The trivia event kicked off months of conversations with some of Burbank’s most interesting characters who shared personal, sometimes tragic and often uplifting stories with me. In the ensuing weeks and months I’d meet movie directors, entrepreneurs, cancer survivors, paranormal investigators, and even a sword fighter.
One of the greatest honors was meeting TJ Adams and his family. A few weeks after he was injured by a rocket-propelled grenade in Afghanistan, he was at home with his parents, grandmother and brother, showing me the Purple Heart he earned in combat while evaluating his options for returning to duty.
Then in November, I talked with other veterans at McCambridge Park for the city’s Veterans Day service. The scene reminded me more of a family reunion — though many of these heroes undoubtedly keep in touch throughout the year, there were many more laughing and sharing hugs as brothers who wouldn’t let an arbitrary barrier like time weaken their bond.
At that event and many others, I met many Burbank “lifers” who can share colorful recaps of the city’s century because they lived most of it. They told me of the old city where orchards grew on the hillside, and you could stick just about any plant in the ample ground and it would grow there. They wove tales of Lockheed and old Hollywood legends that took place sometimes literally in their back yards.
I also met many transplants like myself who found their niche in a city that’s grown accustomed to newcomers, and they are bringing up a new generation of “lifers.”