By Chris Erskine
In the park that day, it was like the Feast of the Walpurgis. Balloons were everywhere, and toddlers hugged their daddies’ legs and played amid giant bubbles, for there was a bubbleologist, the latest rage for children’s parties, a professional expert on the art of making bubbles, which probably don’t get the attention they deserve. Americans take too much for granted, and one of those things is bubbles. The bubbleologist kept hitting on my son Smartacus, which is probably unethical on some level, but hugely entertaining on another. She openly admired his 20-year-old muscles as he helped carry the giant buckets of bubble juice, aka detergent, from her messy car to the edge of the park, where the birthday bash was taking place, at which point she sang Christmas carols and showed the young guests how to use the huge bubble wands. For a moment, I thought someone LSD’d my drink, for there were giant psychedelic bubbles wiggling across the park, like sea serpents in a Hong Kong parade, in the greens and bloody reds of a troubling dream. Seventy-five guests were there, including dozens of 2-year-olds — my lovely older daughter and her husband, Finn, don’t take half swings. I kept thinking of Jerry Seinfeld’s description of a 2-year-old as “a blender with the top off,” or something along those lines. Cakes, the guest of honor, had invited most of her friends, Beckett, Layla, Mayer, Linus, Ludwig, Pinocchio … there were 30 of them in all, and hardly a typical name. Apparently, in their spare time, millennial parents sit around and eat sushi while dreaming up strange and wonderful names for their children. Kinda dig it, to be honest. When I was a kid, all the girls were named Nancy; the boys were called Mark. “Love is spacious, love is infinite,” a poet once said. Love is also a long Par 5 played with a garden rake. Love is also a party in the park on a soupy day, a little cool. Love is everything. These were COVID babies, and I suspect their generation will eventually be known as Generation C, for babies who were born around the time of a pandemic that tried to ruin the world but couldn’t quite. Think of all the similar things that tried to ruin the world. Wars, despots, famines. Witchcraft, whooping cough, pirates. Nuclear bombs. K-Pop. Taylor Swift. We’ve come close many times, but nothing can ruin the world, though we’re certainly not out of the woods yet, at least when it comes to Ms. Swift, whom someone recently described as a middle-aged 14-year-old girl. I suspect that by the time these 2-year-olds are into music, Ms. Swift will be out of fashion, like Perry Como or Benny Goodman, yet you never know. Taylor Swift might be president by then. Even worse, she might remain the Shaggy Queen of Pop Culture. She might — gawd forbid — go on and on and on like Cher. But now is not the time to be all bleak and defeatist. Now is the time to take stock in the future. For these are absolutely adorable kids, with devoted and very keen parents, who dote but not too much, which might be the secret to parenting — giving a kid enough leash, as you do a spaniel. My granddaughter Cakes is flitting about, not quite sure why everyone is making such a fuss over her, and keeping an eye on Uncle Smartacus, who apparently looks like a giant smothered pork chop to the professional bubbleologist, who is still over there waving wands and singing Christmas carols. Faa-la-la-la-laaaaaaaa …. How do I get myself into these things, anyway? Well, I guess it started when I dated way over my head in college, and to this day I continue to date waaaaaay over my head. Think I’ll ever get the message? Meanwhile, the sheer capriciousness of life seems on display in this park, each of these kids in some way a miracle, and if you look closely — at their eyes, their hair, their perfect skin — you realize they may never be this perfect again, even when they’re 16 because of all the acne and stuff. They are, in fact, with their smiles half in, and frosting all over their silly little faces, and bubble detergent in their hair and clothes, about as perfect as perfect gets, in a world where we seem enthralled and overly concerned by all the rotten stuff. That’s my Yelp review of this party, anyway: Perfect, or nearly so. The rice in the musubi was a little dry, honestly. And I was bummed that the tiny designer cupcakes ran out before I could scarf a dozen or more.
Perfect, Cakes. Just perfect.
Props to those who braved the heat for the Happy Hour Hiking Club’s conquest of the Teepee Trail, or at least the first few holes. Certainly appreciate the conviviality of 50 strangers bonding so well. For info on the hiking club, please go to ChrisErskineLA.com.
First published in the May 4 print issue of the Pasadena Outlook.