Our Mary Poppins

Cousin Amy, right, with Rapunzel, is heading back to Chicago

Caught up on a lot of chores over the weekend. I’d list them here but you might tumble into a coma of boredom from which you’d never recover.

Honestly, if you can’t make it to Italy this summer, chores around the house are probably the next best thing.

Leave it said that my sense of accomplishment ranks right up there with crossing oceans on a pool toy or authoring a great book, which must be exhausting and thrilling and frightening as hell.

Think of finally completing a book you’re proud of, then wondering: Will it be published? Will I make a dime from it? Have I just wasted 44 years of my stupid life?

Also think of the famous people whose accomplishments weren’t appreciated till after they kicked. Van Gogh, of course. Keats. Thoreau. Emily Dickinson. Galileo. Before the internet, I guess it was really hard to make a dent.

That, pretty much sums up why I’m so proud of my weekend chores. At least when I’m done, I can step back and say: “Look, those front windows really sparkle!”

At least it’s something. Writing is so ethereal. Or in my case, sort of gassy.

I proudly survey my finished chores like the baroness of some Connecticut estate, realizing that I’m the only one who appreciates that I Q-tipped the grimy corners of the French windows and re-programmed the sprinkler system that I installed 12 years ago yet still don’t understand.

If I were married, I could elbow my spouse and say: “Look Tootsie-Pop, see how I vacuumed out the car?” But I don’t have a caged audience anymore. Besides, with any work, I think you first need to please yourself.

When I was done with all my chores, I heard that one of my friends had gone off that same morning to pan for gold with his teen-aged son, Logan. Suddenly I regretted all the chores, and thought, “I should be more inventive like that. And I sure could use a little gold.”

Made a mental note of that for future dates: Take her to pan for gold. Not just a date, a metaphor for dating. A metaphor wrapped in an enigma.

If I ever write a novel, or a rom-com, I might use that as the opening scene, a couple goes off panning for gold, fall in a ravine, get eaten by snakes. Then the Earth swallows them. The End.

Sounds like fun, right? I’m free Thursday.

My other dream date is slow-kissing in a thunderstorm. But we don’t have those in LA (thunderstorms or slow kisses).

Speaking of books, I’m sending copies of “The Art of Fielding, my new favorite novel, to a few friends…there is no greater gift. Many of you recommended it to me, and since I thought it was some sort of self-improvement book, I put it off.

Turns out, “The Art of Fielding” is a novel of the brightest magnitude, the equal to Garp or anything else John Irving ever did.

I’d send you mine, but I underlined all the dirty parts.

In the dog days of August, I’ve now read two fantastic books in a row, the other being “The Big Goodbye,” on the making of “Chinatown,” which is really about the demise of Hollywood, class, dignity, art, taste and civilization in general.  

Turns out Roman Polanski was quite the director, when he wasn’t being a degenerate perv. Then again, you could say that about a lot of European directors. Or Europeans in general.

I like what the “Art of Fielding” says about life. Baseball is the backdrop, as it always is for me. In life, it you’re batting .300, you’re doing pretty damn well – at least in our family. 

In life, you’re bound to boot a few easy grounders, and if you keep grinding at the plate, you can reach first base.

First base is the best base. It rewards merit. With the other bases, you need to luck out a little. When a line drive finds the gap, or another batter moves you over. That’s why first base is the best base. It may be the only meritocracy left in America.

What do I know? I wash my own car…I scrub my own windows, digging in the gritty corners with Q-tips (how mundane, how grand).

And after every Chicago Cubs victory, I drink blue Champagne, a tradition that goes back to when I was 8-years-old and discovered what food coloring could do to Mountain Dew.

As you know, I am quite selective in matters of the heart. I am hopelessly, gobsmacked in love with the Cubs, the singer Fergie, my son Smartacus, and his baby sister White Fang, in that order. If you’re living well, you surround yourself with objects of affection.

(Progress report on Smartacus: Yesterday he burped and hiccupped at the same time, a sonic boom that shattered windows. All fine, though we have yet to locate his head.)

Love my daughters too, as you know. Picking up Rapunzel from the airport today – finally. She’s been gone a week and it seems like seven.

Been making a lot of airport runs lately, for her, and my niece Amy, who also just left town. Don’t know if you heard, but disease is rampant; I don’t want them Ubering in some petri-dish Prius.  

“O’Hare is a mess!” Rapunzel texts before getting on the plane back to Los Angeles.

Strange, because I always found O’Hare charming and kinda cute, especially in relation to LAX, which is just a big cereal bowl of bile and humiliation. It really is the worst place I know.

I took my niece Amy there the other day, and it is a different LAX during COVID – empty and without the usual agony. These days, you pull right up to any curb.  It’s all kind of spooky.

My niece, who is moving back to Chicago, told me she never would’ve left LA if she realized LAX could be this manageable.

Oh, well. Too little, too late.

My niece was our Mary Poppins. She blew in on a strong wind one day, stayed awhile, snagged a really great entertainment job, changed apartments three or four times, and is now headed back to Chicago, where she will work remotely from her parents’ home in the horsy suburbs that are too nice for words.

That’s the definition of carpetbagging, right? My niece just swooped into LA, exploited us for all she could, then fled.

I mean, don’t you feel kind of colonized? I do.

As I warned her when she arrived, LA was built in one hour, on a very hot Friday afternoon. It’s the kind of town where good marries evil, then immediately starts seeing other people.

When she moved away, Amy gave me whatever groceries she had lying around – a box of soup and some orzo. Couple of Keurig cups. Lots and lots of olive oil. Trust me, Tuscany doesn’t have as much olive oil as you find in the average Millennial kitchen.

My niece was our Mary Poppins. She blew in on a strong wind one day, stayed awhile, snagged a really great entertainment job, and is now headed back to Chicago #ChrisErskineLA #LA #Chicago

I think she’ll be back, Amy will. She fit in well in Los Angeles, where the gold dust in the sunlight matched her mane. For three years, her smirky Midwestern smile really dressed up the place.

Loved the beaches.

Amy will also miss the gastrointestinal adventures you find only in Los Angeles, where there are, like, 2,000 variations on Cambodian food.

You don’t find that too much in the horsy sections of Chicago.

Still, we’re sad about her departure.

I walked the Rose Bowl with White Fang thinking of Amy, amid an agonizing mob of strangers, masked and unmasked.

I went early on purpose, while all the pretty women were still sleeping in. Better that way. They can barely walk straight, most of them (and don’t dare give one a bike).

At that time of day, the Rose Bowl was mostly my kind of people: UPS drivers, meth cooks and overfed Pasadena attorneys with beards. Jovial and friendly, all of them, though I was careful not to engage.  

And when White Fang and I got home – a little sweaty, a little spent — we poured a big beaker of Cubbie-blue Champagne in honor of Amy.

“Lost another,” I told White Fang.


“Mary Poppins,” I said.

Dropped her at LAX. And off she flew.

Speaking of the Rose Bowl, we’re going to try a distanced hike there soon, with a relatively small group. Stay tuned for details. Cheers

11 thoughts on “Our Mary Poppins

  1. Having worked for Delta AirLines for 17 years spending the last 4 at LAX it became my opinion that the airport was designed by a 7 year old boy and is maintained by 8 year olds to this day. “zoom into the horseshoe and rocket out of it. Planes taking off on both sides maybe even landing and taking off at the same time.”

  2. So glad to get your story today! I will bet that “ Mary Poppins” will be back! I think your family is too much fun for her to be away from you for long!

  3. I began my drive from L.A. a couple of days after you & Smartacus, and returned a couple of days after you. Went as far as Michigan, with a stop in the Chicago burbs like you & the kid. I was anxious to get back as, like you, I’m a rabid baseball fan (though not of the Cubs so much, although my Chicago hosts were). Since it had been many years of not being able to see much baseball & the Dodgers, I had lost a lot of knowledge & vision of the games. I say vision, as that is what triggers this story.
    I had registered in a motel in Ogallala, Nebraska. Next to it was a restaurant called “Margaritas”. I began to drool hopefully. After getting ensconced in the motel I walked over. I was seated on one side and, directly opposite of me was a TV over a booth with a baseball game being played. I could easily make out the name “Houston” on the backs of one team but, being absent from the game for many years, I couldn’t make out the big letters on the front jerseys of the other team. I kept looking over, between big gulps of my Cadillac Margarita and salsa and chips, trying to figure out who the Astros were playing. Finally I began to feel as though I was getting close when I noticed that the uniforms of the opposing team were purple. Well, of course, they had to be the “D’BACKS”!
    That is not the end of the story. I finished my meal & asked the waitress for my check. The manager came over to my table & told me that my check had already been taken care of! What? Who? Apparently the three people sitting in the booth under the TV had taken pity on me thinking that I was looking longingly at people enjoying one another, and not at the TV. I asked the waiter who they were, and he had no idea! So, I left a big tip for the four workers, and left feeling very good about mankind.

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