What Went Into That Day?

Solitude and idle time are so underrated. Some days I just want to, in the words of writer Gary Snyder,  “Sit silent, drink wine, and think my own kind of dry crusty thoughts.”

That mood – that mindset — explains bar stools and potting benches…libraries, hobbies, and long aimless hikes into the hills. It explains husbands. It explains wives.

Relationships would be better if we recognized our mate’s occasional desire to be alone. When we’re not talking, we’re chatting in our heads. It’s not ideal, or very fun. But as they say, it is what it is.

Look, humor is a funny business. I write about the daily lives of ordinary people, to baffled readers too busy to care. You can rack up a lot of credit card debt that way.

Historically, the more truths a writer compiles, the more successful you are. At least spiritually. Economically, not so sure the world rewards truth anymore. Look at the music. Look at the movies. Look at the layoffs at Buzz Feed and Disney.

Look at the fate of truth-tellers in general: John Lennon. Sylvia Plath. Euripides. Elvis. The list goes on and on.

Yet, they managed a very nice celebration of truth down in Fullerton a couple week ago. At ALPHA’S “Day of Authors,” a half dozen writers discussed how writers are the Robin Hoods of truth. They find the treasures you tuck away in your mind and then spill them to the world.

I mean, is that any kind of life? You may as well sell turnips out of the back of your Bronco.

One of the questions at the authors’ event: the future of journalism. In one word: YIKES.

Why? Compiling truths is not economically viable anymore. Bias is where the money is, yet a lot of readers still want their news served straight. Instead, they’re getting a propaganda war.

Anyway, this is getting political, and I shy away from that. Everything is so political these days – the books you read, the channels you watch….that icy can of beer.

We have a very human need to connect honestly with the world, and to deny people that – well, then you have general unrest. When we’re rudderless, we’re ruthless.

I’m not being dramatic. If you can’t base your decisions on common truths, then all you have is mind control and propaganda. How do you effectively pick a president?

So, yeah, there’s a lot at stake in the demise of solid mainstream journalism, currently run by people who think they know better than you and me, who don’t trust us to make our own decisions, who are so passionate in their views they believe they have a moral duty to spoon feed readers and viewers.

Let us pray.

“Dear God…”

OK, I’m done. Now you go.

At the authors weekend, I also explained how good stories are loaded with surprises, and that my life has been ambushed by surprise, and each person’s narrative – the novel they write for themselves —  is really how they deal with life’s inevitable twists and turns.

I also explained my fondness for great endings. I was talking about songs and movies mostly, but I also meant life.

As you may have heard, we all die in the end. So, how do you get there? What sloppy little truths do you mine along the way? How do you handle the lousy stuff? When you walked into a party, were other guests mostly happy to see you?

And then we all left this great authors event, our heads full of fresh ideas, vibrant new books under our arms.

Confession: I sure like people – even the dry, crusty ones like me.

Do me just one favor. Forget our swirling cultural meltdown. Forget the media’s morose, doomsday take on almost every topic. Forget this ill-timed writers’ strike. The sun is out, baseball is back, I got my taxes done.

And the other day, I sucked it up and finally cleaned that cluttered bedroom closet, the one with lots of family keepsakes in the back, a place of tiny truths and maybe one too many surprises.

Let me tell you, there may be nothing quite so poignant, quite so moving, as the smiles in an old man’s wedding album.

Page after page, I wonder: What went into that day? How did they meet? Why was I wearing that awful brown tux?

In what wonderfully poetic way did this one couple manage to see a future together, amid the daily grind, and the gloom of history, despite the vast evidence that marriages often fail?

I found that all in a wedding album in the back of my closet, near the dust balls and the old checker sets.

What’s in the back of yours?

Speaking of books, thrilled to report I have a new one coming out, on the incredible life of “Bear Whisperer” Steve Searles. Sometimes humorous, sometimes very real, it’s the story of an Orange County surfer kid who becomes an Animal Planet sensation for his magical work with bears. It’s a hike through the Sierra with a guy who understands nature like no one you’ve ever met. Remember the beer commercials about “The Most Interesting Man in the World?” This might indeed be him. And the bears are pretty fun too. “What the Bears Know” hits shelves Oct. 3. For advance purchases, please click here. Thanks!

For past columns, go to ChrisErskineLA.com. Email the author at Letters@ChrisErskineLA.com

24 thoughts on “What Went Into That Day?

  1. Yes, I admit, you have occasionally left me baffled with the way your writing meanders through seemingly-disconnected stories. But I am never too busy to care because somehow you always manage to tell the truth in a delightful, poignant and crusty thought-provoking way. Like this one. The wedding album ambushed me. Smiles and tears. Can’t wait to learn the secrets of bears too!

  2. A great essay! I still manage to get through the newspaper every day, but I hardly watch the TV news now. Just one hour a day and no cable news. I’m too grumpy to watch the network morning shows. I figure that social media will let me know if I need to get to a television. After a disappointing week for journalism, this piece cheered me up. Thank you. By the way; Posh was a beautiful bride.

  3. Posh was so, so cute!!! I lost my niece to a horrible cancer this week. It is so hard sitting with an unconscious relative, hoping they will die soon, so their pain and misery will end. At the same time one’s anger builds as to why their story had to end this way. I miss my niece, my nephew, and your wonderful writings of Posh

  4. You resemble Alex Trebek in your wedding photos. Thanks for sharing the beginning of your life with Posh with us.

  5. You nailed it yet again! No TV news for me and hasn’t been for a # of years — still much is unavoidable. Loved your closet situation — the contents of same is common — avoid at all costs!! Great photo of Posh (darling) and you — (cute)! Enjoyed, yet again, one more column!!

  6. Chris, thank you for this, I needed these words this morning. BTW, I think you have aged well like a fine wine. There’s not too many folks to whom I can say that.

  7. Your wedding pictures could have been me and my husband. Just different faces. 1979?

  8. There was a lot in that one, my friend. Thank you, and thanks for pressing that publish button. Is that still as difficult for you as it sometimes is for me? Probably not.

    I never saw anyone rock a brown tux before. That alone was a highlight.

    The search for truth has never been more challenging. And we will never get there until there is more quality in-person discourse and honest communication. Thanks for making the efforts and inspiring us to do the same.

    Looking forward to my October 3rd book delivery!

  9. Best essay on the state of being I have tripped through, lately, and I’ve stumbled through quite a few, musings being an “in” thing one negotiates right now. It’s something about this being a wet (thoughtful?) Spring with some weighty dislocations in our zeitgeist. Being with writers who can speak as they write is compelling stimulation, too—all that mind candy in brain cases one can see in, , and writers have such sweet tooths. But you must come from somewhere deep to write lightly in a haunting way that echos that depth. Phyllis MGinley could do that while embedded in domestica. So can you.

    The pictures burn a perfectly round hole in my memory, too. Don’t you wonder who that unmasked masked man (woman) was that was you? And who knew that was Camelot? Old wedding albums are fairy tales. How could they have been true?

    I wish I had written this. I did not, so I’m going to pull a hard L.A. left turn ( Lennon Twist) and go against type; even though, when someone writes exactly what you feel, you should shut up and just listen.

    When Light Speaks

    When did you first notice the little
    Moves she was—her body’s arabesque
    That swiftly disarmed emptiness
    And made grace a rote condition
    Of her presence, lighting a room
    Like a sun-browned shoulder—candle flame?
    The air seeming to waver—vibrate
    With light, the silence blowing smoke
    Into your hair, her downcast face
    Like a flower, raptly focused on
    Some thing you could not see nor hear;
    And you wanted to be what she found
    So fascinating—what it meant
    To burn within her lambent gaze;

    When did you feel that orbital
    Desire to encircle her? The risk
    Of the decision in the caress
    A candle’s flicker—wisp of sun—
    Brushes upon flesh; yet specters loom
    Of vast conflagration, so you came
    To the unholy choice to hold—wait
    For fire to name itself and provoke
    Its own ring of flame, time and place
    Eating the distance up to heaven
    In a most holy way, making clear
    The specter’s shadow, throwing around
    Sparks like stars that seemed heaven-sent
    Flaring up into a constant blaze;

    And when did you know fire was heaven?
    And that love was what was given
    In her most casual off-hand ways?
    That love cannot wait to light the days
    And that you must listen to what it says…

    Apropos of last week’s missive, today’s beauty, and nothing much of everything.

  10. Your third paragraph brought back memories of our annual block party (some years ago) when we also celebrated the 60th anniversary of a couple who lived across the street. The man addressed the gathering and spoke to how their relationship endured. He attributed it to the 3 R’s: Romance, Respect and Room. He went on to explain that he didn’t mean a room down the hall, but space for each partner to “do his/her own thing.”

  11. I’ve been waiting for the book. I thought maybe it was a no-go and binged a bunch of Searles on YouTube. “Blondie.” “Toothless.” The one hit by the car – gut wrenching. So many questions. What does he do now? What does he want to do? Will his son follow in his footsteps? How? Where? And the bigger questions. Why doesn’t the community make the resident take down her 50 bird feeders? Or lower the speed limit? We had one job before the fall – care for the garden. Searles was living up to that vocation. Such a compelling story.

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