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  ADT came out and informed us that not only were the connectors bad but our keypads were also outdated.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.

Restless in Seattle

by Bob Sparrow

Joe with Wedding Singer, Addison

I’ve been on enough airplane rides not to enjoy them, but on a flight out of Orange County last week heading up the coast, I was pleasantly surprised by what first appeared to be low-hanging clouds covering the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, but turned out to be 14,000 foot peaks poking through the clouds covered with a light dusting of the year’s first snowfall. It was a beautiful reminder that fall is here and winter is fast approaching.

My destination? Seattle, for the wedding of Chase Johnson, son of our long-time neighbors and good friends, Mark & Kathy – a great event. I had spent a good deal of time, years ago, working in Seattle creating a mortgage company within the offices of one of the largest real estate companies in the area, John L. Scott Real Estate. I remember traveling there nearly every week from October to April and never seeing the sun. But it’s a great city where one just learns to cope with precipitation.

View of Seattle from Salty’s Restaurant

We had a list of Seattle attractions that we wanted to see between the wedding and the rehearsal dinner at Salty’s, which itself is a Seattle attraction. Never, and I mean never, go to Seattle and not have dinner at Salty’s, which sits across Puget Sound from downtown Seattle and affords you a spectacular view of the city as the sun sets and the lights of the city come alive.

The morning we arrived, Seattle was showing off its beautiful, clear blue sky and a verdant countryside. We decided it would be a good time to go to the top of the iconic Space Needle, which sits downtown and was built for the 1962 World’s Fair and has been a major attraction ever since. Views from there of downtown Seattle, Puget Sound, the lush neighboring hills and distant mountains, are spectacular! The ‘Needle’ also now has a revolving glass floor on top that, if you have the stomach, provides a feeling like you’re walking on air – a ‘Don’t Miss’ attraction!

Space Needle through Gilhuly’s Glass House

Directly below the Space Needle is the Chihuly Garden & Glass Exhibit. If you’re not familiar with Dale Chihuly’s work, you may have seen it in Las Vegas at the Bellagio, Aria or the Wynn hotels – those spectacular glass chandeliers are his creations. His exhibit here features his work in a glass house and a glass garden – amazing! As long as you’re visiting the ‘Needle’, see Chihuly as well.

With the next day came a steady rain – OK, this was more like the Seattle I remember, complete with gridlock that makes L.A. traffic look like a drive down Main Street in Mayberry. It was a good day to do the ‘Underground’ tour. I didn’t know what to expect, other than it was going to be out of the rain and probably . . . underground. I’d been told that it provided some interesting insights into the history of Seattle. It did not disappoint. The docents were informative and hilarious as we wandered through the underground rubble and artifacts that was once downtown Seattle and now sits a story below today’s street level. Not for the claustrophobic, but a must for the history buff. Great experience! Not wanting to dally on our way home, we walked a few blocks to the Pike Place Fish Market and watched them throw some Halibut around as well as be amazed at the awesome array of beautiful flower bouquets all along this outdoor mall.

Flying fish at Pike’s Place Fish Market

Yes, we managed to squeeze all that into just a day and a half in the Emerald City – we were truly Restless in Seattle.

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.

 

 

Parlays and Teases and Over-Unders, Oh My!

by Bob Sparrow

An early Saturday morning wake-up was the start of a road trip across the vast desert to an out-of-the-way inland river port. The Mojave Desert stretched in front of us and once off the beaten path, it was so desolate that it was as if we were driving on the lunar surface, although I’m not really sure what driving on the lunar surface is like. All I know is that there were miles and miles of nothing buy miles and miles. Our destination is a small town named after the man who created it in 1964 – not that long ago, said the old man. It’s officially fall in the rest of the country, but someone forgot to flip the calendar page here in Laughlin; instead they flipped the ‘on’ switch to a blast furnace – it’s 104. But it’s a dry heat!

The trip to the ‘Casino on the Colorado’ was to meet up with brother, Jack and his wife, Sharon, who were flown in and put up by Harrah’s – so in gambler’s vernacular they are ‘Whales’, so I will watch them closely to see what they do and how they gamble, because no one has ever paid airfare and lodging for me anywhere. I take that back, there was that free night in jail when . . . oh, never mind, I guess that wasn’t free. I digress.

Typically confused Sparrow Bros. clients

The real purpose of driving on the moon or maybe it was more like driving on Mercury with that 104-degree temperature, but truth be told, I also don’t know what it’s like to drive on Mercury either, was to gamble. More specifically our goal was to try to affirm our alacrity in and governance of the betting on college football games, for which ‘The Sparrow Brothers School of Fine Football Forecasting’ was created. We think because we combined to play and/or coach football for a total of 23+ years, that we know how to bet football . . . we don’t.

In the last few years we’ve either bet or ‘mock’ bet on college football games, with less-than-stellar results, but this year we developed a ‘system’ that has worked with ‘mock money’ so now we’re anxious to try it with real money!  I could spend some time here discussing the ins and outs of parleys, teases, over-unders and other terms not typically known by the lay person, but I think it would just confuse you, it did me!

I posted the following bets here on Friday so you wouldn’t think I put them in after the fact. I think the results will affirm that (our selections are underlined)).

Bet:       Ohio State over Penn State giving 3.5 points, parlayed to

Oregon over Cal giving 2.5 points

Result: Ohio State won, but didn’t cover, Oregon won and covered; bet lost.

Bet:   USC over Arizona giving 3 points, parlayed to

Stanford over Notre Dame getting 3.5 points

Result: USC won and covered, Stanford lost by more than 3.5; bet lost.

Bet:   Washington St. over Utah giving 1.5 points, parlayed to

Nebraska over Purdue getting 3.5 points

Result: Wash St. beat Utah and covered, Purdue beat Nebraska by more than 3.5; bet lost.

Bet: Texas over Kansas State giving 9 points parlayed to Wyoming over Boise State getting 16.5

Result: Texas won but didn’t cover, Boise St. beat Wyo by more than 16.5; bet lost.

Yes, you’re reading this correctly, we lost every bet! So we decided to bring our ‘expertise’ to the pro games on Sunday.

I won’t go through the painful details of Sunday, which looked a lot like Saturday – here’s a good indication of how our Sunday went – we bet on Carolina, who had a bye and Bye won by 2 touchdowns!  It’s a good thing we had the U.S. in the Ryder Cup.

The Sparrow Bros. School of Fine Football Forecasting has since filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will be closing their doors for the season and will be open next year under a different name, for the beginning of the Bangladesh Women’s Lacrosse season. Stay tuned!