AMAZING FAMILY!

suz linda

Suzanne & Linda

by Bob Sparrow

     Who has a better sister and wife than I do?  NoooooooooBody!!  At the risk of beating a dead horse, or at least an old horse, for our readers, I must revisit my 70th birthday celebration and thank a number of people who made it such an AMAZING event.  My first thank you goes to my lovely wife Linda, who orchestrated a weekend of surprise after surprise.  Granted when you have a husband who is totally clueless, it’s easy to pull off surprises, but nonetheless she did a masterful job – a week after the event, I still don’t suspect anything!

      With the ‘Big One’ approaching, Linda asked me how I wanted to celebrate the conclusion of my 70th trip around the sun.  I said I didn’t want a big party, just something with the FAMILY.  That was the end of my participation.  Several days later she told me that she’d booked four villas in Palm Desert at the Marriott Desert Springs, where we love spending a week every April at our timeshare.  Perfect, just the kids, grandkids and us.

Jackalope

Cocktails at Jackalope in the desert

     Late Thursday afternoon, while grubbing around in the yard, the doorbells rings, Linda asks me to get it.  I come to the door in tattered jeans and dirty t-shirt; it’s my brother, Jack and wife Sharon, I greet them with the warm welcome of, “What the hell are you guys doing here?!”  They responded with a Happy Birthday and that they are going to Palm Desert with us.  I’m thrilled.  Later that evening (I did sneak in a shower and change of clothes) the doorbell rings again and, still clueless, I go to the door and there are four couples of our good friends, Mark & Kathy, Jack & JJ, Bob & Marge and John and Judy – they’re standing at our front door singing Christmas carols that turn into Happy Birthday.  When we’re all seated at the bar in our family room, Linda brings out a small box and asks me to open it.  It is a brochure for a 12-day trip for two to Kathmandu, Nepal, which includes a 5-day trek through the foothills of the Himalaya!  My jaw drops!!!  She says, there is no way she’s going, that the trip is for my brother and me.  All I can say is “AMAZING!”

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Jack, Suzanne & me

     By mid-day Friday we’re checking in at the Villas in Palm Desert.  When we got there, there is only one villa that has been cleaned and available, so we walked over to the hotel and had some lunch at poolside in perfect weather.  Upon our return I walked into the one villa we had and I see a man, with his back to us, sitting out on the deck, and assume I went into the wrong villa.  Then one of my favorite people and one of the funniest I know, turns around and wishes me a Happy Birthday – it’s Matt Sparrow, my nephew – Jack’s son.  Fast forward to mid-day Saturday and I get my annual birthday phone call from my sister, who always calls me and sings Happy Birthday the way Marilyn Monroe sang it to Jack Kennedy.  As I’m standing there listening to her, she walks in the door – she had just flown in from Scottsdale – AMAZING!  Later that afternoon close friends and ‘practically family members’, Mark, Kathy and daughter, Kristin (best friend of our daughter, Dana) arrived to celebrate the occasion.

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Joe & Dana

One last surprise remained.  I was told to stay in my villa as preparations for ‘the party’ Saturday evening were taking place in Joe & Dana’s villa.  When I was asked to ‘come to the party’ I was blown away.  Dana and Joe had decorated the villa with pictures at ‘food stations’ they’d created representing a number of the places we’ve visited, Italy (Meatballs marinara, Fried cheese, beef Carpaccio with lemon arugula), Africa (Moroccan lamb kabobs with Tzatziki sauce, veggie couscous, roasted plantains), Japan (Ahi and Yellowtail crudo, crying tiger beef skewers, garlic and chili edamame) and Hawaii (Kalua pork sliders on Hawaiian rolls, grilled pineapple, Ahi poke). All the food was AMAZING! There we also ‘drink stations’ from Ireland (beer and Irish whiskey), my Dad’s famous martinis at ‘Poppin’s Grotto’ and ‘Klappers’ (cheap rum and diet cola) named after my dearly departed best friend, Don Klapperich.  The birthday cake, in a ‘travel and music’ theme had a quote from me about traveling and seeing things a little differently than most.  Dana then gave me a box decorated in the ‘travel and music’ theme that she had put together, containing 70 individual birthday wishes from friends and family (you saw my sister’s in last week’s blog) – they were AMAZING!  A huge thank you to those who took the time to write something nice and send it back (for some I’m certain it took quite some time to find something nice to say).  Seriously, I am was touched and am blessed to have such wonderful friends.

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Stephanie, Jeff & Dana

Thank you to an AMAZING FAMILY, especially those who made this an unforgettable (even for a forgetful 70 year old) experience – Stephanie, Jason, Dylan & Emma; Dana & Joe, Jeff, Jack & Sharon, Suzanne, Matt, (Mark, Kathy & Kristin) and especially to Linda whose dedication to FAMILY is unsurpassed.  To quote Lou Gehrig, “I am the luckiest man on the face of the earth”.

    OK, enough with the birthday stuff, I’ve got some really interesting places to take you next year – hope you’ll enjoy them vicariously ‘from a bird’s eye view’.

HOPE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY HAVE A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND AN ADVENTUROUS NEW YEAR! 

THE BACKYARD BLOG ABOUT NOTHING

by Bob Sparrow

nothing1I know I don’t always succeed, but I always try to write something entertaining about where I’ve been or where I’m going, as I love travel and I seem to look at things from a little different perspective than most others. Or I’ll write about some little, but hopefully interesting, observation of life. Sister Suzanne does a particularly great job of the latter – I mean really, she brought us to tears last week writing about taking her dog for a walk out to the end of her driveway. Me – not so much, as I said, I usually rely on ‘going somewhere’ and hoping to find something interesting to write about.

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Santa Barbara coast

Last week I was supposed to go on a camping trip along the Santa Barbara coast, exploring the beaches and cliffs of this beautiful area, but for various reasons that I’m sure you’re not interested in – heck, I’m not even that interested – the trip was cancelled. So there I was, ready to regale you with my adventurous treks along the beautiful Central Coast and now I’ve got nothing. Didn’t go anywhere. Didn’t see anything interesting. Nothing extraordinary happened to me. Didn’t discover any special or unique places. I’ve got nothing. Even though Seinfeld made a career out of it, it’s hard to write about nothing. Although some have said there’s a lot of nothing in many of my previous blogs.

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Deck-side umbrella table and palapa

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Outside fireplace

So last weekend instead of camping in the Chumash Mountain Wilderness, I wandered around in my backyard. No, I didn’t camp there, although there have been occasions, when the kids were younger, when I’d pitch a tent on the back lawn, spend the night in it and be awakened in the morning by the sprinklers that I forgot to turn off. So, this week my ‘going somewhere’ turned out to be my backyard, and while I enjoy putzing around back there, I’m not finding anything of interest to write about this week. Unlike my sister’s backyard, which has Pinnacle Peak, I have no natural landmarks. I do however have some ‘man-made’ landmarks and so I wander around back there trying to find inspiration from them. I look past the pool deck umbrella table where no one is sitting to the palapa that no one is sitting under, and I get no inspiration . . . nothing. I check the ‘Tiki Bar’ to see if there are any stragglers left over from the weekend, perhaps with a good story to tell that would make for an interesting blog . . . nothing. I recently bought a new umbrella for our outside fireplace area, and although it’s nice, it’s hardly blog-worthy. I crank up some Jimmy Buffet music through the outside speakers hoping to get some inspiration from him . . . nothing. We bought this house new 28 years ago and the backyard was just dirt . . . nothing. And today in terms blog inspiration . . . nothing. I’m thinking maybe I should talk to some of the plants; perhaps they’ll talk back and give me something to write about. I bend down and put my ear to the hydrangeas . . . nothing.

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The Tiki Bar

plumeria

Plumeria

 

Behind the pool is what I called my ‘Ho’omana’O Honopua’, which loosely translate in Hawaiian to ‘Memorial Garden’. I love Hawaii, so my intent with this garden was to bring Hawaii to my backyard, so I wouldn’t have to pay airfare or expensive hotel rates to enjoy the sights and smell of palms and plumeria. I’ve told my family that I’d like my ashes under the moai (stone monoliths from Easter Island – a bucket list destination) on the right in the picture below. It is already a memorial garden in that when I returned from my best friend, Don Klapperich’s funeral, I purchased the moai on the left in the picture below and buried under it a shell casing from the rifles fired during the military memorial service.

memorial garden

Ho’ Omana ‘ o Honopua

It’s getting dark and there will be no lights turned on in the backyard tonight, no tiki torches lit, no music playing, no adult beverages consumed; there will be, like this blog . . . nothing.

 

Hawaiian Postscript – OK, OK I Didn’t Work the WHOLE Time!

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by Bob Sparrow

     For those who may have questioned my veracity regarding the story on my recent trip to Hawaii (I Had To Go To Hawaii To WORK! – A Picture Story), in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that while the conference I attended did go from Thursday – Saturday, the vendors (and I’m a virtual vending machine) were not included in Saturday’s agenda.  Since I was wasn’t sentenced to spend five hours on a ‘red eye’ strapped into the last row of seats for my flight home until 9:00 pm Saturday, I had the whole day to explore Kaua’i.

     On Friday evening, while not sitting at one of those tiki bars not having one of those umbrella drinks, I struck up a conversation with a young man who had just returned from a hike.  I asked him to tell me about it.  He had me at “at the end is this beautiful waterfall.”  My Saturday was planned.

     I took the Kuhio Highway – the term ‘Highway’ here is used in the most colloquial sense – it is a narrow, two-lane road, when it doesn’t cross a river and go down to a one-lane bridge, that winds past the posh resort, homes and golf courses of Princeville and then through the quaint and euphonious town of Hanalei until it just ends.  I think it was the first highway I’d driven on that just came to a dead-end.  I parked.  I was at Ke’e Beach in Haena State Park, on the Na Pali coast, trailhead for the hike to Hanakapi’ai Falls.  This was the setting for Bali Hai in the movie South Pacific; beautiful doesn’t even begin to describe it.

     The trail to the falls goes up the mountain then down to Hanakapi’ai Beach, which is two miles away.  It is narrow and drops off rather dramatically.  Here is part of the ‘Hazard Warning’ for this trail:

Extreme inclines and declines on uneven, narrow footpath on high cliffs.  Loose rocks underfoot and from eroding cliffs above.  Strong currents and flash flooding can occur at the river.  Dangerous shorebreak and riptides at Hanakapi`ai beach – use extreme caution.  Hike Rating: Strenuous

      So one false step could send you down the cliff, careening off lava rock into a watery grave several hundred feet below; but you will have died in a most beautiful place, so you’d have that going for you.

     It was about mid-morning when I reach Hanakapi’ai Beach and it was becoming quite warm; I considered a quick dip in the ocean (I read the ‘Hazard Warning’ after I did the hike) when I noticed a wooden sign stuck in the sand at the entrance to the beach.

 In case you can’t read it, it says, “BEACH WARNING! DO NOT GO NEAR THE WATER, UNSEEN CURRENTS HAVE KILLED (82 in Roman numerals) VISITORS.  I noticed that there was plenty of room for more hash marks so . . .

I splashed a little water in my face from the stream, turned and got on the trail toward the falls

                                                        

     The trail cuts through the rainforest and crisscrosses the stream several times.   An agile hiker could use the large rocks in the stream as ‘stepping stones’ for the many traverses that are required.  I, on the other hand, had shoes and socks that were soaked by the time I reached the falls.  And I’m sure a less-experienced hiker might lose this poorly marked and seldom traveled trail, but . . . OK, yes, I misplaced the trail a few times, but I told myself I was just being adventurous, not lost; the road less traveled and all that.  I was less cavalier about losing the trail when I remembered that Jurassic Park was filmed around here and wondered if any of those creatures were still hanging out here.  Instinctively my step quickened.  As I was making my way back to the trail I came upon a fairly wide clearing in the otherwise thick foliage.  I noticed a sign at the other end of the clearing and made my way over to see what it said.

  

     What?!  I could have taken a helicopter here?!!  Don’t tell anyone, but I did ‘linger’ there for a while and thought that anyone coming to see the falls by helicopter would have missed the beautiful scenery along the way, and probably had very dry shoes and thus would not have appreciated the experience nearly as much as I did.

   Moving a little further up the trail, I reached the falls.  The view was spectacular and well worth the four mile hike, OK, it was worth the eight mile hike since I was planning on making the return trip.  The falls are several hundred feet high and cascade into a crystal clear pool, complete, as you can see in the photo, with nymphs, mythologically speaking.  I included them in the picture to give a perspective of the size of the waterfall.

       The return trip was uneventful, although I think someone moved the rocks in the stream further apart.  By the time I got back to the trailhead, my shoes were completely soaked, but my throat was quite dry, as I had run out of water on my return trip, so the young Hawaiian selling fresh coconuts filled with milk, complete with straw, at trails end, was a welcome sight.

     My shoes were not only soaked, but they were severely cut up from the lava rock, so no longer viable for hiking, but I wear them now when I work in the yard, and every time I look at them I think of this most beautiful hike.

Aloha

This week I’m in Hawaii and have just turned off the news,

And focused on relaxing, taking in some sunset views.

So my world consists of trade winds and walking on the sand

And sitting by a palm tree with a Mai Tai in my hand.

This week I do not wonder, ‘Is the market bull or bear?’

My big concern is where to place my reclining poolside chair.

This week I will not wonder, ‘Should I buy or should I sell?’

But just relax in places that I’ve come to know so well.

This week there’ll be no sniping or my sarcasm to share;

Just the squawking from the birds that fill the morning air.

There is nothing to be learned, as I will not try to teach,

As I sit and watch the waves as they crash upon the beach.

I know this week is ending and my life will rearrange,

And my lazy, ‘island attitude’ will surely have to change.

I know that soon my office will be getting lots of use,

But please forgive this one last day where I can just ‘hang loose’.