A lot of the parents looked a little like hippies but were really in the entertainment industry, like Jason’s dad, who produced the television show Welcome Back, Kotter. Or Donovan’s dad, who was, well, Donovan, though I think he lived in Europe somewhere.
Real estate was affordable in those days, which meant that you didn’t have to be a rock star to live in a big house by the Hollywood sign. My Dad, who did not look like a hippie, was an actor who did television and radio commercials, and he bought one in foreclosure for about what one pays for a new SUV today.
It was a French Normandy castle, built into the side of a hill in 4 levels, with 2 turrets, a winding stairway and a bell tower. My room was at the top of the main turret. It was a perfectly round room, and if you stuck your head out the window, you could see some of the giant letters of the HOLLYWOOD sign.
Purportedly, a character actor named Edward Everett Horton had once owned the house, but the most recent tenants had been a bunch of ne’er-do-wells who’d trashed the place and painted the hardwood floors black (No, it wasn’t the Manson family. They were in the next canyon.).
So we fixed it up.
With brown shag carpeting, avocado appliances and a suit of armor.
It was fabulous.
I tell you all of this because (it’s fun to reminisce, and also because) our garage was built into the side of the hill, and its only entrance and exit was the big door on the front. The door was pretty heavy, and it only operated manually.
It was a warm afternoon in the fall.
If you’d gotten off the school bus with me that day, you might have missed Grandma’s voice from behind the garage door. It was barely audible under the roar of the bus’s idling engine and the sounds of sprinklers in the distance. “Honey, now don’t be scared,” the voice warbled. “Your Mar-Mar is stuck in the garage.”
What was a 7 year-old to do?
My parents had left on an anniversary vacation, so my brother and I were being watched by our grandmother. And Todd –who was, himself, only 10 at the time— wasn’t due back from Boy Scouts for hours.
So, prompted by the voice, I waved for the bus driver, a fairly well-built woman in her 30’s, and the three of us began to pull (and push), while the busload of little kids looked on.
Somehow or other we managed to lift the thing high enough for poor “Mar-Mar” to limbo her way under, out and into the fresh air. The bus kids went wild. We were heroes, and Grandma was okay!
I suppose the lesson here is to always, always listen for the still, small voice. Because, if it’s not paramatman within the heart, it might be your grandma pinned beneath (or stuck behind) a very heavy object.