By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

For the past ten years Alan and I had an ongoing discussion about our house.  He loved it and never wanted to move.  I sought out smaller homes with less maintenance.  I told him that if he died before me, I would sell the house the very next day.  Not because I don’t love it – God knows I do – but the maintenance is a killer.  Fast forward to reality.  Shortly after Alan got sick, I decided that I don’t really want to sell the house.  We bought the lot twenty-five years ago and built our dream house. Now, it is a place of comfort for me.  But lest I give you the impression that it’s all sunshine and unicorns, I need to point out that I was right about the maintenance.  I have become the female equivalent of Tim “Tool Time” Allen.

First, two days after Alan died, the air conditioner went out.  This is not a good thing during the hottest July on record. The first technician told me that our condensation line was blocked, and the only fix was to run a new line over the roof.  Ka-ching! Luckily our regular guy was assigned a few days later to do the work and he determined the line could be blown out with nitrogen.  So… first home crisis averted.  Five days later I drove two miles to the UPS store to mail some documents and picked up a flange and bolt in my tire.  For those of you who are thinking, “Hey, cars have nothing to do with houses”, you are wrong.  Cars are house-adjacent. First of all, they are under the roof so that counts.  Second, the only time you love spending money on them is when they’re new.  After that it’s just a long string of “un-fun” money: oil changes, major tune-ups, tires. Just as with a house, once the rosy glow of the purchase is over, it’s just a lot of maintenance.  Anyway, I got the tire patched and went on my way.

I can see the pool again!

Next, a tree next to our pool obviously got ahold of some steroids because it grew exponentially over a two-week period of time. I watched our pool guy have to duck under a huge limb just to sweep the pool, not to mention the debris the tree dropped in his pristine waters.  So, I had a tree trimmer come over to cut off the offending limb.  The pool guy thanked me the next week.  So did the bank account of the tree guy.  The following Monday I watched our landscapers as they “worked” in our yard.  I’ve never paid much attention to them because Alan loved taking care of the landscaping. But on that Monday, I watched one crew member use a blower in the front yard while the second guy sat in the truck on his phone for 20 minutes.  When the first guy moved with his blower to the back yard, the second guy got out of the truck, strapped on a blower, and proceeded to re-blow what the first guy had just blown.  Clearly, something had to change, and I wasn’t hopeful that it would be their work ethic, so I fired them.  I hired a new landscaper, but that landscaper doesn’t work with the irrigation controller the old company used so I had to buy a new one.  Ka-ching!

The very definition of “unfun” money

The following week an icon on the refrigerator began to flash and I discovered it needed a new air filter.  Another day, another technician.  He also told me the panel on my oven needs to be replaced.  The price is the cost of a small car.  I’m waiting on that one.  The next day I went out to our patio and saw that the cushions on the furniture were fraying.  No use having a patio if you can’t sit out there. Not exactly home maintenance, but close enough. I called the Cushion King to get them recovered. I think he is a “king” because of his vast holdings. During this time I noticed that the air pressure in the tire that was patched was consistently lower than the other three.  After consulting my son-in-law, who knows a lot about cars, he told me I was borderline for needing new tires and for peace of mind I should just go ahead and get new shoes for the car.  Ka-ching, Ka- ching!

I’ve discovered that animal husbandry is also part of home maintenance. In the past two months I have had to dispose of two dead birds that did Kamikaze maneuvers into our windows.  I’ve picked two scorpions up off the bathroom floor. But the real challenge was, for the first time in 23 years, a Colorado River Toad appeared in our yard – in the dog run, no less.  These toads are very dangerous for animals, as their primary defense system is glands that produce a poison potent enough to kill a dog.  I wasn’t going to let that toad anywhere near Dash the Wonder Dog, so I got a shovel under him and hurled him over the wall.  I like to think of it as my version of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

Finally, last Wednesday I went to take a shower and there was no hot water.  The water heater is less than two years old so I couldn’t believe it had already given up the ghost.  After five minutes the water finally got hot, at which point I remembered that the water heater is connected to a circulation timer gizmo (not sure that’s exactly what it’s called).  Sure enough, a power outage the previous day had knocked out the timer and the programming.  I was not about to call another tradesman.  So I did what any reasonable person would do: I looked up how to program it on YouTube.  Admittedly it took three attempts to figure out the timer, the on/off programming, and the mode, but I did it! Plumbers must hate YouTube.

Who knows what is next?  I do know this: it will be something and that something will be expensive. In all the years we’ve lived here we’ve never had this many issues in so short a period of time. I’ve had thoughts that Alan is orchestrating this to prove to me that I can take care of this house.  I have reflected that we were both right – the house is a keeper, and the maintenance is a killer.  But I’m going to keep plugging away.  I’m not going to trade it in for a smaller version unless that house comes with a built-in handyman who can make a mean margarita.

Wanna Go to Vegas?

by Bob Sparrow

South Point Hotel & Casino

It was Monday, mid-morning, work was slow, the guests we had coming for dinner on Tuesday had canceled due to illness and I knew the answer to the question before I asked it, so I wanted to make sure I was ready when I said, “Hey, Linda, wanna go to Vegas?”  Without missing a beat, she said, “I can be ready in an hour.” She was ready in half an hour!  I had just filled the car with gas the day before, so off to Vegas we went.  Linda had called for reservations at our favorite hotel, South Point, but had rooms only for Tuesday night, but nothing for Monday.  She called around and discovered that this time of year was ‘convention time’, so not only were most of the hotels filled, but those that weren’t were charging exorbitant rates, but I assumed the ‘Ms Bargin Hunter’ would find us a place.

As we headed to Vegas, I was excited about placing a ‘real’ bet on the Monday Night game, since my brother and I place ‘pretend’ bets on both college and pro games every week – this year we’re making some ‘pretend’ money.  It was the Bills against the Jets, I liked the Bills to cover and the over, but called Jack on the way out and asked him to ‘research’ it and call me back with what he found.  We were about an hour out of Vegas when he called back, “parley Buffalo to the over”, he said; we were on the same page.  This was going to be fun!!!  We stopped at South Pointe to place the bet and watch the game, plus had a gourmet dinner of a hot dog and a beer. Jack & I were definitely on the same page, but we were in the wrong book!  Jets won and the score was under.  After the game we head further down the strip to Circus Circus, the only hotel with vacancies and a reasonable rate.

Circus Circus made my list

Recommendation #1: Don’t ever stay at Circus Circus.  It is very tired, the circus left town years ago; after waiting 40 minutes to check in, we had to walk across the street into a low-rise, low-rent building with no elevators to our second floor room.  Our room was possibly where they kept the elephants before bringing them across the street to the ‘Big Top’ during Circus Circus’ hey day.  We played some slots (they still had the kind with handles!). then retired for the evening.

On Tuesday morning we could not get out of Circus Circus fast enough, although we felt like we were abandoning the cockroaches that we had befriended there.  So far, our ‘spur of the moment’ get-away had included a hot dog dinner, a bad room at a bad hotel and $200+ in gambling debt.  A Denny’s down the street seemed like the appropriate place to stop for a gormet breakfast!

Checking into South Point felt like checking into the Ritz.  I found a craps table and had great fun and very nice winnings before we noticed a show in the South Point theater featuring The Bronx Wanderers, and thought how bad can they be after our Circus Circus experience, so we bought tickets.

Recommendation #2: If you ever get a chance to see The Bronx Wanderers – do it!!!  They are a father (Vinny Adinolfi, 65 years old) and son (Vinny Jr, 35 years old) band, both play the guitar, keyboard and are lead singers; they also have a great saxophone player and the group has awesome harmony.  They do rock and roll classics from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s and do it very well – they killed Bohemian Rapsody!!  Vinny, the dad, was a successful record producer in New York and worked with, and had great stories about, most of the popular recording stars of the day.  We finished the evening with a nice dinner at the Silverado Steak House, gambled a bit more and retired to a much nicer room.

While this spur-of-the-moment escapade started out as a disaster, it ended with me thinking I just might ask Linda again, “Wanna go to Vegas?”






It’s been twenty-two years since “that day”.  September 11 is a date that remains indelibly imprinted in the minds of those of us who watched it unfold. I can still remember almost every minute of “that day” – watching the aftermath of the first plane crash and listening to the TV announcers speculate that it was an errant private plane.  Shortly, of course, we knew it wasn’t an errant plane, but a deliberate attack.  It is still difficult to think about the people who perished that day – people who left home for work on a bright, blue-sky Tuesday morning and never returned.  The very notion of that was – is – frightening.  I don’t think we can collectively sleep quite as soundly ever again.  We learned on “that day” that there are people in the world who wish us harm.  My brothers and I grew up benefiting from the goodwill America garnered from the Second World War.  The notion of being hated was unthinkable.  But September 11 showed us that we can no longer assume that we are perceived as the “world’s good guys”. Now we live in the shadow of “that day” and the impact it has on us continues, especially when we travel.  Before September 11 we could book a flight at the last minute, run through the airport to our gate, and hope the door didn’t hit us on the rear as we boarded our flight.  Now we have to get to the airport hours early, remove our shoes as we enter a security check, and limit the amount of shampoo we carry.

Socially, it brought on a lot of change too. In fact, I’m not sure we yet fully understand the toll that it took on us. Surely our national mindset was altered after watching all of the carnage and grief of “that day”. In the immediate aftermath of September 11 we managed to put our differences aside, but that fraternity has since dissipated.  Contentious elections, warring political extremes and social media have altered how we behave.  The COVID-19 pandemic placed even more strain on our psyche, and it shows no sign of abating.  Just this morning I read about people arguing over vaccines and mask mandates at a local forum.

As someone who recently experienced loss, I have a new appreciation for all of the September 11 families, who, without warning, lost a loved one on “that day”.  None of us can truly understand the void they were left with when their loved one perished so suddenly and in such a violent manner.  But I do know this: we all suffer some residual grief from those attacks.  The losses and changes from the pandemic have only added to it.  So many people now are short-tempered and it’s showing up in our everyday encounters.  Last week the local news reported that 81% of Arizonans have been the recipient of road rage.  That is a huge number, but based on my personal observation I suspect it is correct.

Lifting a middle finger on our roadways, or getting angry at a store clerk, or making demeaning comments on social media is not a sustainable construct for our society. So, what do we do?  I don’t think we throw up our hands and say it’s too large of a problem to solve.  My suggestion is we each try to make a small dent in the problem. If we acknowledge that we all have all experienced trauma since “that day”, then we should treat everyone we meet as we treat someone in grief: with kindness. 

Today the National September 11 Memorial and Museum is airing a documentary featuring first-person accounts of the attacks and their aftermath.  One of the survivors said in her interview, “It’s important that we remember the kindness, and that we take care of ourselves and other people, as we did that day.”

Kindness.  What a wonderful legacy of “that day”.

Hero . . . Gone

by Bob Sparrow

Jimmy Buffett

I originally had a rather banal blog on some history and suggestions around Labor Day, ready to be posted Monday, when, on Saturday morning, I got a text from my three kids and a call from several friends, wishing me condolences for the passing of Jimmy Buffett.  What?!!  I’m shocked!!!  He died from lymphoma at the age of 76.    My love and history of all things Margaritaville are well known.

I was introduced to Jimmy in the early 80s by my dearly departed best friend, Navy pilot, Don Klapperich.  After he retired from the Navy, he went to work in Saudi Arabia, teaching the Saudi Air Force how to be fighter pilots.  Prior to cell phones and even the internet, the way we communicated with each other over such a distance was through cassette tapes that we would mail to one another (Yes, cassette tape were quite the rage).  I was, of course, familiar with some of Jimmy’s earlier popular songs, Come Monday, Cheeseburger in Paradise and Margaritaville as well as his hit in 1973 that couldn’t be played on the radio at the time, Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw, but Don had sent me a cassette with a song called, Somewhere Over China.  It’s not a particularly great song and not a hit for Jimmy, but for some reason the lyrics resonated with me.  Don, had sent me other Buffett songs, but I really didn’t pay much attention until after this song, so I went back and listened more carefully to the lyrics of Jimmy’s songs.  They were funny and philosophical and while I was never a ‘beach bum’, they touched my ‘wanderlust’ soul.  I then didn’t want to wait for Don to send me more Buffett songs from Saudi Arabia, so I started buying all of Buffett’s CDs that I could get my hands on – new and old.


I had become a ‘Parrothead’, and so got tickets for the next Jimmy Buffett concert when he came to Orange County, for his concert at a large, outdoor venue, Irvine Meadows.  I forget who it was that told me that to get the full experience of a Jimmy Buffett concert, get to the concert parking lot early . ..  real early.  I did.  Holy Parrothead!!  Four hours before the concert, the parking lot was full of people dressed in all kinds of beach, parrot and pirate gear along with flat bed trucks with grass shacks and sand on the back, serving up bottomless margaritas.  I’d never seen so many men with cocoanut bras in my life!!!  It was truly the best and biggest concert party I had ever attended.  The concert was fun-filled with lots of audience participation as everyone was feeling no pain after a four-hour warm-up in the parking lot.  I saw Jimmy several other times, back in Irvine Meadows, when I took the kids when they were old enough to appreciate the parking lot party, in Las Vegas and even in Michigan where I encouraged my fellow workers there to become Parrotheads.

My Margaritaville flag at half-staff

Aside from writing most of his hit songs, Jimmy performed a lot of duets with many great country stars like Zak Brown, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, George Strait, Clint Black, as well as his well-known hit with Alan Jackson, It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere.  But Jimmy was far from a ‘one trick pony’, he diversified and open his first Margaritaville restaurant and bar in Key West, Florida, which I visited years ago.  There are now 23 Margaritaville Hotels, restaurants and casinos with locations in the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Australia and the Caribbean.  He also developed a Margaritaville tequila as well as my favorite beer, Landshark; there is a Broadway play ‘Escape to Margaritaville’; he had his own recond company and he was a best-selling author.  His networth was north of one billion dollars.

A Pirate Looks at Forty is another iconic Buffett song, as this pirate looks back on 40 years of pure joyful entertainment that Jimmy provided me.  My flag with ‘It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere’ banner flies at half-staff this week. .  Rest in Peace Jimmy, you created a better world.  Fins up!