Four Seasons

by Bob Sparrow

Well with a title like this we could go anywhere – the luxury, five-star hotel chain who has Bill Gates as one of its majority owners; Jersey Boys backup group to Frankie Valli; the classical violin concerti by Vivaldi, or simply the four seasons.

All weighty subjects to be sure, but the oppressive heat in our part of the country over the last several days, begs the question, “Isn’t summer over?”

Unofficially, Yes; officially, No.

You see when I don’t travel I have to write about stuff like Mayberry, Margaritaville and the weather. Unfortunately, for you, I haven’t been anywhere exciting in the last couple of weeks (OK, I was in Vegas last weekend, but I was reminded that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas – I know my money stayed there!), so now you get to read about the changing of the seasons. I can sense the anticipation building already!

I thought the subject appropriate since we’re just sobering up from the Labor Day holiday, which is the ‘unofficial’ end of a summer, which ‘unofficially’ started on Memorial Day. Officially summer begins with the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year in terms of light in the Northern Hemisphere. Summer officially ends with the Autumnal Equinox, when days and nights are equal (almost) with 12 hours of sun and 12 hours of no sun; equinox actually means equal nights. Am I going too fast for those taking notes?

If you’re wondering, like me, whether we get more ‘official’ or ‘unofficial’ days of summer, here’s the math:

Summer officially started on Wednesday, June 21th this year and ends on Thursday, Sept 21nd (at 1:02 PDT to be precise) – that’s 93 days. ‘Unofficially’ summer started this year on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend (perhaps some cheated and started early on Friday night), May 27th and ended on Labor Day, Monday, Sept 4th – that’s 101 days. So we took eight ‘unofficial’ days of summer this year that I suppose we’re going to have to give back at some point, aren’t we?

One would think that because we declared these ‘unofficial’ starts and stops of summer, borrowing several days from the end of spring and giving a few back during the dog days of summer, that summer would be the season that people like the most – that all depends.

A recent survey by YouGov was conducted on this very subject (are you on the edge of your seat yet?), and depending on your age group and the particular region of the country in which you live, the results vary. But if we’re looking at all age groups across the entire country, the results are as follows:

  1. 29% favor Fall
  2. 27% favor Spring
  3. 25% favor Summer
  4.  7% favor Winter

Favorite season by age group:

55+                Spring

35 – 54           Fall

18 – 34           Summer

While Winter didn’t score high enough to even rate a place on the chart, we all know that winter in Scottsdale, Arizona is slightly different from winter in Bemidji, Minnesota, so let’s look at favorite seasons by region. Isn’t this fun?!

In answer to the question, “I like the weather where I live” the results by region are as follows:

  1. West 66%
  2. South 59%

3.  Northeast 59%

  1. Midwest 47%

The ‘West’ is probably skewed by Alaska at 33% and Hawaii at 100% (my figures, not theirs)

But, those who DON’T like living in the:

West say it is too rainy (26%) or too dry (36%)

South say it is too hot (70%)

Northeast say it is too cold (68%)

Midwest say it is too cold (62%) or too hot (26%)

Ok, maybe what happens in a YouGov survey should stay in a YouGov survey.  Hope you’re enjoying these last ‘official’ days of summer.

 

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

vacationIf it’s summer in Arizona it can only mean one thing – get out of town!  I usually look for some signs to tell me when it’s time to leave.  This week we got two – one expected and one, well, out of this world.  The expected sign was in the form of heat.  While the rest of you are enjoying the lapping of an ocean wave or the rustling of a quaking aspen, what we hear all summer is the constant thrummmmm of the air conditioner.  This past week we’ve not only had the usual “summer has arrived in Arizona” heat but staggering, breath-sapping inferno temperatures.  To add to the fun, there was an air quality alert the past four days.  So, not only did we have temperatures that looked more like a steak order, but the air looked like Los Angeles in the 60’s.  Somehow I think that when you can see the air you’re breathing it’s a sign – and not a good one.  We have a lot of travel plans this summer – Denver, Central Coast of California, Mammoth Lakes and Sun Valley – but it took the second sign to put our travel plans into action.

Last Thursday morning, at 4 a.m., we were startled out of a sound sleep by a loud “boom”.  My husband also saw a bright light flash.  I figured the light was the newspaper truck circling our court.  But I couldn’t account for the sound.  Of course, when you’re awakened in this way you are confused about what you heard.  Did the newspaper guy run into the house next door?  Or was it someone breaking into our house?  Ever on the alert, my husband grabbed a flashlight and a bat from under the bed and set out to discover what caused the noise.  Dash the Wonder Dog and I laid our heads back down on the pillow but, of course, sleep is impossible under these circumstances so I decided I’d go help find the culprit.  I grabbed the phone so I could call 9-1-1 and caught up with my husband.  There we were, in the pre-dawn darkness, skulking through our house on tip-toe looking for someone who, ostensibly, was large enough to knock down the garage door to enter our house. This was not going to end well.   Slowly we creeped through the whole house and found nothing.  My husband decided to venture outside but since we just found a rattlesnake in our yard last week, I held sentry at the front door.  There was no sign of an intruder so we put down our bat and phone and decided to brew coffee.

2016-06-02 05.03.24 (Small)We stood in our kitchen, wondering what the sound could have been, when my husband looked out the window and saw what appeared to be contrails in the sky.  I captured it with my camera (picture right) and we surmised it was a plane of some sort that may have crashed.  But when we turned on the news we discovered that Arizona had experienced an asteroid explosion!  Now that’s something you don’t see every day.  Sure enough, the sound we heard was a sonic boom when the asteroid fireball broke apart.  Later in the day NASA officials confirmed that it was a small asteroid, about 10 feet in diameter, that had entered the Earth’s atmosphere near Payson, Arizona.  They estimated that the object was moving at more than 40,000 mph when it sped across the sky.  What everyone who was up early saw (and what I captured in my photo) was the smoke trail of the fireball – the winds of the upper atmosphere had caused the trail to twist and turn.  I learned a lot about asteroids on Thursday, mainly that they happen all the time.  They are considered to be “space debris,” or leftover fragments from the formation of the solar system.  Kind of like the spare parts left over from the bed you bought at Ikea.  There are millions of asteroids orbiting the sun, 750,000 of which are found in the asteroid belt located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.  This week scientists have been scrambling to find the scattered bits of the asteroid so they can examine them more closely.  Their fear is that amateurs with their metal-detectors will find them first and they’ll end up on someone’s nook so the finder can say at the next neighborhood BBQ, “Hey, want to come see my asteroid?”.  In any event, these remnants tell scientists about the formation of the solar system so hopefully NASA will find them and we’ll know once and for all whether there are little green men on Mars.

As for me, I think when the universe starts throwing rocks at you it’s a sign, so this week we’re beginning our summer travels.  Stay tuned.

 

 

 

A Taste of the High Life at Desert Highlands

by Bob Sparrow

Suz-Bob

Suzanne & Bob at Desert Highlands

Suzanne and Alan had their turn in the barrel last weekend – it was their turn to host Alan’s golf group.  It was also a good excuse to celebrate our father’s 101st birthday (although he’s been gone for 14 years) as well as Valentine’s Day. As it happened Linda and I were looking to go to Arizona to see her sister and mine. It was a chance for us to get out of this blustery winter in Southern California (the temperature had dropped below 70 for two straight days!) After a short visit with Linda’s sister, Starlet and husband, Donnie in Apache Junction (I’m sure the visit didn’t seem short to them, they fed us dinner, gave up their bed for the evening and fixed us breakfast the next morning), we headed off to see Suzanne and Al in Desert Highlands. Thank you Donnie and Starlet!

Desert Highlands is a very exclusive gate-guarded golf community in northern Scottsdale, where they’ve lived for the past 15 years. We’ve been there a number of times before and it’s always been great to get together with them, but this time it seemed particularly up-scale.

GOLF course

My view from the ‘transition’

The party on Saturday was exquisite – Suzanne and Al have a beautiful home on the 5th hole of the golf course with an expansive view of the surrounding mountains. They had enough food to feed an army and enough booze to sink a navy. But the highlight, as it should be with any party, was the attendees. If I was expecting a bunch of snooty multi-millionaires, who had little time for interloping relatives (which of course I wasn’t . . . OK, maybe a little), I couldn’t have been more wrong. Really, what should I have expected from classy people like Suzanne and Al? To the person, every one of the guests was genuinely friendly, interesting and engaging. I almost felt like I belonged there, which I had learned the day before that I didn’t.

The day before was one of those very memorable days – one that you’d love to live over and over. We arrived at Desert Highlands golf clubhouse and were met by the golf attendants. They took our clubs and then they took our car! Before I could run after them yelling “Hey, my car’s being stolen”, Al let me know that the club offers a free valet service and that my car would be returned upon completion of the round of golf . . . and no tipping! I knew that!

The manicured golf course, nestled around Pinnacle Peak, is a visual spectacle; even the rough was like fairway, which is a good thing as I spent plenty of time there. I also spent a good deal of time in what they call the ‘transition’ area and quickly discovered that getting through the transition area was a kin to crawling with the French Foreign Legion through the Sahara Desert. Suffice it say that my game allowed me to see the entire golf course and way too much of the ‘transition’ area. It was nonetheless a beautiful golf course, the weather was perfect and I was with good company – I kept telling myself that the score really didn’t matter.

I did managed to play the 19th hole well – the Desert Highlands clubhouse, which was very posh to begin with, had recently been remodeled and was now nothing short of spectacular, with new boulder-framed sitting areas and fire pits around a new, outside ‘Sunset Bar’ over-looking the pool and the city of Scottsdale beyond. Add a cold beer and it doesn’t get much better than this. But it did!

view

The Gett’s backyard

Friday evening after golf, we were invited to dinner at the home of a very fun couple, Bob & Liz Gett (pronounced jet), friends of Suzanne and Al. The Gett’s home should be called the Grand Desert Highlands Resort – comparing it to a luxurious Ritz-Carlton would be selling their home short!  The 8,500 square foot, elegantly decorated home actually is only out done their beautifully appointed outside living area, with landscape lighting, pool, spa, multiple fire places, giant TV screen, covered barbecue area and . . .and . . . and . . .

bob-bob

Bob & Bob having a Cuban cigar

After a delicious dinner and engaging conversation about the Patriots’ recent Super Bowl victory (Bob & Liz are from the Boston open and they attended the game), we sat outside with after-dinner drinks and watched the city lights of Scottsdale come alive following one of those spectacular Arizona sunsets. Just when I thought the evening couldn’t get any better, Bob asked, “Would you like a Cuban cigar?” Heaven.

Thank you Suzanne and Al for a weekend that our father would have really enjoyed, even at 101!

 

LIVING ON THE FACE OF THE SUN

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Eight months of the year I live in Paradise, otherwise known as Scottsdale, Arizona.  Contrary to popular belief, it does get cold here in the winter – we’ve had a freak snowfall most every year – but generally we have sunny days and 70 degree temperatures.  It’s what causes some of my jerkier acquaintances to call home to Minnesota every January and taunt their friends who are digging out from an ice storm.

But all that is about to change.  This past weekend we had our first 100 degree temperature of the year.  That’s right – it’s frigging APRIL and we hit the century mark already.  Although it will cool down a bit this week, the fact that we’ve had a 100 degree day means only one thing:  we are once again facing hell on Earth.  Literally.  The average temperature here in July and August is 105.  That would almost be bearable except that the average low is 75.  So it never cools off.  We are God’s warming drawer for four months of the year.

I know that the conventional wisdom is that it’s a dry heat, but then again, so is my microwave oven and you won’t see me living in that.  In the 14 years we’ve lived here I’ve never become used to this “upside down” schedule.  My whole life I was conditioned to love summer – school was out, we looked forward to time at Tahoe, and we had lots of beer parties.  Now summer is something to be dreaded.  Somehow that still seems unnatural to me.

Our strategy since I retired ten years ago is to escape out of here each summer.  We have tried all sorts of combinations for our summer road trips – renting for a month, staying in hotels for a week or two, mooching off some of our friends who have mountain homes.  Two years ago when our house was being remodeled we rented a condo in Sun Valley, Idaho for three months.  Ironically, that was our worst summer.  I have to admit, as nice as it was to get away for the whole summer, I really missed my “stuff” at home.

So once again this summer we will be in and out of Arizona, traveling to California’s central coast, the Bay Area and up to Sun Valley.  That leaves a lot of time to sit at home in the air conditioning and get stuff done.  I’ve already started to compose my list of “summer projects”; really fun stuff like cleaning and organizing drawers, saving computer files to a hard disk, and alphabetizing the spice rack.

But I also have a potential blockbuster to keep me occupied. When I did our family history last year I traced it back to medieval England, and there is some possibility that one of our lines goes back to the Irish kings.  If true, that would go a long way towards explaining Bob’s propensity to enter every Irish pub he sees.   We also might be related to King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, in which case I think we are 16,346 in line to the British throne.  You’d think that should have warranted an invitation to the Royal Wedding last year.

So, as those of you in other states get ready for BBQ’s, planting a garden or just chilling at the beach, I will be putting the cardamom between the caraway seeds and the cayenne pepper.  And, maybe, getting fitted for my tiara.