HomePublicationBurbankChris Erskine: Heartache, Humor and Leopold Bloom

Chris Erskine: Heartache, Humor and Leopold Bloom

When hope fades, humor backfills the space. It’s like a trust fund for the soul.
To me, the most-troubled dolts are those without any trace of humor. Look at their faces. No joy. It’s as if they’ve lost the irises in their eyes.
Took flowers to my tiny granddaughter the other day, and her pup (Penny Laine) immediately chomped at them, pink petals everywhere.
I explained to Cakes that Penny Laine probably needed those flowers more than she did, so it was nice of Cakes to share. And I told her flowers usually grow back, though these probably won’t. They were pretty much mulch.
In our home, no good deed goes uneaten.
Point is, I’m flying high, with fresh goals and new aspirations.
As evidence, I bought three bundles of flowers, some of which are now residing — warm and safe — inside that golden retriever snoring on the couch.
Still, I see rays of hope everywhere. In the thick robes of winter snow in my beloved Midwest. And out here, when the full moon high-beams an L.A. beach, and you get a whiff of God in there somewhere — all that snowy glow, the frosty waves, the incessant holy spirit.
More and more, I spend my time as if it were money — frugally and with great caution.
I was speaking to some folks about a 9-to-5 job recently, but my heart isn’t really in it. I could always use the extra quan — I mean, my grandkids won’t spoil themselves. But I couldn’t see giving up so much precious time.
FYI, someone once described a Swedish playwright as “a deeply troubled man who seemed most productive when he was in a state of near nervous collapse.”
Honestly, that was me in a 9-to-5 desk job. It was nice for a while.
I mean, how many more Super Bowls will I see? How many more summers? How many more barkeeps will I get to entertain with, “Hey Sally, when you have a chance …”
“My name’s Steve.”
“Sure, whatever.”
Retirement is my second childhood. As I tell my buddies, many leery of retirement: Remember summer vacation? That’s what retirement is — an endless summer. Boats. Burgers. Bikes. Bikinis.
Think of Leopold Bloom stumbling around Dublin:
“Mr. Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liver slices fried with crust crumbs. … But most of all, he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.”
Like that one restaurant in Venice, right?
And please check out bare-chested Jason Kelce, who retired from football a week ago then spent Sunday cheering on his brother Travis in the stands.
Leopold lives!
Retired or not, we all share this troubled era of endless anguish and heavy sighs. We wake each day to devastating images from around the world and around the corner. Our front doorsteps don’t even seem safe.
Time to backfill with humor.
Thing is, have you seen any funny sitcoms lately? Have you suffered through “Saturday Night Live”?
Last time we were in this much turmoil — the ’70s — TV just took off. In unison, we all howled over our troubles.
These days, all we do together is stare at our phones.
Yet, judging by TikTok, there are still gobs of funny people in America. Trust me, none of them writes for NBC.
Here’s one idea for an SNL skit: Ken and Barbie at 78. She’s no longer so limber. He’s lost all his hair. She’s taken up pickleball. He just slipped a little and fell into the can.
OK, needs some work. Don’t we all?
Humor grows, as always, out of human frailty, vanity and frustration.
To summarize: Breaks my heart what’s happening to the written word.
Last week alone, two treasured bookstores — Vroman’s and Book Soup — went up for auction.
Then Sports Illustrated cut its entire team. Now my beloved Los Angeles Times is in the midst of a late-in-life self-immolation.
SNL’s woes are part of all that, a decline in our mastery of the written word.
Because those words — the very best ones — tap into some internal spigot, the place where worry, hope, courage, flowers and wit get all gooey together.
And what’s next if the written word dies — if funny screenplays, clever skits and love songs all vanish?
So, push your STEM agendas all you want. Overpay the surgeons and the software engineers. Bravo. Cool.
But we still need punchlines.
Madly. More than ever.

Speaking of quan, we always honor my late wife and son this time of year through a special fund. The money goes to local parent education and struggling families across Southern California. To donate, please go to bit.ly/parentedgala24 then scroll down to “Cathy and Christopher Erskine Compassion Fund.” Thank you.

First published January 25-27 in Outlook Newspapers.


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