Summer in the Sun

This sun-kissed summer seems bound to glow. Blasting. Brilliant. Biblical.

The bougainvillea looks in love.

It glows at the corner of the house, as if high on helium and tequila. Blasting. Brilliant. Biblical.

The bougainvillea never cease to impress me. Wide and heaving – built very much like Chiefs Coach Andy Reid — they live in the crevices of LA, along the freeway ramps, in the cracks in the pavement, slurping water from the dusty air, defying what would seem certain death for any other living thing.

Lovers don’t really come alive till they’re kissed, and so it is with California. Ever see it in the shade? In the shade, California looks like a 5 (on a scale of 10). It looks just average.

When the sun kisses it, California is an 11.

I love summer the way Madonna loves men. I love the cool mornings, the toasty crisp afternoons, the way the refrigerator door swings open about 5 pm and you start digging for a sweater.

“Summer in the light, winter in the shade,” as per Charles Dickens.

All the glory that is California is captured in that one passive-aggressive trait.

I’m lousy at predictions, or even planning a decent dinner, yet I see no reason why this can’t be the best summer ever. Better than the ones we had when we were all 17, or 19. And those were some pretty crazy summers: Blasting. Brilliant. Biblical.

My buddy Verge is having some parties at his beach house. Beer from the can. Patron from the bottle.

The other morning, Verge called to find out when my birthday was.

“November,” I said. “Yours?”

“Today,” he said.

“Wow, what a coincidence.”

“I know,” he said.

“Happy birthday!”

“Thanks.”

So I baked him a cake, then ate it all myself.

It’s summer, damn it. Crack a beer. Bake a cake. If you’re not going to celebrate this summer, then when and where?

By the way, I’m auditioning new friends as we speak. One of my best buddies, Eugene, has left for North Carolina, leaving an opening for a new friend that may be impossible to fill.

Eugene understood friendship. He senses when you’re not yourself. He just seems to know when to call.

All my friends check in. They’re like a bunch of chicks, really. They text a lot. They drink too much wine.

I like ’em anyway.

As Nora Ephron once said: “It is only the sane people who are willing to admit that they are crazy.”

Speaking of crazy, I almost threw out our only remaining Bible the other day, mistaking it for something else — one of the thousands of self-help books I’ve purchased over the decades, or maybe a weepy Nicholas Sparks novel one of my daughters left behind.

I prefer my martinis shaken and my Holy Bibles black, dark as a bad impulse. See the tie-in?

This particular Bible, the one I almost accidentally threw out, had an illustration on the cover. The lettering was up in the trees, like acorns. If you saw the title, it was a miracle: “Holy Bible,” it said.

Then, in smaller type, right below: “Lots of lust, lots of betrayal, plenty of hard lessons for all of us.”

OK, so maybe it didn’t say that. But if the marketing folks ever got hold of it, the ones who peddle beer or burgers, that’s what a Holy Bible would say.

There would also be some sort of McDonald’s tie-in. Eggs McAdam. Eggs McEve.

What I’m trying to say is that this was a Bible in disguise, which is how I happened to almost toss it, in a flurry of spring cleaning.

A Bible shouldn’t have a cover illo. On this illo, Jesus looked like Donald Sutherland, and there’s an adoring groupie off to the side who looked just like Olivia de Havilland, in heavy lipstick and a scarf.

Just Jesus’ type.

Oh, and the young girl in the illustration was played (I think) by Katy Perry, who will always be remembered for singing: “Let me be the first to wish you the worst…”

As well as other songs of hope and redemption.

Listen, I like having the Bible around. It’s a pillow of wisdom and cautionary truths. The Bible was our first self-help book, our lasting civil code.

This little Bible also happened to belong to my late son.

I’m still a little shaky with throwing out his stuff. I did finally manage to toss the shovel he used to build snowboard jumps.

Out the snow shovel went, where LA junkers stopped by, looked at it sitting on the curb and thought: “What is that? Some sort of oar? A giant coke spoon?

Looking to meet new friends? Just put a bunch of garage junk out on your curb. They arrive by the hundreds, in vans, in special tour buses, mostly in trucks with plywood on the sides.

Interesting people too. Like Suzanne and Jeff, who took a very nice table I could no longer use and chatted with me for 20 minutes as I was racing to get out of the house.

Like a Turkish market, our street. Twice yearly, the trash company collects bulk items. They’ll take anything really. I mean, you could put your kids out there and they’d take them.

Our semi-annual trash day has mostly become an exchange between the neighbors. Karla takes my wheel barrow, I take Lisa’s rice-cooker. By the time we are done, there’s almost nothing left on the curb, except for my Manilow albums.

Sure, you laugh. Manilow? There was a time in my life when a Barry Manilow song was like a third drink. If you couldn’t get a kiss during “Mandy,” you probably couldn’t get kissed at all.

Anyway, trash week was quite the celebration here on the cul-de-sac. I suppose I seem like the sort of guy who would have a lot of dirty magazines, so the neighborhood dads tend to paw through the boxes, looking for old Playboys.

What do they find? The Holy Bible with Olivia de Havilland on the cover. And a thousand old sweaters.

Posh looked good in sweaters. Like those screen sirens from the ’50s, when shame and perfect hair went hand in hand.

Posh had maybe 40,000 sweaters, and I toss a few every month – sometimes to Goodwill, sometimes to the local charity thrift.

Why Posh needed 40,000 sweaters in LA stumps me. It is a little like having 40,000 harpoons. LA is certainly cool enough for sweaters – winter in the shade and all that. But not such heavy sweaters.

So, now I have 40,000 too-heavy sweaters left in the house, plus a Bible with Katy Perry on the cover, plus my dusty Manilow albums.

Who needs more than that?

By the way, some of the sweaters still smell like Posh…her hair…her perfume. Those I’ll keep. Maybe make a pillow for the grandbaby.

Something cashmere.

Like her cheeks.


Thank you for all the nice feedback on the May Newsletter. If you didn’t receive it, and would like to sign up for future monthly updates, please go to LA’s leading website for news and inspiration, ChrisErskineLA.com. Also, you can buy gin glasses there. Coming soon: a date for the backyard gin bash a pal has offered to host in June. Tickets will be limited. But not the dad jokes. And certainly not the gin. See, I told you it would be a good summer. Cheers.

11 thoughts on “Summer in the Sun

  1. You scared me. For a second there, I thought you were going to write an entire post without a mention of your cashmere-cheeked adorable granddaughter! And keep the pictures of her coming, please!

  2. Wait till you move your son home from first year of college !
    The streets will be piled 10 feet high with allot of brand new stuff !
    And allot of things you won’t have a clue what it is .

  3. Barry Manilow. Be still my heart. My friends may laugh at me, but his songs can kill your heart in a beat, plus the arrangements and the big bands.

  4. Geesh ! An invitation for the ages. But what kind of deep friend could I be ? I live at the other end of a sometimes arduous, whistling, twisty, ramp after ramp car drive away. I don’t Facebook or Twitter, and text when I’m in the chain or on the other end of something, but don’t initiate much. I’m not a phone fan, preferring the radiant face of greeting, the hearty rich embrazo of pleasure at being together again. I hug the guys and kiss the girls. You can get cancelled in a heartbeat for either one, these days. Ask Biden. I think l’m auditioning for failure, since constant contact—communication—seems the coin of the realm. But I might make one of these G&T soirées, this Summer, as we all should consider doing. After all, ‘‘tis the season: sonorous, sweet, sumptuous Summer!!! Swell. As you and your writing are, Chris. Mazeltov, indeed.

  5. And then there is still the fact of Covid. The thought of Summers past makes me forget myself. Perhaps it is somewhat this way with everyone, hmmm? But aaaahhh Summah !!

  6. I can’t get over how cute your daughter’s baby is. It’s such a pleasure to look at the photos. Also, is that California native Aaron Rodgers playing Jesus?

  7. Bougainvilleas. LOUD! Showoffs! Every last one of ’em! We corner the market on those and I’m so grateful I’m a Californian. My particular faves are the neon pink/orange ones. We are blessed.
    That baby. Tell your lovely, patient daughter, ‘Good job!’

  8. I did take umbrage to the backhanded slap to USC. My family is a generational SC family and proud of it. Then Barry! You redeemed yourself by saving precious keepsakes and a picture of that absolutely beautiful baby girl. The cheeks, her tiny nose ,tiny ears , and downey soft hair! Too, too dear!

  9. In Psalm 27, David seeks to see God’s face and to be in his presence. In 2 Chronicles, Ezra says that God said, ‘seek my face.’ I’m definitely in the seeker group. Not Robert Powell, he doesn’t look Jewish. Shroud of Turin? I can’t relate to the line drawing. Jim Caviezel? I couldn’t watch the movie, too violent. Akiane Kramarik? Getting closer. Seeking a single Jewish male for walks along the beach, a glimpse of his glorious face, and a ticket to forever.

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