Scott Anderson took a cue from a wall rack and set up the balls. He slid the stick over his hand and said: "This table has a bay-side roll. Unless you know that, you'll lose every time."
He tapped the ball. It rolled slowly down the green felt, then made a lazy last-second turn into the left corner pocket toward San Diego Bay.
Scott Anderson is smooth and savvy, but he's no pool shark. He's the amiable general manager of Hotel del Coronado, now in a spirited countdown for its 100th birthday in 1988.
The full-sized billiards table over which he leaned is almost that old. It is not surprising, in this eccentric hostelry, that the table is not in a games hall, but in a guest room--Suite 545, to be precise.
Suite 545 seems born to party. There's a living room, bedroom, two baths and this other room--with the billiards table and a five-stool, wood-and-mirror-backed bar.
In a closet is a wooden top that converts the billiards field to a dining table. Formal chairs stand nearby.
But that's too grand for me. I prefer something more cozy.
Like English Resort
My favorite rooms may be those with lanais that flank the sea which, in keeping with the prevailing quirkiness, is to the south. No two of these rooms are exactly alike, but then they are not so different. Bristling with wicker and louvered doors, they are akin to those verandaed resorts of Brighton.
One extraordinary room is at the southwest corner of the third or second floor with views to Point Loma and the sea. I cannot remember its number and that is just as well. It is usually rented years in advance by romantics who want to return, or corporations that want to impress.
After lavish restoration, the original building is visually much the same as when it welcomed its first guests in 1888, a boggling beauty of the Victorian era, an ornate confection with spanking white sides and flaming red turrets, one of the larger wooden structures anywhere.
The hotel has had electricity since the beginning, and claims to have been the first hotel outside New York City to use the newfangled lighting. Thomas Edison, who invented the electric light bulb just 10 years before the hotel opened, came West to check the installations.
Small signs were posted in each room to educate and reassure guests, and one of these is displayed in the hotel's Hall of History:
"This room is equipped with Edison Electric Light. Do not attempt to light with match. Simply turn key on wall by the door. The use of electricity for lighting is in no way harmful to health, nor does it affect the soundness of sleep."
What innocent days. And nights.