Kiss Me Like You Mean It

She’s not your typical dog. But what’s typical anymore?

White Fang reads Balzac, can mix a Manhattan, tell a ribald joke. Her pronouns are “that” and “splat.” It’s what the social critics might call “toxic femininity.”

“Your kisses taste like plywood,” I told her the other day. “It’s like you don’t even mean it.”


“OK, that kiss was good,” I say.

That’s right, the black sheep in our family is a Siberian hussy. White Fang is a siren, a rogue, a rascal … the last one to bed.

Look, I’m not defending her selfish behavior. I’m just explaining it. Maybe we can then start to forgive her. Maybe not.

Please note: Despite all the hedonism, I have never seen White Fang smile – not once. She’s like Harrison Ford that way. Or even Abraham Lincoln, in that an alternate universe orbits within her splendid skull. Mortals like me will never fully comprehend her multi-tiered intellect.

Still, she has never caught a squirrel. Odd, isn’t it, that this savvy wolf-dog can never achieve the one thing that would give her complete pleasure, that might actually illicit a tiny Mona Lisa smile? Squirrels! They grow on trees, you know. Yet she can never have one.

Know what else riles her up? Politics. Obsessed. Can’t leave it alone.

Lately, she is consumed by something Carl Sagan wrote back in 1995, a spot-on forecast about the 21st century:

“I have a foreboding of an America in my children or grandchildren’s time – when the United States  is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when people have lost the ability to set their own agendas and knowledgeably question those in authority; when clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide …  back into superstition and darkness.”

Whew. Carl Sagan for the win. Sluuuuuuuurp.

Truth is, we never really evolved past superstition. Just look at all those superhero movies. And there is darkness in our DNA. Just watch “Meet the Press.”

Meanwhile, the gardener next door is playing a leaf blower like an electric guitar, wailing on the stupid thing, doing his best Jimi Hendrix.

Honestly, does anyone find leaf blowers one bit musical?

Point is, there are no quiet moments in America anymore. There are no crickets. No train whistles. Just a thumpy disenchantment that in no way resembles art.

And basic decency seems to have gone the way of Saab sedans – have you noticed?

Young people in particular rarely say “excuse me” as they shoulder-bump you out of their way. Maybe their ever-present ear buds are to blame. I promise to be more understanding, I swear. I will try to lead by example, not snark.

More and more, I tell friends, “Aren’t you glad you grew up when we did – the movies, the music, the cheap six-packs?”

Relax. I’m not saying everything was better back then, but certain things were. There was boredom. There were idle moments.

No one had a math tutor or a private batting coach. Weekends weren’t devoted to three-day baseball tournaments in some dusty suburb of hell.

On a summer day, you’d ride off on your Schwinn and never look back. For kicks, you’d drag a stick along a fence….maybe build a tree fort. Buy a batch of pixie sticks — orange, grape, lemon.  

The only suggestive thing on TV was Barbara Eden’s see-through britches. And there was a layer underneath.

Didn’t care.

And we all laughed at the same shows.

Now, there is so much TV, little of it funny.

Every day, some obscure show I never heard of is being nominated for an Emmy. At parties, I make up names for streaming shows that don’t even exist.

“So, what are you watching lately?” someone asks.

“’Eels,’” I say.

“‘Eels?’ What’s what?”

“Bryan Cranston plays an eel poacher,” I explain. “But it’s really about our complicated relationship with relationships.”


“Very dark,” I say. “It’ll make you want to kill yourself.”

“What service?”

“Jax,” I say. “Used to be Max. But they changed the name.”

By then, the other person is swirling their Sav Blanc, tilting their head, looking at me quizzically, the way White Fang does. “

Is this guy for real?” they’re thinking.

So real.

Congrats to all those coming to the Gin & Tonic Society bash on Saturday. Again, we have a sellout. When we were first planning it, our host Eileen asked when I’d like to hold it. I said, “Let’s wait till the worst heat wave on record.” So we did. Shady yard. Late kickoff. Lots of ice. We’ll be fine. Oh, and Lynnmaria will be making those dazzling purple gin drinks again (photo above). See you soon. Cheers

16 thoughts on “Kiss Me Like You Mean It

  1. When I clean up on our condo grounds and the immediate neighborhood I use an old fashioned broom and rake. Leaf blowers are against my religion. As for the rest, sometimes indulgence in nostalgia is warranted, and in our case especially so! I recall when passersby on the sidewalk made eye contact, nodded their greetings, or simply smiled. Not all social norms are spiritually or morally availing, but many of them are necessary or fundamental by way of shared standards and practices of social manners or etiquette that directly and indirectly affirm our shared humanity if not humaneness and human dignity.

  2. Thanks for this wide-ranging post! I went from goose bumps at Carl’s dark prediction to smiles at pixie sticks and Barbara’s britches. Only you could have woven all that together so beautifully. I predict someone will steal your Eels idea and sell it to Netflix for millions. Hope they get a good residuals deal.

  3. This post! Bravo! Jax…that’s too funny! Why does everyone always ask what you’re watching? I was at a dinner party with my oldest, bestest friends (we go back many decades) and several times they were all talking about a show I’d never heard of. I kept wondering if anyone noticed the moss all over my face from the rock I’d evidently crawled out from under. And cheers to growing up in the late 60’s and early 70’s. You hit the nail right on the head.

  4. This is so hilarious, I just recently heard another rant about the inability to find anything entertaining to watch despite the multitude of streaming channels. Alas, the charm of the past is that it is the past. Chris, I always love reading your posts, I find them immensely entertaining, moving and astute. One last thing, Pixie Sticks! I haven’t thought about that candy in ages, what’s better than eating fruit flavored sugar straight from a colorful straw? Thanks fir the memory.

  5. “Point is, there are no quiet moments in America anymore. There are no crickets. No train whistles. Just a thumpy disenchantment that in no way resembles art.”

    That thumpy disenchantment is what lulls you to sleep on a train ride.

  6. The beautiful portrait of White Fang, another photo of too cute Cakes enjoying an ice cream cone, your description of a more meaningful kid culture in the past and the wonderful quote from Carl Sagan all indicate one thing to me: Chris Erskine knows where true north is located!!! Thank you.

  7. Wow…awesome column! It is almost eerie how spot-on Carl Sagan was…. And, “And we all laughed at the same shows.” I often think this one thing is something that divides us, that keeps us from finding common ground – it used to be that we talked with our friends, family and co-workers about the shows we watched the night before. It didn’t matter if we were liberal or conservative, a tree-hugger or a corporate hack, a Christian or a Hindu – we all laughed and cried and critiqued the same shows. And, what is with these Emmy nominations??? Love that you make up names for shows! Chris, thanks for the laughs and the pithy analysis of the world around us.

  8. Aaaaaaah the dog days of Summer. How the heat rises, energizing fragments of memories that lie just at your fingertips…

    Return Of A Zephyr

    When your blood is razor thin
    Warmth surrounds you, days begin
    With blasts of light pouring in
    Ambition wanes, dismounts its horse
    You laze for hours without remorse
    Heat a four letter word, of course
    Even clouds look stretched and tired
    Cool water seems to have retired
    Weather like bar-b-que—coal fired
    Clothing mounts its rack to sleep
    You make few promises to keep
    The nights’ slow hours run long and deep;

    No breeze, it’s silent, like the moon
    Time skips a beat, and all too soon
    It’s hot again—a blazing noon
    You meet yourself going end to end
    Seconds on fire, they each subtend
    The next minutes, how will it end?…
    In times impropriety
    And wilding sweep of gayety—
    Oasis—G & T Society:
    Garden wafts of original sin
    Clink of ice, lime, splash of gin
    Love’s tonic, at last, comes again…

    See you Saturday, my friend.

  9. “end to end? “ “Around each bend”
    Is where one falters, brought up short
    By the latest climate report
    Predictions of heat wave’s le mort
    Absent, like the holy grail
    And thus we look for things that sail
    Above the fray , like rain and hail
    Whoever thought that one would dream
    Of Summer ice, and not ice cream?
    Amid this constant cloud off steam?
    Yet, how lovely it would seem…
    Oh well, any one can scheme
    In blinding warmth, is hail like Brail ?
    Messaging a Summer sale?
    Like G&T’s, too cold to fail?
    I would take both—they answer the mail
    And so…on Saturday…here comes Gale.

  10. You have hit on the parenting issue of the decade—all creatures need time to PLAY & STARE aimlessly at the wall…🤫🤗

  11. Chris, your story about growing up and riding your bike into the sunset, was one of my happiest childhood memories also. Thank you for the memories. L’chaim

  12. “Honestly, does anyone find leaf blowers one bit musical?”

    Answer…No, I find them a LOT annoying. I will vote for any candidate whose platform calls for outlawing them. Or at the very least putting silencers on them.

  13. Memories of hearing the train at a distance in Chatsworth, so soothing! There’s so many streaming services and you have to pay and pay and pay and forget until you get all those recurring charges. Just read your column good enough entertainment!

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