Is it just me, or do you also have an urge to go caroling? This stems, I think, from the sudden social nature of things. This summer feels festive in ways usually found only during the holidays.
Seems there should be a collection of bawdy summer songs to sing at pubs, or during road trips. Maybe I’ll write a few, but as with the jokes I mentioned the other day – by Rhymer and Kimla – the songs would be of an adult nature. Hardly Christmas material at all.
Speaking of road trips, my physician Dr. Steve is on a road trip right now, to the Tetons, which is where Angie Dickinson also summers. I will not make the obvious joke about a sex symbol going to the Grand Tetons. But that’s exactly where Dr. Steve is going.
Dr. Steve has a dry sense of humor, drier than mine. You could wave Dr. Steve over a martini, as you would vermouth, to dry it out. As a road trip gift, I sent him off with my ancient copy of “The Princess Bride,” cover price $1.95.
Like me, Dr. Steve is an aspiring writer, so I think he’ll like The Princess Bride, a melancholy adventure story. Not since Twain has anyone made such delicious use of the vernacular; in this case, combining flippant remarks with the formal language found in fairy tales.
“And it forsakes rampant bloodshed for the violence of the human heart,” I told Dr. Steve.
“In short, most love is doomed.”
At least that’s what I got out of it.
Which is when Dr. Steve looked at me kind of odd, tilting his head a little and probably thinking “We should run some mental tests on this guy. Maybe he’s been gonked in the head?”
Since he was busy prepping for his road trip, Dr. Steve just checked my leg instead, comparing my bad left knee to my pristine and near-virginal right.
I came out with flying colors, and also learned my cholesterol tests came back very good – certainly better than my SATs. (Note to self: Re-take your SATs, dude.)
My BP was 120/80, a personal best, and much higher than my SATs as well. I won’t kid you: In high school, I finished last in my class of 750 kids, and last in the class of 750 kids the year after that.
To this day, no other idiot has ever done that.
Anyway, there was so much good news at the doctor’s office that I went skipping down the hall, despite my bum knee, sort of a half-skip, obviously. I was raised on the iconic image of Ron Santo kicking up his heels after Chicago Cub wins.
The takeaway: Celebrate every victory, large and small.
In fact, I celebrated so much I think I might have re-twisted my arthritic knee, which might also have some funky cartilage. And termites. I’m so old now, I’m infested. Crickets, rickets, termites, ticks. I have them all. And some pretty gnarly toes.
I don’t despair. Like my buddy Rhymer, I try to “focus on the good.” Though I have this aching knee, I tell myself that every other joint is in supreme condition, like the pistons of very expensive cars.
If necessary, I could storm France with these pistons (we’re almost out of cheese anyway); I could flush terrorists from airports; I could “Die Hard” bad guys off the roofs of skyscrapers.
In short, I’m feeling pretty good…almost heroic…fearless in ways I haven’t felt since back when I was 60.
They say that parents are only as happy as their least happy kid. Well, I’m only as happy as my last medical tests.
If it’s good, I’m good. I’m reaching that age — invisible to flight attendants and yoga instructors — where I care far more about how I feel than how I look.
Speaking of studs, my son Smartacus is now in the hospitality industry, bussing tables at Bittner’s joint, making the world a better place one burger at a time.
“Hi, my name’s Smartacus. Can I get you started with some drinks?”
The impact he’s had on the burger industry has been immediate. Suddenly, burgers are very popular.
“This job will be one tiny piece of the puzzle that makes him a man,” predicted Dogpark Gary one morning, and I think he is right (Dogpark Gary is almost always right, till he gets too much into politics).
Each night, when Smartacus gets home, I hear his stories from the front lines of the hospitality industry. They are not pretty. He tells me that some customers will come in five minutes before closing and order an entire bottle of wine. Stuff like that. Evidently, the real world is quite insane.
Like all young men in the service industry, he is occasionally hit on by some of the female customers. It just confirms what I’ve always told him: “Love is like Salisbury steak. You don’t see it much anymore. But you know it’s still out there somewhere.”
The other night, he was polishing the silverware, which he does when he’s standing around eavesdropping on customers’ conversations, soaking up the scene, when an elderly customer started flirting with him and some of the other male staffers.
“How old was she,” I asked.
“Forty-five,” he said.
Mark this moment: In America, 45 is now elderly.
Listen, I’m lucky to still be around. I’m well past 45, and am surrounded by youthful influences, including this new grandbaby. In pictures, when I hold her, I look like the Statue of Liberty — my skin a little green, draping down.
This flappy face shows up in photos taken in profile, and not so much in the bathroom mirror each morning, where I think I look exactly as I did in the fourth grade, plus the bad mustache. Plus a scar on the chin where a barmaid gonked me for telling the Kimla joke.
The discrepancy between then and now is rarely more apparent than when I am holding Catty Cakes, who thinks: “Look, a landmark! Is this Mt. Rushmore? Which president are you?”
Listen, it’s impossible not to fully adore Catty Cakes. At two months, she still has that new-car smell, and she’s stylish as a Louis Vuitton bag. She’s one of those girl babies – they’re everywhere now – who wears giant bows on their heads.
The bows are like Zildjian cymbals, some two feet wide. Trust me, if there is something super ridiculous to be worn, you can be sure the young women of America will wear it first.
So, being an American babe, Catty Cakes wears these jammy and ginormous bows. And I wear my mustache and my penny loafers…my Marshall Field ties. We could hardly be more different.
Or more in love.
We are at that stage in the relationship where we giggle over every silly thing – a little facial tic or a bubbly half smile. Don’t worry, it’ll wear off soon. At best, I give it 30 years.
The other night, I read her a book for the first time. The little book was a gift, a great gift, called “Grandpa Loves You (by Helen Foster James, illustrated by Petra Brown).”
Smartacus heard me read it and complained that it doesn’t have much structure – no beginning, middle and end, the way he learned in English class.
I argued that it was a perfect book, because it created characters we cared about — a grandpa bunny and a baby bunny — in a secret world we’ve longed to understand.
“Sweetie pie, bunny, adorable you,
My buddy, my pal, I love you, I do!
Yeah, like that. Seriously, you could pour this little book over ice cream.
Then the other day, on a whim, I sang Catty Cakes her first Christmas carol. In the course of her long life, she will hear thousands, but I started it all with my own version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
I sang it as madrigal, the way Garland did…a love song from the Renaissance.
Through the years we all will be together,
If the fates allow…
When I was done, Catty Cakes eyes looked like glassy ornaments. And clear? So clear.
The eyes of Bethlehem.
Looking forward to tonight’s Gin & Tonic Society backyard bash, courtesy of our friend Michelle. Much on the agenda: Gin. Tonic. And I’m making watermelon martinis. Invites have gone out. Please ping me at Letters@chriserskineLA.com for last-minute questions. Next event: A gin bash or a Happy Hour hike in Glendale in a few weeks. Please support this crazy venture with a purchase of a book or gear at http://chriserskinela.com. Thanks and cheers!