These Are Funny and Angry Times

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Kicking back with a seafood boil, in a boiling month.

First published in the June 30 print issue of the Pasadena Outlook.

So, there I am at this seafood boil we’re holding in Michael and Karen’s backyard, a fine summer bash, an evening prayer … vespers.
As I told the co-hosts, everybody is a little brittle right now — pick your target, human rights, inflation, Clarence Thomas. So let’s throw a party.
We were like those people who, in the late Middle Ages, danced themselves to death. Really, that was a thing. Across Europe, they would have these big dances where everybody twirled till they dropped — some till they died. Let me tell you, the Middle Ages was not for everyone.
First, they blamed this odd behavior on the plague (an early version of COVID). Then they blamed it on mass hysteria (an early version of social media).
What exactly constitutes mass hysteria? Well, if you’ve ever been to a Dodgers game … Or said something mildly unpopular on Twitter. …
Listen, there’s so much to be thankful for right now. No really, I’m not kidding. We lost power the other night, and if you need a reminder of the comforts we take for granted, just flip your main circuit breaker one day and sit around and watch your husky melt and your icemaker drip.
I bailed out the ice maker as you would a sinking sailboat.
An army of lineman from Edison eventually showed up to repair the transformer out back — never mind that we have a sparking transformer amid the tinderbox of our ravine. There’s a bobcat down there too, and lord knows what else. Poltergeists? Cossacks? Clarence Thomas?

My three dates to the theater. That’s Trouble on the right. Right?

The linemen got right at it. First, they sat in the yard taking selfies with White Fang. I don’t understand the hold White Fang has over strangers, especially men. Maybe it’s the blue peepers. Maybe it’s the freckles on her beak. It’s certainly not her personality, let me tell you.
Speaking of Cossacks, I saw a Chekhov play the other night with Suzanne, the silverplated sidekick with the amber eyes.
Check Chekhov off my bucket list. It was one of those funny/angry Russian translations, at my fave theater, the Pasadena Playhouse.
And if you want anger as a seven-course meal, just tap a Russian writer. Nothing warm and fuzzy there.
My takeaway from all the spittle, all the invective, was that we don’t know what we have till it’s taken away — like electricity, for instance. And that family is a bastion of second chances. I mean, not my family. But many families.
I saw the play with Suzanne and her sisters, Sassypants and Trouble. Sassypants might, in fact, be her mother — I’m still sorting all that out. Too young to be a mom, too sensible to be a sister.
Honestly, I thought Trouble was an odd name too, especially for a woman. But if you look at the picture (that’s her on the right). I’m pretty sure you’re thinking, yeah, that woman is Trouble for sure.
What do I know? I don’t even understand bond indexes or how ballpoint pens work. Gravity in general completely stumps me. When the power went out the other day, took me 15 minutes just to get out of the garage.
Back to Chekhov for a second. The guy is no Judd Apatow, that’s for sure, and I don’t see a big future in sitcoms for the guy. But he’s pretty funny in spots, and pretty raw and visceral in others.
Hugo Armstrong gave the best performance, hurling chairs one moment and crying the next (think your junior high girlfriend). Really, Armstrong was remarkable as weird Uncle Vanya. I’ve kind of had it with meek male actors. This guy is Brando, brave and bullish and kind of a mess, in the way great actors often are.
Anyway, onward we march through such troubled times. “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer,” says poet Denise Levertov. Not sure what she means by that, but what do I have to lose?
Please note that we’re halfway to Christmas, our own annual mass hysteria, yet remarkably calming in various ways. Favorite traditions: To light a lot of candles and drink rum out of a pail.
And I read recently in Parade Magazine — America’s best magazine — that apples can really help your hair. Not sure how, because I quickly got sidetracked by an ad for one of those super-huge cell phones, the kind that look like kids’ toys but really are for grandpas like me, who struggle occasionally with buttons. Buttons, buttons, so many buttons.
Plans start as low as $14.99. Ordered mine immediately.
See, when it comes to phones, I am all thumbs. In fact, when it comes to life, I am all thumbs. And big toes. When I dance, I dance till I drop.
Hey, it’s summer.

For past columns and books, please go to ChrisErskineLA.com.