By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Last Friday night we planned a great dinner with friends, followed by an Il Divo concert.  What we didn’t plan was spending our remaining years lost in a parking garage.

The Seinfeld group was organized compared to us

The Seinfeld group was organized compared to us

How can you get lost in a parking garage, you ask?  Well, apparently pretty easily. It started out innocently enough – we made reservations at Kincaid’s in downtown Phoenix for a nice dinner before the concert.  Problem is, we didn’t check the sports section before we left home and as luck would have it, BOTH the Diamondbacks and the Suns were playing in their respective arenas right across the street.  Which in Phoenix means that every street is turned upside down for “game night” – one way streets are reversed, lanes are blocked off, and the police seem awfully serious about imposing their silly “game night” traffic rules.  So we pulled up to the corner where the Kincaid’s parking garage is, only to be told by a very nice policeman that we couldn’t cross the intersection to get into the garage  – we had to turn left.  Traffic was horrendous and we began to panic that we might lose our reservation.  So my girlfriend, Terri, and I got out of the car to secure our table and left our husbands to find their way back to the parking garage.  Big mistake.  Big, big mistake.  Let’s just say that if Lewis and Clark had depended on these guys to find the Pacific Ocean they would have ended up in Spain.  Terri and I settled into our booth, read the menu, ordered a drink…no sign of our husbands.   Another five minutes went by.  Neither guy had their cell phones with them (naturally) so we couldn’t call.  Finally, my husband came panting into the restaurant with a wild-eyed, distress-call look.  Turns out they couldn’t find the right parking garage.  At which point I did what every woman in America would do – I sent my husband to the booth to order a drink and I went down to our friend’s car to give directions.

That crisis averted, we had a wonderful meal at Kincaid’s with about 40 minutes to spare before our concert,  a 10 minute drive away.  We hopped into the car and circled our floor (P2) several times.  There was no exit.  We circled again, almost getting into a head-on accident when we tried to go “up” the “down” ramp.  Finally we found a ramp and followed it…DOWN.  And the sad thing is that the four of us thought we had achieved success.  We wandered on P3 like Bedouins in the desert until we finally realized that we had only buried ourselves deeper in the garage.  Up we went again to P2 and circled.  By now the language was becoming colorful.  I was imagining a life lived in a parking structure.  Finally we figured out that in their effort to control traffic on game night, the garage had put traffic cones blocking the “up” ramps.  Once we had dispatched the cones (and we’re very sorry to whomever owns that 2010 Toyota that now has a door ding suspiciously the size of a traffic cone) we sped to the theater.  I had purchased reserved “special” parking ahead of time.  It turns out that meant we could park on the fifth level no where even close to an elevator.

Our view from the stolen seats

Our view from the stolen seats

FINALLY, we reached our seats just as the curtain was rising on Il Divo.  People all around us asked us (quite curtly, if you ask me) to sit down and get out of their line of vision.  We attempted to secure our seats, once again wandering about in a quandary, until we figured out that someone was already in our seats.  We quickly found a security person who looked at us with some suspicion.  Frankly, I couldn’t blame her – we looked a bit frantic given our recent brush with Death By Parking Garage.  She reviewed our tickets, scanned our faces, and then assured us she was on the case.  Inspector Clouseau had nothing on her.  She had us stand in the holding area while she marched right back down the aisle to grill the people in our seats.  So while Il Divo was wowing the crowd with their rendition of “Tonight”, the people in Section 3 were being entertained by a security guard, a flashlight, four idiots in a holding area and the scofflaws in our seats.  Turns out, the people in our seats had discovered that someone had taken THEIR seats, so they took ours.  Apparently there is an outbreak of seat-stealing in Phoenix.  Several minutes later, we finally settled in, much to the relief of everyone in the immediate area.

As for the concert…it was FABULOUS.  For those of you who have never heard of Il Divo, they are four tenors who were assembled by Simon Cowell,  of American Idol fame.  They are from Switzerland, France, Spain and the USA and did not know each other before Mr. Cowell decided they would make a great group.  They have previously focused on classical music but this tour they are singing songs taken from the musical theater.  They have soaring voices and their close harmony is worthy of goose bumps.  Phoenix is the first U.S. stop on their world tour and they frequently said how glad they were to be here after touring Asia where no one understood a word they were saying.  Joining them on this tour is Lea Salonga, the beautiful Filipino soprano star of Broadway and the West End.  In 1996 I was lucky enough to see her in London in Les Miserables.  To hear her sing “On My Own” again after 18 years was one of the highlights of my life.  She has not lost one ounce of her talent, range or phrasing.  

Lea Salonga in 1996. One of us has aged.

Lea Salonga in 1996. One of us has aged.

Oh, and about becoming a diva.  We learned from several Il Divo fans around us that if you are really a follower of them you are referred to as a “diva”.  Based on Friday night’s crowd of self-described “divas”, I’d say their demographic skews to the high side of Social Security.  There is something that is both heart-warming and pathetic about senior citizen women shouting out “I love you” to 40-something entertainers.  Someone in the crowd offered to take a shower with the French member of the quartet, which he deftly laughed off.  I was waiting for one of the “divas” to throw her panties on to the stage.  Which, from all appearances, the men from Il Divo could have used as a car cover.

At the end of the night, now considering ourselves “divas” in spirit if not in actual fact, we all agreed that it was one of the best concerts we had ever attended.  If they come to a city near you, RUN, don’t walk, to buy tickets.



Cinderella’s ‘Big Dance’

by Bob Sparrow

CinderellaThis week I found myself in a bar (What?!) trying to explain to a Brit, who was now working here in the U.S. and who apparently has been in a cave for the last 30 years, the excitement around all the college basketball on TV. I explained that this is the N.C.A.A. College Basketball National Championship Tournament; more succinctly referred to as ‘March Madness’ or ‘The Big Dance’.  He asked if this was the finals of Dancing With The Stars. I patiently explained that it is a 64-team, single elimination college basketball tournament for the national championship.  I wondered if I was going too fast for him.


“The Wizard”

 I proceeded to tell him that for the seeding of this tournament, he’d have to throw out where he thinks regions are in the United States.  There are four 16-team brackets, South, East, West and Midwest (I said I think the North is still playing hockey), but this year Milwaukee, a Midwest team, is seeded in the East, Louisiana-Lafayette, a southern team, in the West, Manhattan College, in New York, is in the Midwest and UCLA, is seeded in the South.  UCLA however, has no one to blame but themselves for this.  The tournament used to be seeded by region, so there would always be a team from each region in the Final Four.  Until from 1964 to 1975 ‘The Wizard of Westwood’, John Wooden’s UCLA teams won 10 of 12 championships and the other coaches in the west argued that they never got to go to the Final Four because they were always eliminated by UCLA in the regionals.  While geography still plays a small role, it’s more about seeding teams according to ability.  My new European friend only perked up when I said the word ‘Wizard’.

billion bracket

Win $1,000,000,000

I asked him if there was a lot of buzz at work about the ‘office pool’ and then disappointed him by telling him that there is not a new aquatic center being built at the home office, that the pool is merely the 64-bracket seeding sheet that allows folks who think they know basketball to prove that they don’t.  I told him Vegas gets more bets during this tournament than at any other time of the year, including the Super Bowl.  Super Bowl, he asked?  Never mind.  There are all kinds of ways to bet this tournament and this year, for the first time, billionaire Warren Buffett has offered $1,000,000,000 (yes, that’s with a B) to the person who picks every winner of every game – that’s picking all 62 winners without a mistake.  Actually there are 4 ‘play-in’ games making it 66 winners.   The odds?  One in 9 with 18 zeros behind it! (Update: after two days and only 25 games everyone who entered for a chance at the billion was eliminated)

I told him that he’ll hear some alliterative terms being bantered about this week, ‘Final Four’, Elite Eight’ and bet him that he’ll never hear the word ‘sixteen’ without the word ‘sweet’ in front of it.  At the risk of confusing him even more I mentioned that he’ll also hear the term ‘Cinderella’ quite a bit over the next couple of weeks.

I continued by telling him that the term has nothing to do with wicked stepmothers, glass slippers or getting home before your horses turn into mice.  Rather, it’s a term for the ‘long shots’ in the tournament. It is usually a small college, seeded 10th or below in their bracket, with a charismatic coach, who, after his team loses in the ‘Sweet Sixteen’, will dump that school and accept a pumpkin chariot full of money to go to a non-Cinderella school.  It usually doesn’t work out and he ends up scrubbing gym floors for a wicked Athletic Director in Podunk Hollow, Mississippi.  There have however, been ‘Cinderella exceptions’ in recent years; Wichita State, Butler and George Mason all made it to the Final Four.  Coach Brad Stevens, who took Butler to two Final Fours, skipped going to a non-Cinderella school and signed a contract to coach the Boston Celtics, where his team has a .329 winning percentage this season.  I think he left his pair of glass slippers back at Butler.  Who are this year’s Cinderella teams?  Stephen F. Austin, Oregon, Harvard (yes, that Harvard), Virginia Commonwealth, Nebraska and Mercer.  If none of these teams are still in the tournament as you’re reading this, you’ll understand why Buffet’s money was so safe!

Cinderella schools can also have unusual mascots.  This year we have the Manhattan College Jaspers (a long story), the St. Louis University Billikens (an even longer story) and the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers.

                 Jaspers                   billiken                Chants

Upon hearing this last name, my new acquaintance lit up and told me that Chanticleer is the rooster in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (which is exactly where Coastal Carolina got the name!). He was now interested in ‘The Big Dance’ and has a ‘Cinderella’ team for which to root.  He thanked me as he left and I thought I saw him doing the ‘Chicken Dance’ on the way out the door.  Brits!

(Update: Coastal Carolina lost it’s first game and is out of the tournament)



By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Dash the Wonder Dog in a quieter moment

Dash the Wonder Dog in a quieter moment

Over the past three months we have been doing LOTS of homework around our house.  Studying, practicing, shouting. Lots of shouting.  Let’s just say the atmosphere has been a little tense.  As much as we rehearsed, success was infrequent and attention spans were non-existent.  But finally, last Saturday, our big day arrived – Dash the Wonder Dog was tested for his Canine Good Citizen designation.  I swear I haven’t been as nervous about a test since I took the SAT.  Actually, I wasn’t that nervous about the SAT since I had pulled an all-nighter the night before and could barely fill in the circles on the test paper (which probably goes a long way toward explaining why I didn’t get into a better college).  But this day was Dash’s big day and nervous energy prevailed. We made sure he had a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast.  “They” say it is the most important meal of the day and I wasn’t about to question whether that also pertains to our canine friends.  We made sure he had “done his business” beforehand as I was quite certain that pooping unexpectedly in public was not part of the test.  At the appointed hour, we walked into the classroom at Pet Smart where Dash immediately lost control and jumped up on the instructor.  It was going to be a long day.

The first part of the test was done in the classroom where the conditions were somewhat controllable.  Dash sensed my uncertainty and shot me a look conveying “Chill, Mom, I got this”. I wasn’t so sure. None of our practice sessions indicated anything close to success. But there was no delaying the test. The first few requirements were child’s play – “sit”, “down”, “stay”.  Basically the canine equivalent of kindergarten.  But then it got more serious – he had to sit and stay while I walked 15 feet away and then come to me on command. My palms were moist, my mouth was dry and Dash was distracted by a rather comely Poodle walking past the window. I took a deep breath and called him to me.  Just as Dash passed the mid-point the devious instructor placed an open bag of peanut butter treats between him and me.  Jeez – that’s like asking me to pass by a piece of Costco’s chocolate cake without at least sticking my finger in the frosting.  Luckily, as it turns out, Dash the Wonder Dog has a lot more self-discipline than I do.  He ran right over to me, hardly giving a faretheewell to the treats.  I’ve never been prouder in my life.  After two more “inside” tasks, we ventured out into the aisles of the Pet Smart store.  On a Saturday Adoption Day.  I’ve seen less chaos at an Under Six soccer game.


His Senior Portrait

We began by testing whether Dash could pass another dog and owner as they walked by on our left side.  Fortunately, just as we were passing the other dog and his master, Dash became mesmerized by some goop of unknown origin on the right side of the floor.  I was momentarily concerned about the make-up of this “goop” since Dash was proceeding to ingest it, but decided to just “take the win” when the instructor said he had passed the test.  Apparently, he can wreak havoc as long as it isn’t toward the other dog or owner.  Good to know.  The next task was to walk 20 feet through a crowd in a “heel” position and then return to the starting point without breaking stride.  The instructor gathered five strangers to act as the crowd.  Frankly, I think some of them looked a little too strange.  I peered at them assiduously, certain that some of them were planted by the instructor with beef liver treats in their pockets.  But again – much to my amazement – Dash walked through the group as if he had better places to go and other people to see.  I was beginning to think someone had drugged him.  This was not the dog that I had been training at home.  Our last task entailed Dash going up to a stranger with me and sitting quietly while I conversed.  He behaved like a champ.  I think all the time I spend talking with my friends on the phone has provided him with a tin ear where I’m concerned.  I can almost see him thinking “blah, blah, blah – does she ever shut up?”  No matter…after ten tests were completed Dash had officially become a good citizen.  We all cheered, donned funny hats, and ate peanut butter treats.


Dash doing what he does best.

But now here we are, back in the real world.  Every day I work with him a bit, trying to ensure that he doesn’t forget any of the valuable lessons he has learned.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure retention is his strong suit.  As soon as I take him outside and ask him to heel he assumes the attitude of a teenager and pulls me in the opposite direction.  I ask him to sit when we reach the corner and he is suddenly rendered deaf.  I am thinking that I would like to have him certified as a therapy dog since he is so gentle and loving by nature.  But at this point, I think his forte is the “sleep” command.  He has that down pat, especially when he’s on our bed.  Now all I need to do is find someone who needs a sleeping therapy dog.  Who snores.  Oh well, we’re proud of him anyway and the framed certificate looks great on the wall next to the college diplomas.



The Road Past Hana

by Bob Sparrow

Welcome to Hana

Hana, Maui

As I pulled onto main street in ‘downtown’ Hana; OK, there is only one street in downtown Hana, actually there is barely even a downtown Hana, I dropped off Kristen and headed down to Hana Bay to eat the picnic lunch that I had packed.  As I gnawed on some dead chicken and gazed at the picturesque crescent beach, I started turning over in my mind the story that Kristen had told me about Carly Scott’s disappearance and put together another scenario of why Kristen was out on the road hitchhiking.  Perhaps Kristen had been seeing Carly’s old boyfriend, Steve Cabobianco, and when she learned that Carly was carrying his baby and feared they might be getting back together again, she . . . made her disappear.  So now I wondered if I had aided and abetted a criminal and was now a ‘person of interest’ in the on-going investigation.  Either that or someone had put a hallucinogenic in my chicken.  On further contemplation, the hallucinogenic chicken theory makes more sense.

Hamoa Beach

Hamoa Beach

My first couple of stops heading out on the ‘road passed Hana’ were at two spectacular beaches – Koki and Hamoa – they were un-crowded and pristine, right out of South Pacific; in fact James Michener, called them the most beautiful beaches in the south Pacific even though they are in the north Pacific.

7 Pools

Seven Pools with Hippos

 Haleakala is the 10,000-foot dormant volcano, which from the top several years ago my daughter, Dana and I saw a beautiful sunrise and then bicycled down the mountain.  Haleakala State Park goes from the peak down to the beautiful shoreline in front of me, where numerous waterfalls and the Seven Pools are located.  Actually they used to be called the Seven Sacred Pools until no one could answer the question as to why they were sacred.  To me they looked like a hippo watering hole at feeding time as the pools were filled with large, over-weight tourists detracting from the otherwise beautiful waterfalls and pools.  I quickly moved on.

 Next stop was famous American aviator, Charles Lindbergh’s gravesite, located just up the road on the beautifully jagged Kipahulu coast.  When faced with cancer in 1968, rather than take treatment on the mainland, Lindbergh chose to live out his remaining years here – he died in 1974.

Just passed Lindbergh’s gravesite the road changes from a narrow, single lane, partly paved, bumpy, unmaintained road to unpaved road to Hanaa narrow, single lane, unpaved, unmaintained, crushed lava carriageway.  It was here I was expecting to see the ‘Dead End, Turn Around’ and No Rental Cars Permitted Beyond This Point’ signs but, “Honestly officer, I never saw them.”  If you came across another car coming from the other direction, which I did only once, I had to back up to the nearest wide spot in the road so they could pass.  As reward for the demanding drive, the scene in front of me of black lava, contrasting with the green vegetation and the blue water crashing against the coastline was so amazing.

Kaupo Gen Store

Kaupo General Store

After several miles, where the only building I saw was a solitary church, I got back to what is termed as ‘rough paved road’ and ‘civilization’ which consisted only of Kaupo General Store, sitting all by itself along this desolate road.  I purchased a pineapple-coconut shave ice and stood alone on a small rise next to the road and looked at the miles of grassland, actually grazing farmland for horses and cattle, all the way down to the black lava coastline where there were several energy-producing windmills.  If you’re ever looking for peace, quiet and solitude, this is the place.

As the crushed lava trail I was traveling on turned into a paved two-lane road, I saw two cars ahead of me and several tourists standing by the roadside posing for pictures and I knew the adventure on and passed the road to Hana was over.

Update: As of this writing there is still no new news on the whereabouts of Carly Scott, missing now for 30 days.

Murder on the Road to Hana?

by Bob Sparrow

'Road to Hana'

I know that title sounds like a 48 Hour Mystery headline, and it just might be one day, but it’s the lead in to this week’s blog subject.  Two weeks ago Linda and I were on the island of Maui with three other couples, mostly to play golf, drink pina coladas and watch sunsets – I figured I needed a break from my hectic retirement schedule!  To add a little adventure to my relaxation, I decided to rent a Jeep and ‘do’ the road to Hana.  I had attempted this once before about 20 years ago with Linda and three small children in tow, but after a dizzying ride through 25 miles of multiple twists and turns with Linda and the kids tuning green, we reached a shave ice stand with a sign that read, ‘Halfway to Hana’, “Halfway!!”, came the cries from the back seat.  I got out to get some shave ice in hopes of buoying the troop’s spirits, but by the time I got back, the Jeep had been commandeered and was facing the other way – the message was clear.

halfway to hana


When I told our group this year that I was going to finish that journey and asked for any passengers, I heard crickets.  I was not going to just do the road to Hana, I had planned to do a complete circumnavigation of the southern part of the island and ignore any signs past Hana that said, ‘Dead End’ or ‘No Rental Cars Beyond This Point’, so it was just as well that I had no volunteers to accompany me on my illicit and operose odyssey.

road to hana2I set out at 7:00 a.m. and I have to admit, the road does have a few turns in it – 617 so I am told, and although driving doesn’t allow you to observe much scenery, there are plenty of places to pull over and enjoy the water falls, hiking trails, lava caves and spectacular shoreline – which I did.

   Because of the early hour, there was very little traffic on the road, although surprisingly, I did pull over twice to allow police cars to go around me.  When I stopped to observe the beautiful Keanae Peninsula I saw what I thought was a sightseeing helicopter, but tuned out to be a police helicopter.  I wondered what was going on.  I briefly wondered if Linda had called and asked them to keep an eye on me.  I didn’t think much more about it until I was about 6 miles from Hana when I came upon a young lady standing on the narrow roadside, flagging me down.  I would normally not pick up a hitchhiker, especially in a strange place, but she seemed to be a damsel in distress, I had room and I was on an adventure, so I stopped.  She jumped in and said “Thanks”.  I asked her where she was headed.  She looked at me as if I was from a village that was missing its idiot and said, “Hana?”  It hit me that there really was no other place to be going.  Feelingcarly scott stupid, I wanted to show her that she was dealing with someone who could ask astute, insightful questions, so I continued with, “What’s your name?”  I knew I didn’t know the answer to that one.  “Kristen”, she replied and I think she felt bad about her first response so she felt obliged to tell me ‘her story’.  She had just been out with her boyfriend and a couple of other guys, who were wild pig hunters, to search for a friend, Carly Scott, who had been missing for three days (At this writing she is still missing after nearly a month).  I asked her why she left the search party.  She said these pig hunters really knew the terrain well and she was afraid they were going to find Carly and it wouldn’t be a pretty sight.  So she decided to leave the group and head back to town.  I asked about the circumstances around Carly’s disappearance and she told me that Carly was 5-months pregnant and was last seen with her ex-boyfriend, Steven Capobianco, the night before she disappeared.  She went on to tell me that Carly’s car had been found torched and left in a ravine, parts of her clothing were also found along with her dog, Narla – Kristen said that Carly never went anywhere without her dog.

Here is a link to an early news release on the story:

I asked Kristen if the boyfriend was a ‘person of interest’ and she indicated that she and her friends concluded that morning prior to setting out on the search that they thought he was the primary suspect.  It was believed that she was carrying his child, he was the last one to see her under strange circumstances the night before her disappearance, and he failed a lie detector test given by the police.  That’s why I’ve used the word ‘Murder’ in the headline; I don’t pretend to be judge, jury and executioner, but it’s hard to go missing for a month on an island as small as Maui.  I check the Internet everyday for up-dates, but nothing new for the last two weeks.

koki beach

Koki Beach

You can Google ‘Missing Woman on the Road to Hana’ to see new info as it becomes available.

Next time: I’ll conclude my journey ‘On the Road Passed Hana’ which includes the beautiful Koki and Hamoa Beaches.

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