postcard-from-l-a: The Happy Hour Hiking Club lifts the spirits of suburbia’s overlooked adults

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

I stop writing whenever the coffee runs out.

Usually takes me several hours to reach the bottom of the pot. At that point, I stand up, fall over, nap a little — you know, the usual writerly agenda. In lieu of yoga, standing up and falling over is the next best workout. I do it several times a day.

In short, the coffeemaker is my life support. If it dies, I die.

Another secret to productive writing is chocolate. In the pleasure center of the brain, chocolate seduces coffee, and like a sweet absinthe, their broth drips down to stimulate my rubber-coated soul.

That’s why exercise is also important. You can’t just stand up and fall over all day, while consuming vast quantities of chocolate. You must do other things. You must — and writers absolutely hate this — occasionally leave the house.

The other day, I officially formed the Happy Hour Hiking Club as a way to get out onto the minty trails of spring. Under the bylaws of the club, we will seek out regular twilight jaunts, followed by 2-for-1 specials.


We will do this when we feel like it, and never more. Most times, we’ll hike about an hour before the smog starts getting to us. We’ll treat the dizziness with chicken wings and plates of those tiny lacquered Asian ribs.

The Happy Hour Hiking Club is based on the sturdy premise that parents do too much for our children and too little for ourselves. The adults in our overpriced suburb pour all our free time into our little Einsteins and then wonder why it is we’re always so glassy-eyed and bummed.

Think of the fun we had when we were 25, compared to the suck-trap of obligation we deal with now. Eventually, there was bound to be a backlash. Hence, this hiking club.

Indeed, there are sports leagues for the kids, spring festivals, birthday sleepovers. For the retirees, there are ceramics classes and Kiwanis meetings.

But what healthy social outlets are there for middle-aged moms and dads? Tax deadlines? Colonoscopies?

Now there is the Happy Hour Hiking Club. Very soon, our town’s most successful Realtor, “Say-Anything Sally,” will probably be touting it to prospective buyers.

“You know, our town has a hiking club,” Say-Anything Sally will say. “But they don’t take just anybody.”

No, you have to be an idiot.

The other day, the Happy Hour Hiking Club took its inaugural walk in the woods. In attendance was Big Wave Dave, who has been working out a lot. Recently ran a marathon. Big Wave Dave has lost so much weight, he’s now down to two chins.

But what healthy social outlets are there for middle-aged moms and dads? Tax deadlines? Colonoscopies?

Also in attendance was Bittner. I don’t know what to say about Bittner except that he has a face like Jupiter and is a richer and better-dressed version of me.

Bittner works a regular job while running a busy restaurant on the side. Like many of my friends, he is caustic and crabby. I generally find, in cranks and malcontents, a beautiful honesty.

As with most hard-chargers, Bittner is probably a Trump supporter, though we haven’t discussed that yet. It’s almost too personal. Generally, we’d rather talk about less provocative subjects. Our sex lives, for instance.

In fact, the only time I discuss politics lately is at the gas pump, or at the supermarket checkout line.

Generally, here is how these impromptu little caucuses transpire:

1) Everyone shakes his or her head over the latest thing Trump did.

2) Against fashion, one person confesses that the guy carries a certain magnetism.

3) Someone notes that if Arnold Schwarzenegger — a caricature, a lout — could become governor, then Trump certainly stands a chance of being president.

I sense in these discussions that more people are drawn to Trump than might say it aloud. He is correct on a few things, and buffoonish on many others.

As a rule — almost a credo — I automatically hate New Yorkers. But I will confess to a certain inadvertent fascination with this blowhard. Lately, Americans seem to be at each other’s throats on every little issue, from movie awards to watering the lawn. As a society, we are becoming fretful and quick to tears.

Trump seems steelier than that. And I sense many Americans are fed up with crybabies. They are also tired of the collapse of the middle class. They are tired of carrying the world on their backs. They are tired of being tired. There was bound to be a backlash.

So, as with the loudest jerk at a party, we are strangely fixated on Trump.

Of that, I am not exactly proud.

More coffee, please. More chocolate....

Twitter: @erskinetimes