What do Boomer cocktail hours and math class have in common? Zoom, of course.
Coming off a breezy 60-minute Zoom presentation to the esteemed Valley Hunt Club of Pasadena. I haven’t caught up to what the New York Times had to say about my performance, but it seemed a resounding success.
I even played a few bars of “My Funny Valentine” on an ancient cornet, which I think is the same horn my daughter Rapunzel played when she was in 5th grade, a tarnished chunk of brass with sticky valves.
What do you do with an old Conn like that? Turn it into bullets? Or a lamp?
No, you play it.
“My funny Valentine, sweet comic Valentine….”
Then I stopped because I couldn’t hit the high F without bleeding.
I followed that with a card trick I stole from Steve Martin that totally bombed. I am learning, as we go, the constraints of Zoom presentations. It’s like making love in a Tupperware container, which is better than no love at all.
“Dear humorist,” I wrote to myself later in my diary, a self-improvement log I fill out every night. “Do not attempt the Steve Martin card trick on Zoom anymore.”
As an entertainer, I mostly just entertain myself. You should know this before you book me for banquets, pep rallies or retirement parties. I’ll be an online pastor as well pretty soon, so weddings are also an option.
“How’z about a bris?” you ask.
To be honest, I get a little squeamish at circumcisions, though I suspect I could just close my eyes, like I do when I fly or kiss or drive through freeway tunnels. Totally up to you.
Otherwise, it went well, this Zoom presentation.
As you may know, the Valley Hunt Club is one of L.A.’s most-prestigious hunting organizations. These days, what they mostly hunt is scotch and bourbon. Fortunately, there was not a rifle in sight, or they might’ve tried to shoot me.
They paid me handsomely, however, with a couple of perfectly cooked prime filets delivered to the house in a customized box with a mustache on the cover, which has sort of become my trademark.
Basically, I’m a broom.
“Your looks are laughable…Unphotographable…Still you’re my favorite work of art.”
I made a gin and tonic to sip during the event, in a tasteful cocktail glass, not the oversized flower vase I normally would use, because the Valley Hunt Club is kind of a classy organization, and I didn’t want to come off as some sort of humorist cliche.
I try to promote gin at every opportunity. As you know, I lead the Gin & Tonic Society of Greater Los Angeles, a major philanthropic outreach.
We support people with happy juice (gin) in glasses jammed with ice and crushed limes, a splash of tonic just to ease the stigma associated with the open consumption of naked gin.
Obviously, giving gin to people in Los Angeles is like giving Creamsicles to the Inuit. Angelenos accept it anyway, because folks here need gin more than ever.
No question gin sharpens a person’s focus, helps the heart, loosens your tongue in job interviews and assists in almost all human endeavors, except maybe oral surgery or card tricks.
“That’s it?” the hostess asked when I finished the Steve Martin card trick.
“Didya like it?” and they giggled uncomfortably.
Obviously, Zoom has its limitations.
Look, there are some things I just can’t stand: Helvetica typeface, for example. Boneless chicken wings, for another. Trevor Noah. The drama-queen songstress Idina Menzel.
Add Zoom to that list.
Zoom is also unsuitable, near as I can tell, for so-called “distance learning.”
My son Smartacus attends classes this way, on his computer, for five hours a day, with White Fang watching from the bed.
Yep, each morning, our wolf/dog goes to English class with Smartacus. She sits on the bed and listens in to his Zoom classes, hoping to pick up grammar tips or polish her syntax.
White Fang attends other classes as well, but it is English she seems to genuinely enjoy. In May, she hopes to graduate and move on to a local community college. Maybe pursue health care, or cosmetics, in some capacity.
I’m not sure online learning really helps the kids. Smartacus hates it, in the same way teens despise anything that gives value or structure to their young lives.
To most of them, online classes are even worse than real school, where you can at least pal around with friends, razz a favorite teacher, or slam a locker – BAM! – in ways that wake your classmates.
Those are the rim-shots he misses, the sonic buzz of a typical school day. Or, the lingering afternoons, as autumn settles in, and the far reaches of campus turn cottony in the waning light.
There are some things I just can’t stand: Boneless chicken wings. Helvetica type. Add #Zoom to that list. #ChrisErskineLA #distancelearningTweet
He even misses, I suppose, the morning car pool.
Each morning, he would climb into the family car five minutes late, smudging the door handle a bit with his greasy breakfast fingers, and off we would go to get the Decker kids, three or four of them, no one knows for sure.
The Decker kids would smudge the car doors with their breakfast fingers too, after thunking their backpacks into the trunk, like bales of bricks.
Then off we’d go, me entertaining them with so-called “dad jokes,” which are jokes only in the broadest, most-generous sense. Dad jokes are to humor what Goldfish crackers are to fresh seafood.
Oh, the frivolity.
These too, were teachable moments, for young people rarely get a chance to see the sort of abrupt, fractured driving you witness in a typical car pool line at school. These parents had places to be, obviously.
That’s how school used to start each day. With laughter and the adrenal rush of near-misses.
Now, instead of car pool, Smartacus finishes his almond milk and eggs, then shuffles off to his bedroom desk, with his wolf/dog close behind.
This next generation of dogs? I predict they’re going to be really something. All across America, family pets are brushing up on trig, geometry and the classic English poets.
“O thou, my lovely Smartacus, who in thy power
Dost hold Time’s fickle glass…”
Or something like that.
Please carry on.
My fourth book is due out soon, a collection of my COVID posts. More than any book so far, it reflects my relationship with readers – your challenges, your wit and your warmth. Titled “Lavender in Your Lemonade,” it is one of the best books about lemonade (and COVID) that you’re likely to ever read. Will let you know when and where it is available. Thanks.