Waba! Waba!

I live in the tiny Puritan community of Los Angeles, where people watch you out of the corners of their eyes and every little gesture is judged.

It’s hard to have an opinion here, so I’ve pretty much scrubbed my mind of opinions. Instead, I live like Jesus lived – humbly and by example.

To this day, I still put two spaces after a period, return shopping carts, hold doors for strangers. The stranger they are, the more satisfying this is.

Holding a door can be like a sociology class, a window into the human spirit. A good 50% of the time, the stranger doesn’t bother to acknowledge my kindness.

For the record, the best kindnesses are the largely invisible kind.

This is shaping up as the kind of hot summer where groomsmen faint at weddings and dads go without socks and women shun undergarments in desperate bids to stay fresh, but none of it works — none of it — because the weather always wins.

So, off we go to the beach.

You know, parties give me purpose, just as my son Smartacus gives me purpose. What else gives me purpose? A So Cal beach.

There’s this one we always shlepp to. It’s a pain in the butt to get there. And once you arrive, you have to lug too much stuff to a remote place in the middle of the beach, to give ourselves a little space.

Oh, my aching shoulder. Not only do I carry the sins and burdens of my neighbors, I just carried a super-heavy pop-up tent on my shoulder across this Orange County sand, as we celebrate the holiday with 20 friends and family members…Bill and Nancy, Charlie and Taleen, Steve and Helen…

It’s a rustic beach, cradled by bluffs and misty seascapes, not a snack stand in sight.

By tradition, everything we do here is always the same. First, we sit around eating too much salty food – briny as the sea.

Then we gripe about our lives. About the Big Ten. About how hard it is to get into concerts and sporting events anymore, or even board a plane – e-tickets, the apps, the QR codes.

Then we talk about the miseries of parenthood; that’s good for five hours right there.

I tell them — as conveyed by my pal Lucy — how tricky it is to be a mom or dad these days. Not only do you have to teach your children about the birds & the bees, you have to teach about the birds & the birds, and the birds that look like bees, and the birds that used to be bees and still have their stingers.

That’s a lot of stuff. Like Jesus, I don’t judge. Like Dolly Parton, I love everyone. Besides, I have this throbbing shoulder — killing me, this thing. I drink my holy water and rub my shoulder, like Kershaw.

As Whitman wrote, “Your very flesh should be a great poem…in the silent lines of its lips and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”

That’s me, all right. Pretty sure Whitman was talking about me flopped in a beach chair, skin red as an American flag, unsure what happened to my car keys.

Basically, I’m a Jimmy Buffett song. Drizzle me with lime and call it a day.

In short time, though, I am ignoring the lingering pain, the torn schnitzel, the emotional scars that make up a modern dad, and am burning hotdogs on a small grill, where I turn them with my fingers. Ouch. Anybody bring remember the tongs?

Then we burn some marshmallows – see a pattern here? – while speculating where the name “smores,” comes from. The consensus is that some mom named them after the kids kept begging her, “Mom, can we have some more? Please-please-please!” And the portmanteau, or whatever it’s called, became “smores.”

Then Rapunzel, the daughter/princess with the bull’s-eye smile, pulls out some bananas and aluminum foil, and preps these crazy over-the-top desserts, whereby she:

–Splits the banana long ways, but keeps it nestled in the peel.

–Stuffs the banana with chocolate and marshmallow (if you like, add cherries, walnuts, toasted coconut, peanut butter, whatever floats your boat).

–Wraps the whole schlimazel in foil.

–Tosses it on the little grill to meld, weld, fester, ferment, gurgle, kiss, cuddle and waba-waba, till it becomes perhaps the finest beach dessert you ever tasted.

Five stars, kiddo, for these gooey banana boats.

Try it on your grill at home. When it’s done, put it in a bowl and top with a snowball of vanilla ice cream.

The best summers smell of sun screen and Christmas.


Don’t forget the Happy Hour Hike this Sunday (July 10). Meet-up at 4:30 at Memorial Park in La Canada. Bring a drink and a lawn chair (or blanket) if you’re staying for the free concert after. The hike will be short and sweet. Questions? Email me at Letters@ChrisErskineLA.com. Cheers.

17 thoughts on “Waba! Waba!

  1. Hi Chris it’s cool morning here in Arizona 84 and will go to 106 but as we say “ it’s a dry heat”! My friend In Santa Clarita told me about you and I love reading .your columns. I’m just about facing the world at 82 and oh how it’s changed but then my parents use to tell me about the good ole days too. I’m told my filter is bad and there are new words that describe what I thought the dictionary had a meaning for but I’m out of touch. Falling in love with my friend at my age in Santa Clarita is great as long as it’s phone calls but to meet oh my gosh what does Mom need at her age.So I’m so happy you found Susan and you will have so many joys ahead of you. Don’t let anything or anyone spoil it for you. Love, laughter and having a best friend in life is what keeps us going.yes I’m going to say it as now days I’m not sure of what I can say but God Bless you and all those you love. I will enjoy reading your columns and maybe someday my friend and I will be lucky enough to get to one of your hikes and have a cool one together

  2. Waba waba, Indeed. You make summer extra special with your poetic prose. I love that beach. Please don’t tell anyone the name. It’s too perfect and too popular already. Keep defiantly putting in the extra space after a period, too. Somebody has to take a stand for tradition.

  3. That group on the beach makes me want to sing America the beautiful! You know what I mean.

  4. Love this. Almost (but not really) makes me want to move to L.A. I’m still a die-hard Chicago-area person. And, as you know, there is a little bit of Chicago in all of us, no matter where we migrate! (I, too, always put two spaces after a period…it’s barbaric not to!)

  5. I see from the photos that at least someone remembered to bring the newspaper!

  6. I loved your opening about opening doors for strangers. It’s the polite/generous/friendly things like that that brings joy to my world. I’d like to find more generous little things to do for others.

  7. I think you were down in my neck of the woods – Crystal Cove? Beautiful beach, but the hill back to the parking lot at the end of the day is a doozy.

  8. I guess that I’m not so chill. When someone does not acknowledge that I held the door open for them, I say, quite loudly, so that the others present will hear, “You’re Welcome!”

    BTW, my mother used to say loudly to kids acting up in the store, “Stop that! You’re not at home now, you’re in a nice place!”

  9. Same with the two spaces–makes sentences feel more air-conditioned. And as for the opening and holding doors–a symbol I represented back in the day that females can be even more courteous and old-fashioned than males (well, actually we often are much more courteous in general, but don’t quote me). As for that yummy concoction of bananas et all on the grill, if only hubby weren’t allergic to bananas, I would definitely try that! Well, heck, maybe the grilling will eliminate that allergic reaction. Couldn’t hurt to try it, no? Yes? Maybe?

  10. Beach parties are an act of faith—belief in the innate goodness of warmth, light, sand, and water. An epiphany of sensations mixes with the scents of sunscreen, charcoal smoke, salt water tang, and sun on flesh to create an ambrosia of pleasures in a stadium of light. Home runs are easy to come by, here. Everything is so weightless, so friable, so pliable, like the sand between your toes. The conversation drifts like smoke, the sound of the surf a rhythmic rush and crash, the pages of the water turning over and over. The beach is the reading room of the sea.

    As a teen age lifeguard and swimming instructor on Lake Michigan beaches, later a California runner and adult surfer, I have lived the beach life, and spent countless hours in the tower, patrolling in a rowboat(Lake Michigan), on the sand, and in the water. As well as with family and friends in circles of celebration, with the sun as a partner.

    When the sun is your friend( and sometimes all-consuming lover) the relationship creates many bright novas and shadows, oblique reflections, aspects of light that get under the skin in subtle and compelling ways. In the sun you think differently.
    As in other friendships, the attraction can wax and wane with the seasons, and time may or may not catalyze those enduring bonds that resist the fraying of attraction.

    Only in recent times have I begun to understand the true nature of the relationship, and how much it is like marriage, the flow of things backrounded by the heat and ever subtle ongoing change in the chemistry of its interactions. Beach parties are a practice of our faith in these mysteries, and thus—like Summer and the sun—an affirmation of life and love. They are a Summer mass in the sand. I say amen.

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