What Love Looks Like

Ours is a funky-funny little suburb. We wave to firetrucks, we slow for squirrels. At the high school, all the classes are AP classes.

To borrow from Wordsworth, the residents are bound by a natural piety toward each other. Our hearts leap when we behold wild bears and big, billowy clouds. We get giddy when it rains.

We’re a careful people, the kind who double-check the spare before long road trips. Meanwhile, butterflies grace the schoolyards; the hydrangeas are the size of human heads.

If you look around, you’ll see that the strip malls are inspired by the cathedrals of Florence. Many of the homes are big and often quite masculine. Well…except my place, which is a former Wienerschnitzel (on damp days, you can still smell the mustard and the kraut).

Generally, residents fall into two subsets: 1) The Unworthy, those who feel guilty that they live better than most; 2) The Totally Worthy, those who feel they worked exceptionally hard and earned every single perk.

To me, either view is valid, depending on your situation.

As you might guess, no one leaves this velvety ’burb, though some are now being tempted.

My friends Joe and Deb, for example. After dropping the twins at college back east, they scouted some real estate and are now poised to buy a roomy place with a pottery barn, on four sylvan acres, for $400k.

In LA, you pay that to paint your kitchen.

As Joe and Deb explored the Eastern Seaboard, the foggy little villages full of old priests, they kept thinking that I would appreciate it there.

“We kept saying, Chris would love all this – the barns, the wooded hills, the ancient taverns,” Debbie said when they returned.

“And give up Glendale?” I asked incredulously.

To be honest, we don’t exactly live in Glendale, but we’re “Glendale-adjacent,” as a Realtor might say.

Hence, I can’t help thinking that Pennsylvania is some 3,000 miles from Porto’s (the best bakery in the world), and Damon’s (the best bamboo-themed, stuck-in-the-’60s steakhouse you ever saw).

After so much heartache, I think I know what love is. Trust me, it has a lot to do with Monday nights at Damon’s, where the Mai Tais will take the tartar off your teeth.

Smartacus and I might even get married there. We are, after all, a couple in it for the long haul, trying to make it work.

Might host my writers group there too. As I may have mentioned, I have semi-monthly feasts with a bunch of sportswriters, who are like other journalists, only smarter.

Listen, if you ever want a half-informed opinion on almost any topic, just ask a sportswriter. Their answer should take only about 90 minutes. They’ll gesture passionately throughout, waving the sandwich they’re eating like a sword.

Anyway, to Damon’s my buddies and I will go. Probably, we will Uber in hopes of returning safely to our homes up the hill, where the town crest features a golden retriever and a too-big Bentley.

Speaking of which…my son and I passed a sleek new Rolls-Royce the other morning, and I reminded Smartacus that gaggy cars like that used to be marketed to rich and stuffy old men. Now they are targeted toward rappers.

“Wonder who are worse to deal with?” I asked him.

“The stuffy old men,” he quickly answered, though his experience with the elderly is mostly confined to me and my attorney Billable Bob. That’s a very small sample size and probably doesn’t reflect the glories of stuffy old men as much as it might.

FYI, Smartacus is all I have left now. One daughter is vacationing back east – probably scouting real estate — and the other just jetted off to Spain, eloping maybe but probably not.

That leaves me and Smartacus to run LA all by ourselves, with brave Suzanne to assist, as our precious California continues to melt into the sea.

That’s a lot of responsibility for two-and-half people, though I sense we’re up to the task. If nothing else, I’ve embraced West Coast idealism, which requires a certain cluelessness, plus blind faith in other people (good luck with that, right?).

Man, we’re in a mess. L.A.’s lawlessness gets worse and worse. Our lawns are all dying, mine looks like it’s been bombed. Worst of all, there’s not a decent sports bar within 5 miles of my bed. 

Yet, I don’t think I could ever leave. You don’t quit on your team after a few bad seasons. Plus, as I said, there’s Damon’s. And Porto’s. And Billable Bob, a magnificent man and an inspiration to so many.

There’s also that West Coast idealism, and – for the most part — a sort of hands-off attitude toward others’ attitudes. Live and let live. Then live some more.

I mean, who would give up all that? Not me, for sure.

Hello, Damon’s? Table for eight, please. It’s kind of an emergency…

Dogpark Gary’s sidekick, Jack, is in need of a new home. He’s a 7-year-old boxer, pit, shepherd mix – well-trained and well-behaved, but he needs a home without other dogs and young children. He’ll bring security to your home and companionship to your life. If you’re interested, please email me at Letters@ChrisErskineLA.com for more details and background. Many thanks to my friends Will and Lynne for providing him a loving home this past month.

16 thoughts on “What Love Looks Like

  1. Yes, our little corner of Heaven here in So Cal is a mess in many ways. But it’s a beautiful mess and filled with all the good people, restaurants and advantages you so beautifully enumerated. I cannot imagine living anywhere else. PS I think people considering moving East should look for homes ONLY in the winter. Jack, buddy, I predict you will have multiple forever homes to choose from!

  2. Just returned from Maine and New Hampshire absolutely beautiful !!
    BUT I can walk to watch the sunset here in Jan in flip flops , back east you would die doing same thing in Jan

  3. Sports Bars! NearYou:
    T Boyle’s & Rocco’s in Pasadena. Barney’s Beanery (never been there) !
    Favorite local joint, Jay Dee’s in Alhambra on Main. Family ( one lives in La Cañada) owned & operated for 80+ years. Great burger!

  4. A transition season is rough on writers. Hemingway is said to have said he could write in a hurricane (did he really say that?), but I have my doubts. Everything is changing, going around a curve, and you cannot see very far abead—where things are going—this time of year. Writers love dynamics, but themselves need a stable place from which to communicate the asymmetries of their creative energy with the chaotic chemistry of life. Journalists and other devoted time travelers claim that their stable platform Is within them, that any place will do, , and thus their set-up time is minimal. Maybe, but I think in this case the requisite stability is rooted in their point of view, perceptual frame of reference, where they come from in their writing; something metaphysical rather than physical., and embedded in the writing itself, wherein form does not always follow function.

    This ode to a place—L.A., that seems larger than the place, seems to me much in this vein. The words fall like leaves, as is appropriate to the season, but do not obscure the ground they fall upon, for they drift in the familiar patterns we have come to know and understand.; and as titularly and thus openly stated, they come from love, a grand place to be in this most Technicolor of seasons.; as is SoCal. Autumn in New York? Stunning. But I say, California Ddeamin…Elsewhere? Eat your heart out!

  5. Chris
    You have the juice to get full tour of Porto’s
    As a retired fireman guy after 31 years there , Porto’s goes half way under Broadway !
    The glass domes on outer side walk provides light
    One guy fills the treats with cream there

  6. I would love Jack. We just lost our beautiful Boosie across the Rainbow Bridge, and Jack looks to be a treasure. With five small grandchildren often underfoot, plus two raucous granddogs, unfortunately he’s not the best fit for our current life. Dang. Here’s wishing he is adopted into the perfect forever home.

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