In Memorial – Namaste!

by Bob Sparrow

Patrick’s Memorial Hike

A week ago Sunday I had the pleasure of going on a ‘Memoria Hike’ for our dearly departed friend, Patrick Michael.  It was his birthday and he had passed a year ago April at 62; he is still missed every day, not just by his family, but by our entire neighborhood and a whole host of friends and co-workers.  The hike took place at Peter’s Canyon in Orange and was attended by 20+ neighbors and family, and several dogs!

Like I’m sure most of his friends think, my relationship with Patrick was special – he always had time for everyone, could make or fix anything, although sometimes it cost him a finger or two, lost via his table saw, and he always had a great attitude and a good sense of humor – especially the ability to laugh at himself.

Whitney hikers

After moving into the neighborhood, for years I didn’t really get to know him, or rather knew him as the guy who sang “There once was a man from Nantucket” on a co-ed party bus during the holidays.   At another neighborhood holiday party in 2007, Patrick told us that he had just returned from climbing Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the continental United States at 14,505 feet.  This intrigued several of us at the party, so we asked him if he was interested in helping us train and lead another assent of Whitney.  He, of course, agreed – and thus was born, The Trail Boss.

He trained us on local mountains, climbing Mt. San Antonio (Baldy) many times and Mt. San Jacinto out in the desert.  By June 2008 we were ready.

The night before our hike, we camped at Whitney Portal (altitude around 8,400 feet) at the trailhead to Whitney to get acclimated to the altitude. The next day about two-thirds of the way to the summit, one of our hikers, who is diabetic, could go no further due to a blood-sugar imbalanced, typical of Patrick, rather than continue the hike to the summit, he turned around to accompany the hiker back down the mountain, while the rest of us continued on.

Half Dome cables to the top

Me, Kirin, Dom, Patrick in Nepal

Patrick had reintroduced me to hiking and I loved it, so I wanted to do more.  We planned to hike Yosemite’s Half Dome, but the first time we tried, the cables that get you to the very top of the dome, were down, so our hike ended at the base of the final assent.  In 2012, we returned, and with the cables up, we were able to reach the top and take in that spectacular view. After hikes in Joshua Tree National Park and neighboring Ladder’s Canyon, in 2013, Linda had given me a 70th birthday present of a hike in the Himalayas in Nepal (I checked to see if it was a one-way ticket!)  The trip was for two and she thought that my brother, Jack would accompany me, but he was not really into hiking, so my obvious choice was to ask Patrick – I did and he happily agreed.  So, in June of 2014 I enjoyed my favorite hike of all time with one of my best friends of all time.  On that 12-day journey, Patrick and I enjoyed the people and the culture of the Himalayas and shared many amazing experiences.  It’s where we learned the meaning of the original Sanskrit greeting, Namaste – “The divine in me bows to the divine in you.”  As a reminder of Patrick, a Namaste plaque and Buddhist prayer flags from Kathmandu, hang in my patio. As an aside, I still stay in contact with, Dom Tamang, our Nepalese guide for that hike.

A year later, Patrick and I, and a childhood friend of Patrick and the friend’s son, did a four-day hike on the Inca Trail to

Patrick at my mirror

Machu Picchu – another spectacular experience that Patrick’s enthusiasm and curiosity made even more special.

After returning from Machu Picchu, we discussed where our ‘next big hike’ should be; I suggested Kilimanjaro, which Patrick, for whatever reasons, wasn’t too keen on initially, but some time later he came to me and said, “Let’s do Kilimanjaro”.  Unfortunately, that box will remain unchecked.

I keep the program from Patrick’s memorial service next to my bathroom mirror, so I see him every morning and am reminded of three things, 1) I was fortunate to have Patrick in my life, 2) I should strive to be more like him, and 3) no one is guaranteed tomorrow – live life to the fullest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE LOW DOWN ON SHOW LOW

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

              Torreon Golf Course

Twenty years ago, my husband and I ventured up to Show Low, Arizona, to play golf at the Torreon golf club.  We made the three-hour trip up and back in the same day.  I think we were younger then.  Since that trip, our summer vacations have entailed long car rides with overnight stays in roadside hotels.  The allure of those trips has faded, right along with my arthritic back, so this year we decided to plan for at least one of our summer trips to be closer to home. We were enticed by the idea of finding a summer getaway that was quick and easy. We remembered Torreon and, as luck would have it, I was able to secure a cute house for rent on Airbnb that was right in the heart of the community.  Only after I had rented it did I learn that Torreon had been bought out by the membership and outside play was no longer allowed.  I asked the pro at our club if he could wrangle a reciprocal tee time for us, but after he stopped laughing, he reminded me that summer is their “high season”.

       Our Little House in the Pines

Undaunted by the prospect of not being able to play bad golf, we decided instead we would use this trip to explore the area.  We were hopeful that if we liked it, Show Low might become our “go to” vacation spot.  Easy drive, no overnight stays, and a twenty degree drop in temperature from Scottsdale.  So off we went, Dash the Wonder Dog in tow, for a week of rest, relaxation and exploration.  The house was as advertised – clean, cute and nestled in the pines.  What they had not made clear was that they had no cable or satellite television hook-up.  So, no live tv, including news or, more critically, sports.  We could log into apps to get clips of events, which was better than nothing, but not ideal.  You may be wondering why no live television was such a big deal, when the purpose of our trip was to explore the area. Well, there were two good reasons.

         Downtown Tahoe city

First, the town of Show Low was a bit of a disappointment.  I grew up spending summer weekends in Tahoe City, where we strolled the main street, enjoying the cute shops and restaurants.  As an adult, my husband and I have spent time almost every summer in Mammoth Lakes and Sun Valley.  Again, quaint mountain towns with charm that provide an escape from big city living.  Show Low, on the other hand, was like visiting a suburb of Phoenix.  Every big box store imaginable is there – Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, CVS – as well as a plethora of car dealerships. The main street in town is Highway 60, so there were no nice sidewalks to amble down.  Instead, it was a series of strip centers followed by one of those ubiquitous “big” stores.  The number one rated restaurant in town is Cattlemen’s, which is fine if you’re into eating half a cow “with all the fixin’s”.  My husband also observed that some of the people we saw could possibly be distilling their own liquor.

                           Pinetop

Absent any charm in Show Low, we ventured 20 minutes down the road to Pinetop-Lakeside.  Both my niece and a good friend had recommended the town, and they were right.  It had much more charm that Show Low, some good hiking trails and a semi-private golf course that looked beautifully kept.  However, even Pinetop has suffered the effects of the economic downturn – there were many closed stores and restaurants in town.  We would have spent more time checking out some of the lakes and trails except for the second factor that interfered with our vacation: the weather.  The temperatures hovered near 90 degrees; a full 10 degrees hotter than normal for July.  At an altitude of over 6300′, the sun felt like it was four feet away.  Hiking mid-day was out of the question.  More importantly, the combination of altitude and heat proved to be too much for Dash.  He paced and panted, without relief.  We spent as much time as possible indoors (thus the need for some television entertainment) but finally, when the temperature was forecasted to reach 95 degrees, we gave up the ghost on Wednesday and went home.

The old adage is true, there is no place like home.  Dash was instantly better when he was returned to his air-conditioned surroundings and his cooling mat with a fan blowing on him.  My husband had the golf and hockey channels to watch, and I resumed cleaning out closets and watching Brit Box dramas.  Fortunately, the weather at home has been below normal, so we can even venture out for walks every morning and could sit outside in the evenings. It was good to get away for a few days, but sadly, our quest to find a nearby summer escape continues.

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

by Bob Sparrow

Sagers, Budds, VanBoxmeers, Sparrows

The sky was deep blue and the air was clean and thin, very thin – the mountains, still with some snow on their peaks, rose up beautifully before us.  I knew I wasn’t in Kansas or even in southern California anymore – it wasn’t air I could get my teeth into.  I was in the ski mecca of the mountain west, Park City, Utah.  But this time of year, the hills are not covered with “The Greatest Snow on Earth”, but rather we see green ski runs cut out of the mountains, with lift chairs spanning over them, and cutting through stands of pine, fir and quaking aspen.  Summer is indeed a great time of year to visit this magnificent place.

Canyons Golf driving range

The gift of a timeshare week brought the Budds, Sagers, VanBoxmeers and us to this home of the 2002 Winter Olympics, which has done nothing but grow since then.  Our main activity, other than eating and drinking, was playing golf – some good and some bad, both score-wise and course-wise.  We played four rounds of golf; we tried to get on a few private courses, but they must have been forewarned about our golf acumen, so all our rounds were on public courses.  Three of them were south of Park City in the Heber–Midway area, the best of which was Homestead, a good course that they say new ownership is going to make great!  The one I would not recommend is next to Olympic Village in Park City called Canyons Golf.  I see online that it got a 4 out of 5 rating, but trust me, all this course needed was a windmill and a couple of clowns’ mouths to putt into to make it a completely hideous experience.  There was one hole with a 250 yard drop in elevation from tee to green.  The gas, instead of electric, golf carts made it extra special.  See the photo of their driving range – we should have known before we started that this wasn’t going to be Pebble Beach.

Grappa Restaurant

So, my first ‘Don’t’ travel tip is don’t play Canyons Golf.  My second tip might be regarding Park City’s most famous restaurant, Grappa.  The setting is beautiful, an interesting building at the top of Main Street, with lots of deck space for outside dining, which is gorgeous on a summer’s evening . . .HOWEVER, high-priced food is one thing, over-priced, very average food is quite another, and that’s what we got.  So, nice setting, good service, but very average good for a very premium price.  Let’s move on to something more positive.

If you come to this area, I would highly recommend a visit to the Stein Erikson Lodge, which is just over the hill from Park City in Deer Valley.  Stein Erikson was a champion skier and Olympic gold medal winner from Norway, who moved to Park City and built the lodge in 1982 – it earned the prestigious Forbes Five-Star rating and has maintained this rating ever since and is still Utah’s only resort property to have a Forbes Five-Star status.

Alpenglobes on deck of Stein Erikson Lodge

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend staying there, as it is fairly pricey – regular rooms start around $700 a night and goes steeply up from there.  But we just went to look at the facility to see how the ‘rich people’ live – they live very nicely!  We did have a drink on the lodge deck imagining ourselves on a snowy winter evening in one of those ‘bubble tables’ that rotates and keeps you warm while sitting on the deck during snow season – I was to learn later that they are called Alpenglobes.

The other highlight for me was to visit my, and son Jeff’s, college alma mater in Salt Lake City, Westminster College – the campus was quiet, as it was a summer Sunday, but still looked magnificent.  The tour for the rest of the group was not quite as thrilling I’m sure, but they were able to see the brick at the Alumni House that shows the seal for the college that I created.  OK, it wasn’t just me; in my senior year I needed a couple of units in the arts, so I took an art class.  The college board had just come to the art teacher and asked if he could have his students create a new crest for the school.  Two nights before the assignment was due, I invited my football teammate and center, Bruce Takeno to the local pub, The Sugarbowl, to help me create something to turn in.  With the help of a few beers and the lions on the Coors beer bottles, we scratch something out on a bar napkin.  When we had a rough draft, Bruce, who had much greater artistic skills than I, and lived in Salt Lake, said that he would take it home and ‘make it pretty’.  What he handed me the next morning, slightly resembled what was on the napkin, but done

Westminster College crest

My old college girlfriend was still there!

in oil paint on stretched canvas – it looked spectacular!  I turned it in, and the school board voted it the winner.  I did confess to my art teacher that while I contributed to the overall design, Bruce was the artist in the group.  I passed the class!  It has since been replaced.

Another highlight was just walking Main Street in Park City – it is filled with gift shops, bars, restaurants and . . . more gift shops, bars and restaurants!  Great location, great friends, clean air, great trip!

 

CHIRP!

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

               It looks so innocent

The summer doldrums are in full effect here in Arizona.  With temperatures soaring well over 100 and the nightly lows in the mid-80’s, it’s an optimal time to be indoors.  Apparently, it is also the perfect time for our smoke detectors to set off in the middle of the night.  We are no strangers to problems with smoke detectors – they seem to have an almost human-like sense for the most annoying time to go off.  Kind of like the neighbor who blares heavy metal music on the very night you retired early to read a good book.  Last year we replaced all of our smoke detectors and inserted long-lasting batteries.  We were under the naive illusion that we would be spared any problems for the next ten years, by which time we would either be dead or have moved.  Not so fast.

                  Sadly accurate

I’ve had plenty of experience with chirping smoke detectors.  As a new homeowner, I once thought the chirping was a sign that fire was imminent, so I grabbed the dog and ran outdoors in my nightgown, sure that I had evaded a fiery demise.  The neighbors got a good laugh out of that one.  I have also set the smoke detectors off numerous times while attempting to cook dinner.  Most of the time it was simply my inept frying skills or a forgotten pot of soup that set off the alarm, although once I actually did set fire to the oven while cooking a roast.  As the fire trucks rolled up to my house the neighbors got a kick out of that one too.  In our current house the smoke detector in our living room went off one August night.  The problem is it is a 16-foot ceiling, and we don’t have a ladder tall enough to reach it.  Long story short, we ended up calling the non-emergency line at the fire department and three hunky firemen came to fix it.  I thought the response was so gracious (and they were so cute) that I’ve tried to think of reasons to call them back ever since.  Eventually we ended up taking the battery out of that unit, which I later discovered, has rendered it useless.

In any event, our latest foray into the vagaries of smoke detectors has been the smoke detector in our master bedroom (naturally) that has not just chirped but sounded the alarm several times over the past few weeks.  Not a constant blaring, just one scream. Enough to give you cardiac arrest at 2 a.m. in the morning.  Since the unit is only a year old, I knew it didn’t need to be replaced.  The green light was going on and off every two seconds, which I learned means it needs to be reset.  So up on the ladder we went, disconnected the unit, pressed the test button for 20 seconds, and then reinstalled it. Done and dusted!

But it got me to wondering WHY they always go off in the middle of the night.  I did some research with the smoke detector company, and here is what I learned.  The chirping is caused by the relationship between the battery’s charge level and a home’s air temperature.  As a smoke alarm’s battery nears the end of its life, the amount of power it produces causes an internal resistance. A drop in room temperature increases this resistance, which may impact the battery’s ability to deliver the power necessary to operate the unit in an alarm situation. Most homes are the coolest between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. That’s why the alarm may sound a low-battery chirp in the middle of the night, and then stop when the home warms up a few degrees.

Okay – whatever you say.  But in Scottsdale, where the A/C is running at a constant temperature day and night in the summer, I’m not buying it.  This week, a unit on the other side of the house has started chirping periodically – like every 10 hours or so. Always in the middle of the night. I still say there are gremlins built into every unit, intent on ruining a good night’s sleep and triggering anxiety with every “chirp”.  At this point I feel a bit like Bill Murray and the gopher.  Explosives may be my only option.

 

 

Like a Rolling Stone . . .

by Bob Sparrow

I checked the bottom of my feet at the end of June and there was no moss gathering on them – it was, to say the least, a very busy month!  After returning from the Welk Resort at the end of May; June was filled with a Coach House concert by Desperado, a very good Eagles cover band, then a father-son fishing trip to Alaska, then our bands’, Monday Knights’, show at Yorba Linda Country Club, followed by our annual Margaritaville party at our home, with some 50 guests in attendance.  A fun, but exhausting month.  You’d think that it would be time for me to kick back and smell the coffee, but as you’re reading this, I’m in Park City, Utah looking for my golf ball in the Wasatch Mountains, visiting some old college haunts and trying to recover from our neighborhood July 4th celebration.

So, the rest of this blog is a pictorial of a hectic June.  I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with a report from deep within the Wasatch Mountains.

Desperado at the Coach House

 

Son, Jeff and the Old Man in the Sea

With my two beautiful daughters

One of the Soggy Bottom Boys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Willie, stoned at the mic

Parakeets Sarah, Kristin and Dana at Margaritaville

HAPPY 4TH – SMOKE ‘EM IF YOU GOT ‘EM

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

John and Abigail Adams

Happy Independence Day!  We’ve been celebrating this day for a long time – 245 years to be exact.  The first Independence Day celebration took place in Philidelphia on July 4, 1777 — one year after the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress.  It was none other than John Adams who wrote to his wife, Abigail, that he hoped the anniversary of independence would be marked for years to come by “guns” and “bonfires” and “illuminations.” Because the first July 4th fireworks display happened in the middle of the Revolutionary War, some historians believe they were supposed to be a morale booster for the troops.  The celebrations at the time would have also included the firing of cannons, adding to the explosive nature of the festivities and, no doubt, innumerable cases of hearing loss. When the war ended, coinciding with an increasing concern for public safety, those “big guns” were phased out and replaced almost entirely by fireworks. Major cities and towns often sponsored the fireworks displays, in the hope of drawing citizens to public celebrations instead of more dangerous private firework shows.  I’m not sure even 245 years later that we have cracked that nut.

                          Tahoe fireworks

As I have said in previous years, when I was growing up, I thought the 4th of July was one of the greatest holidays.  Each year we went to our cabin at Lake Tahoe to watch the glorious fireworks display.  The fire department was in charge of setting off the fireworks, which were placed on a barge in the middle of the lake. It really was magical to watch the lights from the fireworks reflect on the lake.  It was almost as if there were two shows at once – one, clear and crisp against a dark, night sky and the other echoing those lights over rippling water.  I was mesmerized by it each year and fireworks “on the lake” continue to be one of my most treasured memories.

               A laser light show

So, it was with some sadness I read that when the Lake Tahoe fireworks resume tonight, after a two year pause due to Covid, the traditional fireworks display will be replaced by drone laser lights. According to the north Lake Tahoe civic group sponsoring the show, the shift aligns with the region’s commitment to sustainability and stewardship, and addresses community concerns related to fire risk and environmental impacts. In addition to eliminating the risk of fire and environmental pollution, another significant benefit is the reduced audio impact on domestic pets and local wildlife. It will be a 15-minute show, incorporating over 100 drones, and choreographed to music.

         Happy 4th of July

I’m sure the kids of today will think those lasers are magical too.  I certainly understand the need to reduce the fire risk and Dash the Wonder Dog would appreciate the lack of booming noises that scare the bejesus out of him. But I’m just old school enough to think a laser light show is to fireworks what Cheez-Whiz is to Camembert.  So, this will be the first year that I’m not longing to be at Tahoe on the 4th of July.  Instead, I may resort to something I did for several years in my misspent middle age – light up a cigar and celebrate our wonderful country.  Happy 4th!

A Tale of Two Sittings – A Fish Story

by Bob Sparrow

Sitka, Alaska

I have readily admitted that I do not understand fishing, not because I’ve failed at it every time I’ve tried it, which I have, but it just doesn’t make sense to me.  I’m told that fishing is a sport, and if it is, it is one of the very few sports that does not require one to be in shape, unless you consider ‘round’ a shape.  While most athletes consume energy drinks or water during an athletic contest, the main beverage of fishing is beer.  At best, fishing is an activity, not a sport, and I am reluctant to even call it an activity, given that there is not much of that going on either.

It was my love of travel and a trip with my son that had me excited about visiting a place I’d never been before, Sitka, Alaska, even though I’d have to fish there!  Flying into Sitka is breathtaking; as the snow-capped mountain, thickly forested woodlands, and thousands of little islands in the Alaska archipelago unfold below you prior to landing.

So far, so good, maybe fishing here won’t be so bad after all.

Totem Square Hotel & Marina

Captain Mike meets us at the airport and says ‘Hey’ (We’ll learn later that that’s a long conversation for him), throws our gear in the back of his van, and we pile in and head to the Totem Square Hotel & Marina – right on the water.  A quick walk through the quaint little town of Sitka to get something to eat and then it’s early to bed for a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call.

As I crawled into bed it was still light outside, but, as I was to learned, it was always going to be light outside . . . it’s Alaska, in the summer!!  As I lye in bed, I  wondered why I was here.  I hate fishing, I’m no good at fishing, fishing is boring – it’s baiting a hook, dropping it in the water and then reeling it back in, mostly with nothing on it.  It’s really mostly sitting; sitting in the van to get to the boat, sitting in the boat for about an hour to get to where the captain thinks the fish are, sitting with your line in the water and sitting around complaining about why the fish aren’t biting.  So, you sit around and have a few beers.

Me, Capt. Mike and the cod I had to throw back because it was too big

Day 1: I understand that a big part of fishing is about the experience – our first day experience had most everyone sea sick, due to the rough seas on a cold and windy morning.  What am I doing here?!!  Some of us, including me, threw their breakfast into the ocean – and not in a good way.  It was extremely rough seas which was apparently occupied by only a few fish.  At one point, after endless rough seas and hours of catching nothing, I looked at my watch assuming that we’d be thankfully headed in shortly – it was 10:30!!!  I had made up my mind right then that I was going to take tomorrow off – I could not see me doing this three days in a row.  I wanted a day where I my breakfast would stay in my stomach.  To add insult to injury, the only fish I caught was a ling cod that was TOO BIG, yes, too big, and I had to throw it back!  So, I learned that there were things about fishing that I hated that I didn’t even know I hated.  Throwing back a fish that was too big was one of them!  At the end of the day, we were all a little green in the gills and had only a couple of fish in the cooler to show for our days’ torture.  A delicious dinner at Mangiare’s, a great Italian restaurant in town, somewhat soothed an otherwise dreadful day.  I was reminded how much I hate fishing!

Day 2: Today we had calm seas, warm weather, little wind and thus a much smoother ocean, plus we all took Dramamine to start the day.  Fishing is really a great sport and I’ve discovered that I’m not that bad at it after all.   By early afternoon we had caught our limit of salmon and ling cod and had also bagged several halibut.  You know, when you feel at one with the ocean and you’re outsmarting the fish, you learn that there is a mental side to fishing.  And anyone who tells you that fishing is not physical, hasn’t spent 15-20 minutes with a fish fighting for its life on the line, trying to make sure you’re pulling and reeling at the right times to make sure you don’t lose him.  Fishing is mental, physical and you can have a beer.    I love fishing!

Day 3:  Day three was thankfully closer to Day 2 than Day 1, just not as fruitful.

Jeff with big salmon catch  and fishermen, Matt, Mark, Larry, Jeff & Chase

     

All in all this trip provided some great memories of spending time with son, Jeff and friends Mark, Chase, Larry and Matt, catching some great fish (we each brought home 27 lbs. of fileted salmon, halibut and ling cod) along with having a few beers and experiencing enough fish stories to last a lifetime.

 

 

 

IT’S A GRAND OLD FLAG DAY

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Last week was Flag Day, our annual celebration of the stars and stripes.  Did you miss it?  I almost did but my Google calendar conveniently reminded me. I’m not sure the day gets its due, given that it falls between Memorial Day and the 4th of July.  In fact, I’m not even sure how Flag Day got its start or how we are officially supposed to celebrate it.  Unlike the two aforementioned holidays, I don’t see people laying wreaths on graves or barbequing hot dogs on Flag Day.  So, in preparation for next year, I decided it was high time for me to find out what the day is about and whether it will require a trip to the grocery store to properly prepare for it.

Betsy, showing her handiwork to Washington

President Woodrow Wilson officially proclaimed June 14th as Flag Day in 1916.  June 14th was chosen because the original adoption of a national flag was June 14, 1777.  In 1949, National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress.  That could possibly be the last time Congress passed anything on a non-partisan basis.  In any event, it was good to have a national flag.  Up to that point, states had their own flags and George Washington felt it was important to rally the troops around a single flag.  History books tell us that he approached his personal seamstress, Betsy Ross, to sew the first flag.  Note, she is not credited with designing the first flag.  In fact, it has since been confirmed that Francis Hopkinson, a delegate from New Jersey who signed the Declaration of Independence, designed the American flag. But when charged with bringing the design to life, Betsy did make one significant change.  The original plan was for the thirteen stars, representing the original colonies, to be six-pointed.  However, Ms. Ross, being efficient and most likely anticipating her future workload, decided to make the stars five-pointed because she could fold the fabric in half and cut them out in one swath.  I like to think of her action as the beginning of the industrial revolution.

Bernard Cigrand

In any event, once our freedom from the British was secured, we didn’t pay much attention to the flag itself.  It wasn’t until 1885 that the flag got its own day.  That year, Bernard Cigrand, a small-town Wisconsin teacher, originated the idea for an annual flag day, to be celebrated across the country every June 14. That year, he led his school in the first formal observance of the holiday.  From that point on, he devoted his life to promoting the observance of Flag Day.  He became president of the American Flag Day Association and later of the National Flag Day Society, which allowed him to promote his cause with organizational backing.  With that backing, many cities and towns organized parades and picnics to celebrate the day.  I’m sure food was involved but I don’t think there is anything official.  I see an opportunity to declare cake the food of choice for Flag Day.

Another interesting fact about Flag Day is that it has to be proclaimed by the President each year.  Seems rather odd that they just can’t issue a permanent requirement to observe it every June 14.  Then again, isn’t it perfectly fitting that the government works in such an inefficient manner?  I checked on this and, sure enough, President Biden issued a proclamation for Flag Day 2022 on June 10. People may have been too distracted by inflation to notice.  Plus, I think the flag gets a bad rap in general these days.  Too often people confuse patriotism and love of country with politics.  People employ the flag to signify how patriotic they are, even when they are really just trying to send a political statement.

“Captain America” no more

This conflation of patriotism and politics is often seen in the sports world, by both players and fans.  Perhaps no better example of someone who “uses” the flag is the golfer, Patrick Reed.  He was so over-the-top patriotic at the Ryder Cup a few years ago that he was branded “Captain America”.  That was then.  This is now: Reed signed on with the new LIV golf tour, sponsored by the Saudis, for a lot of money. So much for his patriotism.  Or maybe he just needed gas money. Regardless, I doubt we’ll see Mr. Reed sporting the red, white and blue when he tees it up in his first LIV tournament next week.

So now you might know a bit more about Flag Day.  You’ve got plenty of time to go buy a flag, organize a parade, or better yet, bake a cake in preparation for next year.

Road to Utopia

by Bob Sparrow

Me at the Giggling Marlin

You might not have noticed, but over the past eleven years of writing about my experiences, you’ve not heard a lot of ‘fish stories’.  Just one in fact, which sort of sums up my fishing acumen – my trip to Cabo back in July 2012.  Here’s the link in case you’re in need of a good laugh!

https://fromabirdseyeview.com/?p=712

Yes, that’s me hanging upside down at the Giggling Marlin in Cabo, the penalty for being ‘skunked’.  And in a ‘father-like-son’ moment, Jeff experienced the same fate.

Jeff at the Giggling Marlin

Now, 10 years later, we’re off to try fishing again, this time to Alaska with neighbors, Mark Johnson, Larry Affentranger and our three sons/sons-in-law, Jeff Sparrow, Chase Johnson and Matt Paul.  Mark and Larry are experienced fishermen, why they invited us along, I’m not sure – other than comic relief.  Or maybe they just didn’t believe how bad a fisherman we were and wanted to witness it firsthand.

When Jeff was growing up, I felt obligated to take him fishing. Isn’t that what dads and sons do?  So, I took him to Big Bear Lake – we caught a boot, Mammoth’s Lake Mary – we caught a lady’s undergarment, Lake Tahoe – we caught a cold.  We’ve NEVER caught a fish!  When I sent Jeff the flyer about this Alaska fishing trip which ‘GUARANTEED’ us to catch fish, he called me after he’d read the brochure and said, “They may have to change their guarantee after the Sparrow boys’ visit!”

We’re headed to Sitka, Alaska, which is on the ‘Alaskan Panhandle’ on the island of Baranof in the Gulf of Alaska between Juneau and Ketchikan– I’m not sure if we can see Russia from there or not.  I’ll let you know.  Sitka was actually under Russian rule from 1799 – 1867.  So, it may be on Russia’s list to re-take at some point – hopefully not this week!

While Sitka is the 5th largest city in Alaska, it has only a population of about 8,500.  If you want to get a real ‘feel’ for the city, you can watch the Sandra Bullock movie, The Proposal, which was shot there.

On my ‘check the box’ list, I can tell you that Alaska is one of only five of the United States that I’ve never visited.  Additionally, I’m getting another check the box – some of you more senior, seniors will remember the old Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Dorothy Lamour ‘Road movies’, which took them to various exotic locations around the world.  Even though, as my wife continually reminds me, the movies were shot in the back lot of Paramount Studios in Hollywood, I still credit them for giving me the ’travel lust’ that keeps we wanting to visit more and more places.  The seven ‘road movies’ included the following destinations: Singapore, Zanzibar, Morocco, Bali, Hong Kong, Rio and Utopia (Utopia in the movie is Alaska).  So, this will be the first ‘road movie’ destination that I’ve visited.  I want to visit them all and I’m not getting any younger!

Sitka, Alaska

Back to Alaska, the plan is to fly up there on Saturday, fish on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and fly back on Wednesday.  I’m sure Mark, Chase, Larry and Matt will be bringing back large packages of flash-frozen Halibut, Salmon and whatever else is swimming around up there.  Jeff’s and my bag will be filled with dirty laundry, Band-Aids to cover hook gashes and soggy shoes.  The weather prediction as of now is ‘rain’ every day!   So, it will be cold, wet and probably fishless, but I’m still guessing we will have a good time!

I’ll let you know.

 

The Bubble Machine is Still Wondaful ah Wonderful

by Bob Sparrow

The name Lawrence Welk calls up one of two thoughts:  If you’re of a certain age, you’re thinking, bandleader, who had an accent, a TV variety show, a ‘bubble machine’ and played ‘champagne’ music (Because his music was smooth yet bubbly, like champagne); and everything was always “Wondaful ah Wondaful”.  If you’re not of a certain age, you’re thinking, “Who the heck is Lawrence Welk, and why are we even talking about him?”

Because Linda and I spent last week at the Lawrence Welk Resort in Escondido, CA, now, just called the Welk Resort, as Lawrence has passed, but not without living the quintessential American dream.  He was born in the German-speaking community of Strasburg, North Dakota, to parents who had emigrated from Odessa, Ukraine.  He left school while a 4th grader, to help work on the family farm and did not learn to speak English until he was 21.  He loved music from an early age and convinced his parents to buy him an accordion for what would be today between $5 – $6,000!  His love of music, business acumen and focused drive, got him on the radio, then television, then into creating resort destinations – the one in Escondido, his first.  In all, he ended up creating eight, up-scale resorts in places like Lake Tahoe, Cabo San Lucas, Palm Springs and Branson, Missouri.  He ultimately sold them to Marriott for $430,000,000.  Not bad for a guy with less than a 4th-grade grade education!

After checking into the Welk Resort on Saturday, I took Linda up to the Temecula Creek Inn on Sunday, to meet up with daughters, Stephanie and Dana to do a wine tasting that they had given her for Mother’s Day.  Dana brought daughter, Addison, with her so I could babysit her for the next 24 hours.

Addison and I drove directly from the Temecula Creek Inn to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (the old Lion Country Safari), which I hadn’t been to in many, many years, and was pleasantly surprised at what a great facility it had turned into.  But before we could see the elephants, rhinos, lions, giraffes, apes, birds, etc., Addison had to have her face painted and visit a few of the gift shops.  After 3-4 very fun hours with the animals, we then went back to the Welk and found the pool with the giant water slide that Addison showed no fear in going down – feet first and head first!  After a full day of zoo and pool, we drove to the city of Vista for Addison’s favorite dinner – sushi!  And on the way home we saw the ‘Blood Moon’ and I explained to Addison what an eclipse was.  I asked her the next morning if she remembered what it was and she told me that this was a lunar eclipse where the earth passed between the sun and the moon – so the lesson was learned, as I imagined it would be!  We met the girls in the morning for breakfast back at the Temecula Creek Inn – as I gave Addison back to Dana, I told her it wasn’t really like babysitting, it was like hanging out with a very fun young lady!

For the next several days, Linda and I played three rounds of golf, two on the Welks property, one at the Oaks Course, a short par 3 course (not recommended), one at the Welks Fountains Executive Course (recommended), and one round about 30 minutes away at Mt. Woodson, or what I’ve renamed it, “Mt. Bring-A-Lot-Of-Balls”.  It’s a beautiful course in the hills of Ramona and I would highly recommend this one – just bring plenty of balls!  On our way home from Mt. Woodson, we just happened to go by Harrah’s Casino (I should have known that if I left the navigating to Linda that we’d end up at a casino!)  We had a great dinner in the casino at Fieri’s Steak House and felt good about the contributions we gave to our Native American friends at the casino.

The night before we checked out, we went to the great little theatre (seats about 350) on the Welk property to see a performance by Fortunate Son, a Creedence Clearwater Revival cover band – great songs, great show!!

Excellent facility, fun time, and close by – good enough that it could be on our ‘annual trip’ list.  Perhaps Addison will want to join us for a day or two!!