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Is Oktoberfest Over?

by Bob Sparrow

Damas & Herr Sparrow

Officially, yes! But you may not have missed it. To be clear, Oktoberfest is over in Germany, not due to the time difference, but rather the tradition of the world’s largest Volkfest, which is held in Munich, Bavaria, Germany, from mid-September to the first weekend in October; so it’s mostly a ‘Septemberfest’. We Americans, believing that Oktoberfests should be in October, have prolong the beer drinking and chicken dancing until our brains are numb enough to face Halloween.

In a blog last Christmas season I mentioned the world’s oldest brewery, Wiehenstephan, also in Bavaria, Germany, which started brewing in 1040 (I think of it every tax season), but today I’m not interested in the oldest beer, I’m interested in the BEST German beer. So I Googled ‘Best German Beer’ and what do you know, Weihenstephan Hefe came up. Note to seniors – you CAN be the oldest and still be the best!

Surprisingly Germany ranks 4th in the list of countries with the best beer. Here is the ranking of the Top 5 (according to my Google search), with which I take exception:

  1. Denmark   4. Germany     3. United Kingdom     2. United States     1. Belgium

The blind beer tasting lineup

Belgium did not surprise me as the country with the best beer, however the U.S. as #2 was a shocker, as well as the absence of Japan and Mexico among the leaders. The ranking made me wonder if the judges may have had too much to drink by the time they were selecting the Top 5. On a side note, Ireland disappointedly was ranked #13 – they may not be the best, but I’m guessing they rank near the top of the most beer consumed.

Unsatisfied with the results I found, I decided to run my own, unscientific, tests using some of the local neighborhood reprobates as judges. I just had them blindly taste beers from the Top 5 countries, plus I snuck in one from Japan and one from Mexico.  Country and beers were as follows: Belgium-Stella Artois, Denmark-Carlsberg,,Japan-Sapporo, United Kingdom-Boddingtons, Germany-Wiehenstephan, Mexico-Modelo, United States-Landshark.

Fins to the left

I wanted to first see if our judges, such as they are, could put the beer with the right country, plus I wanted to know their favorite.  Of the 10 judges, five got 5 of the 7 beers matched to the correct countries, and the overall favorite: (drumroll) Landshark!

My beer research continued to find that there is no nationally produced beer that ranks amongst the leader in America. Bud Lite is America’s best selling beer, not best tasting, that title is harder to find as the best tasting American beers come from small craft brewers all over the county. So what states have the best craft beer you ask? Here’s the Top 5 states:

                         5. Massachusetts   4. Michigan    3. California   2. Colorado   1. Oregon

Oregon actually has a craft beer trail called ‘Beer 101 Trail’, not because it’s for beginners, but rather it follows Highway 101 up the Oregon coast; sounds like a road trip to me!

Pliny the Elder and the Younger

My search for the best tasting (someone had to do it!), actually helped me understand why America is considered by the world as a country with great beer – it just comes in small quantities from those small craft breweries. Judged by beer enthusiasts, as the best in all of the U.S. this year was a beer from Comstock, Michigan called Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, an IPA with a 7% alcohol by volume.  Running a close 2nd was a beer from the Russian River Brewing Company in northern California, called Pliny the Elder, a double IPA beer with an 8% alcohol content.  Pliny the Younger, with a 10.8% alcohol content, is rumored to be a contender in years to come.

So you may have missed Oktoberfest, but now that you know beer from borscht, you are ready for Novemberfest, which should help numb you for the coming Holidaze.

 

THE HAUNTED HOUSE

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

                     The Money Pit

I forgot to write a blog this week until yesterday, coming this close to ruining our six-year perfect record of posting a blog every week.  I have no excuse other than I’ve been very busy being fitted for a straight jacket.  It was either that or make good use of our new knife sharpener to split open a vein or two.  What, you might ask, has caused me such angst?  The joys of homeownership.  Those of you who have a home will understand.  For those of you who rent…keep renting.  Trust me, it is NOT money down the drain.  I’ll tell you what is money down the drain – a MONEY PIT of a house, that’s what.

Our issues started at the beginning of the summer when our brand-spanking new irrigation system (which cost more than my entire college education) sprang a leak in the manifold.  I thought manifolds only existed in cars but this was not the only thing I was to learn over the summer.  We quickly turned off the water before we flooded the neighborhood.  Our landscape people came out and fixed it and we sighed with relief that it had happened before we left on summer vacation. Hah!  Little did we know the fun was just starting.

In July we took off for 10 days to Mammoth Lakes.  When we arrived home I noticed that the alarm system didn’t sound as I opened the door.  Turns out, the connector points had worn out in a couple of places.  Luckily no one with ill intent swung by our place to relieve us of our valuables, although in retrospect there are a few items I surely wish they had taken.  ADT came out and informed us that not only were the connectors bad but our keypads were also outdated.  Great.  New keypads, a new motion detector and a few contact points installed and we were good to go.

Or so we thought.  The next week I began to notice that most everything I baked was turning out pretty bad.  As in, inedible.  Now, this is not unusual for my cooking.  I’ve produced more disasters than Hurricane Alley.  But even my go-to recipes were not turning out.  So, our appliance repair person came out and told me the oven just wasn’t reaching temperature.  Long story short, we needed a new sensor (which of course had to be ordered) and he HOPED that would solve it.  Luckily, it was “just” the sensor and he got it back up and running.  He also told me that the oven really needs about 15-20 minutes longer than it indicates for the entire oven surface to be at temperature.  So…I learned something new as I wrote out another check.  My cooking, however, did not improve.

                 Our new “stupid” TV

Since our next vacation was cancelled due to wildfire smoke I decided we should use the money to get a new 4K TV installed.  You know, something ultra tech that would have some “smart” features to take us automatically to Netflix or Amazon.  So I called the A/V people we’ve used for years and ordered one up.  They came the next week to install it, only to find that the cabinet space it goes in to was too small for the new TV.  They installed it anyway, with part of the surround protruding when they left the job.  Not only that, they informed me that we couldn’t use the “smart” remote because our surround sound cables (which run across the room in the ceiling) are not compatible with the new requirements of the Samsung audio cables.  They suggested we rip open the ceiling to run new cables.  Uh…that’s not going to happen.  So they came up with the brilliant idea of installing a Roku player to replace our Blu-ray streamer since the Roku is easier to navigate and would work with the sound system.  In went the Roku, which worked for approximately three days before it died.  At this point it was either divorce court or the Roku so I had them come rip it out and we are now back to our Blu-ray streamer and using a new, expensive “smart” TV with the old “stupid” remote and streamer.  But I’m not divorced, so there’s that.

Then, just to add some fun to the mix, someone in Argentina stole my credit card number and opened up several Netflix accounts.  When I reported it to Netflix they said next time I should just give the person a gift card rather than lend them my credit card number (!).  Long story short, I reported it to the bank as fraud and had to re-set all of my automatic payments.  I don’t think Netflix hires “geniuses”.

Next, the air conditioner on the hot (southwestern) side of the house went out.  Over the subsequent three weeks we had two repairmen who spent untold hours trying to fix it.  Finally, after 18 years of using the same company we lost faith and called a friend who had a relative in the business.  It always helps to “know a guy”.  They came out and, sure enough, we have some issues that are going to require a work around next spring before we use the A/C.  Again, college educations are being wasted on household repairs.  But on the bright side, we’ve had the coldest, rainiest October in history so I thought we’d dodged a bullet.

           Another “smart” device

That is until 10 days ago when my garage door opener refused to close when I left the house.  So, in the aforementioned rain I had to get out of my car and manually close it.  So… one more call to one more vendor.  Turns out the logic board had failed.  Finally, something I can relate to – my logic board fails all the time.  However, since it was one of three openers there is a high likelihood that the others will fail sometime soon.  The next day we had three new garage door openers and we were thrilled to learn that they are wi-fi enabled.  You simply download the Liftmaster app and then you can control the garage doors from anywhere.  I thought of the countless times I’ve left the house and then was sure that I’d left the door open.  This simple little app could fix all that.  I should have known better.  The “simple” app would not connect to their wifi system.  I called Tech Support.  No help.  The next day I tried again, spent an hour with a very nice guy but no luck.  The next day the owner of the garage door company and I spent 90 minutes on the phone with their tech “wizards”.  Nope.  Nada.  Not Happening.  It has now been elevated to their super-geeks who are supposed to call me any time now to help figure it out.  My dreams of using an app to open and close the garage doors have withered away, along with my patience, resolve and self-esteem.

On the up side, I think I finally understand what is happening.  With the upcoming holiday our house has decided to do a mash up between Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street.  I think I’m going to opt for A Cabin in the Woods.

Restless in Seattle

by Bob Sparrow

Joe with Wedding Singer, Addison

I’ve been on enough airplane rides not to enjoy them, but on a flight out of Orange County last week heading up the coast, I was pleasantly surprised by what first appeared to be low-hanging clouds covering the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, but turned out to be 14,000 foot peaks poking through the clouds covered with a light dusting of the year’s first snowfall. It was a beautiful reminder that fall is here and winter is fast approaching.

My destination? Seattle, for the wedding of Chase Johnson, son of our long-time neighbors and good friends, Mark & Kathy – a great event. I had spent a good deal of time, years ago, working in Seattle creating a mortgage company within the offices of one of the largest real estate companies in the area, John L. Scott Real Estate. I remember traveling there nearly every week from October to April and never seeing the sun. But it’s a great city where one just learns to cope with precipitation.

View of Seattle from Salty’s Restaurant

We had a list of Seattle attractions that we wanted to see between the wedding and the rehearsal dinner at Salty’s, which itself is a Seattle attraction. Never, and I mean never, go to Seattle and not have dinner at Salty’s, which sits across Puget Sound from downtown Seattle and affords you a spectacular view of the city as the sun sets and the lights of the city come alive.

The morning we arrived, Seattle was showing off its beautiful, clear blue sky and a verdant countryside. We decided it would be a good time to go to the top of the iconic Space Needle, which sits downtown and was built for the 1962 World’s Fair and has been a major attraction ever since. Views from there of downtown Seattle, Puget Sound, the lush neighboring hills and distant mountains, are spectacular! The ‘Needle’ also now has a revolving glass floor on top that, if you have the stomach, provides a feeling like you’re walking on air – a ‘Don’t Miss’ attraction!

Space Needle through Gilhuly’s Glass House

Directly below the Space Needle is the Chihuly Garden & Glass Exhibit. If you’re not familiar with Dale Chihuly’s work, you may have seen it in Las Vegas at the Bellagio, Aria or the Wynn hotels – those spectacular glass chandeliers are his creations. His exhibit here features his work in a glass house and a glass garden – amazing! As long as you’re visiting the ‘Needle’, see Chihuly as well.

With the next day came a steady rain – OK, this was more like the Seattle I remember, complete with gridlock that makes L.A. traffic look like a drive down Main Street in Mayberry. It was a good day to do the ‘Underground’ tour. I didn’t know what to expect, other than it was going to be out of the rain and probably . . . underground. I’d been told that it provided some interesting insights into the history of Seattle. It did not disappoint. The docents were informative and hilarious as we wandered through the underground rubble and artifacts that was once downtown Seattle and now sits a story below today’s street level. Not for the claustrophobic, but a must for the history buff. Great experience! Not wanting to dally on our way home, we walked a few blocks to the Pike Place Fish Market and watched them throw some Halibut around as well as be amazed at the awesome array of beautiful flower bouquets all along this outdoor mall.

Flying fish at Pike’s Place Fish Market

Yes, we managed to squeeze all that into just a day and a half in the Emerald City – we were truly Restless in Seattle.

THURSDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Yes, my husband was awake!

Our recent trip to Colorado was highlighted by a high school football game, which, I have to say, is miles apart from a pro game.  Better miles.  And, no, the Sparrow Brothers Fine School of Football Forecasting did not bet on this game.  So, yeah, we won.  But more on that later.  We love to visit our family in the Denver suburbs and especially loved seeing the trees begin to turn and just a hint of fall in the air.  A small hint, since most days were in the mid-80’s but it still beat the muggy warmth of Scottsdale.  Denver, as you may have read, is a booming city.  So much so that they have now adopted an anti-California attitude that stems from all the Golden State refugees that have flooded the housing and job markets.  Like in all other instances, the Californicators have driven up both wages and housing prices which has resulted in a bit of resentment from the native Coloradans.  But the growth has also spurred the resurgence of downtown Denver into a bustling place filled with great restaurants, new office and condo buildings and entertainment centers.  No place better exemplifies that than Union Station.  Once forgotten in the age of suburbs and cars, Union Station’s 100 year-old building was remodeled and extended in 2014.  It is now the hub for Denver’s light rail, Amtrak, the city bus service and even Uber.  Its magnificent interior gives one the feeling of being in a mid-twentieth century train station, complete with dark wooden benches, elegant chandeliers and soaring marble columns.  Yet from this nostalgic setting one can easily walk to Coors Field to catch at Rockies game or to Pepsi Center to watch a concert, the Nuggets or the Avalanche.  Even Mile High Stadium is only a 15 minute drive away.  The restaurants in the area are plentiful and good.  Union Station is also home to one of the last remnants of civilization – the Tattered Cover Book Store.

Thursday Night Lights

But our real reason for coming to Colorado in September was to watch our grandson in a high school football game.  He is a senior this year so this was our last chance to see him in uniform.  His team, Cherry Creek, is ranked #102 in the nation and thus far are undefeated on the season.  Their quarterback, Alex Padilla, has already signed at University of Iowa and is someone to watch.  I haven’t attended a high school football game since the 1980’s and I had forgotten what a magical experience it is.  Wooden benches, parents volunteering to staff the concession stand, cheerleaders, the marching band, and my favorite, the baton twirler.  Right off I was struck by the differences between high school football and college/pro games.  First, no one kneeled during the national anthem.  Second, the fans sit on different sides of the field.  This is huge.  It means that you don’t have some yahoo from the opposing team yelling in your ear or taunting your team’s every dropped pass or missed field goal.  Third, there is no alcohol on the premises (except that smuggled in by weary parents or clever students).  So in addition to not having the opponent’s greatest fan next to you, he is also not burping or throwing up all over you.  The bright lights, the youthful enthusiasm and a big win (49-7 and it wasn’t that close) made for a evening we’ll never forget.

Grandpa with Matthew after the game

But mostly, we’ll never forget how excited our grandson was to make a few plays and relish a big win.  We know that it was important to him to play because we were visiting.  Frankly, we didn’t care.  We just wanted to see him on the team, enjoying the camaraderie of his fellow athletes and reveling, as only high school students can, in a huge victory.  We walked away with a great feeling about the school, not only the football team, but the diversity of the cheerleaders, band members and pom girls.  Everyone was encouraged to participate.  It was a long way from the old days when only the most popular kids got to partake in that fun.  To add an even more poignant meaning to the night, all of the kids were wearing orange shirts or ribbons in tribute to one of the pom girls who is fighting leukemia.  It was heart warming to see all the support she received from her peers.  I read a lot of criticism about the “kids of today” but anyone who believes that will get an argument from me.  What I experienced was a great group of kids – caring, fun and determined.  I think we’re in good hands.

 

 

Parlays and Teases and Over-Unders, Oh My!

by Bob Sparrow

An early Saturday morning wake-up was the start of a road trip across the vast desert to an out-of-the-way inland river port. The Mojave Desert stretched in front of us and once off the beaten path, it was so desolate that it was as if we were driving on the lunar surface, although I’m not really sure what driving on the lunar surface is like. All I know is that there were miles and miles of nothing buy miles and miles. Our destination is a small town named after the man who created it in 1964 – not that long ago, said the old man. It’s officially fall in the rest of the country, but someone forgot to flip the calendar page here in Laughlin; instead they flipped the ‘on’ switch to a blast furnace – it’s 104. But it’s a dry heat!

The trip to the ‘Casino on the Colorado’ was to meet up with brother, Jack and his wife, Sharon, who were flown in and put up by Harrah’s – so in gambler’s vernacular they are ‘Whales’, so I will watch them closely to see what they do and how they gamble, because no one has ever paid airfare and lodging for me anywhere. I take that back, there was that free night in jail when . . . oh, never mind, I guess that wasn’t free. I digress.

Typically confused Sparrow Bros. clients

The real purpose of driving on the moon or maybe it was more like driving on Mercury with that 104-degree temperature, but truth be told, I also don’t know what it’s like to drive on Mercury either, was to gamble. More specifically our goal was to try to affirm our alacrity in and governance of the betting on college football games, for which ‘The Sparrow Brothers School of Fine Football Forecasting’ was created. We think because we combined to play and/or coach football for a total of 23+ years, that we know how to bet football . . . we don’t.

In the last few years we’ve either bet or ‘mock’ bet on college football games, with less-than-stellar results, but this year we developed a ‘system’ that has worked with ‘mock money’ so now we’re anxious to try it with real money!  I could spend some time here discussing the ins and outs of parleys, teases, over-unders and other terms not typically known by the lay person, but I think it would just confuse you, it did me!

I posted the following bets here on Friday so you wouldn’t think I put them in after the fact. I think the results will affirm that (our selections are underlined)).

Bet:       Ohio State over Penn State giving 3.5 points, parlayed to

Oregon over Cal giving 2.5 points

Result: Ohio State won, but didn’t cover, Oregon won and covered; bet lost.

Bet:   USC over Arizona giving 3 points, parlayed to

Stanford over Notre Dame getting 3.5 points

Result: USC won and covered, Stanford lost by more than 3.5; bet lost.

Bet:   Washington St. over Utah giving 1.5 points, parlayed to

Nebraska over Purdue getting 3.5 points

Result: Wash St. beat Utah and covered, Purdue beat Nebraska by more than 3.5; bet lost.

Bet: Texas over Kansas State giving 9 points parlayed to Wyoming over Boise State getting 16.5

Result: Texas won but didn’t cover, Boise St. beat Wyo by more than 16.5; bet lost.

Yes, you’re reading this correctly, we lost every bet! So we decided to bring our ‘expertise’ to the pro games on Sunday.

I won’t go through the painful details of Sunday, which looked a lot like Saturday – here’s a good indication of how our Sunday went – we bet on Carolina, who had a bye and Bye won by 2 touchdowns!  It’s a good thing we had the U.S. in the Ryder Cup.

The Sparrow Bros. School of Fine Football Forecasting has since filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will be closing their doors for the season and will be open next year under a different name, for the beginning of the Bangladesh Women’s Lacrosse season. Stay tuned!

 

The ‘System’

by Bob Sparrow

It was necessary for me to post these Saturday prognostications early as it will tie into Monday’s blog:

Ohio State over Penn State giving 3.5 points, tied to

Oregon over Cal giving 2.5 points

 

USC over Arizona giving 5.5 points, tied to

Stanford over Notre Dame getting 3.5 points

 

Washington over Utah giving 1.5 points, tied to

Nebraska over Purdue getting 3.5 points

 

Bonus pick

Texas over Kansas State giving 9 points, tied to

Wyoming over Boise State getting 16.5

 

THE LAPDOG OF LUXURY IN VAIL

By Dash “The Wonder Dog” Watson

Beautiful Gore Creek in Vail

It’s been a long, hot summer here in Scottsdale.  My “people” have had one vacation shortened and one cancelled due to smoke.  They seem okay with it but do they think about me, having to wear a fur coat all summer.  No.  They are so selfish.  Really, they should be reported to the SPCA.  Last week, however, they made some attempt to humor me by throwing me in the car for 14 hours and driving to Vail, Colorado.  As most of you know, Vail is a beautiful ski town nestled in the Rocky Mountains.  What you may not know is that it was founded by Pete Vail and fellow members of the 10th Mountain Division after WWII.  Since then it has become not only one of the top ski slopes in the world but one of the wealthiest small towns in America.  Finally, my people were taking me someplace where I could be appreciated.

Me, at the bar!

In fact, when we arrived I discovered that I was more than appreciated – I was accepted.  Over the past several years my human has tantalized me with photos of  Facebook friends in England who take their Cavaliers to the local pub.  I’ve always thought the English were right-minded when it comes to dogs but the proof is in the pudding…or pub…as they say.  Clearly the British understand our royal heritage and refined breeding.  In their wisdom, they have concluded that a well-behaved dog is preferable to Alfie the Drunk who can’t hold his pints. There – in the middle of Lionshead Village – was Bart and Yeti’s, a bar that not only allows dogs but is NAMED after dogs!  There is even a Golden Retriever who serves as the hostess.  Bart and Yeti’s is not all plaid carpeting and walnut paneling like the pubs my English friends frequent.  In fact, my humans said that it is what is commonly known as a “dive bar”.  I don’t know what that is and I didn’t see anyone diving so I think, once again, my humans don’t know what they’re talking about.  All I know is that the nice bartender allowed me to belly up to the bar, order a beer, and enjoy some social sniffing after a long day on the road.

A bite at Garfinkel’s

After drinks we found a place to eat – Garfinkel’s – that also recognizes the superior nature of dogs.  It is located right at the edge of the village with views of the ski slopes.  Since there was no snow I watched people hike up the hill.  Some of them looked like they were in dire need of an iron lung.  Vail, after all, is at 8,000 feet altitude which provides spectacular views but a deep breath is hard to come by.  Especially if you’re old, like my masters.  Like many ski resorts this time of year, Vail is in “slack” season which means many of the shops have reduced hours and there are fewer people around to scratch my stomach and tell me how cute I am.  The upside is that it’s easy to get in anywhere and the trees are turning.  Some of you may think we dogs don’t notice such things but we are a lot more interested in molting leaves than you might realize.

The following day we drove around the area and marveled the the magnificent scenery.  After a summer in the desert breathing dust and looking at scorched earth, the greenery and lush vegetation seemed like Heaven.  I peed on lots of it – just because I could.   What wasn’t a welcome relief was the weather – the temperature hit 90 degrees when we were there.  90 degrees at 8,000 feet altitude is enough to make a guy pant uncontrollably.  Extra ice cube treats were in order.   We saw some beautiful golf courses (that my master lusted over) and some fancy boutiques that my mistress drooled over.  That’s pretty much what Vail has to offer in the off-season.  Unless you want to make that hike up the mountain and ruin the lining of your lungs.  Me, I’m happy just bellying up to the bar and quaffing a beer.  I can almost smell the fish and chips.

A Weekend in Mayberry

by Bob Sparrow

The Andy Griffith Show was one of my all-time favorite TV programs and last week I got a chance to spend some time on the set of that show. At least it seemed that way. All you need to do to confirm that ‘Mable-Hesper Steam Engine Days’ is something out of Mayberry RFD is to check out the agenda items for this year’s event:

  • Parade of Tractors and Steam Engines followed by a dance at the Legion Hall featuring the Buck Hollow Band and The Toe Tappers. Tractor pull tomorrow
  • Model Railroad Show followed by the Little Miss Mabel pageant
  • Bean Bag and Kickball Tournament followed by Bingo at the Dairy Barn
  • Pumpkin Contest Weigh In followed by the Quilt Show at the Fair Grounds

A Classy Class

Class of ’68 Steam Engine Days float

While this alone would have been enough to get us back to Minnesota, the real impetus was Linda’s 50th high school class reunion. There were a total of 48 members in the Mable-Canton Cougar class of ’68. The town of Mable had 780 people, Canton 342 in the 2010 census. In fact the towns are still so small that the reunion took place in a winery just across the border in Iowa; yes, a winery in Iowa – rows of grapes surrounded by rows of corn.

If the expectation for the reunion was that I was going to be surround my a bunch of country bumpkins that I didn’t know or cared to know, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  This group, mostly women (there were only 3 men from the class in attendance) were not just friendly and ‘Minnesota nice’, they were a group of sophisticated, educated and accomplished women.  After supper (dinner is served at noon don’t cha know) there was an open discussion amongst the group as to whether they felt disadvantaged attending a small, rural school in southern Minnesota.  The response was an overwhelming ‘No!’  In fact they made it abundantly clear that they felt privileged to attend a school where they could not only participate in clubs, student government, band, athletics and virtually everything that went on at the school, but were encouraged to do so because the school was small.  A stark contrast to today’s students who, in order to succeed, typically do one thing all year long.

Buck Hollow (left) and his (geriatric) Band

After the reunion many of the classmates, including us, headed for the dance at the American Legion Hall in Mable, after all it was Steam Engine Days and everybody was in town and in a party mood. The Legion Hall is a large facility with two big rooms connected by a bar. One side had the Buck Hollow Band and a huge dance floor, filled with old and young alike, while the other side was a ‘sports bar’ with TVs, pool tables and folks just having a beer and shooting the breeze.  I wish I had a picture to show you how great this felt just being in this environment.

Take Me Home Country Roads . . . Please!

I drove Starlet’s, my sister-in-law, car to and from the reunion and Steam Engine Days, and I have to tell you, it was quite an experience. During the day the narrow roads lead you through a vast rolling pastoral landscape of corn fields dotted by pristine farm houses and silos – it is truly amazing. At night, a different story. There are no street lights, in fact there are not any lights, so driving these dare, narrow two-lane roads becomes a significant challenge. When was the last time you were constantly clicking your high beams on and off? While on one of these winding roads going from the reunion to the dance, I was suddenly confronted with a deer crossing the road. I slammed on the brakes and swerved as much as the narrow road would allow me and the deer turned slightly so I just grazed him as one of his antlers put a small scratch on the car door – Sorry Starlet! That doesn’t happen much in Orange County.

A special tender moment

One afternoon we sang at a Memory Care Center for Alzheimers and dementia in Rochester, MN.  There were about 20 senior residents sitting and listening, many singing along with us. When we were finished, an older gentleman wearing an Army Veteran ball cap, motioned to Linda to come over. She walked over to him and he looked her in the eye for a long time and finally said, “Is that you?” Linda, not wanting to ruin the man’s illusion, replied, “Yes”. He said, “How have you been?” Linda responded, “I’m good, how about you?” “Good now,” he said, with tears in his eyes. We assumed that he must of thought Linda was either his wife or daughter. Linda asked him if she could give him a hug. He happily agreed. We left with gladden in our hearts, smiles on our faces and tears in our eyes.

 

 

UN-DRESS FOR SUCCESS

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Me, my cousins and best friend in our ’60’s garb

In 1964, the night before my first day of high school, I spent hours agonizing over what I was going to wear on that inaugural day.  Back then we strived to look like the impossibly perfect girls we saw in Seventeen Magazine.  So when I realized I didn’t have a purse to match my shoes I went into panic mode.  Yes, it was that important.   Luckily, my cousin who lived around the corner came to the rescue and I was saved from the humiliation of mis-matched shoes and purse.  We lived with pretty strict rules back then.  Girls could not wear pants to school, not even culottes (I know because I was almost sent home one day for wearing them), and jeans were totally out of the question. Skirts could be no more than one inch above our knees.  Sleeveless dresses were about as risqué as it got.  Looking back, we were so covered up most of the year that we came darn close to resembling Mennonites.

 

The epitome of ’60’s cool

Towards the end of my high school career the “mod” era of fashion changed a lot of what was acceptable – or not – at our school.  Skirts inched up and up until it became dangerous to bend over.  Jeans, as long as they were clean, were allowed for boys.  Fabrics were brighter, white boots were the epitome of high style and hair grew longer on both sexes, although boys were still not allowed any sort of facial hair.  Still, with all the changes, there remained a norm of looking nice to go to school.  Over the years, of course, dress codes at schools have become looser and looser, almost to the point of seemingly having none at all.  Baggy pants with underwear showing, micro shorts, bare bellies – they’ve all become  de rigueur at our local high school.  Dress codes have been in the news a lot since school started up again this year.  Some principals are cracking down on sloppy and “barely there” attire, while others are going in the other direction – let the kids wear whatever they like.

          Would you hire these butts?

It was with this in mind that I read with interest in USA Today that one high school district in the Bay Area is doing away with dress codes and have replaced them with general guidelines.   Here’s what is listed as what students MUST WEAR:  bottoms, tops, shoes, clothing that covers genitals, buttocks and nipples.  Seems like that’s a mighty low bar.  The policy goes on to say that they CAN wear midriff-baring shirts, pajamas and tube tops.  The only items forbidden are those that contain hate speech, profanity, pornography, etc.  The intent of the policy is to prevent shaming, specifically for girls.  In fact, the school district has said they reject the notion that bodies are distracting and therefore must be monitored and covered up.  Really?  They work all day around teenagers with raging hormones and they don’t think bodies are distracting?

I’m not suggesting we go back to the early ’60’s but I’m sure there is a middle ground to be reached.  Clothes can take on way more importance than they warrant at that age so relaxing standards a bit seems logical.  But I will say this:  as a former HR executive I can attest that appearances do matter.  Teaching our kids that they can wear whatever they want, whenever they want, does them a disservice.  Even at the high tech companies there are standards – no pajamas, for example.  The real world requires some amount of “dressing for the occasion” and, further, there are studies that show there is merit to the “dress for success” mantra.  Unless a kid’s ultimate career involves working in their parents’ basement, in which case all they’ll need is their pajamas and fuzzy slippers.

I Love L.A.?

by Bob Sparrow

Nah, not really, in fact as a northern California native I was conditioned from an early age to hate L.A. It’s as if those from northern California get a ‘Hate L.A.’ gene at birth. We quickly are made aware that L.A. freeways are parking lots, that there are too many people there and the air is brown and you can actually sink your teeth into it. When I moved to southern California over 45 years ago, I heard my northern California friends say things like, “Can you believe he went to the dark side?” and “Don’t worry, he’ll be back!” I tried to tell them I was moving to Orange County, not L.A., but to someone in northern California all of southern California is L.A., except San Diego, which seems to get a pass. I found myself fairly welcome in Orange County as they also hate L.A. and are constantly trying to tell people who don’t know, that they are from ‘The O.C.’ not L.A., so I felt somewhat ‘back home’ in that regard.

Owens Valley Aqueduct

After a few years of living in southern California I guess I became ambivalent towards L.A., I didn’t hate it, but I also didn’t spend too much time there, since getting to and from the ‘City of Angels’ is usually a nightmare. But I’ve visited and enjoyed a good number of L.A. area sites, some recorded here in the blog, like Venice Beach, Watts, Rodeo Drive, Chinatown, Old Italy, Griffith Park and Malibu to name a few. But I just finished reading a book about how L.A. came to be, it’s entitled, The Mirage Factory, by Gary Krist and I was fascinated by the story of how L.A. was invented; yes, that’s the word he uses for the origin of Los Angeles.

From around 1900 to 1930, Los Angeles went from a dusty hinterland town surrounded by deserts and mountains to a burgeoning city of 1.2 million on the shoulders of three ambitious and restless outsiders – civil engineer William Mulholland, filmmaker D.W. Griffith and evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson.

William Mulholland

You’re only recollection of Mulholland may be of Mulholland Drive, a famous road carved through the Santa Monica mountains, where early teenage Angelino boys took their girlfriends to park and ‘watch the submarine races’. It is now the road on which some of the most expensive homes in the U.S. are built, as it affords a magnificent view of the Los Angeles Basin, the San Fernando Valley and the Hollywood sign. Los Angeles would just not be, were it not for Mulholland, who understood that there was no way L.A. could grow significantly, because it was essentially in a desert with no potable water supply. Mulholland solved that problem by heading up the building of a 233-mile aqueduct that brought water from the Owens Valley, which stretches from Lone Pine to Bishop on the Eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains, to Los Angeles. The building of the aqueduct was not without its share of contentiousness between the builders and the Owens valley residents, who saw their water being redirected to the south. Shootings and lynchings were not unusual.

D. W. Griffith

I’m not necessarily a big fan of Hollywood, but I found the story of how L.A. became the movie-making capital of the world fascinating. You may think of Cecil B. DeMille as the premier movie pioneer, but D.W. Griffith was his mentor. Griffith’s story of transplanting the movie industry from New York to Hollywood recalls lots of names you might be familiar with like Fatty Arbuckle, Mack Sennett, Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin, all silent movie stars.

Aimee Semple McPherson

I was at least vaguely familiar with the previous two men’s name, but I’d never heard of Aimee Semple McPherson, but she was one heck of a evangelist, literally bringing thousands of people to her sermons every week. She was a determined juggernaut who dealt with much controversy in her teachings, sermons, healings and even a kidnapping, or was it fake? Using radio for the first time, she almost singlehandedly brought religion to this bustling and growing metropolis that would soon take its place as a world class city.

So, while I don’t love L.A., I now have a greater respect for how the city was built, or invented; and how it has become one of the most diverse and interesting cities in the world.

Just read the book!