The Middle Ages: Change is so easy. I smooth out any bumps with flaming margaritas

A favorite touchstone: The Short Stop near Dodger Stadium, where there is always something to cheer about.
A favorite touchstone: The Short Stop near Dodger Stadium, where there is always something to cheer about.
(Michael Owen Baker / For The Times)

My buddies have been asking whether I miss working downtown, and I tell them that I miss the clatter of hooves and carriages, the bustle of the urban core, the stench of the sidewalks, the occasional knifings and felony busts. Most of all, I miss the garlic wings at Far Bar, the best saloon west of the Rockies.

But other than missing those things, the move to our new headquarters in El Segundo has gone very well. Most days, I’m still content and happy. I’ve even come to enjoy the company of my coworkers. Most of them, anyway. As you know, there’s always one or two.

Each morning, I now commute from suburb to suburb, rather than from suburb to city. It’s a bit of a slog — 30 miles — not horrible. Modern freeways are such a convenience. The way some towns have miraculous numbers of lakes and sycamore trees, that’s the way L.A. has freeways. We really are very fortunate that way.


In fact, freeways now dominate my life. I’m an hour on them to work. Once there, I gaze out the big windows at the busy 105 for eight hours, then spend an hour coming home, to our Xanadu on the edge of yet another noisy freeway.

It’s like a Steve Martin movie that condemns L.A. even as it loves it. Make up your mind already, huh?

My new work life pretty much reflects how the middle class lives out here, suburb to suburb, with a big dose of magma-hot pavement in between. You can understand why millions of people move here every minute.

Fortunately, 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. That’s probably me in the kitchen, making coffee.

Honestly, I’m fortunate to have an abundance of pals and many “work wives.” Each thinks she’s my only work wife — that we’re exclusive — when in fact there are 13, maybe 14.

The margaritas glow at El Compadre, an L.A. tradition on Sunset Boulevard.
(Chris Erskine / Los Angeles Times)

Yet, when it comes to work relationships, I don’t consider myself “a catch” as a “work husband.” I am just the kind of lost soul who generates a lot of sympathy. In the second grade, I was the only kid who couldn’t slide galoshes over his shoes on snowy afternoons, so I think it started there.

When it comes to manual tasks — slicing avocados, playing golf — I still always come in last.

I swear, we will be in this new building 10 years, and I’ll still be shouting, “Hey, Marilyn, which printer is ours again? Oh, for the love of God….”

So, yeah, the new commute is going well, thanks for asking. I’m still suffering from bouts of insomnia, but that can mostly be attributed to the 300-pound beagle.

If God ever flubbed a dog, tried again and flubbed it even worse, that’d be this beagle. He might actually be some offshoot of the platypus.

I’ve been reading a lot more lately as a way to deal with stuff — the beagle, the insomnia, the so-called artisan buns at McDonald’s. What a time to be alive, as the younger daughter likes to say.


So I’m losing myself in good books. My latest literary crush? Some short stories by E.L. Doctorow.

Brilliant guy, this Doctorow. He can be a tad stiff at times, like most men, but his words often sing and dance, and that’s all I really ask for. I like writing that swings a little. I like Count Basie.

Speaking of swings, I hope to offset my new all-suburban lifestyle by taking in more Dodger games in the belly of L.A., as well as the flaming margaritas at nearby El Compadre, a sensational slice of life on Sunset.

“Did anyone think flaming drinks might be a bad idea?” we once asked the owner.

“My insurance company,” he said.

To this day, Sunset remains my favorite urban outpost. I prefer the eastern stretches, where there is still gum on the sidewalks from when the Spanish were here.

One bar there I might’ve mentioned, the Short Stop, has bullet holes in the door from a robbery decades ago. When it comes to charming touches, top that.

But there is hope. Not far from our new digs, a colleague (Ashley) has located a jazz joint that he says serves Creole food at Depression-era prices. And on Fridays, the jambalaya and fried chicken are free.


“Wait, what?” as you kids like to say.

I think I could self-soothe there. I think I could start a new and wonderful life.

Twitter: @erskinetimes