Backyard Bucket List

by Bob Sparrow

Bridge to Nowhere

Summer brings me this year’s edition of Westways Backyard Bucket List just in time, as I was running out of places to take you. So let’s see what new and exciting things there are to do in SoCal this summer.

-‘Bungee Jump off a Bridge’ – It starts off with “Hike 5 miles into the Angeles National Forest (and you thought there were only freeways in Los Angeles) to the ‘Bridge to Nowhere’, which presumably inspired our governor to build a ‘Bullet Train to Nowhere’.  In the photo shown, due to recent droughts, the bridge no longer spans any water, so if something should go awry with the bungee, you don’t just fall and get wet, you hit the granite riverbed and die. I think I’ll pass on this one.

Visit the old abandoned zoo at Griffith Park – This zoo has not been operational since 1966, but we are told that it once attracted millions of guests. That’s great, if you were here in 1966, but what is there to do now? ‘Visitors can climb behind graffiti-covered metal cages and hike up deserted rock enclosures’. Yeah, that would be so much more fun than going to a zoo that has actual animals?  While you’re at it, since it’s not too far, maybe you could stop by Dodger Stadium when the Dodgers are out of town.  Check please!

Experience the Bakersfield Sound – I thought Bakersfield was in Texas; I guess it just wished it were. I am informed that there is nightly live music at Buck Owen’s Crystal Palace, but there’s more, you can see Buck’s red, white and blue guitar. Really? No way! Yes, way and there’s still more, you can see Buck’s ‘watermelon suit’ on display. Gosh, I wish it were closer, I’ve always wanted to see a watermelon suit. Honey, go start the car!

-Stop for a ‘Bucket List Burger’ – What better way to take a break from completing my ‘bucket list’ list than to visit ‘Bucket List Burgers’ in Riverside. I checked out the menu on line (the New Year’s Resolution Burger looks awesome, I’m getting it, even though it’s the middle of summer), I got directions and with my mouth watering, noticed that it was . . . closed for good! Apparently they weren’t on very many bucket lists.  Scratch.

-Visit Elvis’s Honeymoon Hideaway – The Palm Springs Modern Tour highlights some of the area’s best midcentury modern architecture, including the ‘House of Tomorrow’ where Elvis and Priscilla lived for a year, until Elvis’s nightstand was completely covered with half-eaten peanut butter, banana and pickle sandwiches. Elvis rented the house for a year in 1967 and the lease is framed and still hangs on the wall. The home went up for sale 3 years ago for $9.5 million, it didn’t sell and is now back on the market for . . . $5.9 million – guess those peanut butter, banana and pickle sandwiches are getting a little crusty.  No thank you very much!

-And speaking of bananas, here’s something I never knew even existed, the International Banana Museum, and it’s right here in southern California, well not exactly, it’s out in the desert in Mecca, which isn’t the end of the world, but you can see it from there. This museum has over 20,000 banana-related items, some to eat. The photo at the left just makes you want to don an outfit and . . . go bananas!  Or not!

-Visit the Original McDonalds – the magazine says “the ‘unofficial’ McDonald’s museum is located on Route 66 in San Bernardino and provides a nostalgic peek at Golden Arches memorabilia.” Which begs the question, ‘Where is the ‘official’ McDonald’s museum?’   I don’t really care, since I haven’t visited a McDonalds ever, I’m not sure what would draw me to anything McDonalds now, unless I could get one of those plastic life-size statues of Ronald McDonald to put on my front lawn.  Super size this!!

To be fair, the magazine did offer some destination that I’ve either already visited or will visit, but my real ‘backyard’ bucket list, would start with a cool drink, some music, a spot in my own backyard while imagining I’m on a tropical island – it’s so much cheaper this way!

Happy Independence Day!

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’.

mensa

     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!

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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?”

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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 

Hoax, Conspiracy Theories and the Truth!

by Bob Sparrow

“The great mass of people will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

shower

The recent fiasco surrounding Manti Te’o’s non-existent girlfriend (photo at left shows her in the shower) and things like the 11 million views on YouTube showing how the federal government and the Screen Actors Guild conspired to create the ‘Sandy Hook Hoax’, have me convinced that our culture will not let the facts stand in the way of a good conspiracy theory.  Not that people haven’t been lied to by their government, or the Screen Actors Guild for that matter, but as a public service I’d like to put forth the real truth about some of our most popular conspiracies.

 

If you think that there is a possibility that Michael and Janet Jackson were actually the same person or that the ‘grassy knoll’ was never michael jacksonjanet jacksonreally examined as thoroughly as it could have been, then you need to read on.

global warmingConspiracy: global warming is a real threat

Supported by: Al Gore, who told us so

Anti-Conspiracy: Global warming is a hoax perpetrated by Carrier, the air conditioning people and a few awning and umbrella companies.

The Truth: My anecdotal findings are that the globe seems to be warmer in the summer, so I lean toward the global warming theory, but it seems to cool down in the winter, so I can’t be sure. I’m going to read Al Gore’s book, An Inconvenient Truth – it’s on the Internet, which he invented.

 

 abby roadConspiracy: Paul McCartney walking barefoot on the Abby Road album cover proves that he was actually dead.

Supported by: Those who had high-tech record players back in the day that could play Beatles records backwards and hear Paul actually say that he was dead at the time.

Anti-Conspiracy: Paul was late for the album photo shoot and forgot to put on his shoes.  What amazingly has gone unnoticed over the years is that Ringo is not wearing any underwear in the photo – he is not dead either.

The Truth: Paul is alive and actually came closer to death when a judge told him he had to pay Heather Mill $235 million in his divorce settlement.

 

elvisConspiracy: Elvis faked his death

Supported by: Elvis weighed approximately 275 pounds at the time of his ‘supposed’ death, yet the casket ‘they’ say he was buried in weighed only 210 pounds.

Anti-Conspiracy: The king didn’t fake his death, but actually died three days later after finishing second in a chili dog eating contest at the Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas.

The Truth: Elvis’ death has never been certified and rumors fly around this time of year when an elderly duet that looks an awful lot like an aging, 65 pound lighter Elvis and Jimmy Hoffa, appear for their dinner show in Sun City, Las Vegas.

shakespeare_winkConspiracy: Shakespeare didn’t write his plays

Supported by: All those who claim to have written them

Anti-Conspiracy: Shakespeare actually wrote the plays, but in a hurry to get to the airport one morning, left them at a table at Starbuck’s where they were ultimately picked up by Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe and Woody Allen.

The Truth: Who cares?

 

mood landing fakeConspiracy: We never landed on the moon

Supported by:  A ‘moon set’ was found inside an old cheese warehouse in the New Mexico desert; they also found a man in the warehouse with a large, round, glowing, orange face.

Anti-Conspiracy: No New Mexico license plates were found on the lunar lander.

The Truth: We of course landed on the moon and ended up bringing back some aliens and weather balloons and accidentally left them just outside a warehouse in Roswell, New Mexico.

 

I may be a little confused about that moon landing thing, but hopefully I’ve cleared up a lot of conspiracies for you theorists out there; although things like, ‘Is wedding cake really a birth control method?’ still remains a mystery to us.

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