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THE GUY CHRONICLES

The Way the Cookie Rolls and the Ball Crumbles

March 21, 2001|CHRIS ERSKINE

We love you, March, a month brimming with Thin Mints and basketball and leprechauns who can't say no. Love you, March. Don't ever change.

"Hampton?" I ask the boy as we stare cross-eyed at our NCAA playoff brackets.

"Never heard of Hampton," the boy says.

"I thought Hampton was a motel," I say.

March greets you with a warm hug and a preacher's smile. But beware. There is danger here amid the blooming clover. Madness is all around. Kent State beating Indiana. Hampton whipping Iowa State. It's madness, I tell you.

"This is going to be a nauseating two weeks," my wife says.

"Pardon me?" I say.

"All this basketball. . . ," she says with a sigh.

I won't argue. I'm sure my wife means nauseating in the good sense of the word. As in thrilling, gut-wrenching excitement.

"Hey Mom," the boy asks.

"What?"

"Who do you have in your Final Four?"

"What?" she asks.

"Don't push your luck," I tell him.

It's March, and I'm under a lot of stress. First, I have my basketball bracket to keep track of. Then there's these 87 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to deliver at work. By Friday.

"You have the money?" my wife asks each night when I arrive home.

"Tomorrow," I say.

"Dad, we need the money," the little girl growls.

"Tomorrow," I say.

Like I said, I'm under a lot of stress. Lots of dads are. All across America, fathers are being leaned on for Girl Scout cash.

Meanwhile, a national blood bath is underway. In the second half, Penn State is leading the University of North Carolina.

"Dad?"

"Huh?"

"Temple just beat Florida," the boy says.

"Oh my God."

"What's wrong?" my wife asks.

"Florida lost."

"Jeeeesh," she says.

Beware, this madness. March madness. In the paper, they say the Mir space station is crashing to Earth this week, probably over the ocean. Then again, possibly over my backyard.

Just what I need, to spend a precious Saturday afternoon plucking Russian space debris from the flower beds. I don't get it. We win the Cold War and my tulips are about to get shelled.

"Maybe I should move the grill," I say.

"Why?" the boy asks.

"Russian engineering, that's why."'

It's madness, I tell you. Everywhere, March madness.

My friend Vic, he doesn't have to deal with cookies. But suddenly he's got these ducks landing in his mother-in-law's pool.

For a while, it was kind of interesting. Each day, these two ducks would show up and splash around the pool. Vic would feed them, then they'd leave.

Then Vic realized that this is exactly what happened to Tony Soprano before he started having those panic attacks. Ducks. Now Vic's not so keen on the ducks. He wishes they would just go.

Then there's my friend Steve. On the second day of a weeklong ski trip, his girlfriend blows out a knee.

"Do I ski or don't I ski?" he asks, not sure whether he should continue having fun on the slopes, or hang out at the rental house with his injured girlfriend, who's terrific company but can get a little loppy after a couple of Vicodin.

"What do you think you should do?" I ask him.

"Ski?"

"Ski," I assure him.

If that isn't enough, there's my friend Paul. He's an entire column himself, my friend Paul. These days, he's worried about his kids' baseball team.

"Who's their coach?" I ask.

"Me," he says.

"Ouch," I say.

"No kidding," he says.

That's March for you. Hoops. Ducks. Baseball. Space debris.

Me, I'm mostly worried about my cookies. Down to 30 boxes now, mostly Thin Mints.

I wander the newsroom with my preacher's smile, asking people for money. If you've ever been in a newsroom, you know how ludicrous this can be.

"Hey, I have those cookies you ordered," I tell someone on the foreign desk.

"What do I owe you?" he asks.

"Fifteen bucks," I say.

"Catch you tomorrow," he says.

I am becoming the Don Quixote of Girl Scout cookies, traveling the world with my supply of Thin Mints, looking longingly toward the horizon. Like Cervantes himself, I am well-versed in misfortune.

"Hey, I have your cookies," I tell someone in metro.

"What do I owe you?" he asks.

"Twelve," I say.

"Can I catch you tomorrow?" he asks.

Meanwhile, in a rare moment of weakness, I dip into the Girl Scout money to pay for the office basketball pool. It's only five bucks. When I win the pool, I intend to pay it back completely.

"Let me get this straight," a co-worker says. "You took cookie money to pay for your bracket?"

"I'll pay it back," I assure her.

"When?"

"When I win the pool," I explain.

"Jeeesh," she says, as only women can.

"So, you want your cookies?" I ask.

"Maybe tomorrow," she says.

Love you, March. Don't ever change.

*

Chris Erskine's column is published on Wednesdays. His e-mail address is chris.erskine@latimes.com.

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