A Summer Splashdown

The little dive bar north of Glendale has placed tables and stools out on the sidewalk. I find it’s just like sitting at a Paris cafe, minus the French girls pedaling by in billowy cotton dresses, a baguette in their wicker bike baskets, mischief in their smiles.

Other than that, exactly like Paris.

Greetings from LA’s Left Bank, where life is full, the robins are fat, the summer days nearly endless. In late June, it doesn’t get dark until 10 or so. Then the crickets come out, and I turn the night over to them.

To be honest, I need a few more crickets. And if you have any cicadas in your trees, please send them over too. Time for a nice summer buzz.

Had bourbon and cigars around the firepit the other night with my nephew Johnny, out visiting from Chicago. With certain visitors, it’s as if you’re on vacation too, and so it is with Johnny From Chicago, and his sister, Amy From San Fran.

Amy is the niece who lived in LA for a couple of years, until the slow pace and lousy weather got to her and she moved back to Chicago, then the Bay Area with her boyfriend Danny.

I’m still sad Amy left. I hate when people leave. I consider it a failure on my part, that I should’ve showed them that playful beach bar near the marina, or that lush hiking trail above the reservoir.

I’m not exactly riddled with regrets, yet there is always the gnawing feeling I could’ve tried a little harder. That ever happen to you?

Thing is, LA never wowed me the way it wows some folks. Instead, it hooked me with a thousand little revelations, little pings of pleasure and surprise. Sure, there’s the great airport, and the freeways are always so fun. But it’s these little revelations that really glue me here.

So, the other night, Johnny and I are having bourbon and cigars around the firepit, telling bad jokes, turning the cigars clockwise with the tips of our fingers, as if cracking a safe.

Johnny’s mother is my youngest sister, a very chatty and entertaining woman, and I was explaining how I was the lone introvert in a family full of extremely fun people.

But I have a billion sly jokes, and a lot of bourbon. You compensate how you can.

“My buddy Ralph has one of those same-sex marriages,” I tell them. “Every Saturday night, he and his wife have the same sex.”

Then I recited a bit from Richard the Third…

He capers nimbly in a lady’s chamber,
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute…

Always loved capers. Especially on eggs.

Listen, I think enough time has passed to admit I really miss Quaaludes, though being somewhat retired, life is kind of one big sedative. I no longer feel the need for them. A cigar now suffices, though I’m told a 5-milligram edible will help set the world back on its wheels.

I might try one, probably not. I don’t need more vices, just better friends. But I will keep that edibles tip in reserve just in case I ever have to go to LAX again.

I’ll freely admit to a lot of confusion. I have no idea how they get peanut butter in a pretzel, or humans into space, or even a giant 737 — loaded with suitcases and dogs, drink carts, swim trunks, shoes, skinny jeans, edibles, deodorant, sunscreen and children’s books — all the way from LA to Atlanta in five hours.

So many things seem a miracle to me (particularly the pretzels).

And how they manage to inject weed into a Gummy Bear now completely futzels my brain.

Speaking of futzels, LAX on Friday night was at full futzel. Not sure whether Vegas is back, but the World’s Best Airport certainly is. Forty-five minutes through the horseshoe, visitors lining the curbs like the targets of a firing squad, wondering which shuttle they should board, and whether they’d ever get to Uncle Jim’s place in the Valley, or the overpriced hotel along the coast.

Welcome to LA!

Of course, if LA had any sense of shame, or even a functional city government, this would never happen. Most cities would be embarrassed that their doorstep is in a state of perpetual chaos, and they’d do something about it.

Here, we just say to ourselves: “If you don’t like it, don’t come.”

LA is like the billionaire who pretends he wants the relatives to come visit, then can’t remember their names when they arrive. That billionaire. But there are some very nice billionaires, let us never forget that.

Anyway, it was at that juncture, after the 45-minute journey through LAX, after I missed the turn to Sepulveda North, that I really missed Quaaludes. It was the first time since 1985 I’d even felt the urge.

By the way, my buddy Jeff tells me that Mother’s Day has been around since 1914; Father’s Day only since 1972.

That tells you something right there. Put to a vote, the kids would probably eliminate Father’s Day and celebrate two Mother’s Days instead.

No worries. I love mothers too, especially the older wealthy ones. And the ones in riding boots.

But the dads slogged through, and we ended up with a fine weekend of public and private tributes. My kids took turns setting out soap boxes in public parks and making two-hour speeches about me, trying to see who could out-gush the other.

Such a spectacle. Such sincerity.

“I’ll never forget the time he cleaned the garage and threw out all my diplomas,” my daughter Rapunzel fondly recalled.

It was like a public poetry reading, till the police moved in on horseback. Apparently, you can do anything in an LA public park, except say nice things about dads.

Hey, you have to draw the line somewhere.

Still, there was plenty to celebrate. I got a butterflied fish dinner, complete with quinoa and salad, then another dinner of ribs and kale. Again, they tried to outdo each other in displaying their affection for me.

We also took a dunk in the ocean while Johnny and Amy were here. The surf looked like a milk mustache, and little Catty Cakes (my granddaughter) dipped her toes in there too, near Verge’s beach hut, where a bunch of us had gathered.

Like diamonds in a bracelet, these moments, these little LA interludes.

Which should’ve been the title of some Marilyn Monroe flick: Little Interludes. Monroe was LA’s Holly Golightly, more bodacious than the East Coast version, less physically frail than Hepburn, who seemed made of martini glass.

Marilyn was made from the same stock as the men who storm beaches to end wars. She was a Valley girl, who didn’t storm a beach (or a bar) without some notice.

Swagger and bombast are still two of my favorite traits – not in myself, certainly, but in others I find it extremely entertaining. LA has some of that, if you look a little.

Anyway, what a summer we’re having– full of pings of pleasure and surprise. We should all meet one day at that Paris café north of Glendale, where we could toast these little LA interludes – and rehearse our Richard the Third.

There’s a good jukebox there, and an old pool table with bad hair. Really, it’s the American Dream, sprung to life.

After all, Paris is where you find it, right?

Come back, Amy. Come baaaaaaaaaaack!

The little Parisian bar is Avignone’s in Montrose. I highly recommend it, in that it serves no food, only gin, vodka, scotch and the other major proteins (beer and wine). It’s the People’s Bar, yet never mobbed, never with a trace of ’tude. At Happy Hour, a can of PBR is $2, and well drinks are $6. Phil Marlowe would’ve loved it, and you will too. The Gin & Tonic Society of Los Angeles may hold a seance there some evening, if I can ever get my act together. I need to rally Bittner, Jeff and Billable Bob (my attorney and sidekick). Meanwhile, keep an eye out for coming attractions at ChrisErskineLA.com. T-shirts and books available there too. Many thanks. Cheers!

8 thoughts on “A Summer Splashdown

  1. I hope Catty Cakes thoroughly enjoyed her first toe dip in our great Pacific. Today is my birthday and your column is my first 🎁. Thank you! Now I am fully in the mood for a trip to Laguna Beach for lunch overlooking the sand and surf. It’s quite near Crystal Cove, that South OC gem you spilled the beans about a few columns back. Summer, here we come! Thanks for being the gift YOU are to all your readers, Chris.

  2. I tried a lot of things during my salad days, but never quaaludes — still, I recommend the 5 mg. edibles, which to me feel like a warm, heavy blanket settling down over my shoulders. No high, just relaxation. After watching “Apocalypse Now” the other night (hadn’t seen that movie since it was released in theaters back in the good old/bad old days) — it was amazing, btw — my brain was spinning much too fast for sleep, but a single Tera blueberry/chocolate edible solved that problem.

  3. Great column, Chris. “I’m not exactly riddled with regrets, yet there is always the gnawing feeling I could’ve tried a little harder. That ever happen to you?” Answer…every day! Thanks for the reminder about our favorite Valley Girl, Marilyn. Has anybody ever seen a bad photo of her? I sure haven’t. Can’t wait to celebrate with a Gin and Tonic, or maybe a gummy, at Avignon’s…love that place! I got dibs on the jukebox!

  4. For a great aguacate omelet with champagne, head down the street from Avignone’s to Pepe’s. Their chips, salsa, and tortillas are superb!

  5. How you can write so evocatively, so true to all our lives! What a gift ! Loved the diamond metaphor, loved the psychological musing of ‘regrets’,loved the wry,”great airports and fun freeways!” With apologies to Shakespeare,(in my case, Christopher Marlow;yes I am a Marlowite.) “Thou cam’st on earth to make the earth our /my drama(dy),comedy club!” Clumsy, but you get the drift!

  6. Ha…love the same sex every Saturday line. I’m going to use it and pretend I made it up…thanks!

  7. Naw – quaaludes will make you crash your car and that would be bad. I HATE to say good bye. I’m going to do what my Grandmother did and just disappear to avoid the dreaded “goodbye”.

  8. I once wrote you a poem about L.A., and then later another, when you were still at the paper, and you came back saying that maybe I knew more about L.A. than you did. Now that’s a joke of epic proportions, cigar or no cigar. You ARE L.A. !! A Midwest transplant with a transplant; the bard of its blaze and haze; In the midst of its raucous cultural melee, living the dream, chronicling it’s roaring yet sonorous zeitgeist, the Summer air spiced with family and friends. What else can this be, but Love ? Or a Gin and Tonic, with a vigorous twist of time…..

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