Chris Erskine: Life is stirring in harvest season

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

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

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

It’s hardly a cowboy’s life, hitting plastic buttons all day and plugging in various devices. Our dads and grandpas, who won world wars, would scoff.

So when I have the opportunity to chop some onions and fry some pork, I jump at the chance to reestablish a foothold in manhood’s door.

The kids, as usual, are impressed. Life happens in the kitchen, so by being at the stove I remain at the center of their frantic lives.

Posh is a clever cook — excellent, in fact — but like many people who excel at things my wife has grown weary of it. To be really good at something requires countless hours. By then, you’re, like, “Meh, I’m one diced pepper away from really hating this.”

That’s what it’s like for me and sex. Or me and touch football. Or me and public speaking. Or me and walking the dog. Those are pretty much the only areas where I have ever excelled, after much practice, and I’m about a week away from retiring from at least three of them.

This new pup, White Fang (“not fully a dog, not fully a wolf”) nearly yanked my arm out of the socket the other morning on our way to the park. She is a demon with a sweet disposition, which is the worst demon of all. The young husky will lick salsa from my ankle while I watch football on TV and leer at me with her cornflower Siberian eyes. Love has been based on far less.

But on a leash, she is horrible, reverting to her frantic, sled dog ancestry. We MUSH!!! across town almost every morning. Really, I resemble a man pulled by a ski boat.

Like I said, it’s hardly a cowboy’s life. I mean, shouldn’t I be doing the roping?

From passing drivers the sight of the wolf/dog towing me across town generates as much laughter as it does sympathy. One day I will stumble, at which time White Fang will drag me, rodeo style, on my belly. I’ll arrive at the park in good spirits, glad to be out of the house but a little torn up.

“Just another day in the suburbs,” I’ll announce brightly.

Someone suggested recently that I should write more about my dogs, presumably because they’re more interesting than Posh and the kids, and they seem to love me at greater rates.

But really, my relationship with our two dogs is antagonistic at best. I think they’ve picked up a lot of that from the children.

What bothers me most about our other dog, the 300-pound beagle, is his utter lack of self-awareness. In actuality he is 300 pounds of slobber, pork and pee. In his mind, he is a swan.

This is a useful trait these days, self-delusion mixed with rampant ego. I see it in a lot of powerful people — men mostly and some dogs. Confidence is like a pair of boots or a British accent: It makes you 10 percent more appealing than you might otherwise be.

Yet there are limits to everything. Mick Jagger, for instance, has too much of a British accent. As I was telling co-workers, I’ve never understood a single thing Jagger ever said. He might, quite frankly, be pulling our legs with his cockney gibberish.

Think I’m kidding? Try singing along to “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and see how many times you mumble/fake his bleary lyrics. Jagger doesn’t sing songs so much as swallow them.

Same with the beagle in that he exudes entirely too much self-assurance when, in fact, he should have none.

I stir the onions and look at the kids. They have various levels of self-confidence as well, most of it earned. Like their old man they have a certain disdain for false bravado.

Only in Nike ads is false bravado a cherished quality. Most times it just makes me cringe.

It is common knowledge that I savor the harvest season, when folks hover around the kitchen and something always needs stirring. I could easily bounce from house to house this time of year: stirring, tasting, nodding, then moving on.

This day, Posh has me slaying some sort of squash — there are now 5,000 varieties — and our daughter Rapunzel is impressed because I chop the pieces evenly.

“Good job, Dad!”

“Thank you very much,” I lie.

You know, a daughter’s praise can be difficult to come by. Five minutes earlier there had been a discussion that my left eye might be drooping a little compared to the right.

“Yeah, it’s drooping,” confirms the boy.

I refuse to point out that I was born this way, sort of droopy and askew. But people don’t always notice stuff like that overnight.

So I’m glad to let it go. After all, it’s a good life.

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)

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

Post navigation