Saturday, June 15, 2019

Purple rain

Jacaranda blossoms

It's that time of year again, when the jacaranda blossoms turn neighborhoods into clouds of purple...and cars and sidewalks get stained with the same.

These trees were on my mind when I answered a recent Downey survey about trees. Which is more important to me, flowers or shade? I choose flowers, and I'm looking forward to the new flowering trees that will be planted in Downey over the next year.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Stand up next to you

Memorial Day 2019

One of my favorite annual Downey events is the Memorial Day Ceremony at the Downey Cemetery. The format stays the same from year to year, but some things do change. I love to see the veterans standing up to be recognized, although the number of WWII vets has declined considerably since I started coming. I love the 21-gun salute, which was missing this year. I love the speeches and the melancholy sound of Taps at the end of the ceremony. And every year, I love watching the kids from local schools perform.

This year, kids from my alma mater Spencer Elementary School performed one of my favorites, "God Bless the USA".
And I'd gladly stand up next to you
And defend Her still today
'Cause there ain't no doubt
I love this land
God Bless the U.S.A.
These kids are standing proud, together with each other and with us, to support our veterans and our country. 

God bless the USA!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Humans of Downey - Charles

From the Memorial Day Ceremony at the Downey Cemetery, May 27, 2019.

"It's hard to play [taps] sometimes because of if you think too much about it, you can easily crack a note or worse. But famously, the bugler that played taps at President Kennedy's funeral cracked a note but no one cared.

"I couldn't play taps for my dad's funeral. I just knew I wouldn't be able to get through it. I had my best friend, Larry, who's a fabulous trumpet player, play it. I've been doing this Memorial Day service in Downey for eleven years. It kind of rolls up on you. It doesn't hit you in the first couple of notes, but once you get going and you start to realize everyone's listening and everyone within themselves is thinking what it means to them. And if you let that get to you, you'll screw it up.

"I played taps for my boss a few years ago. I worked for a company that built trumpets down in Anaheim. When I left, we didn't part on the best of terms, but when he died the family asked me to play at his memorial. I was so grateful that they did. I was playing and handling it alright even though it was a hot dry summer day. I was handling it until I looked up and saw his urn and a large photo of him. That's when I distinctly heard his voice right behind me saying, 'Don't screw it up!' And so I cracked a note. It's hard to separate yourself from that emotion.

"There is an organization called Bugles Across America that is all volunteer. Their mission is to make sure that no vet has a funeral without a taps player."

~ Charles