Flower Power

I don’t believe that “meat is murder” but the prices sure are. Paid $11 for a pack of bacon the other day. Were it anything but bacon, I would never have purchased it. There is a significant sliver of my soul that requires bacon in the house. And I get a little sweaty too if I get low on mayo or paper towels.

That’s when I self-medicate with pulpy prose. Sorry. Here goes…

Strange time in LA. The mornings are starting to stink – all those flowering shrubs and citrus trees. I hate pretty smells. I prefer bacon, billiard halls, and chili when it cooks the surface of my tongue a little. Pain. Pleasure. Relief. Exhaust. Pain.

The weather is so weird lately. I run the furnace and crack a window at the same time. The west side of the house is icy, the east side too warm.

If you’re unfamiliar with Los Angeles weather, it’s always too hot in the sun and too cool in the shade. It’s like a weather law. The climate? Generally mild. Yesterday, parts of Southern California reported “thundersnow.” Just a generally unpredictable and magnificent place.

At this time of year, pollen begins to coat all the Teslas. I reside in a wonderful but tightly wound little suburb, and the Tesla seems to address the residents’ needs for conformity and ease of maintenance.

Dear Diary, everybody out here loves their Teslas. They’re replacing the late Betty White as the only thing everybody in America loves.

Be warned: To date, no one has ever had sex in a Tesla. Oh, some kissing occurs. But no groping, no gasping, no passion; nothing to write home about, that’s for sure.

Look, the mere fact everybody loves Teslas makes me not love Teslas. I just don’t like following the crowd.

Give me a Plymouth Dart. A Pacer. A Ferrari 308 with a punched-out headlight. Give me your tired, your hungry, your Fords. Give me outcasts. I pick my cars the way I pick my friends: With an heart open and my eyes squeezed shut.

By the way, arrived at a quick solution to the 30% inflation we’re experiencing.

Just eat 30% less! Cut your food consumption – all consumption – by a third, and you will have taken the right steps to battle our plunging standard of living.

You’re welcome. Next major economic issue? Class warfare? Working on it.

Meanwhile, it’s cotton season here at the house. Big clumps of white dog fur everywhere. Talk about your “snowy linen lands.”

Mary had a little lamb. I have White Fang. Same thing.

She’s a funny wolf, and I’m not just talking about her dry wit, her knowing asides about dating in LA. I’m talking about the way White Fang throws a leg against the wall to brace herself when she pees, like a cowboy, or some bawdy saloon girl. She’s funny like that. Funny in the head.

More breaking consumer news: Roberto at the farmers market, another economist at the front lines of this fight, tells how the nurseries that supply him are giving up on flowers and growing cannabis instead.

This is disturbing news for flower lovers, though I think this means the price of your gummy bears will eventually come down. Your hairdresser is bound to be a lot happier.

Listen, I’m a big fan of So Cal’s farmers markets. I don’t know enough to proclaim them “The Best in the World,” though there is every reason to think that. Cheeses.  Artisan honey. Scallops. Every manner of bread.

Coming soon: Artisanal weed. And Botox bath houses.

We’re such world leaders in everything out here. Sometimes, it’s a burden. Sometimes, a delight.

By the way, you know those steel-cut oats that I’ve been chewing now for, like, three weeks? As it turns out you’re supposed to cook them first. Who knew?

This is why it’s so fun being me. Stuff that most people learn by third grade is almost exactly the same stuff I’m learning right this very moment.

By the way: Congrats, LA Rams! By my count, it’s the 11th SoCal national championship in the past 20 years. Not bad, though I have yet to see a Rams flag flying from a single porch. When you price the average fan out of your stadium, you’ve got to expect less-than-average support.

More congrats to Verge on his knockout Super Bowl party, featuring THE BEST BRISKET EVER – melty in your mouth. Tasted like the American West – like Annie Oakley, cherry whiskey, napalm campfires.

Nothing better than brisket. What else takes 12 hours to cook? I could eat this stuff with a backhoe. Thanks, Henry (Verge’s bro-in-law).

I contributed a couple of Porto’s cakes to the party. Another treasure, Porto’s. Consistently incredible, reasonably priced.

Listen, just do what I do when food threatens to get the best of you. Put a fence around your impulses. Then put a fence around the fence (as I mentioned the other day). Rarely works. But at least it’ll keep the dog from getting loose.

Speaking of impulses, remember that goose I spotted on a neighbor’s front porch a couple weeks ago? It was a barren bird, no feathers, no clothes. Yet, quite large and rather stoic.

To be honest, this bird reminded me a lot of Angelina Jolie, an air of difficulty about her, the sense that she could really mess up your life.

Sat perfectly still, this bird, like a chess piece. The only movement: a slight tilt of her slender head.

Poor bird had apparently lost her way in the wind, and was seeking shelter on this neighbor’s porch, in this empty house, recently sold.

There she was, all alone.

When I ran a photo, some folks suggested it might be an Egyptian goose, rare in these parts, normally found along the Nile.

Evidently, her GPS went a little haywire.

Cut to three days later, I’m walking White Fang past the same empty house, singing off-color Portuguese drinking songs, and what do we see? The poor bird is still there on the porch — evidently sick, or freaked out by the winds, in some sort of distress obviously. Naked, too.

At 65, I could totally relate.

And after 65 years, I honestly feel that with a kind nod, a simple gesture, a heart-felt hello, you can make a difference in the world, brighten a day that otherwise lacks sunshine, make the lonely feel slightly less forgotten.

So, at the market, I pick up some bird food. I return to the house, hitch White Fang to a driveway post, and carefully approach the porch.

About 10 feet from the porch, I kneel down and sprinkle some seed on the brick driveway, then fill a small container of water. Two neighbors, passing on the street, voice their support.

“Hey, you sure it’s not a carving?” one asks.

That’s the kind of people I live around – hard-bitten skeptics, folks who see things with their own two eyes and still don’t believe it. You should hear their views on climate change.

Anyway, at 65, my eyes are a little slushy. No longer do they possess a laser focus. As I inch a little closer, I see that, sure enough, I was trying to feed a carved wooden bird.

“Nothing to see here, ladies,” I told the neighbors walking by. “Just move along.”

“And please, do not share what you just saw here with anybody.”

They laughed, yet on one level I think they were a little troubled by this odd man with the parakeet food and the Siberian husky, who was standing on the driveway shedding. Big gobs of fluff. A blizzard, I swear. You could make pillows.

A beautiful, seriously flawed, poorly engineered creature.

That’s me, of course. But my dog’s a little messed up too.

For books, past columns and the latest in high fashion (t-shirts, caps), please visit the company store at ChrisErskineLA.com. Meanwhile, a beautiful quote that may help anyone fighting the post-football February blahs. Food is fellowship. Friendship matters. Reaching out helps you and the person you reach out to.

“Eat at a local restaurant tonight. Get the cream sauce. Have a cold pint at 4 o’clock in a mostly empty bar. Go somewhere you’ve never been. Listen to someone you think may have nothing in common with you. Order the steak rare. Eat an oyster. Have a negroni. Have two. Be open to a world where you may not understand or agree with the person next to you, but have a drink with them anyways. Eat slowly. Tip your server. Check in on your friends. Check in on yourself. Enjoy the ride.” – Anthony Bourdain

25 thoughts on “Flower Power

  1. Don’t be embarrassed by that naked goose. I once stood stock still for 5 full minutes, so as not to startle the beautiful great blue heron perched on my neighbor’s roof…until the next day when I passed the house and realized it was in the exact same position. Bless your heart. By the way, Irish steel cut oats cooked in milk in the microwave and topped with brown sugar are divine. Try it.

  2. My wife and I moved to the tropics three years ago. Of course, we brought our short haired terrier with us. We figured Richie would shed less here than in L.A.. This has not been the case. Richie might give White Fang some competition is the fur shedding olympics.

    We do miss Porto’s bakery-they did the guava cheesecake for our wedding.

  3. Oh Chris, how could you post a photo of a great cake and no recipe???? And Caroll is right about the oats. Cooked with a banana, and some cinnamon they are also delish.

    1. Hi Fran, cake was from Porto’s, so don’t have their recipe. They do a very nice red velvet cake with the rose petals, though. Feeds 10. About $25, which is cheaper than Gelson’s and a lot of markets (though Gelson’s has a good bakery too)

  4. Here is another beautiful quote from Anthony Bourdain. As a very longtime restaurant worker, I understand. From The Nasty Bits:

    “In the end, you’re just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.”

  5. Here is another quote from Anthony Bourdain. As a very longtime restaurant worker, it hits home. From The Nasty Bits: “In the end, you’re just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.”

  6. Another wonderful offering, Chris! And, ooh, that brisket!! Mouth-watering plus my brew of choice in the background..805! What’s the delectable looking concoction to the right of the brisket? Looks amazing!

  7. Regarding the teslas. Had the experience of riding inmy daughter’s. Strange knowing that I would never own one, Sorry but the learning experience, as on the cutting edge of the boomer generation, is just too far out of reach. She recently had the misfortune of having her identity stolen and said they could have actually locked her out of her own car. Besides that, I’m holding out out for the self driving cars. Hey, you’re better off with that driving technology steering the ship than me.
    And as for your Bourdain quote (he’s my idol) I’m taking it to repost.

  8. Another fun piece to read. Riding in a Tesla reminds me of the old Disneyland Monsanto ride. It’s a car so pristeen it probably would eject you like Bond’s Aston Martin at the mere thought of pulling into an In ‘N Out drive through.

  9. Just after the two back to back big game holidays of the year comes this no man’s land—Bermuda Triangle—of weather. Such undefined miasma can untether a writer. One can even moved to mention one’s age, which intimates that thoughts of mortality are creeping in via the little blow-through storms. So one retouches that comforting anchor of the temporarily unaligned: food; reassuring in the midst of all that undercoat cotton drifting around on the floor of the house and in the yard—detritus of an uneasy transition. For a dog’s body, sensing such atmospheric ambiguity, sees heat and light ahead and goes with the seasonal flow (as dogs often do) and sheds an extra layer; which is what writers often do, metaphorically, as Spring approaches. They understand shedding as a rite of passage.

    Full disclosure: I couldn’t stand the heat of two game days, so I decide to engage the latter, and only tuned into the former with 2:45 on the game clock. Methinks I saw the best of it, the Hollywood finish, as both sides waxed passionate in the final anxious rush for the laurels. You can usually tell this is so when there are multiple offsetting penalties near the end of hostilities.

    Some say love is not a game, yet it has competition, rules and procedure, winners and losers, ardor and heartbreak, and legions of fans. I say it is a game of life, and no one can deny that a forward pass is one of its all-time winning strategies. Valentine’s Day is obviously less a Super Bowl(wedding Day?) and more an awards ceremony where the awardees celebrate each other. This year, coming right after the Super Bowl, it somehow seemed even more lovely than usual, in its exquisite softening of the hardness football presumes and radiates. Though beautiful feet have an allure all their own, they are not an artifact of anatomy that names the game itself. For love, what might that be ? I pint on that one.

  10. Never be embarrassed by kindness to animals— real or wooden. As a volunteer at LA Animal Services Shelter in San Pedro, we could use a mushy guy with slushy eyes like you. Love you and White Fang.. 🐕‍🦺🐾❤️

  11. Love that cake and your column! By the way, a good way to scare ducks out of a pool is to buy a decoy and lay in the grass near the pool. They won’t land as they think that duck is dead. Stay safe!!

  12. Another enjoyable column, I love all of them and you because you write them. I’m always happier after reading one. Thanks.

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