A ’Gram from God

The wild flowers. The fresh-cut lawns. The jasmine. Is this what heaven smells like?

Two guesses on heaven’s scent:

  1. Fresh-cut lawns
  2. Drew Barrymore

I don’t know. She just seems like she’d smell of talc and cheeseburgers. Maybe I’m wrong. Been wrong – and wronged – so many times before.

But listen, this could be the best summer ever, or the worst – it could go either way at this point.  

I mean, these poor screenwriters. As with baseball players, TV writers strike every 10 years or so. And America weeps.

Meanwhile, my son Smartacus will be working at Bittner’s joint, so he’ll come home smelling like a cheesy Barrymore, of burgers and fries. And before he goes to work each day, he’ll throw me his work shirt to see if it passes the sniff test.

Seriously, this is how two men live together. Not pretty. Not defensible on any level. But we live deeply and well.

Because summer approaches and our heartbeats have begun to slow. Don’t flipflops feel good again? And the morning sun? In February, I was wearing four sweaters to walk the dog. Now, I’m virtually naked again. Daddy Godiva.

Last Wednesday, I was at the vet clinic, a little jumpy at the rising cost of everything, yet hopeful, you know, foolishly foolish in that way dads often are. Yet worried about the screenwriters, of course.

At the vet, I wanted to ask the doctor some of the symptoms for puppy love, which is an illness I’ve suffered since I was maybe 4.

Annette Funicello. Laura Petrie. Mickey Mantle. To me, all love begins as puppy love…a quivery adoration…an innocent crush, before fishtailing into real love, which can really tear your skin off, let’s be honest.

“Your feet might be your best feature,” I told a pretty woman the other day. “I also like your scabs though.”

Is that puppy love?

That woman was Suzanne, aka “Soup,” aka the latest victim of my canine heart.

Really, Suzanne could probably have just about anyone. Yet she chooses me, a hopeless romantic, a breadwinner without much bread, a deist, an iconoclast, a poet, a Henry Mancini fan. Makes you question her judgment, right?

I mean, I’m a man fascinated by Ella Fitzgerald and waa-waa mutes. Sometimes I tell her the same exact joke three times the same day.

FYI, I’ve taken to listening to a lot of Ella, Etta James, Aretha. Try it while you butter your toast some summer morning. They have a timeless quality. Frayed velvet in their voices, the tick-tick-purr of a hummingbird.

In fact, Sarah Vaughan said something interesting the other day:

The way you hold your knife
The way we danced ’til three

The way you’ve changed my life
No, no, they can’t take that away from me…

That’s what Sarah Vaughan says, anyway. Hearing her sing reminds me that each day pop culture becomes a little less literate, a little less charming…each day we seem to lower the bar a little more.

As it is, I’m day to day after losing Gordon Lightfoot, whose voice was like whisky on a winter’s night. Like Nat King Cole, his voice seemed to swirl and echo before it even left his lips. Lightfoot was like a wandering minstrel from the 14th century. He might’ve invented goosebumps.

Speaking of bumps…

The other morning, Smartacus awakens from his restless boy dreams to see White Fang lying at the end of the bed.

“Why’s this dog staring at me?” he calls out.

“Puppy love,” I explain.

“Creepy,” he says.

Yeah, sure is.

Here’s my current puppy love list:

-Sarah Vaughan

-Catty Cakes



-The meatballs at Trader Joe’s

-White Fang


-Pre-made frosting straight from the can


-Book stores

-Jazz clubs


-Hockey fights

-Burgers grilled a little blushy

That’s it. That’s the extent of my puppy loves. Stay tuned though. Tomorrow, I may add more.

Meanwhile, what a summer this is shaping up to be. I was telling my buddy Hardin the other, “Hey Hardin, I’ve been to hundreds of baseball games, and I still get a slight buzz when I first glimpse a field as I first walk in…”

Similarly, I still get a slight ballgame buzz from summer. Need a ballgame buzz? Try the burgers and dipped cones at Heavy Handed on Main in Santa Monica.

Huge. Almost Brobdingnagian (monstrous). You might never be the same after that.

And word from the beach is that there’s a rare baby white Orca doing laps in Santa Monica Bay. I don’t see that as puppy love. I see that as a ’Gram from God.

Honestly, I see this rare baby whale as evidence that, as some things get way worse, other things get way better.

Frosty is the baby orca’s name.

Sober up the captain!

Summon my sloop!

I’m off to write a children’s book.

Thanks to all who joined the Happy Hour Hiking Club adventure Saturday. Great times, great group. Anybody missing a gray Hydro Flask? Too bad, because I’m not running a lost & found here. Still, I might know a guy who knows a guy. The flask is safe and warm. Just let me know at Letters@ChrisErskineLA.com. You can also order caps there. Cheers.

Coming Saturday: Someone turns 2

12 thoughts on “A ’Gram from God

  1. Wait, your two daughters don’t make the list of current puppy love? What’s up with that?

    Happy birthday Catty Cakes!

  2. More puppy love: Walking your dog in the morning, a soft breeze on a hot and humid afternoon, bougainvillea in bloom, “Take Ten,” by Paul Desmond, watching Mookie, Freddie and Julio and the rest of the gang, chicken tarragon, chocolate and vanilla and Leslie Caron.

  3. Remembering your first puppy love and clouds to add a few more to the list. Btw Ken your list was great especially Leslie Caron I would add James Dean.

    And yes Happy Birthday Catty Cakes.
    Adorable isn’t even close to that Mini Minnie.

  4. Late weighing in today, sorry! Lovely post with so many meaningful lists. I was so sad to learn of Gordon Lightfoot’s passing. One of a kind modern troubadour and his music was the soundtrack for my first “puppy love” in high school. Sigh. Thank you for all the special memories your posts always stir up in me. Happy Birthday. Cakes! Still not feeling “Soup” is the right nickname for classy, elegant Silver Suzanne. Maybe you need to share the origin story to show how it makes sense.

  5. Talk about late! Not reading this until Thursday morning. Sometimes I do that just to wait and savor the moment.
    I wanted to pass on a gem. Given your love of Ella et al, give a new youngster a listen…Samora Joy. It will give you hope that “lowering the bar” has not included all arenas, jazz singers being one of them.

  6. Sarah is somewhere in my mind all the time…and Edie Gorme…Rosie Clooney…Linda Ronstadt…Patte LaBelle…Ella…the list goes on and on. Yes, this Spring could be the big one. And this Summer? Delirium may not begin to describe its heated, defining, unfolding of emotion. For instance, I was high above the Carlsbad flower fields, on Armada, late in the afternoon the other day, the setting sun streaming in over the sea…

    Flower Fields

    At the flower fields luminous swaths
    Of color sweep off to the sea:
    Purples, reds, oranges, yellows, whites
    All seeming to burn in the sunlight
    Their smoke giving the giant tableau
    A stunning dimensionality
    As if the tones and hues were alive
    With a kind of music—song on fire;

    And roadside edges, coastal paths
    Hills, are crowded with a melee
    Of blossoms, gobs of petaled lights
    Jamming every empty space, nights
    Velvet with their silent fragrant show—
    You lie in bed and in your mind see
    The explosions of the day’s five
    Senses in the mind’s eye, an empire
    The sun rules in its ascendent swing
    To its zenith—long romance with Spring;

    Up abead, the heat of the affair
    Felt at every moment in Summer air
    The burning flowers fuel that takes us there
    Their scent like a blossom, in her hair…

    Sarah Vaughan and that contralto voice, with its floral edge…yes, this could be a big one.

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  8. Did you hear Split Rock Lighthouse in Two Harbors, Minnesota shone its beacon (it’s seldom lit) Wednesday night in honor of Gordon Lightfoot? He was such a master poet/storyteller with that warm voice and amazing guitar. What a legend.

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