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The Middle Ages

The younger daughter is leaving L.A. for Cincinnati. It can't be because of my jokes, can it?

In our last installment, I was mentioning how much I wouldn't miss my younger daughter when she moves away, which seemed a statement cloaked in irony and denial — like so much of my life.

As stated then, I won't miss her much. And I'm standing by that. She leaves behind $3 trillion in credit card debt and delinquent college loans. "She over tips," her mother explained, which I guess is a reasonable explanation for some of it.

Seeking liquidity, I sold my daughter's car the other day. It had a blown engine and $600 worth of designer shoes in the trunk, making the car's contents worth almost as much as the vehicle itself. Obviously, it wasn't much of a ride, but she was surrounded by half a ton of good German steel, which is almost as effective as irony and denial.

In its last days, the old German sedan smelled like sauerkraut and beets. But it let her down only once, when coolant got into its bloodstream in downtown Los Angeles on a frantic Friday night. The idiot tow-truck driver wouldn't accept her auto club card. It might've been the final sign that it was time for her to go.

Now she's off soon to Cincinnati to join her college boyfriend and chase, together, what's left of the American Dream. To say that I'm not a little envious would be a total lie. Starting over has always had a certain appeal to me. Like watching apples slowly ripen.

Seems like yesterday that the little red-haired girl was off to kindergarten, a momentous step. Turns out that didn't change life all that much. Too soon she was off to college, and that did change things. Fortunately, she returned after graduating; we were whole again.

That her move to Cincinnati seems a more permanent, life-tethering decision has not gone unnoticed.

"I'm fine with it," insists my wife, Posh, from the couch, where she has been in a fetal position since the news arrived before the holidays, delivered by Marines at the front door. Each day she lights another candle.

In her idle moments, my wife goes online to price Ohio real estate and gets that Camelot look in her eyes. As if anyone can just pull up stakes and move off to the dreamy Midwest?

Let me just say that there are some bargains to be had back there. For the price you'd pay for a three-bedroom fixer on some over-baked hillside in Palmdale, you can purchase one of the Great Lakes and 100 head of livestock. The way things have been going, they might even throw in the Bengals.

I never minded the simple pastoral pleasures of the Middle West. I like a town that rots a little when it rains. A place with old mares in the pasture. Rusty buckets. Meadows.

"There is more to the country than its coasts," Christopher Hitchens once noted.

Never had the pleasure myself, but people who have been to Cincinnati boast that it's got a terrific vibe and a vibrant restaurant scene.

That certainly speaks to me. When I stake out new places to live, the first thing I always ask: "How're the restaurants? Are they vibrant? Do they serve pizzas topped by what look to be lawn clippings? Are the waiters a bit dismissive, and do they accidentally put their thumb in your soup as they serve it?"

If the answers are yes, I'm all in. In fact, that's pretty much how we ended up in L.A.

Los Angeles has been the relationship that's shaped my life — abusive yet enlightened. That I stick around must mean I enjoy it. Like Jesus, I find salvation in forgiving the Romans, no matter how much they misbehave or cut me off in traffic.

Look, no one believes in the benefits of moving around more than me. Chicago, Miami, New Orleans, even Des Moines. I've done significant time in all of them, and the only way to appreciate a place is to have other places to measure it against.

Life is adventure, life is risk. Life is starting over in unfamiliar places: new tastes, new friends, new ways to make chili on bright autumn afternoons.

One thing I know, you can't stand still. People move on — our children more than most. Always leaving, sometimes coming back, making life choices that can curdle our hearts....

Jokingly, her little brother says that my jokes probably drove his sister away. I say they probably kept her around.

Eventually, one of us will prove to be right.

chris.erskine@latimes.com

Twitter: @erskinetimes

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on February 06, 2016, in the Features section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "A big change that might not be a joke - THE MIDDLE AGES" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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