Saturday, July 19, 2008

Canaries in San Bernardino

We're not Italian, we're Swedish.

Nevertheless, we have a huge extended family. My Pa, Charles Canary, had 13 brothers and sisters. All were born and raised in Iowa in a dink of a town called Vale.

They grew up dirt poor and for giggles they smoked cornsilk in a pipe and tipped over outhouses on Halloween. Charles and a few of his brothers were arrested one night for their pranks and were thrown in the Vale Jail. They removed the bars and climbed out the jailhouse window, quickly escaping into the night.

Grampa and Gramma Canary were married in Sweden and came to the U.S. in their teen years, landing with all other immigrants on Ellis Island. Gramps' real name was John Johnson, so the story goes, and because nearly every Swedish male immigrant was also named John Johnson, the Ellis Island authorities changed his name to John Odin, after Odinsthorpe, the area of Sweden where he was raised.

Gramps and Gramma settled snug and comfortable to start a new life in Vale. But sadly, soon after, Gramps died in a train wreck, of which pictures of the piled and bent cars were taken and passed from brother to sister and cousin to cousin as evidence of the tragedy.

Any money Gramps had accrued in his short lived USA prosperity was soon history. So, with a Joadesquian sweep, Gramma and the kids packed the car and hit the road for Ca-li-forn-i-a. Los Angeles, in particular. And on the way they changed their name to Canary after Gramma's pet bird, which lost a battle of food chain supriority with a raggedy tomcat in Fruita, Colorado, whilst Gramma cleaned her spectacles.

Nearly 70 years have past. The daughters and sons of John and Wilhemina Odin/Canary are gone. But dozens of their progeny and hundreds of their progenies progeny thrive on and prosper in shakey, smoggy SoCal.

Which brings us, dear reader, to San Bernardino.

A second Canary cousin was married last night on a hilltop overlooking San Bernardino in a restaurant called the Castaway. An elegant place with a lovely view of the valley and the San Gorgonio Mountains.

Hundreds of Canaries and Canary friends were at the wedding and the first reunion of us all after 3 or 4 years of not seeing each other. It was superb. Much hugging and kissing and catching up was done. Some have maintained a healthy crop of hair and most have their teeth. Although we are rounder and more furrowed, we still are a proud and handsome lot. Who would have guessed that such a scruffy, dirty, squawking and demanding band of blondie kids would turn out so seismo cool?

5 Comments:

Blogger bullthorn said...

Loved that post Mr. Canary. You rule!
And not that you asked, but if you haven't already bought the new Ry Cooder please please please do so. Best thing I've heard in 30 years......actually 35.
Krink

8:00 AM  
Blogger Donita Smith said...

Good post. Fun read.

7:09 PM  
Blogger Billy Canary said...

Hey Krink. I have that Cooder thing about the cat and one about Chavez Ravine, but not the new one yet. I love the guy. Saw him live once at the Doolittle Theatre in Hollywoody. He was playing in the orchestra of the off-Broadway Hit "Gospel at Colonus". Pick that one up if ya can find it.

Send your real address to my EMail so I can snail mail ya some cool stuff. xo

11:34 PM  
Blogger Billy Canary said...

Donita: I have had a brilliant idee regarding us being bigger than the Beatles.

11:35 PM  
Blogger bullthorn said...

I'll just say this about Ry. I really like, even love, those other two recent CDs of his. But let me repeat this. The new Ry Cooder, "I Flathead" is the best recording, by anybody, to be released in 35 years. I know it sounds like hyperbole, so shoot me.

I saw him in 81 at a rock club in Boston, John Hiatt was his guitar player and Bobby Green and I forget the other guy singing harmony, the one on Bop Til You Drop. He was actually bigger than the Beatles that night in my imagination. It was his last tour. maybe this new cd will change that.

6:39 PM  

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