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The Iceland Cometh

by Bob Sparrow

Linda looking for her ball

We woke up the next morning in the harbor of Reykjavik, Iceland and while the weather was still a bit overcast, we were excited about playing golf in Iceland. We had originally decided that we were either going to play at the northern-most golf course in the world or we were going to play the latest round of golf ever, teeing off at midnight, as it stays light almost all night long. We did neither of these, but we did play golf at a golf course that that was built in 1934. It was a rather blustery day, which apparently is mostly what they get up there, as JJ, Judy and Linda teed off first with Jack, John and me in the second group; we all walked the course under rather gusty conditions. We found that the high winds sometimes worked for us, for example when John, who can hit the ball fairly long, hit a 3 wood and a 7 iron to a 500+ yard par five and had a 15 foot eagle putt. When we were hitting into the wind, it required quite an adjustment, so instead of hitting a 9 iron, you had to hit a 4 or 5 iron! It spite of the wind we enjoyed the round immensely, as we didn’t get rained on. Scores really don’t matter . . . do they? We had big plans for an evening out in Reykjavik, but that wind beat us up pretty good, so we crashed early getting ready for tomorrow’s adventure.

Golden Waterfalls

Salmon escalator on the left

‘The beginning of the end of the cold war’

On Day 2 in Reykjavik we hired a van for the 6 of us for a 7-hour private tour of the ‘Golden Circle’, a well-known loop out of Reykjavik to several of the near-by tourist attractions. We got what would be called a ‘balmy’ day in Iceland, dark clouds, light winds and no rain. The landscape in many places was ‘moon-like’; there’s a joke in Iceland that goes, “What do you do when you’re lost in an Icelandic forest?” Just stand up! What trees they do have are only a few feet high. Our tour included at stop at Thingvellir National Park, a massive lava plain set between two separated tectonic plates, a visit to the geysers, similar to Old Faithful in Yellowstone, only older, but not as faithful. The highlight of the tours was the visit to the ‘Golden Waterfalls’, a spectacular two-tiered waterfall that thunders to the river bottom and shoots mist high into the air. We also saw the Faxi waterfalls, which normally would block the salmon from going any further upstream to spawn, however there was a series of man-made elevated pools built next to the waterfall that provided the salmon an escalator-like ‘detour’ up the river. We were unable to get into one of the most popular attractions, the Blue Lagoon – it had been booked for the week, but on our way back to the boat we toured ‘old town’ Reykjavik with its quaint shops, restaurants and pubs. We also went to the top of the ‘Pearl’ building which provides a 360-degree view of the city and harbor. Our last stop was at ‘Hofdi House’, which is where Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev held their summit meeting in 1986. That meeting was dubbed ‘the beginning of the end of the cold war’.

It was a full and fun day seeing Reykjavik and the surrounding countryside as we headed to our next destination, Iceland’s northern-most port, Akureyri.

 

Akureyri

Unusual Icelandic sunrise

The ship’s route from Reykjavik to Akureyri (Aock-coo-ray-ree) takes us through the Artic Circle, just in case anyone was mistaking the islands we’re visiting with the Hawaiian Islands. We awoke as our ship was being escorted into port by a pod of whales through the longest fjord in Iceland where we saw a most unusual sight . . . the sun. The picture of this unusually flat sunrise was taken by the Budds sometime around 3-4:00 a.m. – I didn’t ask them why they were up at that hour! It was a crisp clear morning where temperatures were predicted to be in the 70s. We tried to get a tee time at the ‘northern most golf course in the world’, but to our disappointment we found that 1) there were no tee times available, and 2) it wasn’t in fact the most-northern golf course in the world, it is second behind a course in Norway! But we had a great 3.5-mile walk through Akureyri to the golf course, where we sat on the deck overlooking the 18th hole and enjoy an after-the-round-beer . . . it was after somebody’s round, just not ours. We were told in the pro shop about the ‘Arctic Classic’ golf tournament, where every Summer Solstice (June 21), the longest day of the year where here the sun never sets and the first tee time for the tournament is at midnight.  We just missed it by a month!

Enjoying a ‘not-after-our-round’ beer

The picture perfect day made it ideal for walking the city and sitting outside at a sidewalk café and writing my blog. Another cruise ship was in port, so this city, which depends on tourism for a large part of its income, was basking in a sun-filled and tourist-filled day. We head back to the ship and left Iceland for our next destination. We found Iceland to be a bit expensive, OK very expensive, but the Icelandic people very friendly, as they haven’t yet learned to hate Americans – let’s hope we can keep it that way.

 

What Are We Doing in the Shetland Islands?

by Bob Sparrow

Our ship departs sunny Norway and heads west into a cold and blustery North Sea to our next port of call, the village of Lerwich, which is the capital of Scotland’s Shetland Islands. Search as I may, I couldn’t find the Shetland Islands anywhere on my bucket list of places I had to see before I kicked the bucket, but here we are licking our Segway wounds and headed for, literally, places unknown. There are approximately 100 Shetland Islands, of which only 16 are inhabited. There is no deep-water port in Lerwich so we ‘parked’ our ship off shore and took ‘tenders’ into the city’s main harbor, in a fairly heavy rain.

I must say I really didn’t know what to expect on the Shetland Islands, other than maybe a few Shetland ponies, although I really wasn’t sure that there was any connection between the name of the islands and the ponies. There is. We visited a Shetland pony farm where we learned that these horses were bred to be small so they could fit into mineshafts in order to haul coal carts out of the mine. We also learned that they could live to be 50 years old. Sounds like a great life doesn’t it, hauling coal out of a mine for 50 years! We learned that Lerwich provides more fish than any other port in Scotland and we got to explore a 16th century castle. We also drove by two golf courses on the island where there is not a single tree or sand trap on either course, but the wind was blowing so hard that the flagsticks looked like they were going to snap in two.

One of the most interesting stories about the history of the Shetland Islands occurred during World War II, when the Nazis invaded Norway.  Many of the heroic Norwegian sea captains became ‘bus drivers’ by using their fishing boats to take Norwegians away from the bombing to safety on the Shetland Islands.

For all its harsh landscape (there are only about six trees on all of the Shetland Islands) and windy and stormy weather, our tour guide, who had a great sense of humor, was extremely knowledgeable about the area, thus making it a uniquely enjoyable stop.

Our next day was fully at sea so my intention was to cut down on the eating and drinking for a day and get to the gym. I later realized that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions as I sat in front of a TV, had a few beers and I watched The Open golf tournament from Royal Birkdale, England. Hey, it’s vacation!

 

 

Doorway to Norway

by Bob Sparrow

First let me report that in the middle of the night before we were getting on board, we got a phone call informing us that my suitcase and our golf clubs have been located and would be at our hotel in Hamburg in the morning. Before we leave the subject, I just wanted to put in a word about British Airways; that word . . . unprofessionalcondesendingarrogantbastards! Not only did they cancel our original flight to London (probably because it wasn’t full!), but then wouldn’t give us the same up-graded seats we had already paid for on our original flight. Their attitude, displayed in hours of phone conversation with them just trying to get back what we originally paid for, was unprofessional, condescending and arrogant. Damn bastards! I guess I shouldn’t be so hard on them, I mean they did get 1 out of 4 pieces of our luggage to the correct destination on time.

Our first night on board and all of the following day out of Hamburg was on rather rough seas with a slight sprinkle. So the only reason to go on deck was to watch the surf-like waves crashing over the swimming pool. So we decided that that first day was a good time to acquaint ourselves with the ship, more specifically, the ship’s bars. My personal highlight of that first day was the celebration of my luggage arriving with a ‘burial at sea’ of the shirt I had worn for the previous two-an-a-half days. May it rest in pieces.

Our first port of call was Alesund, Norway, a relatively small city on the upper west coast and home to the legend of the Norwegian Troll. Linda and I took an all-day excursion to the Land of the Trolls, where we really didn’t learn much about the legend of the Trolls, although we saw a lot of them in gift stores, but we did see a lot of beautiful country, which featured the famous narrow switchback road that will test any traveler’s nerves. A slight sprinkle compounded the difficulty of navigating these cliff-hanging hairpin turns, but our bus driver had done this more than a few times and navigated the road safely. While low-hanging misty clouds covered the tops of the surrounding mountain peaks and much of the snow pack, all the recent rains had made the crystal clear rivers and the multiple waterfalls spectacular – it was like Yosemite on steroids. I have to admit that when we started out on this 6-hour bus tour I was a little concerned that I’d bitten off more than I could chew, but the magnificent views and our incredibly informed guide made the trip a great way to spend the day.

Back on board for dinner and an evening of entertainment as we headed south to our next port of call, Bergen, Norway, where we had scheduled a Segway tour of the city. To say the Segway tour was a disaster is being too kind. We had malfunctioning Segways, no headsets to listen to the guide’s narration of where we were and a young guide who didn’t know where we were anyway or a single item of history about any of the places we were wheeling by. The malfunctioning Segways lead to 5 out of 6 of us crashing, luckily avoiding serious injury. We had such fun doing this in Copenhagen; we were really looking forward to seeing the city this way, but ultimately the only thing we were looking forward to was for it to be over.

After lunch in the ‘fishing district’ of Bergen, we decided to take the ‘On-Off’ open-air bus tour of the city. This too failed to meet expectations, as we never found a place where we wanted to get off and explore in more detail, so it turned out to be an ‘On-On’ bus tour for us.

The Norwegians were nice enough people and the weather was especially spectacular, this part of the world only gets about 50 days of sunshine a year and we had a cloudless 75 degree day, it just wasn’t that interesting.

I think the doorway to Norway has closed for good for this traveler.

No. Sea Cruise

by Bob Sparrow

Hamburg water statue in Alster Lake

The title seems to infer that there is no sea cruise – there is! The title is simply my way of trying to label our trip of cruising both the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea.  By the time you get this blog, we will have embarked from Hamburg, Germany, leaving all the local Hamburgers behind and will be adrift somewhere in the North Sea on a 12-day cruise aboard the Norwegian Cruise Line ship, Jade. It’s actually a 14-day cruise, but they’re throwing us off early – more about that later. What I can tell you now is that I’ve never been to any of the destinations we’re visiting, so Wi-Fi willing you’ll join us as we discover some new places.

The ‘we’ on this trip, joining Linda and me, is the same as our Baltic Sea Cruise gang (where you could always find a ‘john’), Jack & JJ Budd, John & Judy VanBoxmeer, John’s  sister and brother-in-law from Canada, John & Mary Billham, plus friends of theirs, Steen & Sue also from Canada (I believe Steen is Canadian for John).  Why so many Canadians?  Just in case we get called ‘Ugly Americans’ we can all say were from Canada, eh?

Getting to Hamburg, Germany

Our trip over started ignominiously with a European air traffic controllers strike, so our original flight to Europe was cancelled along with our up-graded seats, so we ended up in ‘steerage’.  The good news is that after 27 hours of airplanes and airports we did eventually get to Hamburg, so either the strike was settled or the pilot landed by

Jack, JJ, me, Linda, John & Judy prior to Copenhagen Segway ride in 2015

the seat of his pants. The bad news is that my luggage went to Dubai and our golf clubs went to Kuala Lumpur or at least somewhere other than Hamburg.  As of this writing I’m wearing the same shirt I started out with two days ago, no wonder no one wanted to sit with me at dinner!  Hamburg has been in the news lately as the recent meeting/protesting place for this year’s G20 Summit. All the leaders and protestors have since left the city, but the Putin-Trump “I Got You Elected Comrade” t-shirts were still available in the gift shops.  We only had one evening in Hamburg to scarf down some schnitzel and German beer, which we did as we were pretty sure we weren’t going to get much to eat or drink on the cruise.

The Ship and Her Measurements

Many of our blog readers are big cruise enthusiasts, so I don’t have to go into a great deal of detail about the Jade, but I will anyway . . .

  • 93,558 gross ton; I’m not exactly sure what that means, but it sounds like a lot

    The ‘Jade’

  • 965 feet in length – over 3 football fields long, and while there is no football field on board (I don’t think!) there are tennis, basketball and volleyball courts. (May not get to all of those)
  • Passengers: 2,402 of our closest friends
  • 1,037 crew member (most of them will be down in the hold peddling to make the ship go faster)
  • Library (I may not find it)
  • Gym (I may not find this either)
  • On board chapel (where I will be praying that I don’t burst during the cruise from eating and drinking too much)

Dining opportunities

  • 2 Main Dining Rooms plus, O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill, Cagney’s Steak House, Jasmine Garden – Asian, La Cucina – Italian, Le Bistro – French, Brazilian Steak House, Sushi & Teppanyaki (What, no fusion Thai food?!!)

They know how that salt air can make one very thirsty, so they’ve made it so you’re never too many steps away from staying hydrated.

Adult Beverage Opportunities

  • Atrium Bar, Bliss Lounge, Jade Club, Magnum’s Champagne & Wine Bar, Malting’s Beer & Whiskey Bar, Mixers Martini and Cocktail Bar, Sake Bar, Spinnaker Lounge, Sugarcane Mojito Bar, The Great Outdoors Bar, The Pit Stop, Topsiders Bar & Grill (Makes me thirsty just listing them!)

On Sunday we headed north out of Hamburg, which is pretty much the only direction you can go on a boat out of Hamburg, to our next port of call.  This is the maiden voyage of the Jade after spending the last six months in dry dock getting a total ‘face lift’ .  Wait a minute, isn’t ‘maiden voyage’ the same words they used to describe the Titanic’s historic journey?  I hope I don’t hear Celine Dion singing ‘The Heart Will Go On’ as we board. Thank goodness for global warming, the iceberg’s aren’t as big as they use to be!

It will be an adventure; welcome aboard, we hope you’re not on a diet and we hope you enjoy the journey. Thanks for joining us!

 

 

 

COOLIN’ IT IN COLORADO

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

      Dash and Dad in the happy place

Each summer we take a week to visit the kids up in Colorado – it is always so good to see them and it gives us some respite from the heat.  This year we were especially grateful for the timing of the trip when we saw that the temps in Scottsdale were going to hit 113.  How smart are we?  Turns out, not very.  The heat wave that Arizona experienced was evident throughout the west.  The temperature in Cherry Hills Village was 93 on two days of our visit and when you add in the affect of the altitude, we felt like we were back home.  Except that the company was better.  Also, the mornings are really beautiful there  – cool and crisp.  Our favorite spot is our daughter’s backyard where, accompanied by Dash the Wonder Dog, we sat each morning with a cup of coffee to experience our happy place.  We mentioned something about moving in for the summer.  I’m not sure they heard us.

 

One of the many peaks in the park

Colorado is truly a beautiful state.  Just ask all of the Californians that are moving there.  Still, by LA standards the traffic is still bearable and with the Rocky Mountains always in view somehow being stuck in traffic isn’t quite as annoying.  This year our daughter thought it would be fun to explore Colorado Springs and the Garden of the Gods.  Garden of the Gods Park is a National Natural Landmark, with dramatic views and 300′ towering sandstone rock formations set against a backdrop of snow-capped Pikes Peak.  The name of the park came about in 1859 from a collaboration between two surveyors, M.S. Beach and Rufus Cable, who started out from Denver to establish a new town. While exploring nearby locations, they came across the beautiful sandstone formations. Beach suggested that it would be a “capital place for a beer garden” when the country grew more populated. Cable, however, was a bit more poetic (and dare I say perhaps less of an alcoholic).  His response was, “Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the Gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods.” The park is truly spectacular, with terracotta peaks and jagged mountains throughout.  There are numerous hiking trails, ranging from easy to “you’ve got to be out of your mind”.  We chose to drive around the park because it was too hot for Dash to walk.  That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.  There is a wonderful visitors center that provides guided tours, interactive displays and, thankfully, restrooms.  The Garden of the Gods was truly one of the most beautiful places we’ve seen – only a few minutes off of a major interstate and yet we felt that we were a million miles away.  It is definitely worth the trip if you are ever in the area.

      The lake at The Broadmoor

Our final destination in Colorado Springs was the famous Broadmoor Hotel.  The hotel is one of the grand classics of the country.  We looked up room rates a few weeks ago on the chance that we might want to stay there on our way up to Denver.  At a cool $470 per night for the least expensive room we decided we’d just drive right on through.  The grounds, as you might expect, are beautifully landscaped and meticulously maintained.  There is a massive lake in the back, nestled between the two major buildings of the resort. We ate outdoors at their Natural Epicurean restaurant where we enjoyed fabulous food in a tree-lined patio.  Of course we had to check out their three golf courses as long as we were in the neighborhood.  As you might imagine, they are groomed to perfection.  The Broadmoor will be host to the 2018 Senior U. S. Open.  I told my husband he needs to work on his game so he can qualify.  Best of all, The Broadmoor is dog friendly.  Dash the Wonder Dog made himself right at home, greeting guests as they entered the lobby, checking for any errant food droppings at the restaurant, and making a friend at the Broadmoor’s pet shop (right).  He found his new acquaintance to be a bit cold, but the owner of the shop gave him treats so all was not lost.

A chilly reception

After an hour of so of walking around the hotel grounds we finally concluded that we would have to leave The Broadmoor for another time.  But we will definitely be back.  As soon as we rob a bank.

 

Finding Margaritaville in the ‘Hood

by Bob Sparrow

Late best friend, Don Klapperich, introduced me to Jimmy Buffett’s music in the late ’80s via cassette tapes from Saudi Arabia. I have since collected all his music, videos, read all his books including the Margaritaville Cook Book. My Sirius Radio in mostly on  the ‘Margaritaville’ channel, I’ve seen him live in concert numerous times and recently went to San Diego to see the play, Escape to Margaritaville, based on his music and lyrics, much like the play Mama Mia is based on ABBA’s music. The production is hilarious and is eventually headed to Broadway. I am clearly a big fan – a Parrothead. What is the appeal of a singer whose voice is more a kin to that of a carnival barker?  The vibe he creates!

Marge, Jeanne, Diane, Julie, Reta, Linda, Althea

Last weekend, we decided to celebrate the first weekend of summer Jimmy Buffett-style by hosting a ‘Finding Margaritaville’ party for our neighborhood. How do you find Margaritaville? Where is it? Some people say it’s in the Caribbean, other say it’s in Key West somewhere around Kokomo. According to Mr. Buffett, “Margaritaville is a state of mind where there is booze in the blender, good weather and colorful characters, just on the edge of paradise with a dash of reality thrown in to add flavor.”

Dianne, Pam, Kathy, Shelly

Well, that comes very close to describing the neighborhood we’ve lived in for the past 32 years, especially the part about the colorful characters. It was here I was going to start listing some of the characters and their accomplishments/antics, but there are 20 some couples that live on the two streets that make up ‘the ‘Hood’ and there is not room here to do them all justice and I wouldn’t want to leave anyone out, so let’s leave it at it’s a neighborhood filled with interesting, giving people where you can always find booze in the blender.

Banana Dolphins

Marge, her monkey and parrot in her tree

A good example of this giving neighborhood occurred when I asked if anyone in the ‘hood wanted to donate money to help the guide we had in Nepal after his home was destroyed in the 2015 Kathmandu earthquake – I had $1,200 on my doorstep that afternoon!   If someone is sick or housebound for any reason, neighbors will take turns preparing dinner for that family – and we have a number of outstanding chefs in the ‘hood (Rob Warren & Richard Wade immediately come to mind). When our kids were growing up and playing at each other’s house, wherever they were at lunchtime the mom would fix lunch for the whole gang. No one ever worried about where their kids were or if they had eaten lunch. It is an amazing group of people with whom we are lucky to be associated.

Phyllis & Starlet

Captain Jack

At 6:00 on Saturday, the house and yard were in their final stages of decoration; inside the ‘food island’ highlight was the pineapple palm tree, thanks to Marge Dunn and the dolphin fruit plate, thanks to Linda and Starlet. The best decoration outside was the Margarita machine; the surrounding palms and pool complemented it nicely. Partygoers arrived in full ‘Parrotfanalia’. Aside from the 40 attendees who were within walking distance of our house, more importantly within crawling distance home, we had a few family members to add a bit of spice to our already colorful cast of characters; including Linda’s 91 year old mom, Phyllis, who didn’t miss a beat, Linda’s sister, Starlet both in from Minnesota and my brother, Jack, who lent his deft bartending skills to the party, his wife Sharon and her son Brad.

‘Creative’ winners, Dunns, Baldwins & Webbs

Marc Webb, the Pied Piper, started the ‘pool party’

We had a contest to find out “Are You More Creative than Jimmy Buffett?” where couples had to change the titles of Buffett’s songs to something more original.  I can’t write all the answers we got here due to our PG rating, but needless to say the ‘hood is very creative.  So of course the party was a success, how could it not be with this group? As they say, a good time was had by all, especially those who jumped in the pool with their clothes on later in the evening – alcohol may have been a factor.

I’ve probably forgotten a few things that happened that night, but I know this, the ‘hood has been a great place to raise our little kids and a great place to raise a little hell.    Fins Up!

Phyllis bracing for the start of the party

 

Tanis, Stefanie, Lisa, Doug, Keren, Sandi

IN THE DOG HOUSE

By Dash the Wonder Dog

Me…in my customary position

Well, as you read in Uncle Bob’s post last week, my mom has gone and done it now.  Her reckless behavior has resulted in the both of us being thrown in the hoosegow.  Not just any hoosegow – a Turkish hoosegow.  Although her intentions were good, she never should have used that photo without authorization.  Sometimes I think she isn’t functioning with all her marbles, like when she forgets to feed me on time.  All I know is that one moment I was relaxing in the lap of luxury on my leopard bed and the next thing I knew I was in a land far away, mingling with people (and dogs) who are far beneath my station in life.  Do they not know I’m a Cavalier KING Charles?  My mom keeps sobbing, something about “Midnight Express” and that her manicure is being shredded.  She wants me to dig our way out of here.  Seriously?  Sister, you got us into this mess so you can just suck it up about your ruined gel polish and get to work.  In the mean time, I will try to describe our conditions in this primitive place.

Bad Eddie – Don’t mess with him

I must say that the people you meet in a Turkish prison are very solicitous.  Really – they solicit everything.  We have been asked if we’d care for cigarettes, chocolate bars or a brick of hashish.  My mom jumped at the chocolate bar but I’m still holding out for a good antler bone.  They seem to be in short supply.  Unfortunately for me, several other detainees have brought their dogs along with them.  Just like humans, there is a pecking order among us canines.  At the top of the heap is Bad Eddie (photo right).  I don’t know what he’s in for because I’m too scared to ask, but my guess is that he bit off the leg of a sultan.  He rules this place with an iron paw and steals the meager rations from newcomers like me.  I have tried my best to bat my big brown eyes at him but I think I gave him the wrong impression.  Apparently I am not the first to learn that batting one’s eyes can result in becoming someone’s bitch, which is ridiculous because everyone knows I’m a male dog.   Bad Eddie struts around the courtyard with his “posse” of Rottweilers and Poodles, acting like they don’t have to obey the rules.  I have tried to instruct them as to proper etiquette, showing off my credentials as a Canine Good Citizen from PetSmart but I don’t think they’re impressed.  One of them actually lifted his leg on me which just isn’t done in polite society.  I think PetSmart could make a killing in this place.

Mom’s lunch…and dinner.

Mom doesn’t seem to be adapting to our new circumstances.  She keeps complaining about flies, rusty water and the sixteen other women sharing our 4×4 cell.  I remind her that every minute that she spends complaining is another minute that she is not digging!  Besides, in my personal opinion, I think the food here is doing her some good.  I don’t like to be critical but those five pounds she packed on at Christmas are still hanging around her hips.  Another few weeks in this place and I think she will be back in fighting shape.  As for me, I’m doing my best to supervise her, keep Bad Eddie at bay and bribe the guards for some organic bison/mango treats.  Hopefully by our next post all will be returned to normal – me lying on my leopard bed and mom resuming her manicure schedule.  Sheesh!  I hope she’s learned her lesson.  I don’t think I can face Bad Eddie again.

 

Suzanne on the ‘Midnight Express’

by Bob Sparrow

Suzanne’s new friends

Suzanne’s popular and much-read Memorial Day blog, They Were Soldiers Once, And Young, along with last week’s post about our lovable father may be her last blogs for a while. Let me explain . . .

Two weeks ago we received an email response to the first aforementioned blog. We typically love responses, but we didn’t particularly love this one. It read:

Hello, is there an email address to reach you guys regarding a copyright issue on your website?”

At first we thought it was ‘spam’, we get a lot of that, I guess maybe because we (I) write a lot of that, but we looked to see from whom it was sent. Perhaps it was a friend who was just trying to mess with us. It wasn’t. The sender of the email was a name that seemed to be just a mishmash of letters, so it was, we thought, clearly a prank from a fictitious name.  But we decided to see what Google had to say about this mishmash of letters. It turns out that there is, in fact, a person with a name of this combination of mishmash letters. We wondered who it was and why were they emailing us? And what possible copyright issue could there be? Lots of questions, but no answers, until . . .

My Google search had numerous headings under this name, but my attention was immediately directed to a heading with which I was familiar, From A Birdseye View. My first thought was, “Hey, it’s our blog, that’s cool”. Then I thought, “Oh shit, why is a copy of our blog listed here under this name?”

As I read further and learned more, I opened the link to our blog that appeared in this Google search and the pieces started falling into place. The blog was Suzanne’s annual Memorial Day tribute from 2016, in which she used one of this person’s photos that she found on line. As I learned more detail, I found that this person is a well-known and published Turkish photographer, having had a number of exhibits in the states as well as Turkey and has won a number of awards for photography here, in Turkey and in the UK and currently lives in Izmir, Turkey. I’d put a photo here, but that’s the kind of thing that got us in trouble in the first place.

In correspondence with this person, it was indicated that whoever was responsible for putting this photo on our blog (Suzanne!) was being subpoenaed to immediately appear in Turkish court for violations of international copyright laws. I quickly responded and pronounced my innocence and indicated that it was totally my sister’s doing, that I tried to talk her out of it, but she insisted. I know, it sounds like I’m throwing her under the bus, but I was furtively trying the strategy of taking the opponents side in the argument to let them know we were reasonable and rational people (at least I was), and I suppose at the same time I may have been distancing myself from my sister’s heinous act.

I understand why she’s here, but why am I here?

So, long story short, last week Suzanne flew to Turkey and appeared in Turkish court, admitting that she used the photo, but saying that she was unaware that the photo was taken by our emailer and explained that when she learned of her mistake, she immediately took down the photo (you may have noticed that a photo that had usually appeared in Suzanne’s blog in previous years, was replaced this year).  Too little, too late.  Her plea fell on deaf ears, deaf Turkish ears I should remind you.  So unfortunately Suzanne has taken up residency in a Turkish prison, sharing a cell with a Sri Lankan murderer and a drug dealer from Bangladesh. The court did take pity on her and allowed her to bring Dash, The Wonder Dog, with her. So she does have some companionship, that is aside from the murderer and drug dealer. It’s not all bad, she’s actually getting along quite well in her new environment as she has started a prison knitting class for the guards, which seems to be going quite well. Who knew that Turkish men loved knitting?

Copyright infractions in Turkey can carry up to a 30-year sentence at hard labor, but there is a possibility of parole after 28 years, so Suzanne could be out sometime before she turns 100.  I’ve sent her the DVD series ‘Prison Break’, so she’s got that and she does have Dash, who spends most of his time digging.

If you’d like to write to Suzanne, she can be reached by sending correspondence to:

Shit Hole, Istanbul, Turkey

OK, just kidding . . . it’s only a 20 year sentence.

THROUGH MY FATHER’S EYES

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

The “muscle man” at Tahoe

This Sunday is Father’s Day, a day where dads the world over are supposed to put their feet up, crack open a cold beer, and be catered to by their spouse and offspring.  For those of us whose fathers have gone to their great reward, it’s a day that can be bittersweet.  For our family that is especially true as we think about how much our dad would have rejoiced in the addition of Addison last week.  I’ve thought a lot about my dad these past few days while reading articles by authors extolling the virtues of following their dad’s words of wisdom – “be thrifty, finish college, don’t hit your sister”.  Okay, I made that last one up.  I thought about things my dad said to me that were lasting – life lessons, if you will.  Sadly, the only lesson he sat down to teach me was how to order the money in my wallet.  I remember the day, as I stuffed bills into my purse in a slap-dash manner, he took me aside and told me that I should always order the bills in sequence, by increasing denomination.  So the one’s went first, then the five’s, etc.  Actually, I don’t think we got past the five’s because I was 17 and had no money.  To this day, when I put bills in my wallet, I always think about my dad and the lesson he taught me that day.

But lest you think that was the only lesson I learned from my dad, believe me, he taught me more about living a good life than I can possibly relate.  He just did it by his actions, rather than words.  He was incredibly kind, hysterically funny and a joy to be around.  I met a rather new friend of his once and she commented about how great dad was, to which I replied, “Yep, everybody likes my dad”.  She gave me a startled look and said, “Oh, no.  Everybody LOVES your dad”.  But why?  A few examples come to mind, examples that have stuck with me all of my life.   I recall a time during my first year in college I had a friend whose parents were transferred across country.  She was lonely and missed their comforting presence.  One day when she came to visit she and I escaped to my room to catch up.  When we emerged an hour later Pop was walking in the front door with her car keys.  He handed the keys over to her and gave her a big hug.  After she left I asked him what he was doing with her car and he told me he’d taken it down to the local service station, filled it with gas, and had the mechanic top off her oil.  “Why?”, I questioned.  “Because”, he said, “I know that if it were you in that situation I’d like someone to be looking after you”.  In that moment he taught me to put myself in someone else’s shoes – it can make for a kinder world.

Wearing one of Bob’s hats…and entertaining the crowd

Pop also lived his life with the utmost optimism.  He greeted every new acquaintance as if they were a long-lost friend.  Partly his demeanor came from being a small businessman in a small town, where word would travel quickly had he been rude or difficult.  But his happy persona was just natural – in any crowded room people always wanted to be around him because he always had a funny story and anecdote to relate.  My brothers loved this aspect of his personality, especially as everyone got older and my dad, well into his ’70’s and ’80’s, would continue to attract new friends, especially women.  When my brothers were with him in a bar neither of them could pick up a chair, let alone a date, but Pop always had beautiful women gathered around him.  He would laugh and joke with them, as my brothers tried to nudge their way in.  They soon nicknamed dad “The Chick Magnet”, but really he was the People Magnet.  He showed me that if you greet people in an open and friendly way, you will never want for friends.

A happy man with his favorite drink

I also learned a lot about giving back from him.  I cannot remember a time that he did not volunteer in the community.  For over forty years he served as a volunteer firefighter in Novato.  He was so revered that when he died the current fire chief drove a big hook and ladder up to his funeral.  He was involved in the school board, water district and the Rotary club, just to list a few.  When he retired and moved to Sonoma he decided that he wanted to help kids so he volunteered as a reader at the local grammar school.  Every Friday he took his classroom a big plate of treats (obviously well before the current allergy phobias).  He loved his “job” and they loved him.  One day he came home beaming because a 6-year-old girl had handed him the following note: Mr. Sparrow, When I grow up will you marry me?.   He taught me that sometimes the best reward you can get in life is giving to others.

I miss my dad, not only on Father’s Day, but every day.  We kids were so blessed to have him as a dad, to have grown up with someone so inherently funny and supportive of us in every way.  While I don’t have many “pearls of wisdom” to remember, I have plenty of actions to emulate.  So on Father’s Day, and every other, I do my best to live life through my father’s eyes.

 

 

The Addition of Addison

by Bob Sparrow

Addison at 1 minute old

Somewhere around 353,000 babies were born in the world last Friday, June 2, 2017, approximately 11,000 of those were born in the U.S. on that day and around 1,300 in California.  So having a baby that day didn’t appear to be really that big a deal.  Unless it’s an addition to your family that you’ve long-awaited and comes with a back-story fit for a tv mini-series.

Daughter and expectant mother, Dana Sparrow Borrelli has been through two open-heart surgeries, the first when she was one-and-a-half and the other just a few years ago, as well as several intravenous operations where doctors go in through an artery in the groin up to the heart to replace a valve. I don’t think they learned that on YouTube!  Once her heart was ‘baby-ready’, there were other difficulties in bringing a new Borrelli into this world, including a miscarriage and several tries of artificial insemination.   During that process, daughter Stephanie, Dana’s older sister, volunteered to carry the baby for her as a surrogate mother – a true act of love!  They ultimately tried the very expensive process of in vitro, and it took! The process produced 8 fertilized eggs, four boys and four girls, a girl was inserted and the other seven were put in the freezer for future delivery – probably not all seven!
This entire process would have certainly discouraged the average person, but Dana is no average person – through it all, she kept an unbelievably positive attitude, and while we know she was dying on the inside, there was never a ‘why me?’ attitude, just great perseverance.
Her perseverance paid off in spades last week with the arrival of Addison Sparrow Borrelli, a 7 lb. 8 oz., 22 inch beautiful girl, but of course it didn’t come easy.
Dana was brought into Huntington Hospital in Pasadena on Wednesday evening around 10:00 p.m., May 31 with the idea that she would be given a medication (Pitocin) that would help her deliver in approximately 12 hours.  Linda and I left home early Wednesday morning to make sure we got to the hospital on time.  Around mid-day Thursday, June 1, Dana was getting severe labor pains and was given an epidural, which relieved the pain, but slowed down the labor process.  Thursday evening, still no baby and cervix dilation was minimal.  Through the night, Dana and Joe were resting fairly comfortably in her room, in fact they were probably resting more comfortably than we were trying to catch a few winks on hard, straight-back chairs in the waiting room.  We maybe got 30 minutes of shut eye throughout the whole night.  By 7:00 a.m. we were back in Dana’s room where she was getting closer to delivery, but still not there.  Around 8:00 the doctor arrived and Linda and Joe got to remain in the delivery room, I’m ushered out to the waiting room.  After about an hour of ‘pushing’ and with exhaustion written all over Dana’s face, Addison made her debut, showing a few ‘battle scars’ but looking beautiful and healthy.  Dana, not so much – she looked and felt exhausted, but her heart held up well and within 30 minutes, her color had returned to her face along with her engaging smile.  But it wasn’t until the following day that Joe brought her a cheeseburger, which she thoroughly enjoyed.

Cheeseburger in Paradise

The cherry on top of all this for us was that of all the 353,000 babies born in the world on June 2, Addison was voted ‘The Most Beautiful’.  OK, only our immediately family got to vote, but the vote was not influenced by the Russians!

Dana and Joe took their new addition home on Sunday, June 4.  Linda and I had a hard time complaining about our 40+ hours without sleep when we realized what Dana had been through to make this miracle happen.  We all agreed – it was all well worth it!