Saturday, July 2, 2011

My 1st 4th of July, PacPal

Believe it or not, what sold me on Pacific Palisades, 15 years ago, wasn’t driving at sunset, seeing the Pacific on a pristine view day. It was driving down Sunset on the days preceding the 4th of July and seeing all the chairs set out on the curbs. We were looking for a home, and I’d thought I wanted to live in Westwood. It seemed more central, if a bit vehicularly dense. But our realtor told us what a village-like feeling “the Palisades” had, and that was appealing. The simple act of residents leaving their beach chairs on the curb for the local parade suggested a small town feeling unequalled in what I knew of Los Angeles. Equally small townish was reading the Palisadian Post “2 cents column” later and finding out what a controversy those chairs were. But it was what zinged me at first sight.

Our first year as residents, we did it all. Starting at about 8 a.m. we strolled down to the park with our 3-year old daughter Alice to catch the exciting race finishes. I could hear the announcer from the time we left our house up in the Alphabets. Festive bunting was strung across the finish line while sweaty, proud men, women and children in their race T-shirts crossed it to cheers and photoflashes. Quite the excitement.

After a patriotic brunch at home, (featuring my ubiquitous flag design cheese cake), our family and friends meandered down the car-and-carefree streets towards Sunset to watch the parade. I pictured the musical “The Music Man” where one by one, two by two, neighbors join the procession walking down the street. We found our chairs just where I’d parked them the day before. I’m a pretty strategic advanced thinker, so by the time the parade started at 2, our chairs were nicely positioned in the shade, to the relief and admiration of my guests. The kids were on the curb. They seemed to get a little thrill from darting out onto the big empty boulevard to drool over the street vendors’ wares. I later learned not to buy trumpets and silly string. Rookie mistake. Being rookies, we’d missed the parachute crew, but we figured, there’s always next year. And the year after that, and another year after that.

I was delighted to see our honorary mayor Anthony Hopkins riding in his convertible. Just as impressive were the tykes on bikes. Seeing those kids motivated me to teach Alice to ride. Years later, when we were part of the biking group ourselves, I heard her say, “Mom you’re embarrassing me” for the very first time. She was 9. She didn’t like my being loud and waving. Of course, that was only the first of many such declarations of embarrassment to come. I’ll always associate it with our 4th of July parade. But, It’s all good.

We returned home, waving our four-inch American flags, to recharge the batteries. Then around six, we headed out to the bluffs for a backyard BBQ at our new friends’ house. Eating is good on the 4th of July. (Maybe I should think about running in the race one year?)

I then parted company with hubby and child to bicycle to the high school and meet some other friends on the field for the fireworks. Alice, at the time, was frightened by the sound of fireworks, so Jeff offered to stay home with her. I naively thought I could find my friends easily. By the time I got there, all I could see was a blanket of people from the goal post to the far 30-yard line. That’s a lot of people. By some miracle, and not a cell phone, I spotted my group. We were enjoying the anticipation of being right under the fireworks display. I love fireworks. Growing up, as I did, five minutes from Disneyland, I was accustomed to seeing nightly summer fireworks from my bedroom window. I consider fireworks to be my own little personal connection with the fantastic.

Just as the lights were starting to dim, who showed up but Jeff and Alice! She had decided to try the fireworks after all. But after one boom, she slammed her little trembling body into my arms and begged to go home. Jeff gamely rode her home, on his bike no less, singing her favorite songs loudly and distractingly. He told me later that she was laughing as they neared home. (Of course, I was down on the field worrying that she’d be traumatized for life).

At the end of the fireworks show, I stood there, amongst the disassembling crowd, savoring the Mayberry feeling. These were all my new neighbors. And we’d just spent the whole day together. This was going to be good.

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