A Boy and a Banquet

So I’m leaning across the banquet table, straining to hear the fragments of conversation from the other side, where they are asking me questions about the new book, my life, my haircut – who knows what they’re asking, because I can only half hear in the big noisy room, full of rich and chatty patrons and  decorated in orange and browns, the colors of the harvest.

So begins the banquet season. Let us pray.

Yep, banquet season, when you devote hours to half-hearing strangers over the clatter of dishes, amid compelling stories of need and charity, the requests for money I don’t really have.

There’s an attorney across the table telling me how, in a month or so, the coyotes will come feast on the Canada geese that gather around the fairway pond outside the window. It’ll be total mayhem, he says, right around Thanksgiving.

Free bird!

That’s when, for the heck of it, I decide to confess my fascination for the popular new show “The Golden Bachelor.”

For decades, I tell the table, I’ve mostly avoided reality TV, and have now broken this vow of celibacy with this cheesy show about a 71-year-old hunk picking from a harem of well-aged women, most of whom would kill for a date — but sweetly, you know, not in any messy way. Not like coyotes, though there may be some bloody overlap in that regard.

I explain how “The Golden Bachelor” is both an embarrassment and a joy. The cameras constantly catch the women whispering, “He’s so nice, isn’t he?” which is code for “I’d jump that old guy if given half the chance.”

About every other minute, the big hunk cries.

Now, I’m all for crying. Do it myself occasionally, but not every day like this guy Gerry, who like me is a sun-damaged widower and vulnerable and broken. But still…


That’s my life right now. Banquets. Books. Making small talk with strangers. Tears.

Speaking of crying, is there anything jerkier than someone speeding through a school zone?

The other day, I’m walking White Fang near the elementary school, and some parent has jumped the car line, for whatever reason — probably a good one — clogging the road, bringing our entire suburb, such that it is, to a complete standstill for a few beats of the heart.

Not sure why. Did someone’s Adderall wear off? Or maybe Mom’s coffee hadn’t quite kicked in.

In any case, a welcome relief. Once in a while everyone needs to stop and take a breath, reassess and get our wits about us – sort of a timeout for frazzled, car-pooling moms and dads.

And that’s what’s happened here, in this car line, at 8 a.m. on a cool autumn Thursday. Peace. Serenity. Goodness. Gridlock.

As it was, I was already fed up with all the Teslas speeding around the school, so much so that I considered hurling a poo bag at one of them — this $45,000 bucket of swirling electrons – as it hummed around the bend and almost into my beloved wolf-dog-muse and me.


Boys and girls, please consider this a first-hand lesson in Thoreau’s concept of civil disobedience, the kind practiced by ordinary citizens when society goes bonkers and requires corrective action at the grassroots level.


Look at the bright side. Could’ve picked up a rock.

Obviously, if California got rid of all the speeding jerks, we’d have to give up 50 congressional seats, right? Maybe even a senator. So I merely mock the idiots instead. Mentally, I throw the poo bag, yet I restrain myself from actually hurling it.

Anyway, at last count, the good guys still outnumbered the bad ones, the ratio now down to 1.5 to 1 (good vs. evil) the lowest on record, yet still a slight numerical advantage.

Take this banquet, the one where I can’t really hear much of anything. It benefits sick and impoverished children, and the stories the leaders tell, the successes they tally, put ordinary goofs like me to shame. I mean, I pay my taxes, pick up stray bits of litter, report for jury duty. That’s about it.

What do I know of life? I can barely work a doorbell.

Honestly, in a raw and capricious world, what makes less sense than a severely sick child? As I sit at this banquet, hearing stories of healing and hope, I imagine the trauma of young parents dealing with the hellish mysteries of a sick child — the injustice of it, the frustration, the little prayers, like pearls, they must secretly mutter night after night after night.

And I think of this foundation, up here on the hill by the golf course, writing big checks so that one little girl, who loves to dance, can stand up straight like the other kids, and walk proudly out to recess just like everyone else, all in a row, bumping each other — jostling, joking, laughing, living.

I think of that small pocket of sustenance that’s here – amid the world’s mayhem — for this one little girl.

And I think the world might be all right after all.

Our best-selling book, “What the Bears Know,” is in bookstores again, after a second printing. Copies are available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. {Pages} in Manhattan Beach has signed copies it will ship to you. Thanks to all.  

Coming Saturday: The best stadium in the world

10 thoughts on “A Boy and a Banquet

  1. If you didn’t already have the perfect Silver Sidekick, you would make a great Golden Bachelor, Chris! But then, White Fang would never let you go, so no. I’m pulling for the geese and the little girls!

    1. Regarding slow geese who have a fabulous skill coyotes lack – flying – I’m reminded of Eli Wallace’s truism from THE MAGNIFICENT 7: “Had God not interested for them to be sheared, he wouldn’t have made them sheep!” Ride on!

  2. Loved both the Descanso piece and Banquet! Descanso was a treasure to me while living in La Canada, my dream community in Southern California. The pumpkin glow tour was a highlight for me and especially so because October is more revered than Christmas in my family, as it is our son’s birth month!
    Keep it coming , Chris! Love having coffee with your stories!
    EL Hughes

  3. So much to unpack here.
    Not watching GB but I predict that he picks one & then runs off w a 20something.
    Agreeing w you has been far & few between of late but I’m 💯on speeding cars in school zones. I witnessed an elementary school in a quiet neighborhood where installers used the subdued street to lay out & cut a section of carpet w/o checking let-out times. Not just tire tracks but I swear that a couple even used it as a burnout pad. I’d say, let the poo bags fly but the teens in my neighborhood now pack tasers.
    Oh, & the Canada geese have now taken over the cemetery & the result aside from the smell, is a constant cleaning of grave markers so I don’t have to tell you whose side I’m on here—go coyotes.

  4. The banquet picture reveals that 99 percent of the attendees were women. If the rest of the autumn circuit is similarly populated, then I must state my admiration for your sensitivity, courage, and endurance, all of which, of course, are well established. Ditto the dog walk fantasy on drivers around town and near schools. You do this so easily and singularly well: the small and everyday writ large. And Catherine and the pumpkiin working on each other…after the gangs that hit my door last night for candy and costume approbation, i’m convinced that’s what Halloween is really about: the spicy mystery of human interaction with the unknown. Ditto the banquets….the spice girls…

  5. I’m not sure that you should be the next Golden Bachelor (yes – I watch it too), but I would pay to watch it if you were. I think the over/under on a 8-episode season of you saying, “I was just kidding when I said that!” would be about 25.

    My favorite line today: “Maybe even a senator.” Ha!

    Thanks as always.

  6. Gone On Halloween

    She’s gone, the long house is quiet
    As if Fall made the sound go down
    Its molecules no longer riot
    In her closet hangs her gown;
    The morning spaces lose their glow
    Anticipation now serene
    With emptiness that I know
    Is everything that time could mean;

    For she is life, and love’s story
    Singing in my blood—a rhyme
    That hums in the mind, a glory
    So consuming its sublime
    Presence seems, in every sense
    Consciousness, so when she leaves
    The yawning vacuum is immense
    And every atom stalls and grieves;

    It’s Halloween, tonight the haunts
    Of the past writhe, dance, and sing
    Absence what the unknown taunts
    The present with—that fear of nothing;
    Orange in the morning light
    Blackness what is up ahead
    But spirits there won’t chance tonight
    For she will be back in my bed
    And—good lord willing—love, instead
    Of ghosts wherein all life has fled;
    For. now, there’s waiting, in its stead
    And that old existential dread…

  7. Hey, Chris, leave us Tesla drivers alone. We are saving the planet for the next generation. Most of us drive very safely. There are “yahoos” driving gas guzzlers. It’s not the cars, it’s the people. Change them and change the world, which pretty much needs a reboot right now.

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