Chris Erskine: Mother Ocean leaves me sunny

By Chris Erskine - Los Angeles Times

Chris Erskine is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. (Los Angeles Times/MCT)

Dear beach friends,

Great trip. Trust everybody got home OK. It was a long and challenging drive, particularly with sunburned legs against leather seats. Till Labor Day the stitching of a Japanese carmaker will be imprinted, like the red seams of a baseball, on the back of my soft, suburban thighs.

That is nothing to complain about. In fact, I have nothing at all to complain about. This morning, I bask in the memories of amazing friends and shared confidences about some very personal troubles.

Don’t panic, your secrets are safe, especially the juicy ones about the in-laws.

You know, the ocean does that to people, hypnotizes them, relaxes them, takes them back to some primeval rhythm. Instills in them — assures them, really — of the sweeping grandeur of something greater than themselves.

“Mother Ocean,” as my pal Siskin calls it. For clarity, for catharsis, there is nothing sweeter than the mere sight of America’s dunk tank, Mother Ocean.

Of course, that batch of “lemonade” didn’t hurt either. As I said, I have nothing to complain about, but my head feels like Chris Christie’s beach chair. I feel as if I have been harpooned.

It was a bubbly day, as are all good summer days — the carbonation of a raucous surf, the laughter of spouses and children. All bubbles, all good.

Lazy and relaxing, it was a successful day trip by almost any measure. Only a couple of glitches. One kid stepped on a bee, and the Gestapo/lifeguard/ranger dude — whatever he was — made us pour out some valuable but suspicious liquids, as if he were the TSA.

“Thank you, Mr. Ranger Dude,” we all chirped. “Way to keep us safe. Way to keep the proletariat in check.”

More and more, the American middle class is treated like the lowest class in ancient Carthage.

It reminded me that California, a land of enlightenment and mirth, has a strange notion of what a beach should be. No one should have a cup of cheer. No dogs. No bonfires. No nothing.

But still we go, because where else are we going to play on a midsummer day? The backyards are Venusian, and there’s nothing playing at the mall we’re aching to see.

Movies today, huh? In most cases, I’d rather eat popcorn in a big room alone.

But those are small complaints — the overeager ranger, the movies, the bee sting, the sun poisoning. I sit here, early the next morning, the glutes a little achy from dragging that 600-pound pop-up tent across the sand, remembering the highlights: touch football with the kids, laughter and good food with friends.

The most memorable image of the day will be of my buddy Koz dunking a half-chicken in Mother Ocean after it rolled off the grill and into the sand.

By the time the chicken was done, he’d dunked it twice, sort of a post-barbecue brining, redolent of dead crustaceans, seal goo and shark scum. It’s nothing you could duplicate in any professional kitchen, I assure you.

“Chicken of the sea,” he called it, and I think from now on most of the chicken he grills will be dunked in the Pacific, if only for the spectacle of him walking from the surf like Triton himself, with a drippy half-chicken on a fork.

So, all in all, a really memorable day. Reason I’m writing is that we ended up with an extra beach chair. You could claim it, but since it’s nicer than what we have, we’re inclined to scrawl our initials on it and make it our own.

We also ended up with a very polite, very appreciative extra kid. We know he’s not ours, not just because he is very polite, but because he helped unload the beach stuff without threat of bodily harm.

Like the chair, we’re inclined to put our initials on him and call him our own. But eventually, you’d miss him. Maybe by Christmas?

He’s got marshmallow on his chin (it might be permanent) and the sort of sunburn you get from making half-hearted attempts at smearing sunscreen on when your mom just won’t leave you alone. He looks like the red and white part of an American flag.

If you claim the kid, we’ll throw in that nice beach chair. We’ll also throw in a big, snuggly beagle (loves children!). He’s 300 pounds of happiness and sloppy kisses, yet can jump high enough to snag a pork loin off a very high building.

Please call soon.

Chris Erskine is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. (Los Angeles Times/MCT) Erskine is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. (Los Angeles Times/MCT)

By Chris Erskine

Los Angeles Times

Email Chris Erskine at, or follow him on Twitter at @erskinetimes.

Email Chris Erskine at, or follow him on Twitter at @erskinetimes.