The Next Big Thing?

With Smartacus home, fingerprints smudge the fridge again, with lots of shoes and sandals forgotten by the couch. With him home, I’ve tried to up my game in the kitchen.

For instance, I no longer use the dishwasher to broil fish. “Dishwasher cod,” I called it.  The drying cycle yields a flaky golden crust. A lingering stench is the only drawback (like Miami after a steamy rain).

Smartacus notes that every day I have one really bad idea, a get-rich-quick scheme – might be Bag-O-Burgers (a fast-food concept), or a new knot I think might save lots of sailboats.

Most recently, I am into fresh watermelon juice as “The Next Big Thing.” Watermelon is fairly cheap, and the juice – laced with gin or a splash of ginger beer – is a mitzvah, a tumescence, a reason to wake up early every afternoon.

My sidekick Suzanne informed me —  gently, as if scolding a puppy — that folks can already buy watermelon juice just about anywhere, at truck stops and bait shops, pretty much any high-end establishment.


So here I sit, searching for “The Next Big Thing.” Might be her. Might be dishwasher cod. Might be the catering business I’m thinking of starting, whereby I boil seafood and sing jokes at  backyard parties, charging so much per guest.

Seafood boils are so easy. You toss the food into a gurgling vat, you chug a beer, you dump the stuff on a table. Such a spectacle. Bam!

Suzanne is supportive, but says she doesn’t like the marketing prospects of something dubbed “a boil.”

“We could call it a dunk,” I said. “A seafood dunk.”

“That’s better,” Suzanne said, but she said it while frantically ordering an Uber. Haven’t seen her since.

Oh well. As they say, Suzy come, Suzy go.

By the way, photos really don’t do her justice, don’t capture the kindness, the patience, the wit. I always wanted more of those qualities – to be kinder, more patient, more witty —  then she shows up.

Bam! Bam!

On a roll lately. First this new son-in-law (Finn), then the grandbaby (Cakes), now this lovely silver sidekick. My posse, my entourage, seems to be flourishing. Lots of heavy-hitters. And don’t forget Smartacus. Don’t forget Bittner, Ulf and Big Wave Dave.

Living the dream, as they say.

Speaking of which, did you know that the idea for Stuart Little came to E.B. White in a dream, as did “Frankenstein” for Mary Shelley?

And my kids wonder why I sleep so much?

Me, I dream of Susan Dey and Ernie Banks. That’s it, over and over again, Dey and Banks. Were there a market for a love story about Susan Dey marrying, murdering or striking out Ernie Banks, I would be the one to write it.

My take (still a bit rough):  Susan Dey plays a jazz prodigy facing discrimination at an all-black club, and Ernie Banks mentors Dey but doesn’t fall for her, as every other man has her whole life. That gets her attention.

And this unrequited love makes Dey’s voice more throaty and melancholy, it makes her a huge hit, in much the same way Ava Gardner affected Frank Sinatra — broke his heart while turbo-charging his career.

Eventually, Susan Dey falls for Ernie Banks like no woman ever has before, propelling the Chicago Cubs to the World Series. Obviously, a mythic-erotic baseball thriller, ala Malamud or Robbins. In the end, someone gets shot by a showgirl.  

Note that author Harold Bloom once had a nightmare about a winged creature sitting on his belly, got a book out of it, in which he argued that all writers are obsessed with breaking away from the greats of the past.

That’s me, all right. I spend a good chunk of every day not being Hemingway. Not easy.  

My writing tricks are simple: I write the first draft in Yiddish, then translate that to Farsi, then break it down to its essence — a chewy Irish vernacular — till it sounds like something fifth-graders yell at lunch.

That’s when I know I really have something.

I type like a man with 10 thumbs, backing up constantly to fix typos, then moving forward, making moy typlos. Is that a metaphor or a remarkable physical feat? Both.

Listen, I live in LA, a town where everyone blows through red lights, even the cops, and the proper response to “Good morning” is “You sure? Just wait, dude.”

It’s a magical place, where insanity isn’t just a legal defense, it’s a way of life.

It’s a contrarian town, a town of deadbeats and movie moguls – I can’t tell one from the other.

But LA doesn’t have as much anger as most places. Most notably, it’s a land where the palm trees sway and friends fall in love a lot: Streisand with Redford, Dey with Banks, gin with tonic.

What else do I love about LA? The gazebos. The great marriages.

Generally, nothing out here lasts long enough to rust, except the bolts on the piers, which I don’t think are galvanized.

And if something needs painting, they just tear it down instead.

I find great hope in that, you know – the perseverance, the cycle of anguish and rebirth (like when that eagle keeps eating Prometheus’ liver).

Such a cool place.

Wherever you are, toast your cool town with a refreshing watermelon cocktail: Put chunks of watermelon in a blender till you get 4-5 ounces of juice, strain and pour it over ice. Add a jigger of gin or ginger beer to taste, or ginger ale…maybe a sprig of mint. Cheers! Meanwhile, props to the Happy Hour Hiking Club, which stepped off Sunday during 95-degree heat, then partied in the park. A rugged bunch to be sure. More adventures on the way. To order these handsome gin & tonic glasses, books or a hiking club t-shirt, please go to

12 thoughts on “The Next Big Thing?

  1. First, there was Herb Caen, covering the daily goings on of San Francisco, for close to 60 years. Then there was Jim Murray, who could cover a baseball game better when he was blind, than a writer gifted with 20/20 vision. And now we have Chris Erskine, the sage of our times. Thanks you, Chris for, for stories that are worth reading!

  2. Susan Dey and Ernie Banks — such a detailed plot. I know I have said it before, but Chris, when you go (and there’s NO rush), you MUST leave your brain to science so some smart scientist can figure out where your unique ideas come from. Thanks for this crazy jumble of gems….Party on with your wonderful entourage. You so deserve the fun.

  3. We are back to Summer again. Cannot stay away from it. It’s beauty overwhelms consciousness, and it hasn’t even begun to pour its easing heat into the streets and open windows yet, which will lubricate and soften thought as it does so. The last few days have been uncommonly cool yet balmy here on The Hill of The Palms, a breezy marine-fueled balance that makes you want to cry with pleasure at its tension.

    The Tequila Sunrise, a favorite in the 60’s and 70’s that Drinkology calls,”Just another Drink”, seems anything but that as it literally glows in the twilight creeping up the palms, settling like gold leaf on the surface of the pool, something Hockney paints with such vibrant L.A. panache. G&T’s juniper astringency bookmarks it’s sunset sweetness, and lying on a chaise, you think,” If I died tonight, it would be O.K. I’ve had this”. Have you ever felt that way? It’s worth wanting.

    As for your evenings, Chris, your moonrise is that sweet, sinuously sentimental, shyly seductive subtle sliver of silvery sidekick, Suzanne. My oh! My. How is it that she lights up the night as the sun goes down? Spring was never like this, and you cannot escape the light. Who would want to, for light is the blood of Summer, heat it’s beating heart, and the body is in love with its air. Summer is a love affair.

  4. HANDY HINT: After you’ve finished your watermelon cocktail feed the rinds to the horses. They’ll absolutely go nuts over them.

  5. Ernie Banks was a hero of mine as well – UNTIL – he totally put the ‘hit’ on my mom at an autograph session in Aurora, IL. Even as an 8 year old boy I knew something weird was happening. On the way home, mom told me not to mention to my father how ‘friendly’ Mr. Banks was towards her because with his Dutch temper, he would probably try to ‘visit’ Mr. Banks. So I switched to Dave Kingman as my new Cubs hero – lol.

  6. Looks like things are picking up in your life. Perfect timing. New son in law. Grand child and, a new love…….all in the same year. You are on a roll
    An oldie

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