Mother Ocean

As I always say, what’s life without porpoise?

No doubt, L.A. can be a tricky place to live, especially now, when everything is either beige or burning.

So let us pay homage to the misty majesty of the ocean, free and simple as blue jeans.

Stick with me, kid, the poet laureate of the sea. I’ll get you through this heat wave. We’ll duck under the waves together. One good wave deserves another, as they say.

There once was a boy from Nantucket…

See, told you I was a poet laureate.

Who kept all his brains in a bucket…

Headed off to Mother Ocean when we learned it would be a million degrees one day, and 2 million the next. Normally, that might seem an exaggeration, but in this case no way.

This really is the worst heat wave ever.

So, off we go for the chill-pill of an ocean plunge, for that signature moment beneath a crashing wave when you don’t know up from down, bagels from brats, Simon from Garfunkel.

It’s a honeymoon memory of utter detachment, a churchly cleanse. Frolic with the dolphins. Feast on the sun.

As I always say: What’s life without porpoise?

Oh, lighten up. It’s super hot out. My brain just blew a hose. And I’m panting…pant-pant-pant. I learned how to breathe like this from our wolf/dog White Fang, who has even more chest hair than I do. Like an area rug, poor girl. Not sure she’ll ever have a boyfriend.

Anyway, we’re at the beach, did I mention that? We parked at Rapunzel’s place in Santa Monica, iced down some unfortunate millennial beer (“with notes of honeydew and cantaloupe”) and walked the five blocks to the beach.

Welcome to my French Riviera. Welcome to the beach.

On the way, I tell the kids about my recent engagement to the legendary Angie Dickinson. They seem excited.

“Where are you registered, Dad?” Rapunzel asks.

“Home Depot,” I tell her.

“Good choice,” she says.

“It was there or Jiffy Lube.”

“Now you’ll be able to finish that porch.”


Young love is so beautiful. So much ahead.

I walk to the beach, weaving this way and that. Like a duck running a pass route.

The waves are white and snowy cold – they glow in the late sun like moonlit sheep.

Problem is my son Smartacus has put too much ice in the little cooler, so I’m listing a little to the starboard side, then I overcorrect left. For the first time in my life, I look a little drunk.  

“Want me to carry it, Dad?”


As we walk, I tell them about how a dude named Magellan sailed around the tailpipe of South America and found this ocean, much more serene than the one he left, and dubbed it “the Pacific” for its general peacefulness.

“You’re making this up,” Rapunzel says.

“Sounds fishy?”

“Yeah, Dad.”

“It’s an ocean,” I say with a shrug. “Of course it’s fishy.”

Gawwwwd, the dad jokes – I can’t stop! Forgive me, or thank me, depending on your general estimation of puns. Generally, I don’t like them very much.

I’m cheerful over two things, though: this beach visit, and my recent engagement to Angie, who pretty much likes me only for my surfer bod.

My concern: Can any marriage survive with this much eye candy?

I’m also invigorated by this trip to the beach. It was 104 when we left the house, and now it’s 78 here in Santa Monica, America’s softest edge.

Nearly perfect. The time: 4 p.m., just before everyone packs up to leave, which makes no sense, because the beach is at its best starting about 4.

The beach-goers are well-spaced, at least here at this stretch, near Lifeguard Station 26. No masks, and certainly no clothes. These dental-floss thongs have gone beyond ridiculous. Not all butts are made for thongs. Some butts need two or three thongs.

Or a tarp.

And, oddly, there are lots of dogs, which are illegal — and also wearing thongs. It’s the kind of society I’ve always dreamed of: a dog-based culture where no one cares any more.

The first blast of icy surf knocks me to my knees. Thanks, I needed that.

Getting in is always the same. After the initial shock, you reach purgatory, where it is too shallow to plunge and you are left hanging – half wet, half dry, which is no way to live.  You gasp, as if that’ll keep you warmer.

Finally, when the water is almost waist high, you plunge. Ooooo. Ahhhh. There is no other feeling quite like it. The waves are white and snowy cold – they glow in the late sun like moonlit sheep. It takes 15 seconds to decide – “Will this be awful or will this be great?” at which point it turns great.

That’s our chilly sea. Mar Pacifico.

You know, we’re at war with dry land – we conquer it, buy it, pave it, poison it, riddle it with our greed.

And then there’s the ocean. Mother Ocean, beautiful and free. Sometimes, it seems we will ruin it too. But it defies us. It seems the strongest creature we know.

Right on cue, the dolphins arrive. Rapunzel is thrilled at this. Every time dolphins arrive, she reacts as if she’s spotted a mermaid. As with puns, this is either amusing or annoying, depending on your mood at the moment.

“I love the dolphins,” she says clapping, sounding like she’s 5 again.

Not all butts are made for thongs. Some butts need two or three thongs. Or a tarp. Welcome to Santa Monica Beach. #ChrisErskineLA #heatwave #thongs

I like that in a kid, the ability to be thrilled at the littlest things, not so jaded or cool that she can’t acknowledge the ephemeral magic of dolphins, the movie stars of the sea.

Me, I prefer the pelicans, the only animal I can relate to; they are socially awkward and travel in packs, as if on a pub crawl.

My so-called “spirit animal” used to be beer-battered shrimp. Now I think it’s pelicans.

Then Rapunzel’s boyfriend joins us, the hunky rocket scientist, the contradiction in terms. Off we go for burritos, because why not?

As you may know, Holy Guacamole in Santa Monica engineers some of world’s finest burritos, big as kangaroos. Honestly, it might be my favorite restaurant in the world.

We leave carrying what look like quadruplets: big, whoppin’, ridiculous logs of joy.

True, Magellan may have named an ocean and found a new way around the world. We discovered these incredible burritos, and found a new way around a Friday night.

Let’s call it a tie.

Stay cool, stay safe. Soon as the heat lifts a little, we’ll walk the Rose Bowl. Stay tuned for details.

30 thoughts on “Mother Ocean

  1. Don’t know if my prior message got through, so Keillor try again. Please tell Angie that Joe formerly of Descanso said hello. You are still the Jack Smith of the 21st century. How did the Times ever let you get away?

    1. Yes, whole heartedly agree to Jack Smith of the 21st century. Sorry LA Times, you lost your soul, but hoping you Chris, increased your free spirit

      1. Take Ms. Angie to the beach a few hours after 4 p.m. It is so incredibly romantic!

  2. The beach best after 4PM? Damn. That was supposed to be my secret. Now everyone knows. Thanks a lot, Chris. Actually went a couple days ago to Ventura, after 6PM. Even better. The California I love.

  3. Couldn’t agree more. The beach after 4:00 p.m. is magic. I’ll have to check out Holy Guacamole.

      1. Chris, Did you name White Fang as an homage to Soupy Sales? Love your “column.” ❤️ Ilene

  4. You had me at tarp. Thanks for the Hump Day treat! I feel refreshed just reading about the beach. You are the master of the waves and the written word, Chris. I hope Angie doesn’t let you get away.

  5. When the post card from the Times came begging me to come back, I took great delight in telling them what idiots they were to let you go !!! As WE ALL are like our ocean…THE BEST EVER !!!! Carry on punster!!!

  6. ANGIE
    Sinatra & Erskine, the former one of my all time favorites, the latter more recent (less than 50 years)!
    That wonderful beautiful woman certainly has a generous taste in her choices of men.

  7. Only you would come up with the tarp thing! Truly laughed out loud at that one. Thank you for my virtual visit to our ocean. I’d go myself but afraid the tarps would block the ocean spray from reaching me.

  8. Chris, again congrats to you & Ms. Angie – send picts…….Also where you got those burrito logs. If they’re that good maybe I’ll make the drive up from Mission Viejo to SM for a treat (and an Orange Julius, if there’s a DQ close)

    1. Hi Roger. The taco place is called Holy Guacamole, on Main Street and Ashland Hill in Santa Monica. Probably good places closer to you. But if you’re in the area…

  9. presumably, even the face masks these days are larger than those thongs ~ let’s have one for each end !

  10. Zuma with the grandkids tomorrow just like last Thursday, next Thursday and all the other Thursdays. By the way, jumping into our balmy local Pacific in a wetsuit with full scuba produces exactly the same ‘bite’ when you hit the water. Just so you know.

  11. I asked once if there was a way to forward these to friends from NIU, but received no answer, which maybe means I screwed up. I hope that was the reason & am hoping it won’t happen again.

    1. Hi David. Sorry to miss earlier note. You can just pass them the website line ( That’s best for me because it builds readership. But I suspect you can also copy and paste the text itself into an email. If neither of those work for you, let me know, and I’ll find a technical expert who can figure something out. Thanks!

  12. August at the beach, 4PM. Mutton chops (really!) from the farmer’s market on the hibachi–grill smoke, salty tang faintly edging the breeze, air with that warm blousy late afternoon dissolve coming over the sand to loosen everything up. And the lift and swell of the surf before it’s fizzy crash over your head– no enveloping loll of liquidity anywhere like that !! You brought it all home to us, Chris. The LA Times loss is Angie’s gain. The soul of the paper has left the building, and the lights are out. But at the beach the late afternoon light still glows with the grainy radiance of your prose, burrito amigo.

  13. I am a born and bread beach girl…Long Beach, then Manhattan Beach then Redondo Beach… for a total of 65 years, friends and of course family all the beach. This springs we’ve moved to Indian Wells and I golf returning to the sand always. My husband says I’m a beach girl through and through. What I didn’t sign up for was Florida- hot and humid. Will be returning to Hermosa Beach and Hollywood Riviera to visit my daughter and son …. can’t wait to be at the beach in the cold water…. while our pool is currently 98 degrees!

    Love your column forever!

  14. Just about finished with Daditude. I sent three copies to worthy Dads. Now I think that a couple of unwhorthies would benefit.

  15. Indeed, that rag LATimes gets thinner each day. Wish I did. SO grateful that you are online 2x week. Don’t get tired of doing it. We need you!! L’chaim.

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