I prefer coaches who seem a little tilted — perfection being, at best, a mirage.
I start most mornings with a smooch from the wolf-dog, who thinks we’re married. I’d tell her otherwise, but I don’t like conflict. Besides, I’ve always had a pretty broad definition for what constitutes romance. I suppose I’m the worst kind of person — a wise guy with a needy heart.
At my age, every kiss is a tiny miracle.
So, OK White Fang, from here on out we’re married…slurp, slurp. I love you more.
I love you, as per the fine poem by Kim Addonizio, “like I’m a strange backyard and you’re running from the cops, looking for a place to stash your gun.”
That’s a lot of love. With a hint of danger. I think that’s the kind of love I like the most.
I find love and danger every morning during my daily jog, as drivers pause a few seconds to let me cross an intersection, or if they’ve blocked the crosswalk, often back up to let me pass.
I know … unbelievable, right? LA’s not exactly renowned for its small kindnesses. LA is Satan in a prom dress – nice on the outside and wicked within. Yet, these little kindnesses happen all the time … love amid the danger. Slurp, slurp.
I usually wave to the courteous driver to go ahead as I curl behind the car, so they can pull out.
I’ve been on their side of things too. I’ve run late to day care, or to the dentist. I know that the drivers are probably slightly peeved, that I – the only remaining living pedestrian in Los Angeles – has chosen this moment to show up in their stressed-out lives. They must think: “What are the odds? 6 million cars, 1 living pedestrian.”
To be honest, I see all kinds of grace during this year-long pandemic, hear stories of people helping elderly neighbors get appointments and driving them to three-hour waits for vaccinations.
You people are certified angels. If I had a sword, I’d have you take a knee so I could publicly salute you, as trumpets blare and other knights of the roundtable take a knee in tribute. It’d be a solemn ceremony. The photos would run worldwide.
Our friend Nancy made us chili, cornbread and brownies the other night. I’m pretty sure she’s a certified angel as well. I sensed that Posh was watching and thinking: “Yep, leave it to Nancy to think of you two dopes.”
Nancy is not as fortunate with crosswalks as I am. She’s the woman who, while on her long daily stroll, was crushed by a clueless driver a year ago. Nearly lost her legs but didn’t, and began a long grueling recovery.
She is walking again — another miracle — and making chili, and thinking of us. I mean, who thinks of us, besides bill collectors and White Fang? I get it. Charity takes a back seat when you’re just trying to get through each day.
And here comes Nancy with the chili.
Soup and chili warms you twice, to borrow from an old Ben Franklin notion about chopping wood. When you make it, and when you slurp it. If you give some away, it warms you three times.
This seems a good weekend for gifting soup, or leaving flowers on someone’s doorstep. But what weekend isn’t?
Some mornings I wrap my hands around the coffee mug as if in prayer. Do prayers work? Aren’t they merely the desperate act of a desperate man? Well, in this case, obviously.
So I wrap my hands around the coffee mug and say a prayer for the elderly. A prayer for the health workers. A prayer for the students without the company of classmates, robbed of the energy of a hallway between classes — the slammed lockers, the yelps, the whistles, the bells, the sideway glances, the herky-jerky body language of bright-eyed youth.
A prayer for the grocery workers for keeping us fed. To the restaurants and their takeout staffs, and the makeshift patios they put up, take down, put up again, in the winter rains.
Several prayers for small businesses to survive, and newspapers too. Prayers for every struggling ma-and-pa operation from Maine to Maui.
For years, you’ve had our backs. Now we have yours.
A prayer for those struggling with the sameness of every day, who can’t tell tomorrow from Tuesday, last year from last week. Like zombies, we go about our business. On auto-pilot. On emotional repeat.
Get some sunshine. Stretch your legs. To move is to live. To live is to help others. Warms you twice, remember?
A prayer for spring training…it’s out there somewhere, a desert flower waiting for the sun. Several prayers for the Chicago Cubs, ultimate symbols of hope and fortitude. In the name of Ernie Banks and Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown, take a knee for underdogs everywhere.
Speaking of which, prayers this weekend for the Tampa Bay Bucs, who could get stomped tomorrow, especially since I picked them to win. Sorry for that hex. Call your bookie. Take the Chiefs.
Then sit back, snap open a beer and root for the most unlikely LA guy ever: Andy Reid, who looks more like North Dakota, as if a north wind is always slapping him in the face and he’s flinching from the snow.
I don’t know much about football … only been following it for 60 years or so. Generally, though, I find that it’s a tough game for pretty boys. It favors men with stretchy jeans and door knobs for noses.
So I like guys who seem a little tilted (perfection being, at best, a mirage). I like Tampa Coach Bruce Arians, who looks like he just piloted a Greyhound bus to Flagstaff and growled, “OK, everybody, grab your bags. I’m gonna go get me a smoke.”
Arians might be older than the alphabet.
In an era where the NFL leans toward young leaders with gel in their hair, look at these retro coaches, these wise guys with their needy hearts. They know stuff. They know when to get angry and when to smirk.
As you watch the game, feel their toughness, feel their fortitude. Feel the teamwork and every ache. Most of all, feel the way their players have each other’s backs.
After all, life’s a coin flip. Life’s an on-side kick.
Pray for fair outcomes. Oh, what the hell, just pray.
We have a few spots left for tonight’s pre-Super Bowl Bash at 6 pm. Jump on Zoom (it’s easy) and help us celebrate food, football and music. E-mail me at letters@ChrisErskineLA.com for the link. In any case, be safe and enjoy the weekend. Rose Bowl hike info coming Wednesday.