(Editor’s note: A reader sent this column by Chris Erskine that can be found on his blog https://chriserskinela.com. Erskine is a nationally known humor columnist and editor who retired from the Los Angeles Times in 2020 after 30 years. His column is a love song, in a way to Pacific Palisades, and I thought readers would enjoy it.)
BY CHRIS ERSKINE
I think we can all agree that watermelon — slushied in a blender, then served with a sprig of mint and a splash of gin — is the best icy alms we can offer ourselves on sultry summer nights.
I think we can all agree that the songs we know by heart are the best songs, the only poems we can ever really recite.
I think we can all agree that “O-o-h Child,” by the Five Stairsteps, is the best song to hear blasting from a passing car, though Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” is a close second.
I admire songwriters so much. They are the modern poets. And though I enjoy actual poets (try Kim Addonizio or Stephen Dunn), the only poems I can fully recite are by Paul Simon, Carole King and Jimmy Webb.
I hope we can all agree on that.
I think we can all agree, as Peggy Noonan recently noted, that we don’t want to see office life completely end in America. “There is something demoralizing about all the empty offices, something post-greatness about them. All the almost-empty buildings in all the downtowns — it feels too much like a metaphor for decline,” Noonan wrote in the Wall Street Journal, a daily paean to office life.
Yet, I think we can all agree that we don’t miss commuting, or the toll it takes on our relationships, or our arteries, or our summers.
I think we can all agree that LA can be a hard place to love sometimes, easy on the eyes, but difficult to really get to know, so showboaty and brittle and dense that you can’t really get your arms around it.
Plus, every place closes too early.
I also think that if you appreciate variety, you’ll probably love LA, a tapestry of cultures, tastes and nutty opinions – at heart, a giant kitchen offering a hundred ways to make curry.
I think we can all agree that the economy is scary as hell right now, and we don’t really understand how the Fed juking interest rates and making homes less affordable battles inflation.
Yet, I think we can all agree that gas prices are finally skidding and the stock market is showing a pulse.
I think we can all agree that, each week, there is one really bad oh-my-gawd development in the news.
Chronic bad news aside, I hope we can all agree that a deft and stubborn American ethos will prevail, as it did in the 1930s, and again in the 1970s, which were much rockier than we might remember.
Meanwhile, wherefore, O summer’s day? (Emily Dickinson) Wherefore, O gin? (me)
There’s a wistfulness to early August, puzzlement over how fast summers roar by. This has been a good summer, amid the muckity bad news that seems to run on some sort of film loop.
Often, you’re left wondering: What’s sicker: Our planet or its people?
Look, I see evidence of God everywhere I look, especially in Pacific Palisades, though that new 6th Street Bridge is running a close second.
The Palisades is known for its bluffs and storybook downtown and the turbulent passions of its populace.
I mean, you can tell from the way Palisadians hold hands when they walk the dog that they’re a vibrant breed of people, hearty of stock and brimming with fresh ideals.
Rick Caruso lives here, as does my buddy Verge, as did Kobe Bryant and a rash of other celebrities, driven out of Beverly Hills by the general trashiness of the place. Never did care much for Beverly Hills.
The Palisades is the only town in Southern California that you can imagine turning up in a Nicholas Sparks novel. I don’t mean that as criticism. I was telling Suzanne that I want to build a lighthouse near her place on the bluffs, to keep confused sailors off the rocks and away from the better restaurants.
Brick by brick, I’ll build this landmark till my hands are coarse and strong. Since it’s in LA, the lighthouse will appear to be wearing some sort of silver bridal train, ala Disney Hall and SoFi. It’ll look as if it just blew in off the sea.
The beacon’s mirrors will be French, as the best ones usually are. Its ribbons of light will be visible from deep space, and will welcome aliens, as LA is prone to do.
So, yeah, nothing special this lighthouse. Just a small gesture really. A trinket.
A lyric in the summer wind.
Lucy brought Smartacus and me the best bruschetta the other day. So simple: Tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. So if you have a surplus of tomatoes, you might give it a try. Meanwhile, think I’ll have a bruschetta-tinged bloody Mary and think about football season. For past columns, books and gin glasses, please go to ChrisErskineLA.com. Cheers!
Thank you! Every word was “bingo” as well as lovely. Hope you’ll print any more of Mr. Erkine’s work that you think hits home.
Love your article Chris- I also love the watermelon slush in a blender but with vodka
not gin ! Salud!
That was fun, too bad the author doesn’t know that Rick Caruso lives in Brentwood. Heck, based on what Caruso did to the Palisades, he doesn’t even understand the Palisades.
I love LA! My first trip to LA was during winter. I was 13 and came from Chicago with its black slush and razor wind that chased you around corners. The plane was an old prop jet with portable stairs to disembark. Stepping out of the plane to the top of the stairs in the old Hollywood/Burbank airport was stepping into a fairy tale, complete with a panorama of palm trees, clean roofs and bright sunshine. I was stunned! The other passengers had to go around me – I couldn’t move – It was Oz!
I’m no longer 13 and have traveled the world but I still love that feeling of coming home as the plane descends over the city. It’s a much bigger ‘Oz’ but it still stuns me. Living in Pacific Palisades makes it perfect. We definitely got the best of Oz! Chris Erskine is right. If he needs workers, I’m ready to help him build that lighthouse.