The Lost Resort

by Bob Sparrow

Timeshare salesman

This week, every year since 1993, our family has vacationed in our timeshare at the Marriott Desert Springs Resort in Palm Desert, and we should be there now, but as everyone knows, the world has turned upside down.  When we bought the timeshare 27 years ago, Linda and I both had pretty good jobs, two young kids and very little savings, which is why we accepted the Marriott’s invitation to come out to the desert, spend two nights and play two rounds of golf.  The only caveat was that we had to listen to a 90-minute presentation about a timeshare, with a tour of the property including a boat ride on the man-made lake that goes inside and outside of the hotel.  We decided that since we didn’t have any ‘extra money’, we were a safe bet to resist the high-pressure sales tactics that we knew took place during those 90 minutes.

Taking a ‘boat tour’ of the Marriott facility

So we packed up our two kids, who were 7 and 9 at the time, threw in our golf clubs and left the frigid January southern California 68 degree weather, for the balmy 80 degrees in Palm Desert.  We walked into the timeshare presentation with kids in tow feeling pretty smug.  They immediately shuffled the kids into a fabulous playroom, designed to keep them fully occupied while their parents were being given the ‘third degree’.  The presentation was very convincing, but we knew we were safe because we were broke and nearly gagged at the price to purchase a timeshare week – $32,000!!!  At the end of the presentation, we thanked them and started to get up and said we just couldn’t afford it at this time (we were actually thinking, or AT ANY TIME!).  They then mentioned that, with a small down payment, we could pay over time, with ‘low, easy monthly payments’ (I thought they were going to throw in some swamp land in Florida too).  We looked at each other and sat back down.  “Just how small is the down payment and just how low are those easy monthly payments?,” we asked.  I don’t remember the numbers, but it was something we thought we could afford, so we bought, hoping we wouldn’t have ‘buyers remorse’ as we drove home.

“Are we there yet?” Yes!!!

As it turned out, it was one of the best purchases we ever made.  As mentioned in the opening, we’ve spent a week there every year; we’ve never changed the time of year or ever tried to exchange it for some place else.  We loved it! Our kids loved it.  Our friends and family that we invited out to stay with us, loved it.  What’s not to love? Great accommodations, great golf courses, great restaurants and great weather.  The best feature of all might be the fact that we didn’t have to get on an airplane to get there – we could just throw stuff in the car, drive for and hour-and-a-half and we’re truly in a whole different world.

The kids brought friends out, played in the pool and park areas, rode the shuttle back and forth between the villas and the hotel and later enjoyed meeting kids (some of the opposite sex as they grew older) around the pool and as they got much older, at the night club on site – Costas

Since that time, several of our friends have also purchased timeshare weeks at Marriott Desert Springs – at a more reasonable price on the ‘Black Market’ I might add.  So we’ve continued to enjoyed getting together out there for golf and socializing and the kids still make an appearance with their own families.  Up until last week, we were hopeful of spending our 27th year there in spite of all that is going on, as the timeshare villas were open and available as was, first, both courses at the Marriott Desert Springs, then just one.  We decided that if that golf course stays open, we could just as easily sit in our villa there, wash our hands and have an opportunity to get out in some fresh air and play some golf.  But alas, the other course, along with virtually every other golf course in California, closed.

The sun has set on the Marriott Deserts Springs Resort for most of 2020

We’re told we won’t lose the week as they may let us switch it for a week in August when the temperature there is typically north of 100 degrees. So, this week, instead of enjoying our 27th year in the desert, we’ve resorted to watching movies and washing our hands at home.  I knew this timeshare thing was a scam!

So our 26 year streak is broken, but we’re hoping that next year we’ll start another one.

Stay well!

Macklin Makes Dramatic Debut

by Bob Sparrow

Wednesday, Feb 26,2020

The Borrelli Family pre-Macklin

5:45 a.m.  Daughter, Dana Borrelli, 39 months pregnant, checks into Huntington Hospital in Pasadena to be induced

7:35 a.m.  Linda and I call Dana to see how she’s doing.  She says not much going on, she feels fine, contractions are still far apart

8:30 a.m.  We ‘Face Time’ Dana; she’s resting comfortably, still no urgent contractions.  We tell her we’ll be coming up to check in on her later this morning

10:45 a.m.  Linda and I, along with Addison, Joe & Dana’s two-and-a-half year old daughter, whom we’ve had for the evening, depart Orange on our way to hospital in Pasadena

10:57 a.m. We get a call from Dana’s phone, but it’s not Dana, it’s husband, Joe.  He says he’ll call us right back, that there is “Something’s going on”

We’re now in panic mode, not knowing what this ‘something going on’ is

11:05 a.m.  Joe calls us back to tell us that 10-12 hospital personnel just rushed in and quickly wheeled Dana into surgery, with one nurse holding in the umbilical cord that was ‘presenting itself’ first.  The umbilical cord coming out first is not good – it is a condition called ‘umbilical cord prolapse’ and can cause significant complications during a delivery if the cord is pressed and collapsed by the baby’s head, thus compromising the oxygen supply to the baby.  Joe is not allowed into surgery, he tells us, “This is not good”.

We are now past panic mode and are still about 30 minutes away from the hospital.  We tell Joe to give us an up-date as soon as he gets one.  He nervously agrees

Macklin Carmine Borrelli

11:37 a.m. Joe calls to tell us that Macklin is here; born at 11:11 a.m. and that both he and Dana are fine, that an emergency C-section was performed.  We were told later that because of the speed with which the surgery had to be done, that Dana lost about 2 liters of blood.  As a point of reference, an average adult has a total of about 5 liters total in their body, although pregnant women can have around 7.5 liters.  Still a lot of blood loss made Mama Dana look a bit pale.

11:45 a.m.  Linda, Addison and I arrive at the hospital and wait in the waiting room about 30 more minutes before Joe comes to get us to see Dana and Macklin.  Dana, always the warrior, says, with a smile, that all is good, and Macklin, while smaller than anticipated at 6 lbs 7 oz, is healthy.

Linda and I give a big collective sigh of relief that mother and baby are healthy and happy.  The birth of a child, I have always believed, is one of the most special miracles ever, even though it sometimes come with a little too much drama.

A special thank you to the amazing staff at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, who sprung into action immediately to save the day.

Whew!!!!  All’s well that ends well!

Death of a Bachelor

by Bob Sparrow

Death of a Bachelor by Panic at the Disco was the first song that Jeff and Pam Sparrow danced to at their wedding.

Pam & Jeff

The ‘festivities’ started a week ago Thursday with the arrival of the ‘Minnesota Gang’ which included Linda’s 93 year old mother, Phyllis, Linda’s sister, Starlet, her husband Donnie and Starlet’s three daughters, Denise, Debbie and Melissa.  Melissa came in from her home in Houston and was glued to the TV watching ‘her’ Astro defeat the Yankees to earn a trip to the World Series.  Linda’s brother, Dale flew in from Florida. My brother, Jack and wife Sharon came in from Santa Maria on Thursday and our daughter, Dana dropped by to see everyone and to see what was going on.  My sister, Suzanne (you remember her from last week’s blog) and niece, Shelley came in from Arizona on Friday.  All arriving for the marriage of our son, Jeff to the now, newest Sparrow, Pam Lechtenberg (her last name is now so much easier for me to spell).

Some of the amazing Barnes-Sparrow ladies at rehearsal dinner. Missing: Shelley (Sparrow) Watson, Sharon Sparrow

Friday night was the rehearsal dinner at our house and daughter, Stephanie joined the aforementioned group as did all the out-of-towners from Pam’s side of the family, including Pam’s parents, Tom and Betty.  Jeff and Pam wanted a Hawaiian theme dinner, so I brought in hundreds of palm trees that had to be back at the nursery by Monday.  Just kidding, those who have been in my back yard know that it’s already has a fairly tropical theme.  We had 55 people coming to dinner and we worried about lighting and heating and wind and . . . almost everything else one could worry about, but all for naught – it was a perfect evening, not too cool and no wind – the Hawaiian gods were smiling on us.  The caterer’s food was very good and the open bar seemed to keep everyone happy.  Gosh, those young kids can drink!!

Addison pushing Will down the aisle

One of my favorite photo of the night: Jeff dancing with his grandmother, Phyllis Barnes

The Wedding ceremony took place on Saturday at sunset on the Hornblower’s Endless Dreamswhich cruised Newport Bay on a weather-perfect evening.  The wedding ceremony which was on the top, or third deck, commenced with Addison, the flower girl, pushing Will, Pam’s sister, Jen’s son, down the aisle in a small car, followed by the wedding party and finally Pam escorted by father, Tom.  The dinner was served shortly thereafter on the first deck and once the speeches and toasts were done, the party was adjourned to the 2nd deck where the DJ and bar were located and the dancing commenced.  The four-hour evening went by in a flash and the next thing I knew there were 25 people back at my house to finish off the evening.

For my short speech I welcomed Pam into our family and told her that she would add to the already-great legacy of the Sparrow-Barnes women.  I told Jeff that he reminded me of two people, my Dad and Linda’s Mom, two of the nicest, kindest, most caring people I know and reminded him that while his mother and I really aren’t all that nice and kind and caring, we carried the gene for all that stuff and passed it along to him.  You’re welcome!

Best Man, Chase Johnson giving his hilarious and heart-felt toast to Jeff & Pam

 

Linda, making sure her mother didn’t fall when dancing with Jeff

 

 

 

 

Sister, Suzanne, with empty cake plate in hand, ‘photo-bombing’ an otherwise classy picture of the ‘Barnes-Sparrow’ girls with Jeff

It was an exhausting and exhilarating weekend and it was great to connect to family members new and old.  Jeff and Pam are going to take a few months to rest up before heading to Thailand for their honeymoon in February.

Thanks to all who came and made it such a great event.

Fond Baseball Memories

by Bob Sparrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Willie Mays at Seals Stadium

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

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

 

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Thanksgiving Epilogue

by Bob Sparrow

The Family

Yes, as always I ate too much, and I’m not sure if Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because of it or in spite of it. It’s a holiday with no debate about whether you say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, there’s no pressure of buying gifts or accepting unwanted gifts with a gracious, but insincere, “I love it”. There is no dressing up and begging for candy and there is no drinking as much as you can and staying up past midnight. Although Madison Avenue is trying like hell to put the focus on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s really still just about family, friends, food and football.

It is truly a time when I actually think about how grateful I am as well as think about those less fortunate – families of fire victims, shooting victims, the homeless, those with debilitating diseases or handicaps. It especially a time to be thankful for all the first-responders who put their lives on the line coming to the aid of others.  It’s also at Thanksgiving I am reminded of how fortunate Linda and I are that we had such loving, caring parents, who taught us love of family, mostly by example. We still love and communicate regularly with our siblings and our three kids love each other and have given us three amazing grandchildren . . . so far.

My hope is that everyone has family relations as good or better than we have. Unfortunately the reality is that I’ve heard way too many stories about people who say that they never got along with a parent, or that they haven’t spoken to a sibling in years or have ignored a once-good friend because they had a disagreement years ago. When I encounter people in these situations I can’t help but think of one of the most influential books I’ve ever read about forgiveness, Long Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela. Among other things Mandela was able to forgive those who imprisoned him for 27 years, 18 of which were on isolated Robben Island, for his efforts to abolish apartheid in South Africa. A few years ago I personally had an opportunity to visit his cell on Robben Island and believe me, it is no place you would want to spend even 18 minutes in! Once released, Mandela continued his fight against apartheid and was ultimately elected president of South Africa.  While apartheid isn’t completely gone even today, his efforts have gone a long way towards creating social justice.

The good news is you don’t have to be imprisoned for 27 years to reach out to that family member or friend that you’ve been avoiding for the last several years. This is the perfect time of year to extend the olive branch or an eggnog.

 

Parlays and Teases and Over-Unders, Oh My!

by Bob Sparrow

An early Saturday morning wake-up was the start of a road trip across the vast desert to an out-of-the-way inland river port. The Mojave Desert stretched in front of us and once off the beaten path, it was so desolate that it was as if we were driving on the lunar surface, although I’m not really sure what driving on the lunar surface is like. All I know is that there were miles and miles of nothing buy miles and miles. Our destination is a small town named after the man who created it in 1964 – not that long ago, said the old man. It’s officially fall in the rest of the country, but someone forgot to flip the calendar page here in Laughlin; instead they flipped the ‘on’ switch to a blast furnace – it’s 104. But it’s a dry heat!

The trip to the ‘Casino on the Colorado’ was to meet up with brother, Jack and his wife, Sharon, who were flown in and put up by Harrah’s – so in gambler’s vernacular they are ‘Whales’, so I will watch them closely to see what they do and how they gamble, because no one has ever paid airfare and lodging for me anywhere. I take that back, there was that free night in jail when . . . oh, never mind, I guess that wasn’t free. I digress.

Typically confused Sparrow Bros. clients

The real purpose of driving on the moon or maybe it was more like driving on Mercury with that 104-degree temperature, but truth be told, I also don’t know what it’s like to drive on Mercury either, was to gamble. More specifically our goal was to try to affirm our alacrity in and governance of the betting on college football games, for which ‘The Sparrow Brothers School of Fine Football Forecasting’ was created. We think because we combined to play and/or coach football for a total of 23+ years, that we know how to bet football . . . we don’t.

In the last few years we’ve either bet or ‘mock’ bet on college football games, with less-than-stellar results, but this year we developed a ‘system’ that has worked with ‘mock money’ so now we’re anxious to try it with real money!  I could spend some time here discussing the ins and outs of parleys, teases, over-unders and other terms not typically known by the lay person, but I think it would just confuse you, it did me!

I posted the following bets here on Friday so you wouldn’t think I put them in after the fact. I think the results will affirm that (our selections are underlined)).

Bet:       Ohio State over Penn State giving 3.5 points, parlayed to

Oregon over Cal giving 2.5 points

Result: Ohio State won, but didn’t cover, Oregon won and covered; bet lost.

Bet:   USC over Arizona giving 3 points, parlayed to

Stanford over Notre Dame getting 3.5 points

Result: USC won and covered, Stanford lost by more than 3.5; bet lost.

Bet:   Washington St. over Utah giving 1.5 points, parlayed to

Nebraska over Purdue getting 3.5 points

Result: Wash St. beat Utah and covered, Purdue beat Nebraska by more than 3.5; bet lost.

Bet: Texas over Kansas State giving 9 points parlayed to Wyoming over Boise State getting 16.5

Result: Texas won but didn’t cover, Boise St. beat Wyo by more than 16.5; bet lost.

Yes, you’re reading this correctly, we lost every bet! So we decided to bring our ‘expertise’ to the pro games on Sunday.

I won’t go through the painful details of Sunday, which looked a lot like Saturday – here’s a good indication of how our Sunday went – we bet on Carolina, who had a bye and Bye won by 2 touchdowns!  It’s a good thing we had the U.S. in the Ryder Cup.

The Sparrow Bros. School of Fine Football Forecasting has since filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will be closing their doors for the season and will be open next year under a different name, for the beginning of the Bangladesh Women’s Lacrosse season. Stay tuned!

 

To Your Health in this New Year

by Bob Sparrow

I’ve had some time over the last couple of weeks to reflect on what a new year really means.  A new year suggests we get to reboot, start over, fix all things from the previous year.  But reality sinks in shortly after the ball drops, the reality that you’re really just continuing the previous year, as nothing has really changed except the date. “Happy New Year”, you tell everyone and they return in kind, and you really mean it and you hope they do too – everyone wants the new year to be happy. But I entered this new year with a mind that was occupied by some not-so-happy events that took place in our neighborhood and family as 2017 came to close.

As some of you know, we’ve lived in a great neighborhood for over 32 years and we’re not even the longest standing members of our ‘hood. Unlike most neighborhoods, we actually know our neighbors, many of them – some 20+ couples on two streets. Our kids have grown up together, we socialize together and we take care of one another. When neighbors are sick or have issues that restrict their mobility, we take turns bringing in dinners, running errands and doing whatever it takes to help the neighbor in need. It’s a great feeling knowing that someone close by has your back – actually a lot of someones.

Because we’re so close, we share in both the joy and the pain of our fellow neighbors and the end of 2017 brought significant pain to three couples. Three men suffered hospitalizing, life-threatening events.  I won’t go into the specific ailments or names of the families involved, but at the end of last year, our neighborhood was reminded of both how important our health is and how quickly things can change. To hear and feel the anguish and fear of the unknown from the spouses of these three men is indeed life changing. The sad news in our neighborhood was compounded by the news that one of our very close relatives also had health issues requiring hospitalization.  We somehow mistakenly believe that really bad things are not going to happen to us, but they do, and it really hits home when it’s family or neighbors or anyone that you love.

Through emails, phone calls, text and face-to-face conversations we have shared amongst ourselves the progress of each of these four people, hoping and praying that all four would successfully come through their individual struggles and be able to return to the life they once knew.

So yes, the ending of last year just flowed into the beginning of this year with the fate of these three men and a close relative on our minds. So forgive me if I take this opportunity to remind as many people as I can how important our health is. Some things we can’t control, like genetics, but some things we can, so please remember:

  • Be thankful for your good health if you have it
  • Never take good health for granted
  • Take better care of yourself
  • Let me share an idea that doesn’t require you to spend thousands on the latest fad diet, or go to a ‘healing’ spa:
    • Diet
    • Exercise
  • Also, get to know your neighbors; there are probably some really nice people just down the street who may need your help, or who might help you in a time of need

Remember, “Life is a one time gift”

 

Cowboys or Indians

by Bob Sparrow

As kids, my brother Jack and I always played cowboys and Indians, because we didn’t have computer games, heck we didn’t even have television until we were almost teenagers! But we had a local movie theater where we saw a lot of cowboy and Indian movies. The cowboys were always the good guys and the Indians were always the bad guys, worse than bad guys, they were portrayed as ignorant savages! When we played, of course I always wanted to be the cowboy and I was, because Jack always wanted to be the Indian, even though he knew he was the underdog and would ultimately lose. Because he was my older, bigger brother, he may have won a battle or two with me, but in the movies the Indians never won, but that didn’t stop him from always rooting for them. This was long before ‘political correctness’ necessitated our empathy for the plight of the Native American. So growing up I always thought that Indians were a savage people that we needed to eliminate in order to carry out our ‘Manifest Destiny’.

Crazy Horse

I liked the Lone Ranger, Jack liked Tonto. I liked Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and Randolph Scott; he liked Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull and Geronimo. His favorite movie is Dancing With Wolves, and while I can barely remember that Kevin Costner was in the movie, he remembers the name, Doris Leader Charge, the 60-year old Indian women who was a university professor and was hired to teach the Indians in  the movie the Lakota Sioux dialect that was use by the real Indians at the time. Jack never protested or overtly beat the tom-tom for Indian rights, but he would point out the differences in how the Indian versus the white man managed our natural resources, to wit:

“White man builds big fire and stands way back, Indian build small fire and sit very close.”

“The Indians never killed an animal where they didn’t use all of the parts – the meat, the innards, the fur, the head, the claws, the teeth.”

Apposed to William Cody who was purported to have killed 4,282 buffalo in 18 months and in a contest for the rights to use the name ‘Buffalo Bill’, killed 68 buffalo in an hour; and left them on the plains to rot.

Over the years I’ve become more sensitive to the Indian’s plight, reading several books about their struggles to keep their culture alive here in their native land; my eyes were also opened during a hike through the Havasupai Indian reservation in the Grand Canyon area where I witnessed how we have failed to assimilate these Indians into our culture and how it has adversely affected them.

Pechanga Indian

So on the Friday after Thanksgiving I felt the need to do a little more research on a local Indian tribe named the Payomkawichum, which translates into ‘People of the West’.  To say these people are indigenous to southern California is an understatement, they’ve inhabited the land here for over 10,00 years. Their name was changed by the Spaniard missionaries to the Luisenos, probably because Payomkawichum was too hard to pronounce.  Now they are more familiarly known as the Pechanga Indians – officially the Pechanga Band of the Luiseno Indian Tribe. My research took me to Temecula and the largest Indian casino in California, Pechanga Resort and Casino. Immediately sensing that I needed to spend more than one day doing my research, I booked a room for two nights.

The latest Pechanga reservation

I discovered that apparently these Indians were really into games of chance as there were over 3,400 slot machines in the place as well as tables for blackjack, poker, craps (not with dice, that’s illegal for some reason!) and various other wagering games. Now, being empathetic to the Indian cause thanks to my brother, I felt obligated to contribute in some way to their well-being. I was comfortable at first with my initial financial donation, but after the first day of ‘research’ I found that I was being more philanthropic than I had anticipated. Thinking of everything, the Indians were able to provide me with a handy ATM machine to access more donation funds.

I slept well that night, knowing that in some small way, OK maybe not so small, I had helped provide shelter and sustenance for some Native Americans. I knew that in games of chance you win some and you lose some and I was now positioned to ‘win some’. Saturday came full of hope and the good feeling of knowing that I had donated significantly to a worthy cause and perhaps I would be rewarded with a small token of appreciation.

Those damn Indians! Where was my ‘win some’?! I pay $7 for a beer and over $450 a night for a room and this is how I get rewarded?

I guess this is what I get for always being the cowboy as a kid.

Circumnavigating Tahoe

by Bob Sparrow

Emerald Bay

Lake Tahoe. Just the name brings so many great memories rushing back to me. As those who read here know, we have a long history wth ‘The Lake’ and usually try to get up there in October, when most of the tourists have gone home, to visit our parent’s final resting place. Brother Jack & Sharon and their families went up in July, but we were in Europe at the time so we figured we’d make it up next year, until Jack & JJ Budd, long-time travel companions, had a timeshare week they had to ‘use or lose’ at the Marriott Timber Lodge at the base of Heavenly Valley in South Lake Tahoe, and invited us to join them.  We happily accepted.

Sunnyside deck on a summer’s night

The weather was crystal clear; in fact we never saw a single cloud the entire time we were there. The air however was very crisp during the day and more than crisp at night as temperatures dipped into the 20s and high teens. We decided to take a drive around ‘The Lake’, starting the drive up the west shore. The first thing I noticed was the lake level; years of draught had lowered the lake so much that no water was going over the spillway that creates the Truckee River. Now, due to record snowfall in the Sierras last winter, the lake was as high as I’d ever seen it. As we drove past Emerald Bay I recalled the hikes we did from there up to Eagle Lake and the great views it provides. We weaved our way past Meeks Bay, where I could still smell the Coppertone sun lotion our mom use to put on us – in fact I can’t smell Coppertone today without mentally going to that great sandy beach at Meeks Bay. Just prior to getting into Tahoe City at the north end of the lake, we took a quick detour up Chinquapin Lane and drove by the cabin that Uncle Dick bought in 1951 (Suzanne, sorry to report that the picture of our ‘Aunt Marilyn’ is no longer on the cabin wall). As we drove by, so many memories were rushing through my mind. How lucky we were to have such a ‘Summer Place’ in which to play while we were growing up.

Lakeside lunch at Garwoods

We continued up the road less than a mile before we came upon Sunnyside Lodge – now a very haute destination, but back in the 50s it was a rustic lodge/bar with seven rooms and only two bathrooms, one at each end of the hall, a combination liquor store/bait shop and a small marina where Jack and I would fish using drop lines from the pier (and never caught anything!). Today, Sunnyside sports the largest deck on the lake and is the spot to be on a beautiful summer’s day or evening. Continuing our journey, we drove through Tahoe City, where Jack owned The Off Shore Bar & Grill right on the lake, and continued up to Rocky Ridge, which offers the most spectacular view of Lake Tahoe I’ve ever seen and is the final resting place for mom and dad. We checked in with them, soaked up the amazing views and continued on our way. We stopped for lunch at Garwoods, which is one of the only places at the north end of the lake that offers lakeside lunch dining during this ‘shoulder season’. We sat outside on the deck in amazing weather and had the best fish & chips on the lake, or anywhere except Scotland as far as I was concerned.

Visiting Mom & Dad at Rocky Ridge

As we continue our trip, we leave California and enter Nevada and stop by CalNeva, a once very popular hotel and casino on the lake where Frank Sinatra was once one of the owners and the ‘Rat Pack’ made regular appearances. Mom, Dad and Uncle Dick would dress to the nines on a Saturday night and go ‘over the line’ (the California-Nevada border) for an evening of dining, dancing and gambling at CalNeva and come home way after we kids were fast asleep. Today there is a fence around CalNeva as it is in rehab, or rather reconstruction. I’m hoping it will, in time, return to its glory days.

We continued down the east shore, which is mostly Nevada State Park with very few signs of civilization, although it has several spectacular beaches. Between Zephyr Cove and Glenbrook is the Cave Rock Tunnel, created in 1931 and the only tunnel on the trip around the lake.

We pulled into Stateline, south shore Lake Tahoe completing our trip that covered not only the 72 miles around the lake, but the 65-some odd years of wonderful memories.  It was a good day!

Suzanne on the ‘Midnight Express’

by Bob Sparrow

Suzanne’s new friends

Suzanne’s popular and much-read Memorial Day blog, They Were Soldiers Once, And Young, along with last week’s post about our lovable father may be her last blogs for a while. Let me explain . . .

Two weeks ago we received an email response to the first aforementioned blog. We typically love responses, but we didn’t particularly love this one. It read:

Hello, is there an email address to reach you guys regarding a copyright issue on your website?”

At first we thought it was ‘spam’, we get a lot of that, I guess maybe because we (I) write a lot of that, but we looked to see from whom it was sent. Perhaps it was a friend who was just trying to mess with us. It wasn’t. The sender of the email was a name that seemed to be just a mishmash of letters, so it was, we thought, clearly a prank from a fictitious name.  But we decided to see what Google had to say about this mishmash of letters. It turns out that there is, in fact, a person with a name of this combination of mishmash letters. We wondered who it was and why were they emailing us? And what possible copyright issue could there be? Lots of questions, but no answers, until . . .

My Google search had numerous headings under this name, but my attention was immediately directed to a heading with which I was familiar, From A Birdseye View. My first thought was, “Hey, it’s our blog, that’s cool”. Then I thought, “Oh shit, why is a copy of our blog listed here under this name?”

As I read further and learned more, I opened the link to our blog that appeared in this Google search and the pieces started falling into place. The blog was Suzanne’s annual Memorial Day tribute from 2016, in which she used one of this person’s photos that she found on line. As I learned more detail, I found that this person is a well-known and published Turkish photographer, having had a number of exhibits in the states as well as Turkey and has won a number of awards for photography here, in Turkey and in the UK and currently lives in Izmir, Turkey. I’d put a photo here, but that’s the kind of thing that got us in trouble in the first place.

In correspondence with this person, it was indicated that whoever was responsible for putting this photo on our blog (Suzanne!) was being subpoenaed to immediately appear in Turkish court for violations of international copyright laws. I quickly responded and pronounced my innocence and indicated that it was totally my sister’s doing, that I tried to talk her out of it, but she insisted. I know, it sounds like I’m throwing her under the bus, but I was furtively trying the strategy of taking the opponents side in the argument to let them know we were reasonable and rational people (at least I was), and I suppose at the same time I may have been distancing myself from my sister’s heinous act.

I understand why she’s here, but why am I here?

So, long story short, last week Suzanne flew to Turkey and appeared in Turkish court, admitting that she used the photo, but saying that she was unaware that the photo was taken by our emailer and explained that when she learned of her mistake, she immediately took down the photo (you may have noticed that a photo that had usually appeared in Suzanne’s blog in previous years, was replaced this year).  Too little, too late.  Her plea fell on deaf ears, deaf Turkish ears I should remind you.  So unfortunately Suzanne has taken up residency in a Turkish prison, sharing a cell with a Sri Lankan murderer and a drug dealer from Bangladesh. The court did take pity on her and allowed her to bring Dash, The Wonder Dog, with her. So she does have some companionship, that is aside from the murderer and drug dealer. It’s not all bad, she’s actually getting along quite well in her new environment as she has started a prison knitting class for the guards, which seems to be going quite well. Who knew that Turkish men loved knitting?

Copyright infractions in Turkey can carry up to a 30-year sentence at hard labor, but there is a possibility of parole after 28 years, so Suzanne could be out sometime before she turns 100.  I’ve sent her the DVD series ‘Prison Break’, so she’s got that and she does have Dash, who spends most of his time digging.

If you’d like to write to Suzanne, she can be reached by sending correspondence to:

Shit Hole, Istanbul, Turkey

OK, just kidding . . . it’s only a 20 year sentence.