Catalina Island
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November 25, 2017 - 8:51am

Articles by Jim Watson

EDITOR’S NOTE:  This is the third in a four-part series on the author’s trip to China.  Jim Watson is the author of “Mysterious Island: Catalina,” available at Amazon, Kindle and in stores in Avalon.

Since this wouldn’t be a proper Mysterious Island series without a mystery or two thrown in, I thought I’d relate a couple of minor oddities I’ve experienced here.

You’ve no doubt heard of April in Paris.  How about December in Beijing?

It’s after dark on a sub-freezing night in this legendary and mysterious city whose name literally translates to “the northern capital.”  

Outside, a frozen, arid wind from the vast Gobi desert whips through the hutongs and alleys near my hotel.  

It’s a tricky thing, and ultimately useless I suppose, to calculate the wind chill factor when you are 30,000 feet above the Aleutian Islands flying 500 miles an hour through air that is 65 degrees below zero.

The wonders of modern aviation technology—cleverly hidden by the airline company behind subdued cabin lights, comfortable chairs and regular meal and beverage service—never cease to amaze me.

Only 5 feet from me outside the window it’s a perilous place.  

In the first couple of years that I lived on Catalina Island after moving here in 1995, I found myself from time to time in the position of having too little money to even buy a boat ticket off the Island.

My predicament never lasted for long, of course.  Sooner or later, a paycheck or some other form of revenue would materialize and the cash account I kept at the Bank of Levi Strauss would right itself once again like a capsized sloop.

A veritable Catalina landmark has been slowly disappearing before people’s eyes over the past week in the form of the demolition of the old Catherine Hotel.

The property, located at 708 Crescent Ave., was purchased by the Catalina Island Conservancy two years ago with the intention of building an interpretive center and visitor center on the site.

This week we look back on a little tidbit of Catalina’s history; a tidbit of the variety that you probably won’t hear on any tour or read in any history book.

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a three-part series.  Jim Watson is the author of “Mysterious Island: Catalina,” available on Amazon, Kindle and in stores in Avalon.

“Goodbye God, I’m going to Bodie.”

—Early California settler

Leaving Las Vegas on Nevada State Route 95, the traveler is presented with either a desolate landscape or a beautiful one, depending on your point of view.

Earlier this year I told you I was going to try out a new variation on this column called “Mysterious Island Goes to (fill in the blank),” and like any good newspaperman I follow through on my threats.

This new feature will be a sort of “on the road” idea whereby I will leave the confines of the Isle of Romance and venture out into the so-called real world.  

From these distant lands, I will bring you the same tales of strangeness and amazingness that you have all come to know and tolerate.

Catalina Island may be a figurative shining beacon to the world of romance, adventure and recration in general, but for decades the Island has provided a beacon that literally shines a path to the world’s airlines that come to Southern California.

I am, of course, referring to that bowling pin-shaped structure on the very tip top of Mt. Orizaba in the Island’s interior.  Though approaching obsolescence in this day and age, the beacon has been putting out the welcome mat to approaching airliners since its construction back in the 1950s.

This weekend, (Saturday, Oct. 4-5) Avalon residents and visitors will thrill to the sights and sounds of aerobatics, high-performance engines and frankly awesome planes at the Scheyden Catalina Air Show.

While modern-day air shows and aviation are supremely safe by any metric one cares to use, like any segment of our technological society it has had its share of trials and tribulations.  In other words, to get where we are today took a certain amount of sacrifice and the world of aviation is no different.