My Exhaustion Chair

November is…

–Big flecks of pepper in a beefy Bloody Mary.

–A quarterback hurtling the middle linebacker.

–Salted pumpkin seeds, warm from the oven.

–The sound of sinners shuffling off to church.

I’m never at a loss for words, just the right words. I am also a connoisseur of awkward moments. 

In social occasions, most people dread those awkward pauses in conversation. Not me. I love them. They’re human. They’re  inevitable. In those instances, people reveal themselves.

Like Hawthorne, I’m interested in truth and hypocrisy, sin and salvation. And the way people wiggle out of awkward moments.

Meanwhile, November also is…

–The World Series.

–Leftover candy.

–Posh’s chili.

–Bumping butts and elbows in the kitchen.

Can you believe they’re still playing baseball? In November, baseball feels like waking up in jail.

FYI, the great Vin Scully wouldn’t even watch a World Series, unless the Dodgers were in it. “Too much ice cream,” he told me once. “Too much of a good thing.”

When the voice of the sport tunes you out, you know you have a problem. It would be a better game at 124 games, finishing Oct. 1.

To save baseball, a bunch of rich men would have to take pay cuts, and rich men generally frown at that. Blame them? No, but at this pace, baseball may not be done till after Christmas.

Meanwhile, November will always be…

–Gordon Lightfoot first thing in the morning.

–John Candy dragging that trunk.

–Hearty hikes.

–Digging out old sweaters.

–Tree lots with those candy-cane tents.

My mom loved the holidays. I have the same affliction. It tends to be a genetic thing, like freckles, bad golf swings or sweater vests.

Truthfully, super-heavy sweaters always make me kind of claustrophobic. Not a vest. A sweater vest is the negligee of sweaters…a tease…an invitation. After the bikini, the sweater vest is probably fashion’s finest achievement.

I mean, take a look at me in the Ditka sweater vest I wore for Halloween. I look like a giant tube of testosterone, no? OK, no.

Incidentally, this is me flopped in a chair after an eight-hour tailgate Saturday, which turned out to be the greatest day of my life.

Each day, I wake and think: “Could this be the greatest day of my life?” And Saturday it was. Who knew?

Let me just say this about that: My buddy Mark J. Miller is to tailgates as Yeats is to poetry, and Secretariat was to a fat bag of oats. He tends bar like a man drowning in a pool of his own juices. But tend it he does.

Like November, tailgates bring out the best in us — the buddyships, the laughs, the memories.

By the way, I’ve dubbed that big floppy chair my “exhaustion chair,” a place to recover from seasonal obligations. No dogs, no kids are allowed close to my exhaustion chair. It is a safe zone in a world that can be so harsh toward moms and dads.

Finally, November is….

–Rattling pots.

–Cleaning the fireplace.

–“Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”

–Awkward pauses.

Here is Posh’s chili recipe (knew you’d ask). My late wife used to make it at this time of year, from a recipe gleaned from Trader Joe’s. It is guaranteed to cure depression, insomnia, impertinence, incontinence, broken hearts, broken bones and broken lives.

I ask only one thing. As you make it, please tap your wooden spoon on the lip of the pot three times in memory of Poshy. Everyone has a trademark sound, and that was hers, the tap-tap-tap on a holiday pot.

If she answers, please let me know. 


1 rotisserie chicken (or the equivalent)

1 onion

3 jars green salsa

2 can white cannellini beans



2 cups chicken stock

Sour cream

In a big pot, sauté 2 tablespoons of chopped garlic and a medium chopped onion in a splash of oil. Add the peeled meat from the chicken and three jars of Trader Joe’s salsa verde (other markets’ green salsa also works fine).

You slosh the mixture around a while, maybe an hour, add a couple of cans of white cannellini beans and a tablespoon of cumin, a spice that tastes lousy till you add it to food. Oh, and a cup or two of chicken broth. Then slosh it around some more. Tap the side of the pot. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with a scoop of sour cream, a dash of hot sauce and a cold beer. Feeds six normal adults. Or about 60 Chardonnay Moms.

17 thoughts on “My Exhaustion Chair

  1. Game 5 reminded me why I love baseball so much. Even though my team lost, loved watching anyway. What drama! Can’t wait for tonight’s game. Please God, I know you have bigger things on your mind, but let the Phillies win, so that there will be the ultimate in sports, a World Series Game 7.

    1. My fingers are worn out flipping the remote between the series and football!praying for the Phillies.🏈⚾️

  2. What a sweet post Chris. Here’s to Posh and her chili! Will definitely be making it and raising our glasses to you and to her.

  3. Definitely going to make my husband whip up a batch of Posh Chili. Bless you for all the wonderful Erskine family traditions you share with us. I hope Catty Cakes will one day bang the pot three times too.

  4. I have made Posh’s chili many times after seeing the recipe in your column. It’s delish! Thank you, Chris.

  5. Lovely post Chris and thanks for Posh’s Chili recipe, cannot wait to give it a try. BTW, Mike Ditka would be proud.

  6. So enjoying your posts — Looking forward to trying Posh’s Chili. Never was a Chili fan till I tried Eliz, Taylor’s fave from Chasen’s restaurant — it was sublime. However, will def. give Posh’s a try — sounds yummy!!

  7. The recipe looks wonderful, thank you! And November, all of November, is about nostalgia and tradition and family. Great column.

  8. Just got back from a full day of college football in Rock Island and celebrating my senior daughter at “senior day.” I am ensconced in my exhaustion chair but my old 14 1/2 year-old dog, Mr. Baxter is stuck to me like gum on the bottom of a shoe. Thanks for Posh’s chili recipe. Have been looking for a cure for some of the aforementioned afflictions. I promise to tap three times.

  9. I am a chili afficionado, and lover.of its disguises and aromatic posturing wherein it makes adventuresome statements with herbs and spices sans heat. That chili could be blatantly gorgeous and simultaneously seductively subtle—who knew? Martha Flag’s West Texas Chili made with ground turkey is a cumin, coreander, cinnamon rich stew that has been my easily composed sensuous go-to for years. When I can think of it before I am next with you, I will write down and share with you the time-evolved and indulgently tested recipe, so you can try it, and if you want, pass it on. Thanks for the Posh creation! I will definitely give it a shot; and probably incrementally tune it a bit to make it resonate on my palate, as I do with many things I like out-of-the-box. But honestly, it sounds terrific, as is, for a cool November day , when the canvas sky could stand a little spice to rouge the cheeks of its sunset. All I have to do is consider the source, and your writing of her, and I feel the reflected solar heat already…

  10. You in that Exhaustion Chair, the expression on your face, your father all over again. 🌵

    1. Ha! Makes my day, Barb. Sometimes I hear him in my cough and see him in the way I turn red when I laugh too hard. Hope you and the girls are well. We sure had a Wonder Years neighborhood. So lucky.

  11. Dear Mr. Erskine:
    I had an old recliner that I loved, finally decided to leave it outside the
    Goodwill store in Pasadena. Always wondered what happened to it,
    now I know.
    Re: Gordon Lightfoot:
    Saw his show in Miami Beach and Tampa many years ago, great concerts.
    Looks like Father Time now, but glad to see he’s still around.
    You can’t jump a jet plane
    Like you can a freight train

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