Seen Top Gun 57 Times

No question that I admire old things — classic songs you play at midnight, accompanied by a glass of amber hooch, the kind that leads to first-offense probation.

What are you doing the rest of your life
North and South and
East and West of your life…

There are some projects we got 100% right: The Golden Gate Bridge. The 911 Memorial. Baseball. The French horn.

Add this smoky old song, “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” blending  a plush melody with genius lyrics (Michel Legrand with Marilyn & Alan Bergman). I’m obsessed with this song. Pure poetry. Perhaps the greatest sonnet ever set to music.

And when you stand before the candles on a cake
Let me be the one to hear the silent wish you make…

Play it at midnight with someone you love. Sure, a dog will do. Or a glass of hooch.

Just play it, OK? On the day she was born, play it. On your parents’ anniversary, play it. It’s a tiny bit of grace in a very raw and angry world.

The best rendition of this masterpiece? Check out Laura Fygi, a Dutch chanteuse you likely never heard of (her mom was an Egyptian belly dancer).

Fygi’s version, available on YouTube, is better than Frank Sinatra’s, or Barbra Streisand’s, and even Sarah Vaughan’s.

All the nickels and the dimes of your days
Let the reasons and the rhymes of your days
All begin and end with me…

All indications to the contrary, great work still matters. Decency still matters. Taste still matters, amid the sleaze and slime.

Want a creative career? Do remarkable work, use remarkable words. Paul McCartney’s 80th birthday the other day honored all of that, his life a tribute to real emotion and remarkable words.

You know, certain times of the day stir something inside us: dawn, dusk, midnight. These soft pockets of the day tend to be amazing moments to read, exercise, listen to great music, recite a dirty limerick.

There once was a man from Madras…

I was telling Suzanne the other day how lucky she was to have hunted me down the way she did. On a whim, she came to one of my book signings, then to a Happy Hour Hike. Immediately, I sensed she needed a sidekick with a gift for dirty limericks.

Suzanne had never heard “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” or the ditty about the Man from Madras. So my goal this summer is to fill in those cultural gaps, to make her stay up with me till midnight listening to amazing songs that have fallen out of favor.

To her credit, Suzanne doesn’t detest this. Or maybe she just really likes limericks.

Meanwhile, my other masterpiece – Smartacus – is now back in the nest. He marvels over how well I have done with him away at college, especially when I forget to switch off the oven after dinner.

“God, Dad, you’re lucky to be alive,” my son said the other night over burgers.

BTW, here are some of the things my son Smartacus doesn’t yet know:

–the difference between sugar and Splenda

–the difference between Julie Roberts and George Clooney

–Up from down

–Hot from cold

–That Paul McCartney used to be in a band

My son’s a masterpiece, sure, but a masterpiece in the making. Smartacus was also unaware of “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” See now what I’m up against?

By the way, I’ve now seen “Top Gun: Maverick” 57 times, the last time with Smartacus at my side. Obviously, I don’t just like old stuff. I’m also into new stuff that resembles old stuff.

Look, “Top Gun: Maverick” is hardly perfection. The dialogue is kinda meh and the only decent acting belongs to Cruise, Hamm, Kilmer and Connelly – all the chestnuts. The young actors are mostly duds – earnest and dull — as young actors often are these days. Honestly, can anyone explain Miles Teller?

The only young actor who seemed like an actual Navy jock was the kid who played Hangman, who had a bit of breezy alpha moxie, a Top Gun trademark.

Yet, the movie is a mitzvah, perfectly plotted and brimming with surprise. A good flick to see with your kid, or dad, or mom, or a sidekick of any kind.

After all, Americans need new things to cheer about.

“Dad, did you have to clap?” Smartacus asks when it is over.

“Other people clapped too,” I explain.

“But you started it,” he says.

Because great work still matters.

This weekend’s Happy Hour Hike has been postponed to July 10. Sorry for the switch. Details to come. Please email comments or questions to Letters@ChrisErskineLA.com. Cheers!

Cakes takes her first steps: Details coming soon!

19 thoughts on “Seen Top Gun 57 Times

  1. I just love Wednesdays and Saturdays because of you! Thanks for a great way to start the day. Suzanne is a lucky sidekick. And Smarticus won the jackpot in dads.

    1. Hi, Chris, it’s been a busy time. My daughter was preparing to move to the East Coast/which she did, two weeks ago. She’s sick of LA. Bought a house in a small town subdivision, waited for it to be finished, and JUST LIKE THAT! She was gone. Had time to read your column this morning. Had to see if you really did see Top Gun 57 times. Why? Of course, you saved it for the end, for which I’m glad. Because I loved it! Haven’t seen a Thomas Cruise Mapother film since, I think Jerry McGuire. Haven’t even seen my all-time favorite, 2001, that many times—maybe 10. Loved the song/sonnet, all the Smartacus lore, And that photo of Catty Cakes— fabulous! And one last thing—I agree with Sandy Hansen! ☀️☀️‼️

  2. Thank you for validating that great work still matters and for offering some prime examples. You, for instance. Nice job with Smartacus. But I must disagree on Miles Teller. Did you miss Whiplash? I haven’t yet seen Maverick, so I can’t defend him there. If you get Paramount+ see him in The Offer, about the incredible obstacles everyone involved in making The Godfather went through. Loved all the performances. That movie is a testament to your point, too. Great work stands the test of time. I think your poetic prose will too.

  3. Loved Maverick and I think Miles Teller was great!! The filming was incredible and kept me on the edge of my seat!!
    Catty Cakes is breath of summer in her bright outfit!!

  4. Michel Legrand is amazing – I have an old CD Jack Jones Sings Michel Legrand, and it is still a favorite – lyrics are beautiful.

  5. Summer Perfect. Just Summer Perfect. When you write somethinng like this, I often lie stunned, wondering how the written word could evoke such lyric imagery in the mind, how any mind could string characters along invisible lines in a blank space and create such beautiful chemistry in my head, behind the shinning eyes. This is shaping up as an iconic, seminal Summer, starting with the return of the treasured young son, a head of evolving youthful steam amid the deliciously seductive brew of the New Girl, and ending in the fires of Autumn, when Summer congeals smoke to memory, and the long sentences of the days burn the heat and consumptions of Summer into one’s bones; into the soul. Between now and then…music, the boy, the girl, the dog, warm days, balmy evenings, cool nights, bright mornings, gin and fizz, the lightest breezes, sand, sea, the scent of sun on flesh, late night reads of gorgeous prose, old movies, new words, laughter high and far away floating on expansive night air, food interwoven like conversation, feeding the moments; and writing, writing,writing, always the writing. Summer Perfect.

  6. Here’s the thing. Every time I wait with bated breath for your newest posting, I get a giggle seeing your photo. You look like you are about ready to keel over. I have to look, can’t help myself, and wonder if the picture might change to an empty chair with your feet in the air. Just sayin’….

  7. Fygi? Better then Vaughn Sinatra. OK I’ve gotta hear her. She must be magical. No argument …rest of your days… is perfect for soulful
    reflection of our human condition.
    If I must chose the best recording of an American Classic it has to be Sinatra singing Nelson Riddle’s masterful arrangement of Cole Porter’s “I’ve got you under my skin”!

      1. I trust your judgment….about 84% of the time because I’m older than you and have to discount your wisdom accordingly!
        You’ve got the 🐻 Bruins right!

  8. “There are some projects we got 100% right: The Golden Gate Bridge. The 911 Memorial. Baseball. The French horn.”

    Brilliant. As a (now retired) airline pilot I waited for years to go to the 911 Memorial as I did not know how it would effect me. My wife and I were first online, spent 6 hours there and still did not finish. It was staggering in its depth, passion, presentation and emotion. One of the more memorable days of my life.

  9. Loved Laura Fygi’s rendition. Thanks for the link. In reply to an earlier column I think it is possible to enjoy creative writing from others e.g. David Sedaris while still enjoying your column. Never was a Garrison Keillor fan but your slam of Sedaris was sooo harsh😠

    1. My mom had that song on a continuous loop when my siblings and I were growing up and I thought I wouldn’t care if I never heard it again. Until today. Thank you Chris for bringing back some precious memories.

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