It’s that time of year again, gang. The Great American Fourth of July holiday celebration. Fireworks, barbecues, sunburn, beer. But especially fireworks. For the past several years on this day I’ve reprised the blog I wrote back in 2012, which extolled the virtues of Jean Shepherd, master storyteller, who told probably the funniest story about the Fourth that’s ever been told. I went to great lengths to recreate that story in my own words and more recently added a link to an audio recording of Shepherd telling the story as only he could. It’s a recording of a live radio broadcast of his radio show from the studios of WOR in New York.

This year I will do you all a favor and forego trying to ape Shepherd and simply let you hear the master tell the tale in his own words, in his own inimitable style. It’s a classic.

Shepherd was a raucous personality with his own cult following back in the day. Most people today only know him, if they know him at all, as the writer/narrator of “A Christmas Story.” But he did a lot of other things. And the best things he did were all on the radio.

I wish Shepherd were around today. He passed away in  1999. Besides being a brilliant story teller he was an acerbic social commentator. He picked up on things as they were happening and often before they were happening. He could read the “straws in the wind,” as he called them. I really wonder what he would say about our current political situation and the rise of a reality television star to the office of the president.

He probably wouldn’t be surprised at all. Even then, in the 1970s, as his radio career was winding down, and he turned to writing books and movies, he predicted the rise of the celebrity in American society. He was fascinated by America’s hangup with celebrities and our worship of show biz. He was convinced that American life would become more and more chaotic, and unsatisfying as people, who dreamed that their lives would be like it is on television and the movies, found out the truth–  that life is just “one damn kitten after another,” as Mehitabel the Cat used to say.  Shep was fond of quoting Don Marquis who wrote about Archie and Mehitabel. Mehitabel wanted to be a dancer, you see, but always, just as she was getting her act together and things were starting to break, along comes another  “batch of these damn kittens.”

So now, having carried celebrity worship to its extreme by electing a TV celebrity as their leader, the great electorate out there is already starting to feel a little shaky. The Kool Aid euphoria is wearing off. The consequences may be a little more serious than a batch of kittens.

Nevertheless, we’ll carry on. Just remember Shep’s sage advice about life and its vicissitudes: “Keep your knees loose and your duff close to the ground.” And now for your patriotic holiday enjoyment here is Jean Shepherd telling the tale of “Ludlow Kissel and the Dago Bomb that Struck Back.”

“Excelsior, you Fathead.”

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