Those Tahoe Eyes

Like Paris Hilton, she gives off an heiress vibe — stinky whiffs of aristocracy — plus the flippy stoicism of the late-night window girl at Tommy’s drive-thru. She’s complicated is what I’m saying.

You’ve met White Fang, right?

When we last checked in, my dog had quaffed my front yard like a perfectly chilled oyster cocktail. Just opened her throat. Slurp. Gone.

Seriously, I’d sell this stupid beast on eBay, save for two things: 1) She’s not that stupid and in fact might be the smartest Erskine ever; 2) She belonged to my late son. When I see her, I see him.

And so it goes. Suburban life gets the best of me sometimes. As I tell my kids: If you’re looking for the perfect dad, you’ve found the wrong dude.


White Fang. Insane. Beguiling. At war with herself. Funny how all those attributes often bundle together in successful people.

White Fang is better looking than all but the most-stunning celebrities. Reminds me sometimes — with her icy expression and Tahoe eyes — of the countess Melania Trump. Mrs. Trump has a wild, wolfish quality. A smile rarely creases her exquisite face.

And so it is with White Fang.

I wonder sometimes if Fang is the reincarnation of some ancient disruptor. Cleopatra perhaps? Or a fiery British vixen (Anne Boleyn, say, or the cunning and mischievous Lady Macbeth)?

“Come you spirits, that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here…”

Leave it to me to rescue the reincarnation of a sleepwalking fictional psychopath, entrapped in a sulky spitefulness.

Did I mention the lawn? Basically, White Fang strip-mined it. Talk about disrupters.

In a gesture of forgiveness — and WASPish futility — I just remade the front yard, leaving room for a small emerald throne for Lady Fang.

Will keep you posted.

I suppose that, like Old Man Macbeth himself, I am easily manipulated. Suzanne, my current consort, believes I am just naive to the seamier realities of the modern world, which have a lot in common with the barbarianism of the ancients.

Got stuck in traffic the other day, while rushing westward to relieve the lovely and patient older daughter from the burdens of another Friday night chasing Cakes around the couch.

Cakes is my grand passion, the first daughter of my first daughter, head strong and driven, with what they call a “vaulting ambition.” Burning ambition is a Scots-Irish thing. Like beards and beer.

Fortunately, she also has great gobs of russet hair.

Anyway, I was called upon to watch my granddaughter on a Friday night, while Cakes’ exhausted parents sought refuge in the restaurant Republique, a hot mess mid-Wilshire eatery I can barely spell, much less afford.

My daughter and her husband (Finn) have a soft spot for high-end restaurants. Remember when they took me to the Venice sushi spot, where they served live shrimp? Swear to gawd, their little antlers were still moving as the lovely and patient older daughter spritzed them with lemon and said a quiet prayer.

That’s fine dining in L.A., I guess.

For me, safer to watch my grandkid. Off to the pier again, we got Cakes her first tattoo, then dinner.

At Big Dean’s – a 5-star dive by the beach — we dined on chicken fingers and the kind of cheesy burgers that, after a minute, meld with your hands. To put a burger like this down would be to lose the reins completely – you’d never get it back under control again. So you snuggle and hug that juicy, marvelous burger till the very last bite, then reach for a dozen napkins.

That’s my idea of living well. Twelve bucks, plus a beer.

All went great, as toddler dates go. There was one moment, when I tried to win Cakes a stuffed animal at the pier arcade, and I turned around and she was gone. CAKES! Suzanne arrested her without incident.

An hour later, after a quick bath, I couldn’t pull Cakes’ PJs up over her still-damp legs, and I flashed back to when my own kids were young and damp like this, and after an extremely long day, you had to feed, bathe and clothe them, then fall asleep reading them bedtime stories.

What a life it is to be needed like that.

I guess that’s why I babysit for free, in an era where experienced sitters like me usually pocket a c-note or two at the end of a super-long evening.

To be needed. That’s all grandparents really want. Just to be needed again.

Come you spirits…

Happy to report that Steve Searles’ memoir “What the Bears Know” hit the USA Today best-seller list this week. Thanks to those who supported this book, which is about the wilderness, co-existence with wildlife, fear, courage and many other things.

Though the book has been hard to find the past two weeks, the second printing shipped out Monday and is arriving in bookstores. We appreciate your patience.

Also, if your book club would like Steve and me to come talk to you some afternoon or evening, please email us at We’ll accommodate as many groups as we can. Copies are available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. {Pages} in Manhattan Beach has signed copies it will ship to you. Meanwhile, I’ll be at the Santa Monica Library on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 6 pm to discuss and sign the book. {Pages} will have copies for sale then. Thanks to all.  

16 thoughts on “Those Tahoe Eyes

  1. Ah, to be needed. My husband and o are about to move from our beloved Sierra Madre home with a perfect view of the San Gabriel foothills (sunset on the mountain folds is a sight of rare beauty) to join OUR lovely and patient daughters and all of our four young grandchildren. The older ones (8 and 6) have a pair of grandparents already there, but the littles (4 and 2) just moved from here to join their cousins and so we must follow. Pretty sure we will have toddler dates in our future, but in the heart of the blue grass of Kentucky.

  2. #95! Congrats! I’m plugging it wherever I can, including on my on post today. Today you feature two subjects who give you endless material. Thanks for sharing that material so beautifully.

  3. Another beautiful post, much like the four beautiful females you write about in it. Their intelligence and fierce love of you are something they all have in common. You are a lucky man. Thanks for sharing it all with us twice a week! You have made Wednesday and Saturday mornings the high points of my week.

  4. You have a special way of making your readers feel a part of your life. I go back along way with you and when I read your posts those memories and your current life are intertwined. I’m happy for you.

  5. Yes….I will go on duty, watching granddaughters, in an hour or so….You are so right…nothing like being needed.

  6. From mild grousing about White Fang to a celebration of the sweet recollected bliss of raising kids triggered by with the immediate bliss of caring for grandchildren. Snuck up on me reading it like it snuck up on you experiencing it. I don’t know whether it’s in the cards yet for me and Susan, but he’s engaged, so we’re part of the way there!

  7. To quote my father-in-law
    “If I knew how much fun grandkids were I would have skipped my kids”
    I live by that quote plus “grandchildren are the REAL CHILDREN”
    I love this column.

  8. I ordered the bear book from Amazon. It’s a beautiful book! Are you and Steve doing any appearances in Orange County?

  9. It took me a while to get here. That huge lemon pudding of a moon pouring curd on the cusp of All Hallows Eve makes for slower going on such a viscous weekend evening. Wooo wooo! That owl in the pines outside my bedroom window also seems to feel the lush heaviness of the night. These mild late October Santa Anas are so soft and lovely. If I saw that dog’s citrine eyes glowing in the purple dark of the garden, it would complete the impression that Fall nights like this indeed have a thousand eyes. As for the heart that has only one, herein see one night’s appreciation…
    You follow your passions, indulge you whims, always with a slight remove, a little tongue-in-cheek, puff of humor, burst of emotion or heartfelt humanity. There’s rarely too much muscle, and just enough art and cultural affluence to counter the male athletic sweatiness—the dirty sox syndrome; and such. This balance coupled with affectionate treatment of small things makes for interesting and provocative reading, and sometimes fun. The everyman commentary, so acutely, cleverly,, and adroitly rendered with emotional honesty, makes your prose irresistibly attractive. When the little girl’s smooth cheeks appear in picture and word, it lights things up. No gelid moon is needed to discern that all eyes are upon her. She is illuminate and seminal, and radiates a peachy glow that overwhelms the ambiance of the narrative. Thanks for using your gift to light up our days and nights. In eye and ear, then out the fingers. It’s great how it goes.

  10. All Hallows Eve

    These nights, black death is fantasy
    The end of things after-life without parole
    Vegetables become glowing faces
    Their toothy masks glowing in the dark
    And wraiths of giant beings rise and sway
    To haunt the mists of imagination;
    The moon has a sallow hollow glint
    In its ever-changing eye, and birds
    Of the dark burn like coal in the pit
    The shadows provide, their shining eyes
    Alive with hunger, needing the burning
    Angst of fear to power their flights;

    Autumn has consumed dulcit prosedy
    Its orange furnace raging in the soul
    Of the sunsets, the mind of spaces
    Become ashy with a blowing stark
    Uncertainty, for change is in the day
    The hight’s chill indifference loss to feed upon;
    Suddenly, unknowns appear in each hint
    Of the time to come, the ghosts of words
    You never dreamed of in Summer sit
    Like vultures in the caverns of your sighs
    And the wistful need for sweets churning
    In desire roars like fire into the night’s
    Misgivings, sugar of its fleet malaise
    Like candy, flooding uneasy senses
    With a salivary fog—like the ways
    To come, a liquid shift that commences
    What has already been cooly undone
    In the rouge undress of the setting sun….

    —-Trick, or treat ?

  11. Trick, alas. … “Toothy masks grinning…time de plume”…the text editor goblins are writhing on the page. Happy Halloween !!(is this an oxymoron?)

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