Monday, August 27, 2012

August 27, 2012

     A Birthday: a day to celebrate and hate and celebrate

     Today it is official, I guess, that I am old. Old like I get discounts at movies and motels and now I am excused from helping people move and such. On one hand, like so many other people my age I don’t want to go back except when I see young women walking past me without noticing me any more than they notice a clump of sagebrush. I ran through a little checklist and find there is much to celebrate being as old as I am which even now I cannot admit because I fear it might be true that in as much time as it was when I held my daughter first in my arms that I will be particles in my garden and the sound of my voice or the smell of my sweat will be as long gone as the stuff we found in old Uncle Hugh’s technocrat survival chest in my grandma’s garage in 1952.
    Although being this old does mean the end is near I take solace in the fact that I have witnessed a dazzling show of history. I saw Edward R. Murrow and maybe I was too small to understand him excoriating Tail gunner Joe but I remember the serious man with the cigarette in his hand. Speaking of cigarettes, I lived when smoking was considered one of life’s treats and part of the reason I will be gone soon is that I was a slave to nicotine for twenty-five years:I loved my Tareytons, Winstons, Rothmans and my true favorites from Great Britain, Cadets. We smoked in college classes, we smoked outside the gym at basketball games, Rod Serling smoked as he introduced new Twilight Zone episodes. I also drank all manner of liquor but learned after many sad mornings to stop after a few. I still like whiskey and consider the first drink buzz to be one of life’s great wonders.
      I saw Sandy Koufax pitch from the dugout boxes, saw that rising fastball and the 12 to 6 curve ball that was impossible to hit. I personally remember my team winning five gonfalons and was curbside at every Laker parade since 1980. I sold programs at the Memorial Coliseum as a kid and saw every Ram home game for over thirty years. I went to UCLA when the village was all Mediterranean pink and Coach John Wooden made me think the Bruins would always win every game.  I drove an Impala when it was new and tasted a chubby champ handed to me by a car hop at Harvey’s broiler when boys put Butch wax in their pompadours to make them stiff. I was at Disneyland when it opened and remember running on the spongy asphalt down Main Street and once road the Matterhorn behind Walt Disney. I parked cars in the 60’s and had my hands on all the grand muscle cars when they had that new car smell. Oh man.
     I remember reading the book my brother gave me “Catcher in the Rye” while in high school, ironically while on a religious retreat with the dust cover of “Shoes of the Fisherman” wrapped around Holden Caufield’s story. I fell in love with books in the 1960’s after pretty much settling for being a dumb-ass kid who told the sisters he wanted to be a salesman when asked for eighth grade plans for the future. When transistor radios were introduced it seemed this was the greatest technological advance ever, especially when I heard Vin Scully announce a game like the greatest poet who ever lived. Last week, I listened to him on my Iphone.  I lived through the sixties with guidance from my big brother, reading, listening to Miles Davis and rock and roll, taking drugs and once in a great while having a girl friend who would make me feel somewhat loved. I know what it feels like to see the ocean with a hundred separate colors or feel every muscle in my body all at once or hear what Muddy Waters meant when he sang because I also know the heaven and the hell of LSD. I smoked weed every day for decades because I had to try it out in the rumpus room of my buddy’s house. The reason I prefer wine to beer to this day is that it went better after smoking a joint. I quit smoking everything pretty much after one of two terrible fires in my life, the only good thing to come out of the latest one. I remember all the tragedies: Kennedy’s assassination, two riots, several earthquakes, 9/11 and Reagan’s presidency but we always made it through. Part of the reason that my heart continues to pump red blood would be an eccentric tradition of playing sports at the beer league level my entire life. First, basketball for teams like the Hula Gal Tavern and later and greater with the greatly esteemed softball stalwart Strange Heads who left me a place at third base for an unbelievable three decades. At one game we even had three generations of Creasons on the infield playing competitively…really!
     From the first time I heard “Behind the Green Door” loved music and tried very hard to hear it in a world where there were no concerts to attend and school offered one hour per week to hear the Standard School Broadcasts, playing “Peter and the Wolf” or “Victory at Sea.” I was lucky later to have a ticket broker father who opened the world up to me as early as trips to the Philharmonic Auditorium to hear “My Fair Lady” and later to the Hollywood Bowl to see the Beatles or sit a whiff away from Janis Joplin reeking of Southern Comfort (her, not me). Even in my dotage I have been fortunate to attend over four hundred concerts as an under-paid reporter at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. Because I was a poor hippy lad I was forced to borrow music from libraries and friends, thus broadening my tastes to places young people normally don’t go. Yes, I love Irish tenor singing and really corny Country and Western but never really got Led Zeppelin.
     With the highs of falling in love a half dozen times and being completely blessed by having a healthy, beautiful daughter I have seen some personal pain too. Heartaches by the number: divorce, getting dumped, raising a teenager with everything that goes with it and many long walks with the black dog. I was touching both of my parents when they left this earth and cried bitter tears for two of my best friends who died way too soon. I know enough about death to contemplate it with trepidation. I was raised a Catholic and have much love for the church that taught me many great lessons but managed to completely alienate me in the past decade. I don’t believe in God the puppet master or the sadistic punisher. I find it extremely hard to believe in such in any way except when I see the sun set over the ocean. Of the many things I have loved I love the Pacific Ocean and the San Gabriel Mountains and most of all, my tiny garden in Glassell Park which is humble but filled with love and my Mother’s ashes. Animals have always been a joy to me, maybe a little too much part of my personal life but Rainbow Bridge is filled from my first dog Gretel through my beloved cats: Johnny Cazar, the Comptess, Purrkins and Jasper who were, in a way, my best friends. I also had human best friends; two of them to be exact that have stood up to my bullshit for a lifetime and never turned away, even when they had a right. The same should be said about my family who are the sweetest, craziest (in mostly a good way) and most patient white folks on the planet. To think I just spent a week with the ones who ran with me in bath robes and mukluks to see what was under the Christmas tree when I was too young to realize that some day I might read and write. My sisters and brother have loved me since I used to try and eat sand at Alamitos Bay back when the ocean was new to me.
     Above all else, in my adult life I owe the Los Angeles Public Library almost everything. When I started to work as a librarian I was able to compare dirty old Central to being a janitor, a salesman, a ticket broker, a newspaper drudge and a parking lot attendant and I felt like a King. When I started I sat at a reference desk with rotary phones that were connected to a switchboard operator, put periodical requests into Lampson tubes, searched a card catalog and met the most interesting people in my life, including the mother of my daughter. From that desk I have seen the world turn and things happen that I could never have dreamed, especially in the rapid gallop toward the 21st century begun when I tried to impress a cute patron by buying an Mac Performa in the early 90’s. I remember my Senior cautioning me about answering questions using e-mail to the island of Santorini because to the phone bill. From that humble perch in the heart of Los Angeles I met movie stars, a presidential candidate, famous writers, and hundreds of really incredible librarians who taught me everything I know. By a set of incredible strokes of good fortune I actually wrote a book that is in the Library of Congress. Thank You so much LAPL.
      While I might groan when I stand and get up too many times in the night to whiz and can’t see fine print too well or need a pinch runner in softball I am still filled with hope for tomorrow, for a new adventure that might surprise me almost as much as falling in love in the Autumn of my years, which already happened once. So, today I am old but I still don’t need no rocking chair. 


Blogger Vidya said...

My Dear Don Sabelotodo--

What a lovely summary of your life so far. While you have had many adventures to date, there are still many kitten cats to pet, many walks to be had, yummy dinners to eat, concerts to behold and conversations to be had. Happy Birthday and many more to come.

4:42 PM  
Blogger Roy said...

Well, Glen, yours is truly a life and s spirit that is filled with vitality, passion, excitement, enthusiasm...and your wonderful talents, which we enjoy.

I won't be bringing you the rocking chair(you'd have to help me carry it anyway); even if decrepitude is lurking it hasn't yet found you.

Happy Birthday,,,wishes for -- good health,,,fun,,,love,,,joy and more wonderful writings from your hand and heart.

love and a great ^%th year for you,

12:14 AM  

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