I’m Dating LA

In a recent episode, I’d left half my liver and a chunk of my brain down in rustic and irresistible Temecula.

It was for a good cause – a pal’s bachelor party – so I didn’t think twice about the cost to me personally. My body is a regenerative marvel. I should’ve been dead 60 times already.

God lets me live, I suspect, to bring flowers to older neighbors and to rally buddies for occasional dinners in gin joints where the drinks are very cold and the soup a little hot.


Word of warning: I had the worst salad in Beverly Hills the other day, of all places.  One of the actresses from “Love Actually” sat nearby. I wanted to ask if she missed Milwaukee, before realizing her character lived there, not her. She’s probably never even seen Milwaukee, which is a shame. Milwaukee is Paris without the sniffy pretense.

Anyway, it was a nightmare, this salad. No matter how much lettuce I ate, there was still a ton of lettuce left. My lunch mates finished long before I did, and there I was shoveling gobs of this tasteless iceberg lettuce in my mouth, with chunks of dried out chicken.

I mean, what did I expect for 28 bucks? Dressing? But still….

The bright side: Parking cost a mere $2, which is a miracle in Beverly Hills (a garage off Camden, across from WME). No payment kiosks, just a cheerful attendant, to whom I gushed: “Wow, two bucks? Such a deal.” She seemed pleased by the feedback.

I’ve always thought of L.A. as a bit of a miracle, anyway. As you probably know, Walker Percy once conjured a device called a “lapsometer,” to measure the health of the human spirit. If you pointed it at this one joint off Sunset, it might spin and start to smolder.

Indeed, Earth itself is a major miracle in an otherwise barren cosmos. No other planet seems to have the weather, the water, the pinot, the pork chops, the dahlias, the jazz.

Think of the lush lawns of England, the polka dots and moonbeams … the way Coltrane jiggled his sax. Think of Mel Brooks. Mahler. Beethoven. Jack Benny. Martin Short. Nina Simone. Mookie Betts.

Cary Grant. Art Carney. Zendaya. Secretariat. Cher.

Name me a planet that can compare to Earth. Europa? Ha. Its ocean lies beneath a slab of ice 15 miles thick. Great for hockey. Bad for skinny dipping.

Little disappointed the other day when my son Smartacus confessed he’d never heard of the great Cher. I explained that she was much like Elvis, only funnier, and she invented the hair flip, perhaps the greatest American contribution to the social good.

One night, on her CBS show, she did her trademark hair flip – leaning back, like a tennis serve. Triggered puberty in me. Haven’t stood up straight since.

Cher starred in “Moonstruck,” one of the great comedies of all time. If you can forgive her for “Mama Mia,” which sounds like a car alarm, you have perhaps the most perfect Earthling of all time — a little annoying as a person, but an enormous talent nonetheless.

I tried to convey all this to Smartacus over breakfast. But his cavalier attitude toward Cher, and his overall disregard for the nuances of American pop culture, seriously bummed me out.

Look, when I was his age, I wanted only two things out of life. A date with Cathy Rigby. And Ted Danson’s hair. Hasn’t really worked out for me. Never made much money, and I was kicked out of the handsome store.

Yet I’m rich with kids and friends and blessed with a silvery new sidekick as lovely as a lullaby.

And as further evidence of Earth’s majesty, I took my granddaughter to the carousel on the pier. If you ever run low on Ativan, or Irish gin, or cherry pie, consider visiting this glorious old carousel. There’s even a soda fountain in the corner. Who knew?

Sometimes it’s as if I’m dating Los Angeles. You might suspect L.A. would be a difficult person — attractive yet damaged. Overly dramatic. Tanned. Tattooed. A toothy trust funder. Careless with cars.

I find her exciting.

Old but not forgotten, the Santa Monica Pier is the person Cakes and I need on a rare sunny morning. All the things we love are here: roller coasters, corn dogs, smiling horses.

Remember the Dashiell Hammett story about the stolen Ferris wheel? Call 9-1-1. We found it!

But the real find is this carousel, coated in caramel. Cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudels…

Cakes loved it. I loved it. Even Smartacus, who wouldn’t know Cher from a tow truck, loved it.

See? Told you it was a really great planet.

For books, past columns and cheapo Father’s Day gifts, please go to ChrisErskineLA.com.

11 thoughts on “I’m Dating LA

  1. Cher, carousels, corn dogs and Cakes! LA does have everything needed for happiness, as you so poetically point out. And thanks for coming back to “silvery sidekick” as the perfect knickname for beautiful Suzanne. I will never accept “Soup” as fitting for one so elegant as she. Live it up, My Friend. You are deservedly blessed.

  2. My proudest rearing moment was when I heard the boy explaining who Huell Howser was to friends.

  3. Just have Smarticus watch the video of Cher singing “if I could turn back time“ on the deck of the USS Missouri.
    He will then understand Cher.

  4. Cakes is more adorable every time she appears in your column! She is so lucky to have a grandfather as special as you, and you are one lucky granddaddy!

  5. So, not Keira Knightly. Bummer. You could have held up a series of cue cards: MY SALAD SUCKS BUT YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL. Worth a shot. She was interviewed and asked about her beauty and explained it is the imperfections that she finds most beautiful in others. Which is probably why she didn’t level up her boobs or straighten her teeth. I don’t think you can just tell Smartacus about Cher. Cher. Share. We’ve shared a journey with Cher. “She’s happy with Sonny.” “She’s not happy with Sonny.” “Her daughter’s a girl.” “Her daughter’s a boy.” Sonny ski’d into a tree? WTF? Smartacus has his own Cher. Is it Miley Cyrus? IDK. Someday he’ll be trying to explain twerking to his son, your grandson, and little Chris will think Smartacus has lost it. There’s no one quite like “her.” An original. Keira. Cher. Miley. Great planet. Great read.

  6. I tried to have this same conversation with my college daughter (same age as Smartacus) three weeks ago. We had been back/forth to the Quad cities over four days with my older daughter’s Augie graduation and move out (picture me driving a big U-haul truck…good times) and I asked the college kid to play some 70’s music as we were rolling along I-88 passing Rochelle and I was a bit weary. “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” came on and I was happily belting out every word. “This is Cher,” I blurted out as she stared blankly back at me. I tried to explain Cher but she also was not interested. There is a lot to Cher so I may have been rambling. Summary: Cher is hard to explain to 20 year-olds.
    Update: older daughter (the graduate) is in Iceland and it’s amazing. Picturesque and fascinating. You should go with Suzanne.

  7. In the peripatetic flow of the usual things here, what catches the eye is that sudden little glint, silvery shivery flash, when Suzanne is mentioned. Cher once sang,”I’ve seen a lot…I mean…a lot!”. . But, you know, you’ve not seen nearly enough until you’ve seen light like this…

    Meta Language

    We speak in tongues, two creatures
    In a storm of billions hurtling through
    The cosmos on a planet orbiting
    A star in a galactic universe
    So vast chemistry cannot parse
    Its enormous complexity;

    For us there is just this instant
    And fhe next and the next and the next
    Meaning in the granular iota
    Of each most casual second—
    Why would we not speak of time
    As if it were this silent thunder
    Of our being, roaring in our ears?…

    And sing in words one syllable wide
    A grain of sand could easily blow
    Into, making immersion seamless
    And understanding like sunlight—
    Something the atmosphere breathes in
    And out in its blind respiration
    Of all things present—material—
    Within us, for us, essence divined
    By writing itself, with love underlined?

    It’s the day after yet another gray amorphous day, the mist swirling around, water coming out of air, pavement wet and glistening with a sort of hollow shine. Etta James makes such grand sense on a day like this. I want “A Sunday Kind Of Love”…And somewhere recently I read that this is a year of marriage—of words, ideas, and actions.
    As Etta would sing,”At Last”…….

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