I Have a New Theory

What if all the things we thought were awful were actually hidden gems?

I woke the other day to the chirp of songbirds, and thought: “Here I am again, in this bloated place.”

Big cities require a special kind of patience, a side hustle with God, a wager on a greater human good, in order to survive.

There were leaf blowers and trash trucks too. FYI, in our town, we have two trash trucks per resident, and they are always going backwards…beep, beep, beep, beep. To live in LA is to wonder: “Did a trash truck just backfire, or are they shooting at me again?”

Interesting place to make a life.

I have a new theory, by the way, an explanation that helps explain many of our current woes. The ’50 and ‘60s were car-based economies. The ’70 and ‘80s were TV-based economies. The ’90s belonged to the Soccer Moms.

The last 20 years, we’ve had a phone economy. For better or worse, all products are based on cellphones: journalism, medical care, travel, entertainment, romance (and every other kind of commerce besides romance).

My theory is that cellphones cheapen everything they touch, including journalism, medical care, travel, entertainment and romance. They have done for our lives what deep-fryers have done for fish, made it kind of greasy.

Hey, “it is what it is,” as they say. I’m not complaining.  I’m just here to help you to understand.

Meanwhile, an addendum to all that phone stuff: One of the reasons women are thriving these days is that they love and understand their phones. Men hate phones (phones force them to communicate). It’s one reason these tycoons – Branson, Bezos, Musk – are so suddenly interested in exploring space again. They really want out. They want to live on a planet where there are no cellphones.

I may seem a savant of modern living. In truth, I kind of suck at life (just ask my friends). Yet I have a thorough understanding of what makes us tick. Like a pastor in a fading New England fishing village, sharing a few last shreds of wisdom before the bank seizes the church.

Look, I’m fond of corner butcher shops and old surf boards and crazy-big slices of pizza that flop over the edge of the plate. I miss hoop skirts. Every food is like a fetish.

I am so not suited to apps and e-tickets and digital coupons. I’ve been futzing with my printer for three weeks. It’s not fun to be me, but it’s sure interesting. Some days, it’s like they’ve dropped me in the middle of Istanbul with a bad haircut.

As Garrison Keillor says, “I believe in self-improvement … but only for other people.”

Know what I’m suited for? Watching my granddaughter play. Sometimes, old age comes along just in the nick of time, doesn’t it? Right when you need it.

Again, I ask: What if all the things we thought were awful were actually hidden gems?

It’s gushy and kinda dopey for me to admit this, but I reach a nearly Zen state when I watch my grandchild wiggle and crawl, pull herself up on tables, wave to people she doesn’t even know, light up over the appearance of Penny Laine, the family pup.

My grandbaby is all the things I am not. She is new.

Everything makes Catherine happy. She stands with Lucille Ball and Gilda Radner as one of the true comediennes of all time. If squeezing potatoes through your fingers is an art, she’d be Giotto Di Bondone.

Catherine and Penny Laine will grow up together. With a little luck, Penny Laine will still be there to send Catty Cakes off to Yale or Duke or San Diego State, tail wagging, wiggling in excitement, dancing that watusi that golden retrievers do. By most accounts, goldens are the best belly dancers in the animal kingdom.

So that’s my theory on watching grandbabies. I highly recommend it.

Know what else I’m suited for? Watching baseball.

Baseball is magic. Baseball is Brahms.

“Poetry is a bridge between separated souls,” said the Irish poet Brendan Kennelly.

So is baseball.

There is a little bit of God in baseball. It is rugged and ethereal at the same time. It is best played at sundown, like vespers.

In fact, there is a little bit of God when the batter steps back in the box with 3 balls, 2 strikes, bases packed, 2 outs.

“Am I less of a man if I cry when Redford hits that homer at the end of ‘The Natural’?” a buddy asked the other day.

Look, who am I to judge? Yet, yes…yes, you are.

But doesn’t everyone?

Email the columnist at Letters@ChrisErskineLA.com. For books, past columns, or to sign up for his free newsletter, go to ChrisErskineLA.com

10 thoughts on “I Have a New Theory

  1. You are my favorite fishing village pastor and grandpa. Thanks for making me feel better about secretly hating cell phone and the many ways they have cheapened our human experience. Still, they take great pictures of adorable grandchildren and pups. And I am reading your post on one. So I guess the good still outweighs the bad. And we still have baseball and newspapers, so life goes on. Thanks for the reminders of all the good, along with the sometimes annoying things, in our blessed life in So Cal.

    1. I’m willing to bet, as God is in the most special details, Grandmother Catherine was the first in your family to hold her little namesake, kiss her, hug her and send her on her way to meet the rest of her family. : ) lp

  2. Anyone who is The Don Of Domestica has the license to flourish anywhere and everywhere, so a kaleidoscopically diverse city like L.A. is merely another garden of delights in a season of gardens for such a man. For you. But cellphones—their technology and soul shriveling rituals—drag everyone and everything they “touch” down into the mire of addiction. They simply waste life, as many other addictions do. They are increasingly where we are when life happens. And I’m not complaining, either, simply stating a truth amid the nautical morass of falsehoods oozing from the device and it’s experiences. And I note with irony that these words were laid down on such a phone…But hey, it’s Spring, and your exquisite little granddaughter is blooming like a fresh rose in your garden. So ease back and smell the rose, so to speak. Ahhh, what a lovely day…

  3. Love baseball anytime, but even retired I feel a bit of “ ditching school, work, tasks” just going to a day game. Cheers.

  4. But we ALL cry when Redford hits that homer! Anyone who says they don’t, is a fibber. And I STILL don’t get the deep fascination with that sport….😘

  5. Joanne: it is mesmerizing because it is such an artful metaphor for life, and at times rises to high art; as life does. Those who love it watch, play, and wait breathlessly for those times; like in life.

  6. Chris
    I’m on my 4th rescue Lab, I wish your granddaughter had penny lane going into college , but alas Labs give you love for 10-14 years then teach you about loss and more love !
    As a Firefighter I’ve seen guys and gals cuss about a divorce , but cry rivers over the loss of their Lab

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