A Meaty Month

Here’s to grilled feasts and maiden Mother’s Days. Time to focus on the good.

Sitting outside the coffee shop, the one where you can always smell the sewer gas, munching on a scone that might’ve been made during the Margaret Thatcher era, baked decades ago, then placed on a slow freighter out of Liverpool. Somehow, this stale scone – once a very fine scone, probably — found its way to a plate at the LA coffee shop where I’m sitting, the one with the sewer gas.

How do people think I could ever leave California?

I am a man whose biggest fear is running out of propane or mayo. So I think I’m staying put here in California, which seems to have a solid stockpile of both.

Meanwhile, California loses a House seat? Yay to that. Wave goodbye to one more politician. That’s progress right there. Now, if we could just ditch 20 million more residents (starting with the chronic complainers).

Anyway, I’m sitting here having coffee, counting my many blessings – a million little wooden pleasures – and not worrying that gas is approaching $5 a gallon or that a few bags of groceries now tops out at 200 bucks.

As always, the indices have yet to catch up with the inflation that’s going on, but we single parents are well aware of it. Want to know how the economy is really doing? Just ask a single mom like me.

In the meantime, my scone is a little crumbly, like aged Roman concrete, having been built, as noted, maybe 40 years ago. It is offset by memories of the excellent tri-tip I had the night before.

“Focus on the good,” as my buddy Rhymer always said.

Honestly, that’s what binds me to California more than anything: the optimism and the tri-tip, a sirloin roast you find only here.

A tri-tip is possibly the most versatile slab of cow. The other day, I even put some on a salad, which is almost beef abuse. Smartacus liked it well enough. I know because at one point he looked up from his ever-present phone and yodeled.

Here’s my tri-tip recipe. I buy one at the market; they are now $40, when a year ago, they were $20. I also purchase a bottle of teriyaki marinade. I marry them in a short informal ceremony, and they honeymoon in the fridge together overnight, having meat sex.

The next day, I toss this marinated tri-tip on the grill for 45 minutes– about 20 minutes per side, with five minutes left over to decide – “Is it done? It’s so thick, hmmmmm…is it done?”

By the time those five minutes of contemplation are over, it is done. A wiser man might use a meat thermometer.

I also split and seed some bell peppers, the colored kind, and baste them with olive oil and dust them with salt (available almost everywhere). I char the peppers too, then serve this all on small rolls, or flour tortillas, with a smear of horseradish.

Smartacus makes this guacamole — though it may be a salsa — and we spackle that on there too: avocadoes, diced tomatoes, diced red onion, diced jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice, salt & pepper, all mixed in a bowl to taste.

Trust me, Smartacus is the Jonas Salk of gringo guaca-salsa.

“BOOM!” as my buddy Arthur used to say. “BOOM!” as in “we soooo nailed this.”

The new family, and a very understanding pup, Penny Laine.

Then Smartacus and I hauled the entire schlimazel over to Santa Monica, a delicate little place full of delicate little people, including my new granddaughter, Catherine Margaret, perhaps the most delicate creature in this storybook land.

“She’s gonna love this tri-tip,” I told Smartacus as traffic crawled through downtown Los Angeles, because though many people have fled LA, traffic seems to be getting worse and worse.

In the backseat, with the tri-tip and grilled peppers, are gifts for the baby and flowers for the lovely and patient older daughter, celebrating her maiden Mother’s Day.

My son rightly observes that when I shop for clothes, I look like a first-time visitor to a strange new country, out of my element and a little awkward, tripping over street curbs as I take in the sights.

I usually only shop at Christmas, yet here we are in Old Pasadena, with its faux store fronts and odd diagonal pedestrian crossings. In Old Pas, the only store that never goes out of business is the pawn shop on the corner of Raymond.

Otherwise, Pasadena could be Prague, for all I understand it. At least the currency is familiar. And let me assure you, at the J Crew shop, you can buy one molecular baby outfit for a little under $100, which is pretty good these days (see gas gripes above)

Anyway, we bought this baby outfit for Catherine Margaret, my newly minted granddaughter, who smells like fresh lumber.

As you know, I fall in love too easily — with Korean dishes, and new hip-hop bands. And don’t get me started on garlic fries. One whiff, and I’m gobsmacked.

Some consider this a flaw, some see it an advantage. Either way, I’ve tried to be a bit more discerning, not so emotionally promiscuous.

So far, no luck. So now I agree: My overly pliant heart is a real strength.

I bought flowers the other day for our pet wolf, White Fang, and on Mother’s Day, treated Rapunzel to some sunflowers as well, since she has turned out to be such a fine auntie.

I didn’t want Aunt Rapunzel to feel left out, and I honestly love her, all indications to the contrary. I tease her and scold her. In fairness, she is the wittiest one in the family, slyly funny, unlike me, who is robustly funny. Most people prefer sly funny, of course. Much harder. Takes finesse and a keener mind.

So, there we are in Santa Monica, a car full of teriyaki tri-tip, and backyard roses too, with a little blood on them from a random thorn – how Biblical.

We also have a Mother’s Day helium balloon ($10).

Dear Capitalism, if you can’t gouge customers on Mother’s Day, when are you gonna gouge them? Thank you.

Dancing in the back seat, the helium balloon created a blind spot all the way from Dodger Stadium to the Overland exit, where it mysteriously floated to the other side of the backseat so I could make the Lincoln exit.

That’s gotta be God’s work right there. He wanted this new baby to have her tri-tip.

In Santa Monica, the kids loved the tri-tip, though my daughter insisted the infant was a little young to be chomping on sandwiches with peppers and horseradish. Whatever.

I also served some grilled octopus as an appetizer, with a drizzle of olive oil and a schmutz of lemon.

As compensation, I got to hold this new baby granddaughter, the finest form of therapy since keg beer. Holding my grandbaby sends me into this Zen state where I breathe from my eyelids.

She weighs about as much as an empty envelope, and her skin is ethereal, almost a mirage. She is so light, like snowflakes on your mittens; you look down at times to confirm she is still there, and not merely the accumulation of all my life hopes and wishes.

Her new mom and dad are cool. They are getting their sleep, four hours at a time, and trading off – “This isn’t so bad,” they are thinking this first week. “I think we can do this, as long as we never have to go back to our jobs, or do anything else.”

Parents always manage. Just wait till their daughter gets a phone. Just wait till she has babies of her own, and they are bringing her bloody roses on her maiden Mother’s Day.

Wait till she announces: “I’m moving to Texas, Mom! I hear it’s wonderful there! It’s America!”

Well, enough about babies moving to Texas. Uncle Smartacus is off to prom in a few days, then graduation follows. Milestones are piling up like fibs at a French wedding.

On the boulevard, they’ve posted individual banners of the graduates. At first, I thought they were “Wanted Posters” and thought to myself: “Why the round-up? What have all these beautiful kids done that’s so bad?”

Then I remembered that prom was nearing, so it was a pre-emptive strike by the parents to protect the town from whatever these little outlaws have in mind.

“No weapons,” the mandatory prom contract insists. And “male students will be frisked.”

“Don’t forget to bring proof of your COVID test!”

Such a sense of trust we instill here in the panhandle. Oh, well. Members of the class of 2021 should be very proud. You made it! Resilience is a safety net that will serve you forever.

Life sure scoots along, doesn’t it? It skips, it waltzes and every once in a while, there’s a grand celebration.

Like a prom, for instance.

Thank you for all the lovely notes on the new baby. To answer the most-common question: No, she is not a nun, despite her nunny name (Catherine Margaret). We’re not even sure she’s religious yet. All we know for sure is that she’s a middle infielder with a lot of pop in her bat. And she likes doggies a lot. For books, gear and past columns, please go to ChrisErskineLA.com. And don’t forget gin season is here (April to October). Catch your limit. Cheers!

She is so light, like snowflakes on your mittens; you look down at times to confirm she is still there, and not merely the accumulation of all my life hopes and wishes.

11 thoughts on “A Meaty Month

  1. One of your most perfect columns, like Catherine Margaret herself. So happy for your happiness, Chris. Well deserved for sure. Enjoy this new chapter in your twisty life story.

  2. As Hartzel, a friend of mine, says over and over: “it’s good, it”s all good”; and, “Life is sweeeeeet”. He’s made his point, and I feel he’s right: just look at those pictures. That little rose of a girl in the center of a loving universe. Heaven. As for the Tri-tip…not so much. There are many better things around. When will the book of recipes I predicted here long ago go to press ?

  3. the baby smells like fresh lumber ! ! and fibs at a french wedding ~ ~ ! ! ! cracking me up ! ! party on chris ~ ~

  4. What a thing of wonder, a new baby! Enjoy your tiny new grandbaby, see how this little bundle of love spreads love throughout your family!

  5. It does not get any better than this; holding a tiny, precious, confection in your hands. Catherine Margaret is the embodiment of all that is good in Heaven and Earth! We can see your smile through the mask. You are beaming!

  6. Chris- you sitting outside holding the beautiful and precious Catherine Margaret: I can see your Mona Lisa smile even through the mask. So happy for you and your family.

  7. Also a few of MY favorite things. Marinated Tri-tip, grilled octopus and new babies. Great column

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