Love October. The pumpkins. The playoffs. The yoga pants.
Change seems in the air, and the sun not so savage. It gets hot, yet the mornings are cooler and the other day I had this invigorating thought: “Soup!”
Yep, I’m starting to think of soup and chowdah, and stocking up on books for the long wet winter ahead.
All is good – love October, the pumpkins, the playoffs, the hints of cashmere in the trees.
Then the other night, my buddy Fish strolls down the hill with a backpack full of gin and carrying a key-lime pie he’d made.
Talk about mystical moments. Talk about Pied Pipers. Fish walks a mile at dusk with this pie, and we sip gin on the patio, and then my son Smartacus has pie. Must’ve been almost 10 by the time Fish trudges back up the hill to his high-powered attorney wife.
It’s good to be Fish.
Then, on Monday, I run across my buddy Miller wearing yoga pants during his morning workout.
As we know, there are some sights you can’t un-see. That sight would be Miller in form-fitting yoga pants, apparently borrowed from his leggy wife, the former swimmer.
It’s good to be Miller. Except for the yoga pants, of course. My therapist says visuals like that can put us “out of tune for a while. Then we snap back.”
So, like I said, all is mostly good, or partially good….certainly not awful. Life is about so many things right now — politics and public health, justice and gin — that it’s difficult to keep track.
Words to drink by: Where there is gin, there is justice. Or a hazy kind of hope.
Meanwhile, our poor pet wolf is a tad morose that the boy is off on a sleepover at his sister Rapunzel’s new crib in Santa Monica. This type of disappearance upsets the wolf, and she doesn’t eat, and her digestion is a little off.
White Fang sits at the edge of the front yard, or in my easy chair, waiting for Smartacus to return. Every once in a while, she sighs a big sigh and the trees flutter a little and the butterflies change course.
“Where is he?” she thinks. “Why would he leave me?”
A wolf with abandonment issues? Sounds like a children’s book.
She has precedent. Her original owner, my older son, went off to work one day and never returned. So in her wolf mind, whenever someone leaves, there is the possibility that he will not ever come back. Now she is waiting on two boys.
In LA, there really ought to be a line of dog food with bits of Valium in it. Dogs pick up on their owners’ neuroses, so a sedative kibble seems in order, since we are the Disneyland of neurotics.
LA’s only advantage is the sunshine; it kills viruses and needless worry. Otherwise, I think we would easily top New York in neuroses.
So, our young wolf White Fang – pick of the litter, lover of “Gomer Pyle” re-runs — is sitting in my easy chair, staring at the door, wondering when a smiling Smartacus will burst back in and tongue kiss her the way he does – hence, their deep spiritual connection.
I feed White Fang, walk her, brush her thick minky coat, but I cannot compete with these French kisses the boy gives her. They both get sort of goo-goo eyed and drunk on each other. They wag their tails. Then they hug a little.
Doesn’t have to be a long separation. Sometimes, they will embrace like this when he comes out of his bedroom between Zoom classes, grumbling about how his teacher talks incessantly about pumpkin spice latte and all the fall decorations at Trader Joe’s.
I tell him that his teacher is merely trying to humanize the remote sessions. Being a teen-aged boy, he’s not much for humanization. He just wants to get on with it — chem, English, civics – so that he can focus on his college apps.
He sees these college apps as his ticket out of the ghetto.
If he gets into college, he will no longer need to hear me obsess over the gin Fish brought over, or listen to me curse the recent invasion of ants – I think they’re Serbian ants, with biceps and a steely determination you often see among the Habsburgs.
It’s gotten to the point where, if I open the pancake mix in the morning, and there are no ants, I jump up and down a little.
Poor kid. He lives in an odd house, with a ghostly history and a seriously odd father.
Once in college, Smartacus also won’t have to deal with how – when I eat chicken wings – I usually wear little blotches of rusty Buffalo sauce down the front of my t-shirt.
“Looks like a map, Dad.”
“It’s all the places we’ve been,” I say, then point to Chicago and New Orleans, and that little Swiss village, Zurmatt, that he and I visited last summer, the one with the disappointing fondue.
“Over there is Florida, up here is New York. Remember Cooperstown?”
A year from now, he’ll be rid of all this. A year from now his only concern will be where does he go to read Beowulf: Under the tree in the quad, or in the library, near where that girl “Becky from Baltimore” usually roosts?
Finally, he will be a free man, liberated and making good choices. Without me to scold him, Smartacus will go three weeks eating only tater tots and fries.
What will I do? Oh, plenty. I have my needy friends, and my modestly reborn dating life. (I’m into Jewish women lately, which I think was inevitable. They have a certain schvetz about them. And when I grumble about my injured schnitzel, they really pretend to understand).
As you know, I’m seriously into poetry and home repair. Not much luck with either, especially the home repair.
When we were on our road trip this summer, the young dog-sitter Hannah, a person of uncommon sweetness, called us in Wyoming to report a strange smell in the kitchen, perhaps a gas leak.
The gas company responded with sirens – they frown on self-made residential bombs, bad for bidness – and reported no apparent gas leaks.
The lovely and patient older daughter seemed to solve the mystery, weighing in that, “the house has always smelled a little.”
So that was that.
Doesn’t mean the place can’t be improved.
Latest project: Replacing the pinged-up old floors, which have long suffered the wrath of soccer cleats and prom heels, Christmas tree stands and dogs.
The front-runner for the new flooring is a top-of-the-line laminate called Fireside Tavern.
Seriously. Leave it to me to remodel a house with a flooring called Fireside Tavern.
I expect it to be a nice place, more a roadhouse than a home, with dart tournaments and jousting on weekends. Wandering minstrels can stop in for a pint, and Knights of the Roundtable might dine here on roast mutton, medium well.
“Vodka or gin?” the server will ask.
“Why not both?” they’ll say.
Seriously. Leave it to me to remodel a house with a flooring called Fireside Tavern. #ChrisErskineLA #flooring #pieTweet
The roadhouse will be devoted to all the excesses I gave up as a married father. It will feature live owls and big fat candles, like Game of Thrones. Bittner and Billable Bob (my attorney) will probably live here, in costume. Miller too, but not in those ridiculous yoga pants.
And hopefully, on cold nights when the bridge washes out and the sleet is turning to snow, a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader will stop in seeking shelter (they’re usually Jewish, right?).
Go Cowboys! L’Chaim!
Anyhoo, I fully expect that’s how the house will transform when Smartacus goes off to college. We’ll spend a fortune on cider, firewood and headache remedies. Maybe some kibble and Valium.
Because in the corner, a blue-eyed Russian wolf will wait and wait, sullen and confused, beautiful but bewildered.
“Where is he?” she’ll wonder. “Why would he leave me?”
Last call for our Zoom cocktail party Thursday night, in support of small businesses and tiny books, gin consumption and free pie. I’m bringing my cornet. You’re bringing a beverage. It’ll be fun, in that weird wacky way that fun is fun these days. There’s a fee, but it includes a signed, personalized copy of my new book. If you don’t need the book, there’s a reduced price. Registration is open till noon Thursday. The event starts at 6:30. For info, click here