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NO SPITTING ALLOWED

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

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

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

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

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

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

 

To Your Health in this New Year

by Bob Sparrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember, “Life is a one time gift”

 

HUNKA, HUNKA BURNING TRIVIA

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year to All and to All a Pop Quiz

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

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

– 2000 B.C.

– 1 A.D.

– 150 AC/DC

– I don’t remember I was too drunk

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

– Only the top 1%

– All the Millennials

– As many as break them by February

– 45%

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

– Alcohol

– People to kiss

– Leafy greens

– Bologna sandwiches

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

– 3,600

– 36,000

– 36,000,00

– too many

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

– I’ve Been Cheated

– Auld Lang Syne

– Sally Go Round the Roses

– Make An Ugly Woman You Wife

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

– The Grim Reaper

– A baby

– Playboy’s Miss January

– Foster Brooks

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

–  He’s not getting lucky

–  They buy more breath mints

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

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

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

– Millennials looking for loose change on the street

– Broadway ticket scalpers

– Muggers and pick pockets

– One million people

  1. What do the words Auld Lang Syne mean?

– Up yours

– Times gone by

– There’s better days ahead

– Good riddance

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

– virginity

– wallet

– car

– your soul

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

– Grand theft auto

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

– Having their first drink

– Falling asleep before midnight

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

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

MERRY CHRISTMAS – JUST ADD GIN!

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Today being Christmas Day we assume most of your are either opening presents or sleeping in this morning.  We are too!  So today we share some thoughts about our dad and, as always, share his famous Christmas Ice Cream Gin Fizz recipe.  Wishing you and yours a very happy holiday.

“THROUGH THE YEARS WE ALL WILL BE TOGETHER, IF THE FATES ALLOW…”

A jolly man indeed!

This will be the 16th Christmas without our dad. I miss him just as much this year as I did that very first one. He was a happy, joyful guy, always kind and helpful to others. He was also one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. All year long he embodied the Christmas spirit and when I was very young I thought he even looked like Santa, with his twinkling blue eyes, rosy cheeks and a stomach that shook like a bowl full of jelly. He loved the holidays, welcoming friends and family alike into our home. Our whole family misses his loving spirit but we also recognize we were very lucky to have him as long as we did and are grateful that he left us with so many cherished Christmas memories.

 

“…SO HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS NOW.”

One of Pop’s hallmarks was the Ice Cream Gin fizz he served every Christmas morning. Oh sure, most families had hot chocolate and cider while we were drinking gin. But don’t judge – it has given a roseate hue to many a Christmas morning. We share it in the hopes that you can start your own Christmas memories.  Just keep it away from your Drunk Uncle.

 

POP’S CHRISTMAS ICE CREAM FIZZ

Fill a blender 1/4 full with ice cubes
Add 6 jiggers of gin
Add 4 scoops of French Vanilla ice cream
Add 1 small bottle of soda water (the size you get in a 6-pack)
My brother Bob adds an egg so the white adds some froth, brother Jack doesn’t add an egg. Personally, I’d add it just because you can then claim it’s a protein drink.
Just blend it well and – voila – you have a concoction sure to put a positive spin on everyone and every thing!
Our mom served them in a wine glass with a dash of nutmeg. As we got older we conspired with Pop and ditched the wine glass for a chilled beer mug from the freezer. Saved having to go back for seconds…or thirds.

We wish everyone a Happy Holiday season – we’ll be back in 2018!

THE NORTH POLE: HOTBED OF HARASSMENT!

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Well, children, it’s looking like Christmas may have to be cancelled this year.  Bad behavior abounds at the North Pole and there simply isn’t anyone to make and deliver presents.  It all started with Santa.  Several of his “little helpers” claim that his fingers have been aside things other than his nose.  They have produced videos and photos showing him groping and grasping, despite the girth from his gelatinous belly.  Somehow, he deems himself irresistible despite the food stuck in his snow white beard and the stench arising from his decades-old uniform.  The helpers claim that during their stints at the local mall he has asked them to scout out single suburban moms for him to hit on when he slides down the chimneys in their homes.  It seems that the Jolly Old Man is more like the Dirty Old Man.  He has insisted that they have the wrong guy, but the beard and the red suit make him hard to misidentify.  To complicate matters, Mrs. Claus is no longer around to help Santa prepare toys for his yearly sojourn.  Once she got wind of his extra curricular activities she told him he could get his fat ass into his costume by himself this year and took off for Puerto Vallarta.  Christmas still might have been salvaged if the elves had been able to take over Santa’s duties, but sadly that is not a viable option.

 

It seems the Head Elf has a reputation for hitting on the new intern elves.  He asks them into his office and proceeds to pleasure himself in front of them.  It is known as “The Elf Does Himself” around the toy shop.  He is under the delusion that all women are attracted to his bare body and he is partially right; they say he is the biggest tool at the Pole.  Unfortunately, the other elves began to emulate his behavior and soon the workshop became the very definition of “hostile work environment”.  Toy production suffered because the elves were too busy flirting to get down to making Legos and Mr. Potato Head.  Plus, some of the money that was designated for your hard earned toys was spent on settling law suits.  Still, after all this, there was hope that maybe the reindeer could fill in and pull the sleigh full of toys unchaperoned.  But that was not to be.

 

While Santa and the elves were “busy” in the workshop, the reindeer were playing their own games out in the barn.  Cupid and Vixen took their names literally and were found putting their hooves in inappropriate places.  Prancer and Dancer were performing the strip tease, while Blixen and Donner hosted a floating crap game that landed them in so much debt they ended up in the Reindeer Protection Program.  Who knows where they are?  Dasher and Comet sped out of town, hoping to salvage some shred of dignity.  And we all know that Rudolph has a red nose because he’s blotto half the time and is incapable of steering anything.

So, boys and girls, there will be no Santa delivering toys this year.  But – take heart! – it could be worse.  These characters could be working in the government.

 

 

Getting into the Christmas Spirits

by Bob Sparrow

Thuringia, Germany

Suzanne’s blog last week mentioned that the town of Thuringia, Germany as the birthplace of Christmas decorations and also may be known for its beer, and that I would be more likely to write about that, the beer. Well if that wasn’t throwing down the gauntlet then I don’t know what was.  So . . . I did a little research on this quaint little town and have found that it is indeed steeped in Christmas traditions, among them is a keen appreciation of holiday hooch. To wit: During what they call the Advent season, which begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve, people there gather together and drink Gluhwein, a mixture of red wine, sugar and winter spices; add a shot of rum and you’ve got a Gluhwein mit Schuss, you’ve also got a headache in the morning.

So while you may not need a guide to traditional Christmas cheer like Peace on Earth Good Will Towards Men’ (and Women we presume) or as The Elf says, The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear”, I personally like Dave Barry’s Christmas cheer, “Once again we come to the holiday season, a deeply religious time that each of us observe in our own way by going to the mall of our choice.” There is of course the holiday cheer reminding us to Jingle all the way, no one likes a half-assed jingler.’

This blog however is about the ‘other’ Christmas cheer, the one that we can consume and often times helps us get into the Christmas spirit or simply helps us get through the ‘Holidaze’.  In the event you don’t have access to Gluhwein mit Schuss, here’s your imbibing guide to, and definitions of, some traditional Christmas cheer, along with their country of origin:

Christmas beer – Germany (official definition): A seasonal beer brewed for consumption at Christmas (Duh!). It is usually strong and spiced with a variety of ingredients including cinnamon, orange peel, cloves and vanilla.  I guess it’s still beer, it just doesn’t taste like it.

Wassail – England: The word comes from an Old English word for ‘healthful’ and is a beverage of hot mulled cider, originally not an alcoholic drink, but we took care of that little shortcoming as modern recipes start with a base of wine or mulled ale with either brandy or sherry added.

Hot Buttered Rum – Colonial America: How do you go wrong with butter and rum in anything? (These two ingredients along with some brown sugar and bananas makes a wonderful Bananas Foster dessert, but I digress).  This traditional holiday beverage is typically sweetened and spiced with such things as cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.

Hot Buttered Rum

Hot Toddy – Ireland: Yes, a Hot Toddy is different from a Hot Buttered Rum, as it is made with whiskey, hot water and honey; some recipes add herbs and spices. Some believe it relieves the symptoms of a cold or flu as the honey soothes while the alcohol numbs. Forget CVS you need to get to BevMo.

If you’re not a traditionalist there are plenty of modern holiday cocktails that will definitely get you in the Christmas spirit, like a Poinsettia Spritz Punch, a Pomegranate and Peppermint Moscow Mule or a Gingerbread Latte with Caramel Sugar.  However, if you still find yourself in a ‘Bah Humbug’ mood, I’d recommend a shot of tequila and a regular beer back, no cinnamon, no cloves, no nutmeg.  Country of origin?  My house.

Hoping you get into the Christmas spirits one way or the other this season. Cheers!

 

THE WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

People may not agree on much these days, but I think everyone believes that life as we know it has become more stressful.  Over the past couple of weeks I noticed a strange manifestation of that – lots of people put up their Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving.  Almost seems sacrilegious to me, but then I’m a big devotee of pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes so I don’t like anyone messing around with a holiday devoted to eating.  Still, I get it.  If an Elf on the Shelf or Hanukah menorah brings some joy to the world then I say go for it.  That said, I read the other day that the latest trend in decorations is the upside down Christmas tree.  I got to wondering … why?  Why mess with a perfectly good tradition that has held us in good stead lo these many years?  So I did some research, only to discover that upside down trees are believed to have been a “thing” dating back to ancient times.  History on this is a little sketchy since there was no official paper of record back in the Middle Ages but I’ll try my best to capture the genesis of this rather odd custom.

The history of the upside down Christmas Tree has its roots in the 7th century. It is during this period that St Boniface journeyed from Devonshire, England to Germany to preach the message of God.   He engaged himself in religious as well as social work and spent a lot of his time in Thuringia, a town believed to be the birthplace of the Christmas decoration industry.  So we can infer that Hallmark’s original corporate headquarters was, in fact, in Germany.  I think Thuringia is also known for beer but that’s a subject better covered by my brother.  It is believed that while St. Boniface was in Thuringia he used the triangular fir tree to represent the Holy Trinity as he tried to convert the pagan population.  One can only imagine what the native peoples thought of a guy trying to tell them that the local conifer had something to do with the Creation.  But apparently he was the Steve Jobs of his time because the converted people started to worship the Fir tree as God’s Tree.  By the 12th century it became a custom, especially in Europe, to hang the Fir trees upside down from the ceilings to symbolize the Holy Trinity. The Upside down Christmas Trees also signified that the household was one that practiced Christianity. That’s the best history has to offer us on the upside down tree.  The real history behind the hanging of Christmas Trees upside down still remains vague. Nowadays the tip of the Christmas Tree is made to point towards Heaven, as many think that an upside down Christmas tree is a sign of contempt.  Hmmmmm, given the current social climate, maybe that’s why the upside down tree has become popular.

In any event, my very limited search for upside down Christmas trees resulted in a very surprising discovery.  Walmart is selling a large variety of them this year online.  That wasn’t the surprising part since Walmart seems to sell everything.  The shock came when I looked at the price.  The most expensive one sells for an astounding $910.00!!  Apparently wanting to say “up yours” with your Christmas tree is not an inexpensive proposition.  The cheapest one was $150.00, which still seems like a lot of money for a fake tree.  The larger conundrum is WHO at Walmart is buying these trees?  If photos on the internet are to be believed, most Walmart shoppers wear holey sweat pants and muscle shirts with stains on them.  Definitely underwear is optional, and if worn, is usually peeking out of baggy pants or spandex tops three sizes too small for the wearer.  But who am I to question the marketing geniuses at Walmart? I’m just not sure that the typical Walmart shopper wants to fork over a week’s paycheck on a tree when they can furnish their entire house if they hit the blue light special just right.  Then again, I may be underestimating just how stupidly people can spend their money.  As for me, I’m on my out to buy “A Christmas Story” leg lamp.  Now that’s a smart investment.

 

Cowboys or Indians

by Bob Sparrow

As kids, my brother Jack and I always played cowboys and Indians, because we didn’t have computer games, heck we didn’t even have television until we were almost teenagers! But we had a local movie theater where we saw a lot of cowboy and Indian movies. The cowboys were always the good guys and the Indians were always the bad guys, worse than bad guys, they were portrayed as ignorant savages! When we played, of course I always wanted to be the cowboy and I was, because Jack always wanted to be the Indian, even though he knew he was the underdog and would ultimately lose. Because he was my older, bigger brother, he may have won a battle or two with me, but in the movies the Indians never won, but that didn’t stop him from always rooting for them. This was long before ‘political correctness’ necessitated our empathy for the plight of the Native American. So growing up I always thought that Indians were a savage people that we needed to eliminate in order to carry out our ‘Manifest Destiny’.

Crazy Horse

I liked the Lone Ranger, Jack liked Tonto. I liked Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and Randolph Scott; he liked Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull and Geronimo. His favorite movie is Dancing With Wolves, and while I can barely remember that Kevin Costner was in the movie, he remembers the name, Doris Leader Charge, the 60-year old Indian women who was a university professor and was hired to teach the Indians in  the movie the Lakota Sioux dialect that was use by the real Indians at the time. Jack never protested or overtly beat the tom-tom for Indian rights, but he would point out the differences in how the Indian versus the white man managed our natural resources, to wit:

“White man builds big fire and stands way back, Indian build small fire and sit very close.”

“The Indians never killed an animal where they didn’t use all of the parts – the meat, the innards, the fur, the head, the claws, the teeth.”

Apposed to William Cody who was purported to have killed 4,282 buffalo in 18 months and in a contest for the rights to use the name ‘Buffalo Bill’, killed 68 buffalo in an hour; and left them on the plains to rot.

Over the years I’ve become more sensitive to the Indian’s plight, reading several books about their struggles to keep their culture alive here in their native land; my eyes were also opened during a hike through the Havasupai Indian reservation in the Grand Canyon area where I witnessed how we have failed to assimilate these Indians into our culture and how it has adversely affected them.

Pechanga Indian

So on the Friday after Thanksgiving I felt the need to do a little more research on a local Indian tribe named the Payomkawichum, which translates into ‘People of the West’.  To say these people are indigenous to southern California is an understatement, they’ve inhabited the land here for over 10,00 years. Their name was changed by the Spaniard missionaries to the Luisenos, probably because Payomkawichum was too hard to pronounce.  Now they are more familiarly known as the Pechanga Indians – officially the Pechanga Band of the Luiseno Indian Tribe. My research took me to Temecula and the largest Indian casino in California, Pechanga Resort and Casino. Immediately sensing that I needed to spend more than one day doing my research, I booked a room for two nights.

The latest Pechanga reservation

I discovered that apparently these Indians were really into games of chance as there were over 3,400 slot machines in the place as well as tables for blackjack, poker, craps (not with dice, that’s illegal for some reason!) and various other wagering games. Now, being empathetic to the Indian cause thanks to my brother, I felt obligated to contribute in some way to their well-being. I was comfortable at first with my initial financial donation, but after the first day of ‘research’ I found that I was being more philanthropic than I had anticipated. Thinking of everything, the Indians were able to provide me with a handy ATM machine to access more donation funds.

I slept well that night, knowing that in some small way, OK maybe not so small, I had helped provide shelter and sustenance for some Native Americans. I knew that in games of chance you win some and you lose some and I was now positioned to ‘win some’. Saturday came full of hope and the good feeling of knowing that I had donated significantly to a worthy cause and perhaps I would be rewarded with a small token of appreciation.

Those damn Indians! Where was my ‘win some’?! I pay $7 for a beer and over $450 a night for a room and this is how I get rewarded?

I guess this is what I get for always being the cowboy as a kid.

OH, FOR THE LOVE OF DOG

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

This month we have the confluence of two events – Dash’s 5th birthday and Thanksgiving.  Since so many of our readers are animal lovers I am dedicating this week’s blog to dogs – something for which we can truly be grateful.

Dash with Daddy on his first day home

“If you don’t own a dog, at least one, there is not necessarily anything wrong with you, but there may be something wrong with your life.”  Roger A. Caras

I lost my last dog in 1983 and longed for one every day after that.  I desperately wanted to replace her, but my husband kept pointing out that with our work and travel schedules it just wasn’t fair to the dog.  Frankly, I think he just didn’t want to pick up dog poop, but I had to admit he was right – we were too busy.  Still, life felt empty without a dog.  Finally, in 2012 we dog-sat for our kids while they were on vacation and, to his credit, my husband saw how much I loved having a dog by my side.  He told me to start looking for a puppy.  Much research later, I was referred to Kelly Collins of Spice Rack Cavaliers.  When we went to interview her (and her, us!) I was a bit nervous about how my husband would react but my worry was misplaced.  Within minutes, seven Cavaliers jumped on his lap and he was immediately reduced to baby-talk and dog hugs.  We were lucky enough to get a dog from an upcoming litter and in February 2013 Dash the Wonder Dog entered our lives.

    Dash at work

“Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them, filling an empty space we don’t even know we have.”  Thom Jones

People ask why I refer to Dash as “The Wonder Dog”.  It’s simply this – he has changed our lives for the better since the day he joined our home.  My husband who really didn’t want a dog?  Now he won’t leave Dash alone for more than three hours.  He and Dash conspired not only to have Dash sleep in our bed but to have his own pillow.  I have seen the most wonderful side of my husband in his caring for our sweet little pup.  For me, nothing soothes a bad day or a friend’s slight like walking into the house and being greeted by Dash’s wagging tail.  Even if I’ve just gone to the post box, he runs around as if I’ve been gone for weeks.   And it’s not just us that he helps.  Each Saturday I am his Uber driver that takes him to work at a local elder care center.  It’s safe to say that just a lick on the nose or a gentle stroking of his soft fur provides comfort like nothing else could.  If that doesn’t qualify as a Wonder Dog, I don’t know what does.

       Patiently waiting

“The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.”  Andy Rooney

Our friends now joke that they have a high bar to meet in order to get us to go out to dinner – is it a more attractive offer than staying home with Dash?  That is a slight exaggeration, but only by a bit.  I will say that Dash has had a way of helping us prioritize our time.  Before we had him, we pretty much accepted every request for dinner or party invitation.  Now, we really do wrestle with whether we would rather spend our time with the people involved or Dash.  NOTHING is better than Dash curled up next to me, sometimes resting his chin on my leg, but I do realize that we could easily become hermits if we stay home with him every night.  Still…the sight of him waiting for us at the door whenever we go out breaks my heart.  And there’s not many people at a cocktail party who will do that!

 

Cooper and Dusty –  together in Heaven

“So this is where we part, My Friend, and you’ll run on, around the bend…And as you journey to your final rest, take with you this…I loved you best.”  Jim Willis

It is so heartbreaking to lose a dog.  We have lost two in our family this year.  Good dogs, who brought so much joy and love.  Unfortunately, that is the deal we enter into when we get a dog – we know from the outset that they don’t live nearly long enough.  Still, the joy of having one outweighs the grief.  Or as someone said, owning a dog will bring you many happy days and one horrible one.  Which is why, every day, I try to appreciate Dash and all that he brings to us.  He gets lots of belly rubs, blueberries and all the toys he can rip through in 10 minutes.  Spoiled?  You bet!  But it’s not like he’s going to grow up to become an axe murderer.  He never asks for money, the car keys or breaks his curfew so I figure there’s no harm.  Plus, that’s part of the joy of owning a dog – especially a Wonder Dog.

This being Thanksgiving week we would like to wish you and yours – and your dogs – a very happy Thanksgiving.  And while we have a great family that gets along, I leave you with this final quote in case you are dreading your Drunk Uncle over the holiday:

“Dogs are God’s way of apologizing for your family.” Anonymous