About halfway through her conversation with the woman next to her, I finally take notice of the logo emblazoned on the red wool of her jacket. For a sunny Saturday, she is sure dressed warm for the parade.
“Probably going to be the coldest one on record for sure,” someone tweeted Saturday morning.
Sometimes I forget where I am.
Ron Howard leads the parade not far from where I stood, and the woman shifts forward in her lawn chair to get a better view. She clutches a child and they point down Olive Avenue toward the procession — giant letters spelling B-U-R-B-A-N-K are pushed along by military service members who could be in a lot of other places this day, but smile at their fortune to brave a slight chill.
I took a picture of this mother and son, which you can see at www.the818now.com. I want to remember the yellow crown logo on her fiery red jacket. It proclaims her affiliation with The Road Kings, a hot-rod club that is more than 50 years old. Beneath the crown, in letters just as bright, “BURBANK.”
On Saturday, a day honoring 100 years of history in Burbank, hometown pride was easy to come by. But I was struck by the woman’s jacket, denoting a proud hot-rod tradition that has a history all its own — a pride that lives on the other days of the year.
I walked the parade route and watched two dogs greet each other in their custom, boundless way. Inevitably their owners struck up a conversation, maybe it was about the weather. A little farther down, two middle-age men who hadn’t seen each other in a while shared big smiles and a hearty handshake, while a team of middle-school dancers stomped along the roadway and kept pace with the parade.
Two different kinds of pride, two threads of connection that may look different but feel the same.
Again, I encountered the pride as I entered the candy brittle shop. The owner was disappointed when I told him I was only stopping in to grab a napkin. He gave me some free samples anyway.
After the parade, I tried out one of Burbank’s institutions, Frank’s Restaurant. The food was good, and more than fueled my wife and me for our next appointment: the Burbank Marriott for Monsterpalooza.
Here again, a community where everyone seemed to know everyone. Among the zombies and mummies and demons in the crowd, I found another Burbank shop owner, Bill Shafer, who walks that line of Burbank’s two faces: the one of hype, Hollywood and the hysteria that accompanies all of the hubbub; and the one where a guy opening a shop in a little storefront can make a living in a small big town.
A few days later, a comic takes the stage at Flappers. The place is about half-full, and it’s really not the typical Tuesday crowd. This night most of us are there to support the Burbank chapter of the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life effort. A brave couple next to me admits that they just came by that night to see a few comedians, and had no idea it was a fundraiser. The upside, says one audience member: The beer is a tax write-off.
It’s been about six months since I moved here from the East Coast. I’ve been trying to get a sense for what everyone keeps telling me: that Burbank is a big city with a small-town feel. What I’m beginning to learn is that it’s a large community made up of many smaller ones. They intersect and crash into each other and diverge and converge again.
Sometimes I forget where I am. But I don’t have to look far before someone is willing to welcome me back.
BRYAN MAHONEY is a recent transplant to Burbank. When he’s not trying to get his Honda CRV accepted into the car club, he can be reached at 818NewGuy@gmail.com and on Twitter @818NewGuy.