Lord of the Rings

GOLETA, Calif. — Everything I cook lately tastes like October — like crunchy maple leaves, like the forest floor, like Julia Roberts’ riding boots.

Favorite emotion right now? Bewitched.

Obviously, I was listening to Sinatra the other day, on my way to an October wedding, thinking about how great this month has turned out.

There is poetry to October and much to do – kegs, ballgames, prayer circles, weddings.

It was an easy ride to Santa Barbara. You just follow the pumpkin stands along the 126, from Santa Clarita to the sea. Cowboy country. Gourds, 4 for a buck.

I see now why the Druids celebrated the harvest season. For them, October was the month of doomed kings and female sovereignty. I see how they could get a little carried away.

No judgment.

It’s certainly a good season to get married; everyone seems to be doing it, as if it’s a giant fad, as if wedding rings were hula-hoops.

Again, no judgment.

By the end of 2021, I think everyone in America will be married except me.

I know this much about weddings: A good one is 90% chiffon and 10% alcohol (that’s how they get men to attend).

This rustic and wonderful Santa Barbara wedding will be remembered for blowing hair – like silky national flags.

All that gorgeous hair swirling in the wind, in the brassy autumn sunlight. The choppy ocean looks tiered, like a wedding cake. So California.

At one point, a dozen hawks glide over the wedding ceremony.

“Drones,” Gallagher explains later.

I think he was kidding. I just never know anymore.

All I know for sure is that Don & Emily’s seaside wedding couldn’t possibly get more scenic. Then it did.

Go hawks!

Weddings are different now. They’ve shed a lot of tired traditions – tossed rice and garter belts … the cake smashed in the face.

They are more resonant now. They no longer feel formulaic or shot from a cannon, they way they sometimes did in the past.

On this day, the band and food are exceptional. The father of the bride (Jeff) and his sons (Tom and Ryan) nail their toasts, then the groom caps the show with the mother-son dance to Earth, Wind & Fire.

I think to myself: What is happening here? Mother and son, like a flash mob of two, followed by that rare thing at a wedding — a standing ovation.


Soon, everyone is up frantic dancing, as if no one is watching. The band – big, with a horn section — sprints from one song to the next, never pausing.

Whew, this wears me out, the dancing, the conga line … the tequila shots with Kirby and Tasha (my daughter Rapunzel’s cheeky friends).

I collapse in a chair — in the tired uncles’ section, talking about life with my pretty pal Bywater.

“I was with him from the time I was 19…” she explains.

What a weekend. By midnight, we’re all back at the motel for an after-party that’s just the right level of raucous.

I see that Rapunzel and her high school friends are still a significant sisterhood. They sit on couches, combing their hair with their hands. When the mood hits them, they crawl into each other’s laps.

“Look at Kate’s legs,” I yell at one point. “Would you look at her legs.”

Kate has been a friend for a million years. She was married to the best guy on the planet, my late buddy Rhymer, and our relationship is familial, we barely even flirt – the widow and the widower, still learning how to handle the quiet.

Yet, here I am raving publicly about her legs, in front of 30 strangers at this mod retro motel.

My heart has lost its mind, as Sinatra used to say (though in my defense, they’re extraordinary legs).

Evidently, I care less and less what I blurt out at midnight – just excited to be up so late. Plus, my kids are mostly gone now, and Posh is no longer around to throw an elbow into my ribs, or scold me on the way home.

So I can speak the truth loudly in crowded spaces. Kind of like Aristotle, I suppose.

Look, we should celebrate this season the way the Druids did, till midnight and beyond … celebrate the bride and groom as they pledge a life together, slurp the future like a briny oyster.

Besides, before long robots will be taking over, and weddings like this will feature robotic servers and robotic bands…drone seahawks.

Trust me, it’s nearer than you think.

The robot preacher will have Bat Man eyes and a voice like the bored dude who takes your drive-thru order at Burger King.

At some point, engineers will try to outfit the robot preacher with a human soul. But whose soul? Who’s your template? King Tut? Abe Lincoln? Olivia Newton-John?

Far as I can tell, human souls are pretty much all over the place.

So, really, what I’m saying is that we should celebrate each other right now, before these buckets of bolts start bringing us our martinis.

I mean, right or wrong, if businesses can shave 3% from their labor costs, you know they will. It’s a trend we’ve seen for centuries.

Till then, I am finding that beautiful young women regard me the same way race cars regard RVs. Fine by me. Who has the energy anymore?

I find that I am noticed – when I’m noticed — by puppies, store security guards and chatty middle-aged women.

Clearly, their eyesight is starting to go. I usually wait till Happy Hour to approach, when the light weakens and they’ve begun to cushion their beautiful minds with a spot or two of wine.

“Hey, you know the spread on the Rams’ game…?”

Sometimes they turn away, sometimes they don’t. No judgment.

By the way, Santa Barbara reminds me more of San Francisco than it does LA. Men in blazers. Women in sensible shoes. Endless strands of café lights, like one long twinkle vine that binds one trendy wine bar to the next.

Nice place to settle down, if you’re into that. Nice place to live if you can afford to.

Nice spot for a little jazz club. I think that’s where the money is these days: live jazz. Old brick. Old music. Ornette Coleman. Norah Jones. Sinatra.

A cozy place to toast the coast.

We have one more big wedding to go this fall. Can you guess? Meanwhile, the Happy Hour Hiking Club resumes this Saturday. Info has gone out to the first 75 who responded. We’ll follow up with another hike soon. Cheers and thanks.

4 thoughts on “Lord of the Rings

  1. You seem to be attending a lot of beautiful weddings lately. It’s a fact that “What you think about, you bring about.” I’m just saying. Thanks for another beaut. Your posts take us away from debt ceilings, social distancing, oil spills and supply chains into magical realms.

  2. What Caroll wrote, times 2…
    From my vantage point (just a few years older than you, Chris), I appreciate more and more the way you capture the mind-set of this stage of life: more practical, more philosophical, more appreciative.
    Thanks for your simple (yet profound) truths and humorous way with words!

  3. Chris Erskine and Aristotle – Two peas in a pod! I obviously need to re-read my Aristotle – missed his reflections on women’s legs. Many gems in this one, Chris. Thank you!

  4. These are the golden days. I see to the sun split core of them, and the growing luminosity of your prose suggests that you do, too. That long, languid literary lacuna on the fluid lines of a lady’s legs curved discourse smoothly into the gauzy light at the center of the season’s zeitgeist—just where it ought to be. Such non-linearity naturally leads to a loss of balance and the subsequent falling words that Autumn so beautifully and gracefully invites. What’s next ? Amid all this Illuminative downpour, perhaps one needs an image in the mind, to light the way into the lyric drifting down to come. What might she be like ?…

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