SUBTRACT THE ADS

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Well, it’s been quite a week.  Finally…I think…the election is over.  The bonus is that our lives will not be filled with campaign ads every second of the day. Living in Arizona this year has been like living in an advertising vortex.  We’re used to the normal local campaign ads for dog catcher and county judges, but the races for President and Senator were tightly competed here and resulted in record spending on TV ads.  The only refuge was Netflix and shows we recorded that could be fast-forwarded.  Now that the election is over, watching TV feels like I’ve stopped banging my head against the wall.  This respite got me to thinking…how did political ads start and do they really work?

Historians believe that the genesis of campaign advertising began in 1791, when groups that supported and opposed Alexander Hamilton published competing newspapers in hopes of swaying the electorate. It’s been a downhill slide since then.  Today, almost all successful campaigns include a huge budget for television advertising. In late October CNBC reported that election spending would top $14 BILLION, doubling the previous record.  When all the dust has settled it will be interesting to see what the final tally is.  All I can think when I see that big of a number is how many schools it could improve, families it could house and feed, or potholes it could fill.

But, back to history.  Campaign slogans became popular in the mid-19th century.  In 1860 Abraham Lincoln campaigned on “Vote Yourself a Farm”, referring to a Republican party promise of free homesteads to settlers of western lands.  By1880 candidates had to rely on other means to get their message out so political songs were written and distributed throughout communities for inclusion in local gatherings.  That sounds pretty dreadful, given that most people sing like drowning cats.   In 1900 William McKinley promised “A Full Dinner-Pail”, only to be outdone by Herbert Hoover’s 1928 slogan, “A Chicken In Every Pot”.  Of course, the Depression hit the next year and this slogan was chided in 1932 by the Democrats with the addition of “…and two cars in every garage” to show how out of touch Hoover was with the average American.

Campaign advertising entered the television age in 1952, when the adman previously famous for M&M’s “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands” slogan, suggested television advertising to Dwight Eisenhower.  By making one trip to New York to record a commercial, Ike reached 19 million television sets.  By comparison, in the previous election Harry Truman travelled 31,000 miles in his famous Whistle Stop tour.  It’s impossible to know exactly how many people he spoke to on that tour but it was likely far fewer than 19 million. Today there is a specialization within the advertising industry focused just on planning and promoting candidates through the media.

So the question remains, do the ads work?  Apparently they do, at least for a certain segment of the population – the undecided voter.  Let’s face it, that was a very small number of people in this election but they were the ones who could make the difference in the outcome.  Online ads have become more popular – they can target specific voters with pinpoint accuracy and they are cheaper.  Television is just the opposite of that, but campaigns still pour the bulk of their budgets into it for one big reason:  it is still the easiest way to reach those people who are undecided and don’t necessarily seek out politics on their own.  And, unfortunately for the rest of us, it’s proven that in a short ad (usually 30-60 seconds) negative information about a candidate sticks with us longer than an uplifting message.

So my proposal for 2024 is that we round up the small number of undecided voters and put them all in one location.  The campaign advertisers can have a field day and the rest of us can keep our sanity.  In the mean time, my heart goes out to the good citizens of Georgia who no doubt will be inundated with campaign ads for the senatorial run-offs January 5th.  My guess is Netflix subscriptions will be the big winner in the Peach State.

Finally, my brother and I would like to send our appreciation out to all of those who have served on this Veteran’s Day week.

 

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.

Music is the Moonlight . . .

by Bob Sparrow

“Music is the moonlight in the gloomy night of life.” Jean Paul Richter

Not that life is gloomy right now or anything, it’s just that it’s . . . different.  We find ourselves looking for things to do around the cell, er, house; things that will help us keep our sanity while in solitary or familial confinement.  We’ve completed most of those DIY ‘projects’, at least the ones that we were actually capable of completing, not the ones like fixing that leaky hot water heater valve or rewiring that electrical box.

So, let me suggest something that has helped me ‘pass the time’ – music.  Like me, you have probably found some solace in listening to  music, singing in the shower or watching (and re-watching) concerts on TV; and I say keep doing those things, but I’m proffering some additional literary therapy and documentary escapism.  Over the past few months, and particularly now that reading is one of my more athletic activities during the course of a day, I have found three excellent books and one Netflix documentary that I would recommend to any pop music lover.

The Wrecking Crew by by Kent Hartman

Flyleaf notes: “A sweet and wistful meditation on the early days of the music business, full of little gems and wonders fit for serious music fans and a commendable, long-overdue tribute to the legendary Wrecking Crew – the ridiculously talented, go-to guys behind so many hits. This book will make your head spin.”  You think you know who played the music on most of the hit songs you listened to?  You don’t!”

The Song Machine by John Seabrook

Flyleaf notes: “There’s a reason today’s ubiquitous pop hits are so hard to ignore―they’re designed that way. The Song Machine goes behind the scenes to offer an insider’s look at the global hit factories manufacturing the songs that have everyone hooked.”

Goodnight, LA   also by Kent Hartman

“The rise and fall of classic rock – the untold stories from inside the LA recording studios.  The music scene in Los Angeles was dominated by rock ‘n’ roll. If a group wanted to hit it big, L.A. was the place to be.”  Let the in-fighting begin.

Echo in the Canyon Netflix

Echo In The Canyon celebrates the popular music that came out of L.A.’s Laurel Canyon neighborhood in the mid-60s as folk went electric and The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, and The Mamas and the Papas cemented the ‘California sound’.

If you enjoy popular music, and by that I mean songs that were popular from the 60s to present day, you should enjoy the myriad of stories about the lives of people who made it all possible.

 

                                                                                           

“If music be the food of love, play on.”  William Shakespeare

Stay well!!!

Super Bowl: The Ads, the Half-Time Show, the Bets and Oh Yeah . . . the Game

by Bob Sparrow

The Million Dollar Backfield

Before the Game

I’ve started writing this blog several days before the Super Bowl, so I’m still full of optimism for a team that I’ve rooted for since 1952 when I attended my first 49er game at the old Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate Park – 49ers lost 20-17 to the Chicago Bears!  Those were the days of the 49ers ‘Million Dollar Backfield’ of Y.A. Tittle, Joe Perry, Hugh McElhenny and John Henry Johnson, all Hall of Famers today.  The reality is that even though they were know as the ‘Million Dollar Backfield’ their four combined salaries didn’t even add up to a million dollars! As a point of reference, current 49er quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo makes about $1.7 million PER GAME!  While I’ve enjoyed the many Super Bowl years of 49ers past, particularly the two won by my former college coach, George Siefert, it’s been a little lean in terms of wins in recent years; so I’m really looking forward to this game in spite of it being played against, in my opinion, the best player in the game today, Kansas City Chief quarterback, Patrick Mahomes.

I’ve concluded that people watch the Super Bowl for three main reasons: 1) they like football, 2) they are mostly watching the ads (which cost about $5.25 million per 30-second ad) and the half-time show, or 3) they like to bet.  I guess there is a fourth reason, they just like to party, but they are probably not watching much of the game or the ads!  So while I can’t comment now on the game, the ads, the half-time show or the party you attended, I can comment on the betting. OMG!

Mahomes & Garoppolo

Of course you can make the two most common bets, the outcome of the game with odds (giving or getting points) and total points scored (the over-under), but the ‘fun’ bets are called the proposition bets or ‘prop bets’.  Here’s just a few, and even though it’s after the game, you can still pretend to bet on these and see how you’d have done:

  • Will Alex Rodriguez be shown during the halftime show, where fiancee Jennifer Lopez is performing, and how many wardrobe changes will Lopez make?
  • Will Demi Lovato omit any words when singing the National Anthem, and will she perform the anthem in under 2 minutes or over 2 minutes?
  • Will the Golden Gate Bridge be shown at any time during the telecast? (the game is in Miami)
  • Will the coin flip come up heads or tails? (Tip: to date more people have bet on heads, but more money has been bet on tails)  Sorry not much of a tip was it?
  • Will there be more points scored in the 2nd quarter or the 4th quarter?
  • If you are a hockey fan who wants to combine a hockey bet with a Super Bowl bet, you can actually bet if Pittsburgh Penguin players, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are going to score more points than the number of times that Mahomes will be sacked. (Answers below)

And so many more!  The estimate of total money on all bets on this Super Bowl is $6.8 billion!

Winning Chief Head Coach Andy Reid

After the Game

Well, as one might suspect from this die-hard Niner fan, I was happy with the game up until the 4th quarter, but then, not so much.  I can take solace in the 49ers loss in that they are a young team, but then again, Mahomes is only 24 years old!

Answers to above bets:  Alex was shown, Lopez had 3 wardrobe changes, Lovato sang all the words to the Anthem in just under 2 minutes, the Golden Gate Bridge was not shown, Coin toss – tails, more points in the 4th quarter, Crosby and Malkin got 2 points and Mahomes was sacked four times.

Wait ’til next year!

I Love L.A.?

by Bob Sparrow

Nah, not really, in fact as a northern California native I was conditioned from an early age to hate L.A. It’s as if those from northern California get a ‘Hate L.A.’ gene at birth. We quickly are made aware that L.A. freeways are parking lots, that there are too many people there and the air is brown and you can actually sink your teeth into it. When I moved to southern California over 45 years ago, I heard my northern California friends say things like, “Can you believe he went to the dark side?” and “Don’t worry, he’ll be back!” I tried to tell them I was moving to Orange County, not L.A., but to someone in northern California all of southern California is L.A., except San Diego, which seems to get a pass. I found myself fairly welcome in Orange County as they also hate L.A. and are constantly trying to tell people who don’t know, that they are from ‘The O.C.’ not L.A., so I felt somewhat ‘back home’ in that regard.

Owens Valley Aqueduct

After a few years of living in southern California I guess I became ambivalent towards L.A., I didn’t hate it, but I also didn’t spend too much time there, since getting to and from the ‘City of Angels’ is usually a nightmare. But I’ve visited and enjoyed a good number of L.A. area sites, some recorded here in the blog, like Venice Beach, Watts, Rodeo Drive, Chinatown, Old Italy, Griffith Park and Malibu to name a few. But I just finished reading a book about how L.A. came to be, it’s entitled, The Mirage Factory, by Gary Krist and I was fascinated by the story of how L.A. was invented; yes, that’s the word he uses for the origin of Los Angeles.

From around 1900 to 1930, Los Angeles went from a dusty hinterland town surrounded by deserts and mountains to a burgeoning city of 1.2 million on the shoulders of three ambitious and restless outsiders – civil engineer William Mulholland, filmmaker D.W. Griffith and evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson.

William Mulholland

You’re only recollection of Mulholland may be of Mulholland Drive, a famous road carved through the Santa Monica mountains, where early teenage Angelino boys took their girlfriends to park and ‘watch the submarine races’. It is now the road on which some of the most expensive homes in the U.S. are built, as it affords a magnificent view of the Los Angeles Basin, the San Fernando Valley and the Hollywood sign. Los Angeles would just not be, were it not for Mulholland, who understood that there was no way L.A. could grow significantly, because it was essentially in a desert with no potable water supply. Mulholland solved that problem by heading up the building of a 233-mile aqueduct that brought water from the Owens Valley, which stretches from Lone Pine to Bishop on the Eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains, to Los Angeles. The building of the aqueduct was not without its share of contentiousness between the builders and the Owens valley residents, who saw their water being redirected to the south. Shootings and lynchings were not unusual.

D. W. Griffith

I’m not necessarily a big fan of Hollywood, but I found the story of how L.A. became the movie-making capital of the world fascinating. You may think of Cecil B. DeMille as the premier movie pioneer, but D.W. Griffith was his mentor. Griffith’s story of transplanting the movie industry from New York to Hollywood recalls lots of names you might be familiar with like Fatty Arbuckle, Mack Sennett, Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin, all silent movie stars.

Aimee Semple McPherson

I was at least vaguely familiar with the previous two men’s name, but I’d never heard of Aimee Semple McPherson, but she was one heck of a evangelist, literally bringing thousands of people to her sermons every week. She was a determined juggernaut who dealt with much controversy in her teachings, sermons, healings and even a kidnapping, or was it fake? Using radio for the first time, she almost singlehandedly brought religion to this bustling and growing metropolis that would soon take its place as a world class city.

So, while I don’t love L.A., I now have a greater respect for how the city was built, or invented; and how it has become one of the most diverse and interesting cities in the world.

Just read the book!

The World What???

by Bob Sparrow

This past weekend started the biggest sporting event in the world, and you very well might not have even had an inkling that it was even taking place. No, you didn’t miss the World Series, the Super Bowl or March Madness, you missed the start of the World Cup. It usually doesn’t get much play here in the U.S. and it particularly won’t this year as the U.S. didn’t even qualify for the tournament, which seems almost impossible given that countries like Morocco, Iran, Croatia, Serbia and Senegal did make the top 32 teams in the world.  A good analogy might be as a kid, this would be worse that being the last guy picked on some pick-up ball game in the neighborhood, it’s like being sent home to practice the piano while the rest of the neighborhood played the game.

So, why are we so bad? Possibly we have a hard time getting grown men to run around on a big field for several hours hitting the ball with their feet and heads all resulting in a score of 1-0. But the rest of the world loves football, what we call soccer, so one wonders, ‘what are we missing?’.  World Cup history is filled with stories of fights and even deaths over a team winning or losing a World Cup match. World Cup fans make the Oakland Raider faithful look like they are attending a Shirley Temple birthday party.

Victoria Beckham. Not really interested in what David looks like!

I’m a bit conflicted on this year’s World Cup. Again, I’m not a big fan of soccer, sorry I still can’t call it football, but I haven’t really taken the time to understand the nuances of the game. For me it’s a bit like hockey, where at least I know most of the rules of the game, but none of the intricacies or strategies, and even though there is not typically a lot of scoring, I’ve grown to like hockey. So maybe there is hope this year for me to enjoy the world’s most-watched sporting event along with the estimated 3 billion fans that are expected to watch the tournament this year.

If you’re like me and a) weren’t aware that the World Cup was even going on, and b) do not really understand or care to understand the nuances of the game, and c) aren’t exactly sure what ‘Bend ’em like Beckham’ means, but you’d recognize Victoria Beckham in a Groucho Marx disguise, then perhaps you’ll enjoy some things I learned over the weekend from my local newspaper and the Internet regarding this year’s World Cup that may pique your interest . . . or not. Just think of it as focusing on lady’s hats and mint juleps instead of the horses at the Kentucky Derby.

This year’s World Cup, in Moscow, started last Thursday and continues until the finals on July 15! Yes, a nearly month-long tournament. Since Vladimir Putin’s Russia is the host, it might be important to know some of the history of the host countries. The host gets to pick a lamb for their first opponent – already Russia beat Saudi Arabia 5-0 (yes, they qualified for the World Cup!) on Thursday in the opening round. In 1934 Mussolini’s Italy, which didn’t have a particularly great team, magically won the tournament!! Same thing happen in the ‘70s when a post-Juan Peron’s military junta insured that a less than stellar Argentina team won it all in 1978. So don’t be surprised if a below-average Russian team does something spectacular.

Still don’t care?  OK, here’s some World Cup trivia that you’ll need to know if you want to pretend that you’re the least bit interested in the biggest sporting event in the world:

  • The World Cup tournament started in 1930 and has been played every four years except 1942 and 1946 due to that skirmish going on in the world at the time.
  • Brazil’s team is the most expensive team in this year’s tournament with a worth of approximately $1 billion!
  • Average age of the top players in the tournament – 24
  • 66,000 Iceland fans (yes, Iceland made the tournament too!) wanted tickets to the games in Moscow meaning that 20% of the population of that country wanted to go to Russia to watch the games.
  • Next World Cup is in 2022 in Qatar – yes, they have a team too!
  • If you can catch NBC Latino tv/radio, after a goal you’ll be entertained by renowned soccer announcer, Andres Cantor’s when he calls out his famous Goooooooooooooaaaaaaaaal!

Andres Cantor

You’ve already missed the Egypt-Uruguay thriller (yes, they both have teams in the tournament), but check your local listing for Tuesday’s game between Nigeria (Really! They’re in it and we’re not?!) and Argentina, the over-under on total points is 1.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

 

 

 

Two Sides of Washington D.C.

by Bob Sparrow

Co-Editor’s note: Yes, I’m still part of the Sparrow-Watson writing team and no, Suzanne did not restrict me from getting near the blog for the last three weeks, it’s just that . . . OK, maybe I was told to stay home and get rid of this virus. As usual I only half-listened, I got rid of the virus, but I didn’t stay home.)

Most of our readers have been to Washington D.C., so telling you about my trip and how cool the Air & Space or Spy Museums were or how I could spend all day in the Natural History Museum is a waste of time, so I’ll tell you about my top four emotional experiences in our nation’s capital and environs.

     1. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Top line, Panel 13 E

To those around my age, the Vietnam War happened when we were in college and the years shortly thereafter, which was a time of great social conflict in our country. So seeing all the names on ‘The Wall’ was a sad reminder of that horrible time in my young adulthood. Suzanne does a great job of honoring fallen soldiers from our hometown of Novato each Memorial Day. Among those honored is Allen Joseph Nelson Jr., who was one of the only people I knew personally who was killed in action in Vietnam. Allen and I played high school football together as well as a year a Marin J.C. I knew his sister, Joanne, who was in my class at Novato, and is no longer with us, but I believe the younger brother, Steve, who was in Suzanne’s class, is.  I would ask that anyone who knows him please pass along to him that I located Allen’s name on the wall (Top line of panel 13E) and said thank you and a silent prayer.

 2. The Holocaust Museum

Confiscated shoes in the Holocaust Museum

First opened in 1993, this museum is relatively new to ‘The Mall’. The tour through it is detailed and emotional. Upon entering you receive a passport-like document of one of the victims of the Holocaust, which traces their country of origin and their life prior to being incarcerated as well as what ‘death camp’ they were in, and the date they died or were freed – it really personalizes the tragedy of it all. The museum is filled with photos, artifacts and videos of events leading up to and through the loss of the war by Germany and the subsequent release of the surviving prisoners from the concentration camps. The exhibit that shows hundreds of victims’ confiscated shoes is particularly gut-wrenching.  While most people are generally familiar with the story of the Holocaust, the museum does an excellent job of bringing home the sheer brutality of this heinous crime against humanity. It still seems incredible that it even took place and how many people it affected and particularly how an entire country could let this happen within their borders.

   3. Gettysburg

Overlooking part of the battlefield at Gettysburg

At the suggestion of a friend, who said that if you’re going to D.C. you need to get up to Gettysburg, we rented a car and made the hour and a half drive to this famous Civil War battlefield in Pennsylvania.  The information center there is filled with all kinds of memorabilia and ways to learn about one of the bloodiest and arguably the most pivotal battle of the war.  We chose the in-car CD version which allowed us to stop for as long as we wanted at any particular site.  The battle field, which was much larger than I thought (over 9 square miles) is dotted with over 1,300 memorials, markers and monuments.  Being there and listening to the narration, some stories about brother fighting against brother, gives you a real sense of how and where things were taking place.  In the 3-day battle on July 1-3, 1863, the total of casualties for both armies was approximately 50,000. I was astounded to learn that while we have had approximately 1,264,000 casualties in all of our wars up until now, nearly half, 620,000 were casualties of the Civil War.

     4. Arlington National Cemetery

Changing of the Guard

Just across the Potomac River from The Jefferson Memorial, on property once owned by Robert E. Lee, our national cemetery is a tearfully beautiful place. While the tour through the cemetery talks about all the famous people who are interned there, you cannot help but be struck by the total number of simple gravestones all in a line, “like soldiers at attention”, that are there representing fallen soldiers from every one of our nation’s wars – there are over 400,000 in all buried there. We witnessed a changing of the guard at the ‘Tomb of the Unknown Soldier’, a classy and somber ritual that occurs every half hour this time of year. The grounds offer  hundreds of amazing stories that go with the brave service men and women who make this their final resting place.

While we really didn’t appreciate the rain that fell everyday we were in Washington D.C. and Gettysburg, it seemed to particularly lend itself to the atmosphere of these four historic landmarks that reminded us that our freedom is not free.

Thursday: A few photos to finish our visit to the capital

A Visit with King Tutankhamen

Steve Martin, not King Tut

You’ve probably heard the name King Tut, and perhaps, like me, one of the first things that comes to mind is Steve Martin’s wild and crazy song and dance back in 1978. But, you knew at some level there really was a King Tut, he was from Egypt, fairly young and . . . OK, maybe that’s about it. If that’s the case, come with me now as I go back in time over 3,000 years, and it seemed that way as I slugged my way through L.A. traffic to see the latest exhibit of King Tut at Exhibition Park, next to the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Our first stop is the seven-story screen of the IMAX Theater showing The Mysteries of Egypt. Stay with me, as it’s only about 20 minutes long and it’s actually very interesting, even if Egyptology isn’t your thing. The film tells the story of why King Tut’s tomb was so hard to find. Prior to his death in 1323 B.C. Egypt buried their Pharaohs inside massive pyramids, but since they also buried many treasures with them, so they could have them in their ‘after-life’, burglars were able to easily find these treasures and use them in ‘now life’ – as you can probably figure out, the pyramids weren’t that hard for the burglars to locate. So they started burying their Pharaohs out in the vast desert known as the Valley of the Kings.

After five unsuccessful archaeological trips to Egypt to find Tut’s burial place, the sixth time was the charm for British archaeologist, Howard Carter, who unearthed the buried tomb in 1922.

Valley of the Kings

After the movie and before we go into the exhibit hall, we need a quick crash course on the amazing story of this ‘boy king’. You think politics is crazy now, here’s some stuff that was going on in the 1330s B.C.:

  • King Tut’s mother was his father’s sister
  • He became king of Egypt at the age of 9
  • He married that year to his half-sister, a 13-year old named Ankhesenpaaten, who later changed her name to Ankhesenamun, obviously to make the spelling of her name easier. Legos, Playstation and a new bicycle were items on their wedding gift list.
  • They had two stillborn daughters – one at 5 months, the other at 9 months (How do they know that stuff????)
  • He really didn’t rule, he had ‘handlers’ who made all the decisions

He wasn’t really what one might see as a majestic royal figure. He was slight of build, large front incisors, with an overbite, a slightly cleft palate, irregular curvature of the spine and a fused neck. He had a clubbed left foot, which necessitated a cane for walking most of his life. DNA samples of his bones show that he had the first known infectious malaria disease.  Other than that he was a picture of health.

He died when he was 18, but how he died has been the subject of a lot of speculation – there are at least 5 working theories:

  1. Murdered – he (and/or his handlers) had lots of enemies
  2. An accident – probably murder made to look like an accident
  3. Sickle cell disease – due to his abnormally shaped red blood cells
  4. Gangrene from an infection from a broken leg
  5. Congenital conditions coming as a child of incest

It seems strange to me that we know the gestation period of his wife’s two stillborn children, but don’t have a clue as to how he died!  Keep digging!!

King Tut’s Burial Mask

Oh yes, on to the Exhibit Hall; actually after reading about the search for his tomb and his interesting life, the actual artifacts found in his tomb, many on display here, are a little less interesting to me. Don’t get me wrong, there are some beautiful pieces, over 5,000 of them were found in the tomb, things like furniture, jewelry, chariots, food and of course his golden coffin and the iconic mask.

If you go . . . The exhibit will be here until January 2019; if you go during the school year you’ll be accosted by thousands of L.A. elementary school children on a field trip as I was, yelling, fighting and throwing food – I’d go during the summer or on a weekend, but I’d go.  Another tip, when you go to the gift shop don’t by the King Tut CD, he recorded it before his voice changed and he sounds more like Cleopatra.

Lost in the 50s

Orange Circle . . . er . . .Plaza

I didn’t have to go too far to go back to the 1950s. This week’s journey was a short jaunt down the road to Old Town Orange and the iconic Orange Circle. I’m not suppose to call it that, it’s the Orange Plaza, but it’s a circle, or more accurately, a ‘round about’ in the middle of town and it’s been a circle since the 1870s. It is surrounded by one square mile of historic buildings offering 50 different architectural styles from Spanish Colonial to Victorian. This area is the ‘antique capital’ of Orange County, with some 79 antique stores; there actually used to be more, but some have given way to eateries that now make ‘The Circle’ a destination for diners.

California’s first soda fountain

So last Thursday morning I headed to Old Town Orange, not to look at antiques, hell if I wanted to see an antique, I could just look in the mirror, but to have breakfast at Moody’s. Of course no one calls it Moody’s any more; it’s now Watson’s Original Soda Fountain & Café. It’s actually been Watson’s since 1889 and it is the oldest continuous running business in Orange County and the oldest soda fountain in California.  But for a while in the 70s a guy named Moody ran the soda fountain side of the pharmacy and when I lived about 5 blocks from there, that’s where I took daughter, Stephanie for a treat, starting when she was about four. Her favorite treat was the chocolate ‘milkshape’, as she called it. It came in a tall soda fountain glass with a straw and a long-handled spoon, accompanied by the extra milkshape in the frosty mixing tin. It was delicious! Going to Moody’s for a milkshape became a regular thing. To continue the tradition, I’ve recently taken Stephanie and her kids, grandchildren Dylan and Emma, to Watson’s for whatever they wanted, as long as it was a chocolate ‘milkshape’!

Inside Watson’s

But on this crisp fall morning I wanted to check out the ‘breakfast scene’ at this historic diner; have some eggs and a cup of hot coffee and see if there were some old codgers gathered around a cracker barrel to shoot the breeze. There weren’t.  It was quiet except for the juke box playing some great old 50s tunes.

I took a seat and looked around recalling some of the history of the place. It’s been the location of several movies and tv shows.  Most notably in 1996 the movie, That Thing You Do, which told the story of a ‘one-hit-wonder’ band in 1964 and was written, directed and starred Tom Hanks, used Watson’s in several scenes. Previous owner, Scott Parker, a Watson pharmacist whose ownership dates back to 1971, sold the store in 2015, and today at 75, Parker still works one day a week at a pharmacy in Leisure World in south Orange County. After the sale, Watson’s was closed for some time for renovations while many Watson customers, present company included, were nervous about what the new owner would do to this venerable location. One could hear huge sighs of relief echo through the city when the new owners committed to “bringing the soda fountain back to its original glory.”

Emma, Stephanie & Dylan with their chocolate ‘milkshapes’

They did a great job of keeping some of the old décor and adding some new artifacts, including an old telephone operator’s switch board, a huge old time safe and a door off the diner that reads, Proprietor, Kellar E. Watson.  Kellar purchased the Orange Drug Store in 1899 and renamed it Watson’s, but he didn’t open the soda fountain until 1915.  It wasn’t always a 50s theme because . . . the 50s didn’t happen until . . . the 50s!  Now the multiple TVs that hang from the ceiling are flat screens, but during certain hours they show 50s reruns like I Love Lucy, Mr. Ed and The Andy Griffith Show.  The fare includes the usual breakfast items as well as hamburgers, fries, sandwiches, cherry cokes, banana splits and, of course, ‘milkshapes’. The only major change from earlier menus is that now one can get an adult beverage there, which I don’t think interferes with the theme; I mean liquor was around in the 50s!

So how was my breakfast?  I couldn’t resist, at 7:30 in the morning I ordered a chocolate ‘milkshape’.  The server looked a little surprised, but said she would have to plug in the machine.  Several minutes later out came the tall soda fountain glass filled to the brim with whip cream on top and the extra milkshape in the frosty mixing tin.  It was delicious!

 

Three Stand Up Guys

by Bob Sparrow

“Nothing in life is more exhilarating than being shot at with no results.” Winston Churchill

Bob, Terry, Ken & Joel at 2008 reunion

I had the privilege of spending a couple of days with three gentlemen, Ken, Joel and Terry with whom I attended Westminster College, where we played football together under the tutelage of future San Francisco 49er Super Bowl coach, George Seifert. We were Seifert’s ‘first team’ as a head coach, although he probably refers to us his ‘worst team’. The four of us have reunited on a few occasions since graduation, even one that Seifert attended, but it had been several years since we last saw each other, so it was time.

When you get four 70-something former football players together in Las Vegas, you’d expect a lot of stories under the heading of ‘The Older We Get, The Better We Were’. Not so with this group. While football was certainly mentioned, like during our first beer when we toasted to those players who are no longer with us, it was hardly the main topic of conversation. What was? To that in a moment.

Suzanne has done a great job each Memorial Day of writing about and honoring those from our hometown of Novato, who made the ultimate sacrifice in the Viet Nam war; this story is about three guys that made it home, and I’m so glad they did.

Ken Poulsen

Ken and his ‘loaded’ A-6 aircraft

Ken Poulsen – Marine Lieutenant who was a Bombardier-Navigator in the A-6 Intruder jet. He spent 12 months in Viet Nam stationed in Da Nang where he flew ‘close air support’ during the day for troops on the ground and did ‘road wrecking’ of the Ho Chi Minh trail at night, where he was constantly under attack from anti-aircraft fire. Once out of the service, Ken went into education and ultimately became the Superintendent of Schools for a district in the Sacramento area. Ken retired several years ago and now lives with wife, Suzi in Chandler, AZ and when it gets too hot there, they head up to their second home in the mountains of Show Low, AZ. Ken was our cruise director for these couple of days together and put together a line up of shows, golf and meals that hardly gave us time to lose money in the casinos.

Joel and CH-53

Joel Hall

Joel Hall – Marine Lieutenant who earned both his Navy and Army wings and flew the CH-53 Sea Stallion and the UH-1 ‘Huey’ helicopters at Marble Mountain, just outside of Da Nang, during his 13 months ‘in country’. He flew various ‘support’ and ‘medevac’ missions and when I asked him if he often came under enemy fire, he said, “Oh yeah, and I had the holes in my aircraft to prove it.” After getting out, Joel went to work for the 3M company and retired from there after a 32-year career. He now lives in Atlanta on a golf course and when it gets too cold to play golf there, he and wife, Gayle have a second home on the east coast of Florida where they spend five months a year. Joel can hit a golf ball further and straighter now than he ever could, and his cigar never gets in the way.

Terry Callahan

TC “making the girls thirsty”

Terry Callahan – Army, Spec 4, Medic. Terry was with both the 25th Infantry Division and the 1st Air Cavalry Division, two of the most decorated units of the Viet Nam war. Terry was in several locations throughout his 12 month tour, mostly in Viet Nam jungles near the Cambodian border. He’d do triage for soldiers brought into the first aid field tent as well as fly into ‘hot zones’ in a helicopters to pull out wounded personnel. It was ‘meatball surgery’, stop the bleeding and pain, sew up gashes where you could and get them to a hospital facility. He clearly saw the ugly underbelly of this war up close. After he got out, he did a little teaching and then spent most of his career working for the Justice Department; working cases for judges to determine sentences as well a working with parole officers. Terry and wife, Teri, who is a Delta flight attendant, were married about a year ago and live in Salt Lake City, and when it gets too cold there they have a second home in St. George, Utah. Terry is a humorous storyteller and a good one, whether he’s telling you about the time the hair under his arm caught fire or telling you how flat his home state of Kansas is when he says, “You can stand on a tuna can and watch your dog run away for two miles.”

Fortunately, all three of these veterans were shot at without results.

Terry, Bob, Joel & Ken

So the topic of conversation was about each of their personal experiences in Viet Nam; we touched on the Ken Burns documentary, The Viet Nam War, now playing on PBS, and the protests of NFL players in the form of sitting or kneeling during our National Anthem. We all felt that these NFL players can couch it any way they want, but make no mistake, by kneeling or sitting during our National Anthem they are disrespecting their flag, their country and the brave men and women who fought and the many who died, for them to have their freedom of expression. While those that lost their lives fighting for this country cannot be outraged at these demonstrations, these three veterans, who put themselves in harms way, can be and are.

I came away from my time with my former teammates humbled and thankful to be able to call these three men good friends and so very thankful that they made it home safely.