Pop’s birthdays were annually memorable
The annually fluctuating date of Memorial Day is May 29th this year. The somber holiday, though nowadays celebrated as the unofficial opening of the summer season, was originally termed Decoration Day, May 30, by the leader of the Northern Civil War veterans. It was designated for the purpose of decorating with flowers the graves of those who died in defense of their country.
The date, May 30, was chosen not for its historical significance, but for the fact that it didn’t have any historical significance.
May 30 was also my father’s birthday, though he was robbed of the holiday connection in 1968 when the holiday began being celebrated on the last Monday of May. He’d be 94 on Tuesday if he hadn’t died at 69 in 1998.
It wasn’t an easy death; he had been in and out of hospitals, mostly at UCLA, as well as a number of utterly depressing convalescent facilities, all of which kept me and my sister busy bringing him meals and just sitting with him for hours at a time, including his final 12 in hospice.
Although James C. Grobaty was in fact my father, he didn’t really fill that role for the first few years of my life. His wife, my mother, died in a car accident when I was an infant, and my slightly older sister and I lived with different sets of grandparents for a few years while our father recovered from his massive injuries.
After a few years, my dad started dating the woman who would become my step-mother and they took us kids along, probably to see how we all got along together. Fairly well, I guess, except for me throwing up Welch’s grape juice all over my step-mother-to-be at the San Diego Zoo.
I imagine I felt fairly tepid about the whole arrangement at the time. I was perfectly happy living with my dad’s parents, who I had been calling mom and dad once I learned how to speak. I wasn’t overly thrilled with this relative newcomer (my father) re-entering the picture, and I think he was fairly crestfallen about my not immediately warming up to him.
Then came the great train robbery on the Calico Railway at Knott’s Berry Farm. Again, a trial outing, and I was having a great time at the park until we got on the train and began chugging around the premises. Suddenly, masked men emerged from the front of the car shooting at the ceiling and demanding money and jewelry (as part of the act). It was terrifying to me and I sprung up into my father’s arms for his protection. He held me tightly.
It was the first time I saw him cry.
For ‘David Copperfield’ (no, not the magician) fans
Anyone with a passing knowledge of Charles Dickens, especially his autobiographical novel “David Copperfield,” knows that the protagonist’s life will start out with some problems, and then things will get worse until you think they can’t get any worse, but then they do. Then they get worse.
I’m enjoying (if that’s the word for it) Barbara Kingsolver’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Demon Copperhead,” a modern-day remake of the 1850 Dickens classic in which oxycontin takes the place of cheap gin and Appalachia stands in for the Dickensian streets and alleys of London and the horrid outlying villages of Yarmouth and Blunderstone.
If you’re familiar with the story, there’s no need for spoiler alerts. You know going in that young Mr. Copperhead (because of the color of his hair; the “Demon” part is an unimaginative poke made by others because of his name, Damon Fields) isn’t going to be the recipient of an overabundance of happiness and lucky breaks. But you’ll also suspect that things will eventually be OK.
Kingsolver has done an excellent job with the voice of Demon in this highly readable, fast-paced novel.
Little help here, please
Occasionally I get recommendations from readers about what books I should read and shows I should stream, and I appreciate those. But when were you guys going to tell me about “High Desert,” which already has three episodes on Apple TV+?
I wolfed them all down on Sunday and will pounce on Episode 4 when it drops tonight.
It’s a comedy set in Yucca Valley and other locations including Pioneertown in the high desert and features a solid cast headed by Patricia Arquette as the wishful private-investigator Peggy, a rambunctious and weird sort of Lucille Ball with a methadone dependency that’s bolstered or otherwise altered by a cornucopia of other drugs as they become available, including LSD. Other standouts are Matt Damon as Peggy’s occasional partner Denny, and “Everybody Loves Raymond” co-star Brad Garrett as her hilarious private-investigator boss.
Why do I have to blunder into these shows? From now on, a little heads-up would be nice.