Amazon Sub-Prime

Knock-knock. Who’s there? The Pied Piper of Smirks

They say nothing ever happens on our quiet street but Sunday the Amazon Prime van almost took out the mailbox and then the basketball hoop, in one misguided three-point turn in the driveway.

“Beep! Beep! Beep!” the Amazon van sang as it backed up, ricocheting off of everything, heading for the house.

“That’s interesting,” I told Smartacus, as I watched all this from the kitchen.

“What Dad?

“We’re under attack,” I said.

“Cool!” said Smartacus.

Beep! Beep! Beep!

Always fancied driving a nice van like that. If Amazon Prime ever starts delivering jokes, or long pointless stories that just go nowhere, I’m their man.



“You Waldo Radajkowski?” I’d ask.


“True story, sir. A bear walks into a bar, and the barkeep says, ‘Hi bear, what’ll you have…’”

And that, boys and girls, is how I will soon be making a living. Because writing sure as spit ain’t working out.

I’m no Hemingway to begin with, and now newspapers and magazines are dying, and people seem to prefer their information in bubbly, 12-word spittle-spurts.

And I’m just the guy who can give it to them.

Of course, on my Amazon deliveries, I’ll probably never get to the punchline. Just as I do, guys like Waldo will slam the door in my pretty face.

I could never work a comedy club – too many women on the make. But I’d be glad to work the doorsteps of America.

Most cases, I will stand there finishing the joke anyway, then bid the customer’s house good day, with a jaunty George Clooney salute, and dash down the steps to the next assignment, me — the happy-go-lucky lad who never gets to finish a joke, because America is just leery and tired and suspicious of intrusions…suspicious of fresh perspectives…isolated and increasingly morose.

All the more reason Amazon needs a Pied Piper of Smirks. If not me, then maybe my daughters, both of whom can be funny when pressed.

Look, I could never work a comedy club – too many women on the make, too much free tequila. But I’d be glad to work the doorsteps of America, in a gray van with a little Mona Lisa smile on the side.

If Amazon won’t hire me, I might just buy an old van and go off on my own. I’ll call it Amazon Sub-Prime.

“Look Marvin.”

“What now?”

“Here comes the gardener with all the jokes.”

Do I sound a little crazed right now? As if the July heat has fried a few circuits?

So tired of the isolation, the national sense of dejection, the same day over and over again.

I was standing at the sink the other morning, scraping egg off the frying pan with a thumb nail, and I thought: I need to get out of here; I need to do something besides watering plants, feeding the dog, tending to my son, Smartacus, who’s wonderful, but can never manage to put an empty milk glass away.

So I fled to Miller’s house for a while. Knock-knock.

My buddy Miller has this nice yard, with a pool, and it’s heavily treed in a way where you can’t see the neighbors, yet he’s right in the middle of our twisted little town with this pool and his amazing bride Sharon, who comes home from work in a black silk martial arts outfit, hips like a movie star.

Miller’s got it pretty good.

So we sit there, drinking beer. His stepson had run off with the bourbon, so Miller is drinking some clear fluid, maybe vodka, maybe lighter fluid – certainly not water — and discussing his checkered past.

“I’m just a poor kid from Syracuse…” he says, and I think to myself: Here we go again, the teary confession about how lucky he is to be here in L.A. right now, amid the palm trees and the junkies and the studio moguls who would mow you down in their Maseratis for a buck.

“I never want to leave,” Miller says. “I never want to leave this backyard.”

Seems to me the best friends are amateur philosophers. They offer perspective and wisdom. They are confessional and sly. They talk about you more than they talk about themselves.

If I had to build a perfect friend, stuff him in a Build-a-Friend boutique at the Arcadia Mall, I’d probably build Miller, though I’d give him a little extra hair.

“I don’t want to tell you this,” I tell Miller.

“Then don’t.”

“I need a date,” I say. “A doctor, a dentist, maybe a ballerina…”

“Doesn’t matter, right?”

“Well, a little.”

“How old?” Miller asks.

“18 to 80.” I say. “If she can’t walk, I’ll carry her.”

“You could use a date,” he says.

Oh, not so much. I don’t want to get greedy. I have so much already.

So I was standing at the sink, scraping egg off the frying pan with a thumb nail…. #ChrisErskineLA #desperation #amazon

In the morning, really early before the sun, I get up and crack a window, and listen to our pet wolf drag her long chain across the fried magnolia leaves in the yard.

I listen for the paper boy, a 45-year-old man named Ramon, race up the cul-de-sac on three cylinders. Thwaaaaaack…one paper, maybe two along the entire street, when 25 years ago he delivered to every single house.

And I think: How lucky have I been? I’m a scruffy Irishman of modest intellect, yet made a clean exit after a long and troubled career in publishing.

I’ve got the finest wingman you could ever hope for: my son Smartacus, who makes the best grilled cheese.

I have a gorgeous pet wolf who relishes the taste of human flesh (or at least likes licking my ankle while I watch TV).

I have kooky friends with aerosol laughs: Miller, Bittner, Jeff, Charlie and Billable Bob.

I’ve got two amazing daughters who hardly ever scream at me or each other, which is rare in daughters, especially these days.

Plus, I’ve got my budding comedy tour with Amazon Sub-Prime, which will keep me on the road 12 months a year, maybe more.


“Who’s there?”

“Hey Waldo, it’s me again.

“Yeah what?”

“True story, sir. An elephant in pajamas walks into a spa …”

8 thoughts on “Amazon Sub-Prime

  1. Miller has the right idea. I have planted a small forest in my back yard here in Apple Valley and am waiting for it to grow into a haven for critters, including me. So far I can barely see evidence of neighboring abodes and hope that the vegetation obscures the rest soon. Cheers!

  2. Here we go again, the teary confession about how lucky he is to be here in L.A. right now, amid the palm trees and the junkies and the studio moguls who would mow you down in their Maseratis for a buck. …

    I am so impressed when you describe something perfectly without a hint of sarcasm or cynicism.

  3. Our refuge is the front porch of our of our 1906 old shingle house on S Madison Ave in Pasadena. We people watch a parade of walkers joggers etc every evening between 4 and 8. We feed a couple of pushy blue jays who much prefer Fritos over wild bird seed. We share our space with Bert our golden lab who snoozes. We’ll toast the crowd with a beer and/ or a cocktail. Then we have dinner accompanied by Doc Martin, Father Brown, etc on TV.
    Not bad!

  4. I hear my newspaper hit the ground outside my door every day in the 4:30am hour and just love that sound! My paperboy is a middle aged woman who speeds around in a minivan and I think I love her.

  5. Our newspapers come all at once, around 7:30 a.m. (too late but complaining hasn’t helped), flung with abandon in the general directions of our parkway/street/sidewalk by lady in a speeding gray Cube.

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