First published in the June 23 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
No question that I admire old things — classic songs you play at midnight, accompanied by an amber glass of Scotch, the kind that leads to first-offense probation.
What are you doing the rest of your life
North and South and
East and West of your life…
There are some projects we got 100% right: The Golden Gate Bridge. The 911 Memorial. Baseball. The French horn.
Add this smoky old song, “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” blending a plush melody with genius lyrics (Michel Legrand with Marilyn & Alan Bergman). I’m obsessed with this sonnet/song. Pure poetry. Perhaps the greatest song of all time.
And when you stand before the candles on a cake
Let me be the one to hear the silent wish you make…
Play it at midnight with someone you love. Sure, a dog will do. Or a glass of Scotch.
Just play it, OK? On the day she was born, play it. On your parents’ anniversary, play it.
The best rendition of this masterpiece? Check out Laura Fygi, a Dutch chanteuse you likely never heard of (her mom was an Egyptian belly dancer).
Fygi’s version, available on YouTube, is better than Frank Sinatra’s, or Barbra Streisand’s, and even Sarah Vaughan’s.
All the nickels and the dimes of your days
Let the reasons and the rhymes of your days
All begin and end with me…
All indications to the contrary, great work still matters. Decency still matters. Taste still matters, amid the sleaze and slime.
Want a creative career? Do remarkable work with remarkable words. Paul McCartney’s 80th birthday the other day honored all of that, his life a tribute to real emotion and remarkable words.
You know, certain times of the day stir something inside us: dawn, dusk, midnight. These soft pockets of the day tend to be amazing moments to read, exercise, listen to great music, recite a dirty limerick.
There once was a man from Madras…
I was telling Suzanne the other day how lucky she was to have hunted me down the way she did. On a whim, she came to one of my book signings, then to a Happy Hour Hike. Immediately, I sensed she needed a sidekick with a gift for dirty limericks.
Suzanne had never heard “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” or the ditty about the Man from Madras. So my goal this summer is to fill in those cultural gaps, to make her stay up with me till midnight listening to amazing songs that have fallen out of favor.
To her credit, Suzanne doesn’t detest this. Or maybe she just really likes limericks.
Meanwhile, my other masterpiece — Smartacus — is now back in the nest. He marvels over how well I have done with him away at college, especially when I forget to switch off the oven after dinner.
“God, you’re lucky to be alive,” my son said the other night over burgers.
BTW, here are some of the things my son Smartacus doesn’t yet know:
• the difference between sugar and Splenda
• the difference between Julie Roberts and George Clooney
• Up from down
• Hot from cold
• That Paul McCartney used to be in a band
My son’s a masterpiece, sure, but a masterpiece in the making. Smartacus was also unaware of “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” See now what I’m up against?
By the way, I’ve now seen “Top Gun: Maverick” 57 times, the last time with Smartacus at my side. Obviously, I don’t just like old stuff. I’m also into new stuff that resembles old stuff.
Heroism is vintage material that — thanks to this movie — now looks like new stuff.
Look, “Top Gun: Maverick” is hardly perfection. The dialogue is kinda limp and the only decent acting belongs to Cruise, Hamm, Kilmer and Connelly – all the chestnuts. The young actors are mostly duds – earnest and dull — as young actors often are these days. Honestly, can anyone explain Miles Teller?
The only young actor who seemed like an actual Navy jock was the kid who played Hangman, who had a bit of breezy alpha cool, a Top Gun trademark.
Yet, the movie is a mitzvah, perfectly plotted and brimming with surprise. A good summer flick to see with your kid, or dad, or mom, or a sidekick of any kind.
After all, Americans need new things to cheer about.
“Dad, did you have to clap?” Smartacus asks when it is over.
“Other people clapped too,” I explain.
“But you started it,” he says.
Because great work still matters.
This weekend’s Happy Hour Hike has been postponed to July 10. Sorry for the switch. Please email comments or questions to Letters@ChrisErskineLA.com. Cheers!