When Did ‘Independence Day’ Become the ‘4th of July’?

by Bob Sparrow

Founding

Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin

Ahhh, the 4th of July – warm weather, baseball games, parades, old glory flying, fireworks, barbecues and beer. Who doesn’t love that? The neighborhood I live in has made this day a very special one from the time our kids were very small. We’ve had parades where the kids decorated their bikes in red, white and blue streamers. We’d go to the local school grounds and taught the kids to play softball until the year that they taught us. We’d play horseshoes and go swimming. We’d barbecue burgers and hot dogs, have a few cold beers (not the kids!) and when it got dark we launched some fireworks.

We thought it was the perfect 4th of July, and it probably was, but it wasn’t the perfect ‘Independence Day’. Nary a word was spoken about the courage of George Washington, the eloquent writing of Thomas Jefferson, the legal leadership of John Adams, or the many talents of Benjamin Franklin. And with all the media we’re surrounded with today, I’m betting that you don’t hear much about these heroes this week as we prepare for what is suppose to be a celebration of what these, and many other courageous men and women, did to create this incredible country.

It’s curious how we’ve personified virtually every other holiday we celebrate with characters, from Father Time to Santa Claus, but we’ve actually taken the Independence‘characters’, our Founding Fathers, out of our Independence Day celebration and relegated it to just a date.  It would be like instead of calling it Christmas, we’d just call it ’25th of December’, or instead of Easter we’d call it the ‘first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox’; OK, maybe we’d keep that one as Easter.  Independence Day is many American’s favorite holiday, but it’s because of the aforementioned activities not because we spend much time recalling and recognizing the deeds of the truly amazing people who founded this nation.

I suspect part of the reason for our lack enthusiasm over celebrating as the victors of the Revolutionary War, is that we don’t see England as our enemy anymore. In fact, they are, arguably, our strongest ally, but back in the day, they were not so very nice to us and they were particularly pissed when we told them to take their taxes and tea bags and put them where the sun don’t shine.

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King George III

King George III, king of England at the time of our revolution, was a particularly annoying bastard – you can read some of our grievances with him in the actual Declaration of Independence, which, by the way can be printed on two typewritten pages – sans signatures. Maybe this year, you could print it out and read it during the barbecue, preferably before ‘beer thirty’. You might also mention that our Founding Father’s were not only courageous, but were very intelligent and interesting people. To wit:

–       George Washington, who is the only US president never to run for president, was elected twice by a unanimous decision of the Electoral College (He got every vote!) – popular vote was not used in those days. As president, he refused to be paid. But, he was also the richest president in history, with total assets in excess of $500 million in today’s dollars.

–       Thomas Jefferson publicly opposed slavery, even though he owned slaves his entire adult life and had 5 children with his slave, Sally Hemings.

–       John Adams died on the same day as his rival Thomas Jefferson on July 4th, 1826, the 50thanniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

–       The multi-talented Benjamin Franklin could speak 6 languages: French, German, Italian, Spanish, Latin . . . and English

–       Our first secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton was shot and mortally wounded by Vice President Aaron Burr in one of the most famous duels in American history.

–       Patrick Henry, an attorney, had many people who had nothing to do with a case visit his court hearings just to hear him speak; he was that good of a public speaker.

–       Benedict Arnold, the famous traitor, was a General in both the American and British armies – some say at the same time.

I hope you all have a great 4th of July, but I also hope that you also make it a great ‘Independence Day’ and remember those who, nearly 240 years ago, gave us the freedoms that we so enjoy to this day.

 

WHAT I WON’T DO IN 2014

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

New yearsI operate under the illusion that I am a fully functioning, rational adult.  That could be the root of my problem.  Here I sit, two days before the new year, convinced that 2014 is going to be a GREAT year.  I’ve polled a few of my friends and their sentiment is exactly the same – they all are looking forward to 2014 with great optimism and hope.  We will NOT have any of the problems we experienced in that nasty old 2013, no sir.  2014 will be perfect.

What is it about human nature that we completely suspend reality at the beginning of each year?  We forget that life’s road is bumpy and that each year brings with it some amount of problems and worries.  Heck, at our age, every doctor’s appointment holds the possibility of being a life-altering event.  And we forget that the world around us (especially in a year with mid-term elections) can be a very hard place to find comfort and joy.  So this year, in an effort to be more grounded, I am not making any resolutions that are high-minded or completely unrealistic. I’ve decided to make some resolutions of what I won’t do in the new year.  Here’s a sampling:

 

1.  I will NOT exercise every day.  Every year I say I will and every year I fail.  One year I made it all the way through April.  That year was 1966.  Ever since then I can’t even get through the month of January without sitting on my butt for hours eating Doritos and watching TV.   So this year I am setting myself up for success – I vow to exercise when I feel like it.  Hopefully that will be something more than once a week but I’m not making any rash promises.

2.  I will NOT eat healthy every day.  Although I do consume more than my fair share of kale salad and green smoothies, I hate that I feel guilty when I eat something resolutionswonderfully sugary or packed with carbs.  So…in 2014 I pledge to do my best, keeping in mind that there were probably several women on the Titanic who in their last moments thought, “Damn!  I should have had that chocolate cake!”

3.  I will NOT get organized.  This year I bought one of those P-Touch label makers.  I set up a color-coded filing system and labeled every folder.  Then I made labels for a bank of  switches so I finally could distinguish between mood lighting, overhead beams and the window shades.  Perfect.  But then I took it too far – I labeled the hair dryer, the spice rack and the toaster.  My husband never stayed around me long for fear he would end up with a label.  So in 2014 I will not attempt to organize.  Instead, I will seek professional counseling for what is obviously my OCD problem.

4.  I will NOT watch Duck Dynasty, Honey Boo-Boo or Miley Cyrus.  This one is pretty easy because I don’t follow those people now but since they are constantly on the news I shall vow to avert my eyes when they appear.  Also, in 2014 I will not be Keeping Up with the Kardashians.  Except the whole “Bruce Jenner wants to be a woman” thing.  I met him once in 1977 at a cocktail party and he was the very essence of manhood and virility.  So watching him get his Adam’s Apple shaved and wear women’s undergarments could hold a certain fascination that will prove irresistible.

I think these resolutions are sufficiently low.  In fact, I’m feeling confident that this year I will accomplish all of my goals. Optimism runs rampant today because, like many of you, I look at January 1st as a fresh beginning. My slate wiped clean of any problems, with only great possibilities spread out before me in the coming 12 months.  Today I believe that all things are possible.  Today I believe that the new year will bring contentment, good times and I will finally be able to discard my “fat clothes”.

Here’s to a wonderful 2014 to us all.  May your year be filled with good health, good friends and good times. And may all of your resolutions be fulfilled – no matter how low you set the bar!   Happy New Year!!!!

2014 Jahreswechsel, Neujahr

POP’S CHRISTMAS ICE CREAM FIZZ

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Pop, near 80 years old, still making magic

Pop, near 80 years old, still making magic

There are many annoying things about Facebook but every once in a while it has a redeeming feature:  reconnecting with old friends and long-lost family members.  Such was the case with us this year.   We were fortunate enough to find three cousins with whom we’d lost touch.  Or maybe they’ve been avoiding us.  In any event, we’ve had fun exchanging old family photos and sharing stories.  Our cousin, Tracy Nutting Sanborn, reminded me that one of her favorite holiday traditions was our dad’s Christmas morning ice cream fizzes.  Or as he called them, “The Good Fairy Fizzes”.  In any event, in the spirit of the season, I am sharing a bit about the fizz and Pop’s famous recipe.

First, it’s important to understand that Christmas Eve at our parent’s house was always a rollicking affair.  Mom put out a buffet spread mid-afternoon and people began to arrive in droves.  Tons of their friends plus dad’s cousin and his family were there every year.  As we kids got older our friends would escape their sedate family gatherings to party at the Sparrow house.  There was always lots of laughter, joking, singing, and a virtual river of alcohol.  Somewhere in there we always opened our gifts.  Because we needed to get to some religious service at midnight, you ask?  Au contraire.  It was because the next morning our paternal grandmother, along with Tracy, her parents and her siblings would arrive for Christmas breakfast.

Now that I am older I look back on that tradition and think our parents were out of their minds.  The last of the Christmas Eve guests generally didn’t leave until the wee hours of the morning.  And then promptly at 10 o’clock, our relatives would arrive for breakfast.  And this was no Chinet paper plate or Red Solo Cup affair.  For some reason our mother was a bit intimidated by our grandmother.  Even after 30 years of marriage and, I might add, producing three spectacular grandchildren.  So we had to haul out the Wedgwood china and the good silver every Christmas morning.

Your authors, Christmas Eve 1971

Your authors, Christmas Eve 1971

Just imagine for a moment our mom, probably with a bit of a headache and definitely with too little sleep, up at the crack of dawn to make a three course breakfast.  Our dad, always the peacemaker in the family, tried his best to help but honestly, anything even remotely near the kitchen was not his strong suit.  So one year, after tasting an ice cream fizz at a friend’s house, he decided the drink was just the ticket to liven things up on Christmas morning.  He said he put his own “spin” on the recipe, which I think means that he added just a pinch more gin.  Whatever he did to it, the result was magic!  Suddenly, after just one glass of Pop’s Ice Cream Fizz, the world (and in particular, our mother) was in a happier place.  So as a public service, just in case you find yourself in need of some Christmas cheer, here is Pop’s recipe:

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 rosy hue 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 hope you and yours have a very happy holiday season and if you find yourself getting just a bit Scroogy, try Pop’s Ice Cream Fizz.  It’s a Christmas miracle.

 

 

A THANKSGIVING MASH-UP

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson mashed potatoesLast summer, in the bright sunlight of August, our 10-year-old grandson looked me squarely in the eye and said, “Mimi, at Thanksgiving don’t forget the cranberry sauce and the mashed potatoes.  Especially the mashed potatoes.”  I have no idea why he thought I might forget these staples of our Thanksgiving feast, but for him to mention it months ahead of time means it’s pretty important to him  So that makes it pretty important to me.  The thing is, I think mashed potatoes are the hardest part of preparing Thanksgiving dinner.  I’m usually in the throes of making the gravy and getting all the side dishes in the oven and then in the middle of this frenzy I have to mash the darn potatoes.  I’ve been stressing about this over the past few weeks and combing the internet for mashed potato recipes that I can make ahead of time.  But I worried that the potatoes would get mealy or dried out if not prepared at the last minute. It finally dawned on me that I was giving this far more thought than it deserves –  if mashed potatoes are my biggest worry, I’m a pretty lucky person.  So I turned my attention to my Thanksgiving “grateful statement”.  Like a lot of other families, before we dive into the bottomless pit of calories that is Thanksgiving dinner, we each have to say what we are grateful for during the past year.  I have one rule:  you can’t say you’re grateful for your family, your friends or your health.  Those are things that should be appreciated every day.  So I began to think about what I might cite as being grateful for this year. Of course, Dash the Wonder Dog is the best thing that happened to us, but since I think of him as family that eliminated him from contention.

As if on cue, the next week two of my former teammates at Bank of America posted pictures and stories on Facebook of their latest volunteer trips and I knew I’d found my “grateful statement”.  While the rest of us loll on sandy beaches or go skiing at beautiful resorts, Evan Boido and Mike Clement spend their “vacation” time in parts of the world that are most in need of their kindness and expertise.  I don’t know about you, but I’m very grateful that there are such people in the world, so in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m going to tell you a bit about them.

Evan Boido was accepted as a member of Global Volunteers (http://www.globalvolunteers.org/organization/default.asp) several years ago.  Their mission is to engage short-term volunteers on long-term projects to create, nurture1385378_3565115021953_107721808_n(1)  and sustain the wellbeing of the world’s children so they can realize the full promise of their human potential. They send volunteers to the poorest areas of the U.S. and around the world.  Evan accepted an assignment in Romania, caring mostly for orphaned infants and toddlers with physical or mental disabilities at the Barlad Children’s Hospital.  As you can imagine, this could be heart-rending work but Evan dives into each mission with enthusiasm and a sense of purpose.  Over the past few years she has made a huge difference in the lives of countless children.  The staff of the hospital try their hardest to care for the children but they are over-whelmed.  Without the efforts of Global Volunteers such as Evan, many of these children would languish in their cribs with little individual attention.  This past trip Evan brought along her niece, Shannon (pictured right with one of the children) to make it truly a family affair.  Evan has gotten to know and love many of the children over the years – she is overjoyed when one is adopted and crestfallen when one succumbs to their medical problems.  As much as the hospital gains from the Global Volunteers, I know that Evan gains even more from the time spent with “her babies”.

MikeMike Clement just returned from the Congo, where he serves on the board of  the Christian Medical Institute of the Kasai  ( https://www.facebook.com/pages/Christian-Medical-Institute-of-the-Kasai-IMCK).  Their mission is to provide quality health care and health care education in that part of the Congo, the most impoverished nation on earth.  The most frequent health issues include kettle burns, oil burns, accidents requiring amputations, child malnutrition,  and fistula care. The hospital is proud of the fact that they have made strides in health for newborn children and their mothers through education and access.  But the hospital is consistently short of medicine and is in arrears with its finances since most of the indigent poor cannot pay for their medical services.  Mike, who is a communications consultant, goes once a year to the hospital to help develop strategies for fund-raising and to advise on how to keep their staffing levels within their budget.  As you can see from the picture (left), he also spends lots of time with the children.  This photo of a little boy, with his hand holding on to Mike’s shirt, says it all.  Despite their differences in culture and living circumstances, a unique bond is created when a good-hearted person reaches out to help a small child .  I have looked at countless pictures of Mike’s trips to the Congo and they all depict the locals with joyful and grateful faces, but also an unimaginable level of poverty and squalid living conditions.  And yet Mike describes these trips as “soul healing”.

So this Thanksgiving I will worry less about my lumpy mashed potatoes and spend more time being grateful that the world has people in it like Evan and Mike and the organizations for which they volunteer.  I hope that you have such people in your life as well and I wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Ooops, Forgot Someone

by Bob Sparrow

I mentally went through every neighbor that lived in the ‘hood or ever lived in the ‘hood when putting the last post together, but apparently the ‘mentally’ isn’t working so well.  I was reminded that I change Steve Seeley’s name to Richard Seeley, but other than that I thought I did a pretty good job of being all-inclusive.

Not so fast, sparkler breath, there was a family that I forgot, but I think when I make my case for why I forgot them you’ll understand.

First, here’s a picture of the family I forgot.

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Mark & Kathy Johnson, Kristin & baby Brielle                      Kenny, Brielle and Kristin Overby

Yes, I missed the Johnson family, but we barely knew them; case in point

  • We’ve lived in the same neighborhood for over 28 years
  • We’ve been best friends for about 27 years
  • Our son, Jeff and their son Garrett have been best friends since they were about 6 months old – they’re 28 now.
  • Our daughter Dana and their daughter Kristin are the best of friends
  • We’ve only been on 20 – 30 vacations together with them
  • We attended Kenny & Kristin’s wedding in Mexico a couple of years ago

So I think it’s fairly obvious how easy it was for me to forget about them completely.

SORRY JOHNSONS!!!!

 

Norman Rockwell Attends ‘Hood’s 4th of July Celebration

by Bob Sparrow

Rockwell  Norman Rockwell attended our annual 4th of July gathering.  Yes, I know he’s been dead since 1978, but I’m sure he’s there in spirit every year.  Let me explain.  First, I’m fortunate enough to be part of an incredible neighborhood – hereafter referred to as ‘the ‘hood’ (pictured below), that knows how to celebrate this great occasion.  Second, thankfully Independence Day has, for the most part, escaped the crass commercialism that tarnishes most of our other national holiday celebrations.  Perhaps it’s because we still think it incredible what a cadre of very courageous young men did to create this amazing country.

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Sharon Hendrix as Uncle Sam

For the 25th year in a row the ‘hood has started the 4th of July with a softball game on the local high school field.  This year, like all the rest, the festivities officially opened with Sharon Hendrix, dress as Uncle Sam, playing a recording of our National Anthem, with each of the teams lined up on the first and third base lines, singing along.  At the end, a chorus of “Play ball” rang out.  In the late 80s and through the 90s it was fathers and mothers against son and daughters, where the parents made sure the kids won.  The next few years we didn’t have to make sure they won, it was pretty even, and then . . . I’d like to say the ‘kids’, now in their teens and 20s, made sure the parents won, but they pretty much kicked our butts.  This year we finally mixed the teams and the kids basically played against each other while the parents tried to get out of the way of those screaming line drives.

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Doug & Julie Bynon

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Bob & Jeanne Pacelli

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Vicki, Danielle & Lorenzo Reyes

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Pam & Patrick Michael

Those in the Hood who chose not to play would find a seat on the grass under an elm tree and cheer on the participants and catch up on the latest gossip in the ‘hood.  After the game we’d usually adjourn to the Sullivan house for a spirited game of horseshoes, however this year Rick said his pits were in bad shape (I sat next to him at the BBQ and I can vouch for that!).

pam

Britney & a better picture of Pam Michael

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Larry & Robin Affentranger

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A.J. & Althea Smith (Terry MIA)

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Scott & Dexter Lanois (Diane cooking)

By late afternoon we’d make our way to the ‘host house’ in the ‘hood, this year the Michael’s, for a barbeque of brats and brisket, with everyone (ok, the women) bringing a side dish.  The Michael’s had decorated the back yard in red, white and blue and had patriotic music playing over their outdoor speaker system as we watch the Angel, on the TV at their outside bar, pull out a dramatic 9th inning victory over the Cardinals.

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Sharon, Caroline & Cap Hendrix

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Heather, Sandi & Bob Baldwin

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Marge Dunn (Bob MIA)

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Bob, Jeff & Linda Sparrow

A day of baseball, barbecue, beer and brotherhood -it doesn’t get any better than that!  Toward the end of the evening, I read the Declaration of Independence aloud.  I was told by many afterward that they were expecting me to create my own, less-than-serious version of this document, and although I did interject, after the list of heinous things King George III did to provoke this declaration, that he seemed like a real bastard, I was not going to lampoon this sacred document. At the conclusion of the reading, the Bauaschis, our only British-born American citizen, were offered equal time, but respectfully declined.

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Beth, Matt, Kara & Rick Sullivan

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Dianne & Dennis in their mini roadster

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Lisa & Marc Webb

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A better picture of Lisa & Marc Webb

As the day came to a close, we heard the bombs bursting in air around the ‘hood and hoped that 4th of July revelers everywhere truly understood the importance of this day.  I think Norman Rockwell and our founding fathers would be proud of the ‘hood’s annual celebration. I know I was.  I think we all felt very proud and very lucky to be part of such a great neighborhood and such a great country.

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Richard & Kere Bauarschi

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Fern & son

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Mascot ‘Bacon’ stealing second base

A tip of our Uncle Sam hat to those “Hood-lums” that couldn’t join us this year: Richard & Reta Wade, Mike & Tanis Nelson,Don & Gale Avril, Randy Davis, Shelly Davis and Danna Campbell.

And we lite a sparkler to the “Hood-alums”, those who have moved away: Steve & Carolyn Seeley, Jim and Pat Crandall, Helmet & Sheila Nittmann, Tim & Carol Scovel and Dave & Sharon McKinley.

 

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THROUGH MY MOTHER’S EYES

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

2013-05-05 07.34.18Sunday is Mother’s Day and as you loyal readers know, our mother passed away earlier this year.  So this is the first Mother’s Day that we will not have a mother to send flowers, cards and well-wishes to.   Last year my brother Bob and his wife Linda sent mom such a beautiful arrangement of flowers that mom commented to me that it was the best gift she had ever received.   Which only cemented my hunch that she always liked him best.

As anyone who knew her could attest, she was a driven and opinionated woman.  No misplaced hair or wrinkled shirt went unnoticed – or commented upon.  She was the first to point out that we had gained a few pounds.   Mom took great pride in her appearance, always wearing a perfectly coordinated outfit, matching shoes and oftentimes donning a rather large hat.  Her children, by contrast, are big fans of what I like to refer to as “soft clothes”.  Anything that has an elastic waistband or has been washed to within an inch of its life is just great with us.   In other words, we sometimes look like we were raised by wolves – a trait that bothered her no end.

My differences with her were many; we just seemed to view the world from opposite perspectives.  This was never more apparent than when she bought a new pair of reading glasses several years ago.  By this time I was watching her finances and reviewing her cash flow every three months.  So when she told me she had spent $500 on a pair of Versace glasses (see picture above) I just about keeled over.  I knew that she was already running low on money and couldn’t believe her extravagance.  “Why in the heck would you spend that kind of money?” I shouted into the phone.  She explained that they had little diamonds in them and that she just wanted something from a top designer.  I was furious.  But not as furious as I was six months later when she lost them.

And just to demonstrate how seriously she took my financial advice, she promptly spent another $500 to buy the very same pair again.  I was flabbergasted.  Here was a woman who saved aluminum foil remnants and took home doggie bags that went stale in her refrigerator just because she couldn’t “waste good money” by leaving food at a restaurant.  I thought she had lost her mind.

Turns out, she had only lost her memory.  A few weeks after she bought the second pair of glasses she discovered the first pair in the lost and found drawer at her church.

After she died we were cleaning out her apartment and I noticed that her reading glasses were on the nightstand.  I tucked them into my purse for safekeeping – I’d be darned if I was going to throw away a $500 pair of glasses!  I thought they would be a good reminder of her foolish spending.  When I got home I put them on top of my closet dresser, where I see them every day.

A few weeks ago I looked at them (with my $18 Costco reading glasses) and noticed that quite a few of the diamonds are missing.  Her vision was so poor that I’m sure she was blissfully unaware of their current shabby condition.  I began to see the glasses in a different light.  Maybe they aren’t  a reminder of her foolish spending but rather that when I am old,  I might also make some choices that others think inappropriate.    Maybe when I’m old, I too will want just one extravagant thing that makes me feel good, even when I can’t afford it.  Maybe when I get older I will begin to see things through my mother’s eyes.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll even buy very expensive reading glasses – twice.

Catalina: Hamilton Cove, Glenmore Plaza Hotel and the ‘Other Side’

by Bob Sparrow

photo (89)Twenty-thirteen portends to be an unusual year for me, perhaps even paranormal, what with all the ‘other side’ things that helped usher in a year with a 13 in it.  No, I’m not superstitious, but like Michael Scott, I am a little ‘stitious’.  While most New Year’s days I’ve watched the sun set into the Pacific Ocean somewhere along the ‘left coast’, this year I welcomed in the new year on the ‘other side’ watching the sun coming up over the Pacific from Hamilton Cove on Catalina Island – truly a unique experience.  OK, truth is there haven’t been too many years when I’ve even seen the sun on New Year’s Day, but that’s another story.

If you’ve never been there, Hamilton Cove looks like it belongs on the ‘other side’ of the Atlantic, perhaps on a Greek island coastline or hanging somewhere off the Amalfi Coast in Italy.  I suppose if you have been there, it still looks that way, but as if getting away from it all in Catalina wasn’t enough, several of us wanted to get away from the people who wanted to get away from it all – to the ‘other side’ of Catalina.  I discovered that Catalina is a little like the moon, in that most people only see one side, although I can tell you now from experience, that the ‘other side’ of Catalina is not dark . . . photo (95)unless you go at night, then it’s really dark.  Like the moon, it’s not easy to get to the ‘other side’ of Catalina, you have to have a pass that gets you through the gate on the road to the ‘other side’ that goes through the infamous ‘Airport in the Sky’, Catalina’s private airport where planes don’t really take off from the runway, the runway simply drops out from under them after several thousand feet and, presto, they’re airborne.

glenmore plaza hotelWe were fortunate to be in the company of one Michael Amoroso, whose family has lived on the island for over twenty years and owns and operate the Glenmore Plaza Hotel, ‘the second oldest continuously operating hotel in California’, so says Michael’s brother, Jimmy, who manages the hotel.  I thought it odd that a hotel in this relatively remote location would have such a distinction so I asked Jimmy Jr., Jimmy’s son who works at the hotel, “Whose #1?”  He replied like someone who’d studied hotel history his entire life, “The Hotel del Coronado.”  I decided to see what Google had to say on the matter:

  • ‘Oldest hotel in California’ – the Benicia in northern California – est. 1852
  • ‘One of the oldest hotels in California’ – Murphy’s in the gold country – est. 1856
  • ‘One of the oldest continuously operating hotels in Calif’ – National Hotel (also in the gold country) – est. 1859
  • ‘Largest resort hotel in the world’ – Hotel del Coronado – est. 1888
  • ‘Second oldest hotel in California’ – so stated on Google about the Glenmore Plaza Hotel, but it doesn’t say who’s first or when the Glenmore was established.  Wikipedia probably got their information from Jimmy Jr. too.

I also found on Google a picture with a caption that said, ‘Second oldest hotel in California’ – it was not a picture of the Glenmore.

Meanwhile, back on the road to ‘the other side’, just before reaching the airport we see a buffalo standing alongside the road.  I’ll tell you the photo (92)history of how buffalo got on the island . . . another time.  After a brief stop at the airport, we start down on the western slope of the island; the paved road turns to dirt.  We drive past El Rancho Escondido, a ranch, Michael tells us, started by the Wrigley family back in the ‘30s for breeding Arabian horses – another story too long to tell here.  We also pass a vineyard – yes, another story.  The road leads us to a west coast inlet called ‘Little Harbor’, where there is no man-made harbor, but a small campgrounds and no campers, no nothing except a beautiful uncluttered coastline, which is pretty much what all of the ‘other side’ of Catalina is.  We walked along the beach on this beautiful January day and enjoyed the fresh air, sunshine and solitude.

little harborOur return to civilization is uneventful except for the stories Michael tells us of the ghosts that   inhabit the island.  Back in Avalon we thank Michael for exposing us to the many stories and sides of Catalina, particularly ‘the other side’.

 

 

 

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LOOKING BACK FOR NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

by Bob Sparrow

Happy new year 2013 Thank you to my sister, Suzanne for introducing me to the idea of the ‘upside down bucket list’, for it was that concept that has inspired me to look at New Year’s resolutions differently.  Like many, I typically resolve to be a better spouse, parent, friend . . . person and include the requisite increase in exercise and consumption of much healthier food resulting in a painfully slow, if ever, decrease in weight.  Like many, I also have a bucket list of places I want to visit and things I want to do and resolutions always include checking off a few of those items during the ensuing year.  While resolutions and bucket lists look great in late December, reality seems to find its way into the new year and render many, if not most, of our resolutions unattainable.

 So this year, rather than ‘dream’ about the places I’d like to go in 2013, I thought I’d do the ‘upside down thing’ and look back at 2012 and review what I’d done and where I’d actually been.  Then, rather than be disappointed at not doing or getting to the places I resolved to get to, I’d be able to just ‘grade’ myself based on what I’d done and where I’d gone and hopefully put a few checks on that big bucket list.

Twenty-twelve will not be marked in my memory by the many places I visited or the life I led, but rather by the life I lost – the passing inscan0041 February of my best friend, Don Klapperich.  For more than 50 years he was a best friend, a mentor, a singing partner, a moral compass, a confidant, the little voice in my head and so much more.  He was a most talented, intelligent, entertaining and complex man.  He knew me better than anyone and I knew him as much as anyone could.  I miss him dearly.  I regret not spending more time with him, not talking to him more on the phone, not emailing as often as I could have, not going to visit more often.  I suppose it’s natural to now have a better understanding of the tenuousness of life; to better appreciate each day we’re given and to not take those around us for granted.  I don’t know if it’s a resolution, but I will try harder to remember these things – they have become more important to me.

Those who have followed our blog know that I’ve had the privilege of going to some wonderful places this year.  In January I was in Hawaii, on the Big Island to watch the PGA Senior’s golf tournament at Hualalai and then on to Maui to play golf and just watch some sunsets at Wailea.  I had a much too up-close and personal look at ‘senior living’ at my mom’s facility in Sonoma and while I was in the area I hiked through historical Jack London State Park in the rolling hills of Glen Ellen.  I traveled across country on business to Sunriver, Oregon, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Holyoke, Massachusetts and I HAD to return to the island of Kauai to attend a conference.  I lived on a boat in the harbor in Cabo San Lucas for three days while not photo (77)catching a single fish, but I did get to hang upside down at the Giggling Marlin.  I spent a week in our timeshare in Palm Desert for the 18th year in a row and hope I can play another 18.  I revisited the differences between northern and photo (74)southern California as I returned to the palm and pine trees on Highway 99 out of Fresno, and I spent several days not quite 26 miles across the sea on Catalina Island.  I thought I saw John Lennon at the Laguna Sawdust Festival, twice!  I stood at the lowest point on the North American continent in surprisingly stunning Death Valley, and I stood on top of Half Dome in not-so-surprisingly stunning Yosemite National Park.  And I had my annual martini with my Dad in his final resting place at Lake Tahoe.

That’s an upside down list that I may have a hard time topping in 2013.  I feel so very privileged to be afforded the opportunities to experience all that I have in 2012 and I know I was privileged to have such a great best friend for over 50 years.  It was a memorable year in so many ways. I recommend looking back at your year and the only resolution I would make is that in a year from now you’re going to look back at 2013 – make it memorable.

I know I speak for my dear friend and wonderfully talented sister, which she doesn’t often let me do because she can speak so well for herself, in thanking all of you who read our blog and especially those who send us back comments to let us know our words don’t all end up in cyber space.  May you all have an extraordinary 2013.

 

And now a word from our sponsor

Most of you know I’m now working for Zipz Gear, a unique shoe company, but may not know that I am now writing a ‘shoe blog’ called ‘From the Lipz of Zipz’.  You can find the blog by going to our website at www.zipzgear.com.  Feel free to check out the shoes while you’re there.

 

THE UGLY CHRISTMAS SHIRT

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Note:  The shooting in Newtown, CT. is foremost on my mind this week and ordinarily I might comment on it.  But others have and will continue to write much more eloquently than me on the subject.  And frankly, I still get too choked up thinking about it.  So I’ve decided to stay within my wheelhouse and hopefully bring a much-needed laugh or at least the glimmer of a smile to you today.
mens ugly shirtLast week I lamented to my husband that our Christmas tree is looking a bit forlorn this year.  There is barely a present under its boughs – it looks like Whoville after the Grinch stole all the presents.  The problem?  Gift cards.

Our tree used to be overflowing with beautiful packages – glimmering paper, bright shiny bows and the occasional gift bag.  Now – we have a few meager looking gifts and many, many envelopes.  I get it – there is a certain practicality to gift cards.  It’s easy for us to shop, the recipients get exactly what they want, and hopefully, they can take advantage of the after-Christmas knock-downs.     Prices, not fist fights.

But buying gift cards has all the  joie de vivre of taking the car in for service.  Most every company’s card can be purchased while picking up parsnips at Safeway or cough medicine at Walgreens.  I still think there is nothing as satisfying as finding exactly the right present for someone and watching their face light up as they open it on Christmas morning.  But I also recognize that sometimes things go terribly wrong. We have had “train wrecks” galore in our family all springing from the good intentions of our mother.

Well into her 90’s, despite years of our protestations, each Christmas she insisted on giving a shirt to every adult family member.  To give benefit to the doubt, let’s just say that at her age, she does not exactly have her finger on the pulse of current fashion.  Or anything that even hints of fashion in the last 30 years.  Each Christmas she would lovingly select quite possibly the worst shirts ever made – colorful geometric or wild prints for the guys and sequins or some sort of farm animal motif for the women.  Over the years we could have won Oscars for our performance while opening these gifts.  And when it was our turn to open “the shirt” our siblings and their spouses would be in the corner trying to hold in the laughter as we artfully “oohed” and “aahed” our way through with as much sincerity as we could muster.

One year she so outdid herself in her selection of my nephew Matt’s shirt that my nephew-in-law, Colin, declared that it was, in fact, The Ugliest Shirt on Earth.  After peals of laughter and a dare to wear it in public, the shirt went into hiding.  Matt is a man who knows that revenge is best served cold; he re-gifted the shirt to Colin on his birthday in July, when he was least expecting it.  Colin, in turn, wrapped it up beautifully the following Christmas and re-gifted it back to Matt.  Over the years, the shirt has been hidden in expensive wine containers, golf ball boxes, and rolled up into Christmas stockings.  But the sine qua non, was when Colin, who is British, sent the shirt to his parents in England who put it in a local department store box and sent it Fed Ex to an unsuspecting Matt at his office.

Which all goes to prove that even the worst of gifts can provide years of amusement.  Just try doing that with a gift card.