I think that I shall never see, a poem as lovely as a dozen kids playing touch football on a California beach, as their parents cheer from beach chairs, trying to keep their fluids up with their own special Gatorade.
This is football at its finest. At one point, the kids pull off a quadruple hike, the center snapping it to another center, who snaps it to the punk behind him, who snaps it to the freckled fifth-grader at the back of the line.
In some 50 years of football, I've never seen anything like this quadruple snap. "Hike-hike-hike-hike ... Run, Holly, Run!" Don't think I didn't make note of it, in case I ever reprise a Marx Brothers movie.
In the meantime, we're at Crystal Cove State Park, a splendid little comma in the coast of California — all chiseled blond bluffs and sage, an immaculate confection.
I don't know how many families are here with us, maybe five, maybe 15, one of those beach days where everyone sort of blends together. A commune really. I haven't been this close to so much liquor and damp towels since my dorm days.
If only there were an adult present.
The ocean is cold as vodka but the company is warm. We talk about the new teachers and new principals and what the NCAA did to USC. We talk about Tiger Woods. And about how you have to retire someplace fun, so the grandkids will want to come visit.
"What if you don't want them to visit?" someone asks, might've been me.
We talk about our fantasy football teams and the glories of a $7.95 beach grill.
I don't want to claim that no one is a better with a $7.95 beach grill than I am, but that's pretty much the case. I dream of one day opening a restaurant with a tiny hibachi at every table. Cabana boys will bring around trays of brats kebabs and s'mores. "Surfin' USA" will blast from the speakers and the whole place will be more fun than Annette Funicello on the 4th of July. I just say her name aloud and smile. Fun. Funicello. Polka dots and puberty.
Anyway, my themed restaurant will be a sensation for about five minutes, till some wise guy from West Covina sets himself ablaze by breathing too close to the grill, and three engine companies from as far away as Irvine show up to douse him. I can just picture the whole thing. The big idiot will stand there, beard still smoldering and sputter, "It wasn't my fault!"
Honestly, if I didn't have bad luck, I would have no luck at all.
Speaking of great cuisine, if you've never been to the Shake Shack along PCH, you really should make a point to go. The Shake Shack is one of the finer restaurants in California, cemented somehow on a bluff between Newport Beach and heaven itself. Breathe too hard and the Shake Shack might tumble into the sea. So we approach it cautiously, as if sent to hang a priceless chandelier.
Indeed, this place is pretty priceless. They have a million kinds of shakes featuring ice cream that would stump a poet. Let me just tell you the first thing they do is freeze the cow, which is never easy. Once frozen, the cow delivers these super creamy shakes, right into the cup. Some zitty teenager adds a cherry and a dollop of whipped cream. Perfection.
I may have left a step or two out, but that's essentially how they make the shakes here at the Shake Shack, a true landmark. For many Californians, it's not summer without a trip to the Shake Shack.
And with our Labor Day visit here, we close the cover on yet another California summer. By most accounts, this will go down as the fastest summer ever. It was relatively cool in the foothills, and now there's this blast of New England weather here on the beach. All that means, I guess, is that Christmas in L.A. will probably be 110 degrees. I can just hear my wife Posh now: "Could you set the turkey out in the sun? We'll eat about 5:30."
Yep, in no time, Posh will be cursing Christmas. Nothing says the holidays like a mother mumbling at her computer while ordering Best Buy gift cards for nieces and nephews she seldom sees.
"Focus on the simple things," I keep telling her.
"Like you?" she asks.
Like fall. Like soccer banners. Like plastic pumpkins, home-brewed beer, harvest moons.
As I'm always saying: Life flies when you're having fun.