Chris Erskine: The stories they can tell

By Chris Erskine - Los Angeles Times

These dog days of summer are marked not so much by a general listlessness, for I deal with that always, but by dogs themselves. Ours are huffy, always panting, and they hate being cooped up in the house … just hate it.

Still, I savor these days of early July, because there is so much summer ahead, daylight is endless, and those buzz-kill back-to-school ads haven’t yet begun.

Like a tray of raw oysters, each long July day can be a celebration.

Yet it’s so hot, it’s as if my skin is starting to catch fire, which usually only happens when I enter a church. The other day, the heat got so bad the trees were crying. Big teardrops of sap blotted the windshield of the family minivan.

Right this moment, Posh and her younger daughter are further raising global temperatures by arguing about something needless.

“Mom, do we even see the same world?” our daughter asks. “Do we, Mom?”

Evidently not. Our daughter Rapunzel sees the world for what it is and asks, “Why?” Her mother sees the world for what it could be and asks, “Is it too late not to have children?”

Rapunzel and her older sister will be summering back East. The older one has been there for a month, decamping to the Delaware shore.

The lovely and patient older daughter now makes more money than I do yet seems to lead a life of semi-retirement. I know she works very hard, but her Snapchat account is brimming with photos of boiled crabs and smiling boyfriends.

Evidently, she is dating a tray of frozen margaritas. She lives like the characters in a Kristen Wiig movie, except her friends have sunburns, like real people, and their smiles are more authentic.

These kids are, after all, a generation that celebrates authenticity, even as they chase “likes” on their social media accounts. By the time I die, they will be holding presidential elections on Instagram, and you’ll be able to Skype your way through a wedding.

By the time our kids are done with the world, you won’t ever have to meet another person.

The older I get, the more I like people, especially the older ones. There is a humility to them, a wryness, a twinkle. The American economy has pretty much shunned them, made airports impossible for them, eliminated tellers at banks — all in the name of progress.

In America, progress is a bloody sword.

When millennials whine, which is like a theme song for them, they’d be wise to remember Grandma trying to print out her boarding pass or acknowledging her jury summons on a clunky government website.

Thing is, I would rather have lunch with one older person than 100 millennials. Lunched with Angie Dickinson again the other day, an actress of some distinction and about as wonderful an old chum as you’re ever going to have.

I have no mom anymore, and Dad is long gone, so these little relationships I have with older folks fill some inherent need to spend time with people who won’t panic when their iPhone runs low and don’t mind paying for basic cable.

Besides, the fact that I am friends with a former screen goddess really angers my boomer friends back in the Midwest, who are already ticked off that I can surf on Christmas Eve.

Dickinson had a career, and she had a life, and on a windswept hill overlooking three counties, she continues, at 85, to lead a very nice life. Finally, she is hitting her prime (after all, women don’t peak till the ages of 75-90). And her stories are priceless.

At lunch the other day, Ms. Dickinson — still radiant as a butterscotch sundae — talked about her days palling around with Frank Sinatra, John Kennedy, Fred Astaire.

“Hey, Angie, who do I remind you of most? Kennedy or Sinatra?”

“Neither,” she says.

In one story, she referred to Gregory Peck as “Greg,” and told of the time she first met Marilyn Monroe, in a restroom, then later at Peter Lawford’s place.

“Oh, the stories …” she said with a golden age giggle.

At some point, we will all be measured by the quality of our stories. They are the building blocks of a vibrant life — of funny chums and golf foursomes.

Of the things you want to start early in life, collecting stories is right up there. Certainly before midlife obligation duct-tapes you to an office chair or parenthood plops you in the middle of some two-hour PTA meeting.

Right now, our older daughter is at a festive bridal shower in some town I can’t even pronounce.

Oh, the stories she’s collecting. Like oysters on a platter. Like the pearls of a very full life.

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.

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