Best Winter Ever?

There’s this old dam on the edge of our delicate little town that has filled with backwash from the recent storms, to the point where there’s a sparkling lake. Only a week later, there is talk of riverboat gambling and water ski shows.

“Good seats still remain,” as my buddy Spiro likes to say. But I wouldn’t buy season tickets just yet.

Heck, this is Los Angeles. I wouldn’t buy anything from anyone. If I need a new car, I’ll just steal one like everybody else.

Listen, I grew up watching Bert Convy and Wink Martindale host game shows. The lessons were clear: So much opportunity out here in Los Angeles. So much easy wealth.

I read in the papers where billions were stolen from state unemployment funds, and I think to myself: “Asleep at the wheel again, kid. Try to show some initiative. It’s just like Apple stock – everybody got some but you.”

Back in the Middle West, we mistakenly thought success came through hard work and perseverance. On TV in the ‘70s, you soon realized that success could also come with a twinkly smile and a well-timed double-take, ala Bert Convy. It’s one of the reasons I’m here. Manifest destiny. Gene Rayburn. Redemption. Opportunity. Botox.

What a place. This year in particular the ground is as soft as the skies, and there are 60 shades of green in the canyons. I have gone through all my sweaters, every genre of soup.

Indeed, this might rank as the most-beautiful LA winter of all time. Look at Glendale right now. Know what I see?  Dublin. From Hancock Park to the desert, L.A. is now the emerald city.

I have the need to get out in this weather, to walk and marvel. I shoot photos through my windshield, or while out walking our pet werewolf.

The cool days make me want to go to the Grove and breathe deep the ingenues and the ocean breezes, the Drew Breezes, the Drew Barrymores — the very perfume of Los Angeles, which smells like cotton candy crossed with a saw mill.

How would you sum up L.A.? The real beauty of it is that you can’t. How would you sum up the Bible? How would you explain what the Dodgers mean to you? Or your kids? Or, most of all, your poker buddies?

You really can’t. The beauty of Los Angeles is that it defies description. Like Bert Convy, it’s pretty on the outside, pretty on the inside and got rich much too easily. L.A. never needed to build steel mills. It didn’t have to sully the water supply with strip mining.

No, LA made its nut on – like me – good looks and mindless effervescence. No wonder so many still want to come here.

Either that, or they’re a little bit afraid. Coming to L.A. is like inviting the prettiest girl to prom. It’s a big ask.

“Please be a little kind to me,” you think before first visiting L.A. “If you let me down, please do it gently.”

This is not a brutal place, except maybe emotionally. Even then, only if you let it. Instead of steel mills, we have mini-malls and hidden agendas, plus an extremely kooky city hall.

Is that maybe worse?

Honestly, I’m convinced that the nicest people in the country live out here. Generally, they are more evolved, healthier, more interesting in their outlooks.

There is a bounce to their step. Sure, maybe it’s because they’re running from the authorities, or simply racing home before the 101 consumes them whole. Yet, undeniably, there is that bounce.

Truman Capote once said: “Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade, just as painting does, or music.”

So does Los Angeles. It has a glorious and charming torque to it – a city that’s more verb than noun.

L.A. me, baby! Again!

Point is, if we don’t slide off into the sea, like a bowl full of mud, this is going to be a magnificent spring, perhaps the best of all time. Slurp up every shamrock martini you can.

In that regard, I keep going back to something brilliant Anthony Bourdain once said. As you know, Bourdain was a troubled man  – one side dark and doubtful. Flip him over, and he’d be a chatty connoisseur of all the things we love about life.

I’ve shared this before, and I want to share it again, here in the Ides of March.

“Eat at a local restaurant tonight,” Bourdain urged. “Get the cream sauce. Have a cold pint at 4 o’clock in a mostly empty bar. Go somewhere you’ve never been. Listen to someone you think may have nothing in common with you. Order the steak rare. Eat an oyster. Have a negroni. Have two. Be open to a world where you may not understand or agree with the person next to you, but have a drink with them anyways. Eat slowly. Tip your server. Check in on your friends.”

And for the love of God, enjoy the ride.

7 thoughts on “Best Winter Ever?

  1. “Smells like cotton candy crossed with a sawmill.” I ask you, who but Chris Erskine could have come up with that evocative line? I smiled and laughed through this whole post, particularly because of your use of 70s emcees as perfect metaphors for what makes LA unique. Sorry that Bert Convy is no longer with us, but I bet he’s smiling somewhere too, just to be remembered so vividly. There is room for every taste and form of talent here. Your special talent is reminding us of that.

  2. Cakes just gets cuter and cuter! And her fashion sense is fabulous! I think I’ll come back as her.
    Thanks Chris, for all the smiles you keep on giving me and thousands of others!

  3. As always enjoy your take on SoCal. Hard to describe the experience here. Upon moving back some years ago I asked peeps why they are in L.A. –The weather was #1. I find the natives very friendly — the options for dining or hikes, wonderful. If in a neighbourhood — most all have dogs and little kids– sometimes many and all a joy to see and meet. Feel happy to be here! BTW: You know about Wink Martindale?? Saw him one time here in L.A. Thought you were younger than this……tee tee


  4. Mountains blazing like diamonds, loaded with snow, L.A.’s arpeggio, riffing below.
    “The ground as soft as the skies” With Winter’s white lies, about to go….Capote, Bourdain,… Erskine—The Sultan Of Simile, Master of Metaphor, Miner Of The One-liner, Rajah Of Rhapsody, Prince Of Prosedy; and L.A.’s Boswell. I’m inspired—in my old fashioned way…


    The whole affair began in March
    When air was inarticulate
    Quizzical the eyebrow’s arch—
    Suspicion rarely learns to wait;
    Ice floated in the river’s blood
    Its fragment’s chill ambiguous—
    Some mixed sunlight misunderstood
    Clouds still troubled—ominous;

    But in the growing light’s malaise
    Were grains of hope that flecked its rays
    The faintest greening of its ways
    Tart sharpness of its still cool days
    Like acid in the apple, burned
    In seeds of its beginning
    Then all at once the flowers learned
    And burst to bloom, and it was Spring…

  5. Thanks for another beautiful example of writing that captures the very essence of our lives, as well as our good fortune living where we do.
    You bring smiles, sighs, & happy tears to your readers, and we love you for reminding us how lucky we are!

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