LUCKY LOUIS

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

These days it’s easy to believe the worst in people.  Every time I turn on the TV there is some new horror.   I’ve lamented previously that the “neighborhood” feel that I grew up is a thing of the past.  But last week my faith was restored – mightily – by a lost dog.  Jennifer and Joe Veres took their dog, Louis, to the groomer.  A pretty ordinary errand, except that the groomer let Louis loose while taking him out for a potty break.  Louis is a small poodle-mix who was on a leash, so it makes one wonder just how attentive the groomer was watching over her charge.  A runaway dog is bad enough, but this grooming shop sits at one of the busiest intersections in Scottsdale.  The city estimates that 38,700 vehicles per day drive that road.  Louis was lost around 4 p.m., a very busy time of day.  The grooming shop closes at 5 p.m., but once Jennifer arrived there she told the owner she was going to stay all night if necessary in case Louis found his way back.  The owner said he had to go home to feed his animals, but would return to unlock the restroom for her and check on the progress of the search.  He never did.

Jennifer immediately took to Nextdoor, an app that is normally used by people to find a plumber or throw shade on a restaurant.  But Jennifer knew that it can also be a useful tool to broadcast information about a lost dog.  Just that week, another dog had been found through Nextdoor, and that gave her reason to hope.  Once she posted about Louis on Nextdoor, including his cute picture,  the community stepped up.  Literally HUNDREDS of people saw Jennifer’s story and came out to help.  Families got in their cars to traverse the area, bicyclists checked all the trails, and businesses pitched in as well.  The Off Road Jeep Adventures company is in the same shopping center as the groomer and they looked out for Jennifer as she waited.  Not only that, they sent their vehicles out with their high-powered headlights to aid in the search.  The valets and patrons at two nearby restaurants heard about Louis and began searching, as did Jennifer’s workmates.  Later that day a woman reported seeing Louis on the grounds of a nearby church, but when she tried to catch him, he was frightened and scampered away.  After that, the church allowed Jennifer and Joe to place clothing and food on their premises in an effort to lure Louis to the scent of his owners and a good meal.

As nightfall came, the search for Louis became more frantic.  The Sonoran desert can be a dangerous place, filled with rattlesnakes, coyotes, bobcats and very sharp cacti.  It’s not a great place for anyone at night, much less a poor, defenseless dog with a leash trailing behind him.  Jennifer took the advice of several people on Nextdoor and called on HARTT (Humane Animal Rescue and Trapping Team).  HARTT is a volunteer-based nonprofit here is Arizona that helps in capturing lost family pets, and homeless dogs and cats who are severely injured.  It’s a very specialized service, staffed with volunteers to understand the behavior of scared pets.  HARTT relies on volunteers to immediately begin searching when a lost pet is reported.  In Louis’ case, they worked tirelessly to find him, and to instruct everyone looking for him what and what not to do in case they spotted him.  According to HARTT, most lost animals do not stray more than a mile from where they were lost, so the fact that Louis had been spotted at the church meant he might still be nearby.

Jennifer, Joe and hundreds of others stayed out all Thursday night looking for Louis, with no luck.  Just as with lost people, time is not a friend.  Friday was a very hot day so it became more distressing that Louis had no ready access to water.  As the sun set on Friday night and darkness descended, a determined band of neighbors, the Jeep Adventures guys, and HARTT volunteers did not let up the search.  The Veres’ neighbor brought their dog, and Louis’ best friend, Teddy, to help find him.  And that did the trick!  At 8 pm on Friday night, 28 hours after Louis went missing, they spotted him near a playground next to the church.  Teddy’s scent must have let Louis know that he was near “safe” people because they were able to keep Louis there until Jennifer and Joe arrived.  Once Louis heard and smelled Joe he came out from under the brush and ran into Joe’s arms.  The guys from the Jeep company filmed the happy reunion.  As you night expect, everyone cried tears of joy.  I’m sorry that I can’t load the video here, because to hear Joe exclaim, “Buddy, there’s my best friend and buddy” as Louis jumped into his arms, is beyond heartwarming.

Louis’ body and paws were covered in cacti stickers so the Veres took him immediately to the local emergency vet, where he had to be sedated while they removed all of them.  It was truly a miracle that he had survived all.  For the record, the groomer did volunteer to pay the emergency vet bill.  It was the least they could do, so they did the least.  As of last week Louis is still a little traumatized and does not want to be left alone.  Luckily, Jennifer works for a great company.  They not only helped look for Louis but agreed that he could come in to work with her so she is always in his sight.  Jennifer and Joe have finally caught up on sleep and as for me, I am making HARTT Arizona my designated charity on my Amazon Smile Prime purchases.  I hope to God that Dash the Wonder Dog never goes missing, but if he does I now know exactly who to call.

So, the next time you think the world has gone to hell in a handbasket, think of the story of Louis.   People are really good.  Your neighbors are really good.  We all want to help each other out.  Remember that.

The ‘Madness’ Continues

by Bob Sparrow

2020 Headline

We thought we knew what ‘March Madness’ was until last March when suddenly restaurants, schools, bars, churches, gyms, salons, etc., etc., etc., were suddenly closed for the better part of a year – now that’s MADNESS!

Last year’s ‘other’ March Madness, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, was cancelled due to a new thing called the Coronavirus Pandemic.  This year, in our effort to return to ‘normalcy’, the tournament is back, albeit with a few restrictions around Covid and woke correctness:

  • All players must wear a mask and a shield while playing
  • Coaches over 55 cannot attend the game in person, so must coach from home via Zoom
  • While on the court player must socially distance, making sure they get no closer than six feet from anyone
  • The ball must be sanitized following each team’s possession
  • During the game, all players must be able to show proof of a hook shot, a jump shot and a Pfizer shot
  • Cheering is not allowed, as it could show favoritism to one player over another
  • There will ultimately be no winner and more importantly, no losers – all players will get a trophy

OK, perhaps I’ve stretched the truth a bit, but there are some real restrictions:

  1. To prevent excessive travel, all games will be played in the Indianapolis area
  2. Capacity of games will be limited to 25% of arena capacity
  3. If a team can’t play due to Covid, it will be treated like a loss and that team will be elimination

Former UCLA Coach John Wooden

Most know that the ‘Final Four’ is the last team standing from each division – they play for the championship.  However, the ‘First Four’ is made up of eight teams that are on the ‘bubble’ of getting into the tournament; they play the week before the tournament starts (which was last week) and the four winners advance to round out the 64-team field.

The classic match up in last week’s ‘First Four’ game was UCLA vs. Michigan State.  These two schools have historically been perennial basketball powers and would typically be in the Final Four, not the First Four.  UCLA has made 49 appearances in this tournament, made it to the Final Four 18 times, won the tournament 11 times and was undefeated for the year four times.  Michigan State has made 33 appearances in the tournament, made the Final Four ten times and won the championship twice.

UCLA won last Friday’s ‘First Four’ game in overtime and thus receives an invitation to ‘The Dance’.  Aside from the overtime game, the other three First Four games were decided by 1, 1 and 8 points – this is going to be one great tournament!  Michigan State will be joining  a couple of other basketball powerhouses, Duke and Kentucky, on the sidelines this year.  The last time those two teams were NOT in the tournament, Gerald Ford was president – that was 1976!   A “does-history-repeat-itself” aside: As many of you will recall, Gerald Ford’s assent to the presidency is unprecedented. Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned due to charges of extortion, bribery and conspiracy, President Nixon appointed Ford, who was then the House Minority Leader, to be vice president.  Then, less than a year later, the Watergate scandal forced Nixon to resigned, making Ford president.  Does the absence of these teams from this tournament mean we’re going to see some unprecedented movement at the top of our government? Or have we already see it?

But enough about those who didn’t get voted in.  One of the favorites in this year’s tournament is the Gonzaga University Bulldogs, a school with an enrollment of around 7,000 undergraduates in Spokane, Washington.  They are the only undefeated team in the tournament, as well as being a #1 seed along with Baylor, Michigan and Illinois (who got beat in the first round last week!)  This small university in the northwest has been to the tournament 22 times and, in fact, played in the championship game in 2017, when they lost to North Carolina.

Even if you think you don’t like to watch basketball, I would bet that if you start watching this tournament, you’ll find yourself hooked and rooting for, or against various teams – you’ll end up having a ‘favorite’ that you’d like to see playing for the championship on Monday, April 5th.   After this Monday’s games, we’ll be in the ‘Sweet 16’Pac-12 fan are loving the tournament so far, all five teams made it through the first round, including both UCLA and USC.

I think you’ll find the tournament a nice break from the latest Netflix series or another one of those ‘fake’ reality program – this ‘show’ is truly unscripted reality!

‘TIS A FINE WEEK

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Surely, ’tis the best week of the year, is it not?  St. Patrick’s Day is not until Wednesday but some of us have begun celebrating early.  I am personally contributing to the festivities by drinking a pint of Guinness every day. Guinness is the mother’s milk of Ireland, and for good reason.  Three years ago I had the good fortune of spending time in the Emerald Isle with four of my girlfriends.  On the first day of the trip I ate something that didn’t agree with me.  Our driver suggested that I “take a Guinness”, extolling it’s virtues as a cure-all for most any ailment.  I gulped it down and, sure enough, I began to feel better.  He went on to explain that when he was growing up, doctors were scarce – and unaffordable – so Irish mothers gave their children a nip of Guinness whenever they were sick, as it was believed to be chocked full of vitamins and minerals.  Sort of the Irish version of Children’s  One-A-Day.

Once back home I began to research the miracle of Guinness.  Was it really a health food?  Should I be drinking more?  Turns out that back in the 1920s, when the “Guinness is Good for You” slogan was introduced, the claim was based on market research that found people felt good after they drank a pint of the dark and foamy stout.  Okay, but substitute “stout” for almost any form of alcohol and you’d probably have the same result.  Soon after the slogan gained popularity the flimsy claim was bolstered by the discovery that Guinness contains iron. A ha!  Now we’re getting somewhere.  Even pregnant women were advised to have an occasional pint. Of course, it would take something like a dozen pints a day for a woman to get her recommended daily allowance of iron, in which point the alcohol and calories would cause more harm than good.

But in 2003 researchers at the University of Wisconsin found a truly redeeming feature of the beloved Guinness.  Turns out that stout beer like Guinness (as opposed to lager and other light beer) is high in the antioxidant compounds called flavonoids—similar to those found in red wine, tea and chocolate—that can reduce the risk of heart attack from blood clotting.   The researchers carried out laboratory tests on dogs with clogged arteries, comparing the effects of Guinness and Heineken. Only those dogs fed Guinness had reduced clotting.  Wow – red wine, chocolate, dogs and Guinness.  The gods have come together to link all of my favorite things together into one healthy bundle!  I should live to be 100.

My brother and I share a love for Ireland, even though our DNA results show our Irish heritage to be somewhat limited.  I am 12% Irish and he is 8%, which doesn’t seem fair because he has frequented a lot more Irish pubs than I have.  In fact, he has a unique ability to find an Irish pub everywhere he travels.  When he hiked Machu Picchu,  he fortified himself beforehand at Paddy’s Irish Pub in Cusco, Peru, which holds the distinction of being the highest elevation pub on the planet at over 11,156 feet.  I recently watched the Amazon Prime Video movie “The Irish Pub” and it became clear why we cling to our small but powerful Irish ancestry.  The documentary highlighted pubs all over Ireland, interviewing the owners and customers.  Charming doesn’t begin to describe it.  Yes, some of the pubs were dark and possibly had not been cleaned since 1947.  But the owners and customers alike took great pride in their establishments and their welcoming of strangers.   Anyone who has visited Ireland can attest to that – the Irish seem to be universally good-natured and friendly.  The film made it clear that the local pub provides a gathering place for people to chat and get to know one another and many customers remarked that they would rather do that than watch television.

I think what we can conclude from all this is that America would be a far better – and healthier – place if we all gathered down at the local pub for a good conversation and a pint of Guinness.  Throw in a dog by the fire and that’s about as close to Heaven as one can get.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day and…Slainte!!

 

A Little Perspective . . . Maybe A Lot of Perspective

by Bob Sparrow

I watched a YouTube documentary on the Smothers Brothers last week entitled Smothers Brothers – Smothered and found it most interesting, particularly juxtaposed to what is going on in our world today.  For those too young to remember Tom & Dick Smothers and their one-hour TV comedy-variety show on Sunday nights, they were funny, entertaining and controversial.  Their show ran in the late 60s until CBS yanked them off the air for their, and their guest’s, espousing opposition to the Viet Nam war, support for Civil & Women’s Rights and their general pissing off of those in authority.

It was an era of significant unrest, the ugliness of the Viet Nam war was being brought into our living rooms in living color with the nightly news.  Men were heading to Canada to avoid the draft or burning their draft cards, while women were burning their bras in protest for women’s rights.  More and more gays and lesbians were ‘coming out’.  Drugs were a major part of the counterculture – marijuana and LSD became ‘recreational drugs’.  In a span of five years, five major civil rights leaders were assassinated; John F. Kennedy, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Malcomb X and Bobby Kennedy.  In 1968 there were riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago that killed 11 people and injured hundreds.  Even so, the country wasn’t as politically divided then as it is today – the ‘counter culture’ and mainstream media then, hated both Richard Nixon, a republican president, as much as they hated Lyndon Johnson, a democrat president.

Civil disobedience has always been a way of American life, in fact an inalienable right.  This county was born out of civil disobedience of our British colonizers. Henry David Thoreau wrote his now-famous essay, Civil Disobedience in 1849, which in part was motivated by his disgust with slavery and the just-concluded Mexican-American War.  We sometimes don’t agree with those who are protesting, but usually the protestors are right, it’s mostly just a matter of degree, as in order to get their message across, they tend to go to the extremes.  There was a national distain for long-hair ‘hippies’ and peace-loving ‘flower children’, but most everyone can agree today that the Viet Nam War was a total waste – with over 1.3 million total deaths.  Most everyone my age lost a friend in that war – either physically or mentally.  For what?   Minorities and women have more rights today, due in part to the civil unrest of the 60s, but as a country, most would agree that we still have a ways to go.

I’m not happy with what’s going on in our country today – the political divide, corrupt politicians, the inept handling of the Covid virus, just to name a few items at the top of my list, but after watching the Smothers Brothers documentary, I found that the stuff that the CBS censors wouldn’t allow them to say or do on TV, is laughable today.  I don’t think we’ll ever be able to laugh at the tearing down of statues, the burning and looting of buildings or the attempts to ‘defund’ the police, but whether we want it or not, change is coming and I have enough faith in our country to believe that we’ll survive this as a nation and in fact, be better for it.  Organizations like QAnon and Antifa will rest in our archives with the Weather Underground Organization and the Students for a Democratic Society. 

Yes, I realize this sounds a bit Pollyannaish, but I’d encourage you to watch the documentary and see if it doesn’t help put today’s events in perspective.  Here’s the link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnnmcP6FkWk&t=253s

BTW, I’m still going to read Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas to my grandkids every Christmas.

 

 

WHAT MY MESSAGE?

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

I admit that I’m sometimes a sucker for “click bait” banners.  Give me a good juicy headline about a favorite celebrity or public figure and I will – against my better judgement – hit the link to get the full scoop.  Being the Anglophile that I am, headlines about the British royal family often peak my interest.  So you can imagine my curiosity when I read that Meghan Markle’s maternity dress contained a “powerful message”.  Wow!  I envisioned a slogan or initials embroidered into the hem, or perhaps the baby’s sex or name secretly embedded somewhere.  So, of course, I clicked on the story only to find out that her “message” was that she was embracing sustainability by wearing a dress that was two years old!   The designer of the dress commented, “This (climate change) is an undeniable crisis, and everyone has to do their part. The number one thing that someone can do for sustainability is hold on to those pieces you buy and use them for a longer amount of time. That’s why I think what Meghan did is such a powerful message. She wore a dress that’s no less beautiful, because it’s two years old… it makes her feel no less special or no less happy.”

Wow.  That’s not the direction I thought this story would go. After my initial disappointment that the “message” wasn’t more revealing, I realized (not for the first time) that my life is very different than the Royal Family.  One look into my closet would reveal that apparently I am doing more for the planet than the average person.  Setting aside 2020, when 98% of my clothes remained on their hangers, I still consider something two years old as relatively new.  I took a tour of my closet to see just how sustainable I have been.  The first item I found dates back to 1962.  My parents sent me to Girl Scout camp up in the Sierras and we were required to bring several essential items, including a mirror.  My mother purchased this little hand-held mirror at the local five-and-dime and I thought it was really cool because the opposite side is a magnifier.  Better to see every pre-pubescent pimple, I suppose.  In any event, through umpteen moves I have held on to that little mirror and often use it when I travel. The fact that it is a little weathered has helped as I’ve grown older – it’s not as sharp and neither am I.

Next, I found a belt that I purchased before I started my first corporate job in 1973.  I needed an upgrade from my jeans and tee shirts so I took my savings and went on a shopping spree.   The belt was the last thing I purchased that day, and it was over my budget, but I bought it anyway.  It had several leather links that I had to take out for it to fit.  I tried to wrap it around my waist last week.  Let’s just say I lamented that I had thrown away those extra links.  Still, when I look at it I remember how excited I was that day to be shopping for a “grown up” wardrobe.  Little did I know that first job in banking would be the beginning of a long career.

And speaking of that career, like most people, I had some moments of frustration and stress. The corporate squirrel cage and the long commute took its toll.  In 1988 we started to spend two weeks each fall in Sun Valley, Idaho.  Much to my delight, I found a cute little yarn store there owned by Sarah Ahern.  She was an older lady who had battled cancer, but was determined to stay in business.  When we visited in 1989 I wistfully told her that owning a yarn store in a cute mountain town sounded like Heaven to me.  She let me work there a few hours just to get a taste for it and I loved it.  By the early 90’s we struck a deal that if she ever sold it I would get first right of refusal.  But as the years went on I realized that visiting a resort town is very different than living in one.  As we planned for our trip in 1997 I prepared to tell Sarah that I just couldn’t make the move.  As we drove in to town I was horrified to see that the shop had closed.  One of her friends told me that her cancer had returned and she moved to Boise to live with her daughter.  She didn’t even try to sell the shop – she just closed it down.  This sweater is made from yarn I purchased from her in 1989 – it was “payment” for my working hours.  It sits on a shelf in a plastic bin.  I haven’t worn it for years but I can’t bring myself to donate it to Goodwill.  I think of Sarah, and of my dreams of being a yarn shop owner, every time I see it.  There’s something to be said for a good memory.

A month ago I would have been embarrassed to admit that I have these relics.  I might have even been tempted to begin tossing out some of this old stuff.  But now, instead of thinking of myself as a sentimental, old hoarder, I can proudly say I’m on the cutting edge of sustainability. Thanks, Meghan.

Keeping Sharp in a Numbing World

by Bob Sparrow

As we continue to wade through this era of ‘house arrest’, as a society we have become sedentary bingers.  We sit at home and binge on food, binge on drink, binge on computer time and binge-watch the latest Netflix series.  How is this affecting us physically and mentally?  Significantly!

While we here at From A Bird’s Eye View don’t pretend to have the panacea, we will pass along some information that might be helpful in keeping you physically and mentally sharp . . . or sharper.  Caveat: If you are not sharp to start with, reading this will not make you sharp.

The information herein comes from a book I recently finished entitled, Keep Sharp, by Sanjay Gupta, MD (brain surgeon).  It’s currently a ‘best seller’ so perhaps you’ve seen it or even read it (sorry for the redundancy here if you have).  It’s directed mostly at those of us older folks, who are concerned with dementia, but the principles of a healthy brain apply to all ages.  To be honest, there is a lot of scientific stuff in the book that can get a little tedious, but it helps frame what you should be doing, both mentally and physically to Keep Sharp.

The book first asks the question, “Are you at risk for brain decline?”  Gupta list 24 items that could make you at risk.  Here’s a few:

  • Are you over 65?
  • Do you sit most of the day?
  • Are you overweight?
  • Do you take meds for high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol?
  • Do you have a smoking history?
  • Do you lack social engagement?
  • And of course, does Alzheimer’s disease run in your family?

Yep, I too found myself ‘at risk’.

He also lists a number of myths about the brain, among them:

  • Dementia is an inevitable consequence of old age
  • We use only 10% of our brains
  • A crossword puzzle a day keeps the doctor away

Here’s a brief summary of the five things Gupta suggests to keep your mind sharp no matter what your age:

  1. Move – improve your cardio, strength, flexibility, balance
  2. Discover – take a class, learn a language, play games, develop a strong sense of purpose
  3. Relax – sleep needs to remain constant throughout life (You don’t need less as you get older). Regarding sleep:
    1. sleep aids like Nyquil and ‘PM’ formulas are linked to higher chance of developing Alzheimer’s.
    2. stick to a schedule
    3. avoid long naps
    4. don’t be a night owl
    5. eliminate electronics before bed – computer/tablet/phone screens contain ‘blue wavelengths’ that suppress melatonin.
  4. Nourish – what’s good for the heart is good for the brain
    1. cut sugars
    2. hydrate
    3. eat fish/more Omega-3 Fatty Acids
    4. reduce portions
  5. Connect – Crosswords get a B- for their ability to boost brain function, connecting with others, face-to-face, in person, gets an A (Understand that we’ve had some restrictions in this regard).

Not in the book, but something that I’ve found good for brain health, is a download called Lumosity.  It is a series of games and challenges that help keep the brain sharp.  After completing a number of the challenges, you can see where your brain ranks with other people in your age group. The download is free, but the Premium package (recommended) is about $60 a year.

If this helps just one person become ‘sharper’, then I apologize to the rest of you for this waste of time.

How ever you do it – hope you all keep sharp!

 

Post Script: Not so much as a public service, but because I have nothing else to do, I’ve created a 6-page summary of the book, including all the ‘at risk’ categories, all the myths about the brain, more detail on the 5 categories for keeping sharp, including the Top 10 secrets of slumber, as well as more detail on diet and exercise.  If you’re not someone who will buy and read Keep Sharp, but would like this summary, just let me know in the comment section of this post and I will email it out to you.

 

 

THE TERRORIST NEXT DOOR

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

 

Several years ago my brother gifted me the book, “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid“, by Bill Bryson.  I have come to read – and love – almost every book Mr. Bryson has written.  But the “Thunderbolt Kid” book was my first, and is still my favorite.  In it, Mr. Bryson recounts the joy and simplicity of growing up in Des Moines, Iowa during the 1950’s and ’60’s with such wit and affection that it instantly brought back memories of the small town in which we were raised.  While the population of Des Moines was more than ten times that of our home town, Bryson’s recollections of his neighborhood is strikingly similar to what we experienced.  People were friendly, we worked hard, and as kids we found ourselves endlessly entertained by items as simple as a drainage ditch or a field of wildflowers.

The “Advance” when our parents owned it

I’ve given a lot of thought to our upbringing this past year.  I think the COVID slowdown has caused some reflection about the “busyness” with which we are normally consumed, and how different our life is compared to growing up.  Life seemed simpler back then, because it was simpler.  Small town life, or neighborhood life in a bigger city, revolved around locally-owned businesses, school, community activities and social clubs.  Our parents were one of those small business owners, and they knew the owners of every shop in town.  People helped each other out during hard times and shared fun in the good times – softball leagues, community plays and bake sales were just some of the ways we were entertained.  As a kid, a small town can seem stifling.  Everyone knows you, thus, the opportunities for getting into trouble with anonymity are very limited.  Our mother didn’t need eyes in the back of her head because she had a whole community of “snitches” that would tell her if one of us got out of line!

This past week I was thinking about that small town ethos when I read a piece by Virginia Heffernan, an opinion columnist for the Los Angeles Times.  Apparently Ms. Heffernan is waiting out the COVID pandemic in a hideaway home, situated in a place where it snows.  I have some familiarity with “snow towns” near LA and I’m willing to bet that she is living in a small community.  A few weeks ago, after a massive snowfall, her neighbors came over and shoveled out her driveway.  Nice, neighborly gesture, right?  Well, apparently not.  In her column of February 5th, she laments that she doesn’t know how to feel, since the neighbors supported Trump for President.  So she questions how nice they really are and then proceeds to compare them to Hezbollah, Louis Farrakhan and the Nazis.

My goal here is not to get into the politics of this, as my brother and I have steadfastly stayed out of the fray all these years and our intent is to continue.  My thoughts are more focused on what a shame it is that Ms. Heffernan has no foundation to draw from that informs her about what it means to be a neighbor.  Although it didn’t snow where we grew up, shoveling someone’s driveway is exactly the kind of gesture that would be so ordinary as to not even draw attention.  Motives would not have been questioned, much less evaluated, based on whether someone had voted for Nixon or Kennedy.  To judge anyone through a political lens would have been unheard of, and better yet, strongly discouraged.

I’m glad I grew up when and where I did.  The small town mentality has served me well over the years and I appreciate it in others when I see it.  I am saddened that we have gotten to a point where someone’s character, motives and integrity are judged by their political affiliation.  A point where a simple, kind gesture is dissected and over-analyzed by a journalist.  Perhaps Ms. Heffernan needs to spend more time in her “hideaway” to learn a bit about the behavior of people who live in small communities.  It may come as a shock to her that they are not on parallel with terrorists.

 

The Game, the G.O.A.T.s and the Guacamole

by Bob Sparrow

Young G.O.A.T. and Old G.O.A.T.

I’m writing this before ‘the game’, with the exception of a few comments (in red) that I will squeeze in on Sunday night (assuming I’m relatively sober) or early Monday morning (assuming I’m not too hung over).  For me the Super Bowl is a bitter-sweet occasion, as it’s the best two teams in football squaring off, yet it marks the end of this football season. In January, colleges ended their season with the College Football Playoff National Championship and now this . . . it’s over and I don’t have my Covid-19 or my ‘Football’s Gone’ vaccine – I don’t know if I have the virus, but I am feely depressed.  Perhaps Pfizer can work on a vaccine for that!

So, here’s my preview and review of the events from Sunday’s Super Bowl LV (That’s 55 for those that don’t speak Roman)  Either the young G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time), 25 year old, Patrick Mahomes or the old G.O.A.T., 43 year old, Tom Brady, won the game.  (the old G.O.A.T. was the clear winner!) With my 49ers watching at home, I was ambivalent about the outcome, but rather hoping for a good game, whoever wins.  Another reason for hoping that the game was at least a close, good one (which it wasn’t), was that, for me, much of what surrounds the game is the usual pseudo-hype and frivolous fluff.

I had reviewed all the game’s advertisements on line last week and found them to be lacking in creativity, humor and impact, but they were diverse.  Prior to the National Anthem being sung, America the Beautiful was performed by Gabriella Wilson, who goes by the name H.E.R. (An acronym for Having Everything Revealed.  I’m hoping that it didn’t get to the point of Janet Jackson’s ‘wardrobe malfunction’ during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show).  The National Anthem was sung by R & B singer, Jazmine Sullivan and country western singer Eric Church – I hope it was recognizable and that everyone stood at attention with their hand over their heart.  OK, I can hear you now, “What century were you born in, Bob?!!!”

The Guac

The halftime show featured The Weeknd, (yes, that’s how you spell it), a three-time Grammy winner, who is known for his graphic music videos and performances featuring blood and violence, but the three-time Grammy winner said he will tone down his act during this show – let’s hope he did; there was probably enough blood and violence during the game.

If you’re feeling like that New Year’s resolution diet just got blown up, it probably did, as Super Bowl is the second most glutenous day of the year, trailing only Thanksgiving.  Like the turkey at Thanksgiving, the avocado is an endangered species during Super Bowls as over 100 million pounds of guacamole were consumed on Sunday. Avocado growers refer to the Super Bowl as the ‘Guacamole Bowl’.

Too late for you now, but I’ll make a few ‘prop bets’ – promise I won’t change them after the game:

  • What color Gatorade will douse the winning coach? And if you’re really into this one you can also make a bet as to whether an offensive or defensive player will be the one dousing. (Orange is the favorite color, I’d bet defensive). (Gatorade was blue and I don’t know who poured it, but it was probably an offensive player)
  • The easiest bet is the coin flip – it’s never landed on its side, so it’s a 50-50 proposition, but because the head side tends to be heavier, I’ll take tails. (it was heads) 
  • Will the first score be a field goal or a touchdown? Better odds on the field goal, but better payout on the touchdown.  With these two teams I’m going with the touchdown. (it was a field goal)
  • How many times will Gisele Bundchen be shown and How many times will Roger Goodell be shown? I’m betting on and hoping it was Gisele! (Unfortunately Goodell got much more screen time)

This is feeling more like my last trip to Vegas!!!

Just in case you were wondering, there were 25,000 real Tampa Bay hometown fans at the game and 30,000 cardboard cutouts – not sure where they were from.

I’m going to have to face the facts that football is over . . . for now, but the vaccine is on its way, isn’t it?  There are rumors that college football may begin in the Spring.  But I’m not going to bet on it!

 

 

WHEN TV WAS FUNNY

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

I was watching TV the other day when an ad came on for the new comedy, “Call Me Kat”, starring Mayim Bialik.  It was advertised as “the funniest new show on television”.  Well, heck, I love a good comedy and I always enjoyed Ms. Bialik on The Big Bang Theory, so I gave it a shot.  My time would have been better spent sorting my sock drawer or alphabetizing my spice rack.  Not funny.  Not even close to funny.  Slapstick, stupid humor, and preening for the camera seemed to be the objective.  Not to mention Swoosie Kurtz’ distracting plastic surgery. When you’re almost unrecognizable I think it means you’ve gone too far.  Anyway…the show just didn’t do anything for me.  When I heard the news of Cloris Leachman’s passing this week I thought about her on The Mary Tyler Moore show and it reminded me of when TV was actually funny.  In my opinion, the “murderer’s row” of comedies that aired on CBS in the mid-70’s was the pinnacle of humor.  Every Saturday night we were captivated by high quality writing and acting.  We didn’t know how lucky we were.

The evening started with All in the Family.  We thought it was quite daring when it first aired, with the main character, Archie Bunker, opining on everything from  racism to women’s liberation.  It was the only comedy show that opened with a warning about content.  For a generation that grew up watching Leave it to Beaver, All in the Family seemed downright revolutionary.  And that was the point.  The show’s creator, Norman Lear, wanted to reflect the changing times by having Archie bicker about the issues of the day with his progressive son-in-law, Mike, or as he referred to him, “Meathead”.  As logically as Mike would try to explain the changes in social norms, Archie would respond with equally inane logic.  The cast was rounded out by his “dingbat” wife, Edith (who was actually quite smart), and his daughter, Gloria, caught between her dad and her husband.  The show, and Archie, evolved over time, matching the tone of the era.  Not least among its groundbreaking feats was that it was the first to air the sound of a toilet flushing!

Next on the schedule was M*A*S*H.  Ostensibly a show about a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital unit during the Korean war, the satire and dramatic commentary of the show were clearly aimed at an audience that had grown ambivalent about the war in Vietnam.  The show ran for 12 seasons – and its finale in 1983 is still the highest rated series ender.  M*A*S*H seemed to have everything you could want in a comedy.  Yes, there was great humor, but often there was a sentimental story line that ran concurrently to Hawkeye’s antics.  Unlike McHale’s Navy or the Phil Silver’s Show from the previous decade, M*A*S*H showed real people with real emotions.  It wasn’t unusual to laugh and cry at the same episode.

The second hour of comedies started with the classic Mary Tyler Moore Show.  The casting on the show was brilliant.  In addition to Mary Tyler Moore, it included the aforementioned Cloris Leachman, Valerie Harper, Ed Asner, Ted Knight, Gavin McLeod, Gloria Engel and…Betty White.  How can you ever go wrong with Betty White?!  As a young woman in my 20’s I was fascinated by the show’s premise – a divorced, young woman living on her own and forging a career in a tough industry.  Over the years I’ve heard other women say how influenced they were by watching MTM stand up for herself and succeed in her professional life.  Also of note is that although Mary had several boyfriends during the course of the series, she never married.  That is something you certainly didn’t see in previous sitcoms and it is still rare today to have the lead female character never marry during the run of a series.

The next show on the schedule was The Bob Newhart Show.  Newhart played a psychiatrist and brought his dry wit and deadpan delivery to the show.  His patients and support staff delivered the comedy and hijinks, while he sardonically commented and observed.  Suzanne Pleshette played his wife, also with a sarcastic bent and intelligent wit.

Finally, the evening ended with The Carol Burnett Show.  Has there ever been a more entertaining variety show?  Carol Burnett just seemed so down to earth and friendly – almost like your best friend was hosting a neighborhood talent show.  Her portrayals of “Eunice”, Mrs. Wiggins and, of course, her “Went With The Wind” Scarlett are funny to this day.  But the highlight for me was the pairing of Tim Conway and Harvey Korman.  They delighted in trying to “bust” each other during the live show taping.  Part of the fun was watching Korman trying not to laugh when Conway pranked him.  The funniest sketch I have ever seen is the famous “dentist” scene, with Conway as the dentist and Korman as the patient.  Conway improvised so much during the taping that Korman admitted later that he laughed so hard he wet his pants.  Here is a link to the complete skit – it’s almost 10 minutes long but worth watching to the end.  If you aren’t laughing hysterically by the end of it, well…there’s just something wrong with your funny bone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IUSM4EKcRI

So that was it – the funniest night of television ever.  Yes, the NBC Thursday night line-up in the 90’s that featured Seinfeld, Friends and Frasier was also very good, but just not as funny or relevant as that old CBS schedule.  I read an article that observed one of the reasons for the popularity of the old CBS shows was that we didn’t have much choice.  Most people only got 4-5 TV stations in the 70’s, so we tended to watch the same things.  Each of these shows contributed to the common culture because we all shared the laughs, tears and experiences of these characters.  Today, with 500 TV stations plus a seemingly endless number of streaming apps, our viewing is fragmented.  Some days I’m lucky if anyone has even heard of a show that I’m streaming.

There’s a lot of talk about bringing unity to the country these days.  Maybe we should consider going back to fewer shows, with better writing, that would give us an opportunity to have some shared experiences.  Plus, it could give us something laugh at other than the politicians.

Roads Not Taken

by Bob Sparrow

Two roads diverged in to a wood, and I

Took the one less traveled by ,

And that has made all the difference.

                                                                            Robert Frost

No, this is will not be a dissertation on Robert Frost’s most-misunderstood poem, but rather the musings of this traveler, who has found too many ‘Road Closed’ signs during this pathetic pandemic!  They are all roads not taken!

And while I have thought that I was on this mythical road to nowhere, I discovered that there is indeed a Road to Nowhere; it is in North Carolina, but it actually does go somewhere, it starts in Bryson City and ends at a ‘tunnel to nowhere’ inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

People who were more ambitious than just building a road or a tunnel to nowhere, created a Highway to Nowhere, actually there’s several of them, the most famous is in Baltimore, where one mile of freeway runs through a park.  Not to be confused with AC/DC’s Highway to Hell, which it may seem like we’re on right now, but there really is one of those too, in Western Australia, so named for the number of fatal accidents that occur there. What you don’t learn from these blogs!!!

And as we think about ‘things to nowhere’, and what more appropriate time to think about that than now, how can we forget the ‘Bridge to Nowhere’, which got a lot of national attention when Sarah Palin was governor of Alaska and the Vice Presidential running mate of John McCain in 2008. The project encountered fierce opposition outside Alaska as a symbol of ‘pork barrel’ spending and was never built.  So apparently  you  still can’t  get  to  nowhere  from  Alaska.

Personally, I can’t think of roads to anywhere without thinking of the ‘Road to . . pictures;’ yes, that what they called movies back in the day.  The ‘road pictures’ starred Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, who were always in some far-off country, fighting for the affections of Dorothy Lamour.  And even though I knew that these movies were filmed on the back lot of the Paramount studio in Hollywood, using blackface ‘natives’ and phony sets, they gave me the travel bug and the desire to create my own ‘Road Pictures’, which I subsequently did when I traveled to a number of exotic destinations like Kathmandu, Tunisia and Zimbabwe. But, ironically, I have never been to any of the seven destinations depicted in those ‘road movies’, but they’re on my bucket list!  For the record, they are, Road to Singapore (Year made: 1940), Road to Zanzibar (1941), Zanzibar is a city on an island off the east coast of Tanzania, Africa.  Who doesn’t want to go there?!!  Road to Morocco (1942), Road to Utopia (Alaska) (1946), Road to Rio (de Janeiro 1947), Road to Bali (1952) and Road to Hong Kong (1962). In the movies, Hope was constantly breaking the ‘forth wall’ to address the audience directly, such as when Crosby was getting ready to sing, Hope would turn to the camera and say, “He’s going to sing folks, now is the time to go out and get some popcorn”. There was actually an eighth picture that was going to be made in 1977, called Road to the Fountain of Youth, ironically, Crosby died of a heart attack that year – if he could have only gotten to that Fountain of Youth!  Little-known-and-less-cared-about-fact: Two of the very top singers of their generation, Bing Crosby and Elvis Presley, died in the same year within a couple of months of each other.

Critically, these movies probably get a grade of C-, and perhaps that’s even being a bit generous,  The plot lines were rather thin and predictable, but Bob Hope was funny, especially when he’s adlibbing, Bing Crosby could sing and Dorothy Lamour was certainly worth the boys fighting over.

OK, sorry for droning on about movies that were made some 70 years ago.  Forgive me, my cabin fever is beginning to boil over – there have been just too many roads not taken!  I can’t wait to get on the ‘Road to Anywhere’!