Lights Out . . . Christmas!

by Bob Sparrow

I wasn’t really snooping, but as I went out into the garage to pull down the boxes with all my outside Christmas decorations in them and I heard voices. I stopped, leaned forward and listened. Indeed, there were voices coming from the boxes of Christmas decorations. I creeped a little closer and put my ear up to the holiday box.

“OK, you over there, spin around and climb through here; you, twist around a couple of times and do a summersault through here. You over there, back up through this hole and hold hands with her.”

Yes, it was just as I suspected, each year I carefully take down and tie my Christmas lights into a nice roll, label them as to where they came from and place them gently in the box. When I go to get them the following year, they are all knotted up with each other and in complete disarray. How does that happen? I was about to learn; I listened further.

“We need a couple of volunteers again this year; one to climb out of your socket and hide somewhere where he can’t find you. We need a second volunteer to wriggle out of your socket just a little, so you light up when he tests us, but not when he put us up. Walter, I think you were close to the top of the roofline last year, so you’d be a good one to volunteer for that. OK, thanks. Those of you who are close to that label he put on us last year, let’s get that off as soon as possible; if you can put it on another bundle of lights, all the better. Don’t forget, if you feel like you’re going to go out this year, wait until you get up on the house and then go out. And listen up everyone, what happens when one of us goes out? WE ALL GO OUT! That’s right, we’re a team, we need to stick together so he has to test each one of us to find the one that’s actually bad. We’ll also need a volunteer to give one up for the team this year when he lays us out on the driveway, someone needs to roll under his foot and get crushed. You’ll be remembered as a hero to all of us.

Deer-in-a-Box

Meanwhile, in the box next to it, I can hear the lighted reindeer talking to himself, getting ready for ‘his gig’.

“Man, it will be good to get out of this fricking box and get all my pieces put together. . . hopefully correctly this year! How hard is it to put my tail on the other end of my body from my head? I don’t know who I pissed off, but I spend 11 months with my head up my ass in a small box and then I gotta stand out on the front lawn with a smile on my face, freezing my ass off, looking all Christmassy for the next month – no food, no water and my antlers will probably be facing the wrong direction again this year. Wish I could poop all over his lawn; actually I just wish I could poop.  I know I look transparent, but I’m feeling a little blocked up.”

The artificial Christmas tree resides elsewhere in a storage shed. Yes, I lost the battle of ‘real’ tree versus ‘artificial’ tree, last year when my last ‘real’ tree had a small fire that was put out fairly quickly, albeit after a good deal of water settled into the carpet and the walls became a bit ashy. I mentioned to Linda that the fire retardant actually looked like snow on the tree, but she failed to see the humor in that.

As late afternoon brought darkness, I headed out to the street in front of the house to admire my work.  Of course, the highest string of lights on the house was out, but I know just where to look for the culprit.  No, all the lights didn’t all come on at the same time, but that’s an easy fix.  So I’m feeling pretty good until I look at the reindeer and wonder if those antlers are on correctly.  Then I notice something under the reindeer that looks an awful lot like reindeer poop.  No way!  It turned out to be just a leaf, but I thought I noticed a smile on the reindeer’s face.

May all your lights stay bright.

 

FEELING GRATEFUL

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Those of you who are regular readers know that my house has revolted this year, requiring untold repairs and replacements.  Last Sunday my husband heard a loud “boom” emanating from the garage – that is never a good sign.  Sure enough, our hot water heater had exploded.  Luckily, we had a pan underneath it, sparing my Christmas ornaments from a watery grave.  The next day the plumber installed a new one.  He was no further than the end of our street when I turned on our under counter lights and blew the transformer.  I wanted to scream.  Instead, I did what any sensible person would do – poured myself a glass of wine and decided to take this one in stride.  I had just spent the weekend watching the fires in California and the absolute devastation they wreaked.  I thought about how many thousands of people wished that their only problem was a few repairs.  I was reminded of the saying by Confucius:  “I was complaining that I had no shoes till I met a man who had no feet.”  Sometimes we can get so caught up in minor problems we forget to just be thankful for all that is so good in our lives.  So this Thanksgiving week I am feeling very grateful for a house that is standing, a wonderful family and caring friends.  In the spirit of the week, I am sharing a few quotes about gratitude.

 

Don’t pray when it rains if you don’t pray when the sun shines.  Leroy “Satchel” Paige

Gratitude turns what we have into enough Aesop

Find the good and praise it.  Alex Hailey  (This one comes in handy for anyone eating my cooking)

Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.  Robert Brault

This is a wonderful day.  I’ve never seen this one before.  Maya Angelou

What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.  Brene Brown

Silent gratitude isn’t very much use to anyone.  Gertrude Stein

Be grateful for what you have and stop complaining – it bores everybody else, does you no good, and doesn’t solve any problems.  Zig Ziglar

Finally, since Thanksgiving this year falls on the 55th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, I thought it fitting to end with this one:

We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.  John F. Kennedy

My brother and I are indeed thankful for all of you who read our blog.  We wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Holiday Rant

by Bob Sparrow

I was just coming down from my three Three Musketeers high the day after Halloween, OK four, when my Sirius radio started playing Christmas music, my wife started telling me about our Thanksgiving Day plans and our friends were asking me what we’re doing for New Years Eve. I’m thinking to myself, why have ‘they’ crammed these four holidays into the last 62 days of the year?

It’s 62 days of eating candy, then eating leftover candy, then eating excessively large turkey dinners, then eating calorie-rich Christmas meals accompanied by eggnog, wassail or the latest ‘holiday beverage’, and then we’re expected to have the ‘party of the year’ to celebrate the coming of a new year. If I had lost any weight on the variety of diets I’ve been on throughout the year, that ship set sail with the Three Musketeers. Which is how New Year’s resolutions get created I guess.  You know, historians aren’t really certain about the actual birth of Jesus anyway and the Gregorian calendar, which we follow, is only one of many available calendars so I say move Christmas and New Years to the summer, where at least we can get out and walk off a few calories.

Thank you, Columbus!

And as long as we’re moving holidays around, there’s probably some we could get rid of altogether. Columbus Day immediately comes to mind – a holiday that hangs just outside of that 62 day window, on October 14. This is a strange one to me since Christopher Columbus never set foot on U.S. soil, yet for years we’ve celebrated this Italian’s ‘discovery of America’ along with his other bogus discovery – proving the world wasn’t flat!   Columbus Day’s status as a holiday has been sketchy at best.  Some states don’t recognize it, but rather eschewed this holiday for ‘Indigenous People’s Day’, which was started in 1992 by, who else, the city of Berkeley.  It does make me wonder why we don’t have a national holiday to celebrate Native Americans.  I guess we just don’t want to be reminded of what we’ve done to them.  But Columbus is vigorously celebrated in many Italian communities, just as the Irish observe St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, which was the day St. Patrick died in AD 461 – not sure how that became a holiday. To most of us it’s just another time to hoist a drink – preferably Irish whiskey or beer.

So we have the Italians and Irish taken care of and the Afro-Americans with the celebration of Martin Luther King’s birthday, which is the ‘third Monday in January’ – I wonder if that’s how it read on his driver’s license. This federal holiday was first celebrated in 1986, but Arizona didn’t recognize the holiday until 1992 when the NFL boycotted the state’s Super Bowl. New Hampshire was the last state to adopt the holiday in 1999. Three states, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas, today, celebrate both MLK’s and Robert E. Lee’s birthday on that third Monday in January – apparently hoping that the ‘south will rise again’.  But the largest ethnic minority in the U.S., at 18%, the Latinos, have no national holiday. Yes, there’s Cinco de Mayo, which is celebrated where there are heavy Hispanic populations, but that commemorates a short-lived victory of Mexico over France. I guess Taco Tuesday is going to have to do until we celebrate a birthday of someone like Cesar Chavez – his birthday was March 31, but it can easily be changed to ‘the last Monday in March’.

It used to be that we’d celebrate Lincoln’s birthday on Feb 12th and Washington’s birthday on Feb 18th and if I’m not mistaken, back in the day we got both of those days off school if they fell during the week. Now they’ve combined them so that we have President’s Day on the third Monday in February. But it is not just to celebrate Lincoln and Washington birthdays, it is to celebrate ALL presidents. So next February don’t forget to wish Rutherford B. Hayes a happy birthday.

I hate to pick on another religious holiday, but have you ever wondered why the date for Easter keeps moving around? Well, exactly when we celebrate this highly religious holiday is based on the position of the sun along with the phases of the moon.  For the record, Easter occurs on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox (approximately March 20-21 in the northern hemisphere), when the sun crosses the plane of the earth’s equator – seems rather voodoo-like to me for such an august occasion.

Then there’s the ‘BBQ Holidays’, Memorial Day, when we break out the BBQ, Independence Day, when the BBQ works its hardest and Labor Day, after which we put the BBQ away. I think the meaning of these holidays gets diluted in all the BBQ sauce and the attendant adult beverages, so I’m suggesting that these holidays be moved away from summer.

Oh yeah, there is another holiday in these last 62 days of the year, Veterans Day; yep, that’s this week, but don’t feel bad if you didn’t remember it, most people don’t. This is only a holiday that celebrates the men and women who have defended the freedoms that give us the right to be such a diverse and dysfunctional country.

Go wild and crazy this week and celebrate by thanking a veteran for his/her service.

Is Oktoberfest Over?

by Bob Sparrow

Damas & Herr Sparrow

Officially, yes! But you may not have missed it. To be clear, Oktoberfest is over in Germany, not due to the time difference, but rather the tradition of the world’s largest Volkfest, which is held in Munich, Bavaria, Germany, from mid-September to the first weekend in October; so it’s mostly a ‘Septemberfest’. We Americans, believing that Oktoberfests should be in October, have prolong the beer drinking and chicken dancing until our brains are numb enough to face Halloween.

In a blog last Christmas season I mentioned the world’s oldest brewery, Wiehenstephan, also in Bavaria, Germany, which started brewing in 1040 (I think of it every tax season), but today I’m not interested in the oldest beer, I’m interested in the BEST German beer. So I Googled ‘Best German Beer’ and what do you know, Weihenstephan Hefe came up. Note to seniors – you CAN be the oldest and still be the best!

Surprisingly Germany ranks 4th in the list of countries with the best beer. Here is the ranking of the Top 5 (according to my Google search), with which I take exception:

  1. Denmark   4. Germany     3. United Kingdom     2. United States     1. Belgium

The blind beer tasting lineup

Belgium did not surprise me as the country with the best beer, however the U.S. as #2 was a shocker, as well as the absence of Japan and Mexico among the leaders. The ranking made me wonder if the judges may have had too much to drink by the time they were selecting the Top 5. On a side note, Ireland disappointedly was ranked #13 – they may not be the best, but I’m guessing they rank near the top of the most beer consumed.

Unsatisfied with the results I found, I decided to run my own, unscientific, tests using some of the local neighborhood reprobates as judges. I just had them blindly taste beers from the Top 5 countries, plus I snuck in one from Japan and one from Mexico.  Country and beers were as follows: Belgium-Stella Artois, Denmark-Carlsberg,,Japan-Sapporo, United Kingdom-Boddingtons, Germany-Wiehenstephan, Mexico-Modelo, United States-Landshark.

Fins to the left

I wanted to first see if our judges, such as they are, could put the beer with the right country, plus I wanted to know their favorite.  Of the 10 judges, five got 5 of the 7 beers matched to the correct countries, and the overall favorite: (drumroll) Landshark!

My beer research continued to find that there is no nationally produced beer that ranks amongst the leader in America. Bud Lite is America’s best selling beer, not best tasting, that title is harder to find as the best tasting American beers come from small craft brewers all over the county. So what states have the best craft beer you ask? Here’s the Top 5 states:

                         5. Massachusetts   4. Michigan    3. California   2. Colorado   1. Oregon

Oregon actually has a craft beer trail called ‘Beer 101 Trail’, not because it’s for beginners, but rather it follows Highway 101 up the Oregon coast; sounds like a road trip to me!

Pliny the Elder and the Younger

My search for the best tasting (someone had to do it!), actually helped me understand why America is considered by the world as a country with great beer – it just comes in small quantities from those small craft breweries. Judged by beer enthusiasts, as the best in all of the U.S. this year was a beer from Comstock, Michigan called Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, an IPA with a 7% alcohol by volume.  Running a close 2nd was a beer from the Russian River Brewing Company in northern California, called Pliny the Elder, a double IPA beer with an 8% alcohol content.  Pliny the Younger, with a 10.8% alcohol content, is rumored to be a contender in years to come.

So you may have missed Oktoberfest, but now that you know beer from borscht, you are ready for Novemberfest, which should help numb you for the coming Holidaze.

 

Happy New Year to All and to All a Pop Quiz

So the new year is finally here and if you’re having trouble reading this, you’re getting no sympathy from me as I’m having trouble writing it!  I drank everything I could get my hands on to help me forget the past year filled with  political rancor, ‘fake news’, tweets and sciatica!  The good news about this first week of the new year is that your resolutions are mostly still in tact – ok, some of them.  I know how you all looked forward to pop quizzes when you were in school, so here’s one to clear that head of yours and start the new year off with an educational experience.  Answers below, but don’t start off the new year by cheating!

  1. When was the first New Year’s celebrated?

– 2000 B.C.

– 1 A.D.

– 150 AC/DC

– I don’t remember I was too drunk

  1. What percentage of Americans make New Year’s resolutions?

– Only the top 1%

– All the Millennials

– As many as break them by February

– 45%

  1. Tradition says that the more ____ a person has on New Year’s Eve, the more prosperity he or she will experience the following year.

– Alcohol

– People to kiss

– Leafy greens

– Bologna sandwiches

  1. How many glasses of Champagne will America drink this New Years?

– 3,600

– 36,000

– 36,000,00

– too many

  1. In the last scene of When Harry Met Sally, after they kissed, what song played?

– I’ve Been Cheated

– Auld Lang Syne

– Sally Go Round the Roses

– Make An Ugly Woman You Wife

  1. What is the most common symbol associated with New Years?

– The Grim Reaper

– A baby

– Playboy’s Miss January

– Foster Brooks

  1. What happens if a couple celebrating New Years together do not kiss?

–  He’s not getting lucky

–  They buy more breath mints

–  He’s not only not getting to 1st base, he’s not even getting into the batter’s box

–  They’ll be seeing a divorce attorney in the morning

  1. Typically _____ gather in Time Square on New Year’s to watch the ball drop

– Millennials looking for loose change on the street

– Broadway ticket scalpers

– Muggers and pick pockets

– One million people

  1. What do the words Auld Lang Syne mean?

– Up yours

– Times gone by

– There’s better days ahead

– Good riddance

  1. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, what is the most common object stolen on New Years Eve

– virginity

– wallet

– car

– your soul

  1. 22% of New Year’s frolickers admit to

– Grand theft auto

– Not knowing where they are much less what time it is

– Having their first drink

– Falling asleep before midnight

Answers: 1. 2,000 B.C.; 2. 45%; 3. leafy greens; 4. 36,000,000; 5. Auld Lang Syne; 6. baby; 7. Seeing an attorney in the morning; 8. 1,000,000 people;   9. times gone by; 10. car; 11. falling asleep before midnight

The entire staff here at ‘From A Bird’s Eye View’, wish you a happy and healthy 2018. OK, there is no ‘staff’ here, but Suzanne and I are hoping that this year will be your very best – make it so!

Getting into the Christmas Spirits

by Bob Sparrow

Thuringia, Germany

Suzanne’s blog last week mentioned that the town of Thuringia, Germany as the birthplace of Christmas decorations and also may be known for its beer, and that I would be more likely to write about that, the beer. Well if that wasn’t throwing down the gauntlet then I don’t know what was.  So . . . I did a little research on this quaint little town and have found that it is indeed steeped in Christmas traditions, among them is a keen appreciation of holiday hooch. To wit: During what they call the Advent season, which begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve, people there gather together and drink Gluhwein, a mixture of red wine, sugar and winter spices; add a shot of rum and you’ve got a Gluhwein mit Schuss, you’ve also got a headache in the morning.

So while you may not need a guide to traditional Christmas cheer like Peace on Earth Good Will Towards Men’ (and Women we presume) or as The Elf says, The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear”, I personally like Dave Barry’s Christmas cheer, “Once again we come to the holiday season, a deeply religious time that each of us observe in our own way by going to the mall of our choice.” There is of course the holiday cheer reminding us to Jingle all the way, no one likes a half-assed jingler.’

This blog however is about the ‘other’ Christmas cheer, the one that we can consume and often times helps us get into the Christmas spirit or simply helps us get through the ‘Holidaze’.  In the event you don’t have access to Gluhwein mit Schuss, here’s your imbibing guide to, and definitions of, some traditional Christmas cheer, along with their country of origin:

Christmas beer – Germany (official definition): A seasonal beer brewed for consumption at Christmas (Duh!). It is usually strong and spiced with a variety of ingredients including cinnamon, orange peel, cloves and vanilla.  I guess it’s still beer, it just doesn’t taste like it.

Wassail – England: The word comes from an Old English word for ‘healthful’ and is a beverage of hot mulled cider, originally not an alcoholic drink, but we took care of that little shortcoming as modern recipes start with a base of wine or mulled ale with either brandy or sherry added.

Hot Buttered Rum – Colonial America: How do you go wrong with butter and rum in anything? (These two ingredients along with some brown sugar and bananas makes a wonderful Bananas Foster dessert, but I digress).  This traditional holiday beverage is typically sweetened and spiced with such things as cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.

Hot Buttered Rum

Hot Toddy – Ireland: Yes, a Hot Toddy is different from a Hot Buttered Rum, as it is made with whiskey, hot water and honey; some recipes add herbs and spices. Some believe it relieves the symptoms of a cold or flu as the honey soothes while the alcohol numbs. Forget CVS you need to get to BevMo.

If you’re not a traditionalist there are plenty of modern holiday cocktails that will definitely get you in the Christmas spirit, like a Poinsettia Spritz Punch, a Pomegranate and Peppermint Moscow Mule or a Gingerbread Latte with Caramel Sugar.  However, if you still find yourself in a ‘Bah Humbug’ mood, I’d recommend a shot of tequila and a regular beer back, no cinnamon, no cloves, no nutmeg.  Country of origin?  My house.

Hoping you get into the Christmas spirits one way or the other this season. Cheers!

 

Four Seasons

by Bob Sparrow

Well with a title like this we could go anywhere – the luxury, five-star hotel chain who has Bill Gates as one of its majority owners; Jersey Boys backup group to Frankie Valli; the classical violin concerti by Vivaldi, or simply the four seasons.

All weighty subjects to be sure, but the oppressive heat in our part of the country over the last several days, begs the question, “Isn’t summer over?”

Unofficially, Yes; officially, No.

You see when I don’t travel I have to write about stuff like Mayberry, Margaritaville and the weather. Unfortunately, for you, I haven’t been anywhere exciting in the last couple of weeks (OK, I was in Vegas last weekend, but I was reminded that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas – I know my money stayed there!), so now you get to read about the changing of the seasons. I can sense the anticipation building already!

I thought the subject appropriate since we’re just sobering up from the Labor Day holiday, which is the ‘unofficial’ end of a summer, which ‘unofficially’ started on Memorial Day. Officially summer begins with the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year in terms of light in the Northern Hemisphere. Summer officially ends with the Autumnal Equinox, when days and nights are equal (almost) with 12 hours of sun and 12 hours of no sun; equinox actually means equal nights. Am I going too fast for those taking notes?

If you’re wondering, like me, whether we get more ‘official’ or ‘unofficial’ days of summer, here’s the math:

Summer officially started on Wednesday, June 21th this year and ends on Thursday, Sept 21nd (at 1:02 PDT to be precise) – that’s 93 days. ‘Unofficially’ summer started this year on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend (perhaps some cheated and started early on Friday night), May 27th and ended on Labor Day, Monday, Sept 4th – that’s 101 days. So we took eight ‘unofficial’ days of summer this year that I suppose we’re going to have to give back at some point, aren’t we?

One would think that because we declared these ‘unofficial’ starts and stops of summer, borrowing several days from the end of spring and giving a few back during the dog days of summer, that summer would be the season that people like the most – that all depends.

A recent survey by YouGov was conducted on this very subject (are you on the edge of your seat yet?), and depending on your age group and the particular region of the country in which you live, the results vary. But if we’re looking at all age groups across the entire country, the results are as follows:

  1. 29% favor Fall
  2. 27% favor Spring
  3. 25% favor Summer
  4.  7% favor Winter

Favorite season by age group:

55+                Spring

35 – 54           Fall

18 – 34           Summer

While Winter didn’t score high enough to even rate a place on the chart, we all know that winter in Scottsdale, Arizona is slightly different from winter in Bemidji, Minnesota, so let’s look at favorite seasons by region. Isn’t this fun?!

In answer to the question, “I like the weather where I live” the results by region are as follows:

  1. West 66%
  2. South 59%

3.  Northeast 59%

  1. Midwest 47%

The ‘West’ is probably skewed by Alaska at 33% and Hawaii at 100% (my figures, not theirs)

But, those who DON’T like living in the:

West say it is too rainy (26%) or too dry (36%)

South say it is too hot (70%)

Northeast say it is too cold (68%)

Midwest say it is too cold (62%) or too hot (26%)

Ok, maybe what happens in a YouGov survey should stay in a YouGov survey.  Hope you’re enjoying these last ‘official’ days of summer.

 

Finding Margaritaville in the ‘Hood

by Bob Sparrow

Late best friend, Don Klapperich, introduced me to Jimmy Buffett’s music in the late ’80s via cassette tapes from Saudi Arabia. I have since collected all his music, videos, read all his books including the Margaritaville Cook Book. My Sirius Radio in mostly on  the ‘Margaritaville’ channel, I’ve seen him live in concert numerous times and recently went to San Diego to see the play, Escape to Margaritaville, based on his music and lyrics, much like the play Mama Mia is based on ABBA’s music. The production is hilarious and is eventually headed to Broadway. I am clearly a big fan – a Parrothead. What is the appeal of a singer whose voice is more a kin to that of a carnival barker?  The vibe he creates!

Marge, Jeanne, Diane, Julie, Reta, Linda, Althea

Last weekend, we decided to celebrate the first weekend of summer Jimmy Buffett-style by hosting a ‘Finding Margaritaville’ party for our neighborhood. How do you find Margaritaville? Where is it? Some people say it’s in the Caribbean, other say it’s in Key West somewhere around Kokomo. According to Mr. Buffett, “Margaritaville is a state of mind where there is booze in the blender, good weather and colorful characters, just on the edge of paradise with a dash of reality thrown in to add flavor.”

Dianne, Pam, Kathy, Shelly

Well, that comes very close to describing the neighborhood we’ve lived in for the past 32 years, especially the part about the colorful characters. It was here I was going to start listing some of the characters and their accomplishments/antics, but there are 20 some couples that live on the two streets that make up ‘the ‘Hood’ and there is not room here to do them all justice and I wouldn’t want to leave anyone out, so let’s leave it at it’s a neighborhood filled with interesting, giving people where you can always find booze in the blender.

Banana Dolphins

Marge, her monkey and parrot in her tree

A good example of this giving neighborhood occurred when I asked if anyone in the ‘hood wanted to donate money to help the guide we had in Nepal after his home was destroyed in the 2015 Kathmandu earthquake – I had $1,200 on my doorstep that afternoon!   If someone is sick or housebound for any reason, neighbors will take turns preparing dinner for that family – and we have a number of outstanding chefs in the ‘hood (Rob Warren & Richard Wade immediately come to mind). When our kids were growing up and playing at each other’s house, wherever they were at lunchtime the mom would fix lunch for the whole gang. No one ever worried about where their kids were or if they had eaten lunch. It is an amazing group of people with whom we are lucky to be associated.

Phyllis & Starlet

Captain Jack

At 6:00 on Saturday, the house and yard were in their final stages of decoration; inside the ‘food island’ highlight was the pineapple palm tree, thanks to Marge Dunn and the dolphin fruit plate, thanks to Linda and Starlet. The best decoration outside was the Margarita machine; the surrounding palms and pool complemented it nicely. Partygoers arrived in full ‘Parrotfanalia’. Aside from the 40 attendees who were within walking distance of our house, more importantly within crawling distance home, we had a few family members to add a bit of spice to our already colorful cast of characters; including Linda’s 91 year old mom, Phyllis, who didn’t miss a beat, Linda’s sister, Starlet both in from Minnesota and my brother, Jack, who lent his deft bartending skills to the party, his wife Sharon and her son Brad.

‘Creative’ winners, Dunns, Baldwins & Webbs

Marc Webb, the Pied Piper, started the ‘pool party’

We had a contest to find out “Are You More Creative than Jimmy Buffett?” where couples had to change the titles of Buffett’s songs to something more original.  I can’t write all the answers we got here due to our PG rating, but needless to say the ‘hood is very creative.  So of course the party was a success, how could it not be with this group? As they say, a good time was had by all, especially those who jumped in the pool with their clothes on later in the evening – alcohol may have been a factor.

I’ve probably forgotten a few things that happened that night, but I know this, the ‘hood has been a great place to raise our little kids and a great place to raise a little hell.    Fins Up!

Phyllis bracing for the start of the party

 

Tanis, Stefanie, Lisa, Doug, Keren, Sandi

The Unexamined Life

by Bob Sparrow

“The unexamined life is not worth living”

Spoken by Socrates at his trial after he chose death rather than exile

philosopherIt was suggested by more than one reader that my last blog, the one about ‘creative’ Christmas gifts, was simply filler, fluff, no real depth, mailed in, not intellectually challenging, stimulating or provocative.

I offered excuses about the hustle and bustle of the season, my new work schedule, another birthday, travel demands (Dallas, Salt Lake and Vegas in the last 60 days).  But after searching for the many layers of that last blog, I discovered that it was a piece with no layers at all and in fact had no redeeming social, or for that matter, antisocial, qualities. So, as an apology I proffer a Top 10 list (along with my cogent comments) espoused by an All-Star cast of deep, philosophical thinkers to help you put your New Year’s resolutions in perspective.

  1. I will say yes to life

Nietzsche, means rediscovering the seriousness one had as a child at play.  (Pretty heavy when you think about it)

  1. I will grow collective

Badiou commented that when people find love, they realize life offers them more together than it does alone. (Can we really trust a guy whose name is BAD  I.O.U.?)

  1. I will be present for others

Authentic engagement is world-disclosing work. Implicitly, by trying to enable the other, I acknowledge the value of sharing a world with them.  (I think he means, wherever you are, be there!)

  1. I will be a giver not a taker

Ask yourself, ‘What unique contributions can you make that could empower others?’ (Great arm farts probably don’t count)

  1. I will focus on the things I can control not the things I can’t

Genuine self-control is equal parts focus, drive and humility. (and perhaps some prozac)

  1. I will be a meaning maker

We must be prepared to disrupt ourselves every now and then in order to see the unexpected opportunities in daily events and take our lives in new directions.  (We have to look no further than the latest election to affirm that we have indeed disrupted ourselves)

  1. I will convert negative emotion into creative energy

Anger can be a gift. Channel it into a creative activity (Some are more ‘gifted’ than others)

  1. I will question everything

By learning to think skeptically, we are not only better able to identify things that have real meaning, relevance, and value in life, we are also enabled to identify the things that lack meaning, relevance, and value (I know what you’re thinking – this blog lacks meaning, relevance and value)

  1. I will celebrate abundance

Everything is fed by the flow of radiation from the sun. Hold out your hands to the sun. Feel it vitalize the molecular flows of your body.  (Sun worshiping – it’s all come full circle)

  1. I will never give up

Sartre argued that authenticity involves making a fundamental choice about how to live – as a philosopher, writer, communist, whatever. The caveat is that we acknowledge that this is only a choice, and there are other choices we can make in life. Camus argued for what is ultimately, I think, a more uncompromising position: that existential authenticity demands that we admit to ourselves that our plans and projects are for the most part hopeless and in vain – and struggle on regardless. This, for Camus, is existential revolt – to affirm the absurdity of life and continue. (I couldn’t have said it any better myself, actually I couldn’t have said it at all!)

Final words to think about when making your resolutions, from former publisher of Success magazine, Darren Hardy . . .

“Resolutions tend to focus on what you are not (skinnier, wealthier, punctual).  As you try to focus on the life you want, you’ll be fixated on the things you haven’t accomplished”.  He suggests that resolutions should start with your abundances and expand them.

Or you could forget about resolutions this year and just curl up with your new Santa Farting Butt Pillow.

 

HAVE YOURSELF A FIZZY LITTLE CHRISTMAS

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Music, in all of its forms, always seems to evoke memories of times past.  That is never more true than at Christmas when emotions run a bit higher and hearing a carol on the radio can make even the most hard-hearted a bit sentimental.  I have been listening to the “Holly” station on my satellite radio and find myself drawn back to some wonderful Christmas memories.  Here are just a few – and to make sure you read until the end – I am also including Pop’s Christmas Ice Cream Fizz recipe.

“Silver bells, Silver bells, it’s Christmas time in the city.”

The City of Paris tree

The City of Paris tree

“Silver Bells” was our mother’s favorite Christmas song.  I remember back in the 1950’s we had a record player that was roughly the size of a modern day refrigerator.  I thought it was a miracle of engineering that we could stack records on top of each other and they would drop in succession.  At Christmastime our mother couldn’t get enough of “Silver Bells” so each time it concluded she rushed to the record player to keep the next record from dropping so she could hear it again.  The song was our anthem; every year during the Christmas season we got dressed up, including gloves and hat, to make the 22 mile trip into San Francisco.  We had three destinations:  the Christmas tree in the City of Paris rotunda, the windows at Gump’s, and getting a sundae at Blum’s on Union Square.  Only Gump’s has managed to survive.  Blum’s closed in the 70’s and Neiman Marcus is now in the City of Paris building.  The magic of the City of Paris Christmas tree was not only its 40 foot size, but the decorations – tricycles, dolls, trains and all manner of toys, bright lights, glass bulbs and a huge star on top.  Each year it was a bit different and each year I stared at it in wide-eyed wonderment.  When Neiman Marcus bought the store they tried to carry on the tradition but judging by this year’s effort – a metal, blue spiral cone hung upside down – they have done an abysmal job of it.  Where is the magic in that?  Makes me glad I grew up when I did.

 

“Silent Night, Holy Night”

Our grandmother was in her 50’s when our grandfather died in 1948.  She never re-married.  She referred to him constantly and loved to keep his memory alive through stories.  She had a full life but was always a little sad around the holidays when she missed him most of all.  His favorite Christmas carol was “Silent Night”.   When all of our relatives would come on Christmas morning our mom would always have Christmas albums playing (by now we had graduated to a “console”).  The problem was that “Silent Night” would bring our grandmother to tears.  Unfortunately, of the approximately 87 Christmas albums our mother had, “Silent Night” seemingly appeared on all of them.  So my job was to remember the various “cuts” on the albums where “Silent Night” was placed and then race to the console to skip over the track before grandma dissolved into tears.  I can’t hear that song today without thinking about her and about the countless times I practically tripped over the Christmas tree lurching for the record player.

Through the years we all will be together, if the Fates allow…”

A jolly man indeed!

A jolly man indeed!

This will be the 15th Christmas without our dad.  I miss him just as much this year as I did that very first one.  He was a happy, joyful guy, always kind and helpful to others.  He was also one of the funniest people I’ve ever met.  All year long he embodied the Christmas spirit and when I was very young I thought he even looked like Santa,  with his twinkling blue eyes, rosy cheeks and a stomach that shook like a bowl full of jelly.  He loved the holidays, welcoming friends and family alike into our home.  Our whole family misses his loving spirit but we also recognize we were very lucky to have him as long as we did and are grateful that he left us with so many cherished Christmas memories.

“…So have yourself a Merry Little Christmas now.”

One of Pop’s hallmarks was the Ice Cream fizz he served every Christmas morning.  Oh sure, most families had hot chocolate and cider while we were drinking gin.  But don’t judge – it has given a roseate hue to many a Christmas morning.  So this year we are once again sharing his recipe so that you and your family might also enjoy this wonderful tradition.

 

 

POP’S CHRISTMAS ICE CREAM FIZZ

Fill a blender 1/4 full with ice cubes

Add 6 jiggers of gin

Add 4 scoops of French Vanilla ice cream

Add 1 small bottle of soda water (the size you get in a 6-pack)

My brother Bob adds an egg so the white adds some froth, brother Jack doesn’t add an egg.  Personally, I’d add it just because you can then claim it’s a protein drink.

Just blend it well and – voila – you have a concoction sure to put a positive spin on everyone and every thing!

Our mom served them in a wine glass with a dash of nutmeg.  As we got older we would conspire with Pop and ditch the wine glass for  a chilled beer mug from the freezer. Saved having to go back for seconds…or thirds.

 

We wish everyone a Happy Holiday season – we’ll be back in 2017!