IT’S NOT YOUR GRANDMOTHER’S KNITTING

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Warning: this post may contain some offensive photos.  In fact, this post DOES contain some offensive photos.

Kat Coyle, the Pussy Hat creator

I’ve been knitting since high school.  As I have recorded here before, the rhythmic motion of the needles and the creative act of designing has helped me keep what little sanity I have left.  So I was a bit dismayed when politics reared its ugly head in my favorite hobby.  Politics in knitting, you ask?  Yep – it started with the Women’s March in January 2017 when millions of women donned the pink “pussy hats” in protest.  Suddenly, the website Ravelry, which is the largest knitting website in the world with over 7 million members, began to attract younger subscribers so they could access the pattern for the hat.  In addition to providing patterns, reviews and general information on all things knitting, Ravelry has thousands of chat forums on any number of topics, everything from books to Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.  But naturally, there are also plenty of political forums, both right and left leaning.  Reading the posts on those forums is actually a good way to hear both sides of an issue, although some people seem to be grabbing facts from the unicorn universe – kind of like watching cable news.

A sample of the “new” knitting

Over the past several months young designers have taken the pussy hat project “resist” philosophy to new heights – or lows, depending on your viewpoint.  Suddenly,  on the front page of Ravelry where they show photos of the “Hot Right Now” projects there began to be projects that were a bit over the top.  The hat in this photo is representative of that (I’ve erased the X-rated part but you get the drift).  I usually don’t comment on them but I did read the feedback that Ravelry received from many outraged subscribers.  As anyone who has ever played golf with me knows, I am not immune from the “F” word, but I do realize there is a time and place.  After all, what is the point in wearing such a hat?  Sure, you might get high fives from those who agree with you but it also prevents people from assuming they could have a reasonable discussion with you.  After all, it exudes hate which I thought we were trying to stamp out.  I was dismayed by the thought of my “safe space” website being highjacked by political viewpoints so I contributed to the forum on the subject of X-rated projects.  Here’s what I wrote:

I am the president of a large knitting guild. We have members that are gay, straight, of different ethnic backgrounds, and are liberal and conservative. In other words – a large cross-section of people. We have decided that it is in everyone’s best interests to find what we have in common – what binds us and makes us connected – rather than what divides us. It is amazing how people who have radically different political and social views can come together and enjoy one another’s company by sharing the craft of knitting. By getting to know the person we foster relationships, not divisions based on political opinions. If you are going to continue to publish divisive/x-rated projects why don’t you at least find a way to “hide” those projects from the front page?

I thought that was a reasonable suggestion but it just goes to show how behind the times I am.  There were FIVE TIMES more people that disagreed with me than agreed.  I was shocked.  My post received lots of comments – most of them were nasty.  Very nasty.  The only good news is that over the next few weeks Ravelry did find a way for members to block anything they found offensive.  Personally, I’ve used it more to hide toilet paper covers than anything else.

Could make an interesting dishcloth

Still, the patterns continue.  This week, in an effort to “get out the vote”, the hat pattern (left) was posted.  So…why do I bring this up when the vast majority of you don’t knit?  Because I think that when we have injected politics into something as innocuous and soothing as knitting, we’re in trouble.  In commenting about their designs, the artists who publish these items express their outrage and frustration and allow no room for an opposing viewpoint.  The warfare that is our political system is infiltrating every nook and cranny.  At the risk of once again holding a minority viewpoint, I think we would all be better off if these designers and their followers spent their knitting time creating something for the homeless, the Vets, or anyone in need in their community.  Wearing a “F..K” Trump hat doesn’t help solve the problems we face, it only serves to further shut down productive discussion and debate.  But then what do I know?  I’m just a grandmother who knits.

THE HAUNTED HOUSE

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

                     The Money Pit

I forgot to write a blog this week until yesterday, coming this close to ruining our six-year perfect record of posting a blog every week.  I have no excuse other than I’ve been very busy being fitted for a straight jacket.  It was either that or make good use of our new knife sharpener to split open a vein or two.  What, you might ask, has caused me such angst?  The joys of homeownership.  Those of you who have a home will understand.  For those of you who rent…keep renting.  Trust me, it is NOT money down the drain.  I’ll tell you what is money down the drain – a MONEY PIT of a house, that’s what.

Our issues started at the beginning of the summer when our brand-spanking new irrigation system (which cost more than my entire college education) sprang a leak in the manifold.  I thought manifolds only existed in cars but this was not the only thing I was to learn over the summer.  We quickly turned off the water before we flooded the neighborhood.  Our landscape people came out and fixed it and we sighed with relief that it had happened before we left on summer vacation. Hah!  Little did we know the fun was just starting.

In July we took off for 10 days to Mammoth Lakes.  When we arrived home I noticed that the alarm system didn’t sound as I opened the door.  Turns out, the connector points had worn out in a couple of places.  Luckily no one with ill intent swung by our place to relieve us of our valuables, although in retrospect there are a few items I surely wish they had taken.  ADT came out and informed us that not only were the connectors bad but our keypads were also outdated.  Great.  New keypads, a new motion detector and a few contact points installed and we were good to go.

Or so we thought.  The next week I began to notice that most everything I baked was turning out pretty bad.  As in, inedible.  Now, this is not unusual for my cooking.  I’ve produced more disasters than Hurricane Alley.  But even my go-to recipes were not turning out.  So, our appliance repair person came out and told me the oven just wasn’t reaching temperature.  Long story short, we needed a new sensor (which of course had to be ordered) and he HOPED that would solve it.  Luckily, it was “just” the sensor and he got it back up and running.  He also told me that the oven really needs about 15-20 minutes longer than it indicates for the entire oven surface to be at temperature.  So…I learned something new as I wrote out another check.  My cooking, however, did not improve.

                 Our new “stupid” TV

Since our next vacation was cancelled due to wildfire smoke I decided we should use the money to get a new 4K TV installed.  You know, something ultra tech that would have some “smart” features to take us automatically to Netflix or Amazon.  So I called the A/V people we’ve used for years and ordered one up.  They came the next week to install it, only to find that the cabinet space it goes in to was too small for the new TV.  They installed it anyway, with part of the surround protruding when they left the job.  Not only that, they informed me that we couldn’t use the “smart” remote because our surround sound cables (which run across the room in the ceiling) are not compatible with the new requirements of the Samsung audio cables.  They suggested we rip open the ceiling to run new cables.  Uh…that’s not going to happen.  So they came up with the brilliant idea of installing a Roku player to replace our Blu-ray streamer since the Roku is easier to navigate and would work with the sound system.  In went the Roku, which worked for approximately three days before it died.  At this point it was either divorce court or the Roku so I had them come rip it out and we are now back to our Blu-ray streamer and using a new, expensive “smart” TV with the old “stupid” remote and streamer.  But I’m not divorced, so there’s that.

Then, just to add some fun to the mix, someone in Argentina stole my credit card number and opened up several Netflix accounts.  When I reported it to Netflix they said next time I should just give the person a gift card rather than lend them my credit card number (!).  Long story short, I reported it to the bank as fraud and had to re-set all of my automatic payments.  I don’t think Netflix hires “geniuses”.

Next, the air conditioner on the hot (southwestern) side of the house went out.  Over the subsequent three weeks we had two repairmen who spent untold hours trying to fix it.  Finally, after 18 years of using the same company we lost faith and called a friend who had a relative in the business.  It always helps to “know a guy”.  They came out and, sure enough, we have some issues that are going to require a work around next spring before we use the A/C.  Again, college educations are being wasted on household repairs.  But on the bright side, we’ve had the coldest, rainiest October in history so I thought we’d dodged a bullet.

           Another “smart” device

That is until 10 days ago when my garage door opener refused to close when I left the house.  So, in the aforementioned rain I had to get out of my car and manually close it.  So… one more call to one more vendor.  Turns out the logic board had failed.  Finally, something I can relate to – my logic board fails all the time.  However, since it was one of three openers there is a high likelihood that the others will fail sometime soon.  The next day we had three new garage door openers and we were thrilled to learn that they are wi-fi enabled.  You simply download the Liftmaster app and then you can control the garage doors from anywhere.  I thought of the countless times I’ve left the house and then was sure that I’d left the door open.  This simple little app could fix all that.  I should have known better.  The “simple” app would not connect to their wifi system.  I called Tech Support.  No help.  The next day I tried again, spent an hour with a very nice guy but no luck.  The next day the owner of the garage door company and I spent 90 minutes on the phone with their tech “wizards”.  Nope.  Nada.  Not Happening.  It has now been elevated to their super-geeks who are supposed to call me any time now to help figure it out.  My dreams of using an app to open and close the garage doors have withered away, along with my patience, resolve and self-esteem.

On the up side, I think I finally understand what is happening.  With the upcoming holiday our house has decided to do a mash up between Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street.  I think I’m going to opt for A Cabin in the Woods.

THURSDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Yes, my husband was awake!

Our recent trip to Colorado was highlighted by a high school football game, which, I have to say, is miles apart from a pro game.  Better miles.  And, no, the Sparrow Brothers Fine School of Football Forecasting did not bet on this game.  So, yeah, we won.  But more on that later.  We love to visit our family in the Denver suburbs and especially loved seeing the trees begin to turn and just a hint of fall in the air.  A small hint, since most days were in the mid-80’s but it still beat the muggy warmth of Scottsdale.  Denver, as you may have read, is a booming city.  So much so that they have now adopted an anti-California attitude that stems from all the Golden State refugees that have flooded the housing and job markets.  Like in all other instances, the Californicators have driven up both wages and housing prices which has resulted in a bit of resentment from the native Coloradans.  But the growth has also spurred the resurgence of downtown Denver into a bustling place filled with great restaurants, new office and condo buildings and entertainment centers.  No place better exemplifies that than Union Station.  Once forgotten in the age of suburbs and cars, Union Station’s 100 year-old building was remodeled and extended in 2014.  It is now the hub for Denver’s light rail, Amtrak, the city bus service and even Uber.  Its magnificent interior gives one the feeling of being in a mid-twentieth century train station, complete with dark wooden benches, elegant chandeliers and soaring marble columns.  Yet from this nostalgic setting one can easily walk to Coors Field to catch at Rockies game or to Pepsi Center to watch a concert, the Nuggets or the Avalanche.  Even Mile High Stadium is only a 15 minute drive away.  The restaurants in the area are plentiful and good.  Union Station is also home to one of the last remnants of civilization – the Tattered Cover Book Store.

Thursday Night Lights

But our real reason for coming to Colorado in September was to watch our grandson in a high school football game.  He is a senior this year so this was our last chance to see him in uniform.  His team, Cherry Creek, is ranked #102 in the nation and thus far are undefeated on the season.  Their quarterback, Alex Padilla, has already signed at University of Iowa and is someone to watch.  I haven’t attended a high school football game since the 1980’s and I had forgotten what a magical experience it is.  Wooden benches, parents volunteering to staff the concession stand, cheerleaders, the marching band, and my favorite, the baton twirler.  Right off I was struck by the differences between high school football and college/pro games.  First, no one kneeled during the national anthem.  Second, the fans sit on different sides of the field.  This is huge.  It means that you don’t have some yahoo from the opposing team yelling in your ear or taunting your team’s every dropped pass or missed field goal.  Third, there is no alcohol on the premises (except that smuggled in by weary parents or clever students).  So in addition to not having the opponent’s greatest fan next to you, he is also not burping or throwing up all over you.  The bright lights, the youthful enthusiasm and a big win (49-7 and it wasn’t that close) made for a evening we’ll never forget.

Grandpa with Matthew after the game

But mostly, we’ll never forget how excited our grandson was to make a few plays and relish a big win.  We know that it was important to him to play because we were visiting.  Frankly, we didn’t care.  We just wanted to see him on the team, enjoying the camaraderie of his fellow athletes and reveling, as only high school students can, in a huge victory.  We walked away with a great feeling about the school, not only the football team, but the diversity of the cheerleaders, band members and pom girls.  Everyone was encouraged to participate.  It was a long way from the old days when only the most popular kids got to partake in that fun.  To add an even more poignant meaning to the night, all of the kids were wearing orange shirts or ribbons in tribute to one of the pom girls who is fighting leukemia.  It was heart warming to see all the support she received from her peers.  I read a lot of criticism about the “kids of today” but anyone who believes that will get an argument from me.  What I experienced was a great group of kids – caring, fun and determined.  I think we’re in good hands.

 

 

The ‘System’

by Bob Sparrow

It was necessary for me to post these Saturday prognostications early as it will tie into Monday’s blog:

Ohio State over Penn State giving 3.5 points, tied to

Oregon over Cal giving 2.5 points

 

USC over Arizona giving 5.5 points, tied to

Stanford over Notre Dame getting 3.5 points

 

Washington over Utah giving 1.5 points, tied to

Nebraska over Purdue getting 3.5 points

 

Bonus pick

Texas over Kansas State giving 9 points, tied to

Wyoming over Boise State getting 16.5

 

THE LAPDOG OF LUXURY IN VAIL

By Dash “The Wonder Dog” Watson

Beautiful Gore Creek in Vail

It’s been a long, hot summer here in Scottsdale.  My “people” have had one vacation shortened and one cancelled due to smoke.  They seem okay with it but do they think about me, having to wear a fur coat all summer.  No.  They are so selfish.  Really, they should be reported to the SPCA.  Last week, however, they made some attempt to humor me by throwing me in the car for 14 hours and driving to Vail, Colorado.  As most of you know, Vail is a beautiful ski town nestled in the Rocky Mountains.  What you may not know is that it was founded by Pete Vail and fellow members of the 10th Mountain Division after WWII.  Since then it has become not only one of the top ski slopes in the world but one of the wealthiest small towns in America.  Finally, my people were taking me someplace where I could be appreciated.

Me, at the bar!

In fact, when we arrived I discovered that I was more than appreciated – I was accepted.  Over the past several years my human has tantalized me with photos of  Facebook friends in England who take their Cavaliers to the local pub.  I’ve always thought the English were right-minded when it comes to dogs but the proof is in the pudding…or pub…as they say.  Clearly the British understand our royal heritage and refined breeding.  In their wisdom, they have concluded that a well-behaved dog is preferable to Alfie the Drunk who can’t hold his pints. There – in the middle of Lionshead Village – was Bart and Yeti’s, a bar that not only allows dogs but is NAMED after dogs!  There is even a Golden Retriever who serves as the hostess.  Bart and Yeti’s is not all plaid carpeting and walnut paneling like the pubs my English friends frequent.  In fact, my humans said that it is what is commonly known as a “dive bar”.  I don’t know what that is and I didn’t see anyone diving so I think, once again, my humans don’t know what they’re talking about.  All I know is that the nice bartender allowed me to belly up to the bar, order a beer, and enjoy some social sniffing after a long day on the road.

A bite at Garfinkel’s

After drinks we found a place to eat – Garfinkel’s – that also recognizes the superior nature of dogs.  It is located right at the edge of the village with views of the ski slopes.  Since there was no snow I watched people hike up the hill.  Some of them looked like they were in dire need of an iron lung.  Vail, after all, is at 8,000 feet altitude which provides spectacular views but a deep breath is hard to come by.  Especially if you’re old, like my masters.  Like many ski resorts this time of year, Vail is in “slack” season which means many of the shops have reduced hours and there are fewer people around to scratch my stomach and tell me how cute I am.  The upside is that it’s easy to get in anywhere and the trees are turning.  Some of you may think we dogs don’t notice such things but we are a lot more interested in molting leaves than you might realize.

The following day we drove around the area and marveled the the magnificent scenery.  After a summer in the desert breathing dust and looking at scorched earth, the greenery and lush vegetation seemed like Heaven.  I peed on lots of it – just because I could.   What wasn’t a welcome relief was the weather – the temperature hit 90 degrees when we were there.  90 degrees at 8,000 feet altitude is enough to make a guy pant uncontrollably.  Extra ice cube treats were in order.   We saw some beautiful golf courses (that my master lusted over) and some fancy boutiques that my mistress drooled over.  That’s pretty much what Vail has to offer in the off-season.  Unless you want to make that hike up the mountain and ruin the lining of your lungs.  Me, I’m happy just bellying up to the bar and quaffing a beer.  I can almost smell the fish and chips.

A Weekend in Mayberry

by Bob Sparrow

The Andy Griffith Show was one of my all-time favorite TV programs and last week I got a chance to spend some time on the set of that show. At least it seemed that way. All you need to do to confirm that ‘Mable-Hesper Steam Engine Days’ is something out of Mayberry RFD is to check out the agenda items for this year’s event:

  • Parade of Tractors and Steam Engines followed by a dance at the Legion Hall featuring the Buck Hollow Band and The Toe Tappers. Tractor pull tomorrow
  • Model Railroad Show followed by the Little Miss Mabel pageant
  • Bean Bag and Kickball Tournament followed by Bingo at the Dairy Barn
  • Pumpkin Contest Weigh In followed by the Quilt Show at the Fair Grounds

A Classy Class

Class of ’68 Steam Engine Days float

While this alone would have been enough to get us back to Minnesota, the real impetus was Linda’s 50th high school class reunion. There were a total of 48 members in the Mable-Canton Cougar class of ’68. The town of Mable had 780 people, Canton 342 in the 2010 census. In fact the towns are still so small that the reunion took place in a winery just across the border in Iowa; yes, a winery in Iowa – rows of grapes surrounded by rows of corn.

If the expectation for the reunion was that I was going to be surround my a bunch of country bumpkins that I didn’t know or cared to know, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  This group, mostly women (there were only 3 men from the class in attendance) were not just friendly and ‘Minnesota nice’, they were a group of sophisticated, educated and accomplished women.  After supper (dinner is served at noon don’t cha know) there was an open discussion amongst the group as to whether they felt disadvantaged attending a small, rural school in southern Minnesota.  The response was an overwhelming ‘No!’  In fact they made it abundantly clear that they felt privileged to attend a school where they could not only participate in clubs, student government, band, athletics and virtually everything that went on at the school, but were encouraged to do so because the school was small.  A stark contrast to today’s students who, in order to succeed, typically do one thing all year long.

Buck Hollow (left) and his (geriatric) Band

After the reunion many of the classmates, including us, headed for the dance at the American Legion Hall in Mable, after all it was Steam Engine Days and everybody was in town and in a party mood. The Legion Hall is a large facility with two big rooms connected by a bar. One side had the Buck Hollow Band and a huge dance floor, filled with old and young alike, while the other side was a ‘sports bar’ with TVs, pool tables and folks just having a beer and shooting the breeze.  I wish I had a picture to show you how great this felt just being in this environment.

Take Me Home Country Roads . . . Please!

I drove Starlet’s, my sister-in-law, car to and from the reunion and Steam Engine Days, and I have to tell you, it was quite an experience. During the day the narrow roads lead you through a vast rolling pastoral landscape of corn fields dotted by pristine farm houses and silos – it is truly amazing. At night, a different story. There are no street lights, in fact there are not any lights, so driving these dare, narrow two-lane roads becomes a significant challenge. When was the last time you were constantly clicking your high beams on and off? While on one of these winding roads going from the reunion to the dance, I was suddenly confronted with a deer crossing the road. I slammed on the brakes and swerved as much as the narrow road would allow me and the deer turned slightly so I just grazed him as one of his antlers put a small scratch on the car door – Sorry Starlet! That doesn’t happen much in Orange County.

A special tender moment

One afternoon we sang at a Memory Care Center for Alzheimers and dementia in Rochester, MN.  There were about 20 senior residents sitting and listening, many singing along with us. When we were finished, an older gentleman wearing an Army Veteran ball cap, motioned to Linda to come over. She walked over to him and he looked her in the eye for a long time and finally said, “Is that you?” Linda, not wanting to ruin the man’s illusion, replied, “Yes”. He said, “How have you been?” Linda responded, “I’m good, how about you?” “Good now,” he said, with tears in his eyes. We assumed that he must of thought Linda was either his wife or daughter. Linda asked him if she could give him a hug. He happily agreed. We left with gladden in our hearts, smiles on our faces and tears in our eyes.

 

 

UN-DRESS FOR SUCCESS

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Me, my cousins and best friend in our ’60’s garb

In 1964, the night before my first day of high school, I spent hours agonizing over what I was going to wear on that inaugural day.  Back then we strived to look like the impossibly perfect girls we saw in Seventeen Magazine.  So when I realized I didn’t have a purse to match my shoes I went into panic mode.  Yes, it was that important.   Luckily, my cousin who lived around the corner came to the rescue and I was saved from the humiliation of mis-matched shoes and purse.  We lived with pretty strict rules back then.  Girls could not wear pants to school, not even culottes (I know because I was almost sent home one day for wearing them), and jeans were totally out of the question. Skirts could be no more than one inch above our knees.  Sleeveless dresses were about as risqué as it got.  Looking back, we were so covered up most of the year that we came darn close to resembling Mennonites.

 

The epitome of ’60’s cool

Towards the end of my high school career the “mod” era of fashion changed a lot of what was acceptable – or not – at our school.  Skirts inched up and up until it became dangerous to bend over.  Jeans, as long as they were clean, were allowed for boys.  Fabrics were brighter, white boots were the epitome of high style and hair grew longer on both sexes, although boys were still not allowed any sort of facial hair.  Still, with all the changes, there remained a norm of looking nice to go to school.  Over the years, of course, dress codes at schools have become looser and looser, almost to the point of seemingly having none at all.  Baggy pants with underwear showing, micro shorts, bare bellies – they’ve all become  de rigueur at our local high school.  Dress codes have been in the news a lot since school started up again this year.  Some principals are cracking down on sloppy and “barely there” attire, while others are going in the other direction – let the kids wear whatever they like.

          Would you hire these butts?

It was with this in mind that I read with interest in USA Today that one high school district in the Bay Area is doing away with dress codes and have replaced them with general guidelines.   Here’s what is listed as what students MUST WEAR:  bottoms, tops, shoes, clothing that covers genitals, buttocks and nipples.  Seems like that’s a mighty low bar.  The policy goes on to say that they CAN wear midriff-baring shirts, pajamas and tube tops.  The only items forbidden are those that contain hate speech, profanity, pornography, etc.  The intent of the policy is to prevent shaming, specifically for girls.  In fact, the school district has said they reject the notion that bodies are distracting and therefore must be monitored and covered up.  Really?  They work all day around teenagers with raging hormones and they don’t think bodies are distracting?

I’m not suggesting we go back to the early ’60’s but I’m sure there is a middle ground to be reached.  Clothes can take on way more importance than they warrant at that age so relaxing standards a bit seems logical.  But I will say this:  as a former HR executive I can attest that appearances do matter.  Teaching our kids that they can wear whatever they want, whenever they want, does them a disservice.  Even at the high tech companies there are standards – no pajamas, for example.  The real world requires some amount of “dressing for the occasion” and, further, there are studies that show there is merit to the “dress for success” mantra.  Unless a kid’s ultimate career involves working in their parents’ basement, in which case all they’ll need is their pajamas and fuzzy slippers.

THE TIMES, THEY AREN’T A-CHANGING

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

  Alexander Hamilton

As my brother so sadly attested last week, smoke seems to be everywhere in the West this summer.  We have cut one vacation short and cancelled another altogether due to smoke.  It is a tragedy all around, not only from an environmental perspective but the impact it has on people who lose all of their belongings and the small businesses who count on tourism to subsist.  With that in mind, we have just been grateful to have a roof over our heads and Dash the Wonder Dog to keep us entertained.  The extra time at home has also aided my mission of slogging my way through Ron Chernow’s tome, Alexander Hamilton, the book that inspired the hit Broadway musical.  Weighing in at 832 pages, it has been a daunting task because most of my reading is done in bed at night.  Sometimes I’ll read for an hour or so but many nights I find that after three pages I’m slumped over and snoring.  That said, I’ve finally completed it and in an odd way, have found some solace in its pages during this politically turbulent time.  The following are some highlights from the post-Revolutionary period that seem strikingly familiar:

 

  • During the 1790’s the Federalists and Republicans came to view each other as serious threats to the country’s future, resulting in partisan animosity that was at fever-pitch for much of the decade.
  • Partisan warfare divided families in every state. It also broke up friendships, perhaps most notably and poignantly the friendship between the revolutionary collaborators Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.
  • Both parties exhibited hostility against recent immigrants who were believed to be supporting the rival party.
  • The partisan conflict of the 1790s brought sex scandals to widespread public attention. (Both Hamilton and Jefferson were touched by the latter.)
  • Newspapers were established by both parties in order to slant the news to reflect their positions.  Ironically, Hamilton, the premier Federalist, founded the New York Daily Post which is now the longest continuously published newspaper in America and is decidedly conservative.
  • Large and unruly anti-government crowds gathered in the capital city, and in 1793 “threatened to drag President Washington out of his House, and effect a revolution in the government.
  • The election of  Thomas Jefferson in 1800 was remarkable for several reasons but most notably that it ushered in the first peaceful transition of power after one of the most acrimonious decades of political backstabbing and infighting.
  • In 1813, Jefferson, in retirement, looking back on the 1790s, recalled that the “public discussions” in this decade, “whether relating to men, measures, or opinions, were conducted by the parties with animosity, a bitterness, and an indecency, which had never been exceeded. All the resources of reason, and of wrath, were exhausted by each party in support of its own, and to prostrate the adversary opinions.”  Imagine if they had social media back then.  Who knows where our country may have drifted?

          Thomas Jefferson

I avoid most news accounts these days because I find it too stressful.  I’ve gone from being a news junkie to eating junk food instead.  But reading Hamilton has made me less anxious about today’s conflicts.  I realize that as bad as things are right now, we have gone through worse and come out the better for it.  Somewhere out there is our Thomas Jefferson.  Despite his personal shortcomings, he managed to bring the country together, soothing both parties and accomplishing a sound economic and social foothold for our new country.

All we have to do until “our Jefferson” arrives, is not let the smoke get in our eyes…or blown up our keisters.

 

 

THERE’S ALWAYS AN UPSIDE

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Here I am, once again in the middle of summer in Scottsdale where the average temperature rivals the inside of my oven.  It’s actually been okay this year, partly because I’ve had a lot of projects to keep me busy and partly because I ran into a person with a shitty attitude at the gym.  Nothing makes me more irritated than people who endlessly whine and complain.  So when I met up with a woman who went on and on…and on…about how hot the weather was I looked her in the eye and said, “It’s all in your attitude”.  I have been thinking about attitude and approach these past couple of weeks.  On our visit to Mammoth lakes we re-visited the Mammoth Museum where I reflected on the tributes to Jill Kinmont.  It was Jill – or at least a book about her – that first taught me about a positive approach to life.

       Jill Kinmont SI Cover

Jill Kinmont was an accomplished ski racer from Bishop, California in the early 1950’s.  She skied on the Mammoth Mountain team, coached by Dave McCoy (see my previous post about him).  To say that Jill was a sensation is an understatement.  She was one of the brightest American prospects for the 1956 Olympic team.  In addition, she was the very embodiment of mid-century good looks – blonde hair, blue eyes and a perky personality.  In January, 1955 she was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and tragically was one of the worst examples of the “SI curse”.  The same week that her cover was published she fell on a run during the Snow Cup in Alta, Utah and broke her neck.  She was paralyzed from the neck down and the doctors told her family that she would only live another five years. At 18, her life as she knew it was over. But friends like fellow ski racer Andrea Mead Lawrence and Dave McCoy urged her not to accept that prognosis.  Jill, being a natural competitor, was determined to make a life for herself.  She insisted that she was going to walk – and ski – again.  She was never able to accomplish those goals but the remainder of her life was lived in a way that is a lesson to us all.

Despite being confined to a wheelchair, she had the use of neck and shoulder muscles and learned to write, type and paint with the aid of a hand brace.   She applied to UCLA and graduated with a degree in German and English.  But when she applied to the university’s school of education she was rejected because of her disability. Undaunted, she moved north with her parents, earned a teaching certificate at the University of Washington and taught remedial reading in elementary schools on Mercer Island.

            Jill Teaching

When she and her mother returned to Los Angeles after her father died in 1967,  one Southern California school district after another refused to hire her.  Finally, the Beverly Hills District employed her as a remedial reading teacher where she taught for several years.  She spent her summers back in Bishop teaching children at the Paiute Indian reservation.  In 1975 she and her mother moved back to Bishop where she was hired and spent the next 21 years with special needs kids at Bishop Union Elementary School. When a new high school opened in Bishop, the students voted to name it the Jill Kinmont Boothe School. She oversaw the Indian Education Fund, which provides scholarships to local Native American youth, and had a local following as a painter.  The proceeds from her art sales were donated to the scholarship fund.

As if her physical injuries weren’t enough Jill also had to endure losses in her romantic life.  At the time of her injury she was dating the skiing phenom Buddy Werner.  After her accident he couldn’t handle her injured state and broke off their relationship.  He died a few years later in an avalanche.  She then dated and became engaged to daredevil skier Dick “Mad Dog” Buek but before they could marry he died in a small plane crash.  All that tragedy in one life is almost unimaginable.  But luck was finally on her side when she met John Boothe in Bishop.  They were married in 1976 and they lived a wonderful life until her death in 2012.

                       Jill Painting

I first learned about Jill Kinmont’s story in 1969 when someone gave me a copy of “A Long Way Up”, the story of her life to that point.  The book was subsequently made into a popular movie, “The Other Side of the Mountain”.  Her story was so inspiring that I’ve often thought about her during tough times.  Her spirit and attitude provide a positive and upbeat touchstone.  I wish I had 100 copies of her book because in my fantasy life here’s what I’d do with them: when someone complains endlessly about 105 degree weather, I’d shove Jill’s book in their face and tell them to get a life.  Or, perhaps, I would quote Jill herself, who told the LA Times when they named her Woman of the Year in 1967, “To get mad, to scream and holler, to tell the world off— that doesn’t get you anywhere.  You look for what’s good that’s left, I guess.”

California Road Trip: Golf, Wine and . . . I Don’t Remember (continued)

Sonoma/Napa

Buena Vista wine cave

Tuesday – It’s a driving day from Paso Robles to Sonoma over the Golden Gate Bridge with a stop in Sausalito for lunch – a beautiful day in the ‘City by the Bay’. We arrive in Sonoma just in time for our private guided tour of the Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma Valley. Buena Vista is the oldest commercial winery in California, founded in 1857. Our guide, who called himself ‘The Count’, portrayed himself as the original founder of the winery and regaled us with stories of how he had come to create the winery as well as his death by alligator in Central America. Dressed in 1850’s garb, replete with a knob handle cane, he took us deep into the Buena Vista caves that were carved out of solid rock many years earlier and was now serving as the ‘tasting’ and ‘barrel’ rooms for storing wine in a perfect temperature.

Our hotel was just off the Sonoma Plaza, which was buzzing with the ‘Every Tuesday during the Summer’ farmer’s market, including food trucks, fresh vegetable carts, cold beer and a live band. We hung there for a while, but opted to have dinner at the Swiss Hotel, a favorite of my parents who had retired in Sonoma. We were seated in the back patio for a delicious dinner on a delightful evening.

Silverado Golf Course

Wednesday – 9:30 tee time at beautiful Silverado County Club in Napa. Thanks to our golf pro Matt Kliner, we were able to get on this beautiful private golf course that is used for professional tournaments. Beautiful golf course, beautiful day. After golf we had most of the afternoon free to cruise around the Sonoma Plaza or just relax. I took this time to visit my dearly departed best friend, Don Klapperich, who now resides in the Sonoma Military Cemetery.  I reminded him of what a good best friend he was and how he was the person who most influenced my life, and still does. We had a great conversation, although I must say he was a little quiet.

For dinner, feeling very European, we bought some baguettes, cheese and wine and sat in our Sonoma Inn patio on a refreshingly cool summer evening and ate dinner.

Sterling Winery

Thursday – We started our day by driving north over the mountain range that separates the Sonoma from the Napa valleys and hit the northern-most town in ‘wine country’, Calistoga, where the ladies did some shopping, mostly for windows. First winery stop was Sterling winery, which requires a gondola ride from the valley floor to the top of a hill, where you can taste their delicious wine while enjoying a spectacular view of the Napa valley.   We stopped in the next town going south, Saint Helena for lunch, on our quest to find the Prisoner winery, as we wanted to get Ron, who gave us the Sprinter for the week, and his wife, Shelly, a case of their favorite wine. We were to learn that the Prisoner winery is temporarily shut down, but the wine is still available at Total Wine – where we got the case of wine.

Silver Oak

Being a collector of Silver Oak wine, Jack wanted to make sure we got to the winery, which was just a few miles down the road. We drive through the city of Napa proper and back to Sonoma.

Fresno?

Cocktail cruise on ‘Lake Spradling’

 

 

One doesn’t necessarily think of Fresno as a must-see destination on a California golf-wine trip, but we wanted to visit our good friends, Don & Marilyn Spradling, who moved from Yorba Linda to Fresno five years ago to be with family. Don reminded us that Fresno is the leading grape-producing city in the world; while there are a few wineries, most of the grapes are for eating and raisins. After dinner, our evening was spent on the Spradling’s boat on the lake their home sits beside – a beautiful evening. As for golf, the Spradlings belong to Copper River Country Club, which is where we played early on Saturday morning, to beat the 107-degree heat, prior to heading home after a great road trip with great friends.