The Whaling Bar, temple to political incorrectness & backdrop of my childhood, to close

whaling bar la valencia

Above: Friend Jayne Battle of Jayne’s Gastropub in San Diego shares our pain in saying goodbye to the beloved Whaling Bar at La Valencia hotel in La Jolla, where I grew up.

With the thought of its closing burning it my mind, it’s painful for me to explain the role that the Whaling Bar played in my life.

It was the setting of my childhood, the place where we went to eat with my grandparents who lived in La Jolla and my grandparents who came from Indiana to visit with us.

It’s the one restaurant where my grandma Jean (my mother’s mother) loved to go. And it was the restaurant where, as a six-year-old, I watched in amazement as my zaidi, Rabbi Parzen (my father’s adoptive father), ordered every dessert on the menu, including “Baked Alaska” and “Napoleon.”

whaling bar mural

Above: The theme of the Whaling Bar is — you guessed it — is whaling. Click the image (take from the hotel’s website) to enlarge. The entrance is decorated with a handsome collection of carved and engraved whale tusks. Can you think of anything more politically incorrect? Well, yes, I know, you can. But they sure don’t make them like this anymore.

It’s where Mrs. Lipschitz — grandmother of Marc Lipschitz, a Hebrew school friend of mine — eats dinner every night (she lives in the hotel).

And it’s one of the first places where I took Tracie P the first time I brought her to La Jolla.

It’s also where Raymond Chandler drank during one of his most productive periods (I grew up in the house next door to the house where he lived, although he was long gone by the time my family moved to San Diego).

Here’s what my friend David Klowden, a San Diego-based writer, posted on his Facebook the other day:

    Dear Friends–Please join me on Saturday, Feb. 2nd for cocktails at 8pm at the venerable Whaling Bar in the Hotel La Valencia in La Jolla on the last night of its existence. This bar is where the greatest hard-boiled noir writer of them all, Raymond Chandler, hung out a lot during the 1940s & 50s during the time he wrote The Long Goodbye, Little Sister & Playback. Famous folks like Gregory Peck & Dr. Seuss liked drinking in here. Its well-preserved & always empty dining room has been one of my favorite secret writing spots for years. I hope you can be there to help me give the gorgeous little bar a proper send-off before it heads to oblivion so Ray Chandler can have a gimlet there once again.

And here’s one of the many photos he’s posted recently:

whaling bar la jolla

If you happen to make your way to La Jolla before it closes, be sure to pop in and see the room for yourself and have a cocktail.

It’s one of those wonderful rooms, a trace of another era in Americana…

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