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Small Wonders:

Tears in heaven

July 03, 2009|By PATRICK CANEDAY

It’s 7 a.m. as I write this, so maybe it’s just the tequila talking. But this was a lousy June. A never-ending series of Portland mornings — dreary days that drive men to bars for breakfast and cause teenagers to pierce cartilage.

On a lifelessly gray morning last week I was driving north on the 101 Freeway, and the radio was airing endless reports on Michael Jackson’s sudden death the day before. The clouds outside mirrored the shrouds of sounds and sadness, white noise and unknowing on the airwaves. Tired of hearing the famous, infamous and indiscriminate tell of their personal pain at losing the King of Pop, I put on a different soundtrack.

Clapton.

He understands the world through music in a way few others do. Melancholy and inspiring, soulful and hopeful.

Would you know my name, if I saw you in heaven?

Soon the clouds were chased off by thoughts of summer. When I think of the Fourth of July and what it heralds, I don’t necessarily think of fireworks. I think of bug zappers breaking the peace of sweltering nights. The sizzling sounds of scorched insects, the brilliant flashes of blue providing a twilight show all its own. And when I drive down that street of summers past, I’m taken to the home of childhood friends.

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It was the friends’ house that sat geographically in the middle of a group of neighborhood kids. We converged upon this house virtually every day of our teenage years. Their parents called us kids “The Gang.” We called them Mr. and Mrs. Romo. We still do, so sincere is our respect and admiration for them. I’ve forgotten their first names.

They had everything kids of summer could want: a pool, ping-pong table, cable TV, a Betamax video player and food in the kitchen — which we made ourselves more than welcome to, I am now ashamed to admit. If they were bothered by this, they never let on.

After long, hot days of swimming in their pool, we’d spend even longer balmy nights sitting in their driveway talking about very important things with the earnestness of teenagers — “Sure Van Halen is good, but they’re no Night Ranger.” Or finding new ways to make each other suffer and laugh — “I dare you to eat all of these left over Taco Bell jalapeños.”

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