Happy Fifth of July

Well, we survived another Fourth of July.

“Survived” meaning our 11-year-old dog got through the barrage of illegal fireworks that begins on June 1, concluding with the legal commercial fireworks display that Burbank puts on, reappearing after being dark during last year’s quarantine.

This year’s fusillade from neighbors far and wide seemed incessant, more intense than ever.  Clearly, people viewed this year’s July 4th as the exclamation mark of the pandemic’s end.

That’s why I always look forward to the morning of July 5th more for Noble.  When we moved into our house 22 years ago, one of the first things our next-door neighbor told us was of the wonderful view we would have from our front yard each Independence Day of the city’s free fireworks show over the hillside not far from where we lived.  At the time, we had our first dog and were worried about how he would handle it.  While a bit unnerved, he wasn’t that agitated.  However, that would change years later when we had our second dog, Noble, whose is more neurotic.

In his first year with us, he nearly scratched away all the paint on the inside of our front door as if doing that would make “the rocket’s red glare, the bomb[s] bursting in air” vanish.

That’s when I made the decision the following year and years after that to take Noble to my brother’s house who lived in another city so he wouldn’t have a heart attack.  My wife didn’t like me not being home to enjoy the fireworks, but I would rather him someplace quiet and calm than me seeing the show.

With the cancellation of last year’s fireworks show, I didn’t have to make that trip.  And this year I thought Noble would be able to tolerate it since his hearing has diminished in recent years.

That thought was wrong for when the first bang rocked our house at 9:00 p.m., all hell broke loose again.  His sight is still fine so as soon as the flashing lights pierced through our blinds catching his eyes, he was in full panic mode as if his family was under foreign attack. He barked loud and long with a crazed look in his eyes, pacing back and forth all around the living room, his impression of a fire alarm.

The Benadryl pill I delayed in giving him foolishly thinking that maybe this time he wouldn’t need it, I hurriedly administered on a piece of bread with peanut butter (cursing the hermetically sealed plastic that makes retrieving the pill impossible), even though by the time it took effect, the city’s show was over.  Or so I thought.

In order to counteract the booms, I turned on a bluegrass music channel on TV to act as white noise.  My eldest son and I kept petting his head and body, speaking soothing tones, using our voice and movements to sooth his old soul.

Within a half hour, the legal fireworks were over.  Noble finally settled on the white plush comforter atop his dog pillow, doing his usual three revolutions to the left, then two to the right, as if he was a locker combination.

Then, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM.  It was nearly 10:30 and I jumped to the window thinking, “Wow, those illegal firecrackers are close to our house.”  When I peeked through the curtains, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Evidently, whoever set off the city’s fireworks forget to finish with the grand finale.  Suddenly, the sky was alit again with color and white light to the horror of my canine.  The finale lasted just a few minutes but it caught us all by surprise.

Another panic came and went.  Noble went back to sleep.  My wife and I continued hearing the illegal fireworks until we fell asleep from exhaustion.

And that’s why when waking up this morning to quiet and looking outside to see fog was quite comforting.  Happy 5th of July!

For Rent: The House I Grew Up In

There is a street in Burbank, maybe the shortest one in town, that connects Pass Avenue to Hollywood Way.  On that street is a house where my family lived for seven and a half years, from April 1969 until the fall of 1976.

That may not seem so long, but for my family it was a lifetime for that was the one residence where we lived at the longest, and where life’s obstacles tested the strength of our familial bonds.

Back then, the rent was $175 a month.  Right now, it is for rent again . . . for $3,075 a month.

I found that out by happenstance when my wife and I took that shortcut while running errands the other day.  The colorful flags out front caught my attention, the “open house” sign compelled me to stop.

Walking into the house I was struck with how small it was, barely over 900 square feet.

The tiny living quarters seemed like a gigantic dollhouse.  If one person was washing dishes in the kitchen, another person could barely squeeze in between the sink and the refrigerator and stove.

And the lone bathroom was less than half the size of the kitchen.  Imagine one bathroom for five people.

Yet we did it without any complaints for that was the size of all the houses that we rented:  two bedrooms and one bath.  My sister being the only female child always had one of the bedrooms.  My parents had the other, while my brother and I shared the den.

At this house, however, my parents had the den, while I had the smallest bedroom.  For the first time since he was a toddler, my 20-year-old brother had his own bedroom in the converted detached garage.

We never felt that we lacked anything.  All the credit goes to our parents who despite minimum financial means, always made sure we had food to eat, new clothes each school year, and presents for birthdays and Christmas.

When I entered this house I was still in elementary school; when I left, I was attending UCLA.

This was the house when my family got our first color television.

This was the house when I got a blue Schwinn Stingray bike for Christmas.

This was the house when a stray cat had a litter of kittens in a drawer of my parents’ dresser.  From that litter, we kept one who ended up living for 18 years, keeping my mother company when she eventually lived alone.

This was the house when my Dad was stricken with lung cancer, dying within a year.  When I began living in the house I had a 50-cent weekly allowance; when I left I was receiving Social Security survivor benefits.

How ironic that 14 months after my father passed away at UCLA Medical Center, I was hospitalized at the same facility for one month, my body attacked by psoriasis.

When we moved into the house in 1969, we were a family of five.  When my mother and I moved out in 1976 after my brother and sister left, we were only two, moving into an apartment for the first time.

In that period of time the nation witnessed the first moon landing, the end of the Vietnam War, Watergate, President Nixon’s resignation, and the Bicentennial celebration.  Locally, the 1971 Sylmar earthquake reminded Angelenos of the ground’s instability.

I entered that house a boy and exited a man, with too much growing up in between.

It is a cruel reality that people cannot grasp sense of their lives as they are living them.  It is not until years have passed that allows us the perspective of our narrative, to look back over the entire tapestry of experiences, and to think:  my God, how amazing it was that we lived in that house and still remained a close-knit family weathering the storms that banged at the door of our domicile.