A Beer With Jimmy Buffett

My new guiding principle: a disarming kindness. We’ll see where that gets me, right? Probably last a week, this being L.A. and all.

Thing is, snark and cynicism never really worked for me, certainly not in a major American newsroom, where I was just another sarcastic and dark-minded man out to bust deadlines and crush my co-workers.

(Pssssst., a little aside about major newsrooms: a lot of co-workers don’t even work.)

So, starting now, I vow to meet every affront – rude drivers, jerks at the bakery — with a smile and a sense of disarming kindness. 

In fact, one pal insists the best way to handle drivers who cut you off on the 405 is to give them a hearty thumbs-up. As in, “Well done, good sir! Thanks for almost killing us!”

That counter-affirmation messes with their cave-man minds, upsets their concept of a mean, alpha universe.

Meanwhile, I see dollar signs every time I crack open an egg. My alma mater, The Times, reports that eggs have reached $7 a dozen and that natural gas prices are soaring.

What choice do we have but to heat our soggy homes? The best trait about my tight little house is that the windows fog in stormy weather. From the outside, it looks like a blacksmith shop.

Such a turbulent and delicious winter. I say bring on more bomb cyclones and gushing atmospheric rivers. They’ll help California farmers feed the world. And maybe they’ll revive the old magnolia out front.

By the way, ever had a bad case of cabin fever? The symptoms: Small aggravations become big aggravations. You start to feel gravity in your face. You begin to twitch.

Stuck inside, I now fear for my many New Year’s resolutions. I’ve already broken eight of the 127: sloth, gluttony, wrath, greed, envy, lust, etc., etc.

“Those are the cardinal sins, Dad.”

Look, I’m no pope. I show up at church now mostly for memorials and bake sales.

Point is, I’ve lived in the Midwest in the worst of winters, and the South in the worst of springs. I know January’s grayest glooms. This kind of weather just sort of jails you.

You box up Christmas. Ornaments fall and shatter. You dump the tree in a puddle.

In mid-January, “even the moon shines with only half a heart,” as Jane Kenyon put it (read her if you get the chance)

So on Wednesday, I decided to have a beer with Jimmy Buffett.

I mean, Buffett wasn’t actually there — I just pretended. He came out of a fantasy cloud. Ever watch “I Dream of Jeannie” with Barbara Eden? Like that.

I said: “Jimmy, remember that night in Montana when we said there’d be no room for doubt?”

We clinked beers after that one.

“Come Monday, I will be all right,” I sang. “Come Monday, I’ll be holdin’ you tight…”

With that, Buffett vanished in a fantasy cloud. Poor guy was a little weirded out.

I shrugged and summoned Carole Lombard; no answer. Mark Twain: nothing. Zendaya: zilch.

Then I summoned my 20-month-old granddaughter, the only person alive who really gets me (Credit that too-big stuffed bear I dropped off).

I say to her, “Cakes, it’s a long life.”

She says: “Thanks, Papa.”

I say, “Let me finish.”

“OK Papa,” she says.

 “Cakes, it’s a long life,” I begin again. “Soon, the sun will return. And we’ll go to the playground, you and I, and we’ll swing on the swings and giggle in the grass.”

“Sounds boring,” she says.

“Let me finish.”

“OK, Papa.”

“Then we’ll go to that little beach bar you like, the one that serves the chicken strips.”

“I love chicken strips,” she says.

“Who doesn’t love chicken strips!!!” I yell.

“And fries?”

“I mean, don’t go nuts here,” I say. “I’m not made of money.”

“You’re not?”

With that, Suzanne joins Cakes.

“Wait, you’re really not?” Suzanne asks.

They both seem surprised to hear I’m not made of money.

“Mostly beer and pickles,” I explain.

“And chicken strips,” Cakes explains to her.

“I mean, who doesn’t love chicken strips!!!” Suzanne roars.

FYI, you know who disarming kindness won’t work on? Catty Cakes. She is already disarmingly kind, as is Suzanne.

Sigh. Let me just say it’s difficult to practice disarming kindness on people who are already disarmingly kind. It’s a force field I cannot penetrate, sort of a double-reverse of the human mind.

Yet, I can’t let their innate decency ruin this. In 2023, I promise to be disarmingly kind.

If it kills me, I’ll be very kind.

For past columns, books and other swag, please go to ChrisErskineLA.com. For speaking engagements, e-mail Letters@ChrisErskineLA.com.

16 thoughts on “A Beer With Jimmy Buffett

  1. If beer, pickles and chicken strips create your disarmingly kind, insightful and delightful way with words, pray keep ingesting those, kind sir! And please explain how you got that bear through the door? How is Cakes going to take it with her when she leaves for college? We will have to wait to find out, I guess.

  2. Back after a couple of years ignoring you due to an extremebly offensive post regarding women’s fragrances–and I don’t mean cologne! You’re like a bad habit that has returned. I know you will not disappoint.
    Go to church!

    1. Seriously? Jayzus! I hope not. If so, you’re a tad too prickly to ingest a weekly dose of Erskine …

  3. Chris,
    It’s Saturday morning and I’m reading the LA Times thinking “I miss Chris’ column and bingo…I find a fabulous post from you on my phone. This is one of your best. Thanks for being here for us to amuse and amaze us.

  4. I often wonder if we are born to be kind?I think I Is kindness learned?
    does it fade away as we experience life? Does it grow stronger with practice? I think I will conjure Jimmy Buffet to see if he has answers.

  5. Disarming kindness is often a lovely surprise, leaving only the question of who is disarmed. It’s existence implies a continuum of self control. Self control requires mindfulness. Mindfulness is on the requisite path to self-awareness, a holy grail so difficult to achieve in the instant in the distracting milieu of modern life; or maybe at any time, past or present. I mean, how does one achieve continuous self-awareness, with the moment-to-moment whirlwind of external stimuli one must give conscious attention to, so as to cope with existence, enjoy it, and thrive?

    Possessing It implies internal-external psychic multi-tasking, and is the daunting stuff of Zen, Yoga, metaphysics, and many other imponderables. I vote for hope, as per the good book. In a phrase most of us use: “Up ahead”, the key word is “Up”. As the atmospheric rivers rain down upon us, look up. 2023 is in the sky (I hope). “The raindrops that get in you eyes are tears of joy”, sayeth the poet. Whose tears are they, and why does it matter, when rain itself is such a disarming kindness? It matters.

  6. Great Jimmy Buffet song. “I’ve spent four lonely days in a brown LA haze and I just want you back by my side.” Loved that album. And good news: kindness is good for the body. It improves mood, decreases blood pressure and cortisol (stress hormones) and boosts serotonin and dopamine. So, basically a win-win and definitely won’t kill you.😉

  7. Wow a Carole Lombard reference- My Man Godfrey is in my top ten films of all time because of her! She gets me all hit and bothered. Thanks for another very enjoyable piece.

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