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

See, I can fix something. This new knob finally allows access to the garage fridge, where we keep the money and the emergency Chardonnay.
(Chris Erskine / Los Angeles Times)

As I’ve explained before, our house used to be one of those little drive-through huts where you could buy smokes and gum. Then it briefly became a photo drop-off booth, till digital ate up that entire universe.

Over the years, with grit and determination, my wife and I have managed to turn the little place into a very comfortable family home.

Gone are the mounds of Marlboros. In their place is a stunning three-bedroom ranch with a hole in the roof and a garage door opener that will not open. The kitchen cabinet underlighting won’t light, and something is devouring the back porch at night – might be raccoons, may be poltergeists.

In short, our house is like a practical joke. Its soul is made of spackle.


It is a running gag among the kids how I make a repair, then have to repair my repairs.

When the doorknob to the kitchen door sheared off, it took me three tries. There was additional pressure on me, since the door leads to the garage, where we keep the second refrigerator, which is where we store our money and the emergency Chardonnay.

By the second day, Posh was pretty panicked. Her nerves were so frayed, she could barely hold her favorite shot glass.

Not to get too technical over door knobs, but the innards of all metal components are now made of pudding. Stumped, I considered pulling the door off the hinges, or maybe dynamiting it as you would an old bridge.


Patience triumphed, as it always does in home repair. Within eight days I had it working just fine again, thank you very much.

The home work bench, where things go to be repaired — or not.
(Chris Erskine / Los Angeles Times )

“Hey slum dog,” my lovely bride then said.



“The AC is making stomach noises,” she said.

For certain things, I call in the pros. The air conditioning, for instance, which was making thwacky, gassy noises, though the techs assured us thwacky, gassy noises are entirely normal.

The roofers then showed up to fix the hole, but insisted to Posh that the leak must be around the skylight, which then leaked after the first rain.



“They think it’s probably the skylight,” she said with a shrug.

Look, I am not so good with my hands but I use them anyway, for fear they’ll lose circulation and fall off in my sleep.

Prone as I am to sentimentality, I fret when things disappear overnight. I mean, it’s been over a year and still no McRib, as someone noted the other day.

Scary, right?


Even more worrisome, my favorite radio station is going off the air, the one helmed by the wry, sarcastic disc jockey they call Uncle Joe.

I don’t see wry, sarcastic DJs as entertainers so much as I do co-conspirators with valuable subversive tendencies. Let me just say that if you took away wryness and wit, I might starve in about three minutes.

I think it was the great subversive Tom Arnold who long ago quipped: “Kids – 10 seconds of joy, 30 years of misery.”

That’s the kind of wry outlook I embrace.


Hey, you know I love my kids — more than free beer, more than Cuban cigars — but any parent can relate to Arnold’s sentiment once in a while.

Point is, I see more wit on Twitter than I do on TV and in movies these days. Sure, there is some deft storytelling, and they create these sweeping worlds of dragons and darkness.

But I don’t need dragons so much as I need funny, relatable characters going through the same muck I do, with a certain amount of schmutz all over the place.

Seinfeld did that for me, as did Ray Romano and Tim Allen. All are gone.


“This Is Us” is excellent but nothing ever breaks, so I don’t quite trust it. The show seems obsessed, instead, with the emotional trauma of family life, which is valid and interesting and rich. But there is way more than that to daily survival.

There are faucets that leak and bank accounts to futz over and retirements to ponder. There is the stuff of real life. On TV, no one watches TV, and no one ever argues over money. I mean, how out of touch is that?

Each week, for example, Posh and I set aside a little time to fight over money. All couples should.

As it looks now, I will be able to retire in 2080, roughly the year L.A. will reach 1 billion residents.


It will be time to go then. We will give our house away to a nice young family (probably space aliens, if you know anything about the L.A. market). All we’ll ask is that they promise to look after the place.

By then, I’ll have it perfect.

Twitter: @erskinetimes



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