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LIVE LONG… AND PROSPER!

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Julia Hawkins – running at 101

This Friday marks our mother’s 100th birthday.  She’s no longer with us – she died 6 years ago two weeks before her 94th birthday.  She was actually fairly healthy but fell in her apartment and broke five ribs.  Who knows whether she might have made it to 100?  Despite the fact she’s no longer here we’ll celebrate anyway.  We Sparrows never have to look far for a reason to hoist a toddy.  Mom’s century mark birthday got me to thinking about the people who actually reach that milestone.  What is their secret?  Turns out, there have been countless studies on the subject, many of which result in conflicting conclusions.  My After reading untold articles on the subject my opinion is that longevity is pretty much a giant roulette wheel.  Some argue that exercise and good, clean living are the secret, while there are ample stories about centenarians who swear by cigarettes and a shot of whiskey each day.  That said, ignoring the “eat spinach and turmeric” advice, there do seem to be some personal qualities that lead to a longer life.

Be Rich – Yep, you read that right.  One of the leading reasons for longevity is the access to health care.  People of means tend to go to the doctor when symptoms arise, thus resulting in earlier diagnosis of serious disease.  So if you want to know how to add some years go add some money to your bank account.

Here’s to your health!

Laugh – Turns out that laughing more – especially at oneself – can lead to increased longevity.  Almost every article I read about living to 100 had some variation of good humor: have a positive attitude, be friendly, socialize.  There are scientific reasons for this that are above my pay grade but basically laughing and being of good cheer releases hormones that reduce stress, which in turn, leads to a longer life. Maybe that’s why so many 100 year-old’s swear by their glass of whiskey!

Get a Pet –  Well, duh.  Any of us who have pets know that they are wonderful companions.  But it turns out that owning a pet can reduce your chance of a heart attack by one-third!  They are the ultimate stress-reducers and provide a sense of purpose by requiring food, walks and scooping up poop.

Cope with trauma – One of the most interesting studies found that male Holocaust survivors lived longer than men of the same age group who immigrated to Israel before Nazi rule. The theory is that living through trauma resulted in post-traumatic growth and a greater appreciation for life. This one hit home for me. My husband and his parents were interned in a Japanese prisoner of war camp for four years. His father had every tropical disease known to man during that time. That, coupled with the stress of caring for two small children in a dangerous environment, took a toll. Yet, my father-in-law lived to 90 and my mother-in-law lived to 96. You could not spend more that 20 minutes with them without a discussion of how lucky they were to survive – and thrive. Obviously, these are extreme examples, but there is something fortifying about coming through a bad experience that increases one’s appreciation for each day.

Family – In a world-wide study of people who lived to be 100 there were three regions that produced the most of these rare individuals: Sardinia, Italy, Okinawa, Japan, and Loma Linda, California (Note to Bob – move 47 miles east and you have it made).  The studies showed many differences but also some things in common – not smoking, moderate exercise, and eating legumes.  Jeez – those legumes show up everywhere.  But the #1 thing they shared was a love of family. Oh sure, I’m sure somewhere in there was a drunk uncle but for the most part they felt loved, supported and cared for.  Quite a nice feeling even for those who don’t reach 100.

There you have it – 50 studies distilled down to five common themes.  Personally, even after all that reading I’m still skeptical.  Even though I read that only 10% of longevity is based on genetic history, almost all of the women in my family going back for generations lived very long lives.  And as far as I can tell, they all liked a bit of the hooch and, if mom was any indication, the only gym they knew was Jim Beam.  So on Friday I’ll lift a glass to mom and pray like heck I should live so long.

 

$uper Bowl $unday

by Bob Sparrow

     There is no sporting event in America that is more hyped than the hyperbole-named Super Bowl. ‘Super’ is an adjective that describes something extraordinary, but this year’s game, with a total of one touchdown, wasn’t  so super; and maybe all that surrounded it wasn’t either, but at least all that surrounds it is excessive.

Show Me the Ads

Those who may not know one end of the football from the other (don’t be fooled, they’re both the same) will pay most attention when the game stops and the advertisements begin. The ads are typically interesting and creative, and well they should be since they now cost over $5 million for a 30-second spot – a price that has nearly doubled in the last 10 years. So now viewers get up and go to the bathroom when it’s 3rd and 1 and stay put during the time outs when the commercials run. You might ask yourself, what are those companies that spend that kind of money thinking? Here’s what. Last year 111 million people watched the Super Bowl, as compared to the second most-watched event on television, the Oscars, which had a paltry 33 million. In advertising, sometimes it’s not just to get someone to buy your product, but to show the world that you are big and strong and can afford $5mm for a 30-second ad, so they trust your company.  But probably the most compelling reason is that those 111 million people are all watching the game ‘live’, not on a recording where they can zip through the commercials; additionally the reputation of the ads has grown such that people can’t wait to see what creative thing advertisers have come up with. But does it increase sales? In certain circumstances, but mostly companies do it because they can, and they want people to know that they are a strong enough company that they can piss away $5,000,000 in 30 seconds.

Show Me the Bets

Want to make that $5mm seem like chump change?  Take a guess at how much is wagered on the Super Bowl this year. The total won’t be finalized until after the game, but last year the American Gaming Association, a casino lobbying group, estimated that Americans bet a grand total of $4.76 billion. Yes, that’s billion with a ‘B’!  About 50% of that is bet on the outcome of the game and the other 50% on ‘prop bets’ or proposition bets. Here’s a small sampling of some ‘prop bets’ that YOU could have bet on.

– How long will it take Gladys Knight to sing the National Anthem

– Will any player kneel during the Anthem

– Will the opening coin toss be a head or a tail

– Will the referee get the first replay call correct

– Will Tom Brady be seen cursing during the live broadcast

– If there is a streaker, who will tackle him first – security, player, coach, other

– Color of liquid dumped on winning coach

– What will the S&P 500 close at on Monday if the Rams win? If the Patriots win?

Trust me, there’s a bet for every bettor.

Show Me the Money

But what about the poor players, you say, who can’t bet on the game? Well, they’ll be just fine thank you – every member of the Patriots, including backup quarterback, Brian Hoyer, who didn’t even step onto the field, gets $112,000 for their days work on Sunday. Each Rams player gets $56,000. Those numbers are the same for the coaches of each team as well. Oh yeah, the Patriots also gets a ring worth about $40,000.

It is not disclosed how much referees make for any one game, but they have an average annual salary, for working one day a week, of $205,000; although the ref that made the ‘no call’ in the Rams-Saints game will probably be getting unemployment insurance money instead next season.

Yes, I could have put in a photo of a ref or a waterboy, but they don’t do ‘special corporate appearances’

NFL waterboys make an average of $53,000 per year; they squirt water in the player’s mouths and hang on to their sweaty towels, but they do get a pretty good sideline view of every game. And what about the Cheerleaders? The Internet says, “Cheerleaders earn somewhere between $75 to $150 per game and might make as much as $50 an hour for special corporate appearances”. So that’s what they’re calling it now, ‘special corporate appearances’.

Guys, sorry to say that the season is over, it’s time to get your butts off the couch and get out and earn some of that money you blew on those stupid ‘squares’ at your Super Bowl party.

THE WEATHER HOG

     They’re speaking in Groundhogese

“Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it.” Nobody, that is, except Punxsutawney Phil.  This Saturday he will make his annual pilgrimage to Gobbler’s Knob to make is prediction about how much longer winter will last.  The practices and lore of Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions are predicated on a light-hearted suspension of disbelief by those involved. Kind of like the WWE. According to the lore, there is only one Phil, and all other groundhogs are impostors.  We are supposed to buy the notion that this one groundhog has lived to make weather prognostications since 1886.  Given that the average life span of a groundhog is six years, I’d say Phil is definitely an outlier on the age curve.  The Groundhog Club is the body responsible for foisting this farce on the public each year.  I suspect that Groucho Marx uttered his famous line, “I wouldn’t belong to any club that would have me”, was provoked by an invitation to join the Groundhog Club.  To prove a point, according to the Groundhog Club, Phil, after the prediction, speaks to the club president in “Groundhogese”, which only the current president can understand, and then his prediction is translated for the entire world.  These people make Trekkies look normal.

                                A classic

After doing some research about this supposedly 133-year-old ground hog, I learned that the reason for his longevity is attributed to his consumption of “groundhog punch” or ‘elixir of life”.  I’ve seen a lot of people drinking a lot of things over the years that has resulted in actions significantly stranger than predicting winter’s length.   But wouldn’t you think that after all this time some bright citizen of Gobbler’s Knob would figure out how to convert the groundhog elixir into something palatable for humans?  But then again, maybe they’ve watched the Bill Murphy’s “Groundhog Day” and realized that re-living the same experiences over and over isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Ask anyone over 60 who has memory lapses.

                   Come to Arizona!

But the real question about Phil is – how accurate is he?  For those of us who live in warmer climes we don’t really pay much attention to when winter ends, but my friends on the East Coast are darn sick of snow and cold.  Thus, the suspension of common sense in watching a ground hog make a prediction about when they will feel the warmth of the sun again.  They are desperate.  As of 2018, Punxsutawney Phil has made 132 predictions.  Unfortunately, his accuracy hovers around 35%.  Sheesh – you could flip a coin and be more accurate than that.  The Inner Circle of the Groundhog Club (can you just imagine those meetings), claims a 100% accuracy rate.  Of course, that’s total horse pucky.  Some people have been so distraught – or frostbitten – that they have sued Phil over his incorrect prediction.  The Inner Circle claims that whenever the prediction is wrong, the person in charge of translating the message must have made a mistake in his interpretation.   Well, of course, haven’t you had problems translating Groundhogese?  In actual fact, the Inner Circle decides well before February 2 what the prediction will be so the whole exercise couldn’t be more farcical.  Somewhere someone is making a lot of money off of this.

Anyway, for my friends on the East Coast, I hope that sunshine is coming your way soon.  For the rest of us, we can watch Phil on Saturday with a small amount of interest and a large amount of groundhog punch.

 

 

 

 

A Special Visit With An Old Friend . . . Squaw Valley

by Bob Sparrow

Squaw Valley

Squaw Valley and I are old friends; I’m just 6 years older. We first met in 1952 when I visited the 3-year old resort and returned a few years later to learn how to ski. I remember that day like it was yesterday.  Brother, Jack and I went to Squaw Valley for our first attempt at skiing. The lift ticket for an all day pass was $6, which we thought was quite exorbitant – today it’s $179!  We had no ski gloves, but we didn’t think we’d need them as we both tolerated cold weather fairly well. What we didn’t realize is that our lift up the mountain initially would be a rope tow and after the first time we grabbed the moving rope with our bare hands and our hands started to blister, we realized we needed gloves. We could only afford one pair, so we each wore one glove on the hand with which we grabbed the rope. We were pretty good athletes, so we learned fairly quickly how to stay upright most of the time as we skied down the bunny slope. When we were ready to go on a chairlift for something a little more difficult, we didn’t realize that getting off the chair once we got to the top was the biggest challenge we would face thus far. I believe Jack got off the chair cleanly, but they had to stop the chairs and pull me out of the way after my face-plant exit.

While the day started with rope burns and face-plants, by day’s end we were exhausted from all the runs that we were able to get in – some without falling.

The Resort at Squaw Creek

I returned to Squaw Valley to attend the 1960 Winter Olympics there and ‘hit the slopes’ many times after that. When Jack was living in Tahoe after he sold his restaurant up there, he worked at the Inn at Squaw Creek when it first opened in 1990, and our last ski expedition together was to Squaw Valley in the mid-90s when we stayed at the Inn at Squaw Creek.

So attending a wedding at, the new name is The Resort at Squaw Creek, last weekend was like seeing an old friend. The wedding was for Blake Sullivan and Molly Ainsworth; we’ve known Blake’s parents, Rick and Kara for over 30 years; when they lived in the ‘hood; Rick coached our kids in soccer and baseball and learned how to rollerblade himself so he could help our kids become better roller hockey players.

We flew into Reno with other friends from the ‘hood and rented a 4-wheel drive with Mark & Kathy Johnson, for the one hour drive to Squaw Valley.   We actually drove past Squaw Valley into Tahoe City for a lunch at Jake’s on the Lake where we had a window table with a fabulous view of the lake.

Me, not having enough sense to come in out of a snow storm

We checked in to the beautiful Resort at Squaw Creek and that evening took a shuttle into the old Olympic Village to PlumpJacks restaurant for a gourmet food station dinner and open bar hosted by the Sullivans.

Sunday, the day of the wedding started out with a rain storm and ended with a snow storm, but didn’t detract from the wedding, which was originally scheduled outside, but weather conditions dictated a move inside.  The reception dinner was held at the Six Peaks Grille, where the full length glass walls afforded us an awesome view of the falling snow.

As of this writing we are hoping to get out of Squaw Valley to Reno airport on Monday, but if the storm doesn’t allow, we’ll just have to spend another day in this winter wonderland.

THE BOOK BATTLE

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

MCC library

Wright’s Great Library

One of the best jobs I ever held was as a tour guide at the Marin County Civic Center back in the mid-1960’s.  The iconic building was the last of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces.  In fact, when I worked there only the Administration building was completed but we were awed by the scale model of what was to come – a judicial wing, an arts building and a heliport (which was never built).  Still, as I led tour after tour on the weekends my appreciation for his architecture grew.  In my opinion, no part of the building was more stunning than the library, with its rounded ceiling and open spaces.  I was fortunate enough to develop a love of books from a grammar school teacher who spent a whole year teaching us how to read a book.  She introduced me to Nancy Drew, Tom Sawyer and Louisa May Alcott.  So, oftentimes on the weekend when my fellow tour guide and I didn’t feel like leading a tour, we’d put a sign on the desk saying we were out touring and would return in 30 minutes.  And then we would sneak off to the library.

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Part of my beloved library

Over the years, whether I was in a studio apartment or a larger home, I always maintained a library.  To this day I have some of my college textbooks, which come in handy when I want to learn something about ancient history!  In my current house we converted what the architect considered a necessity, a fourth bathroom, into something I considered an absolute must – a library.  I even organized it by subject matter and author.  I know, I’m a geek.  So, when the eBook revolution came about I was one of those who swore I would never convert.  I scoffed at those who jumped on the bandwagon, even as I lugged my huge canvas bag of books on every vacation.  I think it was on one of those trips when my husband commented about the “rock collection” I’d brought along, that I began considering an eReader.  In 2010 I relented and bought my first Kindle.  I’m now on my fourth.  I love that I can store hundreds of books, that I can read at night with the light off so as not to bother my husband or Dash the Wonder Dog, and it has kept me amused as I’ve waited at doctor’s offices, airports and the DMV.

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There’s room for both!

So it was with some interest that I read an article in Inc. Magazine recently noting that according to The Wall Street Journal, sales of traditional print books rose by 5 percent in the US last year, while sales of eBooks plunged by 17 percent.  No one knows exactly why that happened or if it’s a lasting trend.  They do cite two very good reasons for the switch.  First, real books can be shared.  Remember the days when we paid $20 for a book and then passed it around to 10 friends?  Now everyone has to pay around $13 for their own download.  The second reason they cited is that real books make more meaningful gifts.  I couldn’t agree more.  I still remember who gave me books as gifts and the sentiment behind the purchase.  I also love a hardcover when I’m reading one of my historical biographies with a complicated family tree illustration just so I can easily flip to the chart when I can’t remember who’s married to whom.

Those are indeed good reasons to buy a real book, but last night I discovered perhaps the best reason.  A week ago my daily email from Kindle advertised a novel about women in WWII.  Always a sucker for a good war book, I decided to download it.  Amazon informed that I already owned it.  So I went to my archives and, indeed, I bought it in 2013.  I downloaded it to my current device and began reading.  It wasn’t until last night, one third through the book, that I realized I’ve read it before.  Hey, I’m not beating myself up.  I can’t remember what I had for dinner last night, much less a book I read six years ago.  But thinking about this post today I realized that perhaps the best reason for a real book is that after you’ve read it there are creases in the spine or perhaps a dog-eared page or two, alerting you that you’ve been down that path before.  On the upside, re-reading a good book is kind of like meeting an old friend.  I guess there are benefits to losing your memory!

New Year, New Adventures

by Bob Sparrow

Cinque a Terre, Italy

I feel very fortunate that I have the wherewithal, time and health that allows me a good deal of travel. I was just reviewing my travels for the past year and realized that aside from annual trips to our timeshare in Palms Desert and to our Cinco de Mayo golf tournament in Las Vegas, last year, I was able to go crazy in Nashville, visit the crazies in Washington D.C., with a side trip to Gettysburg, feel crazy on wine trips to Paso Robles and Napa/Sonoma, play golf (or a vague facsimile there of) in beautiful Banff, Canada, although it wasn’t so beautiful due to the smoke that filled the sky from multiple forest fire throughout British Columbia and Alberta. We also took a trip in time as we traveled back to the ‘50s on our trip to Minnesota for Linda’s 50th high school class reunion, with the Mabel-Hesper Steam Engine Days parade thrown in as a bonus. On our trip to Laughlin, Nevada, my brother, Jack and I saw the creation, and the subsequent filing for bankruptcy of, ‘The Sparrow Brothers School of Fine Football Forecasting’. The year’s traveling ended with a visit to Seattle to attend our good friends, the Johnson’s son’s wedding. I should also include our trip to the famous restaurant, Dan Tana’s as any trip to L.A. is always an adventure.

And you got to come along on all those adventures, but I can already hear you asking, “What have you done for me lately – where are we going this year?” Well, I think you’ll like the itinerary we have planned for you as I start the year off with a trip to a familiar haunt, Lake Tahoe. We’ll be attending another friend’s son’s wedding at the Inn at Squaw Creek in Squaw Valley . . . in January . . . outside! Hope I can type with mittens on. While there, we’ll take some time to visit Mom & Dad’s final resting place overlooking ‘The Lake’.  In the spring I’ll be heading out to one of my favorite locations, Death Valley with some hiking buddies – hope we keep the death out of Death Valley. At the beginning of summer we have an Adriatic cruise planned that will afford us visits to Italy, Greece, Croatia and some other places missing some vowels that I can’t pronounce much less spell. In September we’re back in Italy, staying in Tuscany and taking day trips to the surrounding environs before heading to Cinque a Terre – those picturesque fishing villages hanging off Italy’s Mediterranean coast, which have been on my bucket list for some time – I hope I remember to come home.

I lay this itinerary out so that if anyone who’s been to any of the aforementioned destinations has some travel tips – I’m all ears.

I’m not sure where Suzanne’s travel will take her this year, but you can count on us to fill your every Monday morning with some travel highlights, some life observations, some tributes as well as some stuff you can just delete as spam.

Thank you for your readership and we hope your 2019 is adventurous . . . in a good way.

NEW YEAR’S REVOLUTIONS

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

 

I’ve never kept a New Year’s resolution.  I don’t think I’m alone in that confession.  In fact, according to the Huffington Post, only 8% of people keep them.  I was kind of Ditch_New_Years_Resolutions_Daysurprised to learn it was that high.  Who ARE those people?  Probably the same ones who have their taxes filed by February 1 and the Christmas cards done in August.  So, being the sloth that I am, I went in search of resolutions made by people who, like me, have absolutely no intention of losing weight, exercising more or improving my vocabulary.  Luckily, there are a lot of us out there and I found some rather amusing one’s to share with you this last day of 2018:

 

I want to lose just enough weight so that my stomach doesn’t jiggle when I brush my teeth.

I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since I didn’t become a better person.

I need to start eating more healthy, but first I need to eat all the junk food in the house so it’s not there to tempt me anymore.

I don’t call them New Year’s resolutions.  I prefer the term, “Casual promises to myself that I’m under no legal obligation to fulfill”.

My resolution is to stop kidding myself about lifestyle changes.  Nobody likes a cheap, skinny, sober bitch anyway.

Never again will I take sleeping pills and laxatives on the same night.

I’m going to fake my own death, move to Mexico and live off tacos and tequila.

And from a kindergartner:  I’m going to stop picking my nose.  It’s going to be hard.

I’m only making one resolution this year:  I will indulge when the moods strikes.  Not much of a stretch, I admit, but I’m taking inspiration from a friend.  She posted a photo on Facebook last summer of her husband in a 50’s-style diner, grinning like a 10 year-old as he was served a huge chocolate milkshake, with a sidecar to boot.  Tragically, he died unexpectedly last week.  I thought about that photo – he was so excited to indulge, with nary a thought about cholesterol or calories.  Somehow it made me happy to know that he’d had such a satisfying, guiltless moment.  We should all be so lucky.

So, this year, I wish you and your family much happiness and good health…and many chocolate milkshakes!

Ban on Christmas Carols to Come

After call ins from listeners of Cleveland radio station WDOK, the song, Baby It’s Cold Outside, was banned because according to them, “the song’s lyrics hadn’t aged well amid the #MeToo movement.” However, following the ban, national newspaper, USA Today had an article by a self-describes liberal feminist who thinks the song is actually empowering to females. While I understand the spirit in which the song was banned, I’m concerned that our focus on political correctness once again has gone too far. But I know it’s not going to stop, so here is some foreshadowing of banned Christmas carols to come.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names

They never let poor Rudolph play in any reindeer games

While it must take a better imagination than mine to fathom ‘reindeer games’, this is clearly an example of bullying by Donner, Blitzen and the other shiftless reindeer who were planning to strike on Christmas Eve due to fog.  It’s not until a practical use for Rudolph’s shiny proboscis is found that he’s finally accepted. You won’t be hearing this song for too much longer.

And what about I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus? Ostensibly this is a song from a small child’s perspective who sneaks down on Christmas Eve to see if he can catch a glimpse of Santa.  He gets more than a glimpse; he sees his mother kissing and tickling Santa  as she is clearly coming on to him. In the song the small lad questions whether he should tell his father. What a position to put a young child in. And what opinion does this child take away about Santa Claus? Is he doing this in every house with other Mommies? Is it really better to be naughty than nice?  Don’t plan on hearing much of this song in the future.

Gramma Got Run Over By A Reindeer is a classic case of a homicidal hit-and-run by Santa (probably hustling to get to that next house to kiss more Mommies) and irresponsibility by the entire family.

She’d been drinkin’ too much eggnog and we’d begged her not to go
But she’d left her medication so she stumbled out the door into the snow

Really?!? The family is letting an elderly woman go out on a cold winter’s night on Christmas Eve to walk home to get her medication after she’s been drinking? The song goes on to describe an unremorseful Grandpa, who is playing cards, watching football and drinking beer after his wife was found the next morning murdered by Santa. I wonder if WDOK is still playing this song!!

Do You Hear What I Hear – this holiday standard openly pokes fun at the elderly, who rarely can hear what everyone else hears – so they make a song about it?!

Christmas Don’t Be Late by the Chipmunks tries to be a song for little children, but the constant screaming at and berating of Alvin (Who is clearly ADD), and the lack of diversity amongst the chipmunk (they are all the same color) clearly sends the wrong message to our youth.

And speaking of diversity, I’m assuming I don’t need to elaborate on the political incorrectness of the lyric I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas. And God forbid when we get to the bottom of what Fa La La La La and Rum Pa Pum Pum really mean; I’ll think we’ll have another couple of songs on the ‘Do Not Play’ list.

The Twelve Days of Christmas is certainly a song for and about the privileged. While many families struggle to make ends meet during the holidays, this song describes numerous, insidious gifts lavished on a ‘true love’. It’s been estimated that to give someone the gifts mentioned in this song would cost over $35,000.   By itself nine ladies dancing is about $7,500, if they are lap dances, much more!

Also be ready for the changing of the title of Frosty the Snowman to Frosty the Snowperson

Please understand that this is just the beginning; we have yet to examine those ‘foreign’ Christmas songs like Adeste Fideles, Feliz Navidad and Mele Kalikimaka; I’m fairly certain that a politically correct translation of these songs will reveal their inappropriateness as well.

 

We Wish You A Merry Christmas

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A CHRISTMAS TOAST

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Just hangin’ with the former Pres.

George H.W. Bush was a hero of mine.  I didn’t always agree with him politically, but in 1999 I read his book, All the Best, and fell in love.  I fell in love with his character, his joyful sense of fun, his integrity and his love of family and friends.  In so many ways he represented what was good about the Greatest Generation – an ethic forged through the Depression and WWII that stood for so many values we cherish.  As luck would have it, just weeks after finishing his book I was privileged to meet him.  He was as charming in person as he was on the written page.   I had my photo taken with him and was so excited to learn they would send me a copy of it.  I imagined framing it and placing it prominently in my office.  A few weeks later when it arrived my heart sunk.  The photo looked so unlike me that for an instant I thought they had mixed up my photo with someone else’s.  Finally in my despair I figured out the problem – a few days before the photo was taken I had undergone Lasik surgery.  Obviously I was still sensitive to light so when the camera flashed on my pupils I scrunched up like a Shar Pei dog.  For almost 20 years the photo has been hidden in a closet.  But as I watched his memorial services a couple of weeks ago I thought again about my encounter with him and dragged it out.  It did not improve with time.  But still…I love having that moment captured.  As I listened to his eulogies I thought about something told to me when my father died – that when a friend loses a parent it brings back all of the emotions you have about your own parents’ passing.

That rang especially true as I heard George W. say that the last words his dad said to him was, “I love you.”  A week before my dad died I boondoggled a trip up to Northern California so that I could go visit him in the hospital.  He was in rare form that day, laughing and joking, and generally keeping the nurses merrily entertained.  When I had to leave to attend that pesky meeting I’d manufactured, I leaned over his bed and told him I loved him.  He gave me a big smile and said, “I love you too, sweetheart.”  Although I spoke with my mom daily about his condition, those words from him were his last to me – a week later he died suddenly at home of a heart attack.  I know what comfort his words have brought me over the years and I know that George W. will undoubtedly take solace in those same words from his dad.  I miss my dad all year, but especially at Christmas when I remember all the fun we had and the joy he brought to every family gathering.

Our Pop – a jolly man indeed!

So for this Christmas post I’d like to pay tribute and toast all of the people of that generation.  We are losing them far too quickly and with each of their deaths we mourn not only them, but the civility they embodied.   I can’t think of a better beverage with which to toast than Pop’s famous Ice Cream Gin Fizz.  He served it every Christmas morning and it gave a roseate hue to the entire day.  We share his recipe in the hopes that you will also take a moment to remember those we’ve lost with a toast of ice cream and gin.  How can you go wrong?

POP’S CHRISTMAS ICE CREAM FIZZ
Fill a blender 1/4 full with ice cubes
Add 6 jiggers of gin
Add 4 scoops of French Vanilla ice cream
Add 1 small bottle of soda water (the size you get in a 6-pack)
My brother Bob adds an egg so the white adds some froth, brother Jack doesn’t add an egg. Personally, I’d add it just because you can then claim it’s a protein drink.

Just blend it well and – voila – you have a concoction sure to put a positive spin on everyone and every thing!
Our mom served them in a wine glass with a dash of nutmeg. As we got older we conspired with Pop and ditched the wine glass for a chilled beer mug from the freezer. Saved having to go back for seconds…or thirds.

Wishing all of our subscribers a very happy holiday season!  Cheers!

Lights Out . . . Christmas!

by Bob Sparrow

I wasn’t really snooping, but as I went out into the garage to pull down the boxes with all my outside Christmas decorations in them and I heard voices. I stopped, leaned forward and listened. Indeed, there were voices coming from the boxes of Christmas decorations. I creeped a little closer and put my ear up to the holiday box.

“OK, you over there, spin around and climb through here; you, twist around a couple of times and do a summersault through here. You over there, back up through this hole and hold hands with her.”

Yes, it was just as I suspected, each year I carefully take down and tie my Christmas lights into a nice roll, label them as to where they came from and place them gently in the box. When I go to get them the following year, they are all knotted up with each other and in complete disarray. How does that happen? I was about to learn; I listened further.

“We need a couple of volunteers again this year; one to climb out of your socket and hide somewhere where he can’t find you. We need a second volunteer to wriggle out of your socket just a little, so you light up when he tests us, but not when he put us up. Walter, I think you were close to the top of the roofline last year, so you’d be a good one to volunteer for that. OK, thanks. Those of you who are close to that label he put on us last year, let’s get that off as soon as possible; if you can put it on another bundle of lights, all the better. Don’t forget, if you feel like you’re going to go out this year, wait until you get up on the house and then go out. And listen up everyone, what happens when one of us goes out? WE ALL GO OUT! That’s right, we’re a team, we need to stick together so he has to test each one of us to find the one that’s actually bad. We’ll also need a volunteer to give one up for the team this year when he lays us out on the driveway, someone needs to roll under his foot and get crushed. You’ll be remembered as a hero to all of us.

Deer-in-a-Box

Meanwhile, in the box next to it, I can hear the lighted reindeer talking to himself, getting ready for ‘his gig’.

“Man, it will be good to get out of this fricking box and get all my pieces put together. . . hopefully correctly this year! How hard is it to put my tail on the other end of my body from my head? I don’t know who I pissed off, but I spend 11 months with my head up my ass in a small box and then I gotta stand out on the front lawn with a smile on my face, freezing my ass off, looking all Christmassy for the next month – no food, no water and my antlers will probably be facing the wrong direction again this year. Wish I could poop all over his lawn; actually I just wish I could poop.  I know I look transparent, but I’m feeling a little blocked up.”

The artificial Christmas tree resides elsewhere in a storage shed. Yes, I lost the battle of ‘real’ tree versus ‘artificial’ tree, last year when my last ‘real’ tree had a small fire that was put out fairly quickly, albeit after a good deal of water settled into the carpet and the walls became a bit ashy. I mentioned to Linda that the fire retardant actually looked like snow on the tree, but she failed to see the humor in that.

As late afternoon brought darkness, I headed out to the street in front of the house to admire my work.  Of course, the highest string of lights on the house was out, but I know just where to look for the culprit.  No, all the lights didn’t all come on at the same time, but that’s an easy fix.  So I’m feeling pretty good until I look at the reindeer and wonder if those antlers are on correctly.  Then I notice something under the reindeer that looks an awful lot like reindeer poop.  No way!  It turned out to be just a leaf, but I thought I noticed a smile on the reindeer’s face.

May all your lights stay bright.