Feel the Bay

HERMOSA BEACH — As I’ve said before, a thoughtful melancholy can be a rich, slurpy emotion to be embraced.

You can find it in good music, good wine and here at this South Bay beach, on a misty winter day – everything a little damp, the chairs, the towels, the hair of the joggers passing on The Strand.

Look to the sea. Spot anything? A million things? Then you’re in “the melancholy zone,” and it’s not such a bad place to spend a couple of hours on a glorious March weekend.

I mean, you don’t want to reach nihilism, or any of the extreme skepticisms that rule our time. But a moody and poetic melancholy is a higher state of consciousness. I’d consider it a chowder. Pull it over yourself like your favorite college sweatshirt, or that ratty old blanket you keep near the couch.

Funny place, the South Bay. It always brings to mind – at least to me — the Carl Hiaasen novel that opens with a young driver crashing while grooming her bikini line.

“But officer…”

The pedestrian friendly Stand is like Broadway for moody loners, except of course for the one motor mouth yammering on her phone like some two-cycle engine, thereby disrupting this quiet concerto of a  morning.

I swear. You people.

And your houses. Have you ever seen such a mishmash? Were I a professor of architecture, I’d stroll my students along The Strand and point out: “Don’t do that. Don’t do that either. And please — for the love of all things holy —  don’t EVER do that.”

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you “the Queen Cod,” a Queen Anne-style house crossed with a shingled Cape Cod mid-century monstrosity. Ouch. And some look like casinos.

Smartacus and I are Spring Breaking in Hermosa for a few days, the place that invented the wet suit. Hermosa is a Beach Boys song. George Freeth, the father of surfing, helped invent the sport here on this dreamy sand. They still pull barracuda and sand bass from the simple pier. Just don’t eat any.

Hermosa is not as snooty as Manhattan Beach, nor as funky as Redondo. It has the sheen of achievement, but is a little frayed, in a good way. Everything is briny — the nachos, the rim of your water glass. All the metal, nearly every piece, is rusting before your eyes.

FYI, Los Angeles is now officially the land of the $16 appetizer and the $22 burger. Within the week – not that long – I predict that $50 burgers will not be uncommon.

But Martha’s, on 22nd Street, serves a bitchin’ breakfast – one of the best around. Tower 12, a trippy bar in the heart of town, offers craft beers and small talk (scoot to the room in the back, which looks like your parents’ rec room. Put your feet up. Seize the Bay.

The guys are along for the weekend: Bittner, Gino, Jeff, Miller, Ulfie, Big-Wave Dave, Ortiz, Verge, Wheels. They come by chariot, they come by Uber.

Parking at the beach often leads to emotional turmoil, yet this is late winter and meters are pretty open. When Smartacus and I walk the pier one evening, we’re the only ones out there, waiting for inspiration, waiting for our ships to come in.

In mid-March, America usually comes alive again, awakens from its post-Super Bowl stupor, shakes off the rust and now – exactly three years after the pandemic set in — rays of light penetrate this thick curtain of clouds. It’s almost a bugle call…a call to arms…an all-clear.

By the way, here’s what you have to appreciate about your kids — they tell it like it is, in ways no one else would ever speak to you because what are you gonna do, fire them?

No, you can’t. They’re your kids. They have tenure from the time they are born, and you’re legally responsible, at least for the first 18 years, then morally responsible for the next four decades after that. It’s quite a racket they have going.

Yet, our children may be — in this era of censorship and irksome political agendas — the only truth we have left.

And here’s what Smartacus and Rapunzel tell me about my friends, a tortured and happy lot of mostly successful goofs, if measureed in dad jokes and a wry resignation to the task at hand.

–Dad, your friends are so funny.

–Dad, your friends are insane.

–Dad, your friends have no filters.

–Dad, your friends are so nice.

–Dad, your friends are the kind of people I avoid at airports.

–Dad, your friends are, like, 12 years old.

Yes, my buddies are all those things.

They are also deeply devoted dads. And, like war, that really does something to a person.

For books, gin glasses or past columns, please go to ChrisErskineLA.com

12 thoughts on “Feel the Bay

  1. Loved every word of this happy melancholy reverie. You transported me right back to my high school days wandering the sand and pier at Newport with the words “bitchin’ breakfast.” Thanks. I needed that.

  2. Thanks for giving us the phrase “thoughtful melancholy” to describe so perfectly what I’ve been feeling quite often these days. After growing up in the South Bay, with Catalina always on the horizon, the future seemed wide open.
    Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s the times, but once again, my/our favorite wordsmith has captured a feeling perfectly.

  3. I go to Zuma every Thursday. In the summer, it’s with my kids, grandkids and their friends. In the fall, winter and early spring, it’s just me. And sometimes, it really is just me with all of Zuma to myself. Nothing like a run on the ‘boardwalk’ followed by the sand, the sea, and Carl Hiaasen’s Razor Girl or Chris Erskine’s Lavender in Your Lemonade. Which brings me to the Bear Book…soon? Please!

    1. Hi Andy, we are kindred spirits. Thanks for remembering “Lavender in Your Lemonade.” Bear book coming out in October. When the time comes, you’ll be so sick of me and Bear Whisperer Steve Searles promoting it. Hope you’ll make it out to one of our talks. He’s hilarious. I just carry his bags.

  4. Beach music, in a minor key, then going major, then minor again. The Winter mist, interspersed with bouts of sun popping through the swirl, makes you fermentive, reflective, , almost novelistic—a perfect place for a rainy day in a rainy month in a rainy year, on the cusp of Spring. I could almost see a little steam rising off the boardwalk. Why does moisture make one a little wistful—in a mood, so to speak? Maybe it’s the very nature of.liquidity: fluid, imprecise, uncertain, often unclear; like a rainyday. Perfect.

  5. I was driving along the coast Tuesday, the tide was out and the surf was churning up the sand, the fog hung over it all like a misty grey blanket and I thought, this is a little bit of heaven…..so Chris, I know exactly what you mean.

  6. This was exactly what I needed to express my mood today. Having spent my childhood on Morningside Dr. in Manhattan Beach with my grandparents it hits a cord of loving memories. Thanks Chris, as always you’re on the money!!!

  7. I love it when you write about thoughtful melancholy (which this weather certainly contributes to) and when you write about Dads – and this is one of your best. I always share with my sons, who are wonderful Dads.

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