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  • The Middle Ages

Chris Erskine's 'Middle Ages' columns

Chris Erskine's 'Middle Ages' columns
Los Angeles Times columnist Chris Erskine. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
What goes into a memorable photo? What goes into a memorable fall? Well, a cold keg doesn't hurt

For all its issues, football is still our national waltz, the dance that unites us like nothing else, and there we were celebrating it again, on the soft golf course next to the venerable old stadium.

My daughter invited me to a long day at the theme park. What choice did I have?

Some friends had won four theme park tickets, and you certainly don’t let an opportunity like that slip away. In this case, the tickets were to Knott’s Berry Farm, a lovely little development hemmed in by mini-malls and freeways.

Our house has hemorrhoids and mysterious thuds. But darker threats lurk here too

If there’s a strange thump in the night, they call me. I'm like the police, they love me only when they need me. But life throws you other, worse surprises.

Back to school, where we mull important lessons from scorched souls and wayward wolves

First, I fired my muse. Then the much-anticipated "Burning Man at the Beach" event fell through. Thank goodness for my hiking club, stinky bars and the relentless optimism of loyal friends.

Meet my muse, a loving and happy presence, despite the troubling turns in her young life

The young husky doesn’t just inspire me … it’s better than that. I think she loves me, though it’s hard to tell with dogs. Their default emotion is to worship you a little.

I precook three slabs of sirloin, then herd them to the Rose Bowl. Let the games begin

For a moment, is was like a Greek tragedy, the fire from the grill, the sprinklers arcing high over the patio, me dashing for the shutoff valve and grabbing my torn schnitzel. You see now why I like fall so much?

I see signs of another fine American autumn — college sendoffs, weepy parents and AYSO

I like the cool air and the sense of impending change right now. Seems everyone we know is dropping kids at college. Woooosh, off they go to St. Louis and Philadelphia, Pomona and San Diego.

If you ask me, this sushi is a little 'bougie'

We ended up on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, too hip by half, where we searched for overpriced sushi amid the moonglow of a thousand cellphones. You know, sometimes life gets away from me a little.

On a bright day, we flee to a dark bar by the sea for a cheap chill

The coast of California is dotted with these dark dives that provide an oasis from the pressures of work and the sameness of suburban living. They are like train whistles in the night.

A magical night at the Hollywood Bowl, where the audience is often the real rock star

Forget the fiddle players. At the legendary Hollywood Bowl, the real show is often out in the snug seats, where 20,000 attendees rub elbows, knock knees and make the most of celestial summer nights.

Change is so easy. I smooth out any bumps with flaming margaritas

I’m renowned for my ability to adapt, and this new workplace offers a fresh start for everyone. Honk and wave as you pass our beautiful new building. Inside is where the magic happens.

So we’ve got the tomatoes, and we’ve got the leaky dog. Let the fun begin

I could ping the kids with tomatoes. Or take the dogs for another walk. Or carry our pet wolf past the attacking cats. In the heat of summer, the possibilities are almost endless.

It's the season of patio parties and wanderlust. Just lash me to the back of a train

We've hit that summer sweet spot. For once, no one is talking about their idiot bosses or wayward careers. Instead, they discuss their recent summer trips down the Danube, or how this one restaurant in Spain staged the absolutely perfect feast.

When the cousins come to town, we sprint to the surf, laugh at the heat

As you well know, it’s been a brutal July so far. So we take our summer visitors to the sea. "The cure is salt water," a writer once said. Turns out she was right.

A toast to New Orleans, the place it all began for us

Three hundred years ago, New Orleans was founded on arranged marriages and broken promises. It shouldn’t probably exist at all. It burns down. It floods. In summer months, it stews in its own juices. I kind of like it.

As we pack up, a bittersweet ode to a workplace that was my second home

The old Times building is located at the vortex of privilege and sanctimony, a squat, imposing, limestone shoebox soaked in smog and surrounded by courtrooms and mouthy politicians.

I'm waiting for my re-booked flight. Cheers to these fellow travelers on life's journey

After a good trip to the heartland, I'm paying the price: a canceled flight, hours to kill and the spotty allure of an airport bar. Bloody Mary, anyone?

For Father's Day, all we want is a good old game of catch

Father’s Day is such an afterthought it’s almost not a thought at all. No one is tougher to buy for. So instead of tools or neckties, how about you just play a little catch with him again?

Man versus house: I repair something, then fix something else. The payoff? These ribs

I wake each weekend to the thought of blending fun with obligation. Obligation usually wins. Then along comes this beautiful new smoker....

Our house is a Renaissance smile — sly, fetching and a little troubled. Come on in!

You’d look at this house, with peonies everywhere and whiffle balls in the flowers from when the little guy last took batting practice, and you’d think: “It’s not such a bad house, really."

When it comes to 'love language,' I'm pretty much multilingual

We seem to have survived another raw So Cal winter and have taken to the backyard again, for crawfish, family and frosty margaritas in old jelly jars.

My salute to May, a month of mothers, milestones and stuffed mushrooms

Graduations are coming up, as is Mother's Day. Dress up. Dress down. But try to avoid that joyless, blank-faced stare — a.k.a. the Gelson's Grimace.

A beautiful hike, a beautiful saloon, and a salute from my hometown team. Holy cow!

The Happy Hour Hiking Club provides a break from chores, blending generous pals, old and new. And a photo from Chicago proves to be a real home run.

It's just an old oak chest, too heavy and in need of some TLC. Aren't we all?

The top is perfect, but the drawers are blemished, like chalk along the sidelines, craving – as we all do — human touch and a certain degree of manic obsession.

This warm-and-fuzzy pup brings to mind some other comforts, including good books

This weekend's book fest is a chance to celebrate the written word. Call it the Coachella of ideas and poetry, wit and wordplay.

We see him in a field of flowers, we hear him in our laughter

In losing our older son, we may have lost the funniest Erskine. But we haven’t completely lost the funny. Life goes on.

It's the little laughs, at silly things, that help us hang in there

We see strawberries big as baseballs. Then there's baseball season itself. Maybe it's all tied together?

Readers reach out with tips, poetry, kindness, compassion

In the wake of son's death, there is no shortage of support. Many have been there themselves. The response is overwhelming.

In the yard, a new tree. Like our late son did, it wiggles when the wind blows

The cards, the candles, the casseroles, the pies… they all help, including soulful little notes from total strangers who watched our son grow up.

The most awful kind of grief. The most beautiful memories. So long, son

The boy, who was killed on the freeway March 4, grew up on these pages. He didn't have a fancy resume or elite education. Just a great spirit and a zest for life. There are no words.

Today's teens have found their Vietnam — in Florida

Childhood used to be so much simpler. Amid the pressures and the expectations — and another national tragedy — they are reminding us what is really important.

When your son is 15, everything is an argument

At 15, he yelps when he puts on deodorant and laughs like a wind sock at the semi-colon smirks of his best buddies. We're hoping it's temporary.

A driver goes a little berserk on the freeway. I like that in a person

In a sea of brake lights, during an endless rush hour, an angry woman jumps from her SUV. Just another defining moment in the land I love (Los Angeles)

My 15-year-old son shaved last week. We both survived

The boy shaved for the first time the other day. But don't jump to conclusions. He's got a long way to go.

The January blahs are a thing. I actually kind of like them

January is dads on ladders taking down the lights and moms deciding when to toss the half-dead poinsettias. January is obligation and diets. But it's real.

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. Reflections on L.A.’s ominous cycle of grief

Every region has its battles. At first, the prospect of some rain in drought-stricken California seemed reassuring.

Putting away the holidays: My musings from the rum cloud of a post-Christmas funk

I think it was a successful season, though there are always misfires – something I said in jest taken seriously, a flubbed or forgotten gift.

I think family is where you find it — on the football field or at Christmas Eve Mass

As the old song says, we were happy in a million ways this past holiday, amid our fellow misfits and malcontents. In fact, it's sometimes hard to tell friends from family.

Let Christmas be like those holiday sweaters, a little zany but oh so cozy

Here’s the thing: If you get Christmas 60% right, you’ve still got a lot of Christmas. Chasing a perfect holiday leads to stress and disappointment.

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas. And a blizzard of bitcoin

As gifts, I’m giving my kids a digital currency based on the value of mermaids and unicorns. I mean, who even knows what bitcoin looks like?

Christmas feels bloated and broken. It should only last 12 days. Let me explain...

Under this new holiday plan, the first day of Christmas would be Dec. 20, roughly coinciding with the first day of winter. Pancakes and PJs would also have their own day. This 12-step plan would mean more friendship, fewer things.

In the harvest season, life is in the kitchen. I could walk from house to house, stirring things

The 300-pound beagle has more ego than I do. But at least the new wolf loves me. At least I think that's love. Do I care?

Tips from me, the birthday boy: Grill beef quickly and always appreciate a tight spiral

61 seems kind of well-cooked. But it's a fine age, and I find charred beef tastes even better these days.

I say bring on the rain, bring on the holiday feasts. A little change is good for us

November is a month of firsts. And, amid them, there are small moments of parenthood. "Dad, can you do this?"

My house is a practical joke. I make a repair, then have to repair my repairs

This is the stuff of real life. The faucets leak and so does the roof. You sure don't see these issues come up on "This Is Us."

I'm visiting Santa Monica, that city by the bay

Perched on the Pacific, Big Dean's might be the best bar in America. How do I know? I read it in my own Instagram.

Doc, is goofiness a disease or a personal choice? Because I'm seeing a lot of it lately

During a pediatrician visit, Dad voices concern over the boy's behavior. But it turns out that being goofy is quite normal for that age.

I think all happiness begins with the mouth — a chicken wing, a sloppy kiss...

Live a little, because life blows by too quickly. Old buddies prove that. Besides, fall is something to celebrate.

Hiking club takes on Lake Hollywood, then discovers a bar where the American Dream still drinks

Are there snakes on this trail? Of course there are snakes. We're in the middle of L.A., after all.

On a road trip up the coast, I linger too long over lighthouses and eat way too much pie. Surprised?

Off I went, in a cheesy rental car, ugly as a fire truck, on airless tires that rattled over every road seam.

I threw a tailgate, with tri-tip and turtledoves — and a whole bunch of beautiful minds.

They came for the keg and enlightened conversation. It was proof again that L.A. weekends are too short.

I lost my wife in the fantasy football draft. Let me explain.

I was busy re-writing the will, so I flubbed the online setup. I'm the kind of guy who shouldn't rush anything.

I’ve got a 14-year-old: Here’s what my Friday nights look like now

Kids and pets give back. It's just their nature. But is it enough?

Yep, you can go home again. Now, back in L.A., it's time to prep for the coming harvest

Strong and active, Posh is bracing for the coming winter by buying patio furniture. That's a good sign.

My guitar gently weeps for Chicago, John Prine, sinful sandwiches and the old 'hood near Wrigley

The lake is the color of Charlize Theron's eyes. And the weather? Much like the Med (at least for now).

My hometown: A week of fireflies, messy conversations and distant train whistles in the night

It's a village smothered in sour cream. Fifty years ago, I roamed the backyards barefoot, snatching apples and other kids’ Schwinns.

Finally, it's time to chill a little. I want a heavy book and nothing to do

The mountains call. So does the Midwest. On vacation, the time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

L.A. is a place of empty rivers and full hearts. Here's my guide for a newcomer.

Sure, 20% of the population believes in unicorns. But don't judge too quickly. Besides, L.A. changes from minute to minute anyway.

Here are some of the ways our children helped their mother cope with cancer

There my daughter goes again with the "dad bod" stuff. I mean, enough with the stereotyping!

Mother Ocean calls me on a roasting midsummer day. I feel as if I've been harpooned

California, a land of enlightenment and mirth, has a strange notion of what a beach should be.

My lunch with screen legend Angie Dickinson reminds me that millennials are overrated

Live a little, chase some stories. Because in the end, those are the treasures that really count.

It's too early. We’re in the middle of nowhere. But it's beautiful to see the kid play ball

The moms are in one spot; the dads in another. And victory is always a heartbeat away.

For Father's Day this year, all I want is a 'dad bod'

Dad jokes. Dad bods. Daditude. The dad brand is very hot right now. But you won't believe how easy Father's Day can be.

Posh is recovering nicely: It's been a total team effort (and I am the water boy)

Her secret weapons were a Wonder Woman oncologist, a rock star chemo nurse and a warrior spirit.

My daughter's been stealing my wine and other confessions to kick off summer

We celebrate summer, children, kabobs -- and random acts of larceny. Let the festivus begin!

Of all the potential pals in the universe, I end up with these guys?

As usual, we got out of hand at dinner the other night. Apologies to anyone within 100 miles.

How the Queen and I spent a particularly decadent Mother's Day

The kids honor Mom like crazy, and wait till you get a taste of this dessert.

Dear Mom, thanks for ... well, thanks for just about everything

We can never repay moms for all they do, which makes Mother's Day so impossible.

The winds have fried my fridge, the TV and the new dryer in a blitz of bad luck. What's next?

A power surge knocks out the major appliances. If only I hadn't spent the yard sale loot.

I'm throwing a yard sale: Everything must go!

Getting rid of unused junk is an American tradition. And you can get very rich, one quarter at a time.

My Easter featured rogue Russians and exploding eggs. How was yours?

Mom locks herself in the bathroom just to escape the typical family drama.

As my son dreams of the big leagues, puberty doesn’t make life’s curveballs any easier

Beware, Moms and Dads: Our little screwballs are growing up. Good grief...

With my wife on the mend, I'm working to return our house to semi-chaos

As I tell the kids, butchering meals isn’t a chore, it’s a privilege.

I just realized: My dogs eat better than I do

A 300-pound beagle and a sassy new pup remind us of the whimsy of dogs

Down at the county jail, they're praying for Posh. At a Wisconsin seminary too

Her stud doctor is thrilled with early chemo results, as Posh's cancer fight goes on.

If I don't pay all these medical bills, I could lose the house? Thank goodness

The costs are piling up, he's falling down -- and there's no end in sight.

What's another little mouth to feed?

Dog sniffs out the tiny bird. And, between medical visits, we take in a new tenant.

I asked for the honeymoon suite. We got chemo bay No. 8 in the cancer annex

Greetings from chemo bay No. 8, in the cancer annex of a local hospital. We're in week 2 of an 18-inning battle.

Readers reach out to columnist Chris Erskine and Posh in their time of need

Readers reach out to Los Angeles Times columnist Chris Erskine and his wife, a.k.a. Posh, after he revealed her cancer diagnosis.

After cancer diagnosis, a family pulls together and L.A. shows its 'ginormous heart'

Seven Krispy Kreme donuts? It's not a cure, but boyish goofiness is good medicine.

We never saw the cancer diagnosis coming. And all I can ask is: 'Why her?'

Suddenly, her life is tubes and get-well cards, and lab techs poking around for another vein.

They’re just a pair of PJs. Or are they? My case for the silly things that soothe the soul

It's the little things that satisfy the soul. And that's not a little thing.

It's a tight race as readers decide whether I should 'trash the 'stache'

In the first pivotal election of the new year, the columnist's mustache was in a close race for its political life.

Should I stir the pot and lose the mustache? You decide

The mustache seems to have reached its expiration date. Like the holiday lights, it may need to come down.

To recap: Ours was a Christmas of snitty fits and small glories

A family Christmas can be complicated and gross. But still, it lures back the kids

I'm ready for Christmas, a holiday so significant Tchaikovsky set it to music

For Christmas, it's the little things that count. Even fruitcake fraps.

Amid life's mysteries: Since when did Brussels sprouts become a dish we crave?

Even in L.A., you can find your friend-filled Bedford Falls

Maybe I'm a Kardashian? Guess that's the risk to one of these ancestry kits

Columnist tries ancestry kit to fill out the family tree. Could he be a Beatles baby? The possibilities make him drool.

Most teenagers are insane. I like that in a person

The little guy is turning 14, an age to celebrate with song.

You really think this helps? This insane hunger for the holidays?

I don't have all the answers. But here are some holiday survival tips

I don't snort at turning 60. I mark the moment with fire, malcontents and steak sauce

At 60, he takes time to reflect on his collection of rare children

60 can be extremely sexy — at least, if it's played right

For a good time, give him middle age — filled with friends and scary athleticism.

A season redolent of wet wool and high school homecomings

He'll open an orphanage, over run with apples and peculiar children

If you laugh enough, things turn out OK. Just ask a Cubs fan.

In the Cubs, he sees a connection to his father and the faith that things will turn out OK

A dad, a son, an eighth-grade science project. Stand back.

You can’t see the answers because there is A.1. steak sauce all over his homework. Where his name should be, there is ketchup. Like Jackson Pollock, the little

He's coming to terms with middle age. His Batman-themed party is proof

As 60th birthday approaches, lots of reasons to celebrate.

Scottish hunting lodge? No, an orphanage for peculiar children

He wants to open an orphanage, fill it with tater tots and soccer players,

Sun-dappled and flavored in barbecue smoke, a tailgate to remember

Tailgating might be the best Boomer contribution of all

Millennials need to start having more sex. Now.

So we’re getting into the new school year routine, and it’s going very well. We wake at what must be 3 in the morning. My coffee tastes like cigarette butts.

A free vacation? Sure, Dad, let me see what works for my boyfriend

It’s late August and the dog needs a bath. Actually, he needs three baths. After his third bath, he needs to be rolled in powdered sugar. He’d still stink, but

Compared to parenthood, dropping my daughter off at LAX is a breeze. So long, kid

The only good thing about a long drive to LAX? More time with my daughter, who's heading to her new home.

My daughter left L.A. for Ohio. We're trying to lure her back with sunsets and siblings

Chris Erskine's younger daughter has moved to Cincinnati but visits L.A. often on business. He's trying hard not to let his feelings show.

Hello? Adele? I want you to meet my 'little brother'...

I used to write with music playing in the background till I realized the rhythms were interfering with my work. Like music, writing relies on attractive

13 years later, our beagle is a jumbo-sized bundle of mirth, mayhem and methane

For a beagle, barking is yoga and eating is sex.

My teen is off to tennis camp this summer. What to pack for the puppy-man?

God isn’t “in the details,” as the saying goes. He’s in our children.

This is no way to keep my treasured family photos — or is it?

None of our kids would be what you would call “the most reliable.”

My 7 essential rules of summer — and for 'Finding Dory'

I think we found Dory. The kids tried to eat her, of course.

'Say hello to Grace Kelly': I'm introducing my teen to the classics

What cool classics such as 'Rear Window' and Grace Kelly can teach a clueless teen about life

Hey, Siri: What's the best way to survive a summer like this?

Go ahead, moms and dads, try to solve parenthood. Chris Erskine ponders the issue while tallying the cost of hiring a math tutor for the little guy.

This Father's Day, I'd like to pass on a few 'dadisms' – little bolts of wisdom

My goal this summer is to get the little guy to listen to one Harry Chapin song. And to paint his bedroom. That's it. One song, one bedroom. Simple dad, simple

Smell the Chardonnay? Smell the baseball socks? Yep, another simmering summer is at hand

If you’ve had teens before, you know what flawed yet wonderful insects they are about to become. They lose their freckles. They lose their puppy breath.

I'm sandwiched between one kid who won't grow up and another who's flying the coop

The one where our columnist finds himself caught between one kid who won't grow up and another who's flying the coop.

A semester abroad? When do Mom and Dad get to do that?

Millennials have it made. They go to for a semester abroad, while parents stay home.

Pondering one of life's toughest questions: How many children should I have?

Pondering life's most challenging query: 'How many children should I have?'

Advice to grads: Uber down the road less traveled

I'm not so good with words.

Barking dogs. Barking dads. It's a wonder I'm alive at all.

Someone had a funny line the other day about barking dogs. He wondered if, when we yell at the dog to stop barking, the dog is thinking: "This is awesome! Now

The stranger in the coffee shop had a tale of uncommon devotion

Chris Erskine chats up a coffee shop neighbor and learns a lesson in fidelity.

I don't ask much from my children, but we can at least agree on Lake Tahoe

Over dinner, Chris Erskine and his daughters let themselves get carried off in dreams of a Lake Tahoe family vacation.

Hoofing to a watering hole with my 60 new friends in the Happy Hour Hiking Club — now that's living

Chris Erskine makes 60 new friends who are just off-kilter enough to join the Happy Hour Hiking Club.

Why jogging in L.A. is so invigorating: I could get hit by a Prius or a venture capitalist

Chris Erskine goes jogging and has a close call with a Prius; then some cyclists get involved. All he wanted were banana pancakes.

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