Follow the Sun

My two daughters now live 4 doors apart. Posh would like that.

I’ve lost count of all the times I’ve helped my daughters move.

Rapunzel and her hostage-boyfriend just moved from a tiny gulag to an airy two bedroom where the morning sun neons the sunflowers.

The apartment happens to be in the same complex as her big sister, which gives me all kinds of joy. They used to grumble about sharing a bedroom and now – given all the apartments across Southern California – they now reside four doors away.

Lucy and Ethel. Together again.

In another two years, I predict they’ll be sharing a bedroom. Guess that’s what happens when you lose your mother; you puppy-up with your sister for the soothing things Mom used to offer.

You can never replace a mother – not the sweatered hugs she gave, or the brunches she bought, or the way she’d smell your hair and say, a little too loud: “Have you cleaned your ears lately, sweetie?”

But sisters are the next best thing. And they are good sisters, candid and caring. You can’t fire a sister, or even ignore her for very long. And one day, she moves in four doors down. In that, there is much to rejoice over. In a big, stoic city, with more concrete than courtesy, it’s nice to have an Ethel four doors away.

I sure could use an Ethel. Instead, I have Partha, the Indian guy next door. Sometimes he drops by to borrow a potato or an onion. When he returns it the next day, he always brings me two, which is generous though unnecessary.

“Hey Partha, wanna borrow some cash?”

Partha is the perfect neighbor. At Christmas, he brings me good scotch.

Nick is also the perfect neighbor. He lives two houses away and frequently drops off slabs of tuna, hundreds of dollars of surplus blue fin and yellow tail he catches himself.

Nick thinks I know football, so we chit-chat about football. Just because I used to cover football doesn’t mean I know football. I know a little football, probably more than most. But there is so much I need to learn about football.

Meanwhile, another neighbor brings us pies.

Point is, you don’t just get a new place when you move, you also get all the goofs who live around you, this tattered safety net, a network of small courtesies.

If we ever sell this place, the agent will have to acknowledge that one goof keeps borrowing potatoes, and another delivers entire fish, and a third brings fresh-baked pies.

“For that, we are knocking off $200 grand,” she’ll say.

Remember the episode where Fred asks Lucy to secretly help him buy Ethel’s birthday gift, because he always blows birthday gifts? And Lucy buys these nice slacks, which Ethel mocks because she thought Fred bought them? Big fight follows.

The air smelled like Audrey Hepburn’s neck, and the apartment was freshly painted, apparently with vanilla extract and a little lemon zest.

That’s exactly the sort of stuff that is about to happen with Rapunzel and my lovely and patient older daughter. I swear, you could sell tickets.

Are you ready for some football?!

Anyway, my son Smartacus and I helped with the move – couches, dressers, closets crammed with clothes that looked more like costumes. The lovely and patient older daughter was still out of town with her new husband Finn, so there was lots for us to do, fortunately. Otherwise we’d waste the day watching sports and stuff.

It was comfortable by the beach, one of those muted, vellum Santa Monica afternoons. The air smelled like Audrey Hepburn’s neck, and the apartment was freshly painted, apparently with vanilla extract and a little lemon zest.

When I grow up, I hope to move to Santa Monica, our edgy, overbuilt Adriatic coast.

Smartacus and I  didn’t have to help with too much, just the really heavy stuff, then Rapunzel let me wipe down her former fridge, the little bits of jelly, the sprigs of rosemary from last Christmas…some dried yolk – not too much — in the egg cups on the door. Not too bad at all.

On final inspection, I spotted a smudge of chocolate syrup, and oh, yeah, there’s cream cheese on that shelf…and the ketchup, lots of ketchup, you know how that goes, ketchup everywhere, like a Civil War reenactment, actually. And there was a jar in the back I hadn’t spotted: Could be vinegar, could be urine. Or cider maybe?

I text my daughter: “You want the urine?”

By now, Smartacus is on break. He gives himself lots of breaks during the move, because his sister already bought him the sandwich she promised, essentially paying him in advance, always a mistake with little brothers.

Instead of helping me wipe down the old fridge, he’d rather sit in his sister’s new kitchen and watch her arrange the spice drawer and talk about the cool things she’s getting him for his birthday.

“Fridge clean,” I said when I finally got back to her new place.

“Thanks Dad.”

“Thank you, Sweetie.”

“For what?”

“For letting us help you move,” I said.

“You’re welcome, Dad.”

“I was being sarcastic.”

“So was I,” she says.

I like to share with my children little life tips: Most putts break left. Never bet the gray horse. Flip bacon frequently, or it sticks.

And my favorite: Measure once, cut twice.

Another tip would be to move around a little, especially when you’re young. And if you don’t change cities or homes, travel as much as possible. Moving sucks, we all know that. But staying put for 25 years? Jeeesh, the emotional clutter alone. I mean, look at me.

As I mentioned, Rapunzel paid us in sandwiches, from Bay Cities Deli, perhaps the best deli in the world. Damn that bread. I’m obsessed. That bread gives me suggestive dreams.

In the dreams, I marry an Italian sandwich, extra provolone. Our honeymoon is all you ever dreamed a honeymoon could be: no talking, just a lot of horsing around and ordering of room service. Maybe some snorkeling…or was that a bubble bath? Who cares?

At Bay Cities, the famous sandwich is the Godmother, so when Rapunzel asks us what we’d like to order, I always say two Godmothers and a MILF.

“Their MILFS are very good,” I whisper to Smartacus.

“I’ll try one! he says.

“Shut up,” I say.

In our family, hardly an hour goes by without one person telling another person to shut up. There’s a bluntness to the working-class Irish vernacular that you don’t get with a lot of other cultures. Probably good it hasn’t caught on more.

Speaking of other cultures, among some Japanese, there’s the belief that you should eat only till you are 80% full. I find this commendable and odd at the same time. Why would you fill a gas tank 80%?

Conversely, Smartacus and I eat till we’re 120% full – that’s our general yardstick. The other day, we had spare ribs, and we ate till we were 180% of maximum. We would’ve gone to 200% but wanted to leave room for dessert.

Look, we burn a lot of calories, he and I. We lug beds virtually for free and we carry Rapunzel’s 80,000 pairs of shoes up the stairs to her new bedroom, the physical equivalent of building Rome one high heel at a time.

I’m just suggesting – not a criticism at all – that prior to the move it might’ve been good for Rapunzel to thin her shoes, so we didn’t have to shatter our spines carrying 80,000 pairs up the stairs to her new Rome.

Sigh.

Yet now they’re closer together, my daughters are. For this I am delighted. A shattered spine is a small price to pay for your kids’ happiness. Dads are, after all, contented mules.

And I know that Posh would like that her daughters are within screaming distance. She would like that they are looking out for each other when she can’t, borrowing sugar, hemming skirts, lighting candles on cakes.

Yep, thank you for letting us help you move.

Don’t forget our Zoom party Oct. 1. Come share a cocktail, in the name of helping small businesses survive. We’ll talk about the hiking club, the Gin & Tonic Society, the new book and much more. Everyone invited. Info, click here. Thanks!

15 thoughts on “Follow the Sun

  1. What a delightful column! I am glad you didn’t pull your schnitzel again with those 80,000 pairs of shoes! Thanks for the day brightener. BTW, it sounds like you escaped the Times just in time! Sad shenanigans among some of the staff. I was relieved your name wasn’t mentioned! Stay out of trouble…

  2. The opposite going on here, Chris. Son and family live three blocks away and are about to move 800 miles away. Beyond sad. I’ve never looked more forward to an 800 mile road trip, just to go see them. As often as I can.

  3. What a lovely story. So happy for you and for your daughters … not sure how Smarticus benefits but okay him too, he got a great sandwich out of it. We are dedicated Bay Cities fans but to be honest as a Jersey Girl, I prefer the subs at Jersey Mike’s (I actually used to go to the original shop back in Point Pleasant, NJ when it was just “Mike’s”) except, of course, for the bread. There is simply nothing better anywhere than Bay Cities bread (we buy in bulk – it freezes well) and BTW what is an MILF?

  4. yes ~ a city with more concrete than courtesy ~ love this line ~ ~ and why is it that everyone in LA seems to have a broken turn-signal ~ ?! ~ happy for you and the daughters ~ ~

  5. Weve lived in our ancient (1906) house in Pasadena for 52 years (1968). Raised our 2 daughters here. A few years ago we finally “finished” our continuous renovation.
    When our girls visit us from SF & Seattle, they always declare “this isn’t the house we grew up in.” It’s a compliment, colored by a bit of envy. We’ve gone from the neighborhood’s “young couple” to its little old people. We love our home @ 747 and are grateful for living here. It’s been our rock of stability in this troubled
    world. We hope to be here until we start our last chapter.

  6. I envision you as a curmudgeon with a twinkle in your eyes….keep the stories and reflections coming. I look forward to reading you. I actually realized I used to read the Saturday section of the Times, just to read your article and the back page to see if I had a chance at love, again. You are a bright moment in an almost devastating time.
    …would’ve given your daughters apples, but they never called..

  7. Love this. How marvelous that they are neighbors and so close. And that shoe collection! The Sisterhood of the Traveling Shoes. Yes, a shattered spine, sprained dusseldorf or pulled Schnitzelplatz is definitely well worth our kids’ happiness. You got that right. This was heartwarming and funny.

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