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Guest Column

My first Laguna Beach visit
By Arnie Silverman

“It’s only a hop, skip, and a jump to my place at Arch Bay in South Laguna Beach. Just go south on the freeway to Canyon Road, follow Canyon Road all the way to PCH, go south on PCH to Arch Bay and the address I gave you. You, my wife, Judy, and I will have dinner at a place nearby.” Those were the words from my new boss, Warren Blossom.

After a successful turn as manager of the New York branch of the company I was then with, I was promoted to a national sales responsibility and ordered to report to headquarters in Tustin. I arrived in the morning, met my new cohorts, was briefed on what my new responsibilities were, and assigned an office. At 3 p.m., I decided to disappear and see what the surrounding areas offered. I chose to explore Laguna Beach. While I had never been there, I had heard much about the place and could not wait to see it.

I found the 5 freeway and headed south as instructed. After driving a few miles, I thought that this was the longest hop, skip, and jump I had ever taken.  For me a hop, skip, and a jump was from Manhattan to Brooklyn. As a matter of fact, I started to believe I had driven too far when, alas, a sign indicated that I was approaching Canyon Road South to Laguna Beach. I turned on to Canyon Road and with anticipation viewed the surroundings. There was nothing there, just grassy hills. 

I drove past the art school, a veterinarian, various car repair shops, a winery/liquor store, and various it seemed to me run-down dwellings, and must admit I was pretty unimpressed. It appeared to me as I approached the town that this was like most other shanty beach towns I had seen. It was not until I arrived, where the high, dark, almost black hills rise with the bright, just then setting sun illuminating the background and setting off those hills, that I was persuaded to pull over and just admire the scene. 

Guest Column My first Arnie

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Arnie Silverman

I drove on into downtown LB to PCH, where upon seeing what was called Main Beach, I reverted to my somewhat cynical view of the place. That damned beach is a postage stamp, I thought. What makes it so great? Early for my meeting with the Blossoms, I turned right on PCH up to Cliff Drive and turned left where again my opinion had to be revised. For driving that short street to Myrtle and stopping to view the glorious site of the majestic Pacific, the rugged rocks protruding from the shore and the bright landscaping and foliage of the hill dazzled me. The day was cloudlessly clear, and I joked to myself about possibly seeing Hawaii from that Heisler Park precipice. This is one hell of a site I thought.

I continued south on PCH to Three Arch Bay, found the Blossom residence and was greeted by Warren and Judy, a very successful real estate broker in Laguna. Their place was a large, three-level home perched on a hill overlooking PCH and the ocean. What a view of the ocean and what a delightful home they had. The three of us then drove to a Mexican restaurant at that time at the entrance to the Dana Point Marina. Now, you must understand that I had never been in a Mexican restaurant before and did not know what to expect. Warren ordered nachos and I have to confess that for me they were a taste thrill. Never had I tasted anything better. The sharp cheese, jalapenos, and salted chips were overwhelmingly delicious to me. How many milligrams of sodium I had with that I do not want to know. To top that off, I also had a chili burrito with the hottest sauce offered. Talk about heaven. That was it. Today, on a low-sodium diet, I would not touch those dishes. But it was sure fun that night. 

Impressed now with the city, I settled into a place on PCH called Eilers’ Inn (named after the LB greeter, Eiler Larsen – it’s now called the Seven4One). In reality it was kind of a run-down place. While clean and recently painted, the furniture seemed worn and second hand and by modern inn standards, dated.  What it had was a manager, Kathleen, who was gracious, charming, and genuinely welcoming. The place was owned by three local sisters including Kathleen. Though the bed springs creaked and the mattress was a little lumpy, I found the place charming if not quaint and the location right in the center of downtown was ideal. I stayed there, with several visits back home in Joisey, for three months, and finally sold my house and moved the family to California.