The Hybrid Widower

When Smartacus went off to college, it was as if life itself had stopped. Turned out I no longer needed groceries, and there wasn’t enough trash to take to the curb every single week. The house stayed clean one day to the next. A half gallon of ice cream lasted a month instead of five hours.

It was glorious and awful all at once.

Gradually, I got used to the disturbing quiet. The lack of laundry was one good thing, and the car wasn’t constantly low on gas. I watched more TV…good shows, not the cheesy stuff Smartacus preferred.

Still, I miss the silly little mutt. Did you know he was a rescue?

Smartacus and I chat by phone every single day, sometimes twice or three times. On Mother’s Day, friends kept telling me I should be celebrating, since I was a Dad-Mom, a hybrid widower who performed many of the tasks usually performed by mothers.

“Happy Mother’s Day, dude!” they said.

So, at their urging, I drank an extra six-pack, which is how Posh always celebrated Mother’s Day – pounding cold beer one-two-three, then chasing Smartacus around the kitchen with a hockey stick. She wasn’t Canadian, but she obviously shared many fine Canadian traits.

Speaking of cheesy TV, ever seen that show “Below Deck?” It’s about the handsome, horny young crew of a charter yacht, most of them Aussies, who are even hotter because they have that lilty accent.

For a long time, I’ve wanted to open a language school that taught foreign accents. You could be a Brit, or sound French, without actually having to be British or French, which can be a burden.

Here are the accents you could learn at my language school: Australian, British, French, Japanese, Russian double-agent and American Motown.

If you liked, I would teach a Chicaaaaaga accent (FYI, I was born in a canoe on the Chicago River. According to family lore, my mother didn’t even set down her oar).

If you were into investments, or marrying for money, I’d teach a Haaaaarvard accent, which strangely overlaps with the Chicaaaaago accent. If someone from Boston married someone from Chicago’s South Side, you wouldn’t understand a word either of them said.

I would teach the patois of Louisiana Cajun country, which I find as buttery smooth as good grits. A Cajun dialect sometimes sounds like slurping. Technically, that’s the sound gators make. Easy mistake.

Speaking of which, I would also teach animal sounds, so you could communicate with your children. You know, grunts and hisses — the stuff of surly teenagers drowning in a steamy vat of their own hormones.

I’d bring my buddy Steve in to teach bear. Steve is “The Bear Whisperer” I am working with on a book, and he once taught himself the oofs and clacks that California black bears make, and what those sounds represent.

So if you wanted to learn bear, you could take his class, though I’ll warn you: Steve is prone to F-bombs and other words that sound like hammer blows. Steve once dropped 15 F-bombs into a single short declarative sentence, to this day an American record.

Anyway, Steve’s class will probably be very popular. We have a lot of bears in our town now, as do many American suburbs. I’m not sure there will be an actual bear in attendance, for Steve to demo with. But should you ever run into a bear in your backyard, you will know how to chase him up a tree with just a guttural uooonc-uooonc, the exact same sound bear mothers use to scold their cubs up a tree when danger lurks.

Great word, lurks. Say it with a British accent. Luuuurxs. It ends high, like the final bellowing note of a Sinatra ballad. If you say in in German (we won’t teach German), but if you say it in German, it sounds like a medical procedure. Most German does, which is why we’re not teaching it.

Finally, we will teach the greatest, most-playful accent of all: Midwestern Yiddish.

By the way, did you know that noted film director Norman Jewison wasn’t Jewish? I learned that just the other day. I mean, didn’t you just assume? What next? Woody Allen is a Baptist? Mel Brooks is technically a Swede?

Meanwhile, at Starbucks, I always order in Midwestern Yiddish, which is how one morning I ended up with a cup of creamed corn. In fairness, my Yiddish is quite good. I sound like Tevya trying to sing while coughing up a chicken bone.   

Which reminds me of a funny story — a true story, as are all my stories:

Guy goes into Starbucks and orders his morning cup of mocha. When the barista asks his name to write on the cup, he says “Marc, with a C.”

A few minutes later, when he picks up his coffee, he sees scribbled on the cup: CARK.

You’ve been a really great audience. Good night.

Coming Saturday: Cakes takes the cake

Hey, come hike with me Saturday at Devil’s Gate Dam, between JPL and the Rose Bowl. The hike starts at 2:30, with drinks at a nearby tavern at 4. Space is limited, so the first folks to respond by emailing me at Letters@ChrisErskineLA will get meet-up details. Only those who can handle a very warm day, with stretches of full sun, should consider this one. Up next: A Gin & Tonic Society backyard bash on May 28 (please hold up on gin and tonic RSVPs for now).

Meanwhile, come hang with me tonight (Wednesday May 11) at San Marino’s Crowell Library, for a chat with San Marino Trib editor Mitch Lehman. The program starts at 7 pm. The event is free but signups are required. To register, please call (818) 790-7500, or click here to fill out a simple form.

Meanwhile II: Smartacus has a fraternity fund drive going to fight leukemia and lymphoma. No pressure whatsoever. Many of you already gave to spring gala that supported our family fund. But if you missed that and would like to help now, it’d be deeply appreciated. Info here. Gratefully, Chris

12 thoughts on “The Hybrid Widower

  1. Oh my gosh, this post is just delightful in every way. Thank you. I will definitely sign up for your accent school. I need to master the Harvard accent. I love my husband Rick. (Like you, he was a hybrid widower when we met. You guys make excellent husbands, Suzanne take note.) We just celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary, but just in case, I want to be prepared to marry for 💰 next time around.

  2. This story reminds me of my own ‘accents’ when telling a joke.

    1. Rodney Dangerfield ‘Accent’: After I was born, my mother took one look at me and put me in a cab. She stayed at the hospital. She gave the cab driver the wrong address.

    2. Steven Wright ‘Accent’: How come nobody ever told me not to poor coffee in the dark?

    1. Rodney Dangerfield ‘Accent’: ” My mother was a terrible cook. In our house we prayed after dinner.”

  3. That’s quite the transitory ramble, Chris, from empty nest syndrome (did you know he was a rescue?!) to a crew of handsome, horny Aussies to a school for fun accents. Help me!! 🤣🤣

  4. Well, I’m. cackling out loud at this one. First, because I was a Chicaaagoan for the first 12 years of my existence … and you NEVER really lose the accent. Second, because I’m a Midwestern Jew who also grew up hearing Yiddish. It’s what my parents swiitched to when they realized I was a good speller and got most of what the were saying that they didn’t want me to get. As a result, I’m pretty good at Yiddish too. Oy vey!

    Thanks for the giggles on a Wednesday afternoon! 🙂

  5. Ah, your Yiddish comes from pit orchestra in HS when we did Fiddler.

  6. You might find arduous repeated attempts to make a living at stand-up, but late in the evening at a really expansive party you probably could find an appreciative audience, when semantic beauty is in the bloodshot eye of the beholder. Good dialecticians, as Henny Youngman used to say,”Get no respect” these days, probably because you can hear them in the buff on the street. Also, The Cancel Culture vultures are now out in force, soaring ceaselessly in search of the slightest slight to pounce upon and follow to the source, cnsuming both in the process. The resultant fearful sound in our social discourse is one hand clapping; at least you have two. I find this sonic deficit in our knee-jerk House Of Media like the mind of those creating it: the light is on, but there’s nobody home. Thanks for the slapstick beauty of your musings, the loud and clear voice of a frequently witty humane spirit.

  7. My father was born in Massachusetts, went to school where half the day was speaking French Canadian. Emigrated to upstate NY. I’ve spent a large portion of my youth as an interpreter for him in social situations. He seems to do ok with the old ladies, but never the target audience.

  8. Have you seen the Starbuck’s cups with religious messages. The first one is “Jesus, is this coffee expensive”. 🙂

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