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Man About Town: Catching summer by a crawfish tail

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The summer — as do all summers — has blown by, the days growing shorter as they grow ever sweeter.

July seems interminable, then August arrives and the back-to-school sales start, and we're suddenly returning to The Routine. I hate routines.

The little guy finished summer school, then finished camp and now he's got the finest thing a 9-year-old could ever have: nothing to do.

"Do you think heaven," he wondered the other day, "has different sections for dogs and baseball players?"

"No," his mother said curtly.

Such idle time worries my wife, Posh. She insists that the only way today's kids will succeed is to be 100% busy and hyper-focused, because as she sees it, all of China is biting at their heels.

I argue that China would never specifically target our children. They're too argumentative. Besides, I say, the future belongs to those with big ideas, and kids need idle time to dream and wonder and conjure up big ideas.

Last I checked, neither side was budging.

Now I've found that most happiness begins with the mouth, so to make peace, I take them all out to eat, in one of the minivans — we now have two. I don't know quite how that happened, just that there are two minivans in the driveway. I told Posh we could take them out to the desert to race them, but she prefers that stretch of the 134 Freeway through Glendale.

As you may know, a minivan handles L.A.'s Euclidean angles better than any other vehicle, because when it comes upon a street corner it can't negotiate, it just nudges the curb, hydrant or junkie out of the way. In that sense, it really is the ultimate driving machine.

That makes a minivan ideal for snaking our way to Melrose Avenue, where the lovely and patient older daughter has spotted some all-you-can-eat-drink-barf Sunday evening crawfish deal.

"I'm in!" screams her younger sister Vi$a.

Next thing you know, we're in one of the minivans. Vi$a's friend Amanda is along, daughter of Ulf, whom you USC types may remember from his days on campus, where he once reportedly stole Rick Caruso's girlfriend. That's a story for another day, though Caruso confirms the incident, and Ulf has never lied to me. He simply "extends the truth."

Anyway, here I am on Melrose with my peeps — Posh, the little guy, Vi$a, Amanda, a table full of the older daughter's friends, all in their 20s, all of whom understand Kaskade (Is he a DJ? Is he a deity?), all of whom are fluent in what I call "the thumby arts," such as Instagram, which I haven't tried yet. But I really look forward to it.

"I'm in heaven!" screams the older daughter as she snaps a photo of a basket of steamy crawfish.

Let me explain the lowly crawfish. It is the village idiot of the seafood kingdom. It is a lobster without a publicist.

A crawfish is so simple and stupid it almost doesn't exist. Far as I can tell, it has no brains, but it does ooze a mustardy goo no one is quite sure about. Is that fatty deposits? Or is it the residue of Louisiana's offshore drilling?

In New Orleans, where we once resided/resode, crawfish are a cultural touchstone, a rallying point for friends and family.

There, they are heaped upon picnic tables after being boiled up with corn, potatoes and just about anything else (hotdogs, artichokes, maybe an old shoe or two).

Featherlike — lighter than even shrimp — crawfish can be consumed by the hundreds and still leave you half full. They are the most social item since beer or reefer. Or even Ulf.

Getting them is the problem. You don't see a lot of them along the bayous of Los Angeles. At our house, we order them flown in occasionally and boil them up in the same big stainless steel pots used to deep-fry turkey.

But at the Foundry restaurant on Sunday evenings, chef Eric Greenspan has been staging these $25 all-you-can-eat soirees, with a very good zydeco band and one of the most festive patio atmospheres around.

Sure, summer may be running out. But there are plenty of mud bugs and minivans left.

Just remember, most happiness begins with the mouth.

chris.erskine@latimes.com

twitter.com/erskinetimes

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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