On the wall, his college acceptance letters. Turns out they really want him.
My late wife resented me for a lot of reasons – my generally sophomoric demeanor, the way I’d curse out opposing drivers in German or Cantonese, or order cheeseburger Happy Meals in fancy restaurants.
“Tell me, how is that prepared here?” I’d ask with a straight face as Posh slinked down behind her menu.
Amusing the first time. Maybe.
Most of all, she would resent that I would outlive her, me existing burger to burger, beer to beer, and Posh ordering the kale salad with the low-cal vinaigrette, when what she really craved was a saddle-sized sirloin served by a beefy waiter in a tear-away tux.
We were an odd couple, to be sure. I was all impulse; she was all class. Outwardly, we fit together like a couple of spoons. Internally, she was a cat, I was a coyote. I can still recall the way she purred.
Honestly, I was lucky to get a second date.
Yet, looking back now, Posh could never ding me for how I helped in the kitchen. I never understood how men could stand by doing nothing, even though doing nothing is pretty much my only life skill.
So I’d jump in to help, and now that’s paying dividends, for I can make Smartacus a gooey, world-class grilled cheese sandwich, mayo on the outside to promote an oily crunch, while letting it heat till it’s welded together like a battleship.
That’s what I’m doing now, as we speak, welding his 1 millionth grilled cheese sandwich as he monitors his phone, gazing at the damn thing as if the wisdom of the gods were trapped inside, or perhaps the girl of his dreams, which is entirely possible. His phone seems filled with possibilities — a magic carpet, a genie’s bottle. I can’t compete with that.
I ask: “Hey, the Lakers win?” three times before he hears me, and then he mutters. “Ooomfff,” which translates roughly into, “Would you just leave me alone already?”
Evidently, he’s outgrown me, the way he’s outgrown Barney and Winnie the Pooh.
On the wall, his college acceptance letters. As it turns out, they really want him, in places like Eugene and Fort Collins, Denver and Iowa City, some of the loveliest cities in all the land.
Each week, he adds another acceptance letter – his future plain to see.
These acceptance letters are his ticket out of the ghetto. He is aglow with these tokens of his success, beaming like “a jewel hung in a ghastly night,” to quote Wee Willie Shakespeare (who really had something to say once you got past all the clutter).
Warms my heart to see the turbo-boost these letters give my son. He holds his head a little higher now, his shoulders are looser, his smile a little quicker on the draw.
“Whew, I’m going somewhere,” he thinks… Eugene and Fort Collins, Denver and Iowa City.
I look at these letters. I look at him. I’m standing at the stove gluing together his latest sandwich. You could track his boyhood by the number of grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve melted for him over the years.
Suddenly, he’s an 18-year-old boy, a shape-shifting warlock, bigger this morning than he was last night, growing smarter and more mature as I spin around trying to find where I left my coffee mug…where, where, where?
“Try the microwave?” he suggests.
“Sure enough!” I say.
Now you see why colleges want him so bad?
Got a nice note myself the other day:
Hello!! I know my contact with you brings you inspiration and joy to your life! As you can see, I am a spiritualist and a healer. I have herbal cure for CANCER, Diabetes, Herpes and more. I also cast spell such as *love spell *money spell *good fortunes *weight loss/gain spell *Lottery spell *Job promotion spell *Pregnancy spell *court cases Just name it and see everything you ever wanted and wish for come to pass.
Syntax aside, a beautiful offer. If I ever need a weight-gain spell, I will be sure to reach out. What about a “college tuition spell?” What about a spell to find the Chicago Bears a real quarterback? What about a spell to keep me from eating too many Thin Mints?
Thing is, there are no shortcuts…no spiritual money spells, or herpes cures. But, seriously, thanks for the offer on that. Always open to suggestions.
No, there are no shortcuts, though I was teaching a writing class the other day, by way of Pages book store, down in Manhattan Beach (just like Manhattan, but with a beach!), at the request of the owner, whom I’ll identify only as Melvin, to protect her privacy.
Melvin looks like a young Meg Ryan and is trying to save this little curio of a bookstore — this South Bay treasure — at a time when COVID is destroying everything in its path.
To help a little, I offered to teach this class, with some of the proceeds going to Melvin’s book shop.
We held the class on Wednesdays, at 6 pm on Zoom, at the hour when I usually pour a first drink. I’m such a cliché sometimes.
Honestly, this Zoom class is really just a blatant attempt to have people to drink with on a regular basis. In that sense, I think it was quite the success.
It was 100 bucks for the four-week course. Obviously, we overpriced it. I think most of the men and many of the women joined just to hang out with Melvin.
Anyway, the last class featured my Top 10 Writing Tips, and tip No. 7 was: “Dark chocolate. Maybe almonds. Definitely coffee or tea.”
Let me warn you: That’s the caliber of tips you get in a $100 Zoom writing class … four sessions spread inelegantly across the dead zone of mid-January to mid-February. Still, people signed up. Why? We told them it would be taught by Ryan Seacrest. We’re not idiots.
Is it fair to say we all feel like boats stuck at our moorings right now? Yet, this Zoom class gave us an outlet, a sly and chatty hangout. This bookstore, like most bookstores, melted us together.
I like Californians to begin with, and then if you sift for the book lovers, I like them even more.
My writing tips were predictable: Verbs, verbs, verbs, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite…all the usual stuff.
But No. 7, I thought, was inspired: “Dark chocolate.” Life’s only shortcut, in a world that better rewards grinding it out, getting up the next day, and grinding it out all over again.
And No. 10, I liked too: “Loosen the shoulders, fly.”
What’s that even mean? It means, when you write, when you jog, when you dance the boogie-woogie, that there are just times when you need to loosen those shoulders, point your chin into the wind and cast off your earthly bonds.
Like Smartacus soon will. In places like Eugene and Fort Collins, Denver and Iowa City.
Loveliest cities in the land.
Today’s Valentine’s hike is a sellout – thanks! If you were among the first 50 responders, you should have received details. If you missed it, we’ll have another one soon. It’s a fine time for hiking, the recent rains greening up the trails. It’s also a fine time for dark chocolate, or to go to the website to support these twice weekly posts. Or to just catch up on past columns. As always, thank you for your friendship and support. Info: ChrisErskineLA.com