Ornery Irish Hope

“Dead Finnegan rises from the coffin bawling for whiskey.” Care to join him?

Just past dawn, Dogpark Gary tells me all about quarterback Drew Brees, who was Raggedy Ann’d into the turf the other day by Big Foot, an opposing lineman.

This was a felony; in real life, Big Foot would get three years. Brees got up slowly, played a little more football, then slinked off to the sideline like a damaged sparrow.

“If your quarterback isn’t the toughest guy on your team, you’re in trouble,” I once heard about quarterbacks.

And little Drew Brees is tough as Army sirloin.

It was like in “Othello” when the entire Turkish fleet is lost. You could feel the quarterback’s pain in the way he walked and moved. In the movies, the orchestra would swell, French horns would gust, followed by a plaintive oboe solo that sounded like a softly crying mother.

As you know, I don’t dwell on bad stuff. I’m all about first kisses and pumpkin pie moments. And “Planes, Trains & Automobiles,” a burgeoning Thanksgiving tradition that has its funny moments but also its share of melancholy.

That seemed a little too Russian to Dogpark Gary — to sleep peacefully on your own broken bones.

I’m not sure we’re in balance unless we’re in tune to all those things – a jigger of happy, a splash of vermouth, a floater of melancholy —  though I tend to stress first kisses and pumpkin pie. Eyes forward. Full speed ahead.

Anyway, Dogpark Gary knows a little about life as well. I see him five mornings a week at the park, where we hang out as our dogs tumble and play. Gary is wry and thoughtful and doesn’t dwell on life’s crud, though he is a little bummed about the current state of things.

“I just dunno anymore,” he’s fond of saying.

This day, Dogpark Gary is telling me he knows just how Drew Brees feels, because he himself once had a urinary tract infection that hit him so hard that he fell and busted a couple of ribs, which is almost exactly what happened to Drew Brees, except that a 400-pound lineman landed on top of Brees after he fell, so there’s that little detail to consider.

In any case, Dogpark Gary reported that his cracked ribs were excruciating.  His wife was out of town, so Dogpark Gary drove himself to Urgent Care, where a Russian doctor – really, you were expecting an American? – suggested he should sleep directly on the fractured ribs.

That seemed a little too Russian to Dogpark Gary — to sleep peacefully on your own broken bones. He ended up sleeping in an easy chair, propped sideways, like a sensible American.

“All I got was Tylenol with a little extra codeine,” Dogpark Gary said.

To my mind, Dogpark Gary is just as tough as Drew Brees and about the same age (77). They are both headed (I hope) to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where I will give Gary’s induction speech.

“Let me tell you a little bit about courage,” I’ll begin. “It all started with a urinary tract infection…”

Point is, we never know what’s going to happen in the next instant, do we? We all have our Shakespearean moments. But we know we have to get up off the turf and sometimes drive ourselves to Urgent Care, where a Russian doctor will send us off to sleep sideways in a chair and pretty much repair ourselves.

“I’d have driven you to Urgent Care,” I tell Dogpark Gary.

“I didn’t know you then,” he says.

I told him that the next time he crushes his ribs like Drew Brees, he should call me right away.

Dogpark Gary seemed skeptical that I would actually show up.

I assured him I would, assuming there was no real inconvenience on my part, and that I wasn’t in the middle of a first kiss, or watching one of my favorite episodes of Seinfeld, or baking lopsided cupcakes for the new neighbors.

“I’ll remember that,” Dogpark Gary says with a smirk.

“No, I’m serious,” I tell him.

“You’re never serious,” he says.

Well, he’s got me there. Reality and I have had a few run-ins, and I don’t care for it much. I prefer to float through life like an escaped balloon. Day to day, I’m pretty much just a silly dude with plastic dog bags in every pocket, still trying to figure out how Google Docs works.

Yesterday, I never actually touched the ground. I’d had a good morning of writing, and then Spectrum offered us 400 mbps of extra data for only 20 bucks, something I neither want nor even understand, though I really appreciated the unsolicited e-mail.

Sometimes, I think Spectrum is the nicest person I know. Writes me constantly!

Then in the evening, I’d hung out with a book club at Eileen’s house in Glendale. That gave me a bit of a helium turbo-boost. And her husband mixes a mean G & T.

Eileen and four of her friends have been in this book club for 20 years. Though one member moved to China, the other original members are all still here: Jennifer, Julie, Janet and Roxane. Dinner was brought in from Julienne’s in San Marino, so that’s certainly part of the allure.

“There’s a waiting list,” Eileen assures me.

“Put me down!” I say.

“Not sure you qualify,” she says.

Like a lot of book clubs, this one is more about friendship than books, though I did tell them how much I’d enjoyed “The Art of Fielding,” a novel I read over the summer.

I also mentioned that incredible new blockbuster, “Lavender in Your Lemonade,” which I wrote but have yet to read. If I remember right, it’s all about lemonade. Critics are calling it the literary equivalent of a flu shot.

That’s good, right?

In any case, they have a lot of laughs together, these book clubbers — a lot of kids and a lot of laughter, and they are going strong after two decades together.

And we are, too, you and I. Yeah, you.  And I.

Look at all we have in common. We plow ahead in tough times; we pick ourselves off the turf. We enjoy John Candy and Steve Martin no matter how many times we see them together.

And cool older guys like Dogpark Gary.

Yesterday, I got a 2021 calendar from my State Farm rep. I see that as an omen, that a new year is almost here, that things will soon be better. I do believe I see hope on the horizon.

As per Joyce: “Dead Finnegan rises from the coffin bawling for whiskey.”

Sure, kind of an ornery Irish hope. But hope just the same.

You know, stories bring us together. In movies, and in summer novels, we pass along our values and our mirth.

As I always say: The better the ending, the better the story.

And the better the friends, the better the life.

Can I interest you in a Happy Hour Hiking Club t-shirt? How about a handsome set of Gin & Tonic Society cocktail glasses?  Welcome to my humble online gift shop. It’s easy to use, and the commemorative items are very reasonable (set of 4 gin glasses is $25). Thank you in advance for your support as we look for ways to subsidize the website (and feed White Fang). Props to my lovely and patient older daughter, her new husband, Finn, and Jim Cosgrove for setting it all up. Info: https://chriserskine.orderpromos.com. Coming soon: A Thanksgiving weekend hike. Also coming soon: The Dec. 9 Gin-gle Bell Ball.

19 thoughts on “Ornery Irish Hope

  1. Chris: As a columnist for The Saturday Evening Post it makes me smile that you have a Norman Rockwell calendar and you’re going to be looking at it every day in 2021. (And as a gin & tonic fan those glasses are enticing….).

  2. So true. Life is better with a smorgasbord of old and new friendships. And camaraderie. These twice weekly columns are so enjoyable to read, smile, read some more, laugh. Repeat. Love the Norman Rockwell calendar. Where’s your calendar of all your cool pics, drink recipes, etc…from 2020 on your gift shop? Thanks again for the beacons of hope and easy laughter. I’ve embraced cranky Scottish hope my whole life. Works wonders. “It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “what about lunch?” A.A. Milne

  3. Hi, Chris, hope you and the family are well and thriving. I’ve been a bit under the weather this week, so am catching up. As usual, your column just lifts me up and tears. (Pronounced “teers”) me up at the same time, like a reality check, you know? But they’re happy tears. Proves I’m still human. All the best to you and your family this Thanksgiving. And that bestseller? I will buy it soon to put right next to Daditudes!

  4. Wow! We were on the same wavelength with Finnegan and his whiskey! As with Joyce, I love your meandering ‘stream of consciousness’ approach to writing! You take us from one thought or emotion to another effortlessly, like a ‘lazy river’ on a perfect summer day. Your words work like a tonic on me! (Two metaphors,one right after the other. Would Strunk and White approve?)

  5. They sang songs, did puzzles and told stores in the London Underground during the blitz. It’s good not to dwell on bad stuff as long as you don’t pretend the bombs aren’t falling. Love and first kisses, Debbie Downer.

  6. Drinking the Lavender Lemonade on an Autumn Saturday morning is like a little fresh mixed Koolaid for the spirit, and that you are: a little tart, bracing, and carrying an unexpectedly warm, artfully earthy energetic into the soul of the day. I’m not fond of commerce, but the gin slips are a must, I think, a toast from your mind to ours, so I must have them. Besides, who could resist supporting a wolf’s cause when you’re a dog whisperer ? Siberian’s. ?–I used to have one of those–a life experience on an artic mail run, even after the chaos of an obedience class. Living with such a force of nature is a peak experience, and everyone should learn to deliver the mail with such dash, style, elan. Like you do.

  7. I so look forward to your words of wisdom ( or not) every week. You always bring me smiles, and heaven knows we can’t have too many of those this year. Please keep it up!!💕🦃

  8. Speaking of Irish Hope and whisky, and books, there is a new Single Malt Irish Whisky that was recently released called Waterford. It’ll be on my Xmas list. https://waterfordwhisky.com/about/ And I’m sure you’ve heard of the great Irish/American author Tana French. Fantastic novels

  9. “Tough as army sirloin”. I was never in the military, but that description was something I could immediately recognize. Love your writing!

  10. Re: Stevie V’s wish list. My son was in Scotland several years ago and bought a 1969 Oban cask strength 46% proof single malt bottle. He wanted to save it for a special occasion, but even after two children and other ‘ special occasions’ his wife kept saying she wanted to sell it. Needless to say, any takers?Chris, your writings segue into all kinds of discussions!

  11. Hope this isn’t too late to comment on some past articles. Having a challenging night with Mom and while I’m waiting for her to fall asleep, been catching up on some of your wonderful pieces that I’ve missed. They make me laugh, cry, think, reminisce. Hyperbole about white paint, (great scene in ‘Mr . Blandings Builds His Dream House’ , Myrna Loy waxing effusive about her paint colors to no avail.) Your daughters a few doors from each other, your love for your beloved Posh. But FIVE sportswriters and no one mentioned Grantland Rice?! He was the greatest of all ! Even with that egregious omission, still love your escapist writings!!!

  12. The “Elite” have always demeaned Norman Rockwell saying he was a sign painter, not an artist. His subjects matter nostalgic claptrap.
    Hooray for “claptrap”! It warms my heart, comforts my soul, puts a smile on my face and joy in my life.
    I think it’s wonderful art!

  13. My favorite writer for years and years was Erma Bombeck. Your writing takes up the space that hers used to inhabit in my mind and in my heart. Thanks.

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