First published in the Nov. 3 print issue of the Pasadena Outlook.
November Is …
— A quarterback hurtling the middle linebacker.
— Big flecks of pepper in a beefy Bloody Mary.
— Salted pumpkin seeds.
— The sound of sinners shuffling off to church.
I’m never at a loss for words, just the right words. I am also a connoisseur of awkward moments.
In social occasions, most people dread awkward moments. Not me. I love them. They’re human. They’re inevitable. In those instances, people reveal themselves.
Like Hawthorne, I’m interested in truth and hypocrisy, sin and salvation. And the way people wiggle out of awkward moments.
Meanwhile, November is …
— The World Series.
— Snickers pie.
— Posh’s chili.
— Bumping butts and elbows in the kitchen.
Can you believe they’re still playing baseball? Baseball is like a good date that goes on seven hours too long. In November, baseball feels like waking up in jail.
FYI, the great Vin Scully wouldn’t even watch a World Series, unless the Dodgers were in it. “Too much ice cream,” he told me once. “Too much of a good thing.”
When the voice of the sport tunes you out, you know you have a problem. It would be a better game at 124 games, finishing
To save baseball, a bunch of rich men would have to take pay cuts, and rich men generally frown at that. Blame them?
No, but. …
Meanwhile, November is …
— Gordon Lightfoot first thing in the morning.
— Brilliant stuff by Frank Capra and John Hughes.
— Thumbing through holiday catalogs.
— Tree lots with those candy-cane tents.
My mom loved the holidays. I have the same affliction. It tends to be a genetic thing, like freckles, bad golf swings or sweater vests.
Heavy sweaters always make me claustrophobic. Not a vest. A sweater vest is the negligee of sweaters … a tease … an invitation. After the bikini, the sweater vest is probably fashion’s finest achievement.
I mean, take a look at me in the Ditka sweater vest I wore for Halloween. I look like a giant tube of testosterone, no? OK, no.
Incidentally, this is me flopped in a chair after an eight-hour tailgate Saturday, which turned out to be the greatest day of my life.
Each day, I wake and think: “This could be the greatest day of my life.” And Saturday it was. Who knew?
Let me say this about that: My buddy Mark J. Miller is to tailgates as Yeats is to poetry, and Secretariat was to a fat bag of oats. He tends bar like a man drowning in a pool of his own juices. But tend it he does.
Like November, tailgates bring out the best in us — the buddyships, the laughs, the memories.
By the way, I’ve dubbed that big floppy chair my “exhaustion chair,” a place to recover from seasonal obligations.
Finally, November is. …
— Rattling pots.
— “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”
— Awkward pauses.
— Exhaustion chairs.
Here is Posh’s chili recipe (knew you’d ask). My late wife used to make it at this time of year, from a recipe gleaned from Trader Joe’s. It is guaranteed to cure depression, insomnia, impertinence, incontinence, broken hearts, broken bones and broken lives.
As you make it, please tap your wooden spoon on the side of the pot three times in memory of Poshy. Everyone has a trademark sound, and that was hers, the tap-tap-tap on a holiday pot.
If she answers, please let me know.
POSH’S CHICKEN CHILI RECIPE
1 rotisserie chicken (or the equivalent)
3 jars green salsa
2 cans of white cannellini beans
2 cups chicken stock
In a big pot, sauté 2 tablespoons of chopped garlic and a medium chopped onion in a splash of oil. Add the peeled meat from the chicken and three jars of Trader Joe’s salsa verde (other markets’ green salsa also works fine).
You slosh the mixture around a while, maybe an hour, add a couple of cans of white cannellini beans and a tablespoon of cumin, a spice that tastes lousy till you add it to food. Oh, and a cup or two of chicken broth. Then slosh it around some more. Tap the side of the pot. Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with a scoop of sour cream, a dash of hot sauce and a cold beer. Feeds six normal adults. Or about 60 Chardonnay moms.
Email the columnist at Letters@ChrisErskineLA.com. For books, past columns, or to sign up for his Happy Hour hikes, please go to ChrisErskineLA.com.