By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Last Friday night we planned a great dinner with friends, followed by an Il Divo concert.  What we didn’t plan was spending our remaining years lost in a parking garage.

The Seinfeld group was organized compared to us

The Seinfeld group was organized compared to us

How can you get lost in a parking garage, you ask?  Well, apparently pretty easily. It started out innocently enough – we made reservations at Kincaid’s in downtown Phoenix for a nice dinner before the concert.  Problem is, we didn’t check the sports section before we left home and as luck would have it, BOTH the Diamondbacks and the Suns were playing in their respective arenas right across the street.  Which in Phoenix means that every street is turned upside down for “game night” – one way streets are reversed, lanes are blocked off, and the police seem awfully serious about imposing their silly “game night” traffic rules.  So we pulled up to the corner where the Kincaid’s parking garage is, only to be told by a very nice policeman that we couldn’t cross the intersection to get into the garage  – we had to turn left.  Traffic was horrendous and we began to panic that we might lose our reservation.  So my girlfriend, Terri, and I got out of the car to secure our table and left our husbands to find their way back to the parking garage.  Big mistake.  Big, big mistake.  Let’s just say that if Lewis and Clark had depended on these guys to find the Pacific Ocean they would have ended up in Spain.  Terri and I settled into our booth, read the menu, ordered a drink…no sign of our husbands.   Another five minutes went by.  Neither guy had their cell phones with them (naturally) so we couldn’t call.  Finally, my husband came panting into the restaurant with a wild-eyed, distress-call look.  Turns out they couldn’t find the right parking garage.  At which point I did what every woman in America would do – I sent my husband to the booth to order a drink and I went down to our friend’s car to give directions.

That crisis averted, we had a wonderful meal at Kincaid’s with about 40 minutes to spare before our concert,  a 10 minute drive away.  We hopped into the car and circled our floor (P2) several times.  There was no exit.  We circled again, almost getting into a head-on accident when we tried to go “up” the “down” ramp.  Finally we found a ramp and followed it…DOWN.  And the sad thing is that the four of us thought we had achieved success.  We wandered on P3 like Bedouins in the desert until we finally realized that we had only buried ourselves deeper in the garage.  Up we went again to P2 and circled.  By now the language was becoming colorful.  I was imagining a life lived in a parking structure.  Finally we figured out that in their effort to control traffic on game night, the garage had put traffic cones blocking the “up” ramps.  Once we had dispatched the cones (and we’re very sorry to whomever owns that 2010 Toyota that now has a door ding suspiciously the size of a traffic cone) we sped to the theater.  I had purchased reserved “special” parking ahead of time.  It turns out that meant we could park on the fifth level no where even close to an elevator.

Our view from the stolen seats

Our view from the stolen seats

FINALLY, we reached our seats just as the curtain was rising on Il Divo.  People all around us asked us (quite curtly, if you ask me) to sit down and get out of their line of vision.  We attempted to secure our seats, once again wandering about in a quandary, until we figured out that someone was already in our seats.  We quickly found a security person who looked at us with some suspicion.  Frankly, I couldn’t blame her – we looked a bit frantic given our recent brush with Death By Parking Garage.  She reviewed our tickets, scanned our faces, and then assured us she was on the case.  Inspector Clouseau had nothing on her.  She had us stand in the holding area while she marched right back down the aisle to grill the people in our seats.  So while Il Divo was wowing the crowd with their rendition of “Tonight”, the people in Section 3 were being entertained by a security guard, a flashlight, four idiots in a holding area and the scofflaws in our seats.  Turns out, the people in our seats had discovered that someone had taken THEIR seats, so they took ours.  Apparently there is an outbreak of seat-stealing in Phoenix.  Several minutes later, we finally settled in, much to the relief of everyone in the immediate area.

As for the concert…it was FABULOUS.  For those of you who have never heard of Il Divo, they are four tenors who were assembled by Simon Cowell,  of American Idol fame.  They are from Switzerland, France, Spain and the USA and did not know each other before Mr. Cowell decided they would make a great group.  They have previously focused on classical music but this tour they are singing songs taken from the musical theater.  They have soaring voices and their close harmony is worthy of goose bumps.  Phoenix is the first U.S. stop on their world tour and they frequently said how glad they were to be here after touring Asia where no one understood a word they were saying.  Joining them on this tour is Lea Salonga, the beautiful Filipino soprano star of Broadway and the West End.  In 1996 I was lucky enough to see her in London in Les Miserables.  To hear her sing “On My Own” again after 18 years was one of the highlights of my life.  She has not lost one ounce of her talent, range or phrasing.  

Lea Salonga in 1996. One of us has aged.

Lea Salonga in 1996. One of us has aged.

Oh, and about becoming a diva.  We learned from several Il Divo fans around us that if you are really a follower of them you are referred to as a “diva”.  Based on Friday night’s crowd of self-described “divas”, I’d say their demographic skews to the high side of Social Security.  There is something that is both heart-warming and pathetic about senior citizen women shouting out “I love you” to 40-something entertainers.  Someone in the crowd offered to take a shower with the French member of the quartet, which he deftly laughed off.  I was waiting for one of the “divas” to throw her panties on to the stage.  Which, from all appearances, the men from Il Divo could have used as a car cover.

At the end of the night, now considering ourselves “divas” in spirit if not in actual fact, we all agreed that it was one of the best concerts we had ever attended.  If they come to a city near you, RUN, don’t walk, to buy tickets.



Viking Rhine River Cruise – Part 2 Rollin’ on the River

by Bob Sparrow

Rhine map     Let’s get the itinerary out of the way first, because rather than focus on the places, which you can look up on the Internet if you’re so inclined, I’ll focus on the people – the crew of the ship, the people cruising with us and the people we met at our ports of call.  After leaving Amsterdam . . .

    First port:       Kinderdijk – Lots of windmills

    Next port:      Cologne – Gothic Cathedral

    Next port:   Koblenz – Marksburg Castle

    Next port:      Rudesheim – Quaint German town

    Next port:      Heidelberg – Famous castle and university

    Next port:      Speyer – Another quaint German town

    Next port:      Strasbourg – Quaint French town

    Next port:      Breisach – Quaint German town in the Black Forest

    Last port:       Basal – probably a quaint Swiss town, we only saw the airport

river cruise     Our ship was the Viking River Cruise Ship, Jarl. Jarl was a mythical Norse god who was the grandson of Odin and a symbol of strength and intelligence – characteristics with which I am unfamiliar.  We had a full ship at 186 passengers and 52 crew members.  River cruising provides a much smoother ride than ocean cruising, provided the water level isn’t so high you can’t get under the bridges or so low you can’t move at all, or you don’t run into all the other traffic on the river, and you are able to negotiate the tight walls of the many locks along the way.  So on the surface, while river cruising may seem rather benign compared to ocean cruising, it is actually filled with a lot more variables.  However the Captain did reassure us that if the boat sank and was sitting on the bottom of the river we could all stand on the top deck and be higher than the water level.  So we had that going for us.

     I must admit that when I first went aboard the Jarl and saw my shipmates, I had the same reaction as when I arrived at my 50th high school class reunion – “What are all these old people doing here?”  I wondered if I had mistakenly stumbled onto a ‘Prunes for the Prostate’ cruise?”  However, like the high school reunion, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I was ‘one of them’.


     As we introduced ourselves to our new shipmates, I found that the first three men I met were two engineers, and a research scientist and the first three women I met were two authors and a Stanford graduate.  I then met a group of 18 Filipinos – all doctors from Chicago.  I was wondering if we’d mistakenly been booked on a Mensa Cruise – talk about miscasting!


Me, Linda, Liz, Cathy, Gary, Kathy, Mark, Bill

     We then met Gary and Cathy and realized that this was no Mensa cruise.  I promised them that I’d mention them in my blog so there you are!  Just kidding, they were delightful people that we hung with for the entire trip and laughed our way up the Rhine.  They are from Tennessee by way of Michigan and Buffalo and said if we ever wanted an NFL team to have a losing record that they would just need to move there.  We also met and hung with a father and daughter, Bill and Liz, traveling together – both cigar smokers.  He looked hauntingly like my late best friend, Don Klapperich and she looked like . . . well, she just looked drop-dead gorgeous.  And we also hung with three ladies from San Antonio, the Stanford grad, Krista, also a cigar smoker, and her friends, Carla and Dez.  We met a lot of other very nice people, all from the US or Canada (Viking separates their cruises by language so they don’t’ have to translate everything into 5 different languages throughout the cruise), but these three groups helped us close down the piano bar every night.

DSC00736     We became good friends with Lazlo, our delightful Hungarian piano player, who encouraged people to get up and dance as well as come up and sing.  We were told that one of the doctors from Chicago was a contestant on the Filipino version of American Idol, I guess that would be Filipino Idol, and he was very good.  One of the female Filipino doctors, specializing in internal medicine, wanted to do a traditional German dance, the hula, and asked if anyone knew how to sing ‘The Hawaiian Wedding Song’.  Having had enough rum to cause the ship to stop in the first port and on-load another couple of cases, I lied and said, “As a matter of fact I do.”  In retrospect I knew of the song and vaguely remember Elvis singing it back in the 60s.  Undaunted, I got up to sing as the ‘Dancing Doctor’ performed a quite authentic version of the hula.  In my enthusiasm I even included a verse in the Hawaiian language – or at least my interpretation of the Hawaiian language, which included a few swear words and several unmentionable (in English) body parts.  Little did I know that there was a native Hawaiian in the audience, so when I was finished and walked past him he looked at me and slowly shook his head in disgust and said, “Really?”


No, I’m just standing in front of a fountain!

   It wasn’t the first time I’d publicly embarrassed myself and it wouldn’t be the last.

Thursday’s post: Viking Rhine River Cruise – Part 3    More Rhine Ramblings 


Headlines:  We’re going to need a bigger jar of Purell.

They’ve discovered that the meat in our schools has “pink slime”,

And slimy ex-governor “Blago” is finally in jail for his crimes.

But the biggest “yuck” of all goes to Afghan prez Karzai,

“Untrustworthy slime ball” is too good for this guy.

Money:  March:  the lowest productivity month of the year.

The market is going up; mortgage rates are on the rise,

But all we care about is our office pool size.

Everyone is studying brackets, sizing up who’s #1,

It’s finally March Madness, which mean no work is being done.

Sports:  And to continue the theme…

Sure, Peyton is making all the stops, looking for a team,

And Tiger’s nursing his Achilles to keep alive his Master’s dream.

But it’s Kentucky who has to worry and hope that things don’t go awry,

For now they have to overcome the dreaded “jinx” from S.I.

Life:  It’s All Over Except the Shouting

That juggernaut, “American Idol”, has begun its 11th season,

And maybe we’re just cranky but it’s a bit “off” for some reason.

Some contestants are okay, a couple sing like they’re from Heaven,

But why do most decide to turn one note into seven?

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