Bang a Gong

In our last episode, I was bleeding pretty good, and it came out pink, like a raspberry vinaigrette, or that thin mignonette sauce they slap on oysters.

Guess the blood thinners are working, along with the gin that never quite leaves my system. And the dark chocolate. And the smoked salmon. Hash browns too.

Food is medicine. I recommend all of this in moderation, plus maybe a little scootch more. How about another splash of that? Thanks.

“Dr. Steve, line 2. Some wise guy says he won’t stop bleeding…”

At this pace, I might be dead in a week, though I’ve been saying that since I was 7. I’ve outlived all the pediatricians who scolded “eat an apple, why don’t you? Try a carrot for a change.”

On a related matter, Dogpark Gary was telling me the other morning that if you die suddenly while out on a deep-sea fishing charter, they just throw your carcass down in the well with the ice and the tuna till the boat gets back to the dock.

Seemed a bit barbaric till Dogpark Gary explained it:

“People pay a lot of money for those charters,” he told me, “and they don’t want to cut them short.”

I get that.

Fortunately, I am drawn to loud and barbaric things – my daughters, for example. Or thumpy marching bands. I like celebration and laughter, drum majors and drum minors, a line of tubas brass-flashing the sun.

Don’t be surprised if my next wife plays the tuba.

Meanwhile, bang a gong because tailgate season is now upon us, my favorite time of year. I like what it does for my general outlook and how it re-energizes my buddies.

Takes a lot of good pals to stage a great tailgate, slinging cold kegs left and right. I always take a small grill that must weigh 60 pounds. Lots of tables, tents, tubs of ice.

And have you ever tried carrying a Chardonnay Mom? They’re not heavy, but like a mattress, they’re awkward. And a little wiggly, to be honest. Ticklish. Famously mouthy. They say what they think, then a little more.

We will feature a full roster of Chardonnay Moms at our first tailgate of the year on Saturday. I can already picture them in the twilight of the Rose Bowl, casual with their wine glasses, holding them at odd angles, nearly spilling some into the beautiful lawns next to the stadium.

A Chardonnay Mom works a tailgate party the way the Pope works Easter, head high, gesturing frequently, acknowledging the crowd while not quite seeing individual faces.

It’s part of their golden, Chardonnay allure, how they never look other people right in the eye. A Chardonnay Mom will gaze out over your head about three inches, as if scanning the horizon for prey.

Little party tip: All Chardonnay Moms go to Heaven. So their behavior is usually quite tame. And even if it isn’t, all Chardonnay Moms go to Heaven.

Frankly, I’m not sure what will happen. Latest line: Chardonnay Moms minus 28.

Speaking of Heaven, I was discussing the Old Testament again the other day, while riffing with a fellow writer about how difficult it can be to peddle a best-selling book.

I reminded my friend that the Old Testament got rejected, like, 200 times before it finally found a publisher (Moses kept the rejection slips for motivation). And most editors insisted on 5 Commandments, not 10.

“Who’s got time these days?” they kept asking.

Good point, though as time passes I would argue that we need more commandments, not fewer. Say, 25 at the very least.

There’d be stuff in there about rap “music,” or when to use a fork to eat chicken (the answer: never). By the way, have you ever seen these people who eat spare ribs with a knife and fork? That’s cray-cray, as the kids like to say.

“All food is finger food,” I reminded my son Smartacus the other day.

“Even soup?” he asked.

“Don’t be a wise guy,” I said.

In any case, the Old Testament went on to become a pretty big success, spawning several movie projects and some TV stuff. If I remember correctly, Kristin Chenoweth portrayed Jesus at some point? Over the years, they’ve taken a few liberties to lure the younger audiences that advertisers seek.

Totally understandable.

Point is, you can’t take rejection seriously. If I did, I’d never have gotten married, never would’ve had a kid, never would’ve found a job or gotten a driver’s license, never gone to a decent college or found a group of tailgaters who would embrace me the way Miller, Bittner, Charlie, Jeff, Liz and Gary have.

Like brothers (even Liz). So lucky.

In addition to Chardonnay, we’ll serve tequila at the tailgate too. And gin, of course – we’re not savages, though as Smartacus noted last week after our trip, I do smell a lot like Alaska Airlines. And some garlic fries I had 6 months ago. Shrimp husks. Fresh-mowed grass. Bus fumes. I smell like a typical dad, I suppose.

Such a season, tailgate is. More spiritual than Christmas…more fun than rum.

This week, we will welcome LSU, straight out of a bad storm.

Cajun Country heals slowly, as do I, and we wish them the best in their hurricane recovery. Louisianians are some of the toughest people ever. I know they will bounce back. With gusto and verve.

As I said, I enjoy too-loud things.

Our tailgaters are always a convivial bunch, but even more so this week. We’ll welcome Tiger fans warmly, with food and drink and a festivus of fellowship. The Nevilles and Trombone Shorty will lead the song list.

A great yet elusive thing, fellowship. That’s what we’ve really been missing during lockdown, what we mourn when we drop our kids off to college, what we yearn for amid the grind of everyday life: the warmth of fellowship.

Sure, the ping of ice cubes always helps, and there’s that smoggy grill smoke we crave. But of all the tailgate delicacies, fellowship is the best…a smile, a laugh, an elbow in the side.

Know how you used to roll around in the cool autumn grass as kids and pile atop each other? That’s what we do – figuratively — at these tailgates. We roughhouse like puppies.

So hey, watch my torn schnitzel, OK? I bleed easily. I bruise like a banana. I swell in all the wrong places. And I have the shoulder strength of Tina Fey.

On second thought: Bring it on, I don’t care.

Bring it, baby.

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8 thoughts on “Bang a Gong

  1. Fun column. You’ve really stirred up the autumn juices. Summer is my official best time of the year, but this one has been hard personally and for our country and world. Your columns help put troubles in perspective and remind us that what REALLY counts is friends, family and fellowship. Autumn, we are ready for you. Party on!

  2. Ah, Chris. The trip north was good for your writing. And you’re already in love with my coast, and describing it with the iridescence only a stranger in this strange land could. Wait till you get a load of the Heaven’s Gate madness from the 70’s(?) down the road in Beautiful Yachats. Maybe you could get the Resident Manager gig in the haunted light house at Heceta Head. Bet you drove right by it.

    Here’s some bait: my friend Helen, 1/4 mile down the Alsea River from me, found a sweet spot off her neighbor’s dock: 16 crabs on Sunday! Not saying you should come, but you should come. I play flute, not tuba, and not looking for another husband, (tho my h.s. pen pal from LA who turned me onto your columns likes to call you my next future ex-husband ; / ). Didn’t know him in h.s. He was Popular, head yell leader stuff. I was from Kansas, in gingham, and shy. Chardonnay’s ok for slipping past one’s introversion, but Pinot Grigio is better, especially in the Bota Box. Recently, tho, I’ve discovered agave wine that tastes like margaritas in about 7 flavors. I’m stocked! If the Chardonnay moms catch on, it’s gonna be time to divest! Those grapes are all smokey now anyhow ; /

    Best of all, we wouldn’t even have to sleep together! I’ve got a little A-frame for guests. Alexa is the full-time resident. You might get along ok. I don’t think she’ll skim the gin. The bathrooming is a little primitive, but we could likely make a deal ; ). My acre+1/2 on the slough has 3 houses– I live in 1, rent 2. So if you were bleeding out or something, someone would hear you scream. And there’s kayaking sloughside when the tide is in and the wind is down– this is the Perfect Time of Year. If your knees are being knees, we can launch from the crab dock launch on the River. Neighbor Herk thinks he’s the leader of the kayak club, and will want to take you up Drift Creek to the waterfall. Sad for him, none of the kayakers are Joiners. So it goes in the ‘hood.

    Better yet(!) : the house with the crab dock is available by pre-arrangement free to friends of friends of friends, the category I inhabit. (Also, my son-in-law saved that house from burning down one night after the idiot owner threw his bbq coals into a pile of sawdust and left town… so I think I could swing it for you.) It’s a party house: 1 bedroom downstairs, sleeping loft for all the Rapunzels to let hair down from. . . Biggest dock on the river! and all those buttery ragged claws scuttling across the the floors of silent somethings.

    I’m the poet who sent you the mossy poem, Slough Spirits. My chapbook ms, however, is about me & my junkie son. It’s a prize-winner for sure. My best work. If I can lose this shy gingham thing, I’m absolutely gonna send it out. Absolutely. For the rest, I’m eternally tending the gardens. . .

    I’m a poor traveler, for complicated reasons, but I’ll come to a Eugene tailgate party if you have one, by God. My daughter was a duck. We lived in Eugene from ’79-’00. Last football game I went to was at Cal in ’69, on LSD. We left before the 1st Q was over. Seats up close on the 50-yd-line. Too much helmet smashing for our heightened sensitivities.

    That’s all I got. Take it or leave it.
    And thanks for the wordsmithing.

    Linnea Harper

    1. Linnea, way to put yourself out there! Erskine should definitely take you up on the offer. Promising no sex could be a deal breaker. Or a challenge. Men love challenges. Is the junkie son dangerous? Asking for Erskine.

  3. Holy crow! You know I love you Chris Erskine, and love you columns and books and grocery lists and postcards, (okay you’ve never sent me a postcard but a girl can dream can’t I?) but right now, I can’t focus on anything else except, I think I’m in love with Linnea Harper! (can you subtly find out if she might like to meet the two of us together?)
    Your pal,

  4. Tuba girl ! Here I am ~ ~ I used to play the tuba once a year back in New York for the MerryTubaChristmas ! Google it. I would borrow a tuba from the instrument closet at the school where I taught and sit with the 5th grade boys (my level of tuba expertise) and honk away on seasonal favorites. There would be about 200 of us ~ Happens all over the country ~ great stuff ~ ~

  5. Linnea and Jazz and “my next wife” (never saw that quote before),,,I smell the spice of autumn, and blood in the sky, on the water, and of course everywhere all around. As I said before, “ladies, start your motors”. A tailgate is not a bad first place to let things down, begin to lay out the feast, and the silky yellow gowns of those soccer moms blend in a willowy way with the colors of the season; but Linnea made her case for a different kind of Fall party without (or not) so much tail in the gate, so…..a Hobson’s choice. I wonder if Hobson was Irish, and if shamrocks ever go out of season ? Things to ponder amid the pumpkins, corn shocks, apple pie, and Rose’ of the bowl parking lot.

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