by Bob Sparrow

  oscar2    People's Choice Awards     writers guild Golden-Globe critics choice

     The ‘Oscars’ or The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (Sciences?) Awards Show as they are more pretentiously called, is the final period, at the end of a ‘Let’s Pat Ourselves on the Back Season’ sentence.  It is a season that includes, but is not limited to, the ‘Peoples Choice Awards’ (as apposed to the Vegetable’s Choice Awards), the Golden Globes, Writer’s Guild of America Awards, Critic’s Choice Awards, The Kennedy Center Awards and The Screen Actor’s Guild Award.  It’s like Little League, where no one is allowed to strike out and everyone gets a trophy at the end of the season.

Why so many award shows?  Because WE’LL WATCH THEM!  We’re interested in the stars being feted despite the fact that these were the kids in school who were really good at making up stories (liars) and pretending to be someone else (psychotics).  These were the creative ones who didn’t always fit into the mainstream, but occasionally fit into a dumpster by a high school bully.  We follow their lives maybe because they are so unlike ours – they’re good looking , rich and have their own therapist.  They also set the standard for partying.

Skyline   It was thus with much enthusiasm that I accepted an invitation to Sunday’s ‘Oscars Extravaganza’ at the estate of Michael and Tanis Nelson, of the Skyline Heights Nelsons.  Michael is a tennis pro who’s no stranger to Wimbledon (of course he had to buy a ticket every time) and Tanis, who is a professor of very undergraduate students in the Inland Empire. Skyline Heights, for those unfamiliar with the southern California environs, is a tony, OC hillside neighborhood overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Fashion Island Mall and the Santa Ana Sand & Gravel Quarry.  For security, the denizens of ‘The Heights’ chose not to put up a guard gate and sentry, but rather just have some exceptionally mean dogs roam the streets.

The neighborhood gets excited for an Oscar party as everyone in ‘The Heights’ believes they look like a famous actor or actress.  At these parties you’ll hear the ladies ask one another ‘who’ they are wearing, while the men grumble innocuously of their pork belly investment portfolios.  So the parties are always well attended, elegant and superciliously delightful.

The Nelson gala was no exception.  A ‘Brown Welcome Mat’ served as the ‘Red Carpet’ and once inside the Nelsons had meticulously decorated each room in an ‘Oscar theme’ . . .

–        There was the ‘Lincoln Room’, where one had to negotiate to emancipate their dinner from the kitchen help

–       The ‘Les Mis Room’ where you could act out a scene from the movie only if you sang out of tune and wore that hideous Russell Crowe hat

russell crowe hat

–       There was also the ‘Beast of the Southern Wild Room’ where you could actually adopt a baby from Africa

Then there was the popular ‘Video Room’ where guests could opine into a camera on various political and environmental issues of the day, whether they had any real knowledge of them or not.  The videos were then streamed on a huge screen in the Nelson ‘Home Theater Room’ throughout the evening.  Well, not all the videos are streamed, only those espousing a liberal point of view.

The Nelsons even provided ‘Seat Replacers’, so when you excused yourself to the restroom someone (looking very much like you) would rush in from out of nowhere and take your place in an animated conversation until your return.  This way the party always looked full and fun.

james franco     The piece de résistance was the Master of Ceremonies, who was hired by the Nelson to preside over the evening; I was hoping it was going to be Billy Crystal, he’s my favorite, but it was James Franco.  I think Franco did a decent job in the movie 127 Hours, where he portrayed a man who had to cut off his arm to save his life when it became lodged between two rocks in a remote Utah canyon.  At the Oscars two years ago, Franco, as MC, played a man with his brain lodged between two rocks and should have stayed in a remote Utah canyon.  I suppose the Nelsons got him cheaply.

Dinner included an eclectic, thematic fare that featured, Chips and ‘Fresh Guacamole’, ‘Django Unchained’ and Free Range Chicken, Corn-fed ‘Argo’ beef, ‘Beast of the Southern Wild’ Rice; all served up with a delightful Middle Eastern red wine called ‘Zero Dark Thirsty’.  Dessert was the highlight of this remarkable repast as it featured a ‘Life of Pi’ eating contest.

The final Oscar is presented and Michael turns to Tanis and says, “Let’s go to bed so these nice people can go home.”  I can’t decide which post-Oscar party to hit, the Vanity Fair bash or the Governor’s Ball, but since I wasn’t invited to either, I go home, slip into something more comfortable and watch a good movie.  I love movies.

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2013-02-17 10.18.12 Every dog should have a boy….  Erma Bombeck.   I’m sure Ms. Bombeck had a freckle-faced 10-year-old boy in mind when she wrote that.  At our house “the boy” is almost 72 years old.  But it seems that some things are timeless and not bound by the limits of age.

I should point out that “the boy” has resisted my attempts to get a dog for the past 25 years.  Every broach of the subject was met with groans, moans and 87 reasons why we shouldn’t get a dog.  Over many of those years he had a point – we were both working long hours, we traveled a lot, we had white carpeting.

But last summer our kids went on vacation and we offered to dog sit.   When he thought I wasn’t looking, “the boy” would give the dog treats.  And he was perfectly content to sit on the couch with the dog right next to him watching golf tournaments on TV.  Over the course of ten days the dog learned all about lip-outs, soft fades and why Tiger Woods will never win another major.

So, as you faithful readers know (and we do thank you for your subscription!), “the boy” was finally worn down enough by last fall that the moans and groans were uttered with less conviction.  I pounced on the opportunity and put a down payment on a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.  He was born in November and we named him “Dash”.  We were finally able to bring him home two weeks ago.  That’s when life in the Watson house changed. Forever.

Before Dash came home, “the boy” wanted it made perfectly clear that I was going to be totally responsible for all feeding, training and (this is critical) poop patrol.  Dash was going to be tolerated and allowed to live with us just to keep me happy.  Yeah, right.

Within 48 hours it became clear that Dash was going to belong to “the boy”.  He didn’t want to leave the house for fear the dog would miss him.  He admonished me for washing Dash’s face with a bit too much pressure.  He got a big stick to take outside to the dog run just in case any wild animal ventured near.  And the baby talk?  Here’s the best example I can provide:  one week after Dash came home “the boy” was watching hockey while Dash and I were in my office watching something educational, like “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”.  When I decided to retire, I took Dash and walked into the family room to say good night.  “The boy” jumped up from his chair, came over to us and starting petting and cooing …”oh, I love you soooo much”, “good-night little sweetheart”, etc. …. to the DOG.  He has not jumped up out of a chair like that for me in 20 years.

So now, after 25 years of wanting a dog, I have to fight for equal time.  At best, “the boy” and I sit on the couch with Dash in between us.  Life is very good at those moments.  And truthfully, I love seeing “the boy” so enamored with Dash.  Dash has brought us a lot of love and I’m sure has lowered our blood pressure by several points.

However, I should stipulate that “the boy” is not so enamoured that he has picked up poop.  Somehow, that is still my responsibility.



by Bob Sparrow

1919 – 2013  First, let me thank all those who sent their condolences to our family for the passing of our mother; she was an iconic lady who, with our Dad, created an incredibly close and loving family. Sister Suzanne did a great job of writing a fitting tribute last week, as well as the accompanying obituary. As we went through our mother’s effects at her apartment in Sonoma, I was struck by all the things she experienced and the changes that she saw during a life spanning nearly 94 years.

Woodrow WilsonShe was born in 1919, only three months after the end of ‘The Great War’ – it wasn’t called World War I until we had another World War and started ascribing Roman numerals to them.  Let’s hope we see no more Roman numerals. Woodrow Wilson was president – she had seen 17 different presidents in her life, well, not ‘seen’ them, but . . . you know what I mean. The unusual thing about Wilson’s election was that he was the only presidential candidate to run against two previous presidents, incumbent, William Howard Taft and Teddy Roosevelt who was president before Taft and wanted to try it again – Wilson beat them both.  Old ‘Woody’ got elected to a second term promising to keep us out of war, which he didn’t – hard to believe that a politician wouldn’t keep his word. 

Mom was born a month after the ratification of the 18th amendment – that’s the one that prohibited the consumption of alcohol. It wasn’t appealed until she was 24, at which time she immediately went out and ordered a Gin Rickey – a popular ‘highball’ at the time. A year after she was prohibitionborn, the 19thamendment, which gave women the right to vote, was ratified; never mind that it was introduced into congress in 1878, so it only took 42 years to get through that bureaucratic ‘good ole boy’s club’ – and you thought we have a ‘do nothing’ congress today. OK, we do. And speaking of ‘tools’, the toaster was invented in 1920, but sliced bread wasn’t created until 1928, which makes one wonder what they put in those new toasters.

model T Railroads were still the most common way to get around, but Henry Ford was changing that with the introduction of the Model T in 1908.  In 1919 you could buy one for about $350 – a goodly sum of money in those days. The Wright Brothers flight at Kitty Hawk took place only 16 years before mom was born and the very first commercial flight in the US took place only 5 years before. It’s mind-boggling to think that mom could have met both Orville Wright and Neil Armstrong.

College football’s top team in 1919 was, are you ready for this? Harvard. There was no NFL or NBA; hockey did play for the Stanley Cup, although they didn’t play for it in 1919 due to a flu epidemic.  People spent their leisure time roller skating, playing pool, dancing or going to the movies.

Mom probably went to the movies before she was 8, if so, they were silent movies; ‘talkies’ didn’t happened until 1927. Vaudeville was still a popular form of entertainment and as a teenager I’m sure mom didn’t talk on the phone much, OK not at all; telephones were very expensive anddepression not even available in rural areas; most folks still relied on the telegraph to get a message to someone.

Mom was raised in the ‘Roaring 20s’, lived through the Great Depression, traveled from Marin County to San Francisco on a ferry since the Golden Gate Bridge wasn’t built until she was 18.  She was married with a 5 month old when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

gin rickeyNo wonder mom used to just shake her head when she’d see a ‘smartphone’, a self-parking car or a wireless printer, about the only thing that hadn’t changed over the years was the Gin Rickey and maybe that’s why she loved them; it took her back to a simpler time and reminded her of all that she had experienced in a lifetime full of wonder. She did live in interesting times.



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by Suzanne Sparrow Watson and Bob Sparrow

Barbara Sparrow

We are not able to write our usual blog this week.  We won’t be able to start your day with a chuckle, either laughing with – or at – our writing.  Last Tuesday, our mother passed away as a result of a fall that broke five of her ribs and …well, simply being 94 years old.  In a twist that makes you believe in fate, she was transferred from the community hospital in Sonoma to Marin County General.  When I heard that news I thought that maybe her life was coming full circle.  It was in Marin County that she grew up, met and married our dad, and then raised us three kids.  So it was only fitting that Marin County is where she would spend her final days.  And in another twist of fate, she died just one day shy of the anniversary of our dad’s death.  They were both huge 49er fans and we are now comforted in knowing that they were together to watch their favorite team play in the Super Bowl.

In tribute to her we are posting her obituary:

Barbara Whitman Sparrow, resident of Sonoma, California, passed away on January 29, 2013, just two weeks shy of her 94th birthday.

Barbara was raised in San Anselmo, California and graduated in 1936 from San Rafael High School.  Barbara attended secretarial school in San Francisco after graduation and over the years made good use of her education.

Barbara met her future husband, Jack Sparrow, at San Rafael High and they were married in 1937.  They moved to Novato in 1939 and in 1940 they bought the Novato Advance newspaperAt the time it made them the youngest newspaper publishers in California.  Together they performed all of the jobs necessary to write, print and distribute the Advance.  Barbara learned to use a linotype machine to help out, but her greatest contribution was her reporting of the town’s social events in her columns “A Little Bird Told Me” which was subsequently re-titled “A Bird’s Eye View”.

After Barbara and Jack sold the paper, Jack went into business for himself and Barbara pursued her own career.  She held positions at Crocker National Bank and the Novato Unified School District.

Barbara was very active in Novato civic organizations.  She was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star, Novato Community Players, and in 1950 was a co-founder of the Novato chapter of the Sunny Hills Guild.  She was a member of the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation, serving as the Northern California President for two years.  In addition she led Boy Scout troops and volunteered at Novato General Hospital.

In 1977 Barbara and Jack retired in Sonoma.  But retirement was not in the cards for Barbara.  She took a part-time job at Vineyard Jewelers and worked there well into her 80’s.  Barbara was active in Sonoma activities, joining the Sonoma Valley Women’s Association and the Sonoma Swingers golf group.  She was also a member of the  United Methodist Church in Sonoma.

Barbara is survived by her son Jack Jr. and his wife Sharon of Santa Maria, son Bob and his wife Linda of Orange County, and her daughter Suzanne and her husband Alan Watson, of Scottsdale, Arizona.  She is also survived by her five grandchildren Shelley Watson and Matt Sparrow of Tucson, Arizona, Stephanie Shomer of Glendale, Dana Borelli of Monrovia, Jeff Sparrow of Orange County. step-grandson Colin Watson of Walnut Creek and step-grandaughter Wendy Watson Topalian of Leawood, Kansas.  Additionally she was blessed to have great grandchildren Katie and Abby Watson of Tucson, AZ., Jackson and Madelyn Sparrow of Tucson, Dylan and Emma Shomer of Glendale, and step-greatgrandsons Matthew and Jake Topalian of Leawood.  Barbara is also survived by her brother Neill of Sonoma and sister Geraldine of Sun City, Florida.

Private services will be held by the family.  Memorial contributions may be made to the Sunny Hills Children’s Garden, 300 Sunny Hills Drive, San Anselmo, CA. 94960.