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Man of the House: For spring break, Cabo's got nothin' on our house

His daughter returns home from college for spring break to find dad drinking and the home converted to an Indian casino.

March 19, 2011|Chris Erskine

I was checking on the earthquake kit the other day — you know, sampling the gin to be sure it hadn't gone bad — when in pops the college girl, back for spring break. She assumed I was sneaking a little hooch when all I was doing was looking out for my family. Obviously, a lot of the selfless things I do go totally unappreciated (though I did notice that our emergency kit is almost all booze).

"Hi, Dad."

"Burp."

"Miss me?"

"Of course not."

There was upheaval almost immediately. The first night, her mother snuggled into bed with her, which means the little guy crawled into bed with me.

Next thing you know, the 300-pound beagle is hopping from bed to bed, trying to keep everyone warm and safe. At 300 pounds, he doesn't exactly have an NBA vertical leap. Nor does he have a particularly sophisticated thought process. One dog. One brain cell. For a beagle, that's a lot.

All that bed hopping makes for a not very restful night, though I'm not much for restful nights. I read in my favorite magazine, Parade, about some celebrity being "in a good place right now."

Me, I'm never "in a good place." I sleep like a rock climber falling off El Capitan. With a 300-pound beagle between my legs.

Anyway, the kid is back. She returns to a house filled with 455 boxes of Girl Scout cookies, 300 of which are open simultaneously, and a tray of spring strawberries the size of baseballs.

She is living proof that California kids never really go away; they just sample other cultures (in this case, Indiana's), then return in search of unconditional sun and their mom's custom cooking. Only kids and the über-rich have someone to cook for them on demand. The college girl is finally finding out how truly rich she is.

If I understand correctly, the cooking at the sorority house leaves a little to be desired. They used to have "junk food Fridays," she said, but some leveled-headed idiot put an end to all that.

"Lots of veggies?" her mom asks.

"No, but they do good things with potatoes," the little girl explains.

Indiana, huh? In the Midwest, jelly doughnuts are considered a fruit.

I explained to the little girl that while she was away, there have been many changes to her childhood home. I painted a door, for example. And last month, we turned the entire place into an Indian casino.

That was mostly, as they say, "for tax purposes," but it has some lifestyle advantages as well. I don't have to run all over town in search of a poker game anymore, and I've always wanted to live in a place with 14 bars.

Plus — and I never even anticipated this — the flashing lights of the slot machines create a certain ambience. I'd equate it to the hypnotic qualities of a campfire licking at the moon.

"WE HAVE A WINNER!" rings out every few hours, and some drunk screams and dances a little jig.

That drunk is usually me, though we take turns. Sometimes, it's the beagle, who might be the best dancer we have.

Plus, he works nude.

As with a lot of suburban dads, running an Indian casino has always been a dream of mine. The very thought of it has sustained me through 30 years of mowing the lawn, or each day as I take out the garbage and a little bacon grease gunks up my shoe. "Some day," I think. "Some day..." As with many of my great ideas (chocolate toothpaste, peanut butter coffee), I was afraid I'd never get around to it.

But "some day" finally arrived. Naturally, one of the first things I did was buy my wife, Posh, a special outfit in which to greet visitors at the door. It's one of those little leather numbers fringed along the hem and arms, so that everything flutter-whips when she moves. If I remember right, Cher once wore something like that to the White House.

"Why won't you wear it?" I asked my wife.

"Saving it for Christmas," she explained.

Isn't that sweet? She thinks the Indian casino might make it all the way to the holidays.

Meanwhile, the little girl seems unimpressed with the changes. The other day, she lectured me on "social learning theory" as it applies to the beagle. She said it in that tone that suggested I should already know what she was talking about. I didn't, but I refused to let her know that.

So, in the end, it probably serves the little girl right, spending spring break with her family — the sort of people who pluck all the raisins out of the trail mix, the sort of folks who smother a good steak in generic ketchup.

It isn't the perfect getaway. No, it's far better than that.

It is home.

chris.erskine@latimes.com

Twitter.com/erskinetimes

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