My So-Called Life

Before we bring in the new flooring, I thought I’d paint first

When we last spoke, I was getting deeply involved with Jewish women and Serbian ants, while accepting free gin and key-lime pie from Fish, the TV producer/raconteur who lives just up the hill.

Honestly, this retirement thing is really working out for me. Reminds me of an episode of “Hello, Larry.”

FYI, I am no longer accepting requests for dates, though there really weren’t that many. In the end, my heart belongs to Angie Dickinson, and until she marries me in some little cowboy chapel in the Tetons, I will dally here and there with the occasional Jewish princess who makes me laugh.

I am promiscuous when it comes to laughter. Insatiable. I get it anywhere I can.

So onward into autumn we go. Follow me. We’ll hit some hiking trails, and maybe the Rose Bowl. On Halloween, we’ll trick-or-treat.

I shun crowds – always have – but we might wander along Larchmont Village, or Monrovia, or Montrose, any of those quaint slices of Mayberry that defy LA developers.

Everything is better in October. Even me. Did you hear about the full moon for Halloween? Very rare. See, I told you life would improve. You just need to wait it out.

Just last week, there were some terrific foggy mornings. I have this theory – I have too many theories – but this particular theory is that fog repairs things. It’s like a binding agent, a starch, and when a fog rolls in, there is suddenly something spiritual and romantic about the trees.

There is, in fog, a hint of mystery, the whispered promise of a Druid dance.

I like sock hops, and Druid dances and live music by aging fathers on acoustic guitars. I like fog. I like difficult women, with far too many opinions.

Hence my fascination with Jewish women, perhaps the highest caliber of female you’ll ever find, though they get a bad rap for their high standards.

My buddy Druck reminded me of this: “Five Jewish women are having lunch, and the waiter stops by the table: ‘Ladies, is anything all right?’”

You gotta laugh, which is what attracts me to anyone, the laughter. The dancing eyes. The laugh lines. The mirth.

Me to the world: Skip the Botox. Put on some laugh lines.

Meanwhile, I stare out the kitchen window at the fog, stir the coffee, enjoy the sound of the spoon against the heavy cup, as I consider what to burn for dinner.

Kitchens come alive in the fall. In my case, please call 9-1-1.

I can’t cook really, but my son Smartacus is always too hungry to realize it. He eats with gusto, as do most 17-year-old boys, as if he’s just returned from a long trail ride up the Missouri River, through Missoula, as if he’s saddled up a Larry McMurtry novel.

Yesterday, he ate 14 breakfasts.

You can tell where Smartacus eats by the crumbs he leaves behind. Like squirrels leaving the remnants of acorns beneath the bird bath.

For Smartacus, there are always more-pressing obligations. Like, looking at the latest TikTok of a twerking grandma. He lives his life in 10-second spurts of pure comic joy. I suppose teen boys always have.

For his generation, TikTok is the new weed.

Look, as long as he’s happy. As long as he is laughing at something – anything – given all he’s been through. Could be a twerking grandma, could be me on a step ladder, trying to spackle the rain damage around the sky light.

Now that’s entertainment.

So, before we bring in the new flooring, I thought I’d paint first. Of all the trades, painting is probably my best, though I’m pretty good at demolition or screwing up plumbing.

When it comes to house painting, you must proceed slowly. Painting the wall is the easy part; it’s the spackling, sanding and other prep work that suck up most of your time.

By the way, do you have any idea how many shades of white there are?

This is what women have done to our nation, created a place with 400 variations on the color white: Winter Wheat, Deer Bosom, Fargo, to name just a few.

For the ceiling, it came down to two shades, a choice between Gym Socks or Dolly Parton, probably the whitest white you can buy.

If you go into a paint store and ask for white, they’ll point you to a display with 400 colors, then ask you for details: Did you want the flat finish, satin or maybe the egg shell? So that’s, like, 1,200 options on the white.

For the ceiling, it came down to two shades, a choice between Gym Socks or Dolly Parton, probably the whitest white you can buy.

For the walls, we selected a delicate shade of muskie (presumably based on the soft underbelly of the fish, almost a pearl).

Like a lot of men, I can’t tell white from midnight, so I turned to the greatest crazy woman I know, the lovely and patient older daughter, whose self-assurance has only grown since her wedding in June.

When you own something – say, a husband – it makes you feel that much more a part of society. That’s why marriage is the first step to solving so many of America’s ills.

But is it worth it? That’s a very personal decision.

Anyway, we arrive at the paint store, the older daughter and I, with a sample of the laminated flooring I’m putting in, another decision she has vetoed.

For the floors, I’d picked out a grayish barn wood known as “Fireside Tavern,” which was not only a handsome plastic wood, but seemed redolent of all the things I love in life: rustic taverns, baronial fireplaces, pheasant, beer steins and those furry Viking caps (the ones with the horns).

She said, “No Dad, that’s not what you want, you want this,” and seized on a wheat-hued plastic flooring that reminded me of all the fake stuff at Knott’s Berry Farm.

“Yeah, I like that,” I said, so we had a deal.

Now, all that was left to do was choose from 1,200 shades of white for the walls. Easy.

You know, just when I think my wife Posh is gone, along comes the lovely and patient older daughter to help me re-decorate the house.

She’s not just pulling wall colors, now she’s pulling accent colors, snapping the paint chips down on the table like a blackjack dealer, telling me, “We should paint the island, wouldn’t that pop?”

And I just shrug and nod the way I’d learned to do over a 35-year marriage. (otherwise, it’s just constant warfare, right?).

When I met Posh, she was 19, about half my daughter’s current age. How weird is that to think about?

Posh was so pretty, half the men in the newsroom were afraid to approach her, even her bosses. The ones who did were overconfident dolts like me.

Think about all that’s transpired since then — all the babies, the furniture, the dirty t-shirts, the meals, the soccer sign-ups, the immunizations, the birthday gifts, the schmutz, the life.

Think about all that led up to me and my daughter being here in this paint store right now, selecting from 2,000 paint chips, going, “that one, not that one, OK, maybe that one.”

Isn’t life amazing?

Indeed. Posh lives.

You’re probably tired of hearing about my new book, so I’m not going to mention it here, or beg you to buy it. It’s not even that good. In fact, whatever you do, please don’t buy this particular book. Buy lots of books, just not this one. If it’s a hit, I’d just have to write another one, and I’ve felt a little sluggish lately (I think it’s my diet). Here’s the info on the funny new book to avoid at any cost. Thank you.

18 thoughts on “My So-Called Life

  1. Beautiful as per usual. I say hold out for what you REALLY want in flooring and in women. Angie is coming around, I just know it. You are wearing down her resistance, one column at a time. Keep visualizing success!

  2. Word tapestries! I love wandering around behind you digesting the words of your columns. I smile, I laugh, I get teary eyed. Thank you for sharing such a personal and creative side of yourself with us, your audience. Your columns (and you!) are truly gifts to us all! Happy day!

    1. The beautiful Angie Dickinson photo reminded me of the ANGIE award, voted on in silent “man-speak” and awarded in secret, by my husband and his buddies at the Rams’ home games in the early ’70’s. The award was given, of course, to the most beautiful woman in their section that day.

      We met, and married, in the late 70’s, and he swears that once he met me, he was ruined for any other female. Baloney? Perhaps, but he still knocks my socks off.

  3. I wonder what goes through the mind of a real estate agent. With all of those variations of ‘white’ they seem to always tell us to paint the walls ‘Swiss coffee’. If your coffee is that color, there is no coffee in the cup. My late wife loved color on the walls so our kitchen is two shades of green, the entry is burnt orange and the master bathroom is bright blue. So there!
    I am not repainting. These colors have helped me over the last 7 years since she passed.

  4. I’m positive I would have liked Posh. I felt the same way about you (gin and baseball being two of the commons) until you coerced me into buying Shoeless Joe, a novel that made for a far better movie than read. But, I think you may have redeemed yourself with your mention of McMurtry. Although Diane Lane (my Angie) was fabulous in the series, Lonesome Dove is one of the best books I’ve ever read.
    (CSU ‘25 has a nice ring to it)

  5. I love that you are painting before the new floors go in. Every home decorating show lately does the floors first and then paints and I find myself yelling at the TV like an idiot. If you do decide to wander in Monrovia, please come by Charlie’s House and say hi!

  6. Your book about The Suburbs was well,………..superb. Hope it is still in print for folks to enjoy. lp

  7. For the first time EVER I didnt read this 15 minutes after it appeared — let my husband read it first, over breakfast. No pancakes, I’m not Jewish, and our kids & their families are miles away. But could I relate? You bet! First thing tomorrow, i’m ordering your book!!

  8. Loved this. Touching, funny and poignant. Agreed about Tik Tok. My daughter is constantly sharing videos and thinks it’s the best source of news and current events. (I tried to explain where more accurate news is found but got another “OK Boomer.”) And yes, how true. Life is amazing. Posh most certainly does live.

  9. Autumn. Twilight of the house, before winter snaps up Summer’s profligate largess of colors, and gives you 25 kinds of ice and 1200 shades of white to ponder, blanking your mind. It’s only natural to tart things up before Winter’s main event. Even nature does it. It’s called Fall. You’re solidly in the zeitgeist, Chris. Also with Jewish women. In autumn, their resinous resonance coupled with the lavish splash of colors everywhere burns like smoke in the mind. Unforgetable. Perfume for the soul. Something to decorate your house, your life, with, before Winter drops its icy shoe. And they burn in Winter, too. Like no other. You’re definitely in the zeitgeist…

  10. You are well into your way to romance with a Jewess. You’ve the Yiddish slang down pat? No wonder. You resonate with us. I’m getting in line…..

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