A Beguiling B-Day Bash

I acknowledge certain shortcomings in my writing. The feeling I generally have when I finish a piece is, “Yeah, this confirms I should’ve been a TV weatherman. I’d let others do the science, and I would just blurt the week’s forecast too loudly to strangers over the tellie, while faking genuine excitement for the warm days ahead.”

And by Tuesday, expect the jet stream to dip down and tickle your grandchildren in the ribs. No, just kidding. That’ll be Wednesday. Please dress accordingly.

But writing? There’s no future to it. No past. Not for me.

Book tip — a mid-winter read in the dog days of February, after football ends: “The Handyman,” by Carolyn See, a wry, sexy look at the life of a young LA handyman whose real passion isn’t passion, it’s art. No, wait, his real passion is sex. No, wait, his real passion is ….

And she made a book out of that!!!

People can make a book of anything, obviously. I don’t think all that much needs to happen. It just needs to happen in interesting ways.

As they say of stand-up comedy: Good writing is “complaining with charm.”

For me, charm is such an elusive thing. I excel at awkwardness, at the pregnant pause, at a hitch in the conversation during which people begin to scan the room for someone new.

But charm? Charm is something in the genes, like blue eyes or perfect teeth…lightning fastballs or freckles across the bridge of the nose.

Those genes I don’t have, none of them, except for the blue eyes. And those are mostly just a relic of my youth.

The other night, I was at this party where a chiropractor friend (Joe) was “adjusting” all the guests – and they didn’t even know it. As Joe chatted you up, he’d put a thumb in the small of your back, or an elbow in your side and “correct” you while you sipped your martini or your margarita.

I said, “Dr. Joe, quit working the guests, take a break. But first can you do something about this shoulder?”

Obviously, Dr. Joe chose the right line of work. The Beethoven of Bones, he can’t stop tinkering with the keys.

Good parties are finally back, have you noticed? For a long time, folks were using the pandemic as an excuse not to have parties, and everyone was secretly happy about that. Deep down, few people relish weekend parties. They are obligations – like teeth cleanings and oil changes. You do them because you should.

Yet, over time, a strange thing happened across the magic kingdom of Los Angeles, a diaphanous seaside resort known mostly for bad traffic, strip malls, and tiny pink wishes (wrapped in maple bacon).

Over time, people grew to actually miss their weekend parties.

Now, some things we’ll never understand: Why isn’t Pluto a planet? What’s happened to John Cusack’s career? Why does organic peanut butter taste so bad?

But even total dolts —  even broke-down Bohemian idealists like me — can understand the need for a good party now and then. It blows the carbon off our spark plugs. It burns the grease off our grill.

This party had a shrimp tower. Is there anything more life affirming than a shrimp tower? Seriously, have you ever seen a piece of architecture, or any landmark – a canyon, a geyser of any sort — that moved you as much as a really good shrimp tower?

Obviously, no.

Gazing at this shrimp tower was like ga-ga’ing over a Rembrandt … standing there flatfooted, losing all track of time, in a dazed, neuropsychic state.

So I began to load my little appetizer plate. One shrimp, two shrimp, three shrimp, four…

The shrimp were HUUUUUUUUGE — triple jumbo, double D’s. I asked one to dance, another to marry me. Then I ate them and loaded the plate up all over again.

Five shrimp, six shrimp, seven shrimp, eight…

How quickly had my life improved? That same morning, I had been flat on my back on the bedroom floor, ready to rip off five sit-ups, wondering why all my friends were either reporters or attorneys.

“Is that healthy, having friends like that?” I asked myself.

I just lay there motionless, unable to start my engine, unable to summon any motivation at all. A minute passed before I realized I had completely stalled out.

FYI, this always happens when football ends each February. Tax season takes over.

I had frozen up at the thought of rounding up all my tax statements.

Twelve hours later, I’m at this great birthday bash, amid women with sequin eyes (Suzanne, Susy, Dolly, Rhonda). The host, Michael, was in this ancient double-breasted blazer he got at Bullock’s, ice-cream white with brass buttons. Total gleam. Michael looked like Gatsby. Or Gavin MacLeod. Or the salad captain at Chasen’s.

Which made me think of Chasen’s famous chili. In mid-winter, virtually everything makes me think of Chasen’s famous chili.


As time went on, there was dancing at this party. A young lass in a minidress did the splits and smashed a wine glass on the floor, perhaps the best party move since Belushi. The wine glass broke in a million pieces, like a schmattered chandelier.

Then Joe “corrected” a few more Chardonnay Moms, and the DJ, whose father (Terry Kath) was in Chicago (the greatest rock band of all time) added a sub beat to a hip-hop song I could never ever name.

Point is: We need to lead dual lives of obligation and joyfulness. Like oil and vinegar, or Lennon and McCartney, they offset each other well.

Point is (part deux): Happy birthday, Karen and Emily. Mother-daughter parties are the very best. Karen turned 60 and Emily turned 30. We celebrated all their years, all their blessings, with this beguiling bash, with shrimp towers and roving chiropractors and gin dripping down the insides of our warm wrists.

Bravo. Take a bow. And please dress accordingly.

COME HAVE A MARTINI WITH MEOK, you blew me away with your generosity. Since Saturday, you have helped raise close to $6,000 for the parent-ed program for the local church. The money goes toward an extensive set of classes that help make confused young parents become better parents. The program also reaches out to homeless families across LA. This Friday, we hold our annual parent-ed gala. One of the online auction items is drinks, dinner and dad jokes with me and fellow gala emcees Chuck Osburn and John Cervenka. The dinner will be at John Sparr Tavern in Glendale, a cozy neighborhood hangout that reminds me a lot of “Cheers.” Wait’ll you taste the crab cakes! This night includes dinner and drinks for four guests (thanks Rick and Dave). Come have a martini with me. You don’t have to attend the gala to bid on this dinner. Just go online by clicking here. Meanwhile, direct donations to parent ed are still being accepted at this link.  Scroll down to “Give to support Cathy and Christopher Erskine…” Or, if you prefer, you can send a check to La Canada Presbyterian Parent Ed, 626 Foothill Blvd., La Canada CA 91011. This was Posh’s favorite charity and all funds go to the parenting programs that she used to help run. On behalf of the family, and my late wife and dear son, thank you. For questions, please e-mail me at Letters@ChrisErskineLA.com Hugs and thank you.

7 thoughts on “A Beguiling B-Day Bash

  1. Delightful! You had me at shrimp tower. And now that you mention it, what HAS become of John Cusack? I notice the name “Suzanne” popping up regularly in your posts. Hope that is a happy sign for you, as you defintely deserve much happiness…and jumbo shrimp. Party on, Chris.

  2. As Joe Culp once said, returning from a weekend shrimping, “Those shrimp were so big they were 8 to a dozen

  3. I’m with you on Pluto – they should not remove planet status after we memorized mnemonics in elementary school to remember the names of the Nine planets in order of size!

  4. As poet Kim Addonizio has said, “Now we’re getting Somewhere” (the title of her most recent book, actually). From canine doings to arrays of lovely women in one weekend turn; what range! It seems that (like “Bones” in Star Trek) you can cure a cold rainy day, which today is. Thus the following
    Is offered, in like spirit.

    Plan B

    I once met a girl named Suzanne
    Little went according to plan
    She waxed ethereal, but was lovely material
    For doing what only two can;

    We entered into a compact
    To sweetly do nothing before the fact
    Gayly roistered about, which is without doubt
    The best way to keep things intact;

    We both were a stage in the game
    Wherein each one retained the same
    Old way they would go, no altered ego
    What was willed would be with this dame;

    Yet love is quite strange in its way
    It seems to rehearse night and day
    You start out a lover, but then soon discover
    That change is what’s really in play;

    The point of the story is this:
    What starts with a look and a kiss
    Is pure mystery, and then history
    Upside down, downside up, and amiss;j

    So toss any thought in the trash
    That seems to design such a crash
    Of epic proportions, it’s artful distortions
    Could re-arrange life in a flash;

    And hope to keep time wide open
    Stay easy—with care, going in
    So what is the wonder, burning down under
    Can begin the beguine, to begin…

    What could be forever, but then—yet again
    You note there really is no plan
    To get there, but to love Suzanne
    Perhaps that’s all you need, my man.


  5. I checked out “The Handyman” and read it in 3 days. What a great story! Thank you for sharing.. Does this mean you are starting a book club?

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