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Journey to the Valley of Death – Part 2

by Bob Sparrow

The Oasis at Death Valley

It was an auspicious beginning – Death Valley had claimed four people before we even got started, as two couples that had committed to go on this adventure were unable to for various reasons. Strike one.

Undaunted, the Johnsons, Pacellis, Linda and I set out on Thursday morning for Death Valley. Our research had told us that GPSs go crazy in the desert, but little did we know that it was going to start playing tricks on us so soon.  After we stopped for a great lunch at The Mad Greek in Baker, our GPS took us away from the correct route on a 30 minute detour – I was reminded of the German family that got lost out there and was never heard from again. Strike two.

Our group at its lowest

After about an hour and a half drive from Baker we came to our first attraction, Zabriskie Point. For my money, the best single place to see all the colors and rock/sand formations of Death Valley. We then traveled on to Badwater, the lowest place in North America at 282 feet below sea level; once there, you just sort of stand around and ‘be’ at the lowest place in North America. The road from there to our hotel has a nine-mile loop through ‘Artist’s Pallet’, which, at the right time of day and sunlight, shows off the magnificent colors of the rocks and mountains – we apparently were not there at the right time of the day! I was also anticipating seeing beautiful desert flowers following the rains we had this winter, but those rains came too soon, or too late, or they were too much, not sure which, but flowers were not in bloom.

Oasis pool

We checked into the Oasis at Death Valley and as the photo shows, it is truly an oasis. It is a four-diamond resort, where we have booked a casitas, which runs, including ‘resort fees’ about $600/night, but you get a golf cart to drive to go back and forth between the casitas and the hotel. What you don’t get are two sinks in a rather small bathroom, a corkscrew to open the wine we brought and Internet. I personally would take a couple of diamonds away from their rating.

We had dinner at The Last Kind Words Saloon, in ‘town’, Furnace Creek, which is about a mile from our hotel, and like the Oasis, the restaurant looks great, but the paper-thin, expensive steaks and generally bad food was only overshadowed by the poor service from a  “customer’s always wrong” wait staff. After dinner we went back to the hotel and to go up on the top deck to look at the stars, which we’ve been told are magnificent on a dark, desert night. Unfortunately there was a nearly full moon, a cloud cover and a slight rain.

Tamarisk trees – my golf ball is in there somewhere!

The next day, Friday, we played golf at Furnace Creek Golf Course, just a mile away from our hotel.  We thought we’d grab breakfast at the golf course before we teed off. But breakfast is not available at the golf course and the only breakfast available close by was a buffet, which we really didn’t want or have time for, so we grabbed a muffin and a cup of coffee at the General Store and headed to the course. The golf course was in surprisingly good shape; each fairway is lined with rows of Tamarisk trees, in which my ball came to rest on several tee shots (at least it was shady), although the greens were sort of like putting on a gravel driveway.  The weather and company was great and the burger and beer at the end of the round was most enjoyable.

Mark & Kathy looking for ghosts in Rhyolite

Dinner at the Oasis Hotel was OK, Linda didn’t like her Pork Belly – she was referring to her meal! After dinner we again went up to the top deck of the hotel to see the stars.  We ran into a professional photographer who had a laser beam gun to point out many of the constellations. He had a lot to say about almost everything, including Scotty’s Castle, which was the highlight of my previous trip here, but is currently closed for repairs to the road and the castle, due to flash flooding.

Saturday was our exploring day, according to Patrick ‘Trail Boss’ Michael’s schedule, which he kindly put together, but didn’t get to experience. We stopped at Harmony Borax Works – a 120 year old operation that refined the borax (a mineral found in the salt flats of Death Valley which is used in soap/cleaning products) and loaded it on a 20-mule team wagon to haul it 165 miles to the nearest train station in Mojave – a 30-day trip! Our next stop, after about an hour’s drive on the lunar surface, was the ghost town of Rhyolite, Nevada – a town built on gold prospecting. It is the largest ghost town in the Death Valley area; at its peak had nearly 10,000 people, with 2 churches, 50 saloons, 18 stores, 2 undertakers, 19 lodging houses (which sometimes lodged prostitutes; OK, not sometimes, all the time!), 8 doctors, 2 dentists, a stock exchange and an opera house.

Cocktails at the casitas

We headed back to the hotel and sat by the spring-fed swimming pool and enjoyed a fancy cocktail – at least the price was fancy. As we were running out of places we wanted to eat, we decided to stop by the local taco shop, although these were not your traditional tacos.  The shop was on Indian land owned by the Timbisha-Shoshone tribe and featured ‘Native American Tacos’. They were quite large, a meal unto themselves and fairly tasty. We had tacos and wine as we sat in our casita’s patio on our last beautiful desert night.

I’d give the experience mixed reviews. If you go, wait until Scotty’s Castle is back in operation – sometime in 2020. So Death Valley is not dead to me, but it’s on a resuscitator.

 

Journey to the Valley of Death – Part 1 of 2 (hopefully)

by Bob Sparrow

Manson Family Death Valley Hideout

I’m writing this blog prior to heading to Death Valley with five couples from our ‘hood. I thought it would be important to provide a little history of this unique National Park as well as make sure I tell people where to look should our neighborhood safari not return – it is called Death Valley for a reason!

It actually got its name from a group of pioneers in Utah headed to California in search of gold in 1849. After listening to a guy who ‘thought’ he knew a short cut, but didn’t have a map (or too many living brain cells apparently), a group of pioneers split off from the main party (well, it really wasn’t much of a party) to take this ‘short cut’ to the California gold through what was to become Death Valley. After losing many weeks and members of the group, as they were leaving this valley, one of the pioneers looked back and said, “Goodbye ‘death’ valley.”

Death Valley’s underground city

Aside from the many gold-hungry pioneers that lost their lives taking the shortcut, the ‘valley’ has genuinely earned its macabre moniker. Mother Nature has played a role by taking lives with her cold winter nights with freezing winds, flash floods and of course the distinction of holding the record for the hottest place in the world – 134 degrees.

It is speculated that there is an underground city beneath Death Valley, where many people died digging and living in these subterranean tunnels. As late as 1996 a family of five visiting Death Valley from Germany disappeared, never to be seen again. But that’s not that unusual, there are many stories of people disappearing using their GPS to try and navigate the desert as there are many areas where cell reception is non-existent – it’s sort of like a black hole, the Bermuda Triangle and the Twilight Zone all rolled into one.

Borax Twenty-Mule Team

There’s more, California’s last lynching took place in Death Valley and there are several old mining ghost towns in Death Valley where ghosts still reside. The Armagosa Hotel and Opera House, once a hotel for the Pacific Coast Borax Company is now haunted. Close by, 100 pound rocks move across a dry lakebed by themselves, leaving a trail. Oh yeah and Death Valley was also a place that Charlie Manson’s gang hung out, so it’s got that going for it;

So why are we going to such a god-forsaken place of death? It’s a beautiful, interesting place; the colors of the rocks, sand, mountains and flowers are incredible this time of year; and we are staying in a four-diamond hotel and playing golf – so over the years there has been an effort to remove the ‘Death’ from Death Valley.

But still, if Suzanne’s next blog is about her missing brother, you’ll know where to start looking.

SNAKES IN THE GRASS

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Desert blooms…and pollen

 

Spring in Arizona means three things…wildflowers, allergies and snakes.  This past week our winter weather finally came to a close.  After record rainfall and freezing temperatures (including snow!) we can finally break out our sleeveless tops and Bermuda shorts.  Also top of mind is that we should have done more bicep curls and leg squats all winter, but that’s a topic for another day.  With April we find that patios are once again used for wine sipping and lounging.  Sounds great, right?  After all, this glorious weather is what brought us to Arizona to begin with.  But there are a lot of downsides to Spring in the desert.  While I know I won’t get any sympathy from those friends in the Midwest who are still digging out from blizzards and dirty, melting snow, we desert rats have our challenges too.  And it’s more than shoveling sunshine.

 

     The lovely, annoying Palo Verde tree

First, I have to say that the brightly colored flowers and blooming trees so ubiquitous this time of year are one of the true treasures of the Sonoran desert.  Every cactus seems to have it’s own unique flower, each more spectacular than the next.  The Palo Verde trees are a riot of yellow blooms that are gorgeous to view – from INSIDE the house.  Because these lovely works of nature’s bounty bring with them allergies of gargantuan proportions.  I don’t know anyone who isn’t using some sort of nasal spray or allergy tablet.  Even those who have taken dramatic steps to curb allergies can be found with Kleenex stuffed in every pocket and eyes that stream from morning ’til night.  The local Walgreens can barely keep the allergy meds in stock and our noses have begun to look like W.C. Fields on a bad day.  The experts are telling us it will be a bad allergy season because the heavy rainfall has caused an abundance of blooms.  From April until June we venture out of the house at our own risk…there is so much pollen in each tree now that on a windy day it can blow for several blocks.

      The rattlesnake, playing through

My second caution of the season is the annual awakening of the rattlesnakes.  This was brought home to me last week when playing the second hole of our golf course.  There, in the middle of the fairway, we came upon a huge rattlesnake.  Usually they are resting comfortably under bushes or rocks but this guy was in the grass sunning himself, probably critiquing our golf swing.  Our partners, who were looking into the distance and not at the ground, stopped right next to the snake.  As we shouted for them to move the cart, the snake began to coil and hiss.  Never a good sign.  No one was hurt but it was a sure sign that these vipers of the desert are out and we need to be cautious.  Their appearance is good news for the local golf stores as it means that no one with any common sense wanders into the brush to look for a lost ball.  I lost two on Tuesday and as far as I’m concerned the snakes can have them.

Rattlesnakes are scary, that’s for sure.  But Spring also brings our big golf tournaments and another snake in the grass – the Sandbagger.  So between pollen, snakes and cheaters, I’m glad I have some indoor hobbies to keep me occupied.  The good news is the pollen dries up and the winter visitors with their bogus handicaps go away in June.  The bad news? Living here will be equivalent to being in a microwave oven.  You can’t have everything.

The Timeshare Two-Step

by Bob Sparrow

It was 1993, the kids were young and we had no money, when we got a call from the Marriott Desert Springs Timeshare folks offering us a free weekend in the desert in exchange for a mere 90 minutes of our time to listen to a presentation on timeshares. Like everyone else, we had gotten of number of these calls over the last few years, but because we had no money and couldn’t buy a timeshare if we wanted, we decided to take them up on their offer of a free weekend in the desert.

“Trust me”

We arrived and were warmly greeted while our two children we’re quickly escorted off to a ‘fun zone’ to be entertained for the next 90 minutes while we were locked in a windowless room where sat a guy with bad hair, a mustache and dimples. Small talk and big smiles ensued while he extolled the virtues of the Marriott name and their foray into timeshares, bla, bla, bla. We finally regained consciousness when he told us that for a week every year, we only needed $18,000. We didn’t even know how to spell $18,000! We looked at each other knowingly and in unison said, “No thank you, we really can’t afford it” and started to get up. We were quickly told to sit down and that with a small down payment we could make payment over time, enough time that we accepted.

As it turned out, it was one of the best investments we ever made, or had made for us. We’ve spent a week every spring at our Marriott timeshare for the last 26 years. Our kids graduated from the kiddy pool, the teen pool, to Costas’, the nightclub on property, to bringing their kids out. They know every inch of that property.

If you like vacations and you like clubs, Marriott has got a deal for you . . . bring cash!

About five years ago Marriott timeshares went to a ‘point system’ and we were offered two rounds of golf to listen to the advantages of converting our ‘week’ into ‘points’ and joining the Marriott Vacation Club.  Who doesn’t want to be in a vacation club?!  When we asked the salesman if we converted our week into points, would we have enough points to come out for our week every year like we’ve been doing? When he was finished calculating he looked up with a long face and said “No, you’d be a little short” and he knew he lost a sale.

Last week while at the Marriott Desert Springs for our week in the desert, we were again offered two rounds of golf to listen to a presentation on trading our two weeks (we bought another week on the ‘black market’ a couple of years ago) for more ‘points’ in the new BONVOY program’. We were told the program has really changed, that we wouldn’t have to exchange our week for points. Our salesperson must have just come off his shift at an Indio used car lot. Big toothy smile, dyed hair and a too firm handshake. Lots of small talk until we asked for the bottom line. We were told we could turn in our two weeks, along with an additional $42,000 and we’d get . . . I didn’t even listen after I heard the $42,000. “But you can put it on a 10-year payment program, and . . . ” he said as we headed out the door for the golf course. We gave him a hardy “Bon Voyage”.

I feel like I’ve earned an MBA in ‘timeshare’ (although it’s taken me 26 years), so if you have questions about ‘weeks’ or ‘points’ or fast talking salesman with bad hair – give me a call.

SPRING TRAINING HOLD UP

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

It’s that time of year again…Spring Training for Major League Baseball descended on Arizona over the past few weeks.  Avid baseball fans rejoice at the prospect of a good year ahead and come to check out new talent and old favorites.  For those of us who live in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area we breathe a sigh of relief each year when the baseball tourists finally clear out.  Not that we don’t appreciate them – after all, the ridiculous add-on fees to rental cars, hotels and baseball tickets are what keep our property taxes down.  But after a month of crowded roads, restaurants filled to the rafters, and way too many sightings of white legs in Bermuda shorts, we’re happy that this week brings an end to the annual rite of Spring.

 

On the upside, Spring Training brings with it an abundance of good people watching.  Similar to the Phoenix Open golf tournament, hoards of young women see this sporting season as their opportunity to meet (and perhaps marry!) either a rich athlete or a wealthy sugar daddy.  Resplendent in their spike heels and halter tops, they cruise the ball fields like mongoose seeking its prey.  Just to give you a sense of how versed these women are in the sport they watch, a friend told me the other day that at the Phoenix Open a young lovely asked if my friend knew who the golfer was on the green.  Without missing a beat my friend responded, “Ben Hogan“, which generated a knowing nod from the questioner, clueless and no doubt tucking that little piece of info into her memory bank so she could later brag to friends about seeing Mr. Hogan in action.  The “super fans” are also worth watching – those people who don everything with their team’s logo, from hat to socks.  One can only imagine why they dress that way.  More perplexing still are the people who have jersey’s configured with their own names on it – as if anyone would believe that the balding, 250 lb. fan once was a baseball god.

The final numbers on Spring Training attendance won’t be out for another week but pre-season predictions were that it would be a “down” year.  And that was before we had unprecedented rain, cold and snow.  I can’t imagine anyone with a lick of sense is surprised by that.  I took a look at the pricing for tickets to the San Francisco Giants game the other day: $442 for the box behind the dugout.  For ONE game!  Just for comparison, in 1973 a box seat for the whole season was $468.  Granted, you can get a seat on the lawn for $25 (actually the only “seat” is yours, planted on a sloping piece of grass) but I can tell you from personal experience that sitting on a lawn for an entire baseball game is highly overrated unless you’re 20 years old. I was thinking about this pricing the other day when I read about Mike Trout’s $430M contract with the Angels.  How can a baseball player possibly be worth that much?  Today’s tickets are outrageous and out of reach for most families, while the average MLB salary in 2018 was $4.47M.  So now even Spring Training baseball joins the ranks of football, hockey and basketball in being unfriendly for family outings.

Clearly there are plenty of people who can afford to attend these events.  In 2017 Americans spent $56 billion (yes, that’s a “B”) to attend sporting events, according to a study by CreditCards.com. The amount includes the cost of tickets, transportation, and food and drinks. If you want to buy a hat you can tack on another $20.  If you have a lot of kids who want a hat…good luck.  Just to put the $56B in perspective, it’s more than double the $27 billion-plus that was spent on book purchases in 2015.  America – what a country!

“Stay Active!”

by Bob Sparrow

Sharon & Jack

Officially Spring will not be sprung until 5:58 p.m. on Wednesday, March 20, but this past weekend temperatures inched into the 80s and more importantly the rain stopped. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved the rain, but enough already! If I liked rain that much I would have moved to Seattle.

Linda and I took off for Santa Maria on Friday morning to attend the 80th birthday party of my sister-in-law, Sharon.  Our first stop was at Dana’s bakery in Monrovia, for their famous blueberry pancakes and the best bacon ever. But the best part of breakfast was time with granddaughter, Addison, who never ceases to amaze us.

Addison

We took a detour on our way up through Simi Valley, were we visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library to see an exhibit on Pompeii; as we will be visiting Pompeii later this year on our cruise around Italy. The exhibit included lots of information about life in the Roman Empire in the year 79 A.D. and in particular on the date of August 24th when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in a most dramatic style and buried the entire city of Pompeii under millions of tons of volcanic ash. With no planes, trains or automobiles to quickly get out of town, over 2,000 people were killed and fossilized in various positions trying to get out of the city.

While at the library, I took a picture of Linda with Ronnie and Nancy, who appeared a little stiff.

Our cloudless sunny drive continued over to the coast to Santa Barbara and lunch on the water at the Blue Water Grill, just across PCH from Stearns Wharf where we enjoyed the sun and salt air as we strolled the pier after lunch. We continued our drive up the coast and then inland to Santa Maria for a pre-birthday dinner at Jack & Sharon’s house.

Saturday morning we took a drive up the coast on another beautiful sunny day (it was almost like living in California) and had lunch at Wooly’s on the sand at Pismo Beach before returning to Santa Maria Country Club for Sharon’s birthday celebration which was attended by a group of 30 some odd family and friends, including both her children, Debbie and Brad, six of her seven grandchildren and 1 great grandchild. Sharon looks 65 and has plenty of spunk. When I asked her what her secret was she said, “Stay active!”

We’re just trying to keep up!

INTO THE TUNDRA

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

There are times in life when friendship becomes paramount.  Such was the case last week when one of my closest friend’s husband died after a three month struggle with pancreatic cancer.  The funeral services were planned for Minneapolis so a few of us did what good friends do – we made plans to go to Minnesota to support our friend.  It all sounded fine until someone asked me, “What is a California girl like you going to wear?”  Hmmmmm…good question.  I still have my ski socks and Ugg’s so I knew my toes would be toasty.  As for the rest of me, my good friend Patsy offered to loan me her sheared beaver coat for the trip.  Now that is a friend!  So off we went, bundled with coats, scarves and gloves, ready for the tundra.

My only other venture to the North Country was driving Interstate 90 from Chicago to Mt. Rushmore.  But that was in July, when our vistas were lush, green fields and wide open spaces.  In contrast, last week all I saw was white.  We stayed in Wayzata, a charming city on the north shore of Lake Minnetonka.  At least that’s what they told me. All I saw was white snow banks, tapering down to a very large expanse of more white.  They told me that was the lake.  In the middle of the “lake” I could see some huts and, unbelievably, a couple of pick up trucks!  How could that be a lake?  One of the locals explained that they were ice fishing huts and that people drove out to them.  In fact, at times when people have been over-served at the local pubs, they actually have drag racing out on the lake.  It gave me the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it – what if the ice cracked?  My California was beginning to show.

But as I say, Wayzata is a cute little town and we were told that Maggie’s Restaurant was the place to go for breakfast.  So our first morning we put on endless pieces of clothing and ventured out to see what the excitement was about.  Maggie’s is a typical greasy spoon diner – linoleum floors, Formica table tops, and waitresses with attitude.  As the three of us nestled into a booth our waitress came over and asked if we’d like coffee.  My friend Terri, a former model who is always dressed to the 9’s, asked if she could have a cappuccino.  The waitress began to shake her head and said, “This is Maggie’s.  You can have coffee or you can have coffee.”  You just know she wanted to end that sentence with “princess”.  We moved on to food, something Maggie’s is famous for.  Knowing that we would not eat again until dinner, we ordered like we were embarking on a 10 day trek – eggs, bacon, hash browns, pancakes, French toast.  Our order came quickly, plates filling every square inch of the table.  The waitress came back to check on things and with a bemused smile, looked at Terri and asked, “Would you like some more cappuccino?”

That afternoon we went into Minneapolis for the services.  It had begun snowing in the morning and would continue until early evening.  A block from our destination two cars in front of us slid and crashed, adding to our anxiety.  Between needing to wear four layers of clothing (which is a hassle when one needs to use the rest room) and navigating the snow to go anywhere I wondered to myself why anyone would live in that climate.  Later that night, a large group of us ate at Gianni’s Steakhouse, a fabulous restaurant which I understand has a lovely patio out back.  All I saw was white.  Around midnight we decided to walk back to our hotel, a distance of four blocks.  After all, it was only -5 with the wind-chill.  But on that walk, with no traffic in the street and a crystal clear sky, I loved the quiet, peaceful feeling of crunching through the snow.  It seemed like the perfect way to end such a sorrowful day.

Back home in Arizona, I held a new appreciation for the warmth.  I guess I really am a California/Arizona girl at heart because I did learn this: if I ever have to live in that cold climate I’m going to learn to wear adult diapers.

Fond Baseball Memories

by Bob Sparrow

(Details for this blog came from a one-page account that my father wrote about his baseball experience in the 40s and brother Jack’s recollections) 

Dad, Jack & me about the time we started playing catch

The crack of the bat, the smell of freshly cut grass, the ‘pop’ of a hardball hitting a leather glove. Baseball’s spring training has started with the regular season just around the corner. Baseball is still called America’s pastime, but as far as popularity goes, statistically football, basketball and NASCAR get more viewers.

But I still have a more personal connection to baseball, even though I only played Little League for two years and one year in high school and not that well. That connection came from my Dad, who started throwing a baseball with Jack and me from the time we were old enough to . . . catch it.

Dad loved baseball. As a freshman at Willows High School in northern California, he made the varsity squad as a second baseman, but it was the pre-Depression era and his father made him get a job instead of playing baseball. He was heartbroken. He did get to play high school baseball when his family moved to San Rafael and played well enough to get offered a tryout with the Sacramento Solons of the Pacific Coast League, but his dad again insisted that he get a job, as they were now deep into the Depression. I’m sure this experience weighed heavily on Dad’s decision later in life to make sure that Jack and I had every opportunity to play high school sports.

However, Dad did get to play baseball again. Our hometown of Novato had a semi-pro ‘Merchants League’ made up of 20-30 year olds from town that played other teams from the surrounding area, including a team from San Quentin prison, who only played ‘home’ games! At Novato home games, several of the wives would ‘pass the hat’ in order to pay for the umpire and some baseballs and bats; brother Jack was the ‘Bat Boy’ for the team. After the home games, win or lose, the team would go to the local watering hole, ‘The Village Inn’ where the owner, Lydia Quarg would buy them their first drink and the kids had a table in the back room where we had sodas and popcorn.  During hot games Lydia would send a case of cold beer into the dugout for the team to enjoy.

Dad was a great fielder, had great hands and could turn a double play from second base with the best of them, and he could also hit fairly well, not the long ball, but lots of singles; some that could have been doubles, but due to his slowness of foot, he had to stop at first. His teammates in Noavato kidded him by saying, “Maybe he doesn’t know that you don’t have to stop at first, that you can turn left.” Dad was one of the older players on the team and after several seasons he was getting a little ‘long in the tooth’, but because he was such a nice guy, the team didn’t really know how to tell him it was time for him to retire. They knew he had a great sense of humor, so the last home game of the season, before he got to the game his teammates put a rocking chair out at the second base position. When he got there, he took one look, laughed and played his last game. Such a great memory.

Dad’s love of baseball included taking us to games in San Francisco to watch the San Francisco Seals in Pacific Coast League play at Seals Stadium. I remember the first game we saw was against the Oakland Oaks and I can remember to this day several of the Seals players – Roy Nicely, Les Fleming, Dario Lodigiani and Cliff ‘Ears’ Melton. When the Giants moved from New York to San Francisco in 1958, they first played in Seals Stadium until their new stadium was finished and Dad took us to a number of Giants games where we got to watch the great Willie Mays play.

Willie Mays at Seals Stadium

So spring practice is when hope springs eternal and every team is saying, ‘This is the year’. I’ve been lucky as a lifelong fan of the San Francisco Giants that they’ve had recent World Series wins in 2010, 2012 and 2014. I know they’re hopeful this year as it’s Bruce Bochy’s final season as their manager.

Whether the Giants win another one this year remains to be seen, but as a new season gets under way, I’m reminded once again of playing catch with Dad and Jack in our yard and watching Dad play for the Novato Merchants – truly great baseball memories.

 

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GORED WOMEN

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Have You Seen This Lately?

Have you seen a lot of red ribbons lately?  Been accosted at the grocery store to donate to heart disease?  Or perhaps you’ve received 500 unsolicited address labels asking for an in-kind contribution?  Nope.  Neither have I.  You would be hard pressed to know that February is National Heart Month.  Contrast this with the month of October – National Breast Cancer Awareness month.  Every billboard, key chain and toilet seat has a pink ribbon on it.  I’ve written previously about the “pimping of the pink” (https://fromabirdseyeview.com/?p=5582).  My problem isn’t with the much-needed research on breast cancer.  After all, I have some very close friends that are alive today because of the advances made in breast cancer treatments.  My issue is with the ubiquitous pink ribbon that corporations and individuals use to solicit money when, in fact, very little of the money collected actually goes to research.  And in the mean time, money that could be used to fund research for other medical diseases gets squandered.

In fact, heart disease (heart attacks and stroke) kills more women than breast cancer.  According to an article in Harvard Health Publishing, in a survey conducted by the American Heart Association, about half of the women interviewed knew that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, yet only 13% said it was their greatest personal health risk. If not heart disease, then what? Other survey data suggest that on a day-to-day basis, women still worry more about getting breast cancer — even though heart disease kills six times as many women every year. Why the disconnect?

The survey answers may have been influenced by who and when women are afflicted with these diseases.  In the survey researchers found that breast cancer affects body image, sexuality, and self-esteem in ways that a diagnosis of heart disease does not. Also, heart disease tends to show up at an older age (on average, a woman’s first heart attack occurs at age 70), so the threat may not seem all that real to younger women. Most 50-year-old women know women their age who’ve had breast cancer but none who’ve had heart disease.  In fact, the latest report from the CDC indicates that cancer is the leading cause of death in women under the age of 65.  After that, heart disease kills more women than cancer by far.

So, perhaps there is also an “ageist” aspect to all this.  After all, no one who dies while receiving a Social Security check is classified as an unexpected death.  Sure, 70 is the new 50 but I’m not sure on average our bodies are aware of this new social phenomenon.  So older women face two hurdles: age and sex.  The American Heart Association survey also found that many women say their physicians never talk to them about coronary risk and sometimes don’t even recognize the symptoms, mistaking them instead for signs of panic disorder, stress, and hypochondria.   According to that same Harvard article,  a woman’s symptoms are often different from a man’s, and she’s much more likely than a man to die within a year of having a heart attack. Women also don’t seem to fare as well as men do after taking clot-busting drugs or undergoing certain heart-related medical procedures. Research is only now beginning to uncover the biological, medical, and social bases of these and other differences.

The American Heart Association came up with the February awareness initiative to bring some light to all of these issues.  And specifically, they have targeted women with the Go Red For Women campaign.  Their website provides lots of interesting facts and resources – it’s well worth your time to become familiar with it.  Unfortunately, whoever came up with the website name didn’t think things through because it reads “goredforwomen.com”  which, when read quickly, can also read Gored For Women.  Perhaps the AHA needs to hire the marketing geniuses that launched all those pink ribbons.

 

The Tape – Chapter 6

by Bob Sparrow

I hadn’t realized that it has been almost four years that I’ve left you hanging since the last episode of ‘The Tape’. For those new to the blog or those who may need a little refresher, here is where, in our ‘Archives’ (the column to the right) you can find the first five chapters.

Chapter 1 – Jan 6, 2014; Chap. 2 – Jan 20, 2014; Chap. 3 – May 5, 2014; Chap. 4 – July 14, 2014; Chap. 5 – March 30, 2015.

OR you can just email me or ask in the comment section below for the Word document with the first 5 chapters on it.

Chapter 6

Francisco Pizarro

As daylight slipped away, the Chief slowly got to his feet and started making his way back to the Jeep. I followed. We rode in silence back down the mountain as the lights from the Jeep bounced and searched the darkness for the unmarked road home. When we reached the café where we had begun our journey this morning, the Chief stopped in front, but before he motioned me to get out, he said, “By the time Meeka’s work was done there, she was sought after by the authorities as well as several vigilante groups. After narrowly escaping with her life on several occasions, she decided to leave the desert and headed toward the coast. The story goes that she found a ship out of San Diego headed for South American and signed on as a cook. She wanted to get to Peru as she had read many stories about the Spanish Conquistadors and their oppression of the Incas; it reminded her of what had happened here.” The Chief open the glove box, “There is an author and historian who can probably fill in a lot of blanks about Meeca’s experiences in South America.” He fumbled around a bit and finally pulled out a small business card and handed it to me. I could barely read the name in the dark; ‘Dr. Bud Easton’ and it had a telephone number with a Los Angeles area code underneath the name that was all that was on the card.

“Who is he?”, I asked. The Chief looked into the night sky for a moment and slowly shook his head and said, “I don’t know the whole story, in fact, I don’t know much of it at all, but I know that Meeka was an amazing woman, she was a crusader who was driven to try and right the wrongs of the world, even if she was hundreds, if not thousands, of years too late.” Doctor Easton is a fountain of knowledge on Meeka’s exploits in South America.”

“I’ll definitely look him up, thank you Chief for an amazing day.”  He nodded solemnly, I shut the car door and he drove off. I got into my car and started my ninety-minute drive home.

Don: Ninety minutes home and you’ve got my 90 minute tape in your pocket . . . coincidence?”

“I don’t believe in coincidences,” I said as I pulled ‘The Tape’ out of my jacket pocket and clicked it into the cassette player anxious to listen more carefully than I ever had before in hopes that, for whatever reason, it might make more sense to me now. I thought about meeting Dr. Easton, who miraculously was supposedly a fountain of knowledge about someone I’d never heard of until today.

The next day I drove to Dr. Easton’s house in a nice area of L.A.

Don: Is there a nice area of L.A.?

Yes, we’re in one. A long tree-lined driveway lead back to a beautiful home surrounded by a good deal of vegetation – very nice, and expensive I’m sure. I guess he’s sold a lot of books.

I parked and nervously rang the doorbell. Dr. Bud Easton opened the door almost immediately. He was a short stocky man with close eyes, a balding head and an easy smile. I had called him the night before and asked for a meeting, which he immediately agreed to and gave me directions to his home.

“You must be Bob, come on in” he said in a welcoming tone.

“I am, thank you so much for meeting with me.” I entered his beautiful home and he directed me to his library off the entry. It was like the ones you see in the movies, high ceilings, filled with dark oak paneled book shelves all the way to the top and filled with more books than I could imagine one person owning.

He went to a file drawer and pulled out a large folder filled with manuscripts and photos and I don’t know what else, and said, “So you told me you had an interest in learning more about Meeka and her exploits in South America.”

I said “Yes, but it astounds me that there is even any material about her at all. Wasn’t she just a poor Indian woman who had this crazy idea of avenging the deaths of some of her forefathers? How were her exploits even known about?”

Dr. Easton open the binder and said, “Before we had scribes and history books, events were preserved through oral history, passed down from generation to generation. I’ve made a life’s work out of collecting oral history and getting it down on paper; that’s how I came across Meeka’s story. It had a lot of different version, as you might suspect, accounts of oral history can change depending on who’s telling it.

Don: Isn’t that just like written history which is written by the winners?

“You mentioned that you have a tape of some rather obscure language that you’re trying to translate is that correct.”

Yes

“Do you have the tape with you?”

“Yes, I said as I set it on the desk in front of him. It’s 90 minute in total, I don’t know if you want to listen to it all right now.”

“Well, let’s start it and see how far we get.

I clicked the tape in the cassette player he had on his desk and we sat and listened until we got a little past half way through the first side.

“OK, that’s good.” he said and I shut it off

He continued, “About half way through this first side the language changed a bit which coincided with her move from the deserts in Southern California to South America.

With eyes wide open I said, “You mean you know what is being said on this tape?”

Don: Does this mean we’re actually getting someplace?

Dr. Easton continued, “Yes, for the most part.  The first half of side one is spoken in Inviatim, a language thought to originate from the Aztecs, and it tells of the story that it sounds like the Chief took you to in the Santa Rosa mountains. Then half way through it switches to dialects more associated with the Inca, which would follow Meeka’s travels from the deserts in Southern California to the west coast of South American.”

What I heard in the second half of this first side is the story of how Meeka researched this history of the Spanish invasion of the new world, specifically Francisco Pizarro, who was a Spanish conquistador, who some revere as the person who brought Christianity to the people in the new world and reviled by others who saw him as lying, murdering, intruder who eradicated nearly 90% of the Inca people.

Wow, how did he do that? How could he do that?

Actually it wasn’t that hard.

To be continued . . . sooner than 4 years!