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Chris Erskine: First, We Stopped at Soccer Practice

She hopes to sign soon with the English Premier League, preferably the Tottenham Hotspurs.

I always tell newcomers: If you really want to mess with people’s minds, just drive around L.A. some time being courteous. Stop for wheelchairs in crosswalks. Yield to cyclists (annoying as they sometimes are). Or, best of all, let some poor driver cut in line.
Sometimes, you see a mushroom cloud of gratitude. Sometimes it is the only morsel of kindness that a fellow L.A. commuter experiences all day. And sometimes they don’t wave or smile at all. Weird, isn’t it?
The other night, there was a lone coyote cruising through the busy intersection of Fair Oaks and Union in Old Pasadena.
I thought to myself: “Just another confused tourist, looking for the Rose Bowl.”
I wanted to open the rear gate and let him hop in, the way White Fang does. I’d let the coyote out in the long grasses of the Arroyo, and off he’d scamper to police the rabbits and the rats. Generally, we don’t give enough love to our lowly coyotes. Give one a lift whenever you can.
The other day at lunch in the Palisades, I told Catty Cakes — my feral granddaughter — to look at the hawk hanging in the ocean breezes near Miss Suzie’s house. If you think for a moment that there isn’t a God, or someone pulling strings, just have a picnic lunch with a 2-year-old while admiring the hang-gliding hawks.
God is in the margins. His name is rarely in the papers or on that flashy billboard outside the Coliseum.
I fear we don’t know him like we should. Of course, when it comes to religion, I’m a deist and a Scorpio and a heavy-hearted skeptic. But really, don’t you think there’s someone or something? Hey, maybe Miss Suzie? She sure wears a lot of ethereal, flowing skirts. Like Stevie Nicks — gray with black accents.
Just my luck, I’m dating the Second Coming.
Or maybe Stevie Nicks is our Creator. I’ve always believed that whoever God is, he or she has a throaty voice with a three-octave range.
Anyway, back to Cakes a second, for whom I have full responsibility this day, as her mom kicks a cold. If God is in the margins, he also resides in the little tote bag her mother packed, with the wipes and the little socks and the change of clothes. There is something divine about motherhood. In fact, it might be the most divine anything of all.
First, we stopped at soccer practice. Cakes is 2 and hopes to sign soon with the English Premier League, preferably her father’s favorite, the Tottenham Hotspurs, whose logo is the Road Runner from the old Looney Tunes cartoons.
See how this is all gluing together: road runners, coyotes, grandeur, God?
Out on the pitch, the toddlers are singing some ditty about how you never use your hands in soccer. Like most sports teams, they are a mad, raggedy bunch, more in need of a cop than a coach. Much like Tottenham itself.
After practice, we head to the nearby playground. In L.A.’s playgrounds and parks, there are no parents, just grandparents and nannies and a smattering of angry out-of-work actors.
Another FYI to newcomers: Much of L.A. is raised by immigrant nannies, just like much of L.A. is built and maintained by Latino men. Can’t say enough about my Latino cousins. I admire them more and more and more.
After the playground, we go to another playground – for that’s the kind of day we’re having, care-free and spirited … as wild as the red-tailed hawks frozen in the sky.
After lunch, there is ice cream. Then there is the gentle exfoliation required after ice cream with a toddler. That takes about an hour.
Then we drive around a while, being extra nice to other drivers, which just totally blows their minds, as I explained earlier.
“Really a shame L.A. doesn’t have more cars,” I tell Cakes as we wait through two lights to turn onto PCH.
Then the short drive back along the coast to the eternal city: Santa Monica, California.
As we pass the pier, my granddaughter mentions the horseys that she likes (aka the carousel).
I say, “Yes, we’ll do that again very soon.”
At the carousel, I’ll teach her all about ponies, parimutuel wagering, the math, the Daily Racing Form and all the other circles and secrets of life. Maybe we’ll have an ice cream. Or a nice cigar.
Isn’t that ideal? Learning about life from a Papa who bets on a longshot coyote to win in the second race?
Sure, it is. Sure.

Coming in mid-May: The Happy Hour Hiking Club tries a new trail. Details soon. Email the columnist at

First published May 2-4 in Outlook Newspapers.


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