By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Women serving even before football on TV

Women serving men even before football was on TV

I know.  Thanksgiving is over.  Our collective minds have turned to “The Holidays”, which means most of you are buying presents, trimming trees or dipping into the egg nog.  After looking at the crowds on Black Friday apparently a lot of people were “dipping”.  For many of you the only remnant of Thanksgiving you want to think about is that last slice of pumpkin pie you’re hoping no one remembers is still in the fridge so you can sneak-eat it at 3 a.m.  But I’ve been giving a lot of thought to Thanksgiving lately – specifically the Pilgrims – so I am dragging out the holiday for one more week.  The reason:  I am doing extensive research on our Pilgrim ancestors in my quest to join the Mayflower SocietyWhy would I want to join the Mayflower Society?  Well, first, because I love history and the society’s chief aim is to preserve our early heritage.  But more importantly, recent world events have me thinking about what it means to be an American.  How did we start?  What were our founding beliefs and principles?  And just who were these people who left hearth and home to board a rickety ship and sail off to an unknown land?  My previous research has unearthed that we are related to five of the families that took that courageous step and were passengers on the Mayflower.  The 102 passengers on the ship were almost evenly divided between the “saints” and the “strangers”.  The saints were religious dissenters who left England for Holland and eventually America.  The strangers were merchants, tradesmen or indentured servants.  There were also a few “dodgy” sorts who were fleeing the law.  Amazingly, our ancestors were all saints.  I have to say I was a little disappointed to learn that – I was hoping to have a good scoundrel in our background to make things a bit more interesting.

More than a 3 hour cruise

The Mayflower

The Mayflower Society wants me to prove our lineage, which I suppose is a reasonable request.  There are over 30,000,000 possible descendants world-wide but only 27,000 have joined the group.  I suspect that’s because they require actual documentation, not just some letter from old Aunt Sally that’s been handed down through the years.  One has to submit marriage licenses, birth certificates and/or death notices.  Heretofore (meaning before the internet) obtaining all of those documents was an almost impossible task.  Trust me, it’s still a pain to document and verify everything but as the “family historian” I figure it’s my job.  Plus, it turns out that if a relative has joined the Society then any direct relatives can join without having to prove much more than you’ve fought over a drumstick at Thanksgiving or you’ve both tolerated Drunk Uncle at Christmas.  So I’m hopeful that if I go through the process of “showing them our stinkin’ badges” that some future member of our family will be more willing to take up the mantle of family historian.  Luckily in 2011 I joined and used their documentation to write our family history dating back to the Pilgrims.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that I have kept my membership in Ancestry since then in anticipation of writing our family’s European history.  But one thing or another has kept me from doing the research – mostly due to my borderline A.D.D and my inability to stare at a computer screen for hours.  As a result, I have paid those nice people at Ancestry $960 in the past several years for … nothing.    Which I think is their business model – rope in people with good intentions and lazy attitudes and the bottom line looks pretty good.

William Brewster - not voted Class Clown

William Brewster – not voted Class Clown

But back to the task at hand (you can see how I get distracted)… in doing the research in 2011 I found that my maternal great-grandmother’s family has formed an elaborate organization.  Genealogy, it seems, has become the second most popular hobby in the world, right after gardening.  That’s right – the study of dead people is more popular than golf or stamp collecting.  As it turns out, many families have their own organizations and websites and it was through my great-grandmother’s family website that I first learned of our Pilgrim connections.  I’m hoping that a lot of the genealogy geeks in that organization have already joined the Mayflower Society so that all I’ll have to prove is my direct lineage from her.  Heck, I’ve got pictures of her with my mother so that should count for something.  Hopefully there isn’t any sort of “blackballing” or personality test required.  Our mom said that her grandmother, although civic-minded and philanthropic, was something of a pistol.  And not in a good way – she was domineering, opinionated and humorless.  It may run in the family.  One of our Pilgrim ancestors was William Brewster, who was the spiritual leader on the Mayflower, and was said to have many of those same traits.  On the other hand, Sarah Palin is also descended from Brewster, so maybe he did have a sense of humor after all.

In any event, I have submitted my application to the Mayflower Society and they tell me it will take 3-6 weeks to see if I’m “qualified” to join.  There’s a small part of me that hopes they send a response informing me that our ancestors were actually horse thieves and had no part in the Mayflower.  Then I can take up gardening and finally cancel that subscription to

The Holiday ‘Season’ Schedule

by Bob Sparrow


Creamed Onions – YUCK!

When I was growing up, back when the earth was still cooling, there was no such thing as a ‘Holiday Season’ – there was Christmas. Thanksgiving was when Jack, Suz and I, had to get ‘slicked up’ and go to our aunt and uncle’s house and eat creamed onions and turkey that was cut so thin that it only had one side. New Year’s was a non-event that meant Christmas vacation was nearly over and we’d soon be headed back to school.

Things have changed a bit since then; with the coming of television, the ‘Christmas Season’ was created and subsequently commercialized.  More recently, with the advent of political correctness, the ‘Holiday Season’ was born, to make sure we weren’t excluding anyone from the season’s buying bonanza.


Unoffensive holiday symbols

  The way I see it, it’s a five-game ‘season’ where first, everyone gets on their game uniform for the ‘kick off’ at Halloween, followed by Veteran’s Day (which apparently is a non-league game), then into the meat of the schedule with Thanksgiving and Christmas and concluding with the ‘finals’ on New Year’s Eve.

So let’s look at the ‘season’, game-by-game.


Cheery Halloween mask


How it started: It was originally an ancient Celtic religious celebration where they would bless and convert Pagans.

What happened? We took the religion out of it and now we just try to scare the bejesus out of kids with ugly masks and scary movies, while we bless and convert non-diabetics to diabetics with a sugar over-load. The American Dental Association also thanks you!

Veteran’s Day



How it started: In 1919 Armistice Day was created marking the end of World War I on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour. In 1938 Armistice Day was declared a legal holiday and in 1945 it was changed to Veteran’s Day to recognize and celebrate all veterans.

What happened? Years ago Veteran’s Day was just a scrimmage, but fortunately, it’s become a little more celebrated in recent years, possibly due to the numerous conflicts we’ve put our brave men and women in armed forces through, but it’s still no Halloween! Personally, I’d eliminate Halloween and put greater emphasis on this holiday by having kids dress up like veterans and seek out service families and veterans to ask if they can help them in any way. Schools could ask their students to write a letter to someone in the armed forces to thank them for their service, but don’t count on it replacing the sanctity of Halloween anytime soon.



“Sorry about taking your land”

How it started: The Pilgrims wanted to celebrate a bumper crop year as well as show their benevolence toward the Native Americans, specifically the Wampanoag tribe, by inviting them to a feast and tossing them a drumstick after they vanquished them and took their land. OK, maybe they didn’t just take it; they did give them $24 worth of beads and trinkets for Manhattan. Subsequently the Wampanoag tribe suffered an epidemic, thought to be smallpox brought over by the English, which helped them establish their settlements. Years later, the King Philip’s War resulted in the deaths of 40 percent of the tribe. Most of the male survivors were sold into slavery in the West Indies, while many women and children were enslaved in New England.

What happened? Well, wouldn’t you continue to celebrate such a joyous occasion? We do, with a feast of turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce and pies of various fruits and nuts on Thursday and when the ladies realized that the men were spending the rest of the weekend watching football, they said, “Ladies let’s go shopping!” and thus ‘Black Friday’ was created. But even with its calorie-busting meals, football overload and guerilla combat shopping, Thanksgiving still has the redeeming quality of bringing families together – and that’s a good thing!



Remember Christmas?

How it started: The first recorded date of Christmas was in 336 AD (No, I wasn’t there!); a few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the December 25th.  Although with shepherds in their fields at the time of the birth, it probably wasn’t in the winter at all.

What happened? Because this is the big cash cow of the season, the decorations and carols start in late October and continues through New Year’s Eve and beyond; it’s the ‘Big Game’. Yes, it’s been commercialized almost beyond recognition, but if you work at it, you can still find or better yet, create the ‘spirit of Christmas’, by helping those less fortunate or just experiencing a young child’s unbridled enthusiasm when they see that Santa hasn’t forgotten them. So work at finding the ‘spirit’ this year, as Vince Lombardi once said, “Giving isn’t everything, it’s the only thing!”  OK, maybe I made that up.


When do you want the new year to start?

New Year’s Eve

How it started: The year had to end sometime!

What happened? When the year really ends is a long story involving various calendars, but suffice it to say that historically a bunch of politicians and church folks have moved the start of the year around since the beginning of time, mostly just to suit their purposes. So don’t get too fixated on December 31st as the end of the year, it was originally the vernal equinox (around the end of March) and it could go back there if it will make someone some money or get someone elected.  No matter what the date, it’s always the time of year when we lie to ourselves about improving our lives ‘next year’ with some unrealistic resolutions.

This Thursday will mark the halfway point in the season, so relax and enjoy the ‘halftime show’ – it’s usually at the ‘kid’s table’.

Happy Thanksgiving!


By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Dash, doing what he does best

Dash, working hard

This is a special day in our house – Dash the Wonder Dog was born three years ago today.  It seems like just yesterday that we brought him home…and that we had a life.  Since he adopted us our every waking moment has been devoted to his care, feeding and entertainment.  As you can see from the picture (left) his job is to lie contentedly on the couch and be cute; our job is to fawn over him.  My husband, who was adamantly against getting a dog for the past 25 years, will now not leave Dash alone for more than four hours at a time.  Golf games have been sacrificed so he can stay home with the dog. He makes me feel like I am Joan Crawford if I schedule activities that take me away during the day AND at night.  Next he’ll be accusing me of using wire coat hangers.  Truth be told, it’s been a great three years and as I reflect on  what we’ve learned from dog ownership it boils down to a few good lessons.

The sniff test

The sniff test

First  – we humans could learn a lot from dogs about assessing new people.  We usually utter something like “the jury is still out” when asked about someone recently met.  We pause, we take our time in forming an opinion, we seek advice from others.  Dogs, on the other hand, get right to the heart of it. They sniff butts.  One good whiff can tell them if the new acquaintance is friendly, sociable and what they had for dinner last Tuesday.  They make instant judgements that I’m fairly certain are right on the money.  The scene at our local dog park is like watching speed dating – one good sniff and the dogs either form a friendship or move on.  I’m certainly not suggesting that we sniff butts, although it might be as illuminating a way to pick a President as our current debate system.  But I do think that dogs are on to something – we should trust our initial impressions.  Usually our gut is a pretty good predictor of who we might want to be friends with and who is to be avoided like Louisiana in July.

Elizabeth Brown

Elizabeth Brown and Dash

Second – we have been amazed by the people we have met just because we have a dog.  Every time we take Dash out, which is often, people stop to pet him and talk with us.  In fact my test for whether I would want someone as my friend is not the sniff test but whether they smile when they see Dash.  People who walk right by or who, worse yet, go out of their way to avoid him, would definitely not make my Christmas card list. But other dog owners in particular do stop and while the dogs are sniffing, we generally have some short conversation about how great our dogs are.  We commented last month after one such encounter up in Mammoth Lakes that we have met so many nice people because of Dash.  And even though some of the conversations are very short, the cumulative effect is that our lives are happier because of them.  One that particularly stands out is Elizabeth Brown, who we met in Tahoe two years ago.  She was visiting from England with her parents and grandmother.  She was bored to tears (as she told us) until she saw Dash.  She was so excited to hold him that she asked if she could have her picture taken.  We made sure she asked her parents for permission since we didn’t want to end up on the Sexual Predator list in our neighborhood, and once that was granted we snapped the picture (above).  I know that Dash made her trip more enjoyable and to this day we smile when we see the photo.  We can thank Dash for hundreds of small meetings that have truly enriched our lives.

A true friend

A true friend

Finally, I harken back to a phrase that I heard 30 years ago when I had a cute little mutt – “Lord, let me be the person my dog thinks I am.” It goes without saying – and every dog owner knows this – that there is nothing like the unconditional love of a dog.  Really, most of the time I don’t deserve the excitement Dash expends when I walk into the room. We all could probably take note from canine behavior – always happy, intuitive to every emotion, kisses on command, and loyalty.  The other day I was in our local pet shop and they had a new supply of the Life is Good tee shirts – the ones with cute dogs and great slogans.  My favorite was “Be Your Dog”.  There’s not a chance I can be that good, but surely it’s a worthy goal.

Since this is my last post before Thanksgiving I’d like to take a moment to thank all of our subscribers and wish each and every one of you a very Happy Thanksgiving.  We truly appreciate your continued support of our weekly attempts to entertain.



Buffett Philosophy

M Casino & ResortNo, this isn’t about how billionaire, Warren would invest your money, but rather about another Buffett, one who has a decent net worth himself – somewhere north of $450 million – and invests so little in his concert attire that he doesn’t even wear shoes.  Yes, I’m talking about Jimmy.

I got a chance to see Mr. Buffett for the umpteenth time two weeks ago in the Hollywood Bowl and once again came away totally entertained by this man whose voice has been likened to that of a carnival barker.  So what is the attraction you ask?  A little history is probably in order . . .



I was turned on to Buffett’s music by my late, great best friend, Don Klapperich, back in the 80s when he was in Saudi Arabia, and prior to the common use of the Internet, we regularly  communicated by exchanging cassette tapes filled with music and patter.  Like most casual fans of music, I was familiar with the songs Margaritaville and Come Monday, but probably couldn’t have told you who sang them.  Don sent me a Buffett song called Somewhere Over China, a song with interesting lyrics that I asked him about, which apparently was his cue to start sending me more Buffett.  He did, and implored me to listen to the philosophical lyrics.

Philosophical lyrics?!!  To me, and perhaps to most casual fan of Jimmy, philosophy and Buffett didn’t seem to go together – what deep meaning or life lesson was I supposed to garner from “wastin’ away again in Margaritaville” or “having a cheeseburger in paradise”?  But between the songs Don sent me and the ones I subsequently purchased, I started to learn and appreciate the ‘Buffett philosophy’.  Now don’t get me wrong, he’s no Confucius or Descartes, but he is a fairly accomplished individual.

Serious Jimmy

Businessman Buffett

fun Jimmy

Balladeer Buffett

At 68, Jimmy not only still plays over 20 U.S. concert dates and several foreign locales each summer, but he is the head of a juggernaut business enterprise.  He has turned the brand ‘Margaritaville’ into resorts, casinos, restaurants, clothing and record labels, tequila and more.  You can thank Jimmy if you’re ever had a Landshark Beer in a Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant. He’s written numerous books and appears frequently on TV and in movies, and does a ton of charity work.  He’s a veteran pilot who occasionally ‘buzzes’ his concert parking lots, which are filled with partying Parrotheads, prior to his concerts in his seaplane, the ‘Hemisphere Dancer’.

So here’s a primer of his philosophy from the songs and books of this Renaissance man . . .

On a general philosophy of life . . .

“Searching is half the fun: life is much more manageable when thought of as a scavenger hunt as opposed to a surprise party. ”

Hemisphere Dancer

‘Hemisphere Dancer’

On staying young and living life in the ‘now’ and not worrying about how you’re thought of after you die . . .

“I’m growing older, but not up, my metabolic rate is pleasantly stuck, let those winds of time blow over my head, I’d rather die while I’m living than live when I’m dead”

On self-inspection . . .

“We are the people our parents warned us about”

On keeping a good attitude when life brings changes . . .

“It’s those changes in attitudes, changes in latitudes, nothing remains quite the same.  For all of our running and all of our cunning, if we couldn’t laugh and if we weren’t all crazy, we would all go insane”

On being in the right place with the wrong person . . .

“The weather is here, I wish you were beautiful”Landshark

On birthdays . . .

“It’s just another trip around the sun”

On why you should travel . . .

“You do it for the stories you can tell”

On looking back at a full life . . .

“Through 86 years of perpetual motion, if he likes you he’ll smile and he’ll say, some of it’s magic, some of it’s tragic, but I had a good life all the way.

On rationalizing a drink before the cocktail hour . . .

“It’s 5 o’clock somewhere”

104.3 WOMC partied with Parrot Heads at The Loungin On The Lagoon Beach party before the Jimmy Buffett concert at Comerica Park on Saturday, July 28th 2012 (Photo by Steve Wiseman / 104.3 WOMC)

Pre-concert parking lot party

From the mouth of Buffett . . .

“We’re all somewhere over China, heading east or heading west.”

“Yes I am a pirate, 200 years too late.”

“If the phone doesn’t ring, it’s me.”

I will admit that most of his philosophical stuff gives way to Fins, Cheeseburgers, Volcanos and Margaritas during his concerts, and that’s OK, as having a good time is a very big part of Buffett’s philosophy, but in a rare quiet moment, I still enjoy putting in an old cassette tape and listening to Don introduce a philosophical Buffett song.

Fins up!


By Suzanne Sparrow Watson


The Golden Gate

The Golden Gate

Our ancestor, Joseph Billiou, first ventured to Northern California in 1856, long after the gold rush had peaked and the “easy money” was gone.  Thus creating the family motto:  “Always a day late and a dollar short”.  Despite failing to make his fortune, Joseph set down roots and our family became one of the lucky ones who could call the Bay Area “home”.  To us, and most other families in the region, San Francisco was the centerpiece of cultural, sporting and culinary experiences. I was also fortunate enough to earn a living in the Financial District for more than 20 years.  San Francisco has always had a unique vibe – welcoming people with divergent backgrounds and talents while maintaining a sense of unity and cohesiveness.  But it would appear “The City” is changing, in large part due to a 2011 decision by the supervisors to offer generous tax breaks to any tech company willing to relocate to San Francisco.  As a result, the companies are gobbling up real estate to establish a presence there.  Thousands of “techies” are moving to the area for work.   The result is that the housing market, which has always been expensive, is now downright ridiculous.  New condos are going up in some of the older, “less desirable” neighborhoods which has resulted in evictions of people who have lived there for generations.  And to add insult to injury, there is no affordable place for them to go.  San Francisco, it would seem, is on the brink of reaching Venezuelan levels of wealth inequality.  In the past four months I’ve seen three documentaries covering the changing dynamics – all of them were depressing.   After watching the last one I became nostalgic for the city that once was.  And for some reason, I thought about the song that was an anthem for San Francisco for more than 30 years – “The Sound of the City”.

KSFO in its heyday

KSFO in its heyday

The song actually wasn’t a song at all.  It was the jingle for what was then the powerhouse radio station in the region – KSFO.  From the late 50’s until the early 80’s the station was owned by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry, and was billed as “The World’s Greatest Radio Station.  Particularly in San Francisco”.   In those days San Francisco had five TV stations and AM radio to cover news, sports and entertainment.  Autry quickly maximized his crown jewel by hiring a Murderer’s Row of disc jockeys:  Don Sherwood, Jim Lange, Del Courtney, Jack Carney and Al “Jazzbeaux” Collins.  Autry negotiated broadcasting rights with the 49ers and the Giants and had two legends, Lon Simmons and Russ Hodges, call the games.  Back then TV and radio stations had the good sense to sign off for a few hours in the wee hours of the morning and Autry wanted a jingle to use as the station went dark each night.  So in 1960 he commissioned the multi-talented Johnny Mann to write one for him.  When the song was first aired people thought it had been recorded by the Four Freshman, but in fact it was sung by eight studio singers in Hollywood, the most famous of whom went on to be the voice of Tony the Tiger.  The result was a beautiful masterpiece: the Sound of the City .  When you click on the link you will hear a lyrical song, reminiscent of a softer time when fun and bonhomie reigned supreme.  It is now the ringtone on my phone and each time I play it for a native of the Bay Area the person becomes misty-eyed.

The inimitable Don Sherwood

The inimitable Don   Sherwood

How did a song – and a radio station – become so ingrained in our psyches?  Well for starters, as I said, our entertainment choices were pretty limited.  But more importantly it is estimated that two-thirds of people living in the Bay Area during the 1960’s tuned in to listen to the bibulous Don Sherwood every weekday morning.  He was the Pied Piper of the Bay Area, with his throaty, cigarette-tinged chuckle that made even his reading of a Yami Yogurt commercial sound just the slightest bit dirty.  Each morning people gathered around the water cooler or the gym locker to talk about what prank Sherwood had pulled off during the morning commute.  That’s assuming, of course, that he had even bothered to show up for work.  A native-born San Franciscan, he was the product of two alcoholic parents and suffered from the disease himself.  It was a crapshoot each morning as to whether Mr. Sherwood was “not feeling well” that day.  But his show was so popular that even on the days he didn’t show up for work, his sidekick Carter B. Smith garnered higher ratings than the competitors.  Sherwood’s manic personality was hard for management to control and his wisest bosses never tried to make  “Donny Babe” conform.  After all, part of his appeal was his irreverent humor and his running gags.   No idea was too outrageous.  He once instructed everyone to crank down their car window and turn the radio up full blast.  He then broadcast the blare of a police siren.  Law enforcement reported a spike in fender-benders that morning but the gag had everyone laughing for weeks.  On another occasion he told drivers that on his command they should all turn left.  That stunt created havoc all over the Bay Area, particularly for the foolhardy souls who were crossing the Golden Gate Bridge at the time.  In 1961, when he challenged the young Jim Lange to a foot race from Stinson Beach to the Ferry Building in downtown SF, more than 60,000 people lined the route.  What was the attraction?  It was because KSFO, and Sherwood in particular, made people feel like they “belonged” to a community, regardless of their socioeconomic status.

The recent documentaries I watched report that San Francisco is becoming the epicenter of the “sharing” economy.  Which is somewhat ironic given that every picture I saw of the new “techies” featured them with headphones stuck in their ears, eyes cast downward at their phones, oblivious to the people and culture around them.  San Francisco has always been a city that changes and evolves but personally, I’ll take the “sharing” of 50 years ago – outstanding radio, a beautiful song and every once in a while, everyone turning left.