By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

The quadrennial Summer Olympics are upon us this week.  I have to admit that I’m a sucker for all things related to the Games.  I like the schmaltzy stories about athletes overcoming physical challenges, dysfunctional families, and swimsuits that ride up.  I even like the commercials the first time through and then, through the magic of the DVR, I whiz through the next several hours’ worth of their re-runs.

As magnificent as these elite athletes are they do have a big advantage: they practice.  They devote endless hours to getting faster, stronger and more agile.  Their family and friends support them in the effort.  Shoot, there’s even a place on our tax form so we all can support them.

Compare that to those of us who are suddenly thrust into the indignities of aging.  Without any notice (or, might I say, practice) whatsoever, we become slower, weaker and more awkward; we can’t see, can’t hear and noises come out of places that really should be silent.

I’m going to write the IOOC to suggest that if they really want to see people triumph over adversity they should establish a new event – the Senior Decathlon.  Here are the 10 events for which medals should be awarded:

  • Track:   A gold medal to the person who makes the fastest nocturnal trip to the bathroom.  Event divided into Walker, Cane and Wheel Chair categories. There would also be an Endurance award for those who can actually get through an entire night without getting up to pee.
  • Conditioning:  In this event the medal goes to the person who can spend the most minutes reading in bed.  Points will be deducted for reading the same paragraph over and over.
  • Best Reply to “How Are You Doing?”: A gold medal will be awarded to the athlete who can ramble on about the latest developments of their Disease, Condition or Procedure.  Points awarded for a) the number of listeners who stay awake for the diatribe and b) showing scars from said Disease, Condition or Procedure that require the removal of clothing.
  • Memory:  We expect a lot of entrants in this event.  The winner will be the athlete who, from a sitting position, can get up, quickly go into another room, and not remember why.
  • Grooming:  This event will reward the person who receives the most comments along the lines of “You Look Really Good”, which is code for “You look like you have one foot in the grave and another on a banana peel”.
  •  Digestion:  The medal ceremony for this event will be held in the Food Court.  Award will go to athlete who can most colorfully describe the foods that don’t “agree” with them anymore.  Extra points for saying “I like it, but it doesn’t like me”.
  • The Older We Get, The Better We Were: This event has two categories – youth and work.  Awards will go to the athlete that can tell the most tear-jerking (yet completely fictitious) story about how things used to be “back in the day” and to the athlete who can most exaggerate how important/rich/influential they were at their job.
  • No Sex, No Rock ‘n Roll, But Still Doing Drugs: Because of the Baby Boomer generation, this medal will be given to the athlete has taken the most pills after age 65.
  • Aging Gracefully:  Gold medals will be given in Men’s and Women’s Categories.  Men will be judged on Longest Comb-over.  The award for Women will go to athlete who has had a face lift and does not look like a dog with its head out the car window.
  • Dental:  Finally, this event will be won by the person who can still enunciate their words through dentures, bridges and implants.  A special award will be given to anyone who still has all of their teeth.

So, that’s it.  I don’t know if the IOOC is going to act on these suggestions but just in case, I’m getting my support hose and knee braces ready for Rio.

Hawaiian Postscript – OK, OK I Didn’t Work the WHOLE Time!

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by Bob Sparrow

     For those who may have questioned my veracity regarding the story on my recent trip to Hawaii (I Had To Go To Hawaii To WORK! – A Picture Story), in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that while the conference I attended did go from Thursday – Saturday, the vendors (and I’m a virtual vending machine) were not included in Saturday’s agenda.  Since I was wasn’t sentenced to spend five hours on a ‘red eye’ strapped into the last row of seats for my flight home until 9:00 pm Saturday, I had the whole day to explore Kaua’i.

     On Friday evening, while not sitting at one of those tiki bars not having one of those umbrella drinks, I struck up a conversation with a young man who had just returned from a hike.  I asked him to tell me about it.  He had me at “at the end is this beautiful waterfall.”  My Saturday was planned.

     I took the Kuhio Highway – the term ‘Highway’ here is used in the most colloquial sense – it is a narrow, two-lane road, when it doesn’t cross a river and go down to a one-lane bridge, that winds past the posh resort, homes and golf courses of Princeville and then through the quaint and euphonious town of Hanalei until it just ends.  I think it was the first highway I’d driven on that just came to a dead-end.  I parked.  I was at Ke’e Beach in Haena State Park, on the Na Pali coast, trailhead for the hike to Hanakapi’ai Falls.  This was the setting for Bali Hai in the movie South Pacific; beautiful doesn’t even begin to describe it.

     The trail to the falls goes up the mountain then down to Hanakapi’ai Beach, which is two miles away.  It is narrow and drops off rather dramatically.  Here is part of the ‘Hazard Warning’ for this trail:

Extreme inclines and declines on uneven, narrow footpath on high cliffs.  Loose rocks underfoot and from eroding cliffs above.  Strong currents and flash flooding can occur at the river.  Dangerous shorebreak and riptides at Hanakapi`ai beach – use extreme caution.  Hike Rating: Strenuous

      So one false step could send you down the cliff, careening off lava rock into a watery grave several hundred feet below; but you will have died in a most beautiful place, so you’d have that going for you.

     It was about mid-morning when I reach Hanakapi’ai Beach and it was becoming quite warm; I considered a quick dip in the ocean (I read the ‘Hazard Warning’ after I did the hike) when I noticed a wooden sign stuck in the sand at the entrance to the beach.

 In case you can’t read it, it says, “BEACH WARNING! DO NOT GO NEAR THE WATER, UNSEEN CURRENTS HAVE KILLED (82 in Roman numerals) VISITORS.  I noticed that there was plenty of room for more hash marks so . . .

I splashed a little water in my face from the stream, turned and got on the trail toward the falls


     The trail cuts through the rainforest and crisscrosses the stream several times.   An agile hiker could use the large rocks in the stream as ‘stepping stones’ for the many traverses that are required.  I, on the other hand, had shoes and socks that were soaked by the time I reached the falls.  And I’m sure a less-experienced hiker might lose this poorly marked and seldom traveled trail, but . . . OK, yes, I misplaced the trail a few times, but I told myself I was just being adventurous, not lost; the road less traveled and all that.  I was less cavalier about losing the trail when I remembered that Jurassic Park was filmed around here and wondered if any of those creatures were still hanging out here.  Instinctively my step quickened.  As I was making my way back to the trail I came upon a fairly wide clearing in the otherwise thick foliage.  I noticed a sign at the other end of the clearing and made my way over to see what it said.


     What?!  I could have taken a helicopter here?!!  Don’t tell anyone, but I did ‘linger’ there for a while and thought that anyone coming to see the falls by helicopter would have missed the beautiful scenery along the way, and probably had very dry shoes and thus would not have appreciated the experience nearly as much as I did.

   Moving a little further up the trail, I reached the falls.  The view was spectacular and well worth the four mile hike, OK, it was worth the eight mile hike since I was planning on making the return trip.  The falls are several hundred feet high and cascade into a crystal clear pool, complete, as you can see in the photo, with nymphs, mythologically speaking.  I included them in the picture to give a perspective of the size of the waterfall.

       The return trip was uneventful, although I think someone moved the rocks in the stream further apart.  By the time I got back to the trailhead, my shoes were completely soaked, but my throat was quite dry, as I had run out of water on my return trip, so the young Hawaiian selling fresh coconuts filled with milk, complete with straw, at trails end, was a welcome sight.

     My shoes were not only soaked, but they were severely cut up from the lava rock, so no longer viable for hiking, but I wear them now when I work in the yard, and every time I look at them I think of this most beautiful hike.


By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Last week we spent some time in Mammoth Lakes, as we have done most summers since the mid-80’s. We used to hike and enjoy the scenery, but then we started playing golf and such pursuits were given up for the joys of hacking our way around the local courses. In retrospect, and in assessing my golf game, I should have stuck with hiking.

My favorite hike in Mammoth is the one up to TJ Lake. It is a magnificent mountain lake, surrounded on all sides by rugged peaks and tall pine trees. And because of its remoteness, it is quiet and undisturbed – one of the last remaining places on Earth without a Starbucks. One of my fondest memories is of the last hike we took up to TJ in 1986 when I spent an afternoon reading “Gone With The Wind” by its shores. It remains one of the top 10 days of my life. Every year since then I have suggested to my husband that we do that hike again but we never have. Until last Wednesday.

We drove to Lake George, which is the trailhead for Barrett and TJ Lakes. I read all the trail markers – 1/4 mile to Lake Barrett and 1/2 mile to TJ. Doesn’t sound like much, right? But Lake George sits at 9000′ altitude and TJ is at 9265′. Only a 265′ vertical hike, you scoff? Hiking at 9000′ is like sucking in air through a rubber sheet. Shoot, base camp for Everest is 10,000′. I definitely needed a Sherpa.

We also noted numerous signs warning of the bears in the area. But my husband patted his side and confidently assured me that he had his hunting knife strapped to his belt. Every wife knows this moment: do you let your right brain take over and humor him or does your left brain shout “Are you nuts? You will be through that bear’s lower intestine before you even have the knife unsheathed!”. But, like wives everywhere, I weigh 25 years of marriage versus pointing out the ridiculousness of his plan and say nothing.

We set out, channeling our best Scouting tactics. Slow pace, traversing back and forth, stopping to rest. There was a lot of stopping to rest. But we forged on up the mountain, crossing a river using rocks for a path, hurdling a dead tree trunk, we were regular John Muir trekkers. At last we came to Lake Barrett. It is crystal blue, surrounded by pines and jagged mountains. I posted a picture of it on my Facebook page and got lots of “oohs and ahhs”. That would be enough for most people. But I wanted to see TJ. I was sure it was just over the next hill.

It actually was over the next hill, but I had forgotten that TJ is lower than Barrett. So down we went, knowing that with every step down we were going to have to make our way back up. But I was on a mission. And finally, there it was! You know how you go back to something many years later and the object you’ve tracked down is either smaller or less grand than you remembered (or in the case of my high school boyfriend, a lot shorter)? TJ was everything I remembered and more. I’ve attached a picture but it doesn’t do the lake justice. I sat there for a long while, taking it all in. And I have to admit that I got choked up a bit when I turned to leave. I don’t know why exactly, maybe just happy that I’d managed to make the hike again or maybe because I know that making a return trip with my creaky knees and arthritic back might not be possible.

As we got back down to George there was a couple standing at the fork of the trails. “Hey, folks!”, they shouted. I though they had obviously identified us as fellow members of the hiking community. But they went on…”Did you happen to see the big bear that just went through here? We don’t know which fork to take to avoid her.” I just about passed out, but my husband tapped his knife like a regular Daniel Boone, confident that he had the situation under control. I immediately went down to have my golf clubs re-gripped.

And now for the Tom Cruise part.  Turns out that he flew to Mammoth Lakes the same day we arrived to film the last scenes for his new film, “Oblivion”.  According to our waitress at the chop house (and really, who is more of an authority on local gossip than a waitress?) he stayed at the Westin next door to us and was served with more papers from Katie while he was there. Too bad we never met up with him.  I could have told him that the best place to avoid problems was up at TJ.  A New York attorney would never risk dirtying his tassel loafers climbing up that trail.


A Cabo Fish Story

by Bob Sparrow

     I would like to think that the moniker, ‘Bob the Fish Killer’ comes from the many trophy fish and photos that adorn my den wall, but unfortunately I think it’s a reference to my inability to keep even a simple gold fish alive for longer than a week.  The truth is I don’t have any fish on my den wall; I don’t even have a den.  The reason I don’t have any fish or photos on any wall is that I’ve never hauled a big fish into a boat, never had one on the end of my line much less in a picture or on my wall.  In fact, the closest I’ve ever come to a big game fish is when I ordered Ahi Poke at Red Lobster.

     It’s not just big game fishing where I’m ‘the cooler’; I’ve not caught salmon in the Northwest when they were jumping into boats; I’ve never seen a lake or a stream from which I could extract a trout, a cat-fish or even a decent boot.  While fishing I’ve caught a cold, I’ve caught hell, I’ve even snagged a fishing buddy’s shirt while casting (really!), but I’ve never caught a big fish.  Even if Grunion are running, I’ve pulled a hamstring and can’t catch them.  If fish are hitting on worms, I’m using Day-Glo cheese that scares the hell out of them.  You get the picture; fish are never so secure as when I embark on a fishing trip.  But all that was about to change.

     Two week ago I was asked to accompany a friend, Randy to ‘The Cape of St. Luke’, more commonly known by its Spanish name, Cabo San Lucas (a noted fishing mecca for centuries), to meet up with another buddy, Gary, who keeps a boat in the Cabo harbor all summer.  This was no ordinary buddy and no ordinary boat.  Gary has been big game fishing his entire life, as a youth in Florida and as an adult in California and Mexico.  He knows fish.  The boat, Grand Legacy, is a beautiful 70 footer with the most sophisticated ‘fish finding’ equipment known to man.  There were no less than 16 ‘big rods’ on board with assorted lures and 25 ‘other rods’ and one of those chairs at the back of the boat that looks like a dentist’s chair that one sits in when landing ‘the big ones’.  I told Gary about my lack of angling prowess and he told me not to worry that he’d never been out for two days at this time of year and been ‘skunked’.  To further explain ‘this time of year’ below is a chart I came across that shows ‘Fish Species Availability’ in Mexico, month-by-month.  The chart rates availability with a ‘check system’, 3 checks for excellent conditions, 2 checks for good conditions and 1 check for not-so-good conditions.  Here’s what the chart read for the month of June for Cabo:

-3 checks: Dorado, Striped Marlin, Sailfish, Tuna, Grouper, Snapper, Donner & Blitzen      – -2 checks: Wahoo, Blue & Black Marlin (and they get 3 checks in July – a few day away)      – 1 check: Yellowtail

     I was understandably excited; we had an experienced and knowledgeably captain, a well-equipped boat and it was a month when the big fish were hungry.  I was cautiously optimistic that my frustration from all those previous fishing misadventures was going to be wiped away.  I envisioned myself sitting in that dentist’s chair watching one of those fish with a pointy nose leaping out of the water at the end of my line and me, exhausted after hours of reeling, finally hauling on board the subject of what would become my very first big fish photo-op.

     We headed out on day one and I realized that deep-sea fishing is mostly a rather passive experience.  Once we were out far enough, deck hand, Paco set about five poles in their holders at the back of the boat, lets out some line with lures on them and . . . well, that’s it.  After I watched him do this, I went into the galley, grabbed a beer, climbed up to the bridge where Gary was driving the boat and I asked him, “Are we fishing now?”  He turned around, looked at the back of the boat, saw that the lines were in the water, turned to me and said, “Yep”.  I sat next to him for a while, occasionally turning to see if anything was jumping up and down behind the boat, I finished my beer and went below and watched an episode of Three and a Half Men, with Gary’s son, Parker; then stared into the sea from the back of the boat for a while.  It turns out that deep-sea fishing is even less strenuous that regular fishing, which itself ranks fairly low on the cardio-vascular exercise depth chart.  No putting hooks on a line, no constantly affixing bait to the hook, no casting, no reeling, no checking the drag, no wading in the water, no tying flies to lines, just watching.  The only time you have to work is when you catch a big fish, and you should be fairly rested up to handle that.  I kept watching.

     You know how this is going to end, don’t you?  You’re right, two days, not a nibble – the water was too cold.  How could that be?  I went in and it was just fine; what kind of wussy fish are hanging out down there anyway?  Oh, I guess they’re actually not hanging out down there after all.

     So below is my ‘Big Fish Photo Op’  The first is me displaying the only fish I caught – it was with a net out of the bait tank; the second is the real ‘fish’ hanging up at the Giggling Marlin, a local adult beverage establishment.  The Marlin were indeed giggling.


Gary, sorry I ruined your ‘no skunk’ record, but thank you for a wonderful time.  ‘The Cooler’ lives to fish another day.


Headlines:  What we need is some Purple Haze. 

This week we’ll celebrate the founding of our nation,

When our white-haired Founding Fathers fought the British for cessation.

Somehow we think they’d be appalled to see our red – blue divisions,

With politicians who can’t compromise and use polls to make decisions.

Money:   Beware of unintended consequences. 

The markets are red-hot but we’re still wary of Wall Street,

With one squawk from Europeans they could begin a big retreat.

We’ve already seen white papers written about the health care decision,

And we now have the blues – is a new tax what we envisioned?

Sports:  The good, the bad, and the downright awful. 

Phelps and Lochte competed in blue waters at the Olympic trials,

And Missy Franklin was a phenom with her red nails and flawless style.

Jeneba Tarmoh  raised the white flag and won’t make the Olympic team,

And poor Nastia Liukin fell twice, not quite the ending that she’d dreamed.

Life:  We wonder what L. Ron Hubbard has to say about this?

After five long years of posing Katie Holmes shook off the blues,

Secretly filing to end her “marriage” to her red-faced mate, Tom Cruise.

On Saturday Alec Baldwin’s bride looked resplendent in glittery white,

And sighed relief that Alec didn’t engage the priest in a fist fight.