(It was Thomas Wolfe, and he sure was wrong!)
In July of this year, my husband and I took the Catalina Express, a state-of-the-art fast watercraft out of Long Beach Harbor, to Avalon on Catalina Island. Avalon, the main city on the island, is where I met Alan, my husband of 50-plus years, while we were in college. The small island city was Alan’s boyhood home. And this month, we were returning after an absence of 15 years.
Our-bunk mates for the trip were our old buddies, Bob and Donna Fees, college friends and Alan’s business partner of over 40 years. (All these big two-digit numbers…sheesh, we’re getting old). The reason for our trip was a presentation and book signing for my book, POTLUCK: Little Stories from a Big Table. Friends of the Avalon Library (FOAL) were hosting the event (I never met a more dedicated or kind bunch of ladies).
Anyhow, while cruising along in the Express, we sipped wine and discussed our schedule. First stop would be our hotel, to drop off our luggage and, because it was late in the day, hopefully check-into our room. It was during that discussion that we discovered the hotel I booked for the long weekend did not have an ocean view. (Not that not having an ocean view would be a deal breaker, but it had been promised to my friends as part of our accommodations.)
“Are you sure?” I asked Laurie Reiten, a darling gal sitting next to us, who was a semi- local to Catalina and our instant new friend. “I swear there was a picture of Avalon Bay on the website!”
“Nope,” she responded. “I know exactly where that hotel is and it’s nowhere near the bay. In fact, it’s up a super steep street.”
“Are you absolutely, positively, definitely sure that it doesn’t have an ocean view?” I continued, unwilling to accept reality and the fact that I had led my friends astray.
Laurie just shook her head back and forth, smiling sweetly. “No view. I’m sure of that.”
Donna, since she knows me well, wasn’t surprised at all to hear Laurie’s report. Donna has traveled with me many times and knows my enthusiasm and spontaneity can sometimes get in the way of finding out the small details, like location, whether breakfast is included, and whether or not a room with a view will be part of the experience.
I tried to put up a defense. “I guess when I saw the price of the room I just assumed it came with a view. It wasn’t cheap. And,” I mumbled on, quietly, “That damned website showed a view of the harbor!”
Laurie was so right. Our hotel was up a very steep street. In fact, I’m pretty sure the cab was sputtering under the load as it stopped in front of our very tall, very narrow hotel; the one with not a single window facing Avalon Bay.
Our husbands, after unloading our bags in the reception area, gave us each a peck on the cheek and headed for the golf course together. They had called and reserved tee-times from the boat. Donna and I began the check-in process and that’s when we discovered the second thing it seems I should have asked about. Our hotel didn’t have an elevator. And our rooms (are you [expletive] kidding?) were on the third floor. That might not be a problem for some of you folks, but for four senior citizens past their mid-seventies, “no elevator” was not good news.
At first, Donna gamely suggested we carry the bags up by ourselves. She has always exhibited pioneering spirit, so that idea didn’t surprise me.
I quickly countered, “No way Jose. We’re getting some help.” And, I popped back into the reception area and asked for assistance.
A thin, gangly young fella with a big smile and kind eyes quickly came to our rescue and hefted our big bags up the three flights of stairs, going back and forth to the first floor for additional bags, before us two old gals even got to the second-floor landing (Donna and I were following behind with just our carry-on bags in tow).
She and I paused on the second-floor landing, panting like a pair of Bassett Hounds that just returned from a two-mile hike in the Mojave Desert. In between huffing and puffing, I looked right … and spied the view of Avalon Bay, the one I had seen on the hotel website.
“There it is, Donna!” I said, breathlessly. “There’s the ocean view I saw on the website!” I pointed to the end corner of a small patio adjacent to the stairwell. “I knew that stupid ad showed a bay view.”
The patio with the rare and miniscule bay view was painted a garish yellow-white and was surrounded by a solid, chest-high, cinder block wall that made air circulation impossible. It was easily 110 degrees inside that patio, maybe hotter.
“Ocean view, my ass!” I blurted sarcastically between breaths. “Who would go sit in that oven and stare over that wall at the bay? Not me!”
By the time I arrived at my room, the nice young guy carrying our suitcases had serious sweat on the front of his shirt and under his arms. He grunted loudly as he struggled to drag my ridiculously heavy bag up on to the bed. Loaded with books and other junk I needed for the book signing, it easily weighed 80 pounds. (Usually my make-up bag is the heavy one.)