A Slow Boil

So, there I am at this seafood boil we’re holding in Michael and Karen’s backyard,  a fine summer bash, an evening prayer … vespers. You shoulda smelled the shrimp, you shoulda tasted the lobster (thanks, Michael!).

As I told the co-hosts, everybody is a little brittle right now – pick your target, human rights, inflation, that Big Ten kidnapping. So let’s throw a party.

We were like those people who, in the late Middle Ages, danced themselves to death. Really, that was a thing. Across Europe, they would have these big dances where everybody twirled till they dropped —  some till they died. Let me tell you, the Middle Ages was not for everyone.

First, they blamed this odd behavior on the plague (an early version of Covid). Then they blamed it on mass hysteria (an early version of social media).

What exactly constitutes mass hysteria? Well, if you’ve ever been to a Dodgers game… Or said something mildly unpopular on Twitter…

Listen, there’s so much to be thankful for right now. No really, I’m not kidding. We lost power the other night, and if you need a reminder of the comforts we take for granted, just flip your main circuit-breaker one day and sit around and watch your husky melt and your icemaker drip.

I bailed out the ice maker as you would a sinking sailboat.

An army of lineman from Edison eventually showed up to repair the transformer out back – never mind that we have a sparking transformer amid the tinderbox of our ravine. There’s a bobcat down there too, and lord knows what else. Poltergeists? Cossacks? Clarence Thomas?

The linemen got right at it. First, they sat in the yard taking selfies with White Fang. I don’t understand the hold White Fang has over strangers, especially men. Maybe it’s the blue peepers. Maybe it’s the freckles on her beak. It’s certainly not her personality, let me tell you.

Speaking of Cossacks, I saw a Chekhov play the other night with Suzanne, the silverplated sidekick with the liquid amber eyes.

Check Chekhov off my bucket list. It was one of those funny/angry Russian translations, at my fave theater, the Pasadena Playhouse.

And if you want anger as a seven-course meal, just tap a Russian writer. Nothing warm and fuzzy there.

My takeaway from all the spittle, all the invective, was that we don’t know what we have till it’s taken away – like electricity, for instance. And that family is a bastion of second chances. I mean, not my family. But many families.

I saw the play with Suzanne and her sisters, Sassypants and Trouble. Sassypants might, in fact, be her mother – I’m still sorting all that out. Too young to be a mom, too sensible to be a sister.

Honestly, I thought Trouble was an odd name too, especially for a woman. But if you look at the picture (that’s her on the right). I’m pretty sure you’re thinking, yeah, that woman is Trouble for sure.

My dates to see a Russian comedy at the terrific Pasadena Playhouse.

What do I know? I don’t even understand bond indexes or how ballpoint pens work. Gravity in general completely stumps me. When the power went out the other day, took me 15 minutes just to get out of the garage.

Back to Chekhov for a second. The guy is no Judd Apatow, that’s for sure, and I don’t see a big future in sitcoms for the guy. But he’s pretty funny in spots, and pretty raw and visceral in others.

Hugo Armstrong gave the best performance, hurling chairs one moment and crying the next (think your junior high girlfriend). Really, Armstrong was remarkable as weird Uncle Vanya. I’ve kind of had it with meek male actors. This guy is Brando, brave and bullish and kind of a hot mess, in the way great actors often are. The only modern equivalent I can think of is Miley Cyrus.

Anyway, onward we march through such troubled times. “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer,” says poet Denise Levertov. Not sure what she means by that, but what do I have to lose?

Please note that we’re halfway to Christmas, our own annual mass hysteria, yet remarkably calming in various ways. Favorite traditions: To light a lot of candles and drink rum out of a garden pail.

And I read recently in Parade Magazine – America’s best magazine – that apples can really help your hair. Not sure how, because I quickly got sidetracked by an ad for one of those super-huge cell phones, the kind that look like kids’ toys but really are for Grandpas like me, who struggle occasionally with buttons.  Buttons, buttons, so many buttons.

Plans start as low as $14.99. Ordered two immediately. One to have, and one to lose, since I’m always losing stuff lately.

See, when it comes to phones, I am all thumbs. In fact, when it comes to life, I am all thumbs. And big toes. When I dance, I dance till I drop.

Hey, it’s summer.

The happiest hiking club in all the land is still planning a July 10 event, beginning at Memorial Park in La Canada at 4:30. Stay tuned for more details. Just wanted to get it on your calendar. Till then, have a bangin’ holiday weekend. See Top Gun. Have a hotdog. Mix a margarita. Or all of the above. For past columns and books, or Happy Hour Hiker shirts, please go to ChrisErskineLA.com

Available at ChrisErskineLA.com

10 thoughts on “A Slow Boil

  1. Thanks for a purely fun post! (Except for the sparking transformer. That had me a bit nervous. But Miley Cyrus brought me back to silly smiles.) Love the pic of you and Suzanne. I hope she feels special: She’s the only one of your dear ones who gets to go by her real name. But please keep those perfect nicknames coming. Hello, Trouble! Nice to meet you, Sassypants! Happy Fourth.

  2. Ohmigawd—Suzanne’s hair! Suzanne in general! WOW. (Sorry, know you’re not supposed to say stuff like this anymore. If you ever were.)

    1. I was thinking the same thing. Suzanne dressed up nicely and you look as if you are going on a hike. A little more effort would be great.

  3. Want something to clear the pessimistic taste of Uncle Vanya, Chris. Take Suzanne to King James at the Taper, my favorite playhouse. Rajiv Joseph is an American Chekhov with an optimistic outlook and the acting is beyond superb.

  4. Marathon dances during the depression: my husband’s late grandfather was a pianist for those things. He was so bored he read the newspaper as he played. He was very talented. My husband inherited his piano (no that was not the piano he played for the dances).

Leave a Reply to Greg Smith Cancel reply