YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Chris Erskine: Going to the dogs

August 06, 2011|Chris Erskine

Young couples are always asking me: "What's the ideal number of kids?" To which I wisely reply: zero. Then they laugh, assuming I (the father of four) must be messing with them.

"Consider a dog instead," I say, because they never roll their eyes, have no interest in attending college, are more selective about whom they date.

Dogs don't need braces. You don't have to buckle them into car seats, or watch their school plays, which are tremendously overrated. Some of that kindergarten scenery is so cheesy. The character interpretations are over the top. Really, you call that art?

With dogs, you'll never find yourself speeding in the fast lane in a minivan, late for trombone practice. You'll never have to watch them pack a suitcase.

Ever see an 8-year-old pack a suitcase? What he'll do is grab an armful of the closest clothes he can find — ski jackets, Halloween costumes. Then he'll cram the clothes into the suitcase with his knee. Umuuuuuumph.

The stuff he can't fit — the spillover — he stuffs under his bed. Then he congratulates himself on his excellent packing skills, for he has done in seconds what it takes his prickly mother two days to do.

Nice job. Yay, me.

The little guy and I took a road trip the other day, and all these things about children were apparent again.

"We're not having breakfast?" he asks one morning, so I take him to a cafe where he colors the kids menu and never touches his food. At any given meal, he is more likely to eat the crayons than the Mickey Mouse pancake.

"Can I have dessert?" he asks when he is finished not eating his breakfast.

"You don't have dessert with breakfast," I remind him.

"Mom lets me," he lies.

"Do you have another mom?" I ask. "Because the mother I know would never give you dessert with breakfast."


We're in Arizona on a short road trip, don't ask me why. I guess California wasn't hot enough for us, so we thought we'd give Phoenix a try.

We really like it.

Know what the state animal of Arizona is? The blown-out tire. The rubber remnants line the fry-pan freeways like road kill. It makes for a very nice entrance to this enchanted kingdom, and I wish more cities would use it.

At noon Friday, on the radio, they play "The Star-Spangled Banner" (I'm really serious). Apparently the national anthem is still a Top 10 song in Arizona. "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" is probably right up there too.

"It's 100 degrees at the airport right now," the weather caster says during the 9:30 p.m. newscast.

I look out the window to see if anyone is still alive.

Lots of bunnies in Scottsdale. Lots of "for sale" signs too. The only parks appear to be these things they call golf courses, which are everywhere. Apparently, that's where the bunnies live and copulate, as well as most of the people, whose ears twitch from the heat just like the rabbits.

At 4 p.m. one day, the little guy spots his first UFO. "Look Dad, a spaceship!"

At 4:01 p.m., I feel the need to start drinking.

Earlier, I'd tried to pull from a finger some tiny cactus thistles — skinny things you could barely see, like tiny blond actresses.

Of course, I used my teeth to extract the harmless little thistles, because that's a tool we cowboys use a lot — our teeth — and the next thing I know the thistles are embedded in my tongue.


Now I know why cowboys spit so much.

Anyone can have a bad day, especially me, so I follow through on my urge to drink and order a margarita about the size of an Arabian horse. It comes in one of those margarita containers that sort of, kind of, resembles a glass.

It's not like me to criticize, but let us pause a moment to consider the utter ridiculousness of the iconic margarita glass, the wobbliest vessel since Nick Nolte.

A margarita glass is dumb in the way top-heavy things often are. There is no steady place to hold it — no balance point — the way you hold a football or a good six-shooter.

Perhaps if there were no gravity, if our fingers were less tremulous with the worries of the world, a margarita glass might be a fine thing to drink from.

But there is gravity, there is stress, and in this increasingly demanding world, I challenge anyone to devote the proper resources to redesigning the basic margarita glass. It's almost an emergency.

Thanks for listening (I'm really serious).

Or, as someone with cactus in his tongue might put it: "I'm weally therious."

Los Angeles Times Articles