THE UPSIDE DOWN BUCKET LIST

by Suzanne Sparrow Watson

     Every time I pick up a newspaper or a magazine lately it seems there’s an article about someone working on their “bucket list”.  Boomers everywhere are compiling lists of things to do before they die: climb Mt. Everest, sail around the world or buy a red Corvette.  My brother has done an admirable job of checking off his “to do” list; most of his feats require a lot of conditioning and some derring-do.  Except seeing the General Patton Museum – that just took a high tolerance for boredom.

     I used to have a bucket list.  Actually, it wasn’t so much a list as an item.  I only had one thing I wanted to do – hang glide.  For thirty years I’ve watched hang-gliders with admiration. I was in awe of their fearlessness and their obvious gold standard medical plan.  But in the last year or so I’ve finally come to the realization that I won’t be jumping off a cliff anytime soon.  For a while I thought I might take a page from George H.W. Bush’s skydiving book and go tandem.  Now I’ve decided that unless I get that same cute Army Ranger to hang on to, it’s just not going to happen.

     So earlier this year I decided to flip things around.  Instead of a bucket list, I started to compile a list of the 10 best events that I have already experienced.  In other words, I started an Upside Down Bucket List.  My only rule was that nothing on the list could be “obvious” – like a wedding day.  Given that I have a hard time remembering what I had for dinner last night, it has taken me months to recall 10 events worthy of the list.

     I started off with five items that were major moments.  Those were easy.  The next five took more thought and retrospection.  I was surprised when something as mundane as a movie or listening to someone else’s adventures would spark a memory of something I’d long forgotten.  I would jot down events as I thought of them and then mull over whether they were worthy of the final five slots.  It was lost on me that no one else was ever going to see this list – my obsessive/compulsive nature took over and I needed it to be perfect.  Perhaps one of my activities should have been to visit a good shrink.

     Of course, dredging up memories causes some not so great days to be recalled too.  Like the time I fell down an entire flight of escalators at a BART station (everything in tact except my dignity) or when I walked in late to a wedding and realized after 10 minutes that it wasn’t my friends’ wedding (ever tried to skulk out of church quietly?).  Those days definitely did not make the list but for a moment I did think about compiling a list of my 10 most embarrassing days.

     After months of thinking and reminiscing, I have finalized my Upside Down Bucket List.  Final for now anyway; I’ve reserved the right to add and delete as my memory allows.  It’s interesting to take a step back and review it.  I’m not sure exactly what it says about me, but my list divides into three categories:  Adventure, Family, and Personal Achievements. I won’t bore you with the list but I can assure you that each item brings back great memories – whether it was challenging myself physically, a great conversation with my dad, or an unexpected success.

     It’s been a fun experience.  It was harder than I thought it would be but it also more rewarding.  Each time I look at the list it brings a smile to my face or a boost to my confidence.  So I’d encourage you to do it – it’s a great way to remember the good times.  And a lot safer than leaping into thin air with some flimsy wings strapped on your back.

HEY, SAILOR, NEW IN TOWN?

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Last week my brother took us on an adventure – or lack of adventure – with an old Army general.  This week we’ll continue with the military theme and go aboard the USS Iowa.

My husband, Alan, brother Bob and I visited the “Battleship of Presidents” last month at its new home in San Pedro, CA.  Being a World War II buff, and always one to light up at the mere mention of Fleet Week, I thought this would be an entertaining way to spend an afternoon.  It was…just not in the way I expected.

When arriving at the harbor I looked around for a huge ship – after all, the Iowa  is a battleship, for crying out loud.  But as we pulled into the parking lot, I was still looking around for a big ship.  Take it from me; battleships are very low to the … well, sea.  I think I was imagining an aircraft carrier, which both Alan and Bob assured me are much taller.

In any event, once piped aboard we found that there are no official tours.  The Iowa had only been open for a month and the plan is to have guided tours within the next year.  Until then visitors follow painted arrows on the floor (or “deck” as they insisted on calling it).  Let me say right here that this is not a tour for anyone with any physical limitations; we climbed up and down stairs, stepped over those little barrier thingies between rooms, and had to squeeze through narrow passageways.  People with claustrophobia or who are on the heavier side of the scale should not plan their next summer vacation around a visit to the USS Iowa.

Nevertheless, the Iowa  is an impressive ship with an equally impressive history.  The Iowa  was in Tokyo Harbor on the day World War II ended and it provided the platform from which Reagan presided over the ceremony for the Statue of Liberty’s restoration ceremony. George H.W. Bush officiated at its recommission and sadly, at the memorial for 47 sailors who died in the accidental explosion of a gun turret.  It was home to many brave men and women who served our country and it now provides us civilians with a real appreciation for life on a battleship.

The photographs and artifacts in the officer’s quarters provided the most graphic history of the Iowa.  There was a giant map of the ship’s cruises, from its launching in 1943 to its decommission in 1990.  In 1943 it took FDR to Casablanca for the summit with Stalin and Churchill.  The captain, having a firm grasp of the organization chart, vacated his quarters and lent FDR his “luxurious” suite.  Here is a picture of the bed that Roosevelt slept in with the specially woven Presidential bedspread:

Due to FDR’s polio, the captain also installed a hot tub (pictured below) for that cruise.  This was a man who clearly wanted to progress up the ranks.

I’m thinking that Roosevelt didn’t actually play with that rubber ducky.  The visit to the captain’s quarters only confirmed that we have a long tradition of wasteful government spending in this country.

Moving on, we climbed endless steps up and down through the various compartments and decks.  Without a formal tour guide, I had to rely on the descriptions and explanations that Alan and Bob rattled off – two people who never let the truth get in the way of a good story.  I have no idea if even half of what they told me is true, but there were times when they were so animated that a crowd gathered to listen to their “expert” commentary.  The oft-used mnemonic for Iowa – Idiots Out Walking Around – came to mind.

Here are the two of them – Bob not knowing which is the business end of a 16″ gun barrel and Alan showing off his guns.  You can see what I was up against.

Despite the Iowa  still being in shakedown mode, one facet of the ship was up and ready to go – the gift shop.  Not a trick had been missed in setting it up.  There were the requisite t-shirts and caps, of course, but they also sold golf ball markers, a Stryker marshmallow gun, and a book called “Airigami: Realistic Origami Aircraft” in case you’re looking to kill some time at your next staff meeting.

All in all, the  USS Iowa is well worth seeing, but my recommendation is to visit when they have their official tours available.  If you go before that, just make sure that the person up on the bridge doesn’t look like this: