The Cosmos in a Cup

I have a complicated relationship with relationships.

I also have a complicated relationship with life, work, religion, technology, toasters, wine, my kids, tequila, the Chicago Cubs and basic conversational French.

The other night, we were halfway through an episode of “The White Lotus,” and poof, we lost the streaming signal. The TV made this smearing, glissando sound, like that moment in Mahler’s 9th when 30 violins give way to the two harps.

We didn’t panic. Because, right up there on the TV screen was a helpful solution.

Error code: 4567-Cv99-2037-dshdk-1953-fubv-5729-a377-0384-dkgu-+453-cjds

Whatever. Nothing a slice of nice warm pie won’t solve.

Seriously, I used to get so upset over this kind of thing; now I just laugh. The adults have left the building. Technology triumphs! Humanity has lost the war. Half the world loves tech, the other half loathes it.

Music blows. Movies get worse and worse. But, boy, do we love our phones (note how we cradle them like cigarettes).

As it happens, I am learning to embrace technology. So many error codes and bugs and inexplicable little surprises.

Poof, airlines quit flying. Poof, electrical grids go down. Just wait till the bots get hold of the banks.

No one representing consumers can grasp the issues well enough to fix them. 


FYI, I’m really hoping JPL might hire me as its resident poet, where I might knit together space travel, technology, distant nebulae, and Shakespeare’s best sonnets, into something ethereal and somewhat spiritual. Another Torah? Or, at the very least, a Hitchhiker’s Guide to Los Angeles.

I mean, nobody wads together words like me. OK, maybe the brilliant Carl Sagan. He treated words and ideas like celestial ornaments. I treat words like half-eaten sandwiches you stuff into the fridge after you’ve been drinking a little.

As Sagan once explained: We are “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”

On that speck, he noted, is “Every hero and coward …  every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer … every saint and sinner in the history of our species.”

Sadly, Sagan is gone now. He was one of a kind – a poet, a hard-core empiricist, and in many ways, the artist of our time. He turned the cosmos into our finest symphony.

My theory: Sagan was swept away by rogue aliens he ran across one night while doing research at Cornell. Just a hunch more than anything.

Here’s all I know for sure about the universe: There are billions – perhaps trillions — of galaxies much like our own. Our own galaxy, the Milky Way, contains up to 300 billion solar systems alone.

Do the math. Some other oozy planet must be just the right distance from its sun to promote sophisticated life, build Dyson Spheres, or even streaming cable that actually works.

How many Mahlers must there be out there? How many Dolly Partons?

And don’t the odds favor the possibility that something out there must be capable of kidnapping Carl Sagan, just as something kidnapped your youthful glow, your sense of purpose and whatever political and moral leadership this great nation once had?

Once I get the JPL gig, I hope to accomplish two things very quickly: 1) Find Carl Sagan 2) Put all this into perspective, in a poem maybe, or if I really nail it, post it to TikTok, where it will rise above the inane videos of twerking teens to give the world a better understanding of itself.

And a few laughs maybe.

If nothing else, I want to be able to say to my grandbaby: “Hey Cakes, here’s what’s ahead?! So excited for you.”


The closest I’ve gotten to the stars lately is atop snowy Mt. Baldy, 6,000 feet up from the 210 Freeway, a stone’s throw from La Verne.

Me, I’d rather sit in a chairlift than a pew.

Besides, my leggy date and I are in God’s front hallway. On the chairlift, clouds pass over us, leaving ice crystals in our hair. It is simply heavenly.

Sure, it’s a mob scene up there on weekends – don’t even bother. But midweek like this, you’ll have the place to yourself.

What’s there to do? Not much, fortunately. Hike in summer. Sled in winter. There’s the Mt. Baldy Lodge, fetching as an old piano. You can shoot pool there, or order something called an Irish Monk. It’s the cosmos in a cup, spiked with Frangelico and Irish cream.

That’s how this whole place feels – spiked, heightened, creamed.

Let me tell you, cowboy, that’s really no way to explore the universe (spiked, heightened, creamed). Yet, for one cosmic afternoon…

You don’t have to be a skier to enjoy Mr. Baldy. The scenic chair lift takes you to the top for $40, where you can grab a burger, a beer and a bowl of chili. Dress for temps in the teens, though. And stop at Mt. Baldy Lodge on the way home for warm pie or a game of pool. Info:

16 thoughts on “The Cosmos in a Cup

  1. Thanks for making my head explode before I’ve finished my first cup of coffee. Amazing. Where does that brain of yours get these ideas?

  2. On your wadding words together: keep stringing them along … you get it right more times than wrong.

  3. Some people get mushy. Your early readers/commentators are “gushy.” Paying homage at the alter of Erskine! 🤣

  4. I always feel better after reading one of your pieces…sometimes it is just a sentence or two, other times the entire column reaches out and gets me! I’ve introduced you to so many people who now love you too!

  5. If you find Sagan, give him all our love! But don’t be gone too long. We need your weekly doses of Shakespeare and sanity to keep us going on this weird and poorly wired planet!

  6. Love your Grand daughter Chatty cakes, Seem other than one picture of winter was left astray to summer or fall pictures. The cubs and bears could do better !!

  7. The adults have left the building and run up Mt. Baldy, on whose slopes Leonard Cohen spent years ruminating on the infinities of our galaxy and writing love poems to those of us who are fast becoming aliens on our own planet. It does seem as though humanity, of late, has turned upon itself, consuming some of the human beauty that has informed its art. I think we’re probably ok until Elvis leaves the building, too, and maybe Leonard Cohen, Vivaldi, Stan Getz, and perhaps a few others. Sarah Vaughn and Sinatra come immediately to mind; and tone poems, like being on the lift at Baldy on a brilliant Winter day.

  8. I LOVE this column. I grew up at the foot of Mt. Baldy, and the lift scared the bejezus out of me. It didn’t used to have a safety bar to hold you in. I hope they’ve upgraded!

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