no one much discusses the allure of a classic little quip, casually thrown.

Anyway, tons of star power here at The Del, lots of history. Four U.S. presidents have snored into its pillows, and it was a sunny exterior in “Some Like It Hot.”

The Del is almost too large to comprehend. Creaky and elegant and nautical, it looks like it might capsize in a storm.

Think of the flings, the ghosts, the sunsets, the hickeys. By gawd, think of the comebacks, the quips.

By the way, another romantic phrase that I like?  “Table for two.” It’d be a fine tag for a food column in the New Yorker, or a Richard Gere movie with Winona Ryder…if she’s still rom-com material. Probably not. But seriously, who is? Not me. Not Gere. Maybe Jennifer Lawrence. Maybe Margot Robbie. 

Suzanne too, were she so inclined. She looks like a silver tea set and waltzes into a restaurant aboard an ocean breeze. “Table for two,” I tell the hostess. They almost always seat us toward the bow.

“I measure time by how a body sways,” wrote Roethke, and this entire island – the visitors, the hotels – waltzes around like little sailboats.

Meanwhile, we crash a Verizon event at The Del, where they are honoring their top performers for the year. Way to go, everyone. Seriously, such a team.

It’s a big party, very lavish, hints of Gatsby, hints of shrimp, though the band was kinda lame. 

I’m of two minds when it comes to our enormous telecom industry. On the one hand I hate it, and on the other I hate it too. Just remember what AT&T did to Time-Warner. Case closed.

But don’t provoke me, I’m on vacation.

True story. On the way in, we cross the Coronado Bridge, then take a left, and another left. Then my son Smartacus calls, reporting that his cellphone isn’t working. What is the PIN number for our account, he asks, as if I might remember off the top of my head. While I am trying to sort through that, Suzanne and I find ourselves back on the bridge heading to the mainland.

“Table for two,” I keep yelling out the window. “Table for two!!!”

It is an easy detour, 30 minutes max. I have to wonder: Has this ever happened to other visitors over the centuries, where they get off the bridge, their kid calls, and they suddenly find themselves back on the bridge, thereby doubling the joy of their long glorious arrival?

I’d hope yes.

Finally, since this is a sort of faux travel piece – like all the faux travel pieces I’ve written through the years — one of the dumps we stop at is McP’s, purportedly a Navy Seal hangout.

McP’s is what you might lovingly call “a dive,” meaning it was built with Christmas tree twine and the lumber from old tree forts. Rather than nails, it is held together by sticky beer and flirty suggestions. In a warm rain, it might well dissolve.

Can’t recommend it enough.

And be sure to drop in at The Henry, a fine restaurant/bar with a perch for people-mocking. Try the braised short rib, with a side of Jameson’s as your vegetable. What I really like in a restaurant is what I really like in life: insane portions.

Honestly, we waddled home, two tourists on the lam … swooning over the old showplaces along Loma Avenue, then back through The Del, where the Verizon types were still disco’ing, unharnessed by time or protocol or stupid societal norms for human movement.

Lord knows what happened after we left. But at The Del, almost anything.

For past columns, or books, please go to ChrisErskineLA.com. Email the columnist at Letters@ChrisErskineLA.com 

13 thoughts on “A Treasure on the Sand

  1. How many hours of human lives have been wasted in the search of PIN numbers? Too many of mine. Thanks for the life and travel thoughts. A great way to start my weekend.

  2. “…held together by sticky beer and flirty suggestions.” Another literary gem! Thank you for capturing the spirit of the Del, which is so iconic, Disney had to make a replica of it for Disney World. The real one is better, no matter how many times you have to cross the bridge to get there. Thanks.

  3. Coronado beaches have been closed for swimming 123 days this year due to pollution from Tijuana. This myth of being a top rated beach keeps being perpetuated. If you can’t go in the water because you will get ill, that’s not a good beach. The Del does have great marketing team though, they own SD.

  4. Stop your pollution whining. Save it for your next “half empty” cocktail hour. Celebrate the good, the cute, the lovely even it’s only a desired fantasy. This faux travel piece is about beauty & joy. Enjoy the too brief journey.

    1. Just pointing out you wouldn’t let your kids near the water. I love the history of Del, but it is living off of its history, not reality of water issues.

      1. Of course the Del is living off its history
        So is Notre Dame, Venice etc. !

        But it surely is not responsible for the pollution of its beaches because of Tljuana’s emptying its untreated waste into the Pacific Ocean. It might have been noted in this column, but clearly wasn’t the point of this romantic muse. ,

  5. The essence of the place as I know it is in your words; victoriana as we still see it, through a glass, darkly and so far away. For a little more of the same dusky old rose fragrance, visit the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, with its ballroom overlooking what at the beginning of the last century was the largest indoor swimming pool in the world. Think standing on the ballroom balcony in your elegant dancing clothes, orchestra playing behind you, watching a girl on a red velvet swing high above the pool, swaying back and forth, back and forth. … And there you have the spirit of The Del; and old St. Augustine,, for that matter. Visit the old town, like The Del a lovely lense looking into the past. Go in December, near Christmas time….
    The parade of the boats, 5 million lights, and the padre-led singing through the dark streets are unique and unforgettable; like The Del.

  6. Yikes! Something wrong with me — I was never enamoured but this was years ago — prefer the small and charming B&B’s up and down our coast. And I still love the Magic Castle in Hllydweird — can’t stay there but that is my idea of Magic!

  7. Ahem. Coronado is not an island but a peninsula. We honeymooned there and celebrated quite a few anniversaries and the occasional Christmas until it became too doggone precious, and I don’t mean in the way you think of neighbor’s new puppy. We sponsored more than a few Navy Seals at McP’s which is a heckuva watering hole and their burgers aren’t bad either. Our favorite to-dos were the paddle boats on Glorietta Bay accompanied with a bottle of bubbly, and the Fourth of July fireworks with the accompanying strains of the 1812 Overture over our portable radio as we laid on our beach towel on the golf course. Good and great memories, to be sure.

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