Friday, July 04, 2014

4th of July memories

Since the 4th of July is a day to celebrate Americana and (in my case) a chance to sell some books for your summer reading, here are two brief excerpts from THE ME GENERATION… BY ME (GROWING UP IN THE ‘60s), my humorous/nostalgic/Pulitzer Prize ignored memoir of growing up during the California myth. You can get the Kindle version here. The paperback here. And the audio version (voiced by yours truly) here. It’s the perfect way to support this blog and relive happier times in this great country.

July 4, 1964

Fortunately, we were back home from Hemet in time for Independence Day. They still had 4th of July parades in Woodland Hills. Not exactly lavish affairs -- a few Jaycee Booster Clubs, school marching bands (playing nothing but “Stars & Stripes Forever” and “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini”), anyone who owned a horse, ice cream trucks, local dignitaries (“Hey, there’s Mr. Neider from Neider’s Auto Body!”), some elementary school classes, local politicians (“We have a councilman?”), and majorettes from as far away as Reseda. The twirling batons proved to be more dangerous to crowds than today’s maple bats.

But for me the REAL reason to stake out my spot on Ventura Blvd at Shoup Avenue was that the grand marshal was always Buster Keaton. Buster was probably 150 by then but still, there he was. Mostly forgotten today but Buster Keaton was a comic genius in the era of silent films and early talkies. His flair for physical comedy was so inspired that even today I don’t think there’s a single comic who can remotely touch him. If I couldn’t still see George Washington in person at least there was Buster Keaton.

I miss those parades. If you still have one where you live, go. Wave a flag. Cheer. Just duck when the baton twirlers go by.

July 4, 1967

We got a dog that summer. A poodle-terrier. My mother named her.


That name would not have been my choice. I don’t remember why we got a dog. We never had a pet before. But I was thrilled. And Babs turned out to be a fabulous dog and companion. If someone in the house were sick, she’d sit all day at the end of his bed. I worried that our family, unaccustomed to caring for pets might not take the best care of her – and my early fears were justified.

Our house was only two blocks from the Woodland Hills Park. On the 4th of July, they would shoot off fireworks. We always invited a few people over for a barbeque and fireworks show, comfortably viewed from our backyard. A neighbor was lying on a chaise lounge. He set his martini down on the ground. Babette approached and lapped up the entire contents in mere seconds. Ten minutes later she staggered out onto the lawn and passed out for twenty-four hours. We have a dog for one month and get her completely shit-faced. Nice.

Have a safe and sane 4th of July.


emily said...

Buster passed away in Woodland Hills, not far from you, Ken.

Best of:

Paul Duca said...

Passing out was probably the best thing for Babette...they say dogs and cats are particularly sensitive to the sound of fireworks. Many panic and run off, wind out in shelter, get run over in the road.

Matt said...

So you are saying giving my dog a vodka tonic at night is a bad idea?

She doesn't share with the cats, that would cause real problems.

Ed Dempsey said...

Never forget being at a party where most of the guests had passed out or intentionally gone to bed. The family's dog Smoke decided to sample his way through the nearly empty glasses. If you've never seen a dog with a serious hangover, it's a real trip.

Happy 4th of July!

DBenson said...

Actually, Keaton did have a pretty good second act. His screen career was mostly cameos and beach movies, but he'd been rediscovered by critics and buffs (if not the philistines) and was lionized at film festivals and such. Close to the end of his life he had a substantial part in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," shocking the crew by deliberately smacking his head into a tree to sell a sight gag.

He was a tough old survivor who thrived on work. In "Buster Keaton Rides Again," his wife relates how he'd declare himself fully retired; get upset that the phone wasn't ringing; and jump back in for whatever project appeared.

Wayne said...

And Buster Keaton was a great baseball fan and player.