Autumn’s Eternal Flame

Heading off soon to a prayer breakfast, where I’ll share life-affirming stories about…well, life, I guess.

FYI, pulled out my fuzzy slippers the other morning, five months after tucking them away for summer. They are made of faux reindeer and old mustaches. Essentially, these fuzzy old slippers look like fall.

October certainly is less distinct here than back East, where the trees look like lighted candles, and the children are all rosy cheeked and wrapped in wool.

In New England, the kids look as if they work for Santa. As if they’re dipped in honey and placed, still dripping, on their mothers’ window sill.

In LA, the kids are kind of sweaty and dehydrated. Yet they have that sunbaked glow we’ve come to associate with super healthy kids. And they have the world’s-best ocean as their community pool. All kids are, in some way, blessed.

I like the way they shuffle off to school like soldiers off to war. Classrooms have rarely been joyous places, though I remember third grade back in Chicago being pretty cool, walking home through leaves up to your eyeballs…with Linus, Sally, Charlie Brown.

I really liked third grade, till the teacher told us one day: “By now, boys and girls, none of us should believe in Santa Claus.”

I’ve believed in lost causes ever since.

Hey teacher, what else are we not supposed to believe in? The Cubs? Democracy? Awkward first kisses?

That’s exactly what autumn feels like to me: an awkward kiss.

It was autumn when I got my very first awkward kiss, from a slinky actress in the lot behind the high school. Terri was a tad taller than me, with twisty legs made of licorice.

Anyway, the kiss tasted of gum and taffy apples. On crisp fall days, that kiss still lingers (Why wash? Why blot out a perfectly good moment?)

Terri and I dated for — I don’t know — four months, till I caught her with a couple of other guys. Not one guy. A couple. Maybe three. All a big misunderstanding, I’m sure.

Never dated an actress after that, though as some cynic might point out: What about your fling with Angie Dickinson?

Maybe I’ll talk about that in my speech. Can you talk about flings at a prayer breakfast, usually a time of faith and self-reflection?  Actresses really are my only database.

For the record, I do not have a sticky, encyclopedic brain. I have a brain that meanders from topic to topic, from tavern to tavern, particularly the ones with pool tables.

I like the same kind of dark bars Charles Bukowski liked. You may know him – his prose smelled of cigs and stale beer. Not for everyone, for sure. But there was a time. In my mid-20s, I read him like a racing form.

I’m so not him. Too suburban, too conventional, too much into my kids. My children – bless ’em all — snuffed out any serious dysfunction I might’ve suffered as an adult. Each day, my feet would hit the floor before dawn. Off I’d go to feed and support them, to jobs I only half liked.

“Here we go again,” I’d mutter to whatever mutt waited by my bedside: Lucky, or Koa (the 300-pound beagle), or now White Fang, the cotton husky who might be a wolf. Like Beyonce, she looks into a wind machine every chance, her eyes glistening into tiny diamonds.

Pure stagecraft, really. Genius.

“Here we go again,” I told her Tuesday as I shuffled off to make coffee and silly little stories about nothing much at all.

Which is what you’re reading now, by the way. A silly little story about faith and fall and glorious first kisses. Nothing much at all.

You know, maybe I should do a book about first kisses — that kissy kismet, that sluicie moment of fireworks and pure joy.

’Tis almost the season.

“Too soon for Christmas songs?” I texted the silvery Suzanne the other day.

“You do you,” she answered.

“Can’t we aim a little higher?” I asked.

Speaking of pure joy, I bought Cakes an October sweater the other day. It’s the color of beech and birch and ruddy maple trees. Can’t wait to see my granddaughter in it: Cakes and her amazing Technicolor dream coat.

The sweater will fit her for a month, then she’ll give it to Goodwill, where it’ll be passed along to another beautiful young imp, who then will pass it along to another beautiful young imp…and so on and so forth.

These grandpa sweaters, they last forever, right?

Well, does anything these days?

Hey, that’s what I’ll talk about at the prayer breakfast – the fleeting nature of all that we love. Such as autumn.

Oh, October. Oh, Cakes. You glow, girls.

Counting down to Saturday’s YMCA’s Prayer Breakfast in La Canada, where I’ll share life-affirming stories of some sort. For info, please call (818) 583-4731, or email

7 thoughts on “Autumn’s Eternal Flame

  1. You have your very own pumpkin spice granddaughter. She will look glorious in that sweater amongst the autumn leaves! Charlie Brown to Charles Bukowski…thanks for some delightful meandering. You do you.

  2. Here is the lyric lavage of language in full flow. To make something of nothing much is really something. You take heat and light and biomass and you get Autumn. You take a lantern-eyed dog and morning coffee and get…Autumn. What miracle is this? Two swirling paths to the same leafy end. Chris and The Saturnine Suzanne? Yet another swirling fall into a blaze of loveliness. Fall has his tongue, and cider his spice. With the ghosts of Halloween up ahead, how can we all help but grin and glow like pumpkins on fire?

  3. That’s a difference between us olders and the youngers…they pass along treasured items after a few uses. I just decided to get rid of the round crib pillow whose music box is gone that belonged to my first born, 43 years ago…probably time.

    1. Autumn – where we grew up it was the sad, slow shortening of daylight that hinted of the cold dark misery ahead. In LA it’s an answered prayer promising sweet relief from the dry sauna of September and the burnt brown moonscape that was our front yard six months ago. Soon I’ll be listening to Bookends by Simon & Garfunkel while I drink hot chocolate and write bad poetry. By mid January I’ll be rereading Our Town and punching up my obituary. Still, it’s a lot easier to take when you can golf in shorts while your high school buddy in Milwaukee is scraping ice off his windshield.

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