Riley to the Rescue

by Bob Sparrow

Puppy

Riley as a puppy

Here it is, that shoulder season between the end of summer and the start of the holidays. It’s actually the best time to travel, weather is still good and kids are back in schools so the crowds are down. But as I sit here on a beautiful Southern California day, I have no immediate travel plans. I stare out the window, and then I stare at my dog, Riley, wondering what to write. I say to her, “I really haven’t been anywhere of interest lately, so what do I write about?” She tilts her head and looks at me as if to say, “What the hell are you asking me for, and by the way, isn’t it time to feed me?” Oh yes, I have a dog, not as famous as my sister’s ‘wonder dog’ Dash, but ‘my best friend’ nonetheless. In fact, the comparisons to Dash are . . . non- existent, the contrasts however are abundant. To wit:

Girls & Dogs

Daughters Steph and Dana (aka Riley) holding dogs (Riley is on the far right)

Dash is a purebred, purchased from a registered breeder; Riley is a mutt, a mixture of a Maltese and Shih Tzu, or for short, a ‘Multi-Shit’ – which she does, wherever and whenever she wants! She was purchased from somebody selling dogs in their front yard. Dash’s name come from royalty, the name of Queen Victoria’s dog; Riley’s name comes from the fake name that our daughter, Dana gave when she was single, to guys she didn’t want to hear from again. Dash has never barked; Riley barks at every moving thing – which is why we don’t feel the need for an alarm system. When presented with a paper plate of food, Dash would elegantly partake, often leaving some, just to be polite; Riley would wolf down the food and start chewing up the plate while looking around for more.  Dash is trim, in shape with a shiny coat; Riley is over-weight and proud of it and usually needs a bath. With Suzanne and Al both retired, Dash is doted on; with Linda and my working and traveling schedule, Riley probably has some separation issues.   Dash has perfect teeth; Riley has a missing front tooth in her massive under bite. Dash is in management; Riley takes a lunch pail to work.

Riley

Lunch-mouth Riley today

They say when dogs are looking into your eyes that they are really hugging you – when Riley looks in my eyes it’s usually because I’m late feeding her. Dash is Suzanne and Al’s first dog; Riley is our last. I’ve always had a dog from the time I was a kid. ‘Boots’ was my first dog, I taught him how to climb a tree with me, then there was ‘Rags’ then ‘Smokey’, who wandered on to the school grounds when I was teaching and was never claimed by anyone, so I took him home. I even had a dog when I was in the Navy stationed in Japan named ‘Xoon’, I think he only spoke Japanese. We’ve been a two-dog family for the past 25-30 years; Igit, Shasta, Kola, Pepsi, Simba and Riley. Simba passed away earlier this year and Riley seemed to have mixed emotions; she surely missed her sister, but also probably thought, ‘Hey, more food for me’.   When we buried Simba in the back yard, with the rest of our dogs, we decided that we wouldn’t get another one, that our travel schedule is such that it wouldn’t be fair to another dog, and maybe we just didn’t want any of our dogs outliving us!

OK, Riley, you helped me write the blog this week, thank you! I guess I’ll have to give you a treat. She gave me that look like, “Yeah, sure, whatever, now where’s the treat?”

 

 

A Tahoe Tribute to Mom

by Bob Sparrow

two glasses

Cheers to Mom & Dad in their final resting place

     This past week was an occasion for another family gathering; our ‘mostly annual’ trip to Lake Tahoe in October. We go in October to miss the tourists, even though we are technically tourists, we really don’t think of ourselves as such, since we’ve been going up to ‘The Lake’ since 1951. That was the year that dear friend of the family and lifelong bachelor, Dick Schieck, or ‘Uncle Dick’ as he was known around our house, bought a cabin about two blocks from the lake in Pineland, 4 miles south of Tahoe City. In those days it was a pretty sleepy resort area, the Winter Olympics had not yet come to Squaw Valley and the Silicon Valley dot com-ers had not yet arrived in droves to drive up prices.

     From 1951 on, every summer vacation and nearly every long weekend was spent at Tahoe, except maybe a few in the winter when Donner Pass, then a two-lane road, was closed due to snow. A few years after I graduated from college, my college roommate and I bought the cabin right next to Uncle Dick’s and in 1979, brother Jack bought a restaurant in Tahoe City and lived there for the next 15 years. Needless to say, ‘The Lake’ holds a very special place in our family history, which is why our parent’s wishes were to have their ashes spread there when they passed.

Tahoe Tavern

Tahoe Tavern – built in 1901

      Our dad passed away 13 years ago and Jack found the perfect spot for his ashes, in the rocks in front of a place we rent, high on a ridge overlooking the entire lake – it’s the most spectacular view of the lake I’ve seen. Our mom passed away last year, but because of various travel conflicts, we did not get to Tahoe last October, so we took her ashes up with us this year and placed them with our dad’s. Dad would have turned 100 this year, so he is celebrating his centennial by being joined once again by his wife of what would have been 77 years.

Mom 1939

Mom’s high school graduation picture

      As you may have picked up from our blogs over the years, our father was one terrific human being, kind and gentle as could be, always having something good to say about everyone and possessing a great sense of humor. He could make people laugh in virtually any situation. He also knew his way around a good martini. Mom was always the ‘straight man’, more serious, lots of attention to detail, a great businesswoman and the disciplinarian in the family. So of course her personality paled compared to Dad’s – everyone’s did. Her role was always having to be the ‘bad cop’, who could never threaten us with, ‘Wait ‘til your father gets home!” We knew he wouldn’t harm a fly. But she knew how to have a good time as well – she loved music, gin rickeys, and could party and dance with the best of them, and our dad adored her. They had such great times at ‘The Lake’, hitting old haunts like the classic Tahoe Tavern, sitting on the deck at Sunnyside Resort, before it was chic, and going over to ‘The Line’ (California-Nevada border) to dine and gamble at CalNeva, in its heyday, when Frank Sinatra was an owner and the ‘Rat Pack’ made guest appearances. Mom always dressed to the nines on those occasions, especially if they were dining at the very-posh-at-the-time, North Shore Club. But most of the time was spent just sitting on the deck at Dick’s cabin with the BBQ going and a gin and grapefruit juice in hand, enjoying the tranquility of this extraordinary place.

M&D

Together forever

     I always felt that I got my dad’s sense of humor (thank God!), but my fondness for music, writing and the arts came from mom. They made a great team and they made three pretty good kids – if I do say so myself! The three of us can look back and be thankful that we grew up in a wonderful time and place and in a wonderful home, thanks to both Mom and Dad.

It took too long, but their ashes are finally together in a place with an incredible view of one of the most beautiful lakes in the world and a place filled with great family memories. They indeed are now resting in peace together.

 

 

The 2nd Annual ‘Cheater’s Cup’

by Bob Sparrow

                                                     The Cheater Cup slogan:  ‘A family that competes together, cheats together”

cheaters cup

The ‘Cheater’s Cup’ named in honor of Lance Armstrong

     Actually, it’s the first known Cheater’s Cup event, because of a little detail during the first one – like no one even knew there was a contest going on! For those who have followed us here for the last few years, you may remember a story written by Suzanne last July entitled, JOCKO’S AND THE GREAT CHEAT-OFF (link: http://fromabirdseyeview.com/?p=2002). During last year’s Nipomo family gathering, our brother Jack and his wife Sharon, Suzanne and Al and Linda and I decided to play golf at the funky, 12-hole executive course called Monarch Dunes. It was just for fun and no one really kept score, or so we thought, but after the round, while having an adult beverage at the 19th hole, or I guess on this course it was the 13th hole, Suzanne, the self-appointed score keeper, pulls out a score card and announces that the women had won the match. “What match?” the men shouted incredulously and demanded to see the card. As suspected it was filled with cross outs, eraser marks and one hole that had been eliminated all together. Thus the ‘Cheater’s Cup’ was born. To add status to this year’s event, we’ve adopted Barry Bonds, who hit a lot of ‘fake home runs’, as our Cheater Cup spokesperson, and have named the trophy going to the annual winners, the Lance Armstrong Cheater’s Cup, so that we never forget the contributions to cheating made by this cycling dope . . . er.  I think both famous cheaters would be proud to be part of our short, albeit nefarious history.

BBonds

Fake homerun hitter, Barry Bonds

This year’s event was held on a ‘real’ golf course, Santa Maria Country Club, Jack and Sharon’s home course, although Sharon, who had spent the last three weeks in France, was ‘trapped’ in Paris due to a pilot’s strike; we think she’ll be home for Christmas.  In true cheater style, the ladies tried to have Natalie Gulbis fill in for her – the men were conflicted, but finally didn’t allow it.

It was no surprise that everyone kept score this year and it was also no surprise that none of the scorecards matched at the end of the round. The round was played as a ‘best ball’ between the ladies and the guys, but because the ladies had one less player, the guys agreed that they would eliminate their best ball on each hole and take the best ball from the other two. It seem fair to the ladies . . . at first, but as the match started to slip away from them, they lodged a complaint and played the rest of the round ‘under protest’.

blower

Blowing a putt has a whole different definition with us

I could elaborate on some of the creative golf cheating techniques that were used during the match, like Suzanne’s clandestine foot mashie to improve her lie, or Linda’s way of improving her lie by always carrying a pack of green Life Savers with her and casually placing one under her ball when no one was looking. Brother-in-law, Al would always turn heads when we finished each hole as he uttered his standard phrase, “Give me a par”. Brother Jack wore the pants with a hole in the pocket, just big enough for a golf ball to fit through, so that when we’re looking for his lost ball in the rough, he would surreptitiously slide his hand, with a new ball in it, into his pocket and push it through the hole; it would slide down his pant leg and land in a place that miraculously had an open shot to the green, and shout, “I found it!” With my long putter, I would regularly take ‘gimme’ putts that were ‘inside the leather’, of course the leather on a long putter assured me that I never had to putt anything that was within 6 feet.

JSA

Jack, Suzanne & Al

As I said, I could elaborate on these cheating techniques, but the match, the day, the weekend was really all about getting together and having some fun with a great family – and that we did. We all feel very lucky to not only call each other family, but also call each other friends, even though on the golf course we might call each other things that would suggest otherwise.

 

“You’re such a cheater; the best wood in your bag is a pencil”

PERFECTING “THE POPPINS”

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Martini

The Original

Those of you who follow my brother or me on Facebook know that last Friday would have been our dad’s 100th birthday.  For those of you who don’t follow us…it still would have been his 100th birthday.  He was a much-loved man, affectionately known as “Poppins” to one and all.  Whenever our family gets together we tell funny stories about him and do “The Poppins”.  What is that, you ask?  Well, whenever Pop’s martini ran dry, he would set the empty glass on top of his bald, round head, signifying that a refill was necessary.  He did it at home, of course, but also in restaurants, bars, and airplanes.  It never ceased to get a laugh…and an immediate refill.  So now that he’s gone, anyone who puts an empty glass on their head is doing “The Poppins”.

Last Christmas as the family was gathered at Bob’s house we talked about how we might turn “The Poppins” into a marketing tool for a liquor company.  We agreed that we first needed to make it a “thing” – kind of like Miley Cyrus and her twerking, only funnier and not disgusting.  We had a fun conversation about it and plenty of laughs and then forgot all about it.  But last week, on what would have been his 100th birthday, we posted a picture of him and requested that everyone  hoist a glass in his honor.   We got some amazing toasts but also received pictures of people doing “The Poppins”.  We thought it might be fun for everyone to join in so, really as a public service, herewith is a primer on how to do “The Poppins”.

1.  Start Simple – and Unbreakable.  This is critical.  No one thinks it is funny or cute to have broken glass and red wine spilled on their white carpeting.  So startphoto (4) slowly.  A plastic cup is perfect.  In fact in my opinion the Red Solo cup people ought to be jumping on “The Poppins” bandwagon.  Next, a little bit of liquid adds weight and makes it easier to balance.  Trust me on this.  At our dad’s memorial service I took a plastic cup up to the podium so I could demonstrate “The Poppins” to the SRO crowd.  I knew I was on thin ice to begin with and didn’t want to further annoy the minister by having the cup tumble all over the altar.  So I filled the cup half way with water.  It worked like a charm, although I think I am still going straight to hell after that stunt.  In any event, as pictured right, our good friend Marge Dunn sent us a picture on Friday of her doing “The Poppins” and she has done everything right – plastic cup for outdoors, still filled with liquid, and grinning from ear to ear.  Perfection!

 

Jeff doing the Poppins2.  Improvising is Key .  Sometimes, it is not just a martini or wine glass that needs filling.  As you can see from the picture at left, Bob’s son Jeff chose to do “The Poppins” at work.  Since pretty much every workplace frowns on consuming alcohol during working hours, he chose to improvise.  Smart boy!  A coffee mug is a perfectly acceptable tool and is also good for beginners.  My husband has been putting his empty coffee cup on his head for years now.  Long ago he figured out that whenever I saw him do that I would chuckle and think of my dad.  So instead of saying something like, “Gee, dear, why don’t you get up and pour your own cup of coffee?”, I gingerly pick it up off his head and toddle off into the kitchen.  I suspect he is secretly teaching the dog how to balance his bowl but I can’t be certain.

 

3.  “The Poppins” Masters.  Eventually, with enough practice, you will be able to graduate from plastic cups and coffee mugs to fine stemware.  This gets tricky and should be done with some amount of judgement (assuming that anyone who is putting a glass on their head has some judgement).  For example, if you’re going to your new boss’ house for the first time, I wouldn’t try doing “The Poppins” with their Waterford wine glasses.  However, I once was at a corporate retreat (“retreat” meaning 10 minutes of business and 5 hours of golf) followed by a small cocktail party, where I demonstrated “The Poppins”.  We then repaired to the hotel’s snobby dining room where the waiter apparently thought we were in a gulag.  No water, no bread, no service.  But…at the slight encouragement of my teammates, I put the very fine wine stem on my head and VOILA! the waiter came rushing over to our table.  So…”The Poppins” really does have some practical applications.  Two of the best practitioners of “The Poppins” in our family are daughter Wendy and brother Bob, pictured here.  You can only aspire to be this good.

photoBob doing The Poppins

It is truly a skill worth learning.  You will have fun, make people laugh, and get your glass refilled at record speed. What could be better than that?  So help us popularize “The Poppins” at your next outing and let us know how it goes.  Disclaimer:  Breakage, dry cleaning bills and humiliation are to be assumed by the trainee.

AMAZING FAMILY!

suz linda

Suzanne & Linda

by Bob Sparrow

     Who has a better sister and wife than I do?  NoooooooooBody!!  At the risk of beating a dead horse, or at least an old horse, for our readers, I must revisit my 70th birthday celebration and thank a number of people who made it such an AMAZING event.  My first thank you goes to my lovely wife Linda, who orchestrated a weekend of surprise after surprise.  Granted when you have a husband who is totally clueless, it’s easy to pull off surprises, but nonetheless she did a masterful job – a week after the event, I still don’t suspect anything!

      With the ‘Big One’ approaching, Linda asked me how I wanted to celebrate the conclusion of my 70th trip around the sun.  I said I didn’t want a big party, just something with the FAMILY.  That was the end of my participation.  Several days later she told me that she’d booked four villas in Palm Desert at the Marriott Desert Springs, where we love spending a week every April at our timeshare.  Perfect, just the kids, grandkids and us.

Jackalope

Cocktails at Jackalope in the desert

     Late Thursday afternoon, while grubbing around in the yard, the doorbells rings, Linda asks me to get it.  I come to the door in tattered jeans and dirty t-shirt; it’s my brother, Jack and wife Sharon, I greet them with the warm welcome of, “What the hell are you guys doing here?!”  They responded with a Happy Birthday and that they are going to Palm Desert with us.  I’m thrilled.  Later that evening (I did sneak in a shower and change of clothes) the doorbell rings again and, still clueless, I go to the door and there are four couples of our good friends, Mark & Kathy, Jack & JJ, Bob & Marge and John and Judy – they’re standing at our front door singing Christmas carols that turn into Happy Birthday.  When we’re all seated at the bar in our family room, Linda brings out a small box and asks me to open it.  It is a brochure for a 12-day trip for two to Kathmandu, Nepal, which includes a 5-day trek through the foothills of the Himalaya!  My jaw drops!!!  She says, there is no way she’s going, that the trip is for my brother and me.  All I can say is “AMAZING!”

photo (9)

Jack, Suzanne & me

     By mid-day Friday we’re checking in at the Villas in Palm Desert.  When we got there, there is only one villa that has been cleaned and available, so we walked over to the hotel and had some lunch at poolside in perfect weather.  Upon our return I walked into the one villa we had and I see a man, with his back to us, sitting out on the deck, and assume I went into the wrong villa.  Then one of my favorite people and one of the funniest I know, turns around and wishes me a Happy Birthday – it’s Matt Sparrow, my nephew – Jack’s son.  Fast forward to mid-day Saturday and I get my annual birthday phone call from my sister, who always calls me and sings Happy Birthday the way Marilyn Monroe sang it to Jack Kennedy.  As I’m standing there listening to her, she walks in the door – she had just flown in from Scottsdale – AMAZING!  Later that afternoon close friends and ‘practically family members’, Mark, Kathy and daughter, Kristin (best friend of our daughter, Dana) arrived to celebrate the occasion.

joe dana

Joe & Dana

One last surprise remained.  I was told to stay in my villa as preparations for ‘the party’ Saturday evening were taking place in Joe & Dana’s villa.  When I was asked to ‘come to the party’ I was blown away.  Dana and Joe had decorated the villa with pictures at ‘food stations’ they’d created representing a number of the places we’ve visited, Italy (Meatballs marinara, Fried cheese, beef Carpaccio with lemon arugula), Africa (Moroccan lamb kabobs with Tzatziki sauce, veggie couscous, roasted plantains), Japan (Ahi and Yellowtail crudo, crying tiger beef skewers, garlic and chili edamame) and Hawaii (Kalua pork sliders on Hawaiian rolls, grilled pineapple, Ahi poke). All the food was AMAZING! There we also ‘drink stations’ from Ireland (beer and Irish whiskey), my Dad’s famous martinis at ‘Poppin’s Grotto’ and ‘Klappers’ (cheap rum and diet cola) named after my dearly departed best friend, Don Klapperich.  The birthday cake, in a ‘travel and music’ theme had a quote from me about traveling and seeing things a little differently than most.  Dana then gave me a box decorated in the ‘travel and music’ theme that she had put together, containing 70 individual birthday wishes from friends and family (you saw my sister’s in last week’s blog) – they were AMAZING!  A huge thank you to those who took the time to write something nice and send it back (for some I’m certain it took quite some time to find something nice to say).  Seriously, I am was touched and am blessed to have such wonderful friends.

3 kids

Stephanie, Jeff & Dana

Thank you to an AMAZING FAMILY, especially those who made this an unforgettable (even for a forgetful 70 year old) experience – Stephanie, Jason, Dylan & Emma; Dana & Joe, Jeff, Jack & Sharon, Suzanne, Matt, (Mark, Kathy & Kristin) and especially to Linda whose dedication to FAMILY is unsurpassed.  To quote Lou Gehrig, “I am the luckiest man on the face of the earth”.

    OK, enough with the birthday stuff, I’ve got some really interesting places to take you next year – hope you’ll enjoy them vicariously ‘from a bird’s eye view’.

HOPE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY HAVE A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND AN ADVENTUROUS NEW YEAR! 

A BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE TO MY BROTHER

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Bob's 70th

Bob, his wife Linda,their son, daughters, their husbands and two VERY cute grandchildren

It is an unfortunate fact that oftentimes in life we don’t let people know how we feel about them until we’re delivering their eulogy.  We assume, we presume, we procrastinate.  And then we end up saying something to the effect of, “Gee, I never told him how I really feel about him.”

Fortunately this will not be the case for my brother Bob.  Our entire family gathered this past weekend to celebrate his 70th birthday and as all our family gatherings tend to be, it was filled with laughter, good story-telling (mostly true but not always), and some sentimental tears. One of Bob’s daughters arranged for 70 different people to write a tribute to him. As he reads them hopefully he will realize that from the time he was a small boy until today, he has been a much-admired person.  We should all be so lucky to have an experience such as this.  So with your indulgence, my blog today is an edited version of my tribute to Bob…a truly great brother.

 

Dear Bob,

I can’t believe you are 70 years old today!  Boy, you are OLD.  But, make no mistake, in very good shape.  For your age…and considering that your hips and knees are shot.  And we don’t even want to think about your liver.  But today we mark this important milestone and let you know how very special you are.  I’m sure you will get lots of notes and cards from family and friends to mark this significant birthday.  But only one person can tell you what a great big brother you have been – and that’s me.

Our relationship started out a bit rocky.  After all, I was the interloper who caused you, at age 7, to go from the baby of the family to the middle child.  So you did what all big brothers do with pesky younger sisters – you figured out ways to torment me.

As adults, however, we found a lot of common ground.   We both have a reverence for books and, of course, enjoy writing.  But first and foremost is our shared sense of humor.  We both think we’re pretty funny, which is good because sometimes other people don’t.  Pop was a big influence on us, of course, but you always added a wry spin to a story or took pleasure in the outrageous.  I still laugh when I think about the messages you used to leave at my office.  Like the one you left when I was well into middle age:  “Please tell Suz that her A.A. meeting tonight has been cancelled.”  I explained to my secretary, “That’s just my brother – he has a very funny sense of humor.”  I’m not sure she ever saw me in quite the same way again.

As I thought about my lifetime of memories with you, there are two stories from our childhood that kept coming back to me.  I think that’s because these two stories, of you as a boy, portend the wonderful man you would become.

1955

Jack, Suz and Bob …around 1955.

The first story is actually my first memory in life, in 1954 or 55.  The three of us were in the backseat of Dad’s station wagon, on our way to Playland at the Beach in San Francisco.  As Playland came into sight, you suddenly shot up out of your seat and shouted, “Look!  There it is!!  We’re here!”  I was so surprised by your sudden movement and unbridled enthusiasm that even today the memory of it is fresh.  Once there you soaked it all in – Laughing Sal, the Fun House, the carnival rides and the shooting galleries.  You even gave me one of your prizes.  On the way home you were completely satisfied – you had been someplace exciting and done something fun.  Today, you are still that boy, enthused about travel, excited to go someplace new, and still generous in spirit.

My second memory is of an event a few years later.  I had committed some infraction and was sent up to my room without dinner.  I was scared to be alone, but I trudged up the stairs and heaved myself onto my bed, sobbing.  A short while later you came to my room, carrying a bowl of soup.  I cried on your shoulder, scared to be alone while you were all downstairs eating.  Then you noticed that an ant had crawled onto my hand.  You watched as it crawled around my fingers and you assured me it would stay with me and be my friend.  But you were wrong.  My friend in the room that day was you.  All throughout your life you have been a good friend to many people, but no one has been more appreciative of your friendship than me.  Today, you continue to be thoughtful and caring, especially with children, whether it is through your work at Ronald McDonald House, your CASA companion, or your own grandchildren, Dylan and Emma.

2013

Jack, Suz and Bob – 2013 and we still love each other!

All of my life you have been a constant source of support, whether in times of joy or times of trouble, to offer perspective and humor, kindness and help.  We are all so lucky – we three – to have each other not only as siblings but as friends.  To want to spend time together and savor each moment.  And in part that is due to you, the middle child, the glue that keeps the three parts together.

As much as I love to write, I will never be able to find the words to adequately express how very much you mean to me.  Just know that I love you with all of my heart and that you have been a very positive influence in my life.  I am so very lucky to have you as a big brother.

Happy 70th Birthday, Bob!

 

 

Prairie Home Companions

by Bob Sparrow

Farm

Barney’s Jersey Farm

Pardon me if I seem a little jet-lagged, but last week my travels took me back in time to southern Minnesota.  It’s not that southern Minnesota is behind the times, far from it, it’s just that the mid-west, and particularly Minnesota and particularly this family, embodies good old mid-western values that we on the coasts just don’t see much of anymore.  It was refreshing to be surrounded by people who fervently hang on to the importance of family. The occasion was the 90th birthday of Warren Barnes, my father-in-law, who admitted that he wasn’t going to be 90 until December, but December is not a time to ask people to come to Minnesota – that’s ‘hibernating’ season.  So the party was held last week, when according to Warren he was “prettin’ear 90”.

While it was Warren’s birthday celebration, it was really a tribute to both Warren and wife, Phyllis, who is a young 87, for the wonderful life they’ve led and the incredible families that were created out of their marriage in 1945. The birthday celebration was held on Saturday in RochesterMN, but the preliminary activities on Friday took us south on a tour of the Barnes’ hometown, Canton, MN.  The photos below show 1) the parking lot of the Canton Coffee Shop; yes it is still a one-horse town, 2)  a farmer driving the ‘company car’ through Lanesboro, and 3) traffic at Amish rush hour.  We visited the old family spread and one could still barely make out the words ‘Barney’s Jersey Farm’ on the side of the barn.

1. horse  2.  Lansboro  3. Amish

DSC00724

Cobb Residence

That evening, dinner was at the bucolic residence of Gene & Denise Cobb (granddaughter); he a 25-year IBMer and she a math whiz teaching ‘Advance Placement’ classes at the local high school.  They bought 5 acres in the beautiful rolling hills outside of Rochester and built a house, planted fruit trees and a garden with almost every conceivable vegetable known to man, and some not known, at least to this man – like salsify; then added some chickens and goats and cats and a dog and probably by the time you’re reading this, who knows what species of flora and fauna have taken up residence?

PHC     The birthday event on Saturday mystically transported us to Lake Wobegon from A Prairie Home Companion’.  For those unfamiliar, A Prairie Home Companion is a radio program originating out of Minnesota that started in 1974 hosted by Garrison Keillor and featuring a variety of musical and comedic entertainment that typifies the mid-west.  The show can still be heard every Saturday on public radio.  Warren and Phyllis’s children, grand children and great grand children as well as in-laws and friends spoke and performed various acts from playing musical instruments, to singing and dancing, to a game of ‘Jeopardy’ based on the life and times of Warren.  But the emotional highlight of the event was the reuniting of ‘The Barnes Trio’.

barnes trio early

The Barnes Trio – back in the day

Barnes Trio

The Barnes Trio (Dale, Linda, Starlet) – reunited

Warren and Phyllis’s three children, Starlet (Barnes) Brummer, Dale Barnes and Linda (Barnes) Sparrow formed ‘The Barnes Trio’ and started singing together back on the farm when they were all in grade school; they were good enough to be sponsored by Purina Dog Chow and they performed all over the state from talent shows to county fairs.  This evening they sang ‘Daddy’s Hands to a very emotional crowd, particularly the guest of honor.

vlcsnap-2013-08-14-20h28m20s157

Phyllis & Warren Barnes

     Warren and Phyllis have truly been ‘prairie home companions’ for the last 68 years – a remarkable couple and a remarkable family.  Their response to all the festivities? “This has been the best day of our lives”.  Considering the number of good days in their collective lives, that’s  saying quite a lot.  Well-deserved!

JOCKO’S AND THE GREAT CHEAT-OFF

by Suzanne Sparrow Watson 
Normally we are healthy eaters, if one can overlook the occasional foray to   Dairy Queen and In 'n Out. In fact, I'm pretty sure that I'm the only reason  the local kale farmer is in the black this year. Butwhen we are in Nipomo, as we are now, we throw caution and our cholesterol to the wind and eat at       Jocko's. Jocko's has put Nipomo on the map. Okay, that might be a slight      exaggeration since most people still don't know where Nipomo is. Nevertheless,it is likely that for those who do know where it is it's because they've been to Jocko's. Jocko's inside

As you can see from the picture Jocko’s has all the atmosphere of a cattle barn. I think the last remodel was done sometime in the 50’s. The 1850’s. But people come from far and wide to eat here so they must be doing something right. That something is their beef. It is grilled over an oak BBQ, with just the right amount of charring on the outside and tenderness on this inside. We went there last week with my brother, Jack, and his wife Sharon. It was a Tuesday night and we had a reservation for 6:30. We were not seated until almost 7. For those who didn’t have a reservation the wait is closer to an hour and a half. Let’s just say that the bar business at Jocko’s is quite brisk.

It’s the type of place thatJocko's bar serves drinks in those old-fashioned jelly jar glasses but that’s just what you’d expect at joint that has paper place mats. The wait staff is cheerful, which is astounding given that they serve over 300 dinners a night – every night. The menu has a wide array of beef dishes but their chicken is also out of this world. The steak sandwich is HUGE and comes with a salad, antipasto dish, beans, potato, and then, as if your veins aren’t already coursing with enough fat, vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce.

The price of all this? $17.00. Or, to put it in perspective, $1 less than Bob paid for two beers at Del Mar. JSB NIPOMO

Speaking of Bob, we just had our annual family golf tournament here in Nipomo.
There was a lot of pre-tournament revelry, as you can see from the picture of us three.

I think Bob had just said something about winning the golf tournament. Or some such foolishness. In any event, there was much revelry on Friday night. By Saturday morning there was some talk of needing resuscitation but the group rallied in time to take a stroll through the quaint town of Arroyo Grande. As it turns out, there was a vintage car show on the Main Street and we had a ball walking around looking at all the old cherry cars. Until we realized that we had either owned or ridden in most of them. It is a sad day indeed when you realize that you are “vintage”. Jack decided to sit in front of a local winery with our dog,Dash, and just watch the world go by.

20130728-172158.jpgHe always was the smart one.

In any event, our golf tournament later that day was a bit of a bust. We played the 12 hole Challenge Course at Monarch Dunes. Some of us were more challenged than others. It is a prickly little track with greens that defy the normal logic of putting. To make matters worse, I was in charge of scoring but I completely forgot to record one of the holes. Which on a 12 hole course is pretty pathetic. And tells you everything you need to know about my short term memory these days. But since I was in charge and had the scorecard I just declared that the girls won the tournament and the guys were no wiser. Until they read this.

But never let it be said that a little cheating at golf got in the way of a good time with our family. We all know that we are so lucky to be related…and better yet, good friends.

THOUGHTS ON SPRING, ANGRY BIRDS AND BASEBALL

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Spring has sprung, the flowers has riz, I wonder where the birdies is?….Anonymous.

Soehrensia bruchii flowers 4 inch

Spring has definitely come to the desert.  As both my brother and I have mentioned in recent weeks (probably ad nauseam), the flowers in the desert are truly one of nature’s miracles.  They pop up almost overnight and bloom in magnificent colors – brilliant orange, pink, and yellow.    They signal the end of cold weather and the beginning of spring.  Of course, my brother has the advantage of viewing the beautiful flora here in the desert and then returning home to the wonderful climate of Orange County.  I, on the other hand, see the beautiful flowers and know that we will be enjoying springtime for a maximum of – to be on the generous side – 10 days.  Then, like someone has flipped the switch to a blast furnace, we begin our season of “dry heat”.  As I’ve often said when someone mentions that term – my microwave oven is also a dry heat but you don’t see me living in that, now do you?

The other sign that spring has come is that the birds start to fly about in great numbers.  They chirp endlessly – some sort of mating call I suppose.  If this year is any indication, we’re going to have a HUGE bird population in the next few months.  The most annoying birds are the woodpeckers who love the flashing on the roof that surrounds the fireplace chimneys.  Apparently woodpeckers must be related to roosters because at the most un-Godly hours in the morning they begin rat-a-tat-tatting on our roof.  Their constant pecking echos down the metal chimney flue to create the most startling sound known to man.  Or at least that’s how it seems at 4:30 in the morning.  This is such a problem that several men in the neighborhood have taken to shooting BB guns at them – a la the crazy father in “Steel Magnolias”.  There they are, outside before dawn, in all manner of undress, shooting at birds who are laughing their tail feathers off at the idiots trying to shoot them down.  2013-04-06 10.06.01

We unwittingly have found a way to exact revenge on all the birds.  A couple of years ago we installed a glass front door and sidelights, allowing a view to the backyard when standing at the front door.  The picture at right was taken at the door so you get the idea.   Birds, however, are not that smart. Somehow they have confused our house with a landing strip at Sky Harbor.  With the advent of spring, they are on a quest to fly right through our house. Consequently, it is not unusual to hear a loud “BAM!” and see the wingspan of a bird imprinted on our front door.  Before you even think about calling the SPCA , rest assured that no bird is injured in this process.  After they hit the door, they fly away stunned and most likely go home and take an Advil.  Usually by the end of spring word has gotten out in the bird community to stay away from the “trick” door at the Watson’s house.  But for the next few weeks we will be the pathway to hell for countless of our feathered friends.

Flowers and birds aside, the most telling sign that spring has sprung is that it’s baseball season again.  Somehow just hearing a game on the radio or on TV elicits fond memories of bygone days and gentler times.  I San_Francisco_Giants_logo_1977-1982know that people complain that the game is too slow or that the teams are composed of drug-addled, spoiled players.  But there is something nice about the timelessness of a baseball game. For me it brings back memories of our dad on a Saturday afternoon, chores done, relaxing in the back yard listening to Gil Hodges and Lon Simmons announce a Giants game.  Dad came by his love of the team honestly; his mother used to sit in her apartment sporting  a Giants cap, cheering them on through thick and thin.  I don’t think she ever missed a game – she transitioned from a huge radio in a wooden credenza, to portable radios, to television.  She never saw a Giants game in person until age 70, when our brother, Jack, treated her to a day at Candlestick.  He bought her a new cap, a hot dog, peanuts and a beer.  She was in Heaven – surely the highlight of her life.  And to this day we all love hearing Jack reminisce about that day.

So I’m glad that baseball season is here.  In full disclosure, I won’t actually watch a whole game until the playoffs.  My husband, who is an obnoxious Yankees fan, can’t sit through a whole game either.  But we have an entire summer ahead of us to catch snippets of games and root for our teams.  Ideally the Giants sweep the Yankees in the Series.  Such are the dreams of springtime.

P.S.  So many of you have written or inquired about Dana and we wanted to let you know that she is doing GREAT!  She is an amazing young woman who has a wonderful spirit.  She’ll be enjoying a few days in Palm Desert this week with family.  Nothing could be better for healing a heart.  Thanks so much for your kind thoughts and prayers during this time.

 

 

 

 

 

The Fixing of Dana’s Heart

by Bob Sparrow

mrbellMr. Bell’s Fixit Shop was Dana’s favorite book as a toddler.  We read it to her so many times, that by the time she was two and a half, she had it memorized, literally. I could just turn the page, she’d see the picture and recite, word-for-word, what was written.  That remarkable recall memory would later serve her well in school. Mr. Bell had a sign in front of his shop that read, ‘I Can Fix Everything But Broken Hearts’.  Cutting to the chase, predictably he’s able to repair a doll for Jill that mends her broken heart.  In this tale of life imitating art, Dana had a heart in need of fixing.  Playing the role of Mr. Bell was Dr. Alfredo Trento, Director of the Cardiothoracic Division at ‘his shop’, Cedars-Sinai Hospital in West Hollywood.

 Dana is the world’s best patient.  We visited her as she was lying in pre-op, cracking jokes, pulling faces in her new ‘O.R. hat’ (see photo below) and speculating on whether they are going to insert a human, pig or cow replacement valve in her heart.  She concludes it’s down to a pig or human, as the Chick-fil-A cows have once again mounted a strong ad campaign in favor of the pig value.

tongueDana tells us that she’s made cookies for all her O.R. and I.C.U. caregivers and put them in little ‘Thank You’ bags.  She told the hospital staff, “If you do a good job, you’ll get a cookie”.  If you’ve tasted Dana’s cookies, you know that’s a great incentive!  They wheeled her into the O.R. cracking up and I cautioned her to ‘lie very still’ during the operation.  Dr. Trento tells us that the operation will take approximately 5 hours (there’s probably no smoke breaks in there) and that he won’t know what valve he’ll use until he looks at the heart.  Husband Joe is hoping they use a human valve because he knows that Dana is such an animal lover that if they use a pig valve, as a ‘Thank You’ gesture she will want to get  a pot belly pig as a pet.

In an hour we get a call from a nurse inside the O.R. (one of the great uses of cell phones) that the operation is going well; in three and a half hours we get another call telling us that the surgery has been successfully completed and they are now sewing her up.  Shortly thereafter Dr. Trento comes out to the waiting room to tell us that everything went very well – we all breathed a very heavy collective sigh of relief.

We visited Dana about an hour later in I.C.U. where there are no pictured allowed, but when asked about the picture I took at the right, I told them it r2d2was an artist’s rendering that I just drew.  I’m pretty sure they didn’t believe me, but they let me keep the picture anyway.  She was in quite a bit of pain up to 12 hours after the operation, but the next morning, less than 24 hours after the operation, Dana got out of bed and walked around the I.C.U. – pulling all the tubes and bags along with her.  It looked like she was walking with R2D2.  I think she set a new Cedars-Sinai record for the two laps she completed.  There is a lung transplant patient two rooms down that is challenging that, but I think Dana’s got it.

Wednesday is ‘moving day’ from I.C.U. to ‘I Don’t See You’ or whatever the regular rooms are called.  Her new room is decorated with lots of flowers and balloons – thank you!  She’s feeling pretty good for someone who just had her chest cracked open – thanks to ‘better living through chemistry’.  The doctors and nurses at Cedars-Sinai are amazing – could not ask for better care!  I felt like we should leave them a tip or something, but instead I’ll just give them a great recommendation.

emma dogOn day five, her last full day in the hospital, Dana is visited by a nurse that asks if she would like to talk with a social worker.  No.  Someone from the clergy, a minister, priest or rabbi? No.  How about a ‘Volunteer Dog’? YES!!!  Yep, hospitals now provide dogs that come in and visit patients.  Pictured here is a white Labrador named Emma, who stopped by to see Dana and do a little ‘Lab Work’.

Dana’s recovery has been remarkable; she is back to being her normal high-energy self, in fact our only concern is that they say her ‘new heart’ is going to give her more energy!  Welcome back Darlin’ Dana!!