Savor Every Moment

Poet Dobby Gibson notes that the average temperature in the universe is estimated at minus-456 degrees. That makes “room temperature” a miracle.

So please proceed in your day knowing that you live in the only comfortable place for millions of miles. Proceed as if — in that random way — you are very, very blessed.

Me, I’d rather have a cottage than a mansion, a dog than a racehorse, a kite than a motor yacht.

I’d rather go for a long hike on a leafy trail than spend two hours in some fussy restaurant. I’d rather have a hotdog at a Dodger game than caviar at a Michelin-star table.

Sure, I appreciate the finer things. But only when they come with mustard and a cold beer.

That said, please bring on Christmas, the finest thing we know.

While sitting around a sports bar the other night, I didn’t miss Paris one bit, or St. Moritz or any other fussy, overpriced place I’ve ever visited.

At this sports bar, they cut the cheeseburgers in half…you didn’t even have to ask. Needless to say, I felt very, very blessed.

Moments earlier, we’d taken our family Christmas photo. Our backdrop, a mango sky, the kind of sunset that always attracts a crowd.

We asked a stranger: “Would you mind taking our photo? It’s for our Christmas card.”

“Twenty bucks,” she quipped.

FYI, California is one big photo studio, best in the world. There is that seasonal light, a bluish Disney aluminum, that filters down through the December clouds.

“Hurry!” I say as we line up for the photo, though I have the kind of kids who, soon as you say “Hurry!” they slow down just a tiny bit.

So we arrived at the beach a little late, right about the time God lit his afternoon cigar. You could tell from the glow, the gasps, the embers.

Cakes was mesmerized…her eyes like crystals. At 19 months, my granddaughter is not yet so old, so jaded, that she doesn’t appreciate the quivery western lip of this great country, and the way the waves try to kiss her toes when she’s not watching.

Oh, Catty Cakes …  what a Christmas this will be. As it is, you wake up each day – as toddlers do — with the expectation that someone will pamper you, take you in their arms, that your house will be at room temperature. Indeed, you are very, very blessed.

Savor every moment. With the right mom, it lasts about 18 years. After that, you’re pretty much on your own.

As someone recently noted, all the magical Christmases of our childhoods were merely the result of a mother who loved us. That is where the magic of Christmas really exists, within the moms.

Doesn’t all magic?

Honestly, pretty sure my beautiful late wife hated Christmas, even as she nailed it every time.

I know this because, as we finished Thanksgiving every year, Posh got a gloomy look in her eye and sighed: “I hate Christmas.”

Makes me wonder: Did my mom secretly hate Christmas too? Don’t think so. But maybe.

Christmases are self-portraits, they’re memoir. The way we celebrate says a lot about us. Are we obsessive? Are we quietly content? Are we envious/angry when others show unrestrained delight?

I can crank on Christmas, mock it for the bloat, the greed, the giant red bows on expensive German sedans. It’s almost too easy.

Whenever I’m looking for deeper meaning, I turn to the classics: “Love Actually” or “Meet Me in St. Louis.” For laughs, “The Ref” is terrific too,  the smartest holiday comedy I know (bet you didn’t see that one coming).

Conversely, the adaptations of The Grinch all blow, so stick with the brilliant original, as well as the 1965 masterpiece, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

I see Lucy as a Madonna figure, and Snoopy as the evil corporate tool. Note how every Christmas story has a greedy antagonist: The Grinch, Scrooge, Mr. Potter, Frank Shirley.

Funny how Americans set up a holiday defined by gifts, promote it with all sorts of gooey Proustian moments, then tear it down piece by piece. It’s illogical on every level. And kinda confusing.

Just remember, we all probably know someone battling cancer right now. If not that, then we know someone battling demons, evil bosses, lousy mates, mean siblings, a brutal economy, self-doubt, bad dreams, no dreams, depression, oppression, or epic personal loss.

This season offers them candlelight and quiet joys. It gives everyone a reason to celebrate in a world riddled with worry.

In that warmly random way, we are blessed.

Best place to watch a winter sunset? Big Dean’s sports bar, just south of Santa Monica Pier. Not just America’s best sports bar, its finest public space – friendly and staffed by a bunch of funny burned-out ex-surfers. It is the quintessential SoCal hangout. Try is sometime. Meanwhile, for books, or the coolest gin glasses ever, please go to Cheers!

28 thoughts on “Savor Every Moment

  1. How will you ever top this one? Perfection from start to finish. Now, every sunset I am going to think, “There’s God, lighting his afternoon cigar.” I am saving this post to read every Christmas to come, just like I watch every movie you mentioned. Grateful for so many things in my life here in Paradise….not the least of which is you and your writing. Thank you and Merry Christmas to you and your wonderful family, Chris.

  2. What a great family photo, Mr. Erskine, and that sweater of yours will come in handy on St. Patrick’s Day!

  3. I love this one, but my one question is where is Suzanne in the picture?
    Merry Christmas to all of you.

  4. Great column, Chris. Thanks for the Christmas flick tips. Gonna make sure I see them next week. And will try to make it to Big Dean’s ASAP too. Merry Christmas!

  5. The look of concern on your grand daughter’s face is hilarious and perfect!! Loved the column💗 Thanks!

  6. Just read this one sitting at the counter at the Original Pancake House on University Drive in Madison, on a misty, moody day after a six inch snowfall. The city is a Japanese charcoal sketch in black and white and it’s absolutely gorgeous – possibly because I get to fly back to technicolor LA in two hours and I don’t have to live with this for the next four months. I loved the column ever more than my eggs, hash browns and buttermilk pancake. Sending it along to Susan and Will to warm their cockles as it’s warmed mine. Merry Christmas to you and the clan, and of course, the remarkable Suzanne, who seems to have decided that, like some dusty relic on Antique Roadshow, all you need is some dusting, waxing and wood fill to be presentable again. She has a great eye.

  7. Hugh Grant’s voice over monologue at the beginning of Love Actually.

    “Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”

    Thanks Chris and Merry Christmas!

  8. I don’t think I’ve ever read a finer riff on the run-up to the solstice and the glittery pageant that follows. We’ve spent months leaning back, palms up and arms extended, slowly backing away from heat, and soon we will once again begin our long worshipful bow to light. The sky seems more like dusty faded denim to me than bluish Disney aluminum, but I’ve seen that too. And that slate sea…so contemplative; as you are. And if you listen carefully, you can actually hear (and feel) a backround hush just behind the noisy ado spritzing like champaigne all around you. Magic.

    I cop to the annual non-guilty pleasure of watching “Love Actually” under a comforter with my squeeze. Thinking of those who cannot makes me realize the true nature and magnitude of the gift we’ve all been given. Christmass,… As the more metabolically robust among us are fond of saying,”Bring it” And then there’s “Cakes”, the true wonder of the season. Bring it !!

  9. Why is it that every time I read your stuff I wish we were just sitting in a sports bar, riffing on life? I always enjoy your stuff, Chris. Wish I lived closer. Looks like those Utah Utes will be heading back to the the Rose Bowl. THAT would be a fun way to gather…

    1. Hey Pete. Utes are tough. They were great in the Rose Bowl last year and will be even better this year. Door is always open. Rose Bowl 10 minutes from the house. Remember sitting at that upstairs bar in Barrington with you and Doug a few years back during our homecoming visit. Doesn’t get better than that.

  10. Ah, Chris, this one is a classic, you reminded me of magical Christmas due to our mothers and we were not affluent but it was magical, hot dogs better and a hike in the woods, thanks for it all! In two weeks it will be Christmas, Merry Christmas to you and your brood.

  11. First of all is the most adorable grand girl EVER! (Can you tell I have only grand boys?) The family foto is exceptional with those stunning colors in the background which makes two. Did the photographer actually hold you to the $20 fee and how many shots did it take before you got that beauty? This was a very special end of the week column…continue to stay well and happy with that wonderful family around you.

  12. Beautiful. Beautiful family in a beautiful family photo. Warms the heart. Merry Christmas, Erskine clan. Slainte.

  13. Ohhh thanks for this. Just lovely. And that picture with the magical, hypnotizing sunset. That’s God’s sky no doubt. And Cakes! It’s her world and you’re all just livin in it! This looks like the last Christmas with our beloved 14 1/2 year old Mr. Baxter as he is fading quickly. Best dog ever. 🐾❤️

  14. The only thing more beautiful than that pastel sunset is the joy present on the smiles of your family. ‘Tis the season of giving and thank you for continuing to share your musings with us all. Merry Christmas!

  15. Love the column, as always, but I do have a gripe. Why is the biggest photo not the family, or the three tiny photos along with the family sunset, but a glass of GIN!? Your swag is nice, but in all honesty, I want more photos of Cattycakes and White Fang!! Okay, so now that I got that off my chest…wishing you and yours a beautiful Christmas, with all the new memories it will create. Cheers, dear!

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