Jazzy Little Interludes

Need a little God? Come sit on my patio and watch the finches flutter in the bird bath, three feet away. Little mystics, unafraid.

Birds seem to dig me. Dogs too. It’s my own kids I have problems with.

By the way, are you astounded almost daily at how unaware our leaders are of nuance, irony, empathy and struggle? One side seems obsessed with the needy, the other seems obsessed with greed. And the working stiffs – the loin, the muscle of the whole operation — sit by watching the finches in the bird bath, as decades of hard work flutter away.

Don’t get me started.

On the menu the other night: a $12 milkshake. Couldn’t swing that, so I brought my granddaughter a single scoop of vanilla, with rainbow sprinkles. Set me back a mere $8.32.

OK, in my day, you could buy an entire cow for 7 bucks. So you can imagine my unease. A big mystic, totally afraid.

Look, weird times call for weird people, and none are weirder than me. My buddy Charlie, who made billions in petroleum, is off to Amsterdam, then Dublin, hitting all the morally dubious places in one swing.

Rapunzel is in the Dominican for a wedding. Finn and fam are heading to New Jersey for a wedding as well. Mitch and Teresa are off to Iceland, a place Suzanne hopes to visit one day.

To me, Iceland seems like a suburb of the North Pole. All the seafood is probably frozen. All the beef comes in blocks of ice.

So, here I’ll stay, watching the finches sip from my bird bath, once in a while taking my granddaughter out for ice cream at 8 bucks a scoop. It’s not a great life, but it’s a life.

Our eager little army was on the move the other night, again on LA’s west side, which entertains me no end. I love The Galley there, the old nautical dive bar where the Christmas lights stay up all year. They still have a solid Happy Hour there, unlike many places.

If America requires one thing right now, it’s solid Happy Hours.

Last week, I went to a bar that had an Unhappy Hour. Folks sat at the dim bar gazing at their phones. I finally leaned over to the dude next to me, “So, can you believe the bartender never heard of the Indy 500?”

Minutes earlier, the dude had told the bartender that he’d just finished a commemorative illustration for the Indy 500, and the young barkeep shook his head in puzzlement. Indy 500? Never heard of it.

Tell me, did I get off the wrong spaceship? As it is, I don’t understand this June weather… cold, like Iceland. The other day, after a short jog, I crawled back into bed just to warm up.

Meanwhile, Garrison Keillor pens a short and wonderful essay about eating a bratwurst in the rain in New York City, which I think he secretly loathes but has learned to make amends with. Speaking of gods, he might be one.

Despite the chill, I know it’s summer because I’m wholly – or holy – obsessed with grilled food. Not just the seared and skewered meats, but the veggies too. Pretty much anything I could scorch.

We grilled sweet corn the other night, in a golden gown of butter. By the time it was done, it was an Oscar statue.

And the Oscar for best side dish goes to…

What I do is smear the corn in butter and salt, plus a splash of milk, then throw it on the grill for 10 minutes, turning it as you would a foul ball that landed somehow in your lap.

There may be nothing better than this. Eating grilled corn is like kissing someone on a rowboat — a certain blonde with buck teeth whose gum-scented sigh still resides in the deep cushions of my mind, even if I can’t recall her last name. That was some piece of corn, let me tell ya.

Meanwhile II: Never let me wander about without a chance at fresh friendships.

“Just saw you at Ashland & Hill on Main St. (Santa Monica),” a reader wrote the other day. “You were saying hi to a good friend and you were with family so I really didn’t want to interrupt or impose in the hope that I could say something endearing, witty, and cool and that would go over big with you. You know maybe mention how much I liked your column in The Times and so on….” 

That’s so stupid. No one liked my column in The Times, especially the editors.

But, yeah, that was me at the restaurant — trying to push a 3-foot-wide baby stroller down a 2-foot-wide aisle as people leaned into their dinners. One of my finest performances. Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, to all the toes involved. 

For the record, I like meeting people who’ve managed to latch on to my silly ramblings over the years. Random public encounters drive Smartacus nuts, and make Suzanne a little uneasy as well. But Cakes and I really, really dig those jazzy little moments.

Buttery as corn.

Thirsty? The Gin & Tonic Society of Los Angeles is planning another blast, on June 24, at that hilltop hideaway overlooking the Rose Bowl. It’s a perch we’ve tried before, and Lynn Knox has been gracious enough to invite us back. There’ll be blind gin tastings, and some examinations of mixers, plus a sunset over the San Gabriels. Will LA’s sassiest bartenders be back? Possibly. Probably not. But if you’re interested, please mark your calendar. More info on time, place and how to RSVP coming soon. Cheers!

19 thoughts on “Jazzy Little Interludes

  1. I loved your column in the LA Times. That is why I follow you now. I very much look forward to your comments on the world. Thank you and keep them coming!

  2. This one really resonated with me. After watching my two toddler grandchildren while their parents ran off to Japan, they came home and decided that their second puppy was just too hard to handle. Of course it couldn’t leave the family. For the last 2 weeks, my husband and I are now awakened at 5:30 by a rambunctious ball of life. Life-what we do for our children.

    1. Ain’t that the truth. Their pup is sitting on my feet right now, after waking me at 6 am while they head off to a wedding on the East Coast. There should be a parents’ union.

      1. High school juniors are at the top of the high school food chain. I’m a big fan of that grade level, and I believe Noreen’s child was being honest.

  3. Dude. I think most of us were big fans of your LA Times column. One of my main purpose in life is to make sure that your fans know that they can still find you at chriserskinela.com. It’s always a way to make their day. If I can’t make their day using my own talent, I’m happy to resort to yours. Thanks as always.

  4. Chris, I don’t know how you do it, but your words always provide the salve I need to get through the dark days. Thank you for help lighting the day and lightening the load. I really appreciate you.

  5. My Augie grad is off to Iceland and then Sweden for 18 days (school study abroad trip for seniors.) Living vicariously through her. And I’ve loved reading these “silly little ramblings” for years. Never silly and always memorable. Often thought provoking and a fine way to start my day.

  6. Agree with all the positive comments. Have always been a fan, & currently make time to read you on my phone as I help my husband cope with the hell of chemo.

    Have meant to ask you for a loooong time: I recall Cake’s christening dress being fashioned with lace from Posh’ wedding gown. Did the the gown have the “Gunne Sax” label? It looked just like the lace on my GS wedding gown in 1981!

  7. Another enjoyable Weds. thanks to you! 1) The Galley is still there?? Wow! 2) Suzanne has a good idea — Iceland! A friend said his bro and his wife visited and fell in love — they are moving there now! Friend said the photos of it are beautiful. — so — bucket list for sure! Lastly, if you get the recipe for Key Lime Pie — would you please post it for us diehards?? Thanks again for all !!

  8. I am very late to this party today, but I have to second all the loving comments about your L.A. Times columns. And I think your current posts are even BETTER without the constraints of having to please the editor. I hope I “accidentally” bump into you (and hopefully, Cakes) on one of your occasional forays into the OC (like maybe “the secret” beach you spilled the beans about.) If nothing else, I am going to stalk your book signings after the Bear Book comes out. I can’t wait to see you and your smiling moustache in person. It’s on my short bucket list. You put the smile in my mornings.

  9. I don’t think I’ve loved one more than this one. It’s so close to what things feel like—seem to me right now. And the pictures… just terrific emotional ice cream. Words fail. You, the master of the scattershot quip, can be as focused as a velvet glove; if you want to be. Thus is scope and range and a disarming beauty manifest in what appears to be—but often is not—your most casual prose. That’s some indescribable writing, my friend.

    Around The Block

    I don’t feel these written words
    Will sing like music in a play
    Soar a lifted mind like birds
    Resonate with light, today
    For it is June and sameness rules
    The skies miasmic clouds of gray
    Whose atmosphere’s bland molecules
    Would seem to smother what I say;

    Yet everything is in the thought
    Herein expressed, I haven’t any
    Loveliness that could be taught
    This morning, or epiphany—
    Divine excess, the vacant stare
    Of the page like the many
    Voids that weigh upon the air
    With silent mind that seems uncanny;

    Rarity that I should treasure
    Babbling stream caught in mid-clause
    How strange the dream of its leisure—
    Breathless breadth of its pause;
    Glass half-empty now its measure
    Half-full in its velvet pass
    Tossed nowhere in blind erasure
    Loud and clear, it’s just because….

    June gloom blocking the light and its words; and then there is you. Summer.

  10. I loved your LA Times columns from day 1 as well as all of your columns now. Thanks Chris!

  11. Well, how could you know of the legions who only kept their subscription because of your column? Such as we, my husband and I, did such a thing. Cheers, Chris and thank you for taking note of all of the “happy” that can still be found. L.

  12. I love reading about Cakes, the cutest little redhead around, the pups and your musings about life. Loved your LA Times column too. Best, Jamee

  13. I can’t believe I grew up in Wisconsin loving corn on the cob and never heard of adding that splash of milk. Can’t wait to try it. Love the article, love the pictures, especially Cakes lounging against your leg and then in that gray chair looking absolutely hammered on whatever is in that bottle.

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