In Search of Paradise

Well, little girl, should we boogie, should we trot?

The street is foggy. April drips from the trees. So, off we go for on this misty morning, White Fang and me, to see the world.

Wonder what happens when Smartacus goes off to school again in the fall? Will Bittner move in? Will White Fang and I finally marry?

Will I move someplace with a bit more solitude, out of earshot of the freeways, maybe a glistening little lake nearby?

Duluth … I hear great things about Duluth, though free citrus probably doesn’t roll down the street curbs after a storm, the way it often does here. In Duluth, the tundra is always frozen. Each spring, they need to thaw out the birds.

To be honest, I find big cities less and less desirable. They are being abandoned by the young and the companies that hire them. Downtowns are crashing. And traffic howls all night long.

My biggest fear in the coming years: Being the oldest driver on the 101.

Yet, I am pinned here by a cruddy pool hall I adore and some very good gobs: my kids, my sidekick Suzanne, my buddies, the esteemed Happy Hour Hiking Club. It’s a gold mine of fellowship.

So, when I tire of trying to find parking at Porto’s — the greatest bakery in the world — or lose patience with the line at Langer’s — the greatest deli in the world — I take solace in knowing I have a productive little gold mine right here in the middle of a fractured world-class city.

FYI, we were at the California Club for Easter brunch — plush carpets, pre-historic oak. It was there that I learned Suzanne’s nickname was Auntie Soup. It’s a short story, and not all that interesting. But “Soup” is a fine nickname. And now I am spared the question: “Why does everyone in your column have a pseudonym but her?”

So, ladies and gents, please welcome Auntie Soup. Cue applause.

Not sure how Soup would do in Duluth. She loves lighthouses, and they are common as 7-Elevens up there. She’s not so fond of snow and slush or Midwestern earnestness.

Anyway, I haven’t left yet, because L.A. still owns me, as I explained before, and I like the yolky breakfasts and the calm you find between 10 and 11 a.m., when all the criminals knock off for the night.

The other morning, I sneaked off to the Farmers Market, hitting every pothole between Glendale and the Fairfax District. Which is a lot of potholes, if I may be frank.

I pass lots of razor wire, which I’m pretty sure is just decorative, past the karate academies, the noodle shops and the “8 Barbers, No Waiting” salon on Beverly … all the things I would truly miss if I went screaming off to Duluth.

In this part of town, green turn arrows are like tiny miracles, allowing you to move forward in a sluggish area strangled with stoplights and lawless Uber drivers.

West of Wilton, things get greener, less urban, no graffiti. How do people live like this? Though I like all the sycamores and the one house with the ginormous Corinthian columns (two entire rows of acanthus leaves). I could live there for sure. It’s different in Hancock Park, more stately, with the presumption of safer streets and easy parking.

Me, I don’t presume anything in Los Angeles. I’ve read my Chandler.

Finally, I arrive at the Farmers Market, where I meet an old buddy at Charlie’s, the best little burger joint I know. We order the eggs.

And for 90 minutes, my buddy Martin and I vent, joke, sulk and kvetch about life here.

“Ain’t it grand?” is the eventual subtext.

I’ve brought an agenda so we don’t overlook anything:

  1. Pronouns at the ends of emails. “What about adverbs?” I ask. “Mine are ‘barely, briskly and extremely.’”
  2. March Madness. “Does a Cinderella ever win it all?” No.
  3. The annoying new term “fur babies.” “How about we just call them dogs?”

Soon, the color drains from Martin’s face, so I know that we are making progress. I look lovingly at the bacon he doesn’t eat.

We talk about how movies today completely blow, especially if they’re unfortunate enough to win an Oscar, which in the past few years means they really blow.

It’s a big, rich breakfast agenda. Netflix. The media. Mel Brooks. We don’t even get to my unresolved feelings for Tricia Nixon, which taint everything I’ve done in my life up till now.

We don’t even get to my plans for a new life in Duluth, where you can buy a mansion for 12 bucks, or maybe a nice four-bedroom lighthouse for Auntie Soup.

In Duluth, all my dreams might come true.

Or, maybe they already have.

Email the columnist at

17 thoughts on “In Search of Paradise

  1. I doubt Chandler would be as beloved had he spent his talent writing about Duluth. Nothing against Duluth, but L.A. gives you so much inspiration, I fear you would soon stop writing these wonderful posts anywhere else. As for “Auntie Soup,” you are going to have to tell that background story to convince me it fits a lady as classy and lovely as Suzanne. I prefer Silver Sidekick. Let Cakes decide. Her taste seems impeccable.

  2. Hey Chris – Hope you got to catch the Cubs while they were in town. They’re not quite the Dodgers but things are looking up.

    Chicago Joe

  3. The fact that your writing no longer appears in the LAT is a testament to how low they have sunk. I explain it to myself with a statement by Einstein. When asked if anything was infinite, he allegedly replied: “The universe and human stupidity, but I’m not sure about the universe.” Thank you for these weekly gems.

    1. Lopez & Morrison are still there. Banks came back & the younger crew is really pulling it. Yes, a couple of my favorites left but give the newbies a chance. Oh, & Alene Tchekmedyian is as good as investigative journalists get.

  4. Cakes in Deluth? No way. The visit would be short—even in Summer, with those silver dollar mosquitos in the air. Suzanne is soup? How inelegant is that, though a hearty broth goes down reassuringly on these mixed, uncertain, transition season days, and a silky roulade is not out of the question, even when the sun is, maybe, shining in places like The Farmer’s Market. I’m confused these days. Maybe its the income tax fog I just plowed through. Maybe I just need a G&T soiree to clarify my options. Even so, little Catherine (“don’t call me Cakes”) easily rules over all, doesn’t she? Whither she goest, thou shall go. That glow-eyed canine is good anywhere except the Sudan. As for the girl, she is such a lovely here-and-now, and Spring is here. Traffic be damned.

  5. Chris, you are a treasure! No matter what might be going on in this country, you make me smile every Wednesday and Saturday. Thank you for being you! And, I’m glad you finally gave Suzanne a name. And keep posting pix of Cakes, she is so cute and fashionable!

  6. I’ve got a permanent bruise in an unseen, private part of my body courtesy of referring to my significant other as my “Sidekick”. You may want to drop that moniker…although I’d take cover if I attempted to call her “Soup”.

    Good luck.

  7. Wow! The Farmer’s Market on Fairfax!!! In my hood. It is still fabulous in oh so many ways!!! You prob would miss the energy in Duluth!!

  8. If you want to get a feel for Duluth, check out: It shows the ships entering/leaving the Duluth, as well as what the weather is like…hooboy, not for the faint of heart. But gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. Lake Superior truly is the ‘GLOAT-greatest lake of all time.’ It has a Twitter link.

  9. Tips from a LA native (actually raise in Burbank, 50+years in Pasadena):
    Porto’s- park on Central!; Langer’s – always sit at the counter if you’re a single, duo or triple, maybe a quartet, and park free (validated) a short block away.
    There’s no ocean nor mountains in Duluth.

  10. Love the photos of Cakes and White Fang. Seems the Erskine girls suffer no fools! I agree with Cookie Miller about Cake’s fashion – kudos to her parents for choosing fashionable, fun and comfy clothes to explore the world in. 🙂

  11. Please don’t leave Los Angeles. And have you ever tried Brent’s Deli in Northridge? Delicious food and wonderful service at this long time family run restaurant. And the parking is free and easy. It’s a neighborhood favorite that often gets rated as best deli in Los Angeles. And in the same shopping center check out Mr. stuff, a family run liquidation store with wonderful stuff and great service.

  12. Oh my gosh, fur babies, arggh! It’s like live/laugh/love; if I never hear it again, it will be too soon.

Leave a Reply