Naughty is the New Nice

My son Smartacus is home, asleep in a distant bedroom. There’s a chill in the air and rain on the roof, bringing thoughts of Christmas snowfalls:

Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare…

You know, that dippy poetic stuff you can usually only recall after a glass or two of Champagne. Longfellow – bubbly, rich, evocative. Like your mother’s best soup.

“Sleep, Smartacus, sleep,” I think to myself.

With my son home, Christmas seems everywhere now…seems possible…seems secure.

Christmas is our national narcotic. I don’t say that out of admiration, just as a warning. Some mornings, I find myself whistling for no apparent reason.

The toilet seats are so cold these days – one sure sign of the holidays. There are trees atop the cars, and the shop windows are a little steamy – those are some other signs.

Amy Grant is all over the radio, her voice lined with fleece.

By the way, I’ve become more surgical with my drinking, not willy-nilly all over the place like some of you people.

Tequila hit me the other night like a second booster — gave me chills, then a cotton-headed fog.

Which was exactly the feeling I was after.

Drank with a bunch of sportswriters, at some seedy joint on Colorado Boulevard. I mean that in a good way, of course, as the ultimate compliment. As in, “Wow, isn’t this seedy?”

Plaschke punches Billy Joel into the juke box, and I keep looking for the Caltech genius who hangs out here, allegedly the inspiration for Sheldon on “Big Bang,” a little tidbit you maybe didn’t know. Sheldon lives! At that seedy little joint on Colorado.

Gawd, the chicken mole was amazing, and the Cadillac margaritas were of the highest octane. You could race Indy on those things. We got louder and louder, especially Rainey, who wouldn’t let me slide out of the booth when I wanted to flee.

So I dug in. I pounded the table: “I think ‘Succession’ is better than the ‘Sopranos’ — smarter, funnier, if you like that stuff.”

Plaschke drew back, as if to punch me. By tradition, that’s how sportswriters settle arguments. With an off-balance roundhouse right

To me, there’s a certain nobility to that, a touch of Renaissance warfare.

In the corner booth, 7 of us laughing too hard; I thought at one point “You could sell tickets to this,” then a minute later, “No, you probably couldn’t.”

Plaschke quizzed the table. “Who’s the most famous person to ever work at the LA Times?”

Someone suggested Michael Connelly, the best-selling crime novelist. I guessed Sam Farmer, the NFL scribe.

“Tom Cruise!!!” shouted Plaschke, pounding the table, forgetting for a second that he wasn’t on “Around the Horn.”

But parking’s free on that stretch of Colorado. So it was kind of worth it. I got to see Lopez.

Another night, I was at a birthday bash for Gallagher, and the Chardonnay Moms were all there, tinsel in their smirky smiles.

In the dark days of a gloomy December, the Chardonnay Moms are perhaps the brightest objects. I use them like flashlights.

My pal Lissa was slurping a Christmas cosmos and telling us how she was once pulled over while driving morning car pool, but got out of the ticket because she was still wearing her nightie.

“I have to go now, officer,” Lissa explained. “My younger son’s at home, naked in a tree.”

“Sure,” the deputy said, and waved her along.

Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken…

According to lore, Lissa was the first car pool mom to ever wiggle out of a ticket. When word got out, all the moms started wearing their PJs to car pool, in hopes of staying out of trouble with the law.

From that moment on, naughty became the new nice in our little town. Real estate prices soared.

Over woodlands brown and bare…

FYI, my Christmas cosmo recipe, the one Lissa slurps: 2 ounces vodka, 2 ounces elf, a splash of triple sec, maybe more vodka. Stir.

After just one of these, I promise you’ll hear angels. After two, the Pentatonix.

By the way, happy 60th birthday to my ancient pal Gallagher. The whole twinkly bash the other night was just spectacular, marked more than anything by an outpouring of love.

Friends desperate for any sort of social connection got together, confessed outlandish things about their kids, and either laughed or cried.

I made an Irish exit about two hours in. That’s long for me, I usually vanish quietly at the 30-minute mark. But I love Gallagher. With every passing year, he looks more and more like Sean Penn.

His face the map of Ireland.

Look, who am I to talk. I ate pumpkin pie for 14 consecutive days after Thanksgiving, one little sliver at a time. When I was done, I’d slip into the kitchen and over-lick the knife.

Dancing on the edge, as always. So woke, so wise…so licky.

Is my pie behavior normal? Define “normal.” There is no normal. OK, maybe in Cleveland or Peoria, a few folks are what we might think of as normal. But who wants to live like that?

Back to soup a second….

If you like soup, I’ll probably like you.

If you like funny banter, I’ll probably fall in love.

(You remember love, right? Rhymes with shove. Close cousin of ardor or empressement. Gateway to agony.)

And if you like the Pentatonix, I’ll probably propose. No kidding, that’s what their music does to me.

Be ready. We’ll meet in a little chapel on a hill overlooking Barstow, under an egg-noggy December moon.

I’ll send a car.

Don’t let shopping stress you out. Even the hard-to-please will appreciate a funny book, or a funny t-shirt, or a set of the finest gin glasses in the entire world. My supplier, Jim Cosgrove, says there is still time to order and receive items by Christmas. Info: ChrisErskineLA.com. Cheers!

I like a girl with a little mustache…(ball caps run $20)
These easy-to-read books (I call them “toilet books”) also make good gifts.

18 thoughts on “Naughty is the New Nice

  1. Needs a warning that not all moms in pj’s get off so easy. Especially when picking up the newly indoctrinated 20something child drinkers @ 2am.

  2. Glad you and White Fang got Smartacus back home for the holidays. I always learn something from your posts. I didn’t know there was a real life inspiration for Sheldon Cooper….although I highly doubt non-drinking germaphobe Sheldon would frequent a “dive”. Well, maybe if he heard you were coming. More Catty Cakes pics and updates, please!

  3. Just a few observations…well corrections/objections actually. Reiterating what someone above wrote: Have you ever seen THE SOPRANOS!? (signed A Jersey Girl) also “so licky”? I think you meant to wrote so icky… plus there are no hills in Barstow and I’ve never even heard of the Pentatonics, (I’m assuming it’s some kind of military band?) but last night I made a kick-ass corn and roasted poblano chiles chowder, consumed with a fine bottle of Simi cabernet, so we do still share some things in common. So happy Smartacus is safely home again, glad you haven’t lost that “old feeling” and tremendous knack of tugging my heart strings. Merry two weeks before Christmas. Your pal, Judy

  4. How can anyone love so deeply…and write about it ? I thought Bill Plascke was on the moon, Now I find out his moon face is shining over a joint on Colorado like a moon over Miami. And that Soccer Mom narrative, so sleek and shiny in it’s silken remembrance of their liquid magnetic glow. I wanted to be there, and feel their pull, like sunlight on a December morning; and those pictures..the best yet. That little Santa Monica cupcake reaching for an ornament belongs on a Christmas card or should be something iconic to the holidays—like a Hallmark Card. How can anyone love so deeply, and write about it as though love happens every day? It must be Christmastime. Or maybe it’s just…you. Get a girl, and put that Santa hat to work.

  5. Totally normal with pie & knife licking! I must confess to knife licking when I cut a piece of homemade fudge each night since Thanksgiving. Just wasteful otherwise!

    And nobody said Jim Murray 😩‼️For most famous writer 😞And before you there was Jack Smith! But you have me on Christmas cosmo & carpooling in my pjs & robe. It’s cold out here in rabbit valley 😂😂

  6. I do remember love. First cousin once removed with besotted. Omg you had me at, “I use them like flashlights.” 😂 And Pentatonix? Listen to Hallelujah.

  7. So happy for you that your son is home with you for the holidays. Can’t believe how fast his first semester has gone. Love hearing all your stories.

  8. Pentatonix ~ mighty fine ~ ~ you may also like a group called Libera ~ ~
    happi holidays ~ Pasadena Piano Lady

  9. Bless all who respond to Chris’ ramblings of love & family……some of you are almost as crazy funny as he is!!! I chortle my way through every little loving comment.

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