Chris Erskine: The view from Club 60

By Chris Erskine - Syndicated columnist

Chris Erskine is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. (Los Angeles Times/MCT)

Driving down into the city at dusk, into that rosy quilt of L.A. lights. Twinkle-twinkle, little town … how I wonder what I’ve found.

Feeling Raymond Chandler — obviously — feeling a little Leonard Cohen as well.

Going to miss Mr. Cohen, who died the other day. He had a wry humor and a belchy voice that seemed to come out of the back end of an old truck. A genius is what he was. I preferred his work over Dylan.

Most everybody’s favorite song-sonnet from the Cohen collection:

Your faith was strong but you needed proof,

You saw her bathing on the roof,

Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you.

She tied you to a kitchen chair,

She broke your throne, and she cut your hair,

And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah.

I am a collector of wry lyrics, vintage cars and rare children. Seemed a banner week for such things.

For instance, the old Camaro passed the smog test, a significant shocker. Vegas was giving 10-1 that the car would fail the smog test — 25-1 that it would actually burst into flames — after which I’d be thumbing rides with an empty guitar case slung across my back. Drivers are attracted by that and quick to pull over: “Sure, I’ll pick up that scruffy troubadour. Looks too old to be much trouble.”

Which is true. Last week, I hit 60, and I’m not much trouble, though for two months I’ve strung my buddy Bittner along, convincing him my birthday was more imminent than it actually was.

Bittner kept buying me drinks and picking up the tab for happy hour egg rolls and such. It was really something to watch, the way he bought in. Worked out so well I think I’ll have another birthday next month.

But last week, I finally joined Club 60. Like my car, I make strange noises in the morning and my emissions are a little higher than they should be. Coming out of the shower the other day, I took a quick inventory in the steamy mirror. Shoulders? Strong. Stomach? OK. Back end? Like an aging emu.

So, all in all, 60 seems OK. In lieu of a red Lamborghini, which is what I really needed, my two sons made me dinner to mark the occasion: rib eyes, asparagus gift-wrapped in bacon, macaroni salad. It was a feast fit for a deranged king — cooked perfectly, then cooked a little more, just the way I like it.

The boys’ secret to searing steaks is to slap them on the grill, then watch the Lakers on TV till the fire department shows up. At that point, they know the steaks are almost done.

“Delicious” is too weak a word, not just for the beef but for the entire dining experience. We did pause at one point to tell the little guy that, when he fetches a dessert fork for himself, maybe he could fetch a dessert fork for everyone at the table. But instilling that sort of selflessness doesn’t happen in one day, and we feel he’s making great strides. Next week’s lesson: How to hold the door for strangers. Coming soon: How to wash a water glass.

Later in the same week, my lovely and patient older daughter nearly one-upped her brothers with a surprise party at my favorite clangy saloon in Little Tokyo. Had I been ambushed by orangutans with machetes, I could not have been more surprised.

Twinkle-twinkle, little bar …

Not since the 1974 Oakland A’s have we seen so many thirsty malcontents gathered in one small bar area. There were old friends, squirrely friends, tall ones too. I almost feel a poem coming on, a Jimmy Stewart moment. I am as inspired by this festivus of funny friends as I am by my rare and generous children.

In 60 years, there are a few things I regret: Majoring in beer and pizza, for instance, was a bad idea — at least for me. Or betting 50 bucks on what turned out to be a purple unicorn at the recent Breeders’ Cup.

Betrothing that Camaro turned out to be kind of a life mistake, as is expecting an angry, jam-packed metropolis like this to ever be the kind of rustic retreat I actually prefer.

But I sure never regret these four kids, who twinkle and glow a little more with each passing moon.

“Why me?” I sometimes ask a sky full of stars. “How did I get so lucky?”


Chris Erskine is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. (Los Angeles Times/MCT) Erskine is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. (Los Angeles Times/MCT)

By Chris Erskine

Syndicated columnist

Email Chris Erskine at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter at @erskinetimes.

Email Chris Erskine at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter at @erskinetimes.

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