by Bob Sparrow

nothing1I know I don’t always succeed, but I always try to write something entertaining about where I’ve been or where I’m going, as I love travel and I seem to look at things from a little different perspective than most others. Or I’ll write about some little, but hopefully interesting, observation of life. Sister Suzanne does a particularly great job of the latter – I mean really, she brought us to tears last week writing about taking her dog for a walk out to the end of her driveway. Me – not so much, as I said, I usually rely on ‘going somewhere’ and hoping to find something interesting to write about.

sb coast

Santa Barbara coast

Last week I was supposed to go on a camping trip along the Santa Barbara coast, exploring the beaches and cliffs of this beautiful area, but for various reasons that I’m sure you’re not interested in – heck, I’m not even that interested – the trip was cancelled. So there I was, ready to regale you with my adventurous treks along the beautiful Central Coast and now I’ve got nothing. Didn’t go anywhere. Didn’t see anything interesting. Nothing extraordinary happened to me. Didn’t discover any special or unique places. I’ve got nothing. Even though Seinfeld made a career out of it, it’s hard to write about nothing. Although some have said there’s a lot of nothing in many of my previous blogs.


Deck-side umbrella table and palapa


Outside fireplace

So last weekend instead of camping in the Chumash Mountain Wilderness, I wandered around in my backyard. No, I didn’t camp there, although there have been occasions, when the kids were younger, when I’d pitch a tent on the back lawn, spend the night in it and be awakened in the morning by the sprinklers that I forgot to turn off. So, this week my ‘going somewhere’ turned out to be my backyard, and while I enjoy putzing around back there, I’m not finding anything of interest to write about this week. Unlike my sister’s backyard, which has Pinnacle Peak, I have no natural landmarks. I do however have some ‘man-made’ landmarks and so I wander around back there trying to find inspiration from them. I look past the pool deck umbrella table where no one is sitting to the palapa that no one is sitting under, and I get no inspiration . . . nothing. I check the ‘Tiki Bar’ to see if there are any stragglers left over from the weekend, perhaps with a good story to tell that would make for an interesting blog . . . nothing. I recently bought a new umbrella for our outside fireplace area, and although it’s nice, it’s hardly blog-worthy. I crank up some Jimmy Buffet music through the outside speakers hoping to get some inspiration from him . . . nothing. We bought this house new 28 years ago and the backyard was just dirt . . . nothing. And today in terms blog inspiration . . . nothing. I’m thinking maybe I should talk to some of the plants; perhaps they’ll talk back and give me something to write about. I bend down and put my ear to the hydrangeas . . . nothing.


The Tiki Bar




Behind the pool is what I called my ‘Ho’omana’O Honopua’, which loosely translate in Hawaiian to ‘Memorial Garden’. I love Hawaii, so my intent with this garden was to bring Hawaii to my backyard, so I wouldn’t have to pay airfare or expensive hotel rates to enjoy the sights and smell of palms and plumeria. I’ve told my family that I’d like my ashes under the moai (stone monoliths from Easter Island – a bucket list destination) on the right in the picture below. It is already a memorial garden in that when I returned from my best friend, Don Klapperich’s funeral, I purchased the moai on the left in the picture below and buried under it a shell casing from the rifles fired during the military memorial service.

memorial garden

Ho’ Omana ‘ o Honopua

It’s getting dark and there will be no lights turned on in the backyard tonight, no tiki torches lit, no music playing, no adult beverages consumed; there will be, like this blog . . . nothing.



By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

autismYou know that it’s an odd news week when the death of 14 people in an industrial explosion is relegated to page eight.  Or when a ricin-laced letter to the President generates all the excitement of an AARP renewal notice.  The story about catching the person who killed the district attorney down in Texas was a footnote.  But the real indicator that we were in a serious news cycle was the Kim Kardashian-Kris Humphries divorce was only of interest to the supermarket tabs.

No, last week we were all focused on the horrible terrorist act in Boston – the deaths, the injuries, the perpetrators and the heroes.  The story was all-encompassing and riveting.  For much of the week it was sad and worrisome.  I heard more than one person lament that our world just isn’t the same.  Friends of a “certain age” talked about how their grandchildren would never know a life where they didn’t have to worry about terrorists, bombs and taking their shoes off before a flight.

I, too, was in this frame of mind last week as I set off on my daily walk with Dash.  Since he’s still a puppy we usually just go around the corner and back.  And frankly, I’m being generous when I use the term “walk” – it’s more that he stops and sniffs everything while I check emails on the phone.  But on this particular walk we saw a car parked at the end of a driveway with a mom and her son. We had seen them before on our walks and always gave them a little wave.  But last week as we passed, the mom rolled down the passenger side window and the little boy stuck his head out to greet us.

Dash and I walked over to their car.  It turns out that the boy (who for purposes of this essay we’ll call “Sam”), is severely autistic.  He had a tussle of curly hair and a big smile.  I spoke with his mom a bit – she was cheerful and patient with Sam as he wiggled in his seat.  I was reminded of the saying that God only gives us what we can handle.  This woman has been given a lot to handle and seemingly does so with an abundance of grace.

I picked Dash up so that Sam could see and pet him.  Dash, as is his wont, stuck his tongue out in an effort to barrage Sam with kisses.  Sam, not able to communicate well, did what seemed logical – he stuck his tongue out at Dash.  The two of them nuzzled in a frenzy of excitement – Dash frantically wagging his tail and Sam giggling at Dash’s kisses. At that moment I realized I was witnessing  joy in its purest sense.  Neither of them could talk; neither of them had to.

A few moments later the school bus pulled up and out stepped the driver, Jim, and his wife/assistant, Janetta.  They were straight out of Central Casting.  He was tall and lanky with an easy smile.  She was caring and sweet.  They greeted us and then went about the business of getting Sam onto the bus.  Janetta told Sam how nice his hair looked while Jim tenderly helped him up the steps.  Once Sam was settled in his seat, Janetta nestled in right next to him.  As they pulled away Jim gave us a big wave out the window.  It felt like something I would have witnessed as a kid in my small town.

So as Dash and I turned for home I felt more content than I had all week.   I knew that when I got home the news on TV might still be stressful but I had just been reminded that there are far more good people than bad in this world.  There are people who are heroic every day.  There is joy to be found every day. And sometimes it’s just around the corner.


by Bob Sparrow 


The Eagles

I recently watched a documentary on my favorite band, ‘History of the Eagles’ on the Showtime Channel. If you’re an Eagles’ fan this is a must see; even if you’re not, it’s still great music history.  So the first week of April as we headed out to Palm Desert for our 19th year of enjoying our timeshare, I was mixing my metaphors, dangling my modifiers and juxtaposing the reminiscing of the Eagles documentary and the looking forward to my hedonistic week in the lush environs of Palm Desert.  It created a strange concoction in my head – I present it forthwith.

                                                On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair

                                                Warm smell of colitas rising up through the air 

For the uninitiated, colitas is the small, sweet buds at the end of the cannabis plant that makes for what was colloquially known in the ‘70s as ‘good shit’.  This week we’ll enjoy the sweet smell of a good cabernet.

So I called up the captain, please bring me my wine

He said we haven’t had that spirit here since 1969


Marriott Desert Springs Hotel

It’s hard to think of the Eagles and not think of their biggest hit, ‘Hotel California’.  There have been many interpretations of the meaning of the lyrics of that song, the most common is that it’s an interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles.  So this week I’m loosely translating it to represent my decedent week in the desert where we eat at great restaurants, drink expensive wine and play luxurious golf courses.  Because it combines Life in the Fast Lane and a Peaceful Easy Feeling, I have concluded that the Marriott Desert Springs Hotel is my ‘Hotel California’.  The lyrics echoed in my head . . .

                                                                                                              Welcome to the Hotel California

                                                                                                          Such a lovely place, such a lovely face

                                                                                                        Plenty of room at the Hotel California

Any time of year, you can find it here.

Marriott mirror Yes, you can find it there in Palm Desert, but you may not want to find it ‘any time of year’; in the summer it’s not such a ‘lovely place’, but in early spring – awesome!

One of the great features of this timeshare is that it’s an hour and half’s drive from home; so no airports, delayed flights, missed connections or airplane food; and yet once you’re there you feel like you’re in a whole different world – perhaps because you are.

Some dance to remember

Some dance to forget

And there are some of us that have just forgotten how to dance altogether, but the images dancing in my head of desert nights, desert skies, desert flowers, desert sunsets silhouetting Mt. San Jacinto in the distance and billion stars in the sky are simply magnificent.

Relax said the nightman, you are programed to receive,

You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave

Actually check-out is by 11:00 a.m. or you’re subject to late fees, but after a week of ‘Desert Decadence’, it’s time to go home.Hole #2

Hotel California ends with, if not the greatest, one of the greatest guitar riffs in rock and roll history, I’ll conclude with:

  1.  Find your Hotel California – ideally a few hours drive from your home, but in a totally different       world
  2. Listen to some Eagles music, if you don’t have any, GET SOME!
  3. Enjoy a week of indulgence; you’ve earned it . . . probably

Back home and the lyrics that are now echoing in my head are: My diet starts Monday!


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By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Spring has sprung, the flowers has riz, I wonder where the birdies is?….Anonymous.

Soehrensia bruchii flowers 4 inch

Spring has definitely come to the desert.  As both my brother and I have mentioned in recent weeks (probably ad nauseam), the flowers in the desert are truly one of nature’s miracles.  They pop up almost overnight and bloom in magnificent colors – brilliant orange, pink, and yellow.    They signal the end of cold weather and the beginning of spring.  Of course, my brother has the advantage of viewing the beautiful flora here in the desert and then returning home to the wonderful climate of Orange County.  I, on the other hand, see the beautiful flowers and know that we will be enjoying springtime for a maximum of – to be on the generous side – 10 days.  Then, like someone has flipped the switch to a blast furnace, we begin our season of “dry heat”.  As I’ve often said when someone mentions that term – my microwave oven is also a dry heat but you don’t see me living in that, now do you?

The other sign that spring has come is that the birds start to fly about in great numbers.  They chirp endlessly – some sort of mating call I suppose.  If this year is any indication, we’re going to have a HUGE bird population in the next few months.  The most annoying birds are the woodpeckers who love the flashing on the roof that surrounds the fireplace chimneys.  Apparently woodpeckers must be related to roosters because at the most un-Godly hours in the morning they begin rat-a-tat-tatting on our roof.  Their constant pecking echos down the metal chimney flue to create the most startling sound known to man.  Or at least that’s how it seems at 4:30 in the morning.  This is such a problem that several men in the neighborhood have taken to shooting BB guns at them – a la the crazy father in “Steel Magnolias”.  There they are, outside before dawn, in all manner of undress, shooting at birds who are laughing their tail feathers off at the idiots trying to shoot them down.  2013-04-06 10.06.01

We unwittingly have found a way to exact revenge on all the birds.  A couple of years ago we installed a glass front door and sidelights, allowing a view to the backyard when standing at the front door.  The picture at right was taken at the door so you get the idea.   Birds, however, are not that smart. Somehow they have confused our house with a landing strip at Sky Harbor.  With the advent of spring, they are on a quest to fly right through our house. Consequently, it is not unusual to hear a loud “BAM!” and see the wingspan of a bird imprinted on our front door.  Before you even think about calling the SPCA , rest assured that no bird is injured in this process.  After they hit the door, they fly away stunned and most likely go home and take an Advil.  Usually by the end of spring word has gotten out in the bird community to stay away from the “trick” door at the Watson’s house.  But for the next few weeks we will be the pathway to hell for countless of our feathered friends.

Flowers and birds aside, the most telling sign that spring has sprung is that it’s baseball season again.  Somehow just hearing a game on the radio or on TV elicits fond memories of bygone days and gentler times.  I San_Francisco_Giants_logo_1977-1982know that people complain that the game is too slow or that the teams are composed of drug-addled, spoiled players.  But there is something nice about the timelessness of a baseball game. For me it brings back memories of our dad on a Saturday afternoon, chores done, relaxing in the back yard listening to Gil Hodges and Lon Simmons announce a Giants game.  Dad came by his love of the team honestly; his mother used to sit in her apartment sporting  a Giants cap, cheering them on through thick and thin.  I don’t think she ever missed a game – she transitioned from a huge radio in a wooden credenza, to portable radios, to television.  She never saw a Giants game in person until age 70, when our brother, Jack, treated her to a day at Candlestick.  He bought her a new cap, a hot dog, peanuts and a beer.  She was in Heaven – surely the highlight of her life.  And to this day we all love hearing Jack reminisce about that day.

So I’m glad that baseball season is here.  In full disclosure, I won’t actually watch a whole game until the playoffs.  My husband, who is an obnoxious Yankees fan, can’t sit through a whole game either.  But we have an entire summer ahead of us to catch snippets of games and root for our teams.  Ideally the Giants sweep the Yankees in the Series.  Such are the dreams of springtime.

P.S.  So many of you have written or inquired about Dana and we wanted to let you know that she is doing GREAT!  She is an amazing young woman who has a wonderful spirit.  She’ll be enjoying a few days in Palm Desert this week with family.  Nothing could be better for healing a heart.  Thanks so much for your kind thoughts and prayers during this time.






The Fixing of Dana’s Heart

by Bob Sparrow

mrbellMr. Bell’s Fixit Shop was Dana’s favorite book as a toddler.  We read it to her so many times, that by the time she was two and a half, she had it memorized, literally. I could just turn the page, she’d see the picture and recite, word-for-word, what was written.  That remarkable recall memory would later serve her well in school. Mr. Bell had a sign in front of his shop that read, ‘I Can Fix Everything But Broken Hearts’.  Cutting to the chase, predictably he’s able to repair a doll for Jill that mends her broken heart.  In this tale of life imitating art, Dana had a heart in need of fixing.  Playing the role of Mr. Bell was Dr. Alfredo Trento, Director of the Cardiothoracic Division at ‘his shop’, Cedars-Sinai Hospital in West Hollywood.

 Dana is the world’s best patient.  We visited her as she was lying in pre-op, cracking jokes, pulling faces in her new ‘O.R. hat’ (see photo below) and speculating on whether they are going to insert a human, pig or cow replacement valve in her heart.  She concludes it’s down to a pig or human, as the Chick-fil-A cows have once again mounted a strong ad campaign in favor of the pig value.

tongueDana tells us that she’s made cookies for all her O.R. and I.C.U. caregivers and put them in little ‘Thank You’ bags.  She told the hospital staff, “If you do a good job, you’ll get a cookie”.  If you’ve tasted Dana’s cookies, you know that’s a great incentive!  They wheeled her into the O.R. cracking up and I cautioned her to ‘lie very still’ during the operation.  Dr. Trento tells us that the operation will take approximately 5 hours (there’s probably no smoke breaks in there) and that he won’t know what valve he’ll use until he looks at the heart.  Husband Joe is hoping they use a human valve because he knows that Dana is such an animal lover that if they use a pig valve, as a ‘Thank You’ gesture she will want to get  a pot belly pig as a pet.

In an hour we get a call from a nurse inside the O.R. (one of the great uses of cell phones) that the operation is going well; in three and a half hours we get another call telling us that the surgery has been successfully completed and they are now sewing her up.  Shortly thereafter Dr. Trento comes out to the waiting room to tell us that everything went very well – we all breathed a very heavy collective sigh of relief.

We visited Dana about an hour later in I.C.U. where there are no pictured allowed, but when asked about the picture I took at the right, I told them it r2d2was an artist’s rendering that I just drew.  I’m pretty sure they didn’t believe me, but they let me keep the picture anyway.  She was in quite a bit of pain up to 12 hours after the operation, but the next morning, less than 24 hours after the operation, Dana got out of bed and walked around the I.C.U. – pulling all the tubes and bags along with her.  It looked like she was walking with R2D2.  I think she set a new Cedars-Sinai record for the two laps she completed.  There is a lung transplant patient two rooms down that is challenging that, but I think Dana’s got it.

Wednesday is ‘moving day’ from I.C.U. to ‘I Don’t See You’ or whatever the regular rooms are called.  Her new room is decorated with lots of flowers and balloons – thank you!  She’s feeling pretty good for someone who just had her chest cracked open – thanks to ‘better living through chemistry’.  The doctors and nurses at Cedars-Sinai are amazing – could not ask for better care!  I felt like we should leave them a tip or something, but instead I’ll just give them a great recommendation.

emma dogOn day five, her last full day in the hospital, Dana is visited by a nurse that asks if she would like to talk with a social worker.  No.  Someone from the clergy, a minister, priest or rabbi? No.  How about a ‘Volunteer Dog’? YES!!!  Yep, hospitals now provide dogs that come in and visit patients.  Pictured here is a white Labrador named Emma, who stopped by to see Dana and do a little ‘Lab Work’.

Dana’s recovery has been remarkable; she is back to being her normal high-energy self, in fact our only concern is that they say her ‘new heart’ is going to give her more energy!  Welcome back Darlin’ Dana!!