PERSPECTIVE

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

My husband and his mother, 1941

Ten years ago this week my mother-in-law passed away at the age of 96.  That’s a good run by anyone’s standards but given her life story, it was truly extraordinary.  I’ve been thinking about her a lot this summer as we have wended our way through the coronavirus pandemic.  At times it was easy to get discouraged, between social distancing, isolation from family and not being able to eat the raspberry granola pancakes at our favorite restaurant.  But whenever I would begin to feel just the teensiest bit sorry for myself I would think of all that she endured and realize what a dope I was for being ungrateful.   Some may have read my previous posts about her, or read our book, In the Enemy’s Camp, but for those of you who are unfamiliar the following is a recap.

 

          Internee shanties 

Kathleen Chapman Watson was born in the Philippines to a British mother and an American father.  She enjoyed a wonderful childhood that she spoke about fondly for the rest of her days.  At age 22 she married Daniel Watson, a Scot who was based in Manila working for a Glasgow import/export company.  They expanded their family in 1937 with a son, Richard, and in 1941 with my husband, Alan.  They believed their life to be perfect.  Then in December 1941 the Japanese attacked Manila.  By January, all men who possessed Allied citizenship were taken to an internment camp at Santo Tomas University.  Kathleen and the boys stayed in their home but the Japanese slowly began to confiscate their possessions.  First it was their car, then furniture and finally, their house.  By August, her parents were sent to the U.S. in a prisoner exchange and she saw no choice but to join Danny in the camp.  All told, more than 3500 Allied citizens ended up in Santo Tomas, mostly businessmen and their families.  The overcrowding was stifling, both in terms of privacy and space.  Eventually many of the families, including Daniel and Kathleen,  built shanties outside the main dormitory building to gain some semblance of a home.

For more than three and one-half years they lived with the privations and vagaries of their Japanese captors.  By the end of their captivity they were allotted just 800 calories per day.  Danny had every tropical disease known to man and his 6’2″ frame was skeletal.  Kathleen suffered with malaria throughout their internment.  The news they received was spotty at best and most updates were based on unsubstantiated rumor.  Finally in September of 1944 they heard the rumblings of something unrefutable: American bomber planes.   By Christmas of that year they were still held captive, with increasing retribution and punishments by the Japanese.  The salvation they thought was imminent in September had still not materialized. Yet despite their disappointment, in the diary that Kathleen kept during their time in Santo Tomas, this is what she wrote on that Christmas Day:

Contrary to all expectations, Danny and I have agreed that is is the happiest Christmas we have ever experienced because our sense of appreciation has been so sharpened that every simple thing has appeared in a roseate hue.  This Christmas season, watered by the tears of desperation and despair, and enriched with a great hope for a new future in a brave new world, is a Christmas which we shall always remember.  

Her children were habitually hungry, she and her husband were weakened and sick, and she hadn’t seen her family in over three years. Still, her optimistic attitude shined through.  It was her defining characteristic until her dying day – she always found something cheerful on which to focus.  So, as I said at the beginning of this post, whenever I feel a little down with all that’s going on in the world I try to channel her buoyant outlook and remember that as bad as things are, I’m not living in a leaky shanty held captive by an invading army.  Sort of puts things in perspective.

2007 – Kathleen with her two great-grandsons 

Footnote: Kathleen’s optimism was rewarded in February 1945 when the First Cavalry burst through the gates of the camp and rescued the prisoners.  The family set sail for the United States in early April and by mid-May they were safely docked in Los Angeles.  Abandoning their plans to move to Scotland, they decided to settle in Pasadena, where they eventually started a business, worked hard, and lived the American dream.

Old Man Visits Old Man River

by Bob Sparrow

Donnie, Starlet, Linda and Old Man on the river

I had the occasion last month to visit Minnesota, home to Paul Bunyan, the Vikings and Linda’s mother, Phyllis; sister, Starlet; brother-in-law, Donnie and various nieces, as well as some great-nieces and nephews – their greatness varies, but mostly they’re great.  Some of our friends doubted our sanity in 1) flying anywhere during Covid, and 2) going to the state that was ground zero for all the national riots.  How some ever, we’ve become callus to comments about our sanity – they seem to come with predictable regularity.  So off we went.

While we did fly into the eye of the storm (Minneapolis), we were quickly picked up by Donnie & Starlet and whisked 85 miles south to Rochester, home to the Mayo Clinic.  So, if Minneapolis is ground zero, Rochester would be ground one million, what with all the highly qualified doctors, state-of-the-art medical facilities and all those ‘Minnesota nice’ folks.

I won’t bore you with all the darn tootin’ card games we played or with Gene & Denise Cobb’s bucolic, five-acre vegetable and flower garden (featuring the finest salsify in the land), but what I will bore you with is a side trip we took to the Mississippi River.  Yes, for those who are geographically challenged, the ‘Mighty Mississippi’ starts in Minnesota, from a glacial lake that’s only about 2 square miles, Lake Itasca, to be exact.

Will and Gene in Cobb backyard

Denise in Cobb backyard

We drive to Lake Pepin on the Mississippi; yes, the Mississippi has lakes, and Pepin is the largest one. On the east side of the lake or river is Pepin, Wisconsin, on the west side is Lake City, Minnesota, where we stop to have lunch, and learn that:

  • It was on Lake Pepin where water skiing was born in the U.S. – and we actually did see some water-skiers on the lake this day
  • Not to be outdone by Loch Ness, Lake Pepin has its own monster, Pepie – we didn’t see her.

As ‘Old Man River’ and the ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ echoed in my brain, I wondered what else I didn’t know about what most people mistakenly think is America’s longest river.  That’s right, that honor goes to the Missouri River, which is about 100 miles longer and originates in Montana and empties into the Mississippi in St. Louis, where they jointly ease their way to New Orleans then into the Gulf of Mexico.

I was interested in what Google had to say about the river; not surprisingly, quite a bit.  Here’s a few gems (OK, maybe not gems, but possibly of some esoteric interest):

  • It is 2,320 miles long, about 100 miles shorter than the Missouri

    Old Man River from Wisconsin side

  • It has flowed backwards during hurricanes and earthquakes
  • It is 7 miles wide at its widest point
  • For a single drop of water to travel the length of the river would take 90 days.
  • At its deepest, the river is 200 feet deep.
  • While the river looks slow and meandering, the current is quite strong and thus it is very difficult to swim across. If you get pulled under, the water is so muddy that you’d be difficult to find.  Glad we didn’t decide to take a dip.

We leave the river and stop at a winery and get a better understanding of why Minnesota is known for a lot of good things, but not it’s wine.  We head directly to The Little Thistle Brewing Company, a local craft brewery, where Gene Cobb is an investor, and get the taste of wine out of our mouths with some great craft beer.

All is still NICE in Minnesota (except the wine), and it’s somehow reassuring to know that during these crazy times Old Man River just keeps rollin’ along.

 

MARRIAGE IN THE AGE OF COVID

by Suzanne Sparrow Watson

I now pronounce you husband and wife.There are few phrases as sobering, with the possible exceptions of ”We have lift-off” and ”This country is at war.”   Erma Bombeck

     Boy, do we look young!

Yesterday my husband and I celebrated 33 years of marriage.  Or as my dad used to say, “Thirty-three years of indentured servitude”.  He was joking, of course.  I think.  In any event, I was thinking about marriage last week as we prepared to observe our special day.  We have remarked several times over the past few months that we are very fortunate that we’re so compatible because it seems like we’ve spent 25 hours a day together since March.  And like many others, there have been a few challenges.  In addition to dealing with soaring COVID numbers in Arizona, I had some minor surgery in May, my husband underwent nine weeks of radiation therapy for prostate cancer and even Dash the Wonder Dog joined in with the diagnosis of a heart murmur.  Add in the hottest summer on record and it seemed like the fun just never stopped.

 

“People shop for a bathing suit with more care than they do a husband or wife. The rules are the same. Look for something you’ll feel comfortable wearing. Allow for room to grow.”   Erma Bombeck

Now that we’re almost to fall with its sub-100 temperatures and the COVID numbers are abating,  I’ve had some time to reflect on how we’ve changed.  At first I mused that the only “growth” we’ve seen is in our girth.  But in fact, we have gained renewed appreciation for each other and our home.  Not necessarily always in that order.  I love our house and am giving it full credit for getting us through this.   A few years ago we contemplated selling our home and moving into one of those slick retirement communities.  I think we have commented 1,000 times this summer that we’re grateful we saved ourselves from that fate.  Our friends who live in said communities have spent months cooped up in their apartments with meals being delivered to them.  It’s like prison only with better food and nicer guards.  The advantage of our house is that we have plenty of room to spread out.  Like fighters between rounds, we are able to go to our separate corners to gain space and sustenance.  In actuality, we seldom even argue.  Still, spending 24/7 together is like the ultimate game of “Survivor”… just hoping one of us doesn’t get voted off.

“Marriage has no guarantees.  If that’s what you’re looking for go live with a car battery.” Erma Bombeck

As I was researching articles about marriage in the time of COVID I found several about the increase in marital discord.  Apparently lots of people are being voted off their marriage island.  All over the world couples are struggling with lockdown, from mental health issues to realizing you’ve married someone who, in fact, is very annoying in a 24/7 world.  The pandemic has caused higher divorce rates and it’s anticipated the rate will only increase once everyone is fully out of lockdown or back to work.  I know that we’ve had it easy and have thought often about families where the parents are working from home AND trying to instruct their children on the higher principles of algebra or the periodic table.  There are many parents who have lost their jobs and are juggling a job search and childcare/home schooling at the same time.  It’s a lot to ask of a marriage to hold up amidst all that stress. On a brighter note, I also read many articles about people reconnecting, both with their spouse and their children.  It seems being locked up together has caused people to talk more about their frustrations, desires and needs.  It’s also caused a boom in real estate and remodeling as people “nest” as they did right after 9/11.

Well heck, I don’t want to be left behind the current trends so I’ve decided to undertake a bit of a home facelift next month.  We’ve been through remodels before so I realize that COVID may be a cakewalk compared to demolishing tile floors.  In fact, under no circumstances should “remodel” and “marital bliss” be uttered in the same sentence.  They start next week so I’ll keep you posted.  We may have to place bets on whether we make it to year 34.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Now A Word From Our Sponsor

by Bob Sparrow

If you really have nothing else to do, you can continue reading, however, ‘spoiler alert’ there may be a bit of ‘advertising’ in this blog.

(Nine years ago, this month Suzanne and I started writing together – it wasn’t exactly this blog then; we called it Morning News In Verse, where we provided examples of what we could do in our new-found business, call Red Posy, a business of writing rhyming tributes.   At that time in this space, we would take the four sections from the national newspaper, USA Today, main news, sports, business and entertainment, and write some rhyming news items.  In March 2012, we closed our Red Posy business (I think it was due to too much business!), but found that we really enjoyed writing together, so decided to just write and post a new blog, From A Bird’s Eye View, every Monday about ‘Life’s Little Observations.’  My reason for this brief, albeit rather mundane history of this site, is that what with Word Press expenses, GoDaddy annual fees, the cost of website analytics, up-dating plug-ins, Akismet anti-spam software and Wordfence website security, not to mention Suzanne’s and my valuable time and effort, all coming to you free of charge, we decided that we needed a sponsor to help absorb some of these on-going expenses.  And so, my reverse mortgage business leaped into the breach.  We ask that you please indulge us as I provide four of my, ‘true-life’ reverse mortgage experiences that I needed to put up on my new business website: https://bobsparrow.myloanofficer.us/aboutWe will have then satisfied our ‘commercial obligation’ and will press on with the usual drivel that you’ve become accustom to in this space).

These stories are true, the names have been omitted to protect the innocent and to keep me from getting sued.

  1. HEY, YOU SMASHED MY CAR!

After dinner at a restaurant in Orange, I backed out of my parking place and scraped the fender of a car parked behind me.  Don’t you hate that sound of metal on metal?!!  So, I stopped, got out of my car and wrote on the back of my business card, “Sorry I bumped into your car, my contact information is on this card”.  The next day I got a call.

“Is this Bob?”

“Yes”

“You ran into my car last night”

“Yes, I’m sorry, I can have my insurance company take care of it”

“Nah, that’s alright, I’m in the auto business and can have that buffed out without a problem, but I noticed from your card that you were in the reverse mortgage business and I’d like to know more about how it works”

So, I made an appointment for the next day, when I got there, the good news was that he had already had the car dent buffed out; the bad news was that he was living on ‘leased land’, and a reverse mortgage cannot be done on lease land.  So no deal, but I initially thought about a ‘car accident market plan’, but quickly dismissed it as a bit too risky.

     2. TOO OLD FOR A REVERSE MORTGAGE?

A man called me asking about reverse mortgages; one of his first questions was, “Is there an age limit for getting a reverse mortgage?”  I said there is a minimum, 62, but no maximum age limit.  He said, “Not even 104?”  I responded, thinking that he didn’t sound like he was that old, “Not even 104”, I replied.  He then proceeded to tell me that his mother-in-law was 104 and she had been bed-ridden for a number of years and that the in-house care they were providing her was taking a toll on the family’s budget.  And since the 104-year-old was still living in her home that had plenty of equity, we did a reverse mortgage for her that enabled her to keep the long-term care in her house, without affecting the family’s finances. No, she’s not alive today; she passed away about a year ago.

      3. I THINK MY HOUSE COULD ROLL AWAY

A lady in Hemet called asking about reverse mortgages; she was a real talker, probably lonely and finally got someone on the phone that would listen to her for as long as she wanted.  She said I was referred to her by someone she trusted and proceeded to tell me everything I needed to know about how she was living, what she did in her spare time, how her cat was doing (not that well) and on and on.  From the numbers she gave me, it sounded like she could do a reverse mortgage, so I scheduled a time to go out to Hemet and give her a proposal.  On my drive out to Hemet, about 80 miles one way, she calls me and sheepishly tells me that her house is not a ‘regular’ house.  I asked, “Does it have wheels?”    “Well, it could”, she replied.  Oh great, I’m thinking I’m driving over 150 miles today to tell her that we can’t do a reverse mortgage on a mobile home.  When I get there, I find out that it’s not a mobile home, but a ‘manufactured’ home – and we can, and I did, do a reverse mortgage for her, but not without getting regular up-dates on her cat.

      4. THE KING IS DEAD, LONG LIVE THE QUEEN

I got a call from nice, young lady (young is a relative term in ‘reversemortgagees’ – typically someone in their mid to late 60s) wanting some information about reverse mortgages.  I asked her some questions and determined that she and her husband could be eligible, so made an appointment to do a proposal.  I arrived and met the lady of the house, who was just as sweet as she sounded on the phone and then met the husband, who was gruff, rude and bombastic.  He proceeded to tell me how successful he’d been in business, but someone really screwed him over these last few years and he had been given some bad advice about some investments.  He treated his wife as a sub-human, in fact, he treated me that way also.  But I bit my tough and we did the loan.  The wife thanked me; the husband just grunted.  The next week, I got a call from the wife.  Her husband had just passed away!   Yes, less than one week after the loan had closed!  I may have heard a hint of glee in her voice in this otherwise sad bit of news, but she seemed most concerned about whether the reverse mortgage that had just funded was ‘still valid’.  I told her, “Yes, you can live there, mortgage-free, for as long as you want”.  I think that made her happy, or perhaps something else already had.

And now back to our regularly scheduled program.

THE RELUCTANT SEPTAGENARIAN

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

      Leslie, (left) supervising me

I knew this day was coming – I could tell by the hanging jowls and the crepey skin.  Yet somehow waking up last week to the realization that I’ve entered my 70’s was a bit sobering.  I feel pretty darn good and my doctor says I’m in tip top shape.  Hmmmmm.  I cleaned out files recently and found some documents from a gym I belonged to in 1980.   As I perused my old weight and measurement chart I was pretty pleased until I took my current measurements.  How can I possibly weigh the same and yet be bigger in every place that counts?  Are my ear lobes appreciably smaller?  Does gray hair weigh less than blonde?  I’m guessing the weight loss has occurred in my brain because I’m not sure how much is up there anymore.  I’ve spent a lot of time at home this summer so you’d think I would be pretty familiar with my house, yet I still wander into a room and wonder what I’m doing there.  As my friend Liz Gett always says, “These days I only retain water”. 

 

Still, I’m doing just fine and especially in this catastrophic year of 2020, I’m just glad to be upright.  Don Imus, the former disc jockey also ran a camp for kids with cancer.  He once said whenever he’d go to some soiree on the Upper East Side where people complained about their age his response was to ask them if they would like to visit his camp, where 12 year-olds were just hoping to make it to 15.   Every year on my birthday I think about Leslie, my childhood best friend.  The photo is us at my 10th birthday where she supervised my gift opening, just as she supervised most everything I did. She called me every year on my birthday without fail.   On my 64th birthday we had a long conversation and she laughed hysterically when I told her I had chickenpox.  It was the last time we spoke; she died suddenly a couple of months later.  I still miss her and think about her on my birthday so far be it from me to complain about reaching 70.

           Just some of my bounty!

Besides, I had a wonderful celebration filled with …what else?… cake!  I guess at this age it’s good to be known for something.  I have friends that are known for being smart, dressing well, a kind heart, a great artist, you name it.  I, on the other hand, am known for my love of cake. I used to be the kid at the birthday party who would elbow my way to the cake cutter so I could get the corner piece with the big, sugary flower on it.  This year I received three cakes for my birthday, including one that exploded with flowers, candy and cake when I lifted the lid.  I didn’t share ANY of them with my husband.  It dawned on me that I might have a problem when the guy we’re working with to select new flooring (that’s an “I need to have my head examined” story for another blog) brought me a dozen doughnuts.  I think I have a problem and so far as I know, there is no such thing as Cake Anonymous.

Perfect pairing – wine and dessert

My celebration was capped by a fabulous dinner at Vivace Restaurant in Tucson.  Due to illness and a wariness of COVID it ended up being just me, my niece and my great-niece for dinner.  Actually, it was perfect!  We had such a wonderful time catching up.  There is something special about three generations who enjoy each other’s company and share laughter and good stories.  Most of them true.  The restaurant is spectacular and the food was beyond tasty.  One advantage of our smaller group was there was more dessert to go around.  The restaurant offered a lovely tiramisu in honor of my birthday, but really, sharing dessert among three people doesn’t quite meet the mark so we also ordered a crème brulee and a chocolate molten lava cake with ice cream.   All that, coupled with the wine, provided a sugar rush that I’ll still be recovering from on my next birthday. Still, it was worth every spoonful.

So I was feeling pretty good about turning 70 and life in general and then the worst happened – the NCAA cancelled the football season. Is it even fall if there is no college football?  COVID has been hard enough but life without college football seems unfathomable.  I may just have to eat more cake.

The Griswolds Go to Big Bear Lake

by Bob Sparrow

Lake-front home interior

Friday – I should be writing this as I’m sitting on the deck of a house overlooking a beautiful lake.  Wait a minute, I am sitting on a deck of a house overlooking a beautiful lake, it’s just a different lake.  The original plan for the ‘Griswold’s Family Vacation’ was a VRBO overlooking Lake Tahoe, but that was cancelled due to Covid-19.  Fortunately, we have friends with a beautiful home locally here on Big Bear Lake and they agreed to us renting it.  So, we loaded up the ‘Wagon Queen Family Truckster’ and headed to the mountains last Friday.

By 6:00 p.m. everyone had arrived, Dana, Addison, Mac; Stephanie, Jason, Dylan, Emma; Jeff & Pam – Joe was working at the restaurant and would be coming up on Saturday morning.

The best word to describe our accommodations is SPECTACULAR! Vaulted, open-beam ceilings, a great room upstairs with a stone fireplace, a huge kitchen and a bar.  The downstairs game room has a pool table, a Foosball table and another bar – you can never have too many bars.  The decks, on both levels, overlook the lake, our private dock and our own sandy beach.  The photos don’t do it justice.

Jeff and Pam had ‘dinner duty’ the first night and they treated us with a Thai-chicken dish that they brought back from Thailand, where they honeymooned earlier this year.  It was delicious.  After dinner it was game time and when the kids went to bed, it was sitting-around-the-bar-time and telling stories time – Stephanie’s stories were particularly hilarious.

View of house from the dock

Joe’s magnificent dinner

Saturday – It’s amazing how long you can just sit on a deck on a cloudless day and watch boats go by –speed boats, pontoon boats, sail boats, Jet Skis, kayaks and paddle boards.  I’ll have another beer.  – the day just drifted by.  Then Joe arrived with preparations for dinner, which took several hours and, of course, was like nothing you’ve ever tasted before, only better.  I’ve seen other people take pictures of their dinner and thought that was really stupid, but then, maybe I just never had a reason to take a photo of a meal – until tonight (photo missing). Seasoned flank steak, cooked on the BBQ, then cut into thin slices, BBQ’d vegetables – onions, peppers, squash, asparagus, corn on the cob; garlic toast, and the best of all, a salad with shrimp, avocado, tomato, cucumbers and bacon in the best Louie dressing I’ve ever tasted.  Joe does nothing small and nothing not first class; the dinner could have fed 20 easily.  After dinner, more cards and dice games with the kids and then when they went to bed, a spirited evening of ‘favorite songs from the past’ with Jeff magically taking on the role of  a savant.  We weren’t sure what that meant either, but he was very funny!

Sunday – morning fishing on the dock with Joe setting up poles for Addison, Emma and Dylan as they try to catch dinner – looks like lasagna tonight.  Mid-day we head into Big Bear City and find it quite bustling, all with masked tourists.  We rent a pontoon boat and take a two-hour (5:00 – 7:00) cocktail cruise around the lake.  Another beautiful day with nary a cloud.  Repeat – dinner and games.

Yes, it’s Monday morning and I’m still here, watching the boats go by – they’re going to have to pry me off this deck with a crowbar!  I’ll let you know if anything exciting happens, like a cloud forms or I run out of beer.

 

 

DEAR INSTACART…

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Dear Instacart,

I thought this day would never come and I can’t believe I’m writing this, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to break up with you.  We’ve been through a lot together over the past few years.  You have tolerated the last minute changes to my shopping list and I have put up with your delivery fees, ridiculous upcharges and tipping requirements even for poor service.  Oh, we had some good times and I will always be grateful that we didn’t have to haul those 40 pound bags of potassium home from Costco, but no amount of heavy lifting can compensate for the seemingly brain-addled “customer service” delivery people you have in your employ.

I realize that COVID has caused all of us to make some changes to our lifestyle.  For those of us drawing Social Security that has meant staying home a bit more and relying on delivery services such as yours.  I do realize that has required you to hire a lot of people quickly to meet the demand.  But might I suggest that in addition to a drug test you also hold a mirror under the nose of any prospective employee just to make sure they’re functioning?  Or perhaps hold a flashlight up to their ear to see if a beam of light shines through to the other side, to determine if there is actually something in between.  Let me detail my last two experiences with your company.

In May I placed a  very large order – we were at the beginning of “hunkering down” and I wanted to ensure we had adequate supplies.  When the driver arrived my husband and I took turns wiping down the groceries before bringing them into the house (remember those fun days?). As the driver was backing out of our driveway I noticed that quite a few items were missing. I ran out into the street and flagged him down to tell him of the problem. It was then that he remembered that he had another large box of items for us in his trunk. TRUNK??? What happened to your promise of “your items will be kept in a temperature controlled environment” during delivery? In May, in Arizona, the only temperature in the trunk of a car is HOT. I wrote it off as a one time problem. But, alas, I was being way too optimistic.

Two weeks ago we needed more potassium so I ordered three bags plus seven other items. My shopper notified me that she started my order at 11:15.  Because I don’t have much to do these days I obsessively kept looking at my phone for updates as she shopped.  A person with blindfolds on could have shopped faster.  At first I thought maybe she was grazing the “tasting stations” but then remembered they are shut down. It got to be 11:45 and she had three items in the cart. I was screaming at the phone. That didn’t help. She didn’t conclude shopping until 12:10. I could have driven there, shopped and been home in that amount of time. I assumed (correctly, as it turns out) this person had trouble finding things so I called our guard gate and asked them to provide your driver with a very detailed map to our house.  Hansel and Gretl could not have done a better job at highlighting the trail.

It is normally a 20 minute drive to Costco but your driver must have detoured to … well, I don’t know quite where.  She didn’t arrive at the gate until 1 pm. It should take six minutes to get to our house from there. At 1:15 I assumed (again, correctly) that your driver was lost. I got into my car and drove around trying to spot her. No luck. Finally at 1:25 she called to tell me since we weren’t home she was leaving our groceries in our driveway. We were IN our driveway. She asked me to confirm the address – which was on both our Instacart account and the map she was given – and sure enough, she had the wrong house number. Finally, she arrived at our home, unloaded the potassium and a small box of other items and then said, “Oh yeah, I have your case of water in the back of my truck”. I assumed she meant the back seat of the cabin but no, it was actually in the flatbed of her truck, roasting in the 106 degree temperature for the past hour and fifteen minutes. The water was so hot I could have brewed tea. We refused the case, explaining that it’s not healthy to drink out of hot plastic bottles.  She stared at me blankly.  I was speaking Greek as far as she was concerned.  To her credit, she refunded our money and took the case with her, no doubt to foist it on another unsuspecting customer.

So, dear Instacart, I hope you understand that unless and until you can hire people who have some modicum of common sense, we’re finished.  Might I suggest that you start with simple map reading.  I am not holding my breath.

Signed,

Just Another Satisfied Customer

 

On the Path to Social Dysfunction

by Bob Sparrow

(Because I usually write about where I’ve been or where I’m going, I don’t often sit around pondering my navel, but Covid-19 has changed all that.  In fact, it’s got me thinking about today’s two most-used words, ‘Social Distancing’.  Here’s what I pondered).

“We’re all in this together.” How many times have you heard that?  It’s an oxymoron, spoken mostly by morons.  We are social beings and nothing could be further from the truth than us ‘being in this together’.  We have been ordered to stay apart, with serious repercussions if we don’t!  You could wind up in jail if you disobey – solitary confinement probably!

But the reality is, we’ve experienced social distancing for some time – perhaps since the middle of the last century.  Yes, we, as a species, have been ‘distancing’ ourselves from each other for at least the past 50-60 years – so we should be pretty good at it by now.  Don’t believe me?  Let these ‘Then and Now’ photos tell the story, a story that many of you, who have passed the mid-life crisis phase of your life, have witnessed firsthand.

Remember when you stood around and talked to your friends?  Today’s kids have been physically close, but socially distant.

 

Remember when the neighborhood would get together to play a game?  Now a kid can play a game with another kid half way around the world from his bedroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remember when office meetings were a time when the whole staff came together?  Now you can attend the meeting ‘digitally’ in your underwear.  I’m sure you’ve heard that this, like so many other ‘socially distant’ activities, is the ‘new normal’!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remember when the family used to go to a game?  Now there is a cardboard cutout in your place and you will root through your phone.

 

Remember when you used to dine out?  Now your meals are delivered to your home.

 

 

Remember the hug?  It’s now been replaced with the elbow bump.  So personal!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know what you’re saying – this has all be brought on by Covid-19.  Yes, Covid-19 has exacerbated this issue, but social distancing has been going on for way too long and unless we stop its momentum we’re going to find ourselves as protagonists in an isolated dystopian world, probably in a bubble.    Experts say that Social Distancing leads to loneliness, depression, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance use disorder, domestic violence, child abuse, increase in suicide and a broad range of other mental and behavioral disorders.  In other words, Social Distancing is NOT GOOD FOR US!

I’m not advocating ignoring the health warnings that have been issued, as random and illogical as some may seem, I’m just saying, for our own health and welfare, when this is all over we need to get back to ‘socially magnetizing’.

 

HOW’S YOUR YEAR SO FAR?

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson
Once in a while that great wasteland of Facebook has a pretty spot on post.  I have always “written from scratch” but this was too good to pass up so I’m sharing it today.  Unfortunately I don’t know the author but it’s obviously someone with a pretty good sense of humor!
Dear Diary 2020 Edition,
In ❄️ January, 🔥 Australia caught on fire. I don’t even know if that fire was put out, because we straight up almost went to war with Iran 🇮🇷 . We might actually still be almost at war with them 🤔. I don’t know, because 👩 Jen Aniston and 👨🏻 Brad Pitt spoke to one another at an awards 🏆 show and everyone flipped the crap out 😲, but then there was this thing happening in 🦇 🇨🇳 China, then 👑 Prince Harry and Megan ✌🏼 peaced out of the Royal family, and there was the whole impeachment trial 👩‍⚖️, and then corona virus 🦠 showed up in the US ✔️“officially,” but then 🏀 Kobe died 😭and UK 🇬🇧 peaced out of the European Union.
In February, 🌽 Iowa crapped 💩 itself with the caucus results and the president was acquitted and the 👩🏼‍💼Speaker of the House took Ten. Whole. Years. to rip up a speech , but then The👨🔬 🌎WHO decided to give this virus a name COVID-19, which confused 🤔some really important people 👔 in charge of, like, our lives, into thinking there were 18 other versions before it, but then Harvey Weinstein was found guilty👨🏻‍⚖️, and 🇺🇸 Americans started asking if Corona beer 🍺 was safe to drink🤦🏻‍♀️, and everyone on Facebook became a doctor 👨‍⚕️ who just knew the 🤒flu killed way more people than COVID 1 through 18.
In March, stuff hit the fan👿. Warren dropped out of the presidential race and Sanders was like Bernie or bust 💥, but then Italy 🇮🇹 shut its whole country down 🚷, and then COVID Not 1 through 18 officially became what everyone already realized –  😱a pandemic – and then a nationwide state of emergency 🆘was declared in US 🇺🇸 , but it didn’t really change anything, so everyone was confused or thought it was still just a flu 💁🏻‍♀️, but then COVID Not 18 was like ya’ll not taking me seriously? 💡 I’m gonna infect the one celebrity everyone loves and totally infected Tom Hanks👨🏻, get y’all to close all of the schools so y’all can 🙏🏼 appreciate teachers 👩🏫 for once (because you can’t teach them anything other than how to use a touch screen🤦🏻‍♀️ ) close down all of salons so you can’t get your 💇‍♂️ hair or your nails done💅 , everyone had to work from home and attend Zoom meetings in their underwear. The 📉 DOW took a crap 💩 on itself, and most of us still don’t understand why the stock market is so important or even a thing 🤔 (I still don’t), We were then all introduced to 🐅 Tiger King and the ONE thing we can all agree on this year , 👍🏼Carol totally killed her husband⚰️ ….. whacked him! And then Netflix was like you’re welcome, and we all realized there was no way we were washing our hands enough in the first place because all of our hands are now dry and gross and we’re all searching for lotion.
In 🌧 April, Bernie finally busted✌🏼 himself out of the presidential race 🏃 , but then NYC 🗽became the set of The Walking Dead 💀 and we learned that no one has face masks 😷, ventilators, or toilet paper, or THE FREAKING SWIFFER WET JET LIQUID , and by now our 🦁outgrowth is showing, so there’s a shortage on 📦 box hair dye and all of our hair dressers are like , 😱 NO DONT DO IT!!! But, then Kim Jong-Un died, but then he came back to life … or did he? Who knows, because then the Pentagon released 🎥 videos of UFOs and nobody cared, and we were like man, it’s only April….
In 💐 May, the biblical end times kicked off , historical locust swarms, we learned of murder hornets 🐝 and realized that 2020 was the start of the Hunger Games🙈 however people forgot to let us know. People legit started to protest lockdown measures with 🔫 AR-15s, 🏀⚾️sports events were cancelled everywhere. But then people all over America finally reached a breaking point with race issues and violence. There were 🗣protests in every city🌃 ,which was confusing to some of us because people were definitely gathering in 👫crowds of more than 🖐🏼🤚🏼10 and for sure closer than 6 feet away ⬅️➡️from each other. Those people must have forgotten about the 😖pandemic called COVID Not One Through 18. Media 📺 🗞 struggled with how to 🤬focus on two important things at once, people in general struggle to focus on more than one important thing. A dead whale 🐋 was found in the middle of the Amazon rain forest 🌳 after monkeys 🐒 stole COVID 1 Through 19 from a lab 🔬 and ran off with them, and either in May or April (no one is keeping track of time now) that a giant asteroid ☄️ narrowly missed the Earth🌍.
In ☀️ June, common sense just got thrown 🤾🏼 straight out the window and somehow 😷 wearing masks became a 🏛political thing, but then everyone sort of remembered there was a pandemic,  then 👨🔬scientists announced they found a mysterious undiscovered mass at the center of the earth, and everyone was like 🙅🏽‍♂️🙅🏻‍♀️🚧DON’T YOU DARE TOUCH IT, but then everyone took a pause to realize that people actually believed Gone With The Wind 💨 was non-fiction, but then it was also announced that there is a strange 🛰radio signal coming from somewhere in the universe 🌌 that repeats itself every so many days 🗓 , and everyone was like 👽 DON’T YOU DARE ATTEMPT TO COMMUNICATE WITH IT‼️🚫 but then America reopened 🙌🏼from the shut down that actually wasn’t even a shut down, and so far, things have gone spectacularly … not that great 👎🏼. All of the Karen’s came out at once, and people started tearing down 🔨 statues. Everyone is on Facebook arguing 🤼‍♀️ about masks 👃🏼, but then Florida 🏖 was like hold my beer 🍺 and let me show you how we’re number one 🥇 in all things, including new Not Corona Beer Coronavirus. Then we learned there was a massive dust cloud ☁️ coming straight at us 📍from the Sahara Desert 🐫 , which is totally normal, but this is 2020, so the 👻 ghost mummy thing is most likely in that dust cloud. We then 📚 learned of meth-gators 🐊 , and I’m like that is so not on my flipping 2020 Bingo card 😡 can we use it as the free space?? 🤷🏻 Then we learned that the Congo’s worst ever Ebola 🚨 outbreak is over 😓, and we were all like, there was an Ebola outbreak that was the worse ever? 👀 … and don’t forget we just discovered FLYING SNAKES! 🐍, seriously! FLYING SNAKES!!!!
So here comes July…. at this point we are over it , just tell us what’s next … 👽 Aliens? 🔱Zeus? ☄️ Asteroids? Artificial Intelligence becomes self aware? Can it just be something cool 😎 or fun for once? Maybe even a good laugh , like hahaha 😂 April Fools! We all actually wouldn’t mind that joke at this point.
Also, why didn’t I know about the whale in the Amazon? Or a few other things because I just can’t keep up anymore!
BTW, a squirrel with Bubonic plague was found in CO… because, you know, it’s 2020.

Birthday on the Central Coast

by Bob Sparrow

The Central Coast

These days the trips are shorter, requiring no air travel, but we’re lucky we live in such a diverse area – not as diverse as say, Seattle, that now has a foreign country in the middle of downtown, but diverse none the less.  The occasion for this trip up to the Central Coast, was brother, Captain Jack Sparrow’s last birthday as a 70-something.

Three hours on the freeway north through traffic that was Covid-light on a Monday morning, brought us to Santa Barbara – where we wondered if anything was open to grab a bite to eat.  Much to our surprise, Santa Barbara’s hot spot, State Street, had been closed off to auto traffic, but restaurants had open their doors and spread out onto the street for foot traffic, making rows of sidewalk cafes dotted with an occasional street musician.  It was a beautiful, Mediterranean climate afternoon, giving State Street a Paris/Tuscany ambiance.

It took a lot of wine for her to put on the 49er sweatshirt!

After lunch, another hour up a beautiful, coastline stretch of Highway 1, finds us in Santa Maria, home to Jack & Sharon.  Late afternoon finds their group of friends, ‘The Magnificent Seven’ stopping by for pre-birthday cocktails.  Later, dinner of BBQ’d hamburgers was highlighted by a cool Central Coast evening that required Linda, a staunch Minnesota Viking fan, to don a 49ers sweatshirt.  Loved it!!

The next morning we decided to take the ‘birthday boy’ for a nice breakfast in Pismo Beach.  We found the beautiful ocean-front hotel, The Lido, which was serving breakfast on their scenic ocean-view patio.  Again, perfect weather and a great menu made for a happy birthday breakfast.

That evening, Sharon’s daughter, Debra, her husband, Steve and one of their four sons, Corey, who all live in Santa Maria, came over for a BBQ rib dinner with lots of great wine.

The birthday breakfast on the Lido patio

During the course of the weekend Jack received birthday calls from our sister, Suzanne (you remember her from last week’s blog), his kids, Shelley Watson and Matt Sparrow, both living in Arizona, as well as several others, including his two excellent receivers from his high school football team, Pete Ferrarese, still living in our home town of Novato and Chuck Coleman, in Florida. I’m sure they discussed all the touchdowns they were responsible for.

While you many not get coast-to-coast birthday calls from old high school teammates, if you live in the Golden State, you can certainly take advantage of being relatively close to the beautiful Central Coast – take a road trip, you’ll love it!