Lunch With Papa

There’s a little bump in the bedroom floor where White Fang clawed up the carpet the first night the baby stopped by.

I’m reminded of it each time I enter the bedroom – stepping across this undulating patch with the padding half gone.

Poor White Fang, jailed in the bedroom that night when she got too excited over the baby — curious, confused, desperate to be part of the new baby’s very first visit; wolves are programmed that way. Like me, they are very communal.

My daughters often say, “Hey, don’t feel sorry for White Fang, she looks just like Steve Nicks…beautiful and mysterious; men yearn to know her.”

True, White Fang does look like Stevie Nicks. In literature, they sometimes call that a doppelganger, a ghostly twin.

Just my luck to have a wolf that so closely resembles Stevie Nicks, the woman I loved from 1976 till right now. I “made out” to her music many times in beer-sticky dorm rooms, somewhere in the leafy Midwest.

To this day, when I hear “Rhiannon” on the radio, I start to take my shirt off. Which is weird, since in most cases I was the only one in the room with my shirt off.

Too much information? Probably. I’ve always been honest with you, and I’m not about to stop now.

Anyway, White Fang is now my muse and the love of my young life, the way Stevie Nicks once was. They both seem made of freezer frost and wrapped in layers of boot fur.

When they look at me directly, with their hungry gypsy eyes, it makes me half nuts.

So now I’m completely nuts. Blame LA for that. I laugh at a lot of the stuff that troubles most men. In LA, nuttiness is considered a sign of good character.

You know, they say dumb people don’t get symbolism, or hidden meanings, but I disagree. Like, when Stevie Nicks sings, “Take from me my lace…” I know she’s not necessarily talking about lace. She means….well, I’m not sure what she’s talking about. But it’s sure not lace.

Point is: The world is an open oyster now, shiny and full of pearls. And doppelgangers. And passwords. And mad laughter.

To sign my son Smartacus up for college orientation required some 55 passwords, and IDs, various aliases, an off-shore account. But it’ll all be worth it. So happy for him. There’s nothing like freshman year.

Meanwhile, I was telling my buddy Miller the other day that I want to be very aggressive about summer. I don’t want to be passive at all; last year, we lost a summer. Then we lost a fall. Even Christmas was compromised.

So, when I’m invited places, I always go. And I’ve started this “Lunch With Dad” series where I take various daughters to lunch around LA — mostly my own daughters, though I’m open to invitations.

You don’t have to be a daughter, really. You just have to appreciate a long, pointless lunch with a semi-sane, goofy man.

You should’ve seen us the other day in Santa Monica, that storybook village comprised mostly of yoga mats and a salty ether.

Heck of a place. And all the residents look like the cast members from “Friends.” But better looking.

On Tuesday, we’re strolling down Main Street with the baby and the golden retriever pup, who wiggles when she walks. Reminds me of the beaches in Brazil. When she walks, she’s like a samba…

Must’ve been a sight, all these redheads and the old dude in the Ditka jersey (me), pushing a $2,000 baby stroller, about the size of a Fiat. Really, it’s kind of a bus. I suspect you could get 8-10 babies aboard this one stroller.

By the time our big group seizes a lunch table on the patio, parallel parks the ginormous stroller in the corner, secures the pup, props the baby carrier into a chair, finds a menu or the QR code, I’m completed whipped.

When Patton wheeled his 3rd Army into Belgium, it didn’t take this long.

But we had a very nice lunch. For 5 bucks, they serve a terrific chicken wrap at Ashland Hill, which is about the best deal in LA. These poor restaurants, fighting inflation, fighting shortages of labor and supplies. But they’re busy, thank gawd.

How much have I missed the sound of clinking glasses? Everyone is day-drinking. You know that butterscotch glow of a icy glass of beer? Every table…seriously, every table. Couples, groups, all drinking. Even the baby is drinking her lunch. They didn’t even card her.

Good thing everyone’s buzzed, because now my 3rd Army has pulled into this patio dining spot, animated and chatty, requesting extra ice and another plate for the kale salad, annoying stuff like that. It’s like a Greek wedding.

If you ever start a “Lunch With Dad” series of your own, beware of one thing: Daughters.

At one point, Rapunzel asks the server: “Hey Frenchie, got any turkeys back there? How ’bout a big side of beef? Good. Please box it all up for me for dinner. Ditka’s paying.”

Know who’s good to go to lunch with? My new grandbaby Catherine Margaret (aka Catey May, aka Catty Cakes).

She doesn’t order a damn thing, and like me she sleeps through much of the meal, jolting awake only for punchlines and ice cream desserts, a little melty on the plate on this perfect June day.

“Can I give her a fry?” I ask her mother.


“How about a little ice cream on the tip of a finger? Or a little whisky to soothe her tired gums?”


Ok then. No wonder Catty Cakes only weighs 8 pounds.

Big news on the job front though. The lovely and patient older daughter inquired about my availability this fall, when she goes back to work and needs some help with the baby a couple mornings a week.

“I’m in!” I said.

“I was just seeing if you were available,” she explained.

“I’m in!”

“I’ll probably interview a few more people,” she cautioned.

Drats.  I hate competition. Plus, I don’t interview well. I get too pumped up and over-answer every question. I clap a lot at the ends of sentences, to emphasize a point. Sometimes, I break into song.

I still think I have a shot. Most of the LA au pairs have moved back to Europe, where potential husbands aren’t so flaky. All that’s available now are rich young Brentwood types looking for summer work they can do while updating their Insty accounts.

Can I compete with that? Time will tell.

The other big news is that Rapunzel is making noises about moving back to our house with her boyfriend.

I overheard her telling a friend about this last weekend.

“I haven’t told my dad this yet…” went the conversation, because who tells a dad anything?

Over the phone, Rapunzel described how she hoped to save $40k a year in rent by moving back home.

I don’t mind the boyfriend – great guy. But I do mind Rapunzel and her sassy friends. They drink like hockey players. They fill the fridge with kimchi and diet Dr Pepper. They rarely replace a beer.

Probably, they’ll just tie me up in the basement, like they used to during high school parties.

So, yeah, tons of exciting stuff coming my way this summer – this au pair gig, for which I’m ideally suited, and now I might be a landlord to two millennials who both make more money than I ever did.

Sounds like a Garry Marshall sitcom.

Norman Fell is dead so I might have to play me – playing Norman Fell as if he were playing me.

That’s what TV seems to like these days — cheeky, complicated situations where the hero isn’t really a hero; he sells meth on the side and might be a polyamorous vampire.

I can play that. Am I polyamorous? Not even sure what that is. True, I love my wolf; I love Stevie Nicks; I really love little Catty Cakes, the cutest lunch date ever.

She’s got that butterscotch glow.

Father’s Day gift tip: If he’s a sports fan, buy him a flag or banner representing his favorite team. My friend Laura Golightly recently sent me a beautiful Cubs flag, which I fly proudly from the porch. With my son headed to Oregon in the fall, I’ll probably also get a Ducks flag for football Saturdays. They run about $40. Many places offer them, including sporting goods stores. Be sure to check the dimensions. Sizes vary a lot. Here’s one online option: flags and banners. If he already has a flag, consider these cool vintage football t-shirts. Cheers!

14 thoughts on “Lunch With Papa

  1. Fabulous column, but honestly, you had me at the picture of Catty Cakes and the Golden pup. Your “empty nest” appears to be rapidly filling up. So happy for you. Party on, Papa.

  2. My three and a half year old niece FaceTimed me on someone’s cell yesterday. No adult around. She looks like Cindy Lou Who. She’s mesmerized by my face because I’m a twin and she knows I don’t live with her but it’s confusing. She calls me sister. The conversation ran dry pretty quickly so I sang The Old Woman in the Shoe with her but, you know, I couldn’t get it right. Is it the horse or the cow last? Who writes a children’s song with the lovely lyrics, “I guess she’ll die.” Any who. Cheers.

  3. Another smile (and no tears this time except one or two of pure joy) My daughter, her husband and my two adorable (and labor intensive) grandchildren, Zane who’s 5 and Sedona who’s 31/2 are living in one of our units in the backyard in between houses, for the past few months, they’ll be out by the end of the month, they promise. So I can seriously sympathize with your impending household incursion.
    So, if you ever move on to: “Lunch with friends I’ve never met but have a lot in common with,” put me (and Chez Jay) at the top of the list!

  4. “If you build it, they will come!” Nursery,✔️Baby will be there, your daughter moving back✔️Noise in the house. You will never be alone!The saga continues, with Summer tottering on the brink, fraught with wondrous possibilities! P.S. Love the pix of the baby!!!

  5. Vintage stream-of-consciousness riff. Vintage Cris. One thing: the daughter-BF move back means few lonely nights, and that means few or no Angies or Angie wannabes. You’ll have to resort to teen tricks: parked cars, a resurrected drive-in or two, a dark beach near where the daughter is contemplating Leaving (are there any still around with the requisite darkness?). In short, deja teen—living a Summer life Smarticus is leaving behind. I would much prefer GandT’s, Shrimp on the Barbie, and an Angie in the loll of my arm, rather than the hoop-to-foo that is to come. But, hey,! 40 grand in a daughter’s account does not put a price on love; it is love, and will keep you from falling asleep too early . Sooooo why not? Besides, a packed car is a contradiction in terms, the best kind of gymnastic challenge, and you could most certainly use the exercise.

  6. I just want to give little catty cakes (my namesake) a squooosh and a mooosh ~ ok~ you can have one, too ! Lunch on Tuesday ~ ?

  7. Love the baby pics, she is adorable, full houses are happy houses, lunch whenever you are ready

  8. Love the pics of Patty Cakes. She is precious. Move over Gerber baby! Love the Cubs flag but you need a W flag too. Love Stevie Nicks…”the feeling remains even after the glitter fades” or “can I sail through the changin ocean tides can I handle the seasons of my life?” Legend. And I think you’ll get the job. But no fries or ice cream yet 😜

  9. I get to babysit my 8 and 5 year old granddaughters and my 9 month old grandson while my daughter pulls 13 hour hospital nursing shifts now that I’m retired. I tell you, teaching 8th grade science for decades was waaaay less exhausting. I can definitely relate to the stroller parking logistics. Thanks for making me laugh.

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