Start Spreadin’ the News

by Bob Sparrow

We’re leavin’ today . . .

Times Square

Actually, we left a week ago last Thursday for New York, New York, on our way to jump on a cruise that goes to . . . well, you’ll see.  But first, about our time in the Big Apple.  I have to be honest and say I really wasn’t looking forward to our day and a half there before our departure. I had been there several times on business several years ago and a couple of times to see my daughter, Stephanie, when she was enrolled in the American Musical & Dramatic Academy (AMDA), aspiring to get on Broadway.  The city is big, impersonal, messy, crowded, crime-infested – generally, not where I wanted to spend any time.  I was soooo wrong!  This city is electric and we found the people to be most friendly!!  A cab ride, with a friendly cab driver, brought us from JFK to our hotel, the Edition, which was ideally situated on Times Square – we were in the heart of the ‘city that never sleeps’.  After getting to our room on the 27th floor, which gave us an excellent view of what was going on below in Times Square, we cleaned up and headed out to nice Italian dinner at La Masseria – walking distance.  Great dinner, friendly server!

911 Memorial

Friday morning found us on a Hop-On-Hop-Off bus that started in Times Square and had stops at the Empire State Building, the Flatiron District, SoHo, Chinatown, Little Italy, Brooklyn Bridge, Wall Street, Battery Park, and the World Trade Center.  We sat in the seats on the exposed upper deck of the bus, and while we did get a little rain, it offered us a great view of all the aforementioned sights.  We ended up spending 3-4 hours at the 911 Memorial Museum – what an emotional experience!

Us, listening to ‘Sinatra’

After hopping off the bus for good in Times Square, on our way back to our room to freshen up before finding a place for dinner, we stopped at one of my favorite places in any city, an Irish Pub.  This one was named the Playwright Tavern on 49th Street.  Our thought was to have a quick beer before we go back to the room, clean up and find a place for dinner.  With an engaging bar tender, who was actually from Ireland, one Guinness led to another and before we knew it, we decided to stay there for dinner.  “Fish & Chips please!”  After dinner, I asked the bartender where the stairs at the end of the room led; he said it was more of the restaurant and another bar.  It’s an Irish Pub, of course there’s another bar!  So, I went upstairs and found a quaint restaurant setting and the other bar, where there was a guy singing Sinatra tunes, and he was really good.  I ask a server, who is standing next to me, if this was a patron who just got up to sing or the regular entertainment.  It was the regular entertainment, but he was anything but regular, he had an amazing voice.  I went down and got Linda and we spent the next couple of hours listening to this guy, his name is Kurt Decker, belt out Frank Sinatra and Billy Joel tunes.  He ended up not only singing to us, but talking to us during his break and explaining his love of Sinatra music.  An incredible evening!!!

The next morning, we Ubered over to Brooklyn and got on the Emerald Princess.  I have to say that Princess is not our favorite cruise line, the ships are nice, but the food is average at best – says the guy who dined on Guinness and fish and chips the night before!

On Saturday we board and just before sunset we set sail, or whatever it is those big ships do when they leave port, and got a stunning view of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline as we head out on our adventure.

Leaving Manhattan (that’s not our boat!)

An item from ‘It’s a Small World’  Once out to sea, the casino opens and while Linda is playing the slots, I sat down at the bar to watch the Utah-USC game.  I notice the guy next to me is also rooting for Utah and I ask him if he’s from there.  He said he was not from there but went to school and played football at a small school there that I’d probably never heard of, Westminster College. I told him I that I also went there and played football.  We had a great time talking about familiar people and places and watching Utah kick a final-play field goal to beat USC.

As we head North, I’m really looking forward to having a nice lobster dinner!!!

On Thursday: Newport, RI and Boston


By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Halloween and Christmas cohabitating

Halloween is quickly approaching and at the risk of sounding like a grumpy old person, it seems like the holiday has gotten much too complicated – and expensive.  The National Retailers Association estimates that more than $10.3 billion will be spent on the Halloween season this year.  Yes, somewhere along the line Halloween has gone from a holiday to a season. At my local Target the part of the store that hasn’t already been turned into a Christmas wonderland is dedicated to over-the-top Halloween displays.  There are strings of lights to put on the house, special Halloween gift bags and toys, a Pin the Tail on the Cat game and aisle after aisle of decorations and party favors.

My best friend Leslie and I dressed as ?????

Halloween costumes used to be cobbled together from things found around the house – a sheet with holes in it for a ghost or towels pinned around the neck for a Superman cape.  If you were really lucky you had a grandparent with a glass eye so you could borrow their patch for a pirate costume.  The occasional kid bought a plastic mask at the five and dime but that was thought to be phony and close to cheating.  The fun of Halloween was using our imagination to come up with the cleverest costume.  We proudly marched in our school parades and vied for the prize for best costume.   Yep – they gave out one award.  We didn’t get a ribbon just for participating. On Halloween night, we were let loose in the neighborhood with a battle plan that would have made an Army general proud.  We plotted out which houses to avoid – those that gave out hard candy or fruit – and which to hit first.  The lady around the corner was always our starting point because she made delicious popcorn balls.  Then we progressed to the homes that dished out divinity, brownies, and fudge.  We never gave a thought about eating food that had been prepared by someone we didn’t know.  The majority of treats we collected on Halloween were home-made, lovingly wrapped up in waxed paper or aluminum foil, and they were scrumptious.

Adults are increasingly participating in this holiday that was once the domain of children.  I suppose we should have seen this coming.  People are in need of an escape these days.  What better way to suppress your anger about politics, the economy, and the state of the world than to dress up like Barbie or Spiderman?  Still, it seems like this should be a holiday for children, not another excuse for mom and dad to dress up and act goofy.

But the real change over the decades is that many kids no longer trick-or-treat.  Now the trend is to have home parties.    I know that there are risks to roaming the neighborhood and that the world is full of scary people, but I still find it sad that kids miss the fun of going house to house.  Because no matter how great the favors are from Target, it can’t be as much fun as plotting routes, knocking on strangers’ doors and being rewarded with popcorn balls.

Nothing better than sneaking a Snickers bar

I live in a community that is mostly comprised of older people and I miss seeing young kids come around each year.  I miss asking them about their costumes and providing the appropriate response when they twirl in their princess dress or growl in their werewolf mask.  I still buy Snickers bars each Halloween in hopes that someone will come by, but inevitably they end up in my freezer.  I’ve discovered that frozen Snickers bars are really good with coffee. Consequently, my post-Halloween ritual is to spend extra time at the gym.  Halloween – and my metabolism – are both different these days.

You Probably Missed Columbus Day

by Bob Sparrow

“Please get out of the way, I’m discovering America”

As a kid, I remember celebrating Columbus Day because, we were told that Christopher Columbus, not his real name, came from Italy and discovered America.  We later learned that:

  • Although he was Italian, he came from Spain at the behest of, and funding from, Spain’s King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella,
  • He didn’t even land in the U.S., on that first voyage, he only got as far as Guanahani, an island in the Bahamas between Haiti and Dominican Republic. Incidentally, he did make a subsequent voyage to the New World but still didn’t get to the U.S. as he ended up further south, in Central and South America.
  • He didn’t discover anything, except the millions of people who already lived in what was then called the ‘New World’ when he got there. He did make four trips to the ‘New World’ over the next 10 years, trying to find a route from Europe to Asia.  When he landed in the New World, he thought he was in India, and thus called the natives ‘Indians’ – an inaccurate name that stuck.

For Californians, Columbus Day has come and gone . . . forever!  As California and Delaware are the only two states in the nation that have dispensed with the Columbus Day holiday entirely.  So, if you were confused about what to celebrate on the 2nd Monday of this month, perhaps the following will help.

The first celebration of Columbus Day came in 1792, a mere 300 years after the original voyage by Christopher and his gang.  But the day wasn’t made a legal holiday until 100 years after that, in 1892.

The history of why we even have a Columbus Day or why it was eliminated, is interesting when juxtaposed with its replacement in some states, Indigenous Peoples Day.  The push to honor Columbus came from a president, Benjaman Harrison, who was trying to help build the esteem of a minority people here in the U.S.  Yes, at the time, Italians were very much discriminated against here.  Monikers like Dago and Wop were used similarly to the ‘n’ word today.  So, establishing a ‘day’ to honor Columbus was as much a day to honor the minority Italians.  But today, some people, like those in charge of holidays in California and Delaware, look to Columbus as the person to blame for opening the doors for colonizers whose arrival led to the forceful taking of land and set the stage for widespread death and loss of the Indigenous ways of life.  Perhaps that’s a bit of a heavy burden to put on one man’s shoulders since Indigenous tribes spent a lot of time killing each other and taking each other’s land.  Tribes like the Comanche and Apache were among the most violent and dreaded tribes in Native America.  So, maybe neither Columbus nor the Indigenous Peoples deserve a holiday, or maybe they both do!

The U.S. is still confused over the holiday, aside from California and Delaware ignoring Columbus, Maine, New Mexico, Vermont and the District of Columbia still view the 2nd Monday in October an official holiday, but have renamed it Indigenous Peoples’ DaySixteen other states still celebrate the 2nd Monday in October as Columbus Day.  So, on yet another subject, we are a nation divided.  However, my fellow Californians may have found that, no matter what it is called, our government will still take the opportunity for a day off, as banks, post offices and all other government agencies are CLOSED.

Yes, I know that the holiday, whatever you called it, has passed this year, but now you will hopefully be prepared next year when the second Monday of October rolls around and you’ll have the appropriate decoration adorning your home.  Clearly Columbus wasn’t perfect, but neither were the indigenous people.  If foreigners or native Americans didn’t fight for land, then we’d all still be living, on top of each other, in the ‘Fertile Crescent’, and things aren’t looking so good over there right now.

 Columbus’ real name?  Cristoforo Columbo – I think he had a television series in the ‘70s.



By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

I was listening to a late-night talk show a couple of weeks ago when the host said, “Diane Feinstein died today.  How could they tell?”  The audience, primarily composed of young people, roared with laughter.  Of course, given her recent cognitive and physical health issues, their perception of her was of an older, feeble woman.  But I remember someone quite different.  Back in 1978 I was working in the financial district of San Francisco when George Moscone and Harvey Milk were assassinated.  This was long before shootings became an everyday occurrence, so everyone in the community was shocked.  Diane Feinstein was the president of the Board of Supervisors, so she became the acting mayor that day.  She immediately took charge of the situation; she was a steady hand on the tiller, bringing calm and order to the ensuing days and weeks.

Feinstein at Stanford

Feinstein was well-suited to the task; she had plenty of experience in navigating rough waters.  She was the daughter of a prominent surgeon and she and her two sisters enjoyed the privileges of an upper-class lifestyle. But unbeknownst to anyone outside the family, her mother, Betty, suffered from an undiagnosed brain disorder and was prone to angry — even violent — outbursts. She once tried to drown one of the girls in the bathtub. Feinstein later said that she and her sisters lived on tenterhooks throughout their childhood.  Feinstein eventually graduated from Stanford with a degree in History and began work at a non-profit foundation. She also married during this time and had a daughter, but the marriage was short-lived.  In 1960 Governor Pat Brown appointed her to the California Women’s Parole Board, on which she served until 1966.

A lost bet

In 1969 she was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, a position she held until her ascension to mayor that sad day in 1978. Prior to becoming mayor, her most flamboyant act was to appear at the opening of Pier 39 in a bathing suit.  As Board president she had been dismayed by the lack of progress on the project.  The developer assured her it would open on time, to which she replied, “If it opens on schedule, I’ll wear a bikini to the ribbon cutting.”  To her chagrin, the project did open on schedule, although only half of the attractions and restaurants were completed.  So, her compromise was to wear a one-piece suit to the ceremonies.


The cable car restoration

Just a few months after the Pier 39 opening the assassinations took place and Feinstein was all business. She was the first woman and the first Jewish person to hold the position.  The all-male power structure in The City didn’t know quite what to make of her, but she forged ahead.  In 1979 she won the mayoral race by a slim majority and began to systematically work on improving the quality of life in the city.  Her accomplishments were significant.  In 1979 the historic cable car system in San Francisco, so symbolic of the city, was shut down for repairs.  By 1982 the system had to stop operations entirely.  Feinstein lobbied vigorously for Federal money and raised private funds to restore the system.  She instituted the modern Fleet Week, a celebration of Navy shipbuilding and Blue Angel air shows.  She and her husband, Richard Blum, donated a herd of twelve bison to Golden Gate Park to keep the “bison tradition” alive.  By the time she ran for reelection in 1983 she garnered 80% of the vote.

After leaving the mayor’s office she ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1990, and then in 1992 became the first of two women (Barbara Boxer being the other) elected as Senator from California.  She had a long – too long – career in the Senate.  Which brings me to my point.  The younger people who laughed at the late-night host’s joke about her only think of her as old and doddering.  They would not recognize the Diane Feinstein I remember when she was vital and accomplished.  The truth is, she stayed on stage too long.  One wishes that if she lacked the ability to retire, that someone close to her would have persuaded her to do so.  The same can be said for a lot of politicians.  I wish more would take the position of Mitt Romney, who said the following when he announced that he would not run for re-election: “I spent my last 25 years in public service of one kind or another. At the end of another term, I’d be in my mid 80s. Frankly, it’s time for a new generation of leaders.”  Romney realizes that it’s not always a good thing to leave them laughing.

A Couch Potato’s Family Weekend

by Bob Sparrow

(I feel obligated to tell you upfront that, as you’ll read in the short blog that follows, I had lots of family in for the weekend and had very little time to write anything, so if you have something better to do, I’d skip this and go do it.)

The Three 49er Amigos

This special family weekend started last Wednesday with my flight from Santa Ana to Phoenix to help my sister (you remember Suzanne!) drive to our house for a Ryder Cup / delayed family reunion since she had to miss the last one in July due to Al’s passing.  She couldn’t fly over because Dash, The Wonder Dog, is unable to fly due to his heart condition.  So, she (and Dash) picked me up at the airport and brought me to her house.  That evening we had a great dinner at her club, Desert Highlands, came back to her house and watched a great PBS special on folk music that featured the Kingston Trio, the Limelighters, the Brothers Four and several others.  It was great tv for this old folk singer!

We left early Thursday morning taking the ‘scenic’ route out of town.  The scenic route included such towns as Wickenburg, Aguila, Salome and Brenda – towns that you have to see to believe, but don’t blink or you’ll miss them – it was well worth the 15 minutes extra that it costs us in time.

Suz’s objective in coming over for this weekend, aside from spending time with family, was to be together to watch:

  • Golf’s Ryder Cup
  • The USC – Colorado football game
  • The Utah – Oregon State football game
  • The 49ers – Cardinals football game

Hard copies of all our blogs!

Our brother Jack and his wife, Sharon, arrived on Friday, and Dana, Addison and Mac came down for dinner – a great gathering, only spoiled by the Utes getting a beat down from Oregon State. Ugggg!!  The ‘goose egg’ earned by the American Ryder Cup team on Friday, also added to our . . . alcohol consumption!  That evening a great surprise was provided by Suzanne, when she gave me an early 80th birthday gift, a three-binder hard copy collection of all of our blogs since the very beginning.  The letter that she wrote to me that accompanied them was heart-felt and amazing!!!!

Saturday morning started with a USC win over Colorado in what turned out to be a pretty good game.  In true ‘couch potato’ form, we rarely got to our feet as we watch various college football games and tried to root our American golfers on, but they were doing little to retain the ‘Cup’ as they fell behind Europe 10.5 to 5.5 points with only Sunday’s matches remaining.

Sis, with a ‘shirt for all seasons’

Sunday had daughter, Stephanie, grandkids Dylan and Emma as well as son, Jeff and wife, Pam, who was carrying ‘our new granddaughter in the oven’, over to watch a Viking win, a 49er win and a Ryder Cup comeback that fell short.  But it was some great family time together.

It was an awesome family weekend and if you’re reading this on Monday morning, I’m driving Suzanne and Dash back to Scottsdale and will fly home in the afternoon.

Great family time – not so great blog!  Maybe better next time . . . maybe not!