Hope and Pumpkin Pie

As you know, we live in a town where freeways catch fire. At one local supermarket, I noticed that they patched a pothole with a bunch of duct tape, so I have zero doubts that Los Angeles is up to the task of repairing a simple blown-out freeway.

What they’ll do, I presume, is look for a guy like that John Wayne dude who quickly fixed the 10 freeway after the Northridge quake.

Either that, or they’ll go down to the Home Depot and hire a bunch of those guys hanging around looking for day jobs. Tell you what, those would be the hardest-working laborers you could ever find. And they’ll show up too – on holidays, or when it storms. Not sure you could say the same for Caltrans.

And onward we go, looking for hope and concrete.

Meanwhile, I hear malaria is making a comeback, and dog-sized lizards are reportedly threatening the South. Don’t panic. You never know how these things are going to turn out.

I mean, remember when we thought it would never rain again? Or that Britney Spears’ memoir would be a huge disappointment? I mean, has Britney even read a book? Now she has the No. 1 bestseller.

America, huh?

Sometimes our expectations can backflip us into humbleness. Sometimes not.

Let me just say, I’m happy for Miss Spears. No one is much good at handling fame, let alone a teenager from Louisiana, hip-thrust into the limelight at such a tender age and suddenly hanging out with Justin Timberlake. No kid should ever suffer that.

As you know, margarine is only one molecule away from being paint. Similarly, America is only one molecule away from being a complete mess. Always been that way, always will.

So why are so many people insistent on coming here? The Pilgrims for instance? And the Irish? And the Australians most of all?

As I like to point out, no one is really from America. The very first humans came over on a land bridge linking Asia and Alaska. We’re all relative newcomers. We’re all pledges. And the hazing! It’s never easy being the newcomer, we all know that.

Great books will see us through. Props to all those who have supported Miss Spears’ literary marvel. Similarly, thanks to those who have purchased Steve Searles’ terrific memoir, the one I have blah-blah-blah’ed about for several months now. It offers truth and insights too, though we somehow left out a chapter on Steve’s time with Justin Timberlake.

If I knew then what I know now, I’d have also included a chapter on Taylor Swift’s favorite ice cream. Also, some info about what Taylor likes in men (apparently everything).

Taylor Swift’s dating checklist:

–Is he breathing?

–Does he have a car?

–Can he grow a mustache?

Honestly, I admire Taylor Swift quite a lot, as I’ve said before. For many people, she is magic. And the world needs more magic.

We also need more books.

Unlike us, books breathe forever. To me, they are the most beautiful form of eternal life.

That’s why I’m so drawn to writing, as well as to bookstores and libraries. They are cathedrals to me, with the same resonance, the same connection to big ideas and to faith.

Faith is everything. The older I get, the more I believe that faith is everything.

Next week, we will gather to celebrate faith again. Not necessarily the Zarathustras or Martin Luthers of the world. Or anything written down really, not the Scriptures, though they often speak meaningfully to our hearts and minds.

What we actually celebrate at Thanksgiving is the resounding idea that, in America, everything will turn out OK. That it will deliver on our dreams. Maybe not as it once did. Or maybe, for some, better than it ever has before.

In the spirit of all that, the lovely patient older daughter is hosting a grand feast for friends and family. To ensure laughter (and abundant beer), she has even included some Aussies, who will play the part of grateful Pilgrims.

Like her late mother, my daughter is a very talented chef. She cooks in octaves of flavor, when I only know a few lousy notes.

But I have offered to bring along some Cornish game hens, splashed with Grand Marnier (Suzanne’s idea). I’ll smoke them over red oak in my backyard, another place of magic and faith.

My daughter is thinking about it. In fact, given her love for food, I suspect that is all she is thinking about right now.

Boom! I’m on it, kiddo.

From our home to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.

Please join me today at Flintridge Bookstore, 858 Foothill Blvd. in La Canada, between 1 and 3 p.m. (Nov. 18), where I’ll be signing “What the Bears Know,” the wise and warm life story of “Bear Whisperer” Steve Searles. You can also find signed copies of the book at {Pages} in Manhattan Beach, which will wrap and mail your copy. It’s also available at Vroman’s in Pasadena, or online by clicking here. Also, Steve and I will be chatting about and signing the book Dec. 5, 6-7 p.m., at the Santa Monica Library, 601 Santa Monica Blvd. The event is free.

The Dec. 2 Calabasas hike is still on. Details going out this week. To join, please email me at Letters@ChrisErskineLA.com.

15 thoughts on “Hope and Pumpkin Pie

  1. Just when you think it’s hopeless for America to get its act together (see: US Congress), someone comes along like a Steve Searles, a Chris Erskine, a Catty Cakes, and you remember why there is always hope for us. Happy Thanksgiving to you, Chris. Keep the inspiration and the smiles coming! We are thankful for you.

  2. Chris, I picked up an autographed copy of What the Bears Know at Pages in Manhattan Beach last week. Great store with loads of interesting books to recommend – plus they really like you there!

      1. Happy Thanksgiving to you, Suzanne, & your family! You are blessed in having so many who love you

  3. Congratulations on the book! It’s a real page turner. I’ve been to Mammoth many times since I was a kid learning to ski. I love hearing about the Cask and Cleaver and his exploits. I asked my students what are they are thankful for– I’m thankful for you warming up my Saturday mornings, your wit, and all those fun hikes. Happy Thanksgiving to you.

  4. It would be lovely if you’d see to Once Upon a Time bookstore having copies of your book.
    Yes, they are Montrose, oldest childrens’ bookstore in America.
    Please pretty please.
    Thank you.

  5. Chris: Please consider coming out to south bay ~ torrance ~ to the Sandpiper Bookstore ~ we would love to see you out here for a book signing ! ~ kr

  6. I love reading your column, so many thoughts lots of us have but can’t write them as beautifully and clever like you !
    I love Cake’s crazy wardrobe taste, just like my granddaughters! She’ll never be in a fashion magazine (good!). She won’t wear anything but rain boots. Happy thanksgiving!

  7. This is a fine place to stop by on such a cloudy indifferent November Saturday morning, pockmarked as it is by brief cold snits of rain. Yes and yes to the Britany—Taylor ravings, and all the rest. Its mood is amiable and spacious, spiritually warm. And that picture of Cakes…What is cooking in that lovely head? There is more than one intriguing cook in the Erskine tribe; food for thought this Thanksgiving Day while basking in the fumes of Grand Marnier. I’m with Suzanne, who has such delicious editorial culinary taste. You should always listen to her..

    Spirits Rise

    One’s ghosts gather for the holidays
    To come, as Fall continues to fade
    Loose piles of leaves swishing restlessly
    Under the tattered Sycamores
    Maples having flamed, burned, died out
    As the firs look on, passively
    Their blade-thin needles squinting in
    The failing light, looking for glints
    Of ice in the ever-cooling breeze—
    Signs the grand dark opus of Winter
    Has begun to play its frigid themes
    On the crisp sound system of the wind;

    At this time of year spirits gaze
    In the windows, hide in the shade
    Flare in the vast flocks of birds that fly
    Like angry smoke on the borders
    Of perception, on a wild-haired route
    To some chaotic destiny;
    Yet, as rhey sweep and soar they begin
    To seem like entities, cloaks that hint
    Of a body’s motions, outlines that seize
    The imagination, a soundless purr
    Of memory in pale morning dreams
    Now, haunting thought as time rescinds
    Autumn’s promise of largess in slow
    Erosions of ease, a great feast’s vertigo
    Ahead. As off to Winter we go
    Old spirits melting in the snow
    More love ahead, for all we know…

    May the warmth and pleasure of the holiday enrich and comfort you. We have so much.

  8. And in the same leafy vein…

    A New Lover at The Door

    The Sycamores are busy rusting out
    In the dusty faded weakened slants
    Of November sun, and the first
    Big rainstorm of cold wet blowing
    Achiness is said to be bearing
    Down on us with an ominous
    Darkness that is almost always
    Magnified in the mind by virtue
    Of its contrast with the genial
    Warmth and mild tenor of Autumn;

    Winter rarely muscles in without
    Some preliminary incidence
    Of warning, be it frost or thirst
    For moisture, or a wan dry slowing
    Of daylight, the rouge sunsets tearing
    The crimson sky apart, purple blush
    Along the horizon’s grainy haze
    The first sign that light that ensues
    Will come apart, that things will fall
    As they have promised since the first strum
    Of Autumn’s golden locks by Winter’s hands
    Unleashed the icy chill of their demands;
    Light like hair flowing down and thinning
    Trees newly bare send their leaves spinning
    Like old love, through cool indifferent air
    With the sense now change is everywhere
    Just over the horizon—on the run
    Unable to capture the fleeing sun
    A brisk new lover at the door
    Demanding heat, who could ask for more?

  9. Chris, you are correct, the world needs more magic and that’s why you are so beloved. Seriously, you brighten up my day! Happy Thanksgiving to you, Suzanne and the family, I’m certain the Cornish hens will be a hit.

  10. Everything will be OK. And if America does not deliver on our dreams, and if we don’t give up, it somehow grants us a dream we did not know we had. Thanks for your wisdom and laughter (hip-thrust into fame!), and Happy Thanksgiving, Chris.

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