EUGENE, Ore. – Here I am, the cheery existentialist, stirring my muddy motel coffee with a toothbrush.
Interstate motels. Thirty bucks a night just in local taxes. Eight pillows to a bed (in case of orgies?) Yet, no stirring stix for my coffee. Barely a Bible to ponder as I drift off to a restless sleep.
But at the end of a long day on the road, I take a shower at a Motel 6 in Redding that was almost revelatory. Technically, a baptism. If you can find a decent shower head in America anymore, just marry it.
“Hey White Fang, get in here!” I yell.
White Fang and I are on the road again. Why? To rescue Smartacus from his overtly pastoral college in the Pacific Northwest, to sun him again, to let his toes dry out from the rainiest winter anyone up here can remember.
A wet and gloppy place, Oregon. “Cuppy,” as they say at the track. I rather like it.
You know, I thought I was gonna die when my son left for college nine months ago. Couldn’t breathe for the first couple of days, then a few weeks after that. He was my passion, my purpose.
After he left, all that I had left was this oversized wolf/dog, who now had to listen to my rants about the Cubs, my mad theories about media bias, my observations about chronic war.
I’d become a suburban Socrates. I started wearing togas and wandering from Happy Hour to Happy Hour, dad tears and dirty martinis.
Obviously, I wear my emotions on my sleeve; I sing my hymns straight from the belly. This boy, with whom I once shared nearly every waking moment, was gone. We talked every day though – Smartacus, O Smartacus…
“He kind of misses us too,” I shared with White Fang one day at breakfast. She looked at me. “Then why doesn’t he come back?” she asked.
We both had abandonment issues. My son, my wife, my other son, my daughter Rapunzel, they’d all left home during White Fang’s childhood, took off one day and never looked back.
You could see the sadness in the dog’s eyes … the Socratic puzzlement, which came with her typically Yiddish ethos: “So it’s you I’m left with? Of all the gin joints. Oy.”
White Fang soon became an ironic, super-bored princess — you know the type. LA is crawling with them. Shaggy manes. Legs like palm trees. Look so great climbing out of a pool.
To fill the time, I’d brush White Fang constantly. I’d take her to Starbucks for a “pup cup” (pure whipped cream). I spoiled her, which is what you’re supposed to do with ironic LA princesses.
My reputation for spoiling girls soon grew (I think there’s a website). Along came this Suzanne, the daughter of a very respected San Marino orthodontist who still, in her 60s, wore a retainer. That should’ve been my first clue.
Suzanne was an empty-nester too. For kicks, she fostered tiny newborns from very troubled homes. I said, “What about me? Will you foster me?”
“Maybe,” she said.
Obviously, Suzanne was further along in her empty-nest recovery than me. She’d overcome that twisted sense of nostalgia parents suffer when kids go off to college. She was reasonable about the whole situation. Yet, like me, she checked in on her adult kids every day.
Meanwhile, she appreciated the jaunty way I talked to Smartacus on the phone, pretending not to miss him. She liked how I sent him a care package for Halloween, full of candy corn.
We started hanging out.
And that’s where things stand now.
There is, I think, a law of fluid dynamics at work here. One person leaves, another fills the void. There are so many people now. My gawd, have you seen the lines at the ARCO?
No, we are hardly short of people these days. And if you’re lucky, you find the right people. But, really, any people will do. Human beings are still — for all their petty faults — the only endlessly interesting elements of our long and nasty lives.
And, often, quite charming. Especially young Smartacus, who always gives more to others than he asks in return. Much like Suzanne.
And now, nine months after dropping him on campus, I feel emotionally loaded — almost greedy. After nine months, I feel like coming out into the waiting room and announcing:
“IT’S A BOY!!!”
Such a summer we’ll have. The house is happy again. I’ll have extra help to prep the burgers, start the grill: Smartacus, Suzanne and White Fang, the three olives in my martini.
Really, of all the gin joints…
Email the columnist at Letters@ChrisErskineLA.com. For past columns, or info on books or upcoming hikes, please go to ChrisErskineLA.com. Meanwhile, happy Father’s Day to all.
18 thoughts on “IT’S A BOY!!!”
Such a gorgeous post. You have found the right olives. And Catty Cakes is the bonus fourth olive. You deserve one great martini, My Friend. Savor every sip.
Your martini is perfect. Stirred not shaken, of course. Here’s to your summer of much deserved and long awaited happiness. I’ll drink to that. I hope you’re flying the W…Cubs won! And when they lose, turn it upside down for M – and make a three olive martini. Call it the Erskine triple play 🤣 Cheers!
Lovely, just lovely. Enjoy this time and Happy Father’s Day, Chris. Reading your posts reminds me of what I miss most. I’m not crying, I swear, i’ts just something in my eyes.
I laughed. I cried. You are set for the summer. Enjoy!
Happy for you and happy Father’s Day
Your still fangs Pack!
Lyric, lovely, luscious, a lilting, lolling, lazy even lacivious lengthy lark looming ahead like the smell of butter on warm toast, that cuts the acrid chocolate steam of the morning’s coffee with its sallow ease. Things are heating up, and you just know the smell of sun brushed flesh and those rouged summer kisses will follow. Oh, to be in the eye of the dog…
A Kappa Sig at home. I know that college fraternities are generally dismissed as elite self absorbed beer swilling worthless anachronistic relics of generations ago. I felt much the same way when I a blue collar kid
pledged Delta Tau at UCLA
eons ago. Just 20 miles away from my hometown Burbank but an entirety new universe.
I never anticipated that some six decades plus that several of my “brothers” would remain my stalwart best friends.
You just always make my day.
Great post. Happy Father’s Day Chris!
I’m SO glad for the 3 precious olives in your gin!
Have a glorious summer Chris!!
Your life is full, enjoy! Just don’t be surprised if you don’t see that boy quite as much as hoped for. After that freshman year mine came home with an intense desire to spend as much time as possible with the old hometown pals. And not to overstep, but am I the first one to notice that the beautiful Suzanne bears a slight resemblance to Angie Dickenson?
I am so happy for you. I have been hoping you would find a Suzanne and you did!! She is quite beautiful.
Enjoy your summer surrounded by all the love you give.
It’s good to have him home Happy Father’s Day
You cause my heart to burst with joy most every time, and laugh out loud – a much needed therapy for us all. Savor every sip of that martini. ❤️
The happiest of Father’s Day to one amazing dad and damn great capturer of life’s most precious moments for all to devour again and again. Well done man.
Happy Father’s Day! I still remember when you wrote about Smartacus waiting in line for first grade to start and you compared the kid’s excitement to people on New Year’s Eve ready for the ball to drop. Love your writing. Somehow it is so comforting.
Enjoy that triple olive martini! It’s a winner! Slainte!