Couch Potato Season

By Bob Sparrow

I can’t let this week go by without a salute to all our veterans on Veteran’s Day.  Thank you so much for your service!!!

Self portrait

This is the time of year where you should not expect my missives to come from the far corners of the planet; no Inca Trail treks to Machu Picchu, no Kathmandu capers, no summiting Mt. Whitney or Half Dome, no wine and pasta sampling in Tuscany and not even a visit to a local pumpkin patch or turkey farm.  So instead of holding a compass, trekking poles or a backpack, the only thing I’ll be having a death-grip on in the near future is the TV remote control. This is the time of year when I rarely even venture outside – I become the quintessential coach potato

As justification for this somewhat dubious moniker, I present the following:  In the past 13 days I’ve been able to watch:

  • Game 7 of the World Series (Congratulations to the Washington Nationals – what is a National anyway?)
  • NCAA football (my favorite sporting event) is in mid-season form with the LSU-Alabama game and Utah with it’s big win over Washington. Go Utes!!  For me, nothing beats the spirit of college football.

    A younger John Van Boxmeer

  • NFL football has my 49ers looking as good as they have in years! Notice that in past years it’s just been the 49ers, but this year it’s ‘my’ 49ers.
  • NBA basketball has started its regular season and already my favorite player, Steph Curry has broken his hand and is out indefinitely.
  • I know the NHL regular season has started as I don’t see my good friend and former NHL player, John VanBoxmeer as much – John is a scout for the Buffalo Sabres.
  • PGA golfer Tiger Woods won his 82nd golf tournament, tying the record of legend, Sam Snead.

There were even sporting events going on that I didn’t, or wouldn’t, watch, to wit:

  • The Breeders Cup, at Santa Anita, a track that has produced more broken legs that KFC.
  • For you Formula 1 fans, last weekend  the United States Grand Prix was held in beautiful Hawthorne; don’t ask me who won; don’t even ask me where Hawthorne is!
  • And for you MMA and UFC fans . . . I have no idea – not a fan, but I did read that the Sparta Cup was held on Oct 31 in Biysk, Russia – hopefully no one died or got sent to Siberia, although, for all I know Biysk is in Siberia.

The Magic Wand

Whether you are mashed, baked or scalloped, now is the time for all you ‘Potatoes’ to find your couch, along with a beverage of choice; and get those fingers working that remote control – get yourself in shape man! ‘Tis the season!

Yes, you’ll probably gain a little weight during this ‘season’, but that extra weight will come in handy for absorbing the extra alcohol that you’ll be consuming during the next ‘season’ – the ‘Holidaze’!  Another benefit of being a couch potato.

And ladies, we know this keeps the men out of your hair so you can start your shopping for . . . anything; they won’t even know you’re gone or what you’ve bought!  Or just maybe, you’re the couch potato in the family.  You go you little French fry!

THE SOUND OF THE CITY

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

 

The Golden Gate

The Golden Gate

Our ancestor, Joseph Billiou, first ventured to Northern California in 1856, long after the gold rush had peaked and the “easy money” was gone.  Thus creating the family motto:  “Always a day late and a dollar short”.  Despite failing to make his fortune, Joseph set down roots and our family became one of the lucky ones who could call the Bay Area “home”.  To us, and most other families in the region, San Francisco was the centerpiece of cultural, sporting and culinary experiences. I was also fortunate enough to earn a living in the Financial District for more than 20 years.  San Francisco has always had a unique vibe – welcoming people with divergent backgrounds and talents while maintaining a sense of unity and cohesiveness.  But it would appear “The City” is changing, in large part due to a 2011 decision by the supervisors to offer generous tax breaks to any tech company willing to relocate to San Francisco.  As a result, the companies are gobbling up real estate to establish a presence there.  Thousands of “techies” are moving to the area for work.   The result is that the housing market, which has always been expensive, is now downright ridiculous.  New condos are going up in some of the older, “less desirable” neighborhoods which has resulted in evictions of people who have lived there for generations.  And to add insult to injury, there is no affordable place for them to go.  San Francisco, it would seem, is on the brink of reaching Venezuelan levels of wealth inequality.  In the past four months I’ve seen three documentaries covering the changing dynamics – all of them were depressing.   After watching the last one I became nostalgic for the city that once was.  And for some reason, I thought about the song that was an anthem for San Francisco for more than 30 years – “The Sound of the City”.

KSFO in its heyday

KSFO in its heyday

The song actually wasn’t a song at all.  It was the jingle for what was then the powerhouse radio station in the region – KSFO.  From the late 50’s until the early 80’s the station was owned by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry, and was billed as “The World’s Greatest Radio Station.  Particularly in San Francisco”.   In those days San Francisco had five TV stations and AM radio to cover news, sports and entertainment.  Autry quickly maximized his crown jewel by hiring a Murderer’s Row of disc jockeys:  Don Sherwood, Jim Lange, Del Courtney, Jack Carney and Al “Jazzbeaux” Collins.  Autry negotiated broadcasting rights with the 49ers and the Giants and had two legends, Lon Simmons and Russ Hodges, call the games.  Back then TV and radio stations had the good sense to sign off for a few hours in the wee hours of the morning and Autry wanted a jingle to use as the station went dark each night.  So in 1960 he commissioned the multi-talented Johnny Mann to write one for him.  When the song was first aired people thought it had been recorded by the Four Freshman, but in fact it was sung by eight studio singers in Hollywood, the most famous of whom went on to be the voice of Tony the Tiger.  The result was a beautiful masterpiece: the Sound of the City .  When you click on the link you will hear a lyrical song, reminiscent of a softer time when fun and bonhomie reigned supreme.  It is now the ringtone on my phone and each time I play it for a native of the Bay Area the person becomes misty-eyed.

The inimitable Don Sherwood

The inimitable Don   Sherwood

How did a song – and a radio station – become so ingrained in our psyches?  Well for starters, as I said, our entertainment choices were pretty limited.  But more importantly it is estimated that two-thirds of people living in the Bay Area during the 1960’s tuned in to listen to the bibulous Don Sherwood every weekday morning.  He was the Pied Piper of the Bay Area, with his throaty, cigarette-tinged chuckle that made even his reading of a Yami Yogurt commercial sound just the slightest bit dirty.  Each morning people gathered around the water cooler or the gym locker to talk about what prank Sherwood had pulled off during the morning commute.  That’s assuming, of course, that he had even bothered to show up for work.  A native-born San Franciscan, he was the product of two alcoholic parents and suffered from the disease himself.  It was a crapshoot each morning as to whether Mr. Sherwood was “not feeling well” that day.  But his show was so popular that even on the days he didn’t show up for work, his sidekick Carter B. Smith garnered higher ratings than the competitors.  Sherwood’s manic personality was hard for management to control and his wisest bosses never tried to make  “Donny Babe” conform.  After all, part of his appeal was his irreverent humor and his running gags.   No idea was too outrageous.  He once instructed everyone to crank down their car window and turn the radio up full blast.  He then broadcast the blare of a police siren.  Law enforcement reported a spike in fender-benders that morning but the gag had everyone laughing for weeks.  On another occasion he told drivers that on his command they should all turn left.  That stunt created havoc all over the Bay Area, particularly for the foolhardy souls who were crossing the Golden Gate Bridge at the time.  In 1961, when he challenged the young Jim Lange to a foot race from Stinson Beach to the Ferry Building in downtown SF, more than 60,000 people lined the route.  What was the attraction?  It was because KSFO, and Sherwood in particular, made people feel like they “belonged” to a community, regardless of their socioeconomic status.

The recent documentaries I watched report that San Francisco is becoming the epicenter of the “sharing” economy.  Which is somewhat ironic given that every picture I saw of the new “techies” featured them with headphones stuck in their ears, eyes cast downward at their phones, oblivious to the people and culture around them.  San Francisco has always been a city that changes and evolves but personally, I’ll take the “sharing” of 50 years ago – outstanding radio, a beautiful song and every once in a while, everyone turning left.