En Route to the Heartland

En Route to the Heartland

By Chris Erskine
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES ~ Posh is telling me how she knows someone who knows someone with “a farm in mid-state,” where if you give the woman empty egg cartons, she’ll fill them with fresh eggs for free.

“Wonder if you gave her an empty bacon package?” I ask.

“Yeah, Mom, would she fill it with smoked bacon?”

This amuses the inmates no end, though Posh is less than thrilled that the kids and I are not taking her seriously. First, I am skeptical of this free-egg enterprise, for I have never heard of any region of California referred to as “mid-state.” Indiana may have a mid-state. Not us. In a sense, we are like a state without a belly button.

Plus, conversation has always been a little strained between Posh and me because of my heavy Cockney accent, which makes me impossible to understand when drunk or excited.

I also – routinely, almost like religion – refuse to take anything anyone says around here very seriously. I suspect, for Posh, it’s a little like living with John Lennon.

“Hey, Dad!”


“Want to practice our dialects?”

I am terrible at dialects, a skill I am sharing with the children. The hope is that one day the kids can be terrible at dialects too. As I am explaining all the time, nobody likes a person who is great at everything.

So, in an effort to stay humble, we practice bad dialects. We butcher Boston accents, then finally move on to French, the little guy traipsing around the house going, “Oui, oui, monsieur. I have to go oui, oui.”

I don’t know how the French squeeze the “we” sound out of “oui.” But considering the things they can do with goose liver, we should never underestimate our little Gallic buddies.

Anyway, we’re headed to the heartland, with our dialects well rehearsed. It’s a good time to be heading back to Middle America. As you may have heard, the Chicago Bears have acquired a quarterback for the first time in their history – the estimable Jay Cutler. He’s a bit of a diva maybe, but I can tolerate any diva who can throw bullets on third and 30.

Then there is Easter itself. Evidently, Grandma will be hosting some sort of meal.

While there, we’ll be checking out colleges for the little girl, who just turned 18 the other day, despite all my best efforts. Where does the time go? More important, where does my money go?

We’ll soon be blowing most of her dowry on some college of dubious merits. Let me tell you this if you’re considering college: Other than the degree, and the drinking games, I never thought higher learning was a particularly good value.

I mean, think of how much you pay to learn John Milton’s views on free will, or that the Protestant reformation marked the end of the Middle Ages. Sure, it’s nice to know everything, but stuff like that never got me a raise, or even a second date. In fact, I’m pretty sure several dates ended abruptly when I started talking about how Mark Twain used irony like a feather under the chin.

Good thing, I say, for a certain lack of success got me to where I am today, heading to Los Angeles International Airport with Yoko Ono and the kids, praying-praying-praying that the upcoming four-level freeway interchange isn’t a scrum and that the freeway breezes along like it often – but not always – does.

Honestly, in L.A. we seem to spend about half our waking hours trying to figure out when to leave for things – crosstown dentist appointments, or dinner on what Posh calls “the Best Side” of the city. Such timing is a calculus of time, day of the week and how much caffeine I’ve ingested.

By the way, isn’t the Los Angeles airport the most romantic place you’ve ever been? I mean, it’s filled with strangers passing in the night, an exotic blend of anxiety, desperation and body odor. I consider any time spent at the airport to be worthwhile. For, if I wind up in hell, I will be prepared for its horrors thanks to the time I’ve spent sitting on my carry-on at the terminal. In fact, after the Los Angeles airport, hell might seem like Cancun.

The airlines, of course, recommend that you get to the Los Angeles airport three days before your flight, to allow for congestion and cavity searches, but we get there four days early just to be safe. The only tickets we can afford are the low-budget, nonrefundable kind. Under the terms of the agreement we have with American Airlines, if we miss our flight, we would then have to walk to Chicago.

To tell the truth, that’s something I’ve always wanted to do – walk the nation – but I haven’t approached Posh about it quite yet. She’s always wearing those strappy leather sandals – even in winter – and I don’t see how she’d ever keep up with me through the Rockies.

So for the time being, at least, we’ll fly back to Grandma’s house, where the eggs are always free; you don’t even need to provide an empty container.

What more could you ask of an Easter? Free eggs and higher learning. Grandma’s corn pudding and apple blossoms on the back lawn.

Hello, heartland? We’re back.

Erskine can be reached at chris.erskine@latimes.com.

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