Storybook Kingdoms

Crank up the quiet. Smartacus has fled, back to his ivory tower in the north country, leaving me with a sad-sack dog and all the Christmas crud to put away, plus a fridge full of expired meats.

On Monday, Alaska Flight 1391 whisked Smartacus away like a limo, a little soon in my book; I dread good-byes anyway – I mean, I’m just a soppy and enormous Irish monsoon.

“At the gate, Dad,” he texts as I drive off from LAX.

“Good,” I thought. “Now what?”

Dad tears and vapor trails, that’s what. Sure could use a Christmas cookie.

Certainly, this seemed more of a kidnapping than a kid heading back to college after his break. Too soon, damn it. And when will he be back? Generally, sons go away far faster – and with more resolve — than daughters do.

Smartacus and I hadn’t even played catch but more than 12 times, flinging the football here and there in front of the house, just as we have for years.

For many men, tossing a football is a form of meditation…almost a Belgic Confession (Remember that one? i.e. rebels are not heathens … at least not us anyway).

Indeed, it was a very good holiday season, despite the various variants. My sister back in Chicago says that even her tree caught Covid, yet they managed.

Meanwhile, Smartacus and I tried to stay outdoors as much as possible. One day, we went to The Grove, where we ran into the Mayor of the Grove, the honorable Rick Caruso, who will soon be Mayor of Los Angeles, if he actually wants it.

Being mayor of LA right now is like being president of the United States: Anyone smart enough to handle the job would never really want it.

That political Catch-22 may cost us Caruso. If Caruso declines, I’d advocate for  the honorable Mike Feuer, who has less vision perhaps, but more political chops.

“If you could just solve the homeless situation,” I told Feuer at a Christmas party, as if that notion never crossed his mind before.

I swear, the inane stuff I spew after a couple of gins…

The next day, I always send the hosts a personal note:

“Hey, sorry about the political dogma, and the know-it-all nature of everything I told your other guests. And especially sorry about the drapes. But after I fell into your pool, they were the only fluffy robe I could find. So fun!!!

Now we crank up the quiet. After a couple frantic weeks, I could use a little solitude. As they say, the quieter you become, the more you can hear.

While Smartacus was here, he and I also hit the Rose Bowl, located in a lush little gorge on the outskirts of Pasadena. Storybook kingdoms like this are difficult to find anymore. I know, I used to have one.

So on a chilly New Year’s morning, I find myself standing on the Rose Bowl golf course, under the oaks, sipping the last thing anyone really needs on New Year’s morning: a stiff Bloody Mary.

Or two.

Now admittedly, New Year’s can make me a bit reflective, and I was discussing all the treasures we’d just lost: John Madden and Betty White. Boom. Ouch.

What did these treasures have in common? Just the thought of them warms our hearts, lights our smiles.

Like Christmas itself, they seemed to be around forever.

During the actual game, there came a moment  – well, a lot of moments….

But probably the single best moment came when Utah fans clicked on their cellphone lights – as if flicking a Bic – and the dark stadium glowed with 50,000 fire flies, in memory of two young Utah players who had died.

No doubt, New Year’s is one of those holidays where we remember those we’ve lost.

Yet, being positive is perhaps our greatest human trait. And when we look back, as we are inclined to do, we filter out the negative in ways that make the future not quite so daunting.

So, on New Year’s Day, my second Bloody Mary in hand, I was feeling the triumph of the human spirit, as my buddy Plowman mocked my shoes, some bargain-basement kicks I wear in muddy conditions.

What, now I need to explain myself?

Next thing I know I’m watching this epic football game, the one with nary a dull moment, while thinking: “Why isn’t the college national championship played in this glorious and esteemed Magic Kingdom every year?”

Is the greed so monstrous in college football? Do all those host cities with their grotesque new stadiums always get their way? Can’t the NCAA appreciate the churchly resonance of the Rose Bowl?

Because this game always represents what should be college football’s most-defining traits: grandeur, class and tradition.

Let the pro game build its blingy McMansions and stage those crass halftime shows.

College football’s brand should be based right here, in the shadow of these stained-glass mountains, where every Jan. 1 the drum lines flail and the angels cheer.

This is so obvious that even I can see it. College football should make the Rose Bowl its house of God.

Heck, it already is.

Last call for copies of “Surviving Suburbia,” a collection of columns from when the kids were still kids. The paperbacks are $20 (which includes postage and handling). To order one, e-mail me at Letters@ChrisErskineLA.com. Cheers and thanks!

4 thoughts on “Storybook Kingdoms

  1. When you notice your beers are gone you will notice your son is home again ! Spring break is around the corner

  2. Charlie Brown: “Keep looking up .. that’s the secret to life.” (Of course he also said, “I’ve developed a new philosophy: I only dread one day at a time.”) 😉

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