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.

 

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!

 

I’VE PEAKED IN MY OWN BACK YARD

pINNACLE pEAKBy Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Like many people who live close to a landmark, I am completely clueless about the one near me, Pinnacle Peak. Which is particularly pathetic because I’ve lived at the base of it for 15 years. It serves as a beacon of sorts, providing a touchstone to remind us of just how far away we are from home when we travel around the Valley of the Sun. So, let’s just say hypothetically that one of us is lost and the other won’t ask for directions, we just look for “the Peak” and, voila!, we know which direction is home.

Normally the most attention I pay to it is when I’m playing golf and spot some adroit rock climbers who have scaled its summit. Usually they will wave to us golfers. We always wave back, admiring their gumption – and youth. I usually three-putt those greens due to the obvious distraction. Or at least that’s my story this month.

But curiosity got the best of me last week and I decided to do some research on the Peak in my backyard. The first thing that struck me is that the Peak is almost 3200 feet high. That’s the tip, where all those crazy rock climbers look down on all us crazy golfers. That may not seem high to those of you who live in the mountains, but to those of us in the desert, this is our Mount Whitney.

The area around Pinnacle Peak was originally used by the Hohokam Indians for hunting and food gathering. Later, settlers began to use the area for ranching and mining, and finally, the whole darn place was overrun by golf courses and homes. One vestige of the mining era is that the best cheeseburger in the world can be found Greaswood Flats, an old miners shack right across from the Peak.

Hiking-Pinnacle-PeakIn 1994 the city of Scottsdale decided to make Pinnacle Peak a park and built a trail so that everyone could enjoy its beauty. The trail is 3.5 miles roundtrip and will leave you begging for an iron lung on the way up. They conveniently have provided a bench at “Grandview”which they say is so you can sit and admire the the spectacular vista. Usually all I see are my shoelaces, since my head is buried between my knees in an effort to regain regular respiration – and some dignity. The trail only climbs 500 feet from the trailhead to the top, but the older I get the steeper it becomes. I see some young people run the entire trail which I think is highly suspicious and may require some drug testing.

If gasping for air isn’t enough to entice you, you might be attracted to the beautiful plants and animals that inhabit the area. You’re likely to see bobcats, Gila monsters and Diamondbacks – and not the ones with a bat in their hands. But if you do see them you don’t want to run too far off the trail or you might get stuck in a jumping cholla plant, a vicious cactus that does actually jump out and stab you with it’s fishhook spines.

I have promised myself that I will hike the trail more regularly this spring in the fervent hope that I will get in better shape. And, seriously, there is nothing more beautiful than the cactus flowers in the spring. If nothing else, I have found a practical use for the stopping point at “Grandview” – it is the perfect place from which to throw my golf clubs off into a deep, dark crevice, never to annoy me again.

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.