Pancakes With Papa

When life overwhelms you, experts suggest:

–One thought at a time.

–One task at a time.

–One beer at a time.

OK, that last tip was mine. Hydration is vital, especially in the warmer months (January through December).

Similarly, I just ran across a new recipe for iced coffee:

  1. Have kids
  2. Make coffee
  3. Forget you have coffee
  4. Drink the coffee cold

Been reading a lot of old Calvin & Hobbes lately — my Leviticus, my user guide to life. From what I can tell, Calvin represents the id, and Hobbes the ego, if my understanding of Freudian psychoanalytics holds 45 years later.

To be honest, I like impulsive people such as Calvin, the dolts who don’t think things through. Aren’t they fun? Want some? I’ll send Bittner right over. Or my lawyer, Billable Bob.

There’s this one strip where Calvin is ticking off the things he doesn’t like: crumbs in the butter, dried-out ketchup on the bottle rim. Hobbes weighs in with “excessively negative people? “

My takeaway: Our little quirks define us. Flaws make us better and more-interesting friends.

I also enjoy when a high sense of determination – or moral certitude – goes very wrong, as in politics, or those roadrunner cartoons.

“Don’t quit before the miracle,” the great writer Anne Lamott once advised.

When I first read that, I thought: “Wait, there are miracles? Can you order them online?

Personally, I’ve experienced only one actual miracle. Maybe I told you this?

I was painting the kitchen ceiling, on an eight-foot ladder. I over extended and we all fell: me, the ladder, the bucket of paint, everything. In mid-air, I managed to snag the bucket of paint and land on my feet, not spilling a drop.

That was the hand of God, obviously. He coptered me, in slow motion, back to dry ground.

You were probably figuring that I’d list my kids as miracles. Honestly? Have you even met them?

Look, our grand plan was to buy a tiny house and fill it with books and kids, yet when we were done, we had more kids than books, and I could never find the road atlas that I liked to pull out on bad days to dream about going somewhere else – dear God, anywhere — to soothe my wanderlust and quixotic sense of adventure.

I mean, young kids can be such an anchor, right?

They say your bookcase is an ancestral portrait, and by the time we finished decorating the house we had four kids and three books and no atlas…no ancestral portraits at all. I’d like to think the house at the time reflected the chaos of a young family’s life. Just heavenly. Every place you’d walk, you’d step on a Lego.

By the way, two of our books were about breastfeeding, and other all about wiring.

Yet, an eternal spring fills my heart, to borrow from Victor Hugo. On that note, I took the grandbaby to breakfast the other day, at a modest little place in Santa Monica, where the pancakes and the bacon, plus a small glass of orange juice, ran me 35 bucks. That bought me an hour with the cheeriest person I know. I call her Cakes.

As breakfast dates go, I’d label it a sonnet – a moment within a moment. Suddenly I realized what everyone’s been saying: grandkids are our unexpected inheritance.

At the little table, I watched in abject horror as Cakes kept eating pads of butter and downed three slices of bacon, which she triple-dipped in the butter, then the syrup, then winked at me like a bank robber on Christmas Eve.

In L.A., everyone is a bossy nutritionist, so almost everybody would suggest that pads of butter are not a healthy side dish for a 2-year-old. Yet, I would argue that if you smear it all over your pancakes does that make butter any better for you? Not actually.

Besides, as Steven Wright once said, “You can train cats to do anything they want to.” Same goes for toddlers.

Plus, at the pediatrician’s office the other day, Cakes registered in the 3 percentile on weight, which means she weighs as much as this comma here, or that sparrow in the tree. She weighs as much as a passing thought, a sudden urge, a broken promise… a puppy’s kiss, that penny in your pocket.

“Should we be worried?” her mother asked.

No, the doctor said. She’s perfect.

Well, I don’t know. She’s a little headstrong when it comes to dairy. And she’s got some funky ideas about breakfast: Essentially, she doesn’t like pancakes, even this stack of pillows that cost me 35 bucks.

Which really isn’t bad, when you think about it. Not these days. Not for what you get.

For past columns, please go to Email the author at

Next week: A hotel with star power.

11 thoughts on “Pancakes With Papa

  1. “….winked at me like a bank robber on Christmas Eve”! Where the heck did that simile come from? That unique brain of yours….Yes, Cakes IS perfect. Like this post. Just keep them coming, please. ❤️

  2. Loved the quotes esp. grandkids and cats — marvellous! You have a little charmer there — enjoy her as they grow up before your eyes. BTW I’m still waiting for a miracle!!! Thanks for a swell piece.

  3. Cranking out waffles this morning…alas, no grandkids to share them with…at least I get some vicarious grandchild love through your stories, Chris. Cakes IS perfect!

  4. “winked at me like a bank robber on Christmas Eve” – omg what a great line! Just one of many of yours that I wish I would have thought of myself!!! Great piece!

  5. “A modest little place in Santa Monica, where the pancakes and the bacon, plus a small glass of orange juice, ran me 35 bucks.”
    Was it Snug Harbor? I read about that historic restaurant in Santa Monica recently and decided to try it out. What you ordered would have cost about 35 bucks there. Exaggerating I admit. But not by much. I actually liked the place. But I can’t afford to eat there. Inflation, who knows? I only know the same breakfast at Norm’s would have cost around 12 bucks. And would have been just as good.

  6. Chris, need I remind you that grandchildren are the dessert of life? Next time you take Cakes out to dine, try the clam chowder in a bread bowl at Gladstone’s on PCH. To die for.

  7. Am I doing it wrong? I’ve always said “pat” of butter?
    I like Einstein on miracles.

  8. Your wrapup was right down the pipe. You don’f go into a dive bar to enjoy gourmet Skittles. When you eat you pay for experience. Since few of us enjoy eating alone (at least in public), we are paying to experience others. Atmosphere is all; at least to the novelty experience junkies, which is most of us. You won’t go back to a place that has bad food unless the atmosphere or the people there are great. All the foody hoopla is bonus talk. The genuine barkeeps know this. This is why bar food is generally meh. Like a dog’s purpose, they just know. In this way, the vast food dynasty is illusion based on myth; as is dog training. Kudos to Cakes. She just knows, too, what Cows know: that maybe butter really doesn’t go better with things….

  9. Oddly enough, you made me think about it and, ex post cogitato, I realized that there have been so many miracles throughout my life that… an honest assessment says: “My entire LIFE has been nothing but a Monstrous Miracle” …sorta like Marilyn Monroe but only slightly different… 🤔 😁 🍻

Leave a Reply