Chris Erskine: When cabin fever strikes, I try board games and an icy ‘quarantini’

A chilled, properly-made quarantini won't cure you of anything. But it might make you smile.
A chilled, properly made quarantini won’t cure you of anything. But it might make you smile.
(Jason Schneidr / For The Times)

Irish as a boiled carrot, I always celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in my usual way, hollering Yeats’ “The Wild Swans at Coole” on street corners and small social gatherings of doctors and deadbeats.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore …

The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.


In my own peculiar way, I am keeping the Irish Literary Revival alive. I’m also testing my lungs for all the obvious things.

My theory is that if you can bellow Yeats at full throat, you’re probably just fine. The CDC has yet to weigh in on this. But I’ve appointed myself the surgeon-general of our little cul-de-sac, so it’s not like I’m without medical pedigree.

What a week, right?

I’d like to assure you that everything is going to be all right, which it is, though I’ve been wrong before. I thought computers were just a phrase and that by now Bill Murray or Mike Ditka would be elected president. Wrong and wrong.

Now I think that, come the warming months, this virus will lose its spirit and that by autumn there will be a shot for it. I’m not sitting idle though, waiting for others to take action. I’ve developed my own answer to COVID-19.

A cocktail called the “quarantini.”

It started when they canceled Coachella, leaving me bereft and in need of a reason to go on with life. I tend to prefer Stagecoach, but they canceled that too. In two days, they canceled pretty much everything. Soon, they’ll cancel Christmas.

The last public event I attended was a bookstore bash in Manhattan Beach, a festive evening that propelled me through the weekend. Missing from our lives right now are twinkly eyes and leprechaun smirks. And double-ply, of course.


My kid sister happened to be back in town through all this, a blessing in disguise, for she is a twinkly soul, more Irish than I am. She was here to tend to her daughter, Amy, who was having her ACL renovated after a ski jump went wonky.

So there we were, sitting around playing Catan, the hot new board game, and making giant vats of chili. It wasn’t so bad, for I like having people around, even family.

We put a fire in the fireplace. It rained. We threw on another log. The boy made guacamole. The chili turned out well, even though I’d bought some off-brand beans, the only ones left on the shelf. But I could make decent chili from wood chips. To spice it up, I use thumbtacks and gunpowder (a tip I picked up from a Texan).

Then Amy’s boyfriend came into town. It’s a very nice time to visit L.A., everything in a state of emergency.

I like the guy, low key and capable, much like me. Then a mini-crisis: Another niece was stuck in Spain, where she plays soccer for a living. If you think that none of this sounds normal, welcome to our family (or any family).

But my niece managed to catch a plane to the States, and my sister advised her to come to the family compound here in California. After all we had, like, seven rolls of TP left and this board game, Catan.


She told her daughter that Uncle Chris (that’s me) bought too much corned beef and was running around screaming Yeats, as though caroling.

“It’ll be fun!” my sister said.

“We have plenty!” I lied.

“I’ll be there!” my niece lied back.

So everyone was lying, which is pretty normal for families like ours.

Not sure where we stand right now. Are more people coming? Will the TP and vermouth hold out? Will this new craft cocktail, the quarantini, be a significant hit?

My clever, mad-hatted colleague Patt Morrison named it, but the recipe is mine: Two parts vodka, a whisper of vermouth, you can use a drop of Maraschino cherry syrup for color, although I went with a drop of decongestant (also for color) — shaken with ice, then served in a chilled martini glass with a couple of cough drops. … Kerplunk, kerplunk. Cheers!

“Your commitment and compassion are both beyond extraordinary,” one friend noted.

Hey, you don’t become the cul-de-sac surgeon-general for nothing.

My buddy Jeff suggested that a quarantini is just a regular martini, except that you drink it at home alone, as per a quarantine.

That just seemed sad. I won’t be sad. I’ll be my ebullient Irish self, as I try to get a grip on this Catan, which seems kind of complicated. And COVID-19, which seems even worse.

Maybe I should write. Another friend reminded us that when Shakespeare was quarantined, he wrote “King Lear.”


What a hoot that was. Maybe I could update that, add some laughs? I think Lear’s daughters were involved, right? Daughters are good. Daughters are funny. Me, I’ve never had any issues with daughters.

I’ll mix them up some quarantinis. One day soon, I’ll make you one too.

Hang in there, my friend.