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

In North Hollywood, we hit this bucket-shaped old saloon, with friends old and new.
(Chris Erskine / Los Angeles Times)

We seem to be seeking some sort of equilibrium in our lives. Much of the healing comes from activity, not dormancy. Seriously, if I wanted reflection and contemplation, I would’ve become a writer.

Instead, I chose hiking and household chores as my life passions. The chores don’t always go as planned, and they take far longer than anyone would like. I swing an ax; I bang a nail. The tasks I choose tend to be arduous and in their own way, healing.

As I told someone the other day, just because I’m grunting and cursing doesn’t mean I’m not having a marvelous time.

Like propellant out of a can, I am attacking life. A death in the family does that to us, I suppose, nudges us toward extra activities and a need to fill every available minute. I’m probably dangerously close to some sort of mania. If I get 10% crazier, I’ll qualify for public office. If I go really nuts, I’ll run for guv’nor.


Till then, I sand and stain the little guy’s dresser, the one his big brother started and that will now, as one reader put it, “hold so much more than clothes.”

Posh keeps busy by chewing out her children, including me.

“Which one of you …” she begins every sentence.

As in, “Which one of you forgot to put the butter away?” or “Which one of you ate all the cookie dough?”


It contains raw egg, you know.

We’ve decided to counteract these random accusations by all raising our hands together, thereby defusing her wrath. She can’t very well fire all of us. Then who would forget the butter? Who would risk certain death by eating raw cookie dough?

I find her accusations debilitating, so I just ignore them mostly, losing myself in the household chores, which pile up like unrequited prayers.

In all honesty, I dragged out the work on the old chest of drawers, since it was like spending time with my late son, and I didn’t want that to ever end.

Eventually, to get myself away from the chemical fumes, I scheduled a little adventure with my beloved Happy Hour Hiking Club.

As you may recall, it’s “a drinking club with a hiking problem,” and like refinishing dressers, the club is about so much more than exercise and gin. Everything, I’m finding, has some sort of rich subtext.

So we headed out on a Saturday afternoon hike, some 80 pals and readers, to Fryman Canyon in Studio City, where the beautiful people wear sports bras to hike.

There is a lot of heavy perfume left in this California spring. Soon, the soft linen land will turn hard and dry, and all you’ll smell is sage and the barbecued chicken from the patios below. That, too, will be a mitzvah. In the depths of summer, we’ll all dream of fall.


The Cubs honored my late son on a marquee outside Wrigley.
(Chicago Cubs )

On the hike, we ran into actor Michael Nouri, who entertained us with an Irish joke, then strolled past another very famous actor’s estate, roughly the size of Africa.


We then made our way to a glorious old saloon in North Hollywood that shuns the latest food trends in favor of chow that actually tastes OK.

We ended the day in that bucket of a bar, rejuvenated and a little buzzed. I had traces of lip gloss all over my cheek, as if having been kissed by a bunch of wonderful aunts. I think my buddy Bittner smooched me there too but I don’t have any proof. It’s just a tingle you get.

I’ve got this theory I’m testing: A healthy lifestyle requires a mix of old and new friends.

Old friends are the best, of course, for they’ve passed the loyalty test. Old stories are the best stories, because they change and get better with every telling.

But new friends are great for the mix too. They freshen our spirits, bring us new stories to chew on, and are a little extra excited when we show up for a drink.


I’m in the midst of a mini-book tour, so there are many new smiles to enjoy, names to remember, selfies to take.

Amid all our grief, the book tour is a celebration of our late son Christopher, and to daily life itself.

To that end, a new buddy in Chicago provided one of the warmest gestures yet — a real Roy Hobbs moment.

Having read about my connection to the Cubs, my boyhood team, and knowing Christopher had spent some joyous moments in the Wrigley bleachers, this Cubs exec had the team flash up our son’s name on the stadium’s famed marquee.

My buddy Brian back in Chicago didn’t know it, but the message faced my grandparents’ old stone duplex on Addison, a block away.

And it glowed like Irish crystal.

Want more Chris Erskine?

Columnist Chris Erskine’s new book, “Daditude,” a collection of his favorite past columns, is available in bookstores and online.

The Happy Hour Hiking Club meets monthly at trails and saloons across Southern California. To take part in the free events, email the columnist at

Twitter: @erskinetimes