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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!

THEY WERE SOLDIERS ONCE, AND YOUNG (2017)

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

This is my annual Memorial Day piece, written in remembrance of the boys from my high school who died in the Vietnam war.  This year I have updated it with new details learned after last year’s post, including a surprising addition.  After I first published this in 2014,  I  heard from many people who related similar stories about  the loss suffered in their home towns –  or worse – their families.  So this weekend, as you commemorate the holiday, please take a moment to remember all of the brave young men and women we’ve lost in conflict. 

Five boys from my high school were killed in the Vietnam War. For a small town like Novato, that was an enormous number. We were such a close-knit community that even if we didn’t know one of them personally, we knew a sibling or friend.  So on my trip to Washington D.C. last month I scheduled time to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to see their names on “The Wall”.   To refresh my memory I pulled out my high school year books and found them all – smiling for a formal portrait or posing for a team picture. Each image reflected a boy, fresh-faced and full of hope, his life stretching out before him. I looked at those young faces and found it hard to believe that their lives ended so shortly after the bucolic days captured in the photos.  None of them reached the age of 22.  While we, their classmates, lived long enough to enjoy the internet, smart phones and streaming movies, most of them didn’t live long enough to see a color television.   I reflected on the stories I’ve read of WWII vets who speak so reverently of the “boys who didn’t come home”.   As I perused the yearbooks I finally understood their sentiment.  It is only when looking back through a 50 year lens that one can appreciate just how young these soldiers were and how many of life’s milestones they missed.  So on this Memorial Day, I’d like to pay tribute to “The Boys From Novato”.

 

Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson joined the Army in the fall of 1965, in what would have been his Senior year in high school.  I remember him as a quiet guy, but very nice.  Before he enlisted he asked his high school sweetheart to marry him – it would give them both something to hang on to while he was gone.  His entry into the service occurred just as the war was escalating.  He was sent to Vietnam in March of 1966 and three weeks later he was killed by enemy gunfire during “Operation Abilene” in Phuoc Tuy Province.  As his former classmates excitedly anticipated prom and graduation, Robert had already made the ultimate sacrifice.  In the 1966 yearbook, where his senior portrait would have been, his mother placed this photo of him along with a tribute.  He was the first Vietnam casualty from Novato.

 

 

Mike Tandy

Mike Tandy

Mike Tandy graduated from NHS in 1965.  His sisters, Sue and Sarah, also attended NHS.  Mike was very smart and participated in the first swim team our high school fielded.   He was an Eagle Scout and according to his friend Neil Cuzner, “he was highly intelligent, a great guy and an excellent scout. He was in the Senior Patrol and a young leader of our troop. He lead by example”.  After graduation Mike joined the Marine reserves and was called up in January, 1966.  He was sent to Vietnam shortly after that.  On September 8th he was on patrol in Quang Nam with another soldier when his footfall detonated a landmine.  He was killed instantly.  He had celebrated his 19th birthday just five days prior.  His classmates had moved on – either to college or working – but the Tandy family was left to grieve the loss of their son and brother.  In 2005 Sarah posted to the virtual Vietnam Wall: “Thanks to all of you who come here and remember Mike.  All of our lives were changed and I thank you for not forgetting.”

 

Allan Nelson

Allan Nelson

Allan Nelson played football at College of Marin with my brother, Bob. Allan’s sister, Joanne, was in Bob’s class and his brother, Steve, was in mine.  So we were well aware when Allan was drafted into the Army and sent to Vietnam in July, 1966 at the age of 20.  Five months later, on December 1, we were devastated to learn he had been killed by gunfire during a battle in Binh Dinh Province.  I still remember the day Steve came to school after Allan’s death; red-faced with tears streaming down his cheeks.  He had always been such a happy guy but was now changed in ways that were hard for 16 year-old kids to understand.  As I look back now, I can’t imagine what it must have been like for him to go home from school each day and face parents who were shattered by grief.   Joanne posted the following on a memorial page and perhaps sums it up the best: “Allan was my brother, not just a brother,  he was my best friend. All I know is December 1, 1966 was the saddest time for me and my family. My family loved each other so much, but when Al was killed the joy died in my family. Allan had his whole life planned. He had just turned 21 on Oct. 20th.  When we were young, he couldn’t wait to be 21. I am so sorry for all the families that lost a son and a brother. It will be 33 years in Dec. The everyday sad feelings of loss are gone but on special days it still hurts.”

 

Jim Gribbin

Jim Gribbin

Jim Gribbin graduated from NHS in 1966.  I knew him pretty well – he was on the football team and very active in school clubs.  His brother, Dennis, and I were in school plays together and my mom and his mom, Molly, were friends.  Jim was well-liked by everyone who knew him.  He joined the Army Reserves and when called up, became part of the Special Forces where he rose to the rank of Captain.   He served two tours of duty in an elite MIKE unit. In March 1970 his unit was on a night defensive mission in Kontum Province when they were ambushed by enemy troops.   Jim sacrificed his own safety by running into open territory – twice – to aid and retrieve wounded soldiers under his command.  He was shot both times and taken to a rear medical facility where he died from his wounds.   Ironically, for this affable Irishman, he succumbed on St. Patrick’s Day.  He was awarded the Silver Star and the Bronze Star for Valor.  Jim’s dad was a veteran of WWII who died in 2011. He requested to be placed in the same grave with Jim, with his name and vitals carved on the back of Jim’s headstone. One can only imagine the grief that he carried all those years.  Hopefully he is at peace now that they are forever reunited.

 

Ed Bethards

Wayne Bethards

Wayne Bethards  was in my graduating class, but I didn’t know him well.  His family moved to Novato just before the start of our senior year. His mother, Betty Bethards, was the author of the international best-seller, “The Dream Book”.   Again, Neil Cuzner has provided a bit more insight: “Wayne was a good person. He had a great love of baseball and had actually started a small league while over in Nam. He was sharing his love of baseball with the Vietnamese children.” Cuzner went on to say that Wayne was a religious person and did not want to kill anyone; he struggled greatly with his deployment.   He was drafted into the Army and was sent to Vietnam in October of 1970.  In January, 1971, he was killed while on patrol by the accidental detonation of a mechanical device in Quang Tin Province.  He was the last boy from Novato High School to die in the war.

 

Jerry Sims

Update 2017:  In April, 2017, I heard from a former schoolmate, Dennis Welsh, about Jerry Sims, a boy who died in the conflict whose hometown was listed as Novato.  I found in my research that sometimes the  Novato “hometown” designation were for those affiliated with Hamilton Air Force Base, not graduates of Novato High School.  Since there were no records of Jerry at NHS I assumed Jerry was from Hamilton, but that was not the case.  Dennis told me that Jerry moved to Novato from Texas in the Spring of 1966 to live with his sister.  He tried out for the football team during spring training and made the squad.  But despite that automatic inclusion into a social group, he nevertheless was unhappy living in California and being the “new kid” going into his Senior year.  Dennis said that he never saw him again after football tryouts and didn’t learn of his fate until he spotted Jerry’s name on “The Wall”.  The fact is that Jerry left Novato and joined the Army in June, 1966 and was sent to Vietnam in November.  On February 13, 1968 he and several others in his unit were killed by small arms fire in Gia Dinh province.  Jerry was 19 years old.  His former platoon leader said this on his memorial page:  “I was Jerry’s platoon leader on the day he died.  He didn’t have to be there, since he had a job elsewhere in Vietnam, but he requested a transfer.  He had already spent a year with the Wolfhounds, but for reasons all his own, he wanted to come back to this unit. He died doing his job as a squad leader in my platoon.” It would seem Jerry finally found his home – and some peace – with his Army brethren.

 

A Kingston Trio memento

A Kingston Trio memento

I found all of the boys from Novato on “The Wall”,  each name etched in granite.  I thought about all of their families and the sorrow they endured.  It was overwhelming to realize that same sorrow had been replicated 58,286 times.  Each of the names on that black, shiny surface represent a family forever destroyed.  As I walked along the pathway I looked at all of the mementos that were left as tributes to the fallen – notes, flowers and flags mostly.  But then I spotted something different – a tribute from Jim Dart to his brother, Larry.  It was a Kingston Trio album (pictured left), along with a note about the good times they shared learning the guitar and singing songs together. I was overcome with emotion reading Jim’s note.   My brother, Bob, owned that same album.  He and his best friend, Don, often entertained our family playing their guitars and singing songs from that record.  Bob was a Naval officer in Japan during the Vietnam war and was safely returned to us.  I wept as I stood looking at the album, realizing that but for the grace of God – and military orders – how easily it could have been Bob’s name on that wall and me leaving a Kingston Trio album in his memory.  I can’t imagine what our family would have been like without him.  I ached for Sue and Sarah and Joanne and Steve and all the other siblings who never got to see gray hair on their brother’s head; their family gatherings forever marred by a gaping hole where their brother should have been. When I stooped down to take the photo I noticed that several other visitors had stopped to look at it too.   As I glanced at those who were of a certain age I could see my own feelings reflected in their eyes.  We know how much of life these boys missed.  We mourn their loss – and ours.

 

God’s Waiting Room is Empty

by Bob Sparrow

God’s Waiting Room

‘God’s Waiting Room’ is the euphemistic phrase for where people 65 and over used to go to live while they were waiting to die. But the ‘Baby Boomers’ have done it again! They’ve changed everything. They’ve emptied the waiting room.   Now 65 year olds are summiting mountains, jumping out of airplanes and running marathons. From the time the 78 million ‘Boomers’ were born (1946 -1964) they’ve had it their way. They were the first generation to be raised in the presence of television, which gave marketers easy access to millions of people who were now no longer just compared to the people around them, they were exposed and compared, to the entire world. So what did the Boomers do? They raised their game, they wanted it all, they demanded the best. They couldn’t always afford the best, so, unlike their parents who always saved before they purchased an expensive item, they popularized the credit card. Now, as the first of the ‘Boomers’ turned 70 last year, they are changing the ‘Golden Years’.

Previous generations looked forward to finishing their 30-year career with the same company, retiring at 65 with a gold watch and living maybe another 8-10 years before cashing in their chips. Today at 65, we find Boomers starting their own companies, buying their own Apple watch and heading to the cashier’s window to buy more chips. They have literally changed the way to do almost everything; certainly they’ve changed how we think about aging.

Boomers are ‘all in’

But to be fair, and just to help keep the Boomers humble, there have been some pretty successful ‘senior citizens’ throughout history. The following accomplishments are true, the parenthetical comments that follow are mine and subject to not being true.

  • Benjamin Franklin signed the Declaration of Independence when he was 70 (He actually thought he was picking up the lunch tab for a few of his cronies)
  • Cornelius Vanderbilt didn’t buy his first railroad until he was 70 (He then gave it to his son for Christmas along with a track that circled Rockefeller Center’s Christmas tree)
  • Omkali Singh is the oldest woman to give birth at 70 (Her baby was 46 when he was born)
  • Clothing designer Calvin Klein, cast Lauren Hutton in an underwear ad when she was 73 (They actually cast her when she was 70, but it took her three years to get the underwear on).
  • At 77 John Glenn became the oldest person in space (He was the one that left his right-hand turn signal blinker on as he orbited the earth)
  • 80 year old Yuichiro Miura is the older person to summit Mt. Everest (I had to use oxygen just to type that!)
  • At 92 Paul Spangler finished his 14th marathon (He finished both first and last in his age group)
  • When George Burns was 94, he performed on the New York stage where he first began his career (He told the same jokes at both performances without the risk of anyone having heard them before)
  • Nola Ochs became the oldest person to receive a college degree – she was 94 (She’s currently looking for a job)
  • Retired Lt. Col. James C. Warren is a former navigator of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American military aviator in the U. S. armed forces. At the age of 87, he became the oldest person in the world to receive his pilot’s license  (However, Harrison Ford, 74, holds the record for oldest pilot to crash 3 times and still keep his license)
  • At 91 and 103 respectively, Doreen Luckie and George Kirby became the oldest newly weds (Rumors were unfounded that they had to get married)

Makes you want to quit reading this and get out of that easy chair and go do something, doesn’t it?  (But don’t have a baby!)

Still not Wastin’ Away

There have clearly been some outstanding accomplishments by those supposedly ‘past their prime’, but with Jimmy Buffett, who turned 70 last December, as their Pied Piper, I’m certain the Boomers will continue to show us a whole new way to ‘play the back nine’.

Post Script: If you find errors in this post, please blame it on my sister’s arthritis remedy – who knew gin was health food?!

 

THE AGE OF RAISIN

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Each decade in life brings new discoveries, experiences and, let’s face it, challenges.  As a teenager absolutely everything is life-altering and of utmost importance.  Parents are so unreasonable and if Johnny doesn’t ask Mary to prom she will just die.  In my case I wondered which college would overlook my mediocre grades and focus on my sparkling personality.  And it seems everything – and everyone – is embarrassing.  Unfortunately I had a truly embarrassing incident when I got a ride home from a boy whose affections I coveted.  I had just finished gymnastics practice so  I jumped in his car and sat – speechless – clutching my bundle of street clothes, waiting for him to ask me out.  He didn’t.  And to further my humiliation, when I got home I discovered that my garter belt was missing (yes, I lived before pantyhose were mass produced).  I panicked, sifting through my pile of clothes time and time again but to no avail.  The belt was missing and the only place it could be was in the car of my “crush”.  My  horror only increased as I imagined him driving down the main drag, my garter belt flowing in the breeze atop his antenna, signifying some sort of trophy.  The next day I walked warily through the school parking lot but mercifully his antenna was unadorned.  I never did find out what happened to it but my guess is that I dropped it somewhere between the gym and the parking lot, prompting the janitor to wonder what exactly had been going on in the senior quad.  At the time I was certain that my life was ruined.  Such is the angst of the teenage years.

College and early adulthood bring their own set of challenges to most of us, from drinking too much to careless career moves.  I remember quitting a job once because I was working for one of the all-time jerks.  My friends were appalled that I could have such reckless disregard for my next rent payment.  But with the confidence of youth, and a robust job market, I went out and found a better job.  As a bonus, the jerk was fired a few months later for embezzlement.  But it’s middle age when the glow of youth begins to fade and one realizes that things aren’t working exactly as they used to .  Infallible memories begin to falter, your chin begins to look like Jabba the Hutt, and everything becomes a blur … literally.  I maintain that poor eyesight is the greatest health hazard in America.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve misread the instructions on medicine bottles and directions on maps.  I have 11 pair of “cheaters” strewn about the house but when I’m out in public I can never lay my hands on a pair from the depths of my purse.  The grocery store is the worst since I do try to read the nutrition labels.  I invariably can’t find my glasses so I end thrusting my jar of Hersey’s Fudge sauce in a young person’s face to read the label for me.  I buy it anyway.  I swear sometimes I think that millennials are designing packaging with the smallest font possible so they can amuse themselves watching us Senior Citizens move our arms back and forth trying to bring the type into focus.

Now in the third phase of life a new “fun” experience is upon me and millions like me: arthritis.  That creaking I hear is no longer the floor but the joints in my back and knees.  After confirming the diagnosis in my spine, the doctor said, “Well, you know at your age, everyone gets this”.  Don’t you just love hearing that?  In any event, after a few years of trying to find some relief a friend suggested that I try gin-soaked raisins.  I thought she was kidding but what the heck, I’ll try anything that a) might help and, b) contains alcohol. So I did a little research and sure enough, there are whole websites devoted to the subject.   Dr. Oz even did a segment on its benefits.  The theory is the combination marries the anti-inflammatory properties of the gin’s juniper berries with the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of golden raisins.  Yes, before you run to the pantry for your regular old raisins, apparently only the golden variety contains the right chemicals.  On my next trip to the grocery store I bought the ingredients and made up a batch.  It takes about a week for the raisins to completely absorb the gin.  Then, per instructions, I eat 8-10 a day.  Of course, there is the matter of “eating” gin first thing in the morning.  You may get some odd looks at the PTA meeting and, I’m not sure, but it seems my dentist was looking askance at me when I had my teeth cleaned last week.   But it’s been about two months since I started this regimen and my back and knees are pain-free.  Who knows?  Maybe my next discovery will be that zucchini and rum fix blurry vision!

I’ll keep you posted on my progress.  In the mean time, I’m going to buy some more cheaters for my purse.