Someone recently warned me not to cook when you’re in a bad mood, because you can taste the hate in the food … a bitterness, an acidity.
Except that I scorched my arm the other day when the brisket — like a heavy corpse, like a briny metaphor — slipped back into the pot as I removed it, sending scalding water and misery across the kitchen.
Ouch! Stop that!! Really tickles!!!
I never realized food could be such a fistfight. A week later, I’m still scraping Irish road kill (corned beef) from the cabinets. The skin on my right arm is showing signs of healing. I mean, the brisket turned out delicious in that way salty meats are almost always delicious. It was well worth the fistfight.
“We attract what we fear,” goes the saying. So I suppose that in a sense pain can be positive. I fear it and attract it and try to outrun it all at once.
As a friend noted recently, sometimes it’s just you and a new day.
To be honest, the days are mostly fine; it’s the dark I sometimes struggle with. I am positive in the mornings, bounce out of bed, kick off my fuzzy slippers, hit the jogging trails or the gym.
I’m no shrink, but I know myself. Mostly, I seem able to outrun the funk that comes from losing my wife and son in the same year.
But my nights have halftimes.
I am always up at 3 a.m. to let out the 300-pound beagle, which is easy. Just requires a 2-ton forklift and a little maneuvering to get him down the steps. Then I sing him back to sleep.
Really, it’s no trouble at all.
At that point, I toss and turn. In our giant bed, there is no longer the gentle bumping of knees and feet that went on for nearly 40 years. Posh never snored. I miss her lack of snoring.
Instead, I have our pet wolf, which hops up in the night, my hairy savior. We attract what we fear, remember?
White Fang and I spoon, but she is not really a good snuggler. To be honest, I don’t really recommend sleeping with wild animals. They snore, and they don’t spoon so well.
Fortunately, there is a new warmth to the spring air, and soon we will be barefoot on the lawn as summer barrels in. For now, though, everything seems so dewy and alive. Honestly, I have never seen Los Angeles look this lovely.
Dear L.A., please stay this green and gorgeous forever. Love, Erskine.
In the front yard, fat buds fill the little tree my pals planted in memory of my late son. It is lush and healthy, the strongest tree in town. Sometimes I want to hug it.
And the other day, on the rooftop of some fancied-up downtown slum, some friends and I spotted a magnificent double rainbow.
I’m not much for symbolism, but I can’t help noting there was a rainbow for each of our losses. If there was gold at the end of them, I’m sure someone probably stole it. This is Los Angeles, after all.
We admired the rainbow, took a few pictures, before they ran us all off for some private function. Thanks, Perch. Eventually, L.A. will be one enormous roped-off function, and none of us will be invited.
Till then, I enjoyed a fantastic luncheon the other day with alums from Brandeis University. Let me just say that I have rarely received a warmer welcome, till they kicked me out of the Skirball 17 hours later. Yeah, sometimes these charity luncheons can run a little long.
Guess my talk went well enough. I am afraid of heights, gray cats and tall women with banjos, but I never met a microphone I didn’t like.
“I’m actually kind of shy,” I tell my table mates.
“Yeah, you’re not shy,” one of the ladies insists.
OK, so now I’m not.
Big event, lots of guests. As I spoke, I looked out at the crowd and told them that I realized I now had 200 Jewish mothers in my life.
“It’s a dream come true!” I said.
“… or my worst nightmare.”
Seriously, if anyone needs 200 Jewish mothers, I do.
Before it was over, one of my new moms invited me to play mah-jongg, and her gorgeous daughter invited me to the family Seder.
Basically, they adopted me, a sleepless, widowed dad with not much going on — other than the little guy, the daughters, the beagle, the wolf and a road show of terrific but very needy friends (especially Miller and Bittner; Verge and Siskin too).
We’ll be at the Seder, of course. My son and I will show up with a half-cooked brisket and scars from the Irish front.
From what I’m finding, family is everywhere — rooftops to rainbows.
These days, can you ever have too much?
Erskine will appear at the Los Angeles Festival of Books, April 13-14, to discuss columns and memoirs. Info here