Playdate With Papa

We’re lucky to be in Los Angeles, a mostly gentle place where kindness sugar-coats the trees.

Not that it’s perfect. I’ve long suggested that L.A. purchase its own blimp, as sort of a command post, culturally and spiritually, and a place where cops could keep an eye out for speeders.

They’re everywhere now, these speeders. They accelerate through yellow lights and have turned the surface streets into speedways.

One nearly crushed us the other day as I pushed my granddaughter’s stroller through Santa Monica.

By the way, I saw you, you smoldering little punk in your silver Mitsubishi. I’ve got your plates. My pal Tony and his twin sister, Vito, will be stopping by soon.  

“Yo, remember that stroller you almost hit?” they’ll ask you. Ka-POWWWW.

Otherwise, I’m feeling very forgiving on this magic afternoon in L’Monica, where I’m on a date with my granddaughter. It’s not like she has a choice. Her mother made her do it. But the lovely and patient older daughter needed to get her nails done, and off she went with her pal Marcella, with a pitstop later for a marg or three.

FYI, tequila lubes Los Angeles the way 30-weight oil lubricates old Chevys. We are all of us the better for it. Tequila chases off the demons. Remember Freud’s theories on the unconscious? It mellows those too. Or does it make them worse? I forget. In any case, tequila seems to make us friendlier and full of mirth.

Of course, we have pretty amazing mirth to begin with. You should see the Santa Monica board walk this day, full of oddballs and German tourists. At one point, I tell Cakes, “I’ll give you five minutes to spot one normal person.”

She quickly responds: “You, Papa?”

Keep looking, kid.

But what a grand time we’re having. I tell you, those little beach cafes called Perry’s are the best-kept secrets in the city. They serve Nathan’s hot dogs (with onions) and chicken strips that have  been deep-fried at least 40 times, just the way toddlers like them.

Best of all, they have yellow cabana chairs and play a lot of Sinatra. While we nosh, Ella Fitzgerald sings “A House Is Not a Home,” a salute to Burt Bacharach, the legend we are honoring today with our beach date.

“Bacharach was the best,” I assure Cakes. Then I sing to her a little…

What’s it all about, Alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?

Well, yeah.

It’s the craziest scene, this frantic board walk, with meth heads on skateboards and mothers on bikes, made tolerable by the elegant sounds of Bacharach, Sinatra and Fitzgerald. Bless you, Perry’s, for this classy touch. Bless you for keeping me sane.

Meanwhile, Cakes is having a grand time on her playdate with Papa. We finish lunch at the beach café, then take a stroll along the sand, where Smartacus and Rapunzel join up with us. It’s not that they don’t have faith in me as a sitter. After all, I raised four. And as I remind them, “one or two of you turned out OK.”

Let me just say that toddlers lead staggeringly wonderful lives. Never again will someone make a fuss over their every meal, their every burp, their every somersault. I would walk 10 miles just to see Cakes bellyflop, like a baby seal, down this playground slide.

It’s 4 p.m. when we roll into shady old Hotchiss Park, the exact time the palm trees start to shimmer. As I’ve told Smartacus, a palm is a mostly miserable tree, bony and worthless, till about 4 in the afternoon, when the beach breezes slap them sideways, starboard to port, uncovering their hidden tinsel.

Seriously, check them out some time. It’s as if the palm fronds have tiny Italian lights on their tips. It’s like all the storms have showered them, and they’re shaking out their hippy hair.

Oh, Los Angeles. There’s so much there there.

Of course, L.A. prides itself on the huge gesture — the blingy Ferris wheel, the swoony Oscar gowns, the sound stages full of self-absorbed superstars.

Yet, it’s here in these tiny flecks of firelight, or on the blankets on the beach, and the sun tickling the palm trees, where L.A. really glows.

Obviously, God took his time with California…gleaming and gorgeous.

And on this perfect winter day, we thank you.

Help a buddy out? I’m fundraising for a parent-ed program that assists struggling families. Donations honor my late wife and son. To contribute, please go to Scroll own to Ticket Information. The first item is “Give to Support the Cathy & Christopher Erskine Compassion Memorial.” Every 10 bucks helps. Thank you in advance.

14 thoughts on “Playdate With Papa

  1. ….And God made Southern Califoria beaches just so grandpas and toddlers could have the perfect play dates and share them with readers hungry for positive news. Thanks for spreading more joy and kindness and revealing the exquisite beauty in everyday life once again. Keep em coming!

  2. My brother and I just yesterday were discussing his 18-month-old grandson’s rambunctiousness and need for constant attention, largely to keep him from turning on the burners on the stove, etc., so your paragraph on a toddler’s life really resonates!

    Also, as to scofflaw drivers in Santa Monica, I here you. A few days ago I was in the pedestrian crosswalk, crossing on a green light, and all of a sudden this speed demon turns left and whizzes in front of me. I was just tooling along with my post-hip replacement surgery walker, and this woman blitzed in front of me. You have my sympathies on the the driver who made a similar move on you and Catty Cakes in her stroller. Good grief.

  3. Thanks for the tip on Perry’s. Clearly much more than a hot dog stand (which would be enough for me)!
    Back in the day this LA native spent many glorious days on the Santa Monica beaches. Haven’t been there for years. Too much of a hassle and my 3 granddaughters (post toddlers) are in Seattle & San Francisco.
    But Perry’s may prompt me to venture far west out of my cozy confines in Pasadena.

  4. Loved this post as usual but especially because of your homage to LA. My home town! Love the good, the bad and the ugly of our city. And Cakes just can’t take a bad picture! Lucky grandpa and lucky granddaughter. Nancy

  5. Oh! That Cakes. Like the sun, she makes the Winter beach light seem watery, wan, pale with envy. And those disheveled palms pining (pun) for Summer heat are now thrashing against the windows, trying to get in, as whistling winds and short driving bursts of rain announce the arrival of a wave of cold Winter storm fronts lasting through the weekend, with big snowfalls in the mountains that can be seen from most everywhere in L.A. What to do? How about a love poem to build a fire with?

    She Comes Back To Bed

    Her beauty inhabits thought long after
    Space and time have eroded warmth and scent
    Into molecular continuum
    Beguiled pheremones unreliable—
    Like dreams you remembered had come to pass
    In reality’s estranged twilight zone—
    Loveliness that infuses consciousness
    When its atmosphere becomes the very air
    You breathe, becomes in all the rhymed senses
    You ! And the vivid night chimes like a bell
    Rings with desire, for time has come of age
    Existence all things of her you adore;

    How striking, then, her swift return, laughter
    Almost an obsession, something wild that went
    Viral in the dark center of the room
    She walks into, as if its moonlight was full
    Of her esprit, exploding in the grass
    Of the lawn outside, aching in the bone:
    Quintessential magnetism—undress
    Of the cosmos as stars fly here and there
    Their firework’s sonic violences
    Duty that the mind wears, its carousel
    Of epiphanies turning in its rage
    To motion, limbs just what they were before
    She left, wanting her, always wanting more….

    …a la Neruda…

  6. What a glorious day! You and Cakes adventuring in Santa Monica. I enjoy your love letters to LA. I do not wax poetic about Chicago although there is much to love if you know where to look and have seat warmers in your car. The trees here are also sparking and shimmering…from the ice storm that walloped us today. Marvelous to hear you fundraising for this terrific Parent Ed program. Bravo! I work in Parent Education/Home Visiting for a western suburban school district serving teen moms, immigrants, trauma survivors and more. Yes…so true. Every $10 does help.

      1. Yes, wow it looks like you got some snow there! Now if we could only get some 75 and sunny here…🙄

  7. Oh, if I didn’t have COVID, and could tear myself away from the bliss of cold, wet, Chicago in February, I would love to check out Perry’s with the better seating! God bless Burt Bacharach, for the joy he brought to our lives with the gift of his music.

  8. Bacharach. I was sitting at the bar of the old G.R.B.(Golden Rolling Belly) in Del Mar on a dry cold night in the early 70’s when he swirled through the door with some others—and Angie. He was wearing a fur coat. You saw him, but you looked at her:
    That mischievous glitter, a sunny rose wrapped in white, such beautiful facial angles, those slender competent calves above lovely aquiline feet in thin strappy heels. A stunner. The host appeared from nowhere and enfolded them, they passed behind me, and I didn’t look back. It was like that in those days—when Desi and others had homes on the beach, like Bill Gates does now—starstruck with music, but not blinded. Yet, how the swingy, acutely hip, arhythmic, perfect unbalance of the music, like the memory of the fur coat, endures.

    1. What a great memory — Know Del Mar but never ran into he or other famous folks My husband was enamoured with Angie — I was with Bacharach at the time. Most folks in Del Mar were there for the race track — fun times!!

Leave a Reply