NEW YORK, NY –For the the first time in a long time I get the rare, and thankless, West Coast Craig honor of posting on a national holiday. I’m gonna run with it. Did you know that the last four digits of my cell number are 1776? Well they are, because I’m just that f**king patriotic. Anyway, not really sure what I want to talk about on this Independence Day but I’ll do my best to leave Cheesy Bruin’s Roman Candle out of it.
One Fourth of July really stands out in my memory. It was wayyyy back on 1976 (or present day for Time Warp Tony), the Bicentennial. Tall ships in New York harbor, every fire hydrant in the tri-state area painted red, white, and blue, Silly Love Songs and Afternoon Delight blaring on the transistor radio… in a word, heaven. It was also that summer that a young hot-shot serial killer named David Berkowitz burst on the scene. Among his lighter achievements, he first floated the idea of a talking dog, decades before The Family Guyhit the scene. But I digress.
Even though ’76 and the years the followed were no picnic in New York, or anywhere else in the country, they seemed perfectly suited for kid activities like Wiffle Ball and round up and stealing your parents blind so you could buy baseball cards. It also was a time when major league baseball still had good ol’ two-for-the-price of one afternoon doubleheaders. I seem to recall more than a few occurring on July 4th. Jerry Reuss in his Pirates pillbox cap facing off against the Mets is burned somewhere in the memory banks. So are great baseball names like Ed Kranepool, Thurman Munson, Sixto Lezcano, Paul Splitorff, Al Bumbry, Bake McBride, Amos Otis, Mike Lum, and Rennie Stennett. Seriously, I could go on and on.
The other interesting thing about those days was how willing parents were to set their kids loose during the day simply expecting them to make it back in time for dinner. Then, after dinner, set ’em loose once more to chase ice cream trucks and torture lightning bugs until they were called back home by their name or a simple whistle. It wasn’t like there weren’t sickos on the loose back then, it’s just that families believed in the friendships their kids forged and the sheer power of numbers. No one was gonna mess with your child if he or she were running around with 8 or 10 other kids. It was a lot like Junior Blaber movie favorite The Sandlot.
Anyway, back to today’s holiday.There was also a curious parenting decision when it came to fireworks. When you were a really little kid you were kept at a safe distance from all Chinese pyrotechnic novelties. Then came the year that your parents felt it safe for you to celebrate by waving a sparkler around like an idiot. Then, out of nowhere, you were suddenly at the age when your folks felt it was okay if you blew a few fingers off tossing an M-80 into the air. It was a once-a-year Lord-of-the-Flies-like fireworks bacchanal. Shooting bottlerockets into the air and at each other, sending cluster bees and silver jets riccocheting off telephone wires and onto people’s roofs, and luring friends just close enough to explode yet another piece of dog crap that you hoped would at least nail their tube socks. Was there ever a better time?
That’s what I’ll be thinking about today in the Post-Giuliani, Grucci-Family-are-the only-ones-allowed-to-blow-anything-up New York. I’ll also be thinking about those endless days of wiffle ball and parades of ice cream trucks. (“It’s almost 10 o’clock but I still have room for one final Good Humor Whammy Bar.“) Finally, all my old friends will be in my thoughts, new ones too. Here’s wishing all in MTM land a terrific Independence Day. Throw a dog on the grill for me, will ya?