OK, Zoomer

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.

Giving gin to people in Los Angeles is like giving Creamsicles to the Inuit.

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 #distancelearning

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.

45 thoughts on “OK, Zoomer

  1. Love your writing, as always, Chris. But you don’t like Trevor Noah? And you lump him in with vanilla stuff, to boot?! I must disagree on that one😔.
    Shannon Rosenfeld

  2. “All across America, family pets are brushing up on trig, geometry and the classic English poets.”

    As an educator trying to navigate this morass, this, made me chuckle out loud.

  3. At least Smartacus has a “classmate” while school-distancing. Hope kids can go back to school real soon….can’t stand Trevor Noah either…..looking forward to your next book.

  4. Would love to hear you play the cornet! Today I’ll dust off and polish my dad’s 1920’s era cornet…Perhaps put on a little Wynton Marsalis and Carnival of Venice and remember dad playing it. You never cease to evoke a memory. Thanks, Chris.

  5. What did Idina Menzel ever do to you? I’m sure that she didn’t write that annoying commercial. Good article, anyway.

  6. Guess I’ll have to check out Trevor Noah now, to see if I agree with you. So far there haven’t been many times – are you doing this on purpose or is it the gin & tonics talking?

    1. Trevor is not nearly as annoying as Bill Maher, though I tend to agree with both their positions on many things things. And Idena Menzel? Why would anyone object to her (did you not catch “Wicked”?)? That being said, as a former typesetter who, at one time, could identify over 200 different type faces, Helvetica is the most definitely completely boring and my own personal favorite is and has always been Goudy Oldstyle (kind of like me)

  7. Ha! Love the title of this. Laughed out loud with my coffee! When my feisty 17 year old discovered I was a Boomer (even though I said it didn’t count if you were born in last year or two) she replied “ok Boomer” to everything I said for an entire month. I was no match but like all things teenage…she moved on. She also is suffering through Zoom High School in her bedroom but without the dog…he figured at age 13 he’s really too old to learn new tricks. Do you really play that trumpet?! Looking forward to the new book.

    1. Thanks Bonnie. The title came to me at the last minute. As an old headline writer, I was pretty proud of that one. Original headline was “The Online Life.” Big improvement. I think the kids will be in school next month, but that’s probably just wishful thinking. Keep the faith.

  8. Thank you for writing what you feel. I like rum raisin ice cream, if you hate it, that’s o.k. I may not like some politicians or entertainers that you do, that’s o.k. Fall season, right on! And write on Chris!

  9. loved today’s column. feel a bit different about zoom as it has been a nice connective tissue as we’ve been restricted to the home campus for four months….an occasional outing to pick up some restaurant food. but subscribe to the rest of it….please let me know when the cornet CD is available at Target. keep writing….next to zoom, it brightens my day the most.

    1. Oh Ken, someone should issue a restraining order for me and old trumpets. Always wanted a flugelhorn though. Richest sound, and I can’t remember the last non-jazz track I heard with one.

  10. Oh, you are really going to miss Smartacus when he goes off to college … Sunrise, Sunset playing in your mind. I love that the dog is attending the zoom classes. Looking forward to your next book.

  11. Try teaching kindergarten from an empty classroom for 6 hours each day. Torture! Makes me long for the days of singing and poop-wrangling.

  12. Understand Zoom hate, any pop culture TV Host, don’t eat many chicken wings but what’s to hate about a soulless type face?

    1. I used to be a designer, so typefaces have more meaning than they should. At one point, I advocated for one font, because there were so many, and most people picked bad ones. That’s all I have to say about typefaces.

  13. My daughter is on high school Zoom learning too. At least they are Seniors. I feel for the K – 5 kids/families trying to navigate this!

    Like Bill Maher too. He’s very smart & funny!

    Can’t wait for your new book!

      1. I so agree! Do they not realize they are pissing off half the population with their one way know it all comments.? Do we care how they feel? Especially the in -your -face- ones? Go away, those celebrities, far far away….
        (My mom turned me on to your columns years ago..so glad to rediscover you here the last few months..you are a bright spot in the COVID journey…

  14. Love Trevor Noah and Idina Mendel— don’t agree they’re arrogant. Love Zoom— teach private voice and piano and it’s better than nothing! Love your column— I guess you get to be curmudgeonly every once in awhile…

  15. Love you. Always . Until today. You hate Trevor Noah & Idina Menzel?? Really! As my elderly Italian aunt use to say, # Whatza matter with you?”

  16. Trevor Noah has dimples..he is adorable. Each to his own .. My SO hated David Letterman and I loved him, almost a deal breaker.

  17. Chris, if you ever get bored with gin n tonics (though I doubt you will) try my favorite gin cocktail, a classic, the Aviation.
    Good call on Trevor, how dare he try and fill Jon Stewart’s shoes!

  18. So it’s not just us. Our family dog attended almost all of our preschooler’s distance learning classes (or conference calls, as said preschooler referred to them). I like to joke that I really got my money’s worth for a few months of virtual Montessori.

    What’s your hot take on the gin gimlet? (Agree with you on the others…) Cheers!

  19. I don’t think Trevor Noah is aiming for our old white guy demographic, but I enjoy his show. Plus, John Stewart is an impossible act to follow.

    Maher I can take or leave.

    I’ve been a fan of John Oliver since he was a Daily Show correspondent and co-host (with Andy Zaltzman) of The Bugle podcast. We never miss Last Week Tonight.

    But my mind was warped in my 20s by Doctor Who, Benny Hill and Monty Python.

    Can we still be friends if I prefer Bourbon to Gin?

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