The Parade Happened Anyway: Topanga Days

Kathie GibboneyBy Kathie Gibboney      June 26, 2020

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The Parade Happened Anyway: Topanga Days
Being so much here at home, I’ve been given a chance to witness some miracles I might have otherwise missed. I saw caterpillars form their hard-shelled chrysalises emerge as new and winged things. I saw small birds that had hatched on our patio, peek out of the window shutter birdhouse, and encouraged by their mother’s chirping, bravely leave the nest to fly off into the blue Topanga sky. My heart soared with them. I have been privy to this august publication, now known as, The Canyon Chronicle, attempt to, phoenix like, rise to live again.
These things please me and I admire the mythic transformations that occurred. Day after day I wait for my own change. To become some new and better me. Where is my metamorphosis? Where are my wings? But something is wrong, and I fear I am a victim of de-evolution. I’m getting worse instead of better. I may as well wear the Devo pyramid hat.

I swear there are days when I do nothing but pet the cat and scroll through some vintage McDonald’s’ place mats for sale on eBay. I actually purchased a classic Mayor McCheese and the Hamburgler, as a present for my brother. Before this pandemic is over, he may be the lucky recipient of a complete set, (I’ve got my eye on a Ronald McDonald at the circus).

In this current stagnant state, I have veered far from my former efforts at some semblance of style and glamor, now appearing before my poor husband in some truly horrid “at home” outfits. If there were an ugly Covid fashion contest I’m sure I would win for my “Given Up Caring” look of baggy gym shorts from junior high school, topped with a t-shirt depicting a goblet, that reads, “You’re the Fly in My Champagne,” while wearing a pair of distressed bunny slippers and eating a corn dog. Sadly, I’m so lazy, if there was a fly in my champagne, I’d probably just swallow it. What the hell?

I try to pretend we’re on vacation, that maybe it’s great to have time off, to apply purple hair color, eat pie for breakfast, smell the roses, drink wine and listen to the old vinyl, but the uncertainty of our future,and state of our whole divided world robs me of such ease.

Oh, and there’s something else as well. Something closer to home I was trying toavoid facing, putting off, steeling myself against its coming. But there is no place to hide when the Tree of Heaven blooms. It garishly announces the season with pesky flowers, small and green, raining down in a mass profusion, creating a chartreuse carpet covering the decking, smelling dusty and pungent with a sharp fragrance of pepper and sage. The tree has other names, not nearly as poetic. The official name is Ailanthus altissima but is also called the baser “Stink Tree.” Our son admits to liking the tree, “The smell reminds me of my youth,” he says. “It reminds me of Topanga Days.”

And there it is. For once the tree blooms, it’s time for Topanga Days! A Topanga Days that is not coming this year in the time of Covid 19. I am heavy hearted and sad, like a child who has to experience the loss of something she loves and wants and cannot have. I just might throw a tantrum, a real hell-raiser. I’ll lie on the ground yelling, “I want Topanga Days! I want my Topanga days!” and kick and scream like the time when I was four and I wanted the white moccasins, but the shoe store was out of my size. My poor mother had to look on aghast at her daughter’s obnoxious behavior as she apologized to the horrified shoe salesman. Recently I came upon a pair of white moccasins and immediately bought them. The salesman never knew how lucky he was to have had them in my size.
Seeing a tear run down my cheek as I faced the loss of the annual, glorious community celebration of the special place that is Topanga, the dear Beleaguered Husband says, “Don’t worry. We’ll dress up and still go to Pine Tree Circle. I’ll put you on the hood of the car and make the drive up to the Community House.”

And so, come that Monday morning, we rose and donned our tie-dye as we have done every Memorial Day for twenty-seven years and drove - no, not with me on the hood of the car, but with a sparkly, pink flying pig aloft - the short distance to Pine Tree Circle. Never have I seen the Canyon look more beautiful; all the plants and trees lush, the flowers vibrant, a crystal-clear, mystic view of My Mountain, the familiar homes of dear neighbors, the Cat Goddess statue decked for Memorial Day. It was as if Topanga was giving itself to me, maybe even showing off a bit as if saying, “This is for you Kathie. Happy Topanga Days!”

Just as we arrived, we saw some other decorated vehicles pulling out onto the boulevard and we did indeed join the parade. With horns blaring we slowly drove along behind a gardener’s truck who had no doubt, unwittingly become part of a line of celebrants. People, in their masks safely spaced, stood along the road, waving and cheering. We progressed to the bottom of the Community House and as the rest of the cars continued, we stopped for a moment in the now quiet morning. But did I, just for a moment hear the sound of music coming from up the hill? The familiar tenor of Billy Portman’s voice announcing the seed spitting contest? Is that incense I smell?

We finished our promenade with a quick drive through Bonnell Park where we aptly came upon a woman walking her cat. She, too, is part of Topanga. The cat’s name is Tom. In other times I would now be finishing my annual coverage of Topanga Days and submitting it for publication in the paper and the intrepid editor would ask, “Didn’t you get any better pictures then these?” and “But who won the pie eating contest?”

I looked over old copies of the Topanga Messenger and the Messenger Mountain News, (both publications for which I have always felt proud and privileged to write), to find a past, evergreen tribute that captures the Topanga Days spirit, and to share it here, in honor of our iconic parade and fair. I found this description from 2010, the year Ziggy played, the year the theme was, One Canyon, One World.

“Amongst the razzle dazzle could be seen a young Topanga child in a tutu, a flower painted on her face, eating a snow cone with some of it dribbling down her tummy, strolling about oblivious to the crowd, just happy to be herself at a fair, as if the whole thing had been created just for her. God Bless the Child. God Bless Topanga Days”.

Then the whole world explodes and goes mad. See what happens if we don’t have Topanga Days? The change I was looking for is much larger than my own. COVID-19 is not the only virus in the land.

We need to be the vaccine. We have to listen to the voices raised and say, “Yes, enough! No more in my country! Here in 2020, at last, we will stand against prejudice, ignorance, and the hate that warps our nation, until it’s wiped from our land and every blessed child has got its own."

"We can make the mountains sing, or make the angels cry,"Lyric from Get Together by The Youngbloods. Often played at Topanga Days
Kathie Gibboney
      June 26, 2020

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