The Summer of Patios

Twilight. I just like the word. Nightfall is good too – resonant, with a sense of the mysterious. But twilight wins the faceoff.

More than most places, California traffics in twilight. It’s when many movies are shot. It is the honey we export to the world.

Dawn can be inspiring too; sunrises hold a painterly light.

But twilight is more magical. It means we made it through another day.

Twilight. I just like saying it, the way I like saying Kalamazoo or Walla Walla. Tuskegee. Bangladesh.

Twilight is when baseball games start, when weddings begin, when pals pour into bars just to catch up.

It’s when we kick off our shoes, slip into our PJs, spend movie night on the couch.

Twilight is the best time to wash a car, pick the mint, fire up the grill.

Click-click-click-click…whoooooooosh…my summer anthem.

Twilight is when the moonlight splashes in your wine glass. “Eventide,” they used to call this silky time of day. Crepuscular. There is a certain nourishment to these moments. When the truth “hovers between alternatives,” to borrow from the poet Robert Graves.

These have been long, cotton twilights, here in mid-July, the time of year when the hamster wheel slows a bit, when folks break early on Fridays, the lazy nanosecond before the back-to-school ads begin.

In one corner of the garden, I am growing gin; in another tonic.

Even in the heat, the yard is pubescent — full of inexplicable hot spots. After parties, the next morning, I toss the stale wine on the zinnias and the tomatoes, as if trying to get them a little drunk.

If all goes well, we’ll have gin-scented salads soon. If all doesn’t go well? Well, that’s life, I guess.

I feel like such a failure sometimes. Lately, I bounce from party to party, bumming beers and showing baby pix. What kind of loser does that?

I’m the only guy in my circle not driving a $70k sedan, the only one who, if he wants the house painted, will have to paint it himself.

The trust fund has run dry. There is no nest egg (barely eggs). I don’t even have a therapy dog. I have an anti-therapy wolf. Yesterday, she ate my sandwich.

I am rich only in gin and children and entertaining friends. Books and hand tools. Some ski equipment. And $400 in soccer gear I can no longer use.

If there were money in it, I would sleep around. In LA, that passes for a noble profession. But I don’t have the energy. Or the bod.

My schnitzel is torn – clear off the bone; I have no lips. My butt is kind of boring. I have the thickest toenails you ever probably saw. Ick.

The other night, over drinks, a friend asked about “Shazam moments,” such as when the attractive barista holds your gaze a little too long, or the checkout clerk teases you on your choice of cookies – random encounters with just a whisper of misbehavior.

I had none to mention. I have no possibilities…no nose for romance. Doesn’t mean I’m not having a blast.

I have so much gin left over from Michelle’s party last week that I could start my own London.

What a nice backyard bash she threw. This gin ’n tonic club I started seems to attract all manner of thirsty ne’er-do-wells. I mean, really troubled people…some of the finest I know.

One was the daughter of an Oscars producer. Another invented the sky. Still, nobody talked much about what they did for a living. They talked restaurants and weekend escapes. Where to buy Korean ribs.

Michelle hosted in the 100-year-old house she’d just re-done, inviting 50 strangers into this new copper-colored treasure. That’s trust. Or, actually, is that faith — faith that 50 random souls from across Southern California will go easy on the carpets and not ditch their cocktail napkins in the cushions of the couch?

Yeah, that’s faith.

We were mostly outside. This has turned into a summer of the patio, a renaissance faire of gin and finger foods and homemade bean pie.

Listen, I’m done working. I’m even done coaching (such a loss for baseball).

All I seek in life right now are banter and revelation. I want to know how your parents met, the fun stuff you did as a kid, what you’re reading before bed.

In response, I will tell you a bad joke about boobs, or my theories on newspapers and intellectual tyranny, and why I think the Dodgers are the best franchise is all of sports.

At some point, I’ll whip out a grandbaby picture.

“Hey look!”

I will probably also bore you with my new theory on frustration. Want to hear it? No?

OK, here goes: Our general happiness is mostly based on how we handle frustration. Do we fold, do we fight? Do we blame others? Do we adjust and go on?

Sometimes I feel like an itinerant preacher who bounces from church to church, working only for a jigger of gin…handling weddings, never funerals.

But I could get a memorable sermon on the topic of frustration. Turns out it’s not evil that dogs us so much, as the Bible warns. More often, it’s frustration. Do we approach it like the puzzle it is? Do we run from it? Or do we rally?

Yep, the truth hovers between alternatives.

My sidekick Smartacus and I are off to a wedding this weekend, in Santa Barbara, where half the marriages in America take place, amid the sea mist and the squirrels.

Love a good wedding. As you might guess, I follow all the bridal magazines, and I’ve seen “The Godfather,” like, 50 times.

So, I understand weddings…the subtexts, the flirty glances, the nervous tummies — the faith, the flowers, the love.

Hey, maybe I should become a pastor? You think there’s much training involved? If not, that could be my second life.

“Pastor Twilight,” my business card will read. “Weddings (no funerals).”

“And if I’m feeling up to it, a fine Christmas Eve.”

A wine I’m really enjoying is Caymus, a Napa Cabernet that’s a little out of my price range at $70 but worth it for special nights. I’m more of a $12/bottle guy, often even less. But Caymus is a find. I like the way it mixes with moonlight and  dirty jokes. Cheers to you. Have a good and safe weekend.

16 thoughts on “The Summer of Patios

  1. Dang, Chris. You keep me on my English major toes. I had to look up “crepuscular!” I much prefer melodious “twighlight.” The other sounds like a skin eruption. Well, I think you have hit on a great idea for a fun sideline gig that will replenish the trust fund, surround you with attractive women (some undoubtedly single) and provide lots of wine and perhaps gin as a reward: Get licensed online to become a wedding officiant! Pastor Chris…You won’t have all the responsibilities of a church minister and all of the fun of performing weddings at twilight! Seriously, think about it. You would be in high demand!

  2. Your summer sounds fabulous. I like how you are soaking it all in. And I also like the idea of any excuse to get outside, laugh with friends and raise a glass. I suggest you host a wine tasting featuring your favorite summer wines. I’m drinking Rombauer Chardonnay lately. Try it. My backyard grad-bash of 50 last Saturday was also a hit. Summertime and the livin is easy…
    Hope that W flag is up today 😉

  3. A great post with lots of food and gin for thought! Enjoyed the read. Hooe I’m in town for the next hike or gin and tonic gathering. People are fun and interesting.

  4. Came us… and we drank it (Caymus that is). A very good wine indeed. I’m happy to talk wine anytime. A fun hobby to find that $12 bottle. If you’re really into wine, I’d recommend a non-snooty neighborhood place called “Rustic Kitchen” in Mar Vista, a great guy behind the bar ready to pair you with really good grapes. I had a great time chatting with you at the Gin event. Keep it flowing!

  5. Take care of those con home toes !
    Prefer to just read about hobbits !
    Great shot of your que

  6. Good night, Chris. Days are sometimes frustrating, the night rarely is…if you are a lover. And, in the face of all the protestations to the contrary, you are. Being a lover does not guarantee self-awareness, but I ask you: has there ever been a more self-aware writer ? I rest my case, because it is a summer night, and the time to do so. Actually it is a summer day, which is also the time to do so. Summer: our little heaven, our.vast delight. Deep into it, if you are a lover, you will always find your way…to Fall.

  7. Mad Magazine used to run an ad in the back where you could send away and become an ordained minister ~ $9.95 plus S & H.

  8. Two things:
    First, Crepuscular. Have not heard this word for several years. But we used it to describe night turning to day. Underwater! On scuba dive research trips over the years we dived day and night from a boat that we lived aboard. But we always scheduled at least one ‘crepuscular’ dive starting in the dark before sunrise and ending once the sun was up. Great memories of how the ocean started its day. Thanx!

    Next, Frustration. Like probably most if not all of your readers, I’ve spent way too many hours on 800# calls which calls were, ‘very important to us…’ and ‘You’ll hear from us in seven to 10 business days…’ which never happened. If anyone has any ideas about how not to let this ruin your day, I’m sure most if not all of us are all ears!!

    Sorry the wolf ate your sandwich but that’s her job.

  9. Yay! Santa Barbara! Be sure to hit Joe’s on lower State Street. Best place in town. Just don’t climb on the bar and dance. You’ll be asked to leave. Heh, heh.

  10. At least one thing you are truly rich in is the ability to really notice the ordinary, everyday things around us and put them into prose that makes one think and feel. I wish I lived closer to LA (well, not really…) but since I’m not, I hoist a G&T weekly to honor you! Ok, maybe more than weekly….a good gin is just so much a part of summer…..

  11. Showing grandbaby pictures is always OK. I have a sister who carries pictures of our dead parents in her wallet and inflicts them on total strangers. Not OK.
    Caymus Cabernet is the best. Visit the winery if you’re ever up that way.

  12. So this is where you’ve been hiding in plain sight. So glad I found you. And thanks for following me back on that bird thing. For all the good it’ll do you.

  13. I bore everyone with grandkid photos. It’s what I do. My oldest is 8 years, the youngest 10 months. They are my Facebook photo. I love my friend’s grandkid photos. If someone doesn’t want to see mine or show me theirs, I don’t want them for a friend. While we’re at it, show us another of Catty Cakes. I’ll show you Mogey, Paiger Sager, and Raisin (obviously, not their real names, it’s their grandpa names)

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