Even though I lived in Del Mar, California and have traveled back several times a year, my May trip was transformed into a Hotel Indigo vacation.

Imagine, an unsmiling, tense, anxious guest arriving for her first stay at Hotel Indigo, a bit wrung out from a two day desert crawl in the Van.  

Then, I looked around the lobby, and I felt like I was in Tangiers. The Moroccan blues and reds poked at my sleeping senses, and the gentleman, who checked me in, was as well mannered as Cary Grant. The sun-light that flecked the lobby beckoned me to the adjoining deck, where comfortable sofas, and tables formed a circle around a fire- pit.  The ocean fills the gap between an expansive deck and the horizon. I imagined I’d be there later, when the sun drops down.

Still pestered with a needle of tension, about the room, as rooms booked online may be virtually enticing, but in reality, end up cheating us. My room theme, as all the rooms have themes reflecting the neighborhood story, was a sea-shell. Every room is dressed in a mural, with matching fixtures, and coordinated bedding.  The furnishings are new, unmarked, and the bedding stacked with pillows. I flopped on the bed and stared into the tunnel of a white shell. I closed my eyes, and just as suddenly sat up and called the Spa.

The whole concept of Spa is so luxuriating, and indulgent, some of us feel uncomfortable. This spa has the vibe of a nurturing and harmonious enclave. While waiting for the therapist I drank Tea, nibbled on trail mix, and read Travel & Leisure.  Danielle, a woman with a childlike smile and rosy cheeks escorted me into a spa room, and while she prepared me, I was already feeling the drainage of tension.  Eighty minutes later,(and only $125.00)I lay there like seaweed; boneless, semi-conscious, and grateful. I floated by the pool, and decided to walk into town and have lunch at the Secret Garden since the hotel restaurant wasn’t open for lunch yet. (one more week)

Secret Garden sidewalk Peruvian bistro serves the best Ceviche this side of Spain.  Afterwards I vacillated between senseless shopping or going back to the hotel, and the hotel won.  It takes fifteen minutes to walk to the village; and you can take the beach route, the bluff route or Camino del Mar.

With a few hours before dinner, I followed my instincts and took a day nap, at a time one can be interrupted by guest noise, but I heard nothing. It was when I woke up, that

the transformation came full circle.  My fatigue was subdued, and my head empty of annoying chatter. As I passed through the hotel lobby, the conversation from the dining room, was joyful, and inviting.

We chose to dine in the village, at IL Fornaio, where we have spent so many festive evenings over the years I lived in Del Mar.  After a day of decompressing, the evening

was like being in an out of focus movie. The restaurant was crowded, a lot of pretense and showiness, but it wasn’t annoying. My body and mind were at peace.

The next morning, I rose to birds singing, and sun splashed curtains.  After a dip in the very deep and powerful spa, I strolled into the dining room for breakfast. Now, deeply committed to spa weekend, I passed on the Breakfast Panini and Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict and ordered the Fruit Plate, ($12), deliciously fresh and large enough for two persons.  Once again I took notice of the authentic and bountiful attitude of the staff; they are obviously professionals in a business that has moved civility to the back burner.

Propelled by the excellence I hunted down the manager to

Pass on my Spa Experience. Susan Knapp, is the answer, she is vivacious, warm, and a gentle person, who took me by the hand and explained the coming attractions.

  • Poolside cabanas with massage.
  • Race Track Events
  • Live Music

I asked Susan how she managed to employ such a brilliant group of people. “I hire people with personality. You can train them on all the other facets, but you can’t educate someone on personality.”

Hotel Features:

State of the art gym with steam

Two Pools and full service Spa

Completed $7,000,000 renovation in 2012.

94 Units with 26 suites, (kitchenettes)

Rates: $119-$350

Conference Room

Boutique in the Spa

Dining Room and Full Bar



I am a diarist. I record life around me so I can understand, as if by understanding I will find peace. Recording the exaggerated emotion and incidents of life began as a young girl when my mother gave me a diary.  A good storyteller has to live life differently than the rest of us; otherwise, the stories will be predictable.

My father had those kinds of stories.

Allen Smiley: Illegal immigrant, Russian Jew, convicted criminal, hoodlum, extortionist, con-man, racketeer, bookmaker, tout, pimp, and high-ranking lieutenant and best friend of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel.

 “ Luellen, You have to come and get me out of here.”

“Daddy, what’s wrong?”

“Just come down here and get me.

“Daddy you’re in the hospital.”

“I know where I am. They’re coming to get me.”

The phone call had woken me up. It was the first of several that night. I sat up in bed and looked at the clock.

It was past midnight. Why was he up so late? I called the hospital and asked to speak to the head nurse. I told her about the phone call. She said he was hallucinating, and that he’d refused medication.  That was the first time I had ever sensed desperation in my father. He was afraid they were coming to get him. Who were they?

Several days later the phone calls stopped. He died as secretly as he had lived. There was an absence of publicity or concern. I knew what to do. He had given me instructions. I  was to go to the bank, draw out what money was in the account, and go on a vacation.

“Clear the hell out of town. Reporters may start calling, don’t talk to any of them. Don’t trust anybody; remember what I’ve been telling you all these years. “

I took his phone book, the photograph of Benjamin Siegel, and one of his baseball caps. I packed up his black El Dorado  Cadillac, and shot out of Los Angeles. It was the final scene of the first half of my life. I drove south on 405 hwy down to Del Mar. There was nothing waiting for me in Del Mar; no friends, or job, or anything to connect to. I only knew that when my feet touched the Del mar beach, I had to move there.

That summer I went to the Del mar Race Track and sat in the bleachers just like anyone else, wearing a hat, drinking Long Island Iced Tea and trying to see with the blinding sun in my eyes. It was strange to sit with the general public. The few times my dad took me to Santa Anita we sat in the Turf Club. I had no idea my father was part of the historical narrative of Del Mar race Track, and of Del Mar history.

After living in San Diego more than ten years, I returned to Los Angeles for a job offer. One afternoon I visited my father’s walking path along Ocean Park in Santa Monica. He walked from one end of path to the other beginning at San Vicente and ending in Venice. Afterwards we’d stop at the Lobster House for a plate of fish and chips, and a cold beer.  While I was walking in his memory, imagining him next to me, I looked up and recognized one of his walking pals, Sonny Barry. He looked like a retired Vegas dealer; dark shades, v necked open shirt, and Beverly Hills signatory gold chain with a Star of David.

‘Hi Sonny, how are you?” I called out.

Sonny turned and looked, raised his tanned arms up in the air, “For crying out loud, Luellen sweetheart.”

“Where have you been—how’s everything, gee you look terrific.”

Sonny called out to another man in the near distance, sitting on a park bench. “ Sandy come look whose here.”

“Luellen, you know Sandy Adler, he was friends with your Dad a long time ago. Sandy Adler, my father had mentioned his name, but I didn’t know how they met or when. He was another man that fit into the mysterious and unspoken years he was partner with Ben.

“Oh well, I haven’t seen you since you were a little girl.”

“You knew my Dad when we lived in Bel Air?”

“ Way before that; I knew your Dad when he was with Benny Siegel—and I knew your mother.”

It was the mention of my mother, who died when I was thirteen that pierced my antenna of interest. Sonny stood back while  Sandy took my hand, and said let’s take a walk. We walked along the bluffs overlooking the pacific ocean. He spoke slowly, and paced himself as if the memories were lodged in books and he had to dig into them.

“ I ran the El Rancho hotel in Vegas, and then the Flamingo. I knew your Dad very well, he was some classy guy.”

“ Oh I remember the Flamingo but not the El Rancho.”

“ Well, anyway-where are you living now?”

“I just moved back to Los Angeles, I was living in Del Mar.”

“ Del Mar?  I owned the old Del Mar Hotel –in fact your mother and father used to come down and stay there.”

“ He never mentioned Del Mar to me.”

“ He had his reasons; yea they came down during the race meet and stayed at the hotel. I remember them coming down, one time, and Allen got upset with your mother. They were having quite an argument. Your father left, and I walked with your mother on the pier, and tried to comfort her.”

I couldn’t utter a word I just listened. The Del Mar Hotel had burnt down before I moved there.  I’d seen photographs of the hotel, and heard stories about the Hollywood stars that stayed there. It was a magical legend in Del Mar, everyone who lived during its glory days talked about it.

It was sometime after that, that I walked in the sand where the hotel had been located.  I understood that one day I would begin plucking away at my family history.