Bushwhacked at The Ranch Saloon

by Bob Sparrow

Left door restaurant, rt. door saloon/dance hall

A couple of Fridays ago, I felt like I was part of an O. Henry short story, known for their surprise endings. This story actually begins before Christmas of last year when we usually enjoy a great evening of dining and entertainment at Bistangos, one of Orange County’s top restaurants, where Linda’s company, Blue Violet Networks, has their annual Christmas party. It’s a great affair, delicious food, great wine and a gift exchange. Last year, for reasons unknown to me, there was no party. When I learned of this I jokingly told Linda to tell John Paul, the company owner, who has a good sense of humor, that he owes us a dinner. Linda delivered the message and John Paul agreed and a date was set to meet at The Ranch, one of the very best restaurants in Southern California.

The Ranch is an interesting place; the location of this restaurant/saloon/dance hall is on the ground floor of a six-story office building in an industrial area of Anaheim. The building is the headquarters of Extron, an electronics company started and owned by business tycoon Edward Andrews. He loves dancing (He says that the guy that can dance has the best chance to succeed with the girl of his choice) and he loves country music, so the first floor of his office building is divided in half, one side houses a high-end restaurant (Oh yeah, he loves eating good food too) and the other side is home to the biggest and best country western saloon and dance floor in Orange County.

The restaurant is elegantly rustic, in keeping with the country western theme; the food is outstanding (all the produce comes from their own local ranch in Orange Park Acres) and the service is top notch, as are the prices. John Paul, a wine connoisseur, brought a couple of bottles of excellent wine and he and his partner, Linda, and Linda and I enjoyed lively conversations on a myriad of topics and delicious meats – steak, pork chop, lamb chop and braised short ribs – you won’t find bean sprouts and tofu on this menu!

Bushwhacker on the rt., bushwhakee on the left

After dinner we were escorted next door to the saloon and dance floor, where the cover charge was waived and we had a reserved table waiting for us. The dance floor was packed with 20 and 30-somethings dancing to a live band. Edward was right, there were about 40 people on the dance floor and only four of them were men and each had a lovely lady on his arm. I told John Paul that since he bought dinner, I would like to buy the after dinner drinks.  He agreed.

As we were settling into our seats, a server presented us with a drink menu, as we perused it, we were amused by some of the lofty prices. I’m thinking this is a high-end saloon as I pointed out to John Paul the Glenmorangie 1974 single malt Scotch$1,000 for a 1.5 oz glass! The server appeared and Linda and I order a beer and John Paul and Linda each order a glass of whiskey. The second round shortly followed with another glass of whiskey for John Paul and two more beers for us. Linda and I could no longer sit and watch the dancers having all the fun, so we got up and did the ‘Electric Slide’ – we were by far the oldest couple on the dance floor, but we hung in there with those young whippersnappers.

I still hyperventilate when I look at it

It was time to call it an evening and so I asked for the bill. When I first looked at it, I couldn’t see it that well, I thought it read $300, but it was dark and I didn’t have my glasses on. Once I put my glasses on and got some light, I could see that it was not $300, it was $3,000! $3,058.00 to be exact. Eyes wide and heart beating rapidly, I showed it to Linda and looked over to John Paul and said, “You ordered the $1,000 Scotch?” He smiled and nodded, “Yes . . . two of them and Linda had one”. Now my mind was racing, was this some kind of joke or was this John Paul’s way of getting back at me for saying that he owed us a dinner for not having the Christmas party? He kept his word about buying us dinner, but apparently he was going to have the last laugh.  I looked at the bill again and swallowed hard; yes it was $3,058.00 and I did offer to buy the after dinner drinks, so I surreptitiously switched the debit card I had in my hand with a credit card. As I continued to hyperventilate, I kept staring at John Paul . . . really?!! After way too long a pause he cracked a big smile and said, ‘Got ya!’ While Linda and I were out dancing, he got the bartender to print up the bogus bill and our server to present it to me.  I was never so happy to pay the real bill for $94!

In summary it was a very fun evening interrupted only by a few moments of stark terror.  This was a great spoof and fortunately I am able to laugh at myself . . . let’s hope John Paul can too, revenge is going to sweet.





By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Seems like everyone has the flu these days.  We’ve had dinner dates and golf games cancelled in record numbers the past few weeks – all parties citing the current flu epidemic as the culprit.  I was beginning to think we had just offended a record number of people but it turns out that the flu bug this year is unrelenting.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there’s widespread flu activity from this season’s outbreak in all of the continental U.S. – something that hasn’t happened in the CDC’s 13 years of tracking the spread of influenza.  You know it’s serious when the CDC postpones a briefing on the public health response to a nuclear detonation to instead discuss the response to severe influenza, as happened this past Tuesday.  Tragically, 30 children have died from the flu and the experts believe that number could be doubled due to cases that have gone unreported.  As of this week, thankfully the flu is predicted to peak and the less serious strain will become dominant for the remainder of the flu season.

We all know how to prevent the flu – common sense measures such as getting lots of rest, drinking fluids, and staying away from crowds until the symptoms subside.  I have some friends who have recently been brave enough to travel by plane.  Or as a doctor friend of ours calls them – “flying petri dishes”.  One person has emerged unscathed but everyone else who has flown the flu-ey skies has come down with something close to the bubonic plague.  Sometimes you just can’t help picking up the bug, as careful as you might be.  Me – I’m something akin to Howard Hughes these days.  I touch nothing and no one out in public.  The other day I was in Walgreens behind a woman who appeared to be coughing up her lung.  To make matters worse, she was coughing into her hand, rather than using the suggested “Dracula” method of coughing into one’s elbow.  In any event, when I got to the check-out counter the clerk asked me to punch my telephone number into their keypad.  I asked her why I would do that when Typhoid Mary had just had her germ-ridden fingers all over that same keypad.  The clerk explained that’s why they wipe the keypad off with sanitizer pads every so often.  I pointed out that she had not wiped it since the previous customer had slimed all over it but she just stared at me.  I’m no fool – I learned long ago not to argue with an officious clerk so I decided to forgo my “Walgreens points” and went on my merry, germ-free, way.

But all this flu talk had me thinking about what it must have been like during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918, before Nyquil and Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup were invented.  First off all, it’s hard to comprehend the massive numbers of people world-wide who were infected.  In the two years that this scourge ravaged the earth, a fifth of the world’s population was infected!  The flu infected 28% of all Americans and an estimated 675,000 Americans died from it, ten times as many as in the world war.  In fact, of the U.S. soldiers who died in Europe, half of them (43,000) fell to the influenza virus and not to the enemy.  The effect of so many young people succumbing was that the average life span in the US was depressed by 10 years.  The Spanish flu virus is still considered to be one of the most virulent in history; entire families were wiped out in less than a week after contracting the flu.

By the summer of 1919, the flu pandemic came to an end, as those that were infected either died or developed immunity. In 2008, researchers announced they’d discovered what made the 1918 flu so deadly: a group of three genes enabled the virus to weaken a victim’s bronchial tubes and lungs and clear the way for bacterial pneumonia.  Since then we’ve had further, if less fatal, flu virus outbreaks.   A flu pandemic from 1957 to 1958 killed around 2 million people worldwide, including some 70,000 people in the U.S., and a pandemic from 1968 to 1969 killed approximately 1 million people, including some 34,000 Americans. More than 12,000 Americans perished during the H1N1 (or “swine flu”) pandemic that occurred from 2009 to 2010.

So, there you have it – everything you ever wanted to know about flu and its deadly consequences.  The good news is that for most people it’s a virus and will clear up on its own within a week or two.  Or, as my brother used to advise, sit in bed with a bottle of whiskey at the foot of it.  Drink until you see two bottles.  It may not cure the flu but in the morning you’ll either be better or the hangover will make the flu seem like child’s play.  As for me, I’m wearing my rubber gloves next time I go to Walgreen’s.


To Your Health in this New Year

by Bob Sparrow

I’ve had some time over the last couple of weeks to reflect on what a new year really means.  A new year suggests we get to reboot, start over, fix all things from the previous year.  But reality sinks in shortly after the ball drops, the reality that you’re really just continuing the previous year, as nothing has really changed except the date. “Happy New Year”, you tell everyone and they return in kind, and you really mean it and you hope they do too – everyone wants the new year to be happy. But I entered this new year with a mind that was occupied by some not-so-happy events that took place in our neighborhood and family as 2017 came to close.

As some of you know, we’ve lived in a great neighborhood for over 32 years and we’re not even the longest standing members of our ‘hood. Unlike most neighborhoods, we actually know our neighbors, many of them – some 20+ couples on two streets. Our kids have grown up together, we socialize together and we take care of one another. When neighbors are sick or have issues that restrict their mobility, we take turns bringing in dinners, running errands and doing whatever it takes to help the neighbor in need. It’s a great feeling knowing that someone close by has your back – actually a lot of someones.

Because we’re so close, we share in both the joy and the pain of our fellow neighbors and the end of 2017 brought significant pain to three couples. Three men suffered hospitalizing, life-threatening events.  I won’t go into the specific ailments or names of the families involved, but at the end of last year, our neighborhood was reminded of both how important our health is and how quickly things can change. To hear and feel the anguish and fear of the unknown from the spouses of these three men is indeed life changing. The sad news in our neighborhood was compounded by the news that one of our very close relatives also had health issues requiring hospitalization.  We somehow mistakenly believe that really bad things are not going to happen to us, but they do, and it really hits home when it’s family or neighbors or anyone that you love.

Through emails, phone calls, text and face-to-face conversations we have shared amongst ourselves the progress of each of these four people, hoping and praying that all four would successfully come through their individual struggles and be able to return to the life they once knew.

So yes, the ending of last year just flowed into the beginning of this year with the fate of these three men and a close relative on our minds. So forgive me if I take this opportunity to remind as many people as I can how important our health is. Some things we can’t control, like genetics, but some things we can, so please remember:

  • Be thankful for your good health if you have it
  • Never take good health for granted
  • Take better care of yourself
  • Let me share an idea that doesn’t require you to spend thousands on the latest fad diet, or go to a ‘healing’ spa:
    • Diet
    • Exercise
  • Also, get to know your neighbors; there are probably some really nice people just down the street who may need your help, or who might help you in a time of need

Remember, “Life is a one time gift”



By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

I was going to start out the new year with all sorts of encouragement about fresh starts, resolutions and what a hopeful year this promises to be.   But a quick glance at the calendar quickly disabused me of any notion of improving or uplifting mankind because today is a significant day – Elvis Presley’s birthday.  All of us of a certain age have been influenced by him, or at the very least, his music.  My favorite movie with him was Blue Hawaii and I choose to remember him as that ukulele-playing, handsome heartthrob.  But the fact is that had he lived he would have been 81 years old today.  Seems hard to imagine Elvis as an old man, adjusting his dentures and screaming “whaaaat?” to his friends and family.  I want to remember him with the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana – died young and that’s how he’ll stay forever.  I thought I knew a fair amount about Elvis until I started doing some research.  Like so much else in my life, I’m a lot more ignorant on the subject than I thought I was.  So…here’s a few little known facts about Elvis to commemorate his birthday.

Elvis was a twin.  Yep – the King of Rock might have been the Prince of Rock.  He was the second son born to his mom and dad but his older brother died at birth.

It’s good he isn’t in school now.  Wood shop was Elvis’s favorite subject in high school.  He didn’t like music that much and only got a guitar when his mom surprised him with one on his birthday.

He wasn’t an instant sensation.  Some of Elvis’s first concerts didn’t go over well, with one reviewer likening him to “a jug of corn liquor at a champagne party.”

Elvis wasn’t big on travel.  He only ever performed outside of the United States three times, and all three times were in Canada. In 1957, he played Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver.

“Maria” could have been his big hit record.  Elvis was originally pegged to star as Tony in the musical West Side Story. His manager Colonel Tom Parker nixed the idea, however, and the part went to Richard Beymer.

This could explain his weight gain.  Elvis only ever endorsed one product in his lifetime: Texas-based Southern Maid Doughnuts.

A little dab will do you.  One of the secrets to styling and maintaining his famous hairdo: a combination of Vaseline and rose oil.  I hate to think what that looked like when he was sweating.  While we’re on hair:

Only his hairdresser knew for sure.  Elvis’s natural hair color is brown; he dyed his hair black.

Elvis was his own security squad.  He was a karate black belt.

Where were the candelabras?  The idea for Elvis to wear more flamboyant outfits in concert came from none other than Liberace.

He could have lived in Beverly Hills or Scottsdale.  Elvis went under the knife in the 1970s, receiving a nose job and two facelifts.

He wanted to be the Godfather.  One film part Elvis always wanted to play but was not considered for: Don Corleone in The Godfather. Hard to imagine him making an offer than someone couldn’t refuse.

He must have been referring to Heaven.   Elvis’s last words in public were reportedly spoken to his assistant and concerned an upcoming concert tour: “Billy, son, this is gonna be my best tour ever.”

So, there you have it.  Some little known facts that you can ruminate on as you celebrate Elvis’ birthday.  Heck, at the very least it’s a good excuse to eat some cake.  I’ll just leave you with this quote from Johnny Carson:

“If life was fair, Elvis would still be alive and all the impersonators dead.”

Happy New Year to All and to All a Pop Quiz

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

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

– 2000 B.C.

– 1 A.D.

– 150 AC/DC

– I don’t remember I was too drunk

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

– Only the top 1%

– All the Millennials

– As many as break them by February

– 45%

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

– Alcohol

– People to kiss

– Leafy greens

– Bologna sandwiches

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

– 3,600

– 36,000

– 36,000,00

– too many

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

– I’ve Been Cheated

– Auld Lang Syne

– Sally Go Round the Roses

– Make An Ugly Woman You Wife

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

– The Grim Reaper

– A baby

– Playboy’s Miss January

– Foster Brooks

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

–  He’s not getting lucky

–  They buy more breath mints

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

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

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

– Millennials looking for loose change on the street

– Broadway ticket scalpers

– Muggers and pick pockets

– One million people

  1. What do the words Auld Lang Syne mean?

– Up yours

– Times gone by

– There’s better days ahead

– Good riddance

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

– virginity

– wallet

– car

– your soul

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

– Grand theft auto

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

– Having their first drink

– Falling asleep before midnight

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

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