Hearts and Minds

The other morning, snow flocked the foothills and coyotes cooed in the canyons, celebrating some sort of conquest…a personal fulfillment…perhaps something from one of their bucket lists. A poodle, for instance. Or maybe they shot an excellent round of golf.

Hearing them yodel, the dogs and I took a hard right, a detour. Coyotes throw great parties but they’re kind of snooty about who shows up, and they like to circle you, like Realtors at an open house.

My husky/werewolf mix could hold her own, but not me, and certainly not the golden retriever pup we’re watching for the week.

She belongs to my lovely and patient older daughter, on LA’s rarefied west side. On Tuesdays, the little retriever attends art classes. On Thursdays, aerobic dance. She’s well-prepared for life, just not death. Certainly not ready to rumble with coyotes here on the far eastern edge of Los Angeles, where the deer and the antelope play.

That’s right, we’re watching Penny Laine again, the delicate soul with the ginger jersey and lips like a movie queen. I know. She kissed me the other morning as I bent to tie my Keds, and it was the sweetest thing, a honey nectar I’d never tasted — a little gamey, sure, but so are all great kisses.

As you know, my heart has a resting temp of 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Suddenly, it hit 100. Thud-UMP, thud-UMP, thud-UMP…

The great Tom Robbins wrote beautifully about this kind of passion.

“We waste time looking for the perfect lover, instead of creating a perfect love.”


“There are only two mantras, yum and yuck; mine is yum.”

And “Pride and Prejudice” is a decent enough novel, full of pastel hopes for longterm love. But I always remember Mark Twain’s take on author Jane Austen, which is somewhat less frothy:

“Every time I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”

With that in mind, Happy Valentine’s.

February is the month where the human heart gets the zoomies. You feel sort of obligated to love something, anything: exercise, broccoli, golden retrievers.

In Santa Monica, I spotted a house decorated with candy hearts that said things like BE MINE and CUTIE PIE. The little hearts, about the size of a book, dangled from a tree, a celebratory art installation. I wanted to add my own heart, something a little real. GET TESTED or U DRUNK?

America has this thing it does. It finds something decent – say, Ford Mustangs or Christmas Eve. The initial idea is solid, but America won’t stop. It bloats the Mustang, overhypes the holidays …  plumps, primps, augments, stuffs, enhances.

So it is with Valentine’s Day.

As always, I am here to lead you into the light of truth. Well, the origins of Valentine’s Day are hard to come by.

The most-common story? Claudius II (aka Claudius the Cruel) banned marriage because it was interfering with signing up new soldiers. A clergyman named Valentine ignored the ban, continuing to perform marriages in secret.

Before being beheaded on Feb. 14, he sent a note to the jailer’s daughter, signing it “From Your Valentine.”

Imagine if Twitter got hold of that?

In fact, historians say the exact origins of St. Valentine are unclear and there were as many as three St. Valentine’s.

The holiday is also tied to Chaucer, a thousand years later, who wrote glowingly of February as the month when English birds hook up.

Whatever. Believe what you must, which is sort of what we all do anyway.

FYI, my 55-degree heart has about 100 chambers. There’s a chamber for that feeling I get when I walk into a toasty old bar on a snowy night. There’s a chamber for spring training, a chamber for Frank Zappa, one for chicken wings, and one for the silver-haired lass with the jewelry-store eyes.

Point is, if the universe is expanding, then so are our hearts, right? I’m not much for physics, or science in general, or anything based on empirical understanding of really difficult topics.

I like smoky, thoughtful music that doesn’t hurry. I like whisky-straight and cities with a little rust to them.

And I like love well enough — cheesy and glorious, in any form we find it.


We seem to have a full house for Saturday’s Happy Hour Hike. Details going out now. If you get a response, you’re in. If not, thanks for your interest, we’ll catch you next time. Plenty of great hikes ahead in what promises to be the greenest of springs. Cheers!

13 thoughts on “Hearts and Minds

  1. That Tom Robbins quote is priceless. But so is “the silver-haired lass with jewelry-store eyes.” Valentine’s poetry for sure. Wishing you and ALL your loves a happy one. That includes four-footed lasses and Miss Cakes, of course. Heart stealers all.

  2. Dear Chris,
    I am getting your beautiful offerings each week but, never the details of your “Happy Hour Hiikes.” We would very much like to join. We already have 3 or 4 times before. aug241957@aol.com
    We are the oldies but, still goodies. We can still hike if it is not too hard.
    Carol Levin

    1. Carol, 2:30 pm Saturday at Fryman Canyon in Studio City, on Laurel, just below Ventura Boulevard. There’s room for you. This does have some steep stretches tho. Not awful. But worth mentioning.

  3. In the pics Penny Laine looks like a bride-to-be who is being importuned to join the bright party but is unsure how it will end; or if it ever will, time being to a dog a continuum of moments. The light of Love is often uncertain. Doesn’t Valentine’s Day, with its radiant cherry lips and crimson tarts, possess a certain rouge air of demonstration, of””Show Me”? Shouldn’t it be coloring the sky of the mind 3651/4th, 24/7? Else, why would you have to mirror something that’s always there, glowing on every horizon, lighting up the heavens,, turning night into day, every day? I, for one, vote for the illuminating shivers one would continuously and forever feel when blinded by the constant swordlike flashes of light emanating from a splendid slender silver splinter sinuously negotiating the brilliant clarity of a freshly washed trail on a Southern California winter day. There’s a swooning epiphany in that, something more than its intermittent light that one can believe in. It’s an experience that could make an upcoming Valentine’s Day seem like an afterthought—a mere ritual of observance. Happy hiking, and see you next time. Wear Sunglasses.

  4. Not familiar with the Mark Twain quote. Although I am a lifetime Jane fan, I see his point.

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