Top Gun Moments

FYI, I just registered my son Smartacus for Vacation Bible School, kindergarten through 5th grade. Smartacus is 19 but he still has that French bread face. He can probably pass for 10. A little Bible School might help his frat-boy heart.

Let me ask you: What else do you do with college kids during the summer? They will sleep till noon, like 2,000-year-old Romans. And they will need a spiritual component to their lives that even Snapchat cannot fill.

You know, we talk a lot about guns, public safety, mental health. We don’t talk enough about spiritual components: church pews, magnanimity, charity, family, friends.

Obviously, I’m way more than just another social-media sensation, a pretty face with a knack for Tik-Tok. I’m also a free thinker … a spiritualist. John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rosseau spring to mind.

You know who else I remind me of? Jimmy Piersall, baseball’s most-famous flake, who once described diapering this way:

“Spread the diaper in the position of the diamond with you at bat. Then fold second base down to home and set the baby on the pitcher’s mound. Put first base and third together, bring up home plate and pin the three together. Of course, in case of rain, you gotta call the game and start all over again.”

Look, I’m jazzed for this summer. I like baseball and berries and sunlight through sycamores … marinas where the sailboat lines ping-ping against the masts.

I like music on soft Sunday mornings, with the windows thrown open. Jazz pianist Keith Jarrett had this run the other day, I wish I could map it. Better than Jimi Hendrix, better than Jim Brown, all these brush strokes, these delicious turns of phrase, these simmerings. It was just the way he leaned into chord changes, the way he turned eighth-notes into gems.

Ah, jazz. Minus words, how does it say so much…

Know who else I remind myself a lot of lately? Maverick.

The other day, I had a rare “Top Gun Moment” in the mirror. I was just out of the shower, and the late-afternoon light caught my wet skin a certain way. In particular, my left bicep – my best bicep. And I had a “Top Gun Moment” of pride and hubris over a minor male bulge.

Now, please keep in mind, my body is an old jalopy. Every morning, I inventory what hurts — my neck, my ankle, my soul. At my age (65), my tendons have a tendency to sleep in. I’m like the Tin Man in need of a spritz.

I don’t think it’s arthritis. I think it’s life.

Know who I wish I reminded myself more of? My late pal Don.

The other night, a misty evening in our leafy Brigadoon. The Gin & Tonic Society of Los Angeles is meeting in my buddy Kate’s backyard. There are tables of dumplings, meatballs and tri-tip sliders. I contributed the tri-tip, which I’d married overnight with some teriyaki and later grilled to a light sunburn.

Rapunzel was there, the Ulfies were there, the ever-patient Suzanne … even Bittner and Big-Wave Dave. Let me tell you, wanna feed 30 friends cheap? Buy a couple of tri-tips. Marry them in marinade. Stand back and watch your guests take a knee.

Wanna enjoy a soft summer night? Buy a bucket of gin. Made with grain alcohol and juniper berries and what they like to call “botanicals” – lavender, basil and various weeds.

Anyway, for a longtime, our host Kate (so lovely) was married to Don (so nice). They raised three kids here in this marvelous house. Their dogs are named after characters in the hit movies Don wrote. So, yeah, it’s that kind of house, an LA screenwriter’s house, a fine family home.

As I told friends the other night, Don was the best of the best, the Patron Saint of Friendship. He did it better than anyone I have ever known. He reached out. He rallied the guys. He talked serious, he talked smack. He popped bad times in the nose.

Don’s been gone 10 years now, and it’s as if he were still a little bit here, with his rag-tag band of brothers: Gallagher, Pete, Jeff and Big-Wave Dave.

It was more than a toast. It was a benediction.

Boy, would Don laugh at all this – me so misty in his beautiful Brigadoon, all of us still missing him so much.

Don Rhymer. Patron Saint of Friendship, the candle on the table.

Thanks to everyone who took part in our gin bash — Lynn, Rick, Carol, Debbie, Forrest, et al. Especially, thank you to Kate for hosting. The Gin & Tonic Society of Los Angeles is one of the nation’s leading gin-related organizations. To join, go to For books, t-shirts, gin glasses and more, please go to Cheers!

8 thoughts on “Top Gun Moments

  1. Lovely start to what we all hope is a lovely summer. Lovely tribute to your friend Don. I am sure he is smiling over it. Can’t wait for more summer tales told as only you can. Glad you get your boy back for more fun times together. I am sure White Fang will be ecstatic.

  2. Lovely tribute to Don, who I only got
    to meet a couple of times, too briefly, at Porter Christmas parties. I’m back in Boston for a 50th (!) college reunion and missing a couple of dear friends, who like Don, left the party much too soon. A reminder to do what he used to do, reach out to the ones who are still around.

  3. Great musings as usual but this one seems to hit a lot of notes. While you may compare it to a jazz composition, I think of this one as Sweet Georgia Brown. Keep hitting all the bases and I hope to be able to make a tribe gathering one of these days.

  4. Who knew diapering a baby was actually a baseball strategy? I would have made so much more sense to me 39 years ago had I known!!!
    Your tribute to this great friend of friends, Don, is heart wrenching. We should all stop, take note, and make the time to recognize our dear friends NOW, while they are still with us. Every chance we get. Thank you for the reminder, Chris.

  5. Re: G&T Society Melee

    You had to be a viable adult to attend, and I was wanting on both counts but made the cut via a press pass. Go figure. So I did, and it was one long stream of pleasures in a late afternoon Eden. The gin flowed smoothly, like the conversation, and the food was kaleidoscopic and overflowing; too. All strata of the vibrant L.A. continuum were in residence, including a grand storyteller who moves Dodger money around, a lovely exotic neighbor who fronts local papers and is interested in cosmic matters ((which I guess many newspapers have become); and a rock concert image maker, himself quite an image behind the pictures. More of the same delightful and sundry were in artendance, as were the two busily acquisitive resident dogs, who really knew how to work a crowd; and their mistress, a warm and interesting hostess of considerable charm and depth. These and many others here are people you want to know and spend time with, all accretive to the soul. Then there was the willowy golden Suzanne, who flowed like honey from gene pool to pool, distributing her radiance over and around the proceedings. I even noticed a bit of her luminance around the erstwhile host as he fitfully bartended and moved in his own (albeit slightly glowing) orbit, a space traveler of iresolutely masculine dimension. It thus seems that a bit of Suzanne stays with you after she leaves you, and thus the garden setting took on a golden radiance as the evening progressed ( the marine air frosted out the setting sun). As for the antic shine that drew us all to this light show, I’ll put a G&T in your hand and you can guess how his bemused emanation seemed to diffuse into the other. If you care anything about light, don’t miss the next one !
    —your humble reporter.

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