Surfin’ Safari

by Bob Sparrow

Sandra Dee

As a native Californian, I was of course attracted to surfing at an early age. I think it was in 1959 when the first Gidget movie came out – OK, so maybe I wasn’t attracted to surfing as much as I was  attracted to Sandra Dee! I figured if MoonDoggie could get a girl like that by surfing, sign me up. But I was raised in a rural dairy community in northern California where surf is rarely up on the surrounding farms and ranches.  I will say that the iconic 1964 movie, Endless Summer, had some appeal to me as someone who’d been going to school for most of my life – I thought I was starring in the movie, Endless School. Even a move to southern California, or as my northern friends say, ‘the dark side’, didn’t get me interested in surfing, but I did feel closer to Sandra Dee.

Why then am I writing about surfing? Two reasons: 1) it’s only about a 20 minute drive from my house to surfing mecca, Huntington Beach or as it’s know to board riders, ‘Surf City’,  where the National Surfing Championships are held every summer, but more importantly (to me) it’s the home of my favorite restaurant – Duke’s!  2) I thought I would start an educational series on various museums in southern California; although after this trip to the ‘International Surfing Museum’, it may be a series of one, and not very educational at that.

Mid-bite at Duke’s

It was an unusual rainy May morning when I started my safari to Surf City, but those are the kind of days that keep people away from the beach, so I was happy for a little precipitation as I headed to the coast.  Before I hit the museum it was a must to get a burger and beer at Duke’s, which I enjoyed as I watched the surfers and volleyball players warming up for summer. The ‘International Surfing Museum’ is just a short walk from Duke’s down palm-tree-lined Main Street, which is bar & grill after bar & grill after bar & grill, with a Hawaiian-vibe. It wasn’t very crowded on this midday Thursday, but guaranteed it’s wall-to-wall during summer.

The museum is not large; in fact the space was an old doctor’s office and I’m guessing the doctor didn’t have a very large practice. The door was open, so I walked in and was greeted by Judy, the docent, who told me the museum was closed. I had just walked through the open door, saw the lights on and brochures out on a table and said, “It doesn’t look like you’re closed”. She said, ‘Well, we’re open, it’s just that we don’t have an exhibit up now” as she motioned to the adjacent vacant space. She encouraged me to take a look around and check out the surfing posters, the surf boards in the rafters and . . . the surfing posters. She gave me a quick history of surfing, starting with Duke Kahanamoku and continued to regale me with the upcoming surfing events of the summer. I feigned interest for as long as I could and then told her I wanted to get a photo of the Guinness record, largest surfboard in the world, which held 66 people and is hanging on the outside of the building next to their parking lot. It’s gnarly!

I drove home still relishing my burger and beer from Duke’s and having assuaged my guilt of living so close to the ocean and never hanging ten, or even one. But, hey Dude, it was still a bitchin’ day.

GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

I was watching “Fosse/Verdon” the other night on TV (well worth viewing) when I spotted something I hadn’t seen in a long time – a cigarette machine.  Until that moment I hadn’t thought about those instruments of death, once so ubiquitous but now almost extinct.  I can’t remember the last time I saw one.  Clearly the ban on smoking in restaurants and bars was the death knell for them, but seeing one evoked fond memories.  I used to think it was great fun when my dad would give me a quarter to slip into the slot and pull the lever to magically produce his Salem cigarettes.  Of course, back in the ’50’s we had no way of knowing it would eventually lead to his emphysema, but then again, he lived to age 87, most of those years smoking cigarettes and drinking martinis so he had a pretty good – and fun – run.

Seeing something once so prevalent got me to thinking about other items that simply don’t exist any more.  For instance, console TV’s.  I recall getting our first console – maple! – and it taking a prominent position in the family room.  It was considered a piece of furniture, needing to be polished and waxed just like the dining room table.  The picture was always just a bit blurry and we often had to adjust the antenna on the roof, but it beat the green screen we’d had before.  In the late ’60’s my parents splurged and bought a combo console – TV, record player and radio all in one!  In was a behemoth, and I’m sure the sound quality on all three components sucked, but it was a proud possession of my mom until she moved to a retirement home in 2010.  Talk about getting your money’s worth!

 

Although land lines are not yet extinct, they have changed considerably from my teenage years.  Typically they were mounted on a wall or sat on a “telephone table” with a very short cord.  Personal conversations – so critical to any teenager – were impossible.  Where today’s kids beg for a cell phone, my only desire was for my parents to buy a long phone cord.  By exchanging the short cord for the long one I could pick up the phone and take it into my room, close the door, and have all my angst-filled conversations in private.  That said, when we still had the short cord Brother Bob overheard me one day fumbling for a way to turn down a date.  After I hung up, he told me, “Sis, what you say is, ‘I have other plans that night’.  That could mean anything from a date with another guy to washing your hair.”  I have used that line all of my life to gracefully turn down an unwanted event.  So I guess there were advantages to the “family” telephone.  The other advantage is that we didn’t carry it around, ignoring the world around us, or talk on it when we were driving.

 

And while I’m on the subject of phones,  here’s something else you don’t see much anymore – phone booths.  I remember when they were literally on every corner and were an oasis if you needed directions, were running late or simply needed privacy (for those who had short cords).  Kids today don’t realize how easy they have it when they get stuck in traffic on their way to an appointment.  They simply power up the cell phone and call the person to update their status.  We used to frantically search out a phone booth, often times pulling off a freeway in a strange neighborhood or, as I did once, walk a mile to find the nearest phone.  To compound the problem, once you found a phone booth you had to pray that you had the right amount of change in your pocket.  Nothing was worse that placing a call and having the operator (a real live person) tell you to insert 35 cents when all you had was a quarter.  I remember when the phone companies came out with calling cards where you could charge a call to your home phone.  We thought that was the height of technology.  Little did we know that decades later we would be living in a Jetson’s world with a hand-held device that would place calls, display maps, alert us to traffic jams and publicize our outing on social media.

Finally, something not everyone had but we did – a burn barrel.  It was a rusted-out 55 gallon oil drum that was re-purposed into burning leaves in the back yard.  Each fall my dad and his best friend Dick would spend several hours in our yard raking all the leaves into piles.  They would break for lunch and then spend the afternoon shoving all the debris into the burn barrel.  Of course, such strenuous work required a beer so I have wonderful memories of them laughing and burning leaves, almost like two kids playing a fun game.  The smell was wonderful, although God knows what fumes were spewing into the atmosphere.

We’ve certainly made strides over the decades – technology is better, the air is cleaner and we are healthier.  But somehow, given the choice, I’d go back to simpler times, even if I had to have a short cord on the telephone.

 

It’s Vegas Baby!

by Bob Sparrow

Bruno Mars

We all know the city of Las Vegas by several names, ‘Vegas’, ‘Sin City’, ‘Lost Wages’, to name a few, and we know, or hope we know, that ‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’ – except what I write in my blog.  It is quite a city!  While this desert oasis loves its reputation as a ‘Gambling Mecca’, a few years back it tried to sell itself as a ‘family’ destination, but the only family it attracted was the mafia. Recently, in an effort to look like other large cities in the U.S., it acquired an NHL hockey team, the Knights, and next season will have the NFL’s Oakland/Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders – an apt place for this team and their irreverent fans.

But the reality is, Las Vegas, which means ‘The Meadows’ is like no other city on the planet, which I just witnessed last weekend. We were there to enjoy our annual golf trip, some great meals (diet starts Monday . . . again), some great friends and a blockbuster Bruno Mars concert.

Although I’ve been there too many times to remember (as well as times I don’t remember), the city never ceases to amaze me, as it might you as you read through these little known, and even less cared about, fact of ‘Sin City’.

  • There are an estimated 1,000 homeless people living beneath Vegas in underground tunnels.
  • In 1980, a Las Vegas hospital had to suspend workers who were betting on when patients would die. One nurse was even accused of murdering a patient so she could

    Celine Dion

    win.

  • It would take 288 years for one person (and a lot of luggage) to spend one night in every hotel room in Las Vegas.
  • Contrary to popular belief (and practice) prostitution in Las Vegas is not legal.  Now you tell me!!!
  • The Las Vegas strip is the brightest place on Earth when looked at from outer space.
  • Biggest game in Vegas, in terms of money per table, not blackjack, not craps, not roulette . . . baccarat. While the average blackjack table brings in around $500,000 each year, a baccarat table brings in an average of $4,000,000 annually.
  • Vegas’ favorite food: Shrimp – over 60,000 pounds of it are consumed . . . every day! That’s higher than the rest of the country combined.
  • Slot machine payout record? A 25-year-old software engineer invested $100 to win a jackpot worth $39,000,000.
  • Top performers: Back in the 70s Liberace made $300,000 a week! Today record holder is Celine Dion, who makes $500,000 per show.
  • There are over 300 weddings per day in Las Vegas, making it the top wedding destination in the US, but second in the world to Istanbul. Istanbul?!!
  • For all its gambling, you can’t buy a Lottery ticket in Las Vegas – it’s illegal.
  • A stack of pancakes and a quickie wedding may both sound like great ideas after a night of partying in Vegas; luckily Denny’s offers this great combo. For $199 you get a wedding officiant, use of Denny’s exquisite marriage chapel, a pancake wedding

    Denny’s Pancake Wedding Cake

    cake along with a Grand Slam breakfast. The pessimist would say that both the wedding and the breakfast could turn to crap by morning.

Hope you learned a little something about Vegas that you can pass along to a friend at lunch today.

Our Cinco de Mayo/Kentucky Derby trip is always fun, not so much because of Las Vegas, but because of the great people that go; I could tell you more about it, but you know, for the most part ‘What happens in Vegas . . .