Someone’s work at the convention center is closed. He’s at home now and the auguries portend no soon end to his or anyone else plight. He’s going to try on-line delivery groceries to cut down or perhaps discontinue our need to set foot at Uncle Albertsons. Back in my bachelor I did this sort of shopping. I recall it was called “Pea pod” and I found it a marvelous thing. Maneuvering a car in Chicago traffic was a tedious time-consuming endeavor. Whenever I remembered something I wanted I would add it to the list and eventually I press the ‘send’ key and hey presto! some nice person delivered it all to my doorstep. If Someone’s present efforts succeed we will have eliminated another reason to go outdoors.


I’ve already begun to wonder how much of all of our retreats will reverse when the coast is clear. After weeks – months? – of working at home/not going out/ordering things in (food and everything else) will we all throw it off and return to an gregarious business-as-usual existence or do we continue to stay put at home?

There is a Japanese word for this sort of people: Hikikomori. They are the ones who have withdrawn from society to seek extreme degrees of isolation and confinement. They don’t go out. They work and eat and do everything at home. All is brought to them (but company) through the means of their computers and phones. They are usually teen-types and younger men who have grown up with technology and without lessons in social skills. Perhaps they have severe social anxiety or depression or agoraphobia. No one really knows for sure why they are this way; they aren’t the types who respond when sociologists reach out to them.

In the olden days these sorts were hermits or mystics. They withdrew from society to focus on the numinous and grow in wisdom. I don’t think today’s stay-at-home types (voluntary or involuntary) are seeking enlightenment. Rather we are binge-watching reruns and eating comfort food.

I mustn’t let germs or government gel with my proclivity and desire to crawl into a hole and shut off the world. Somehow I need to stay in touch with others and keep my composure so when I emerge from this biological retreat I shell return to a salubrious and wholesome social well-being.



I went through the weekend without reading any blogs. This is a first in a long while. I feel guilty for this; if I want readers it is only good manners to reciprocate by reading others. It wasn’t like I was ‘busy’ yesterday. Without any external there’s-work-to-be-done chores and time spent at the gym/grocers etc. there was ample time to do so. A part of my psyche went several stages above and beyond ‘social distancing” and didn’t go online. As I do some self-analysis on this matter I realize going online to visit my blogger buddies (the dears!) means first going through Yahoo! where I see alarmist headlines and (oh the pain!) always a photo of He-who-won’t-even-be-acknowledged. I can’t stand even the sight of him. The proper bastard has even barged into my personal zone. Enough of that! This evening I will have lots to do The Board of Directors Here at Spo-Reflections and I will go a-viking to everybody on the blog roll and read how all are doing. I hope well enough.

It is Monday morning prior to what looks like a typical busy workday. The roster seems ‘business as usual’. There are a bunch of video appointments today but not many. Nobody at work has told me how these video/telephone appointments are determined vs. the face-to-face ones. Perhaps it is insurance-driven or patient-preference? I insist on seeing new patients face-to-face as so much information is not gathered in a sitting down interview. Curiously the newbies are all showing/not cancelling. Some of them have been waiting for months for their evaluation. So far no one has complained about having to come in; quite the contrary some are actually thanking me for ‘being here’.

And now to the sensitive topic of toilet paper. Last week while rummaging about the unused guest bathroom I found five rolls. Holy mackerel what a find! I put these strays in the laundry room cabinet with the ones already accounted for. There are a total of 14 rolls. Has anyone actually done the math how long a roll last? There are many variables:


Number of people in the house.

If the people are ‘wadders’ or sheet-oriented in their application.

The quality of the toilet paper.

The amount of Mexican cuisine and curried snacks consumed (oh the pain!).


I suspect and hope fourteen rolls for two (male) adults are enough for a long while. I’ve try to be more prudent in the number of squares taken at a time. One nice thing about going to work is this cuts down on home-based TP consumption. The third floor where I work has ~ six businesses that share a common loo (one for each sex); there doesn’t seem to be any signs of such running out at work. This may be because many of the other businesses are not open. I shudder if there comes a time when I am obliged to bring TP from home to use at work. By then I will insist on working at home,  if not for my physical wellbeing than for my backside.


This morning having woken from a series of disturbing dreams I did not find myself having been transformed into a large-size monstrous vermin (it could happen) but in a pleasant mood. The sun is shining and it isn’t too cold. Provided I didn’t turn on the cellphone to read the headlines  to spoil things Life looks good today. I am quite aware things are not that jolly but it helps to disinvite the world in when one isn’t even out of bed.  Every morning I say a silent prayer to whatever gods that may be listening: “I am thankful I have another day – more Life.”  These days gratitude is heightened and good for that.   

Unlike many I went to work last week. It felt good to be in some sort of normalcy especially when I remember I am trying to heal the sick ‘in the trenches’ as it were as doctors ought to do (at least the ‘good ones’ anyway).  I am going on the surmise it is just as matter of time I get the bug or at least ‘turn positive’ and have to stay home for a fortnight or more.  This dreadful prediction is another aspect folded into my morning meditation of thanks I’m still here for now.


It’s Saturday and there’s work to be done. I am grateful for some charting to do. Lands sakes! There isn’t much else to do really!  However all is not drab and drudgery. We have a ‘date’ this evening. The fellows with whom we were to rendezvous in Palm Springs have proposed we do some sort of ‘virtual dinner party’. This means we all make a meal and somehow sign onto the internet so we can see each other eating and we natter.  This will be a new experience and I wonder if I will I awkward. Watching folks eat online shouldn’t be any different than watching them munching in real life no? 

Then there is the menu. Someone and I were scheduled this evening to eat leftovers or who-hash or (worse) open tinned cans of something. Does one dress up and make something fancy for a virtual dinner-party? I looked it up online and Miss Manners is silent on the subject.  I suppose in normal times I wouldn’t dream of going out with chums to a restaurant without attending to my appearance and being on my best behavior. I go with the notion virtual dinner manners and protocols ought to be the same – even with familiar friends whom I have seen parading around ‘sky-clad’ at clothing optional resorts.  

This leads me to the delicate topic of what to call such virtual experiences.  This morning I was online with Brother #3 and Father; they referred to our trio-communication as ‘having a three-way’. This is not an appetizing notion. I did not explain my more lurid association with their word-choice. Is there a less-suggestive word for such social intercourse? 

I bet you a nickel this evening somebody will make the ribald joke of ‘having a three-way’ and threaten (as a reference to Palm Springs shenanigans) to drop his pants in the middle of dinner.  This is something normally one doesn’t do at proper dinner parties but all bets are off if there are cocktails involved or The Other Michael is in high spirits. 

Norm P. (the dear!) has a collectible shop in the faraway land of Nova Scotia.  He regularly posts  some of his lovely things on Facebook. A few weeks ago he posted a photo of a snack bowl that made me sit up straight. It was a ‘must-have-or-perish’ item.  I bought it.


Hot puppies !  There is nothing like something good in the post !


First layer is off !


Oh Oh! It’s ‘attack of the packing peanuts’ ! 

These little villains get out and go everywhere. They  ‘stick’ to everything especially if ones arms are hirsute. They are a necessary evil for packing.


The next layer of the oh-so-practical packing is newspaper. I get to read what’s happening in the faraway kingdom of Nova Scotia, which turns out not much.

N.S. is rawther laid back. I missed a sale I would have liked.


Life’s fantastic when in plastic.


Ta da!  A five-section snack dish for bridge or ‘game’ night!  It has no ‘Made in China” or professional stamp on its bottom so I think it is handmade. I would love to know its story.  The tessellated centre bowl looks to hold a whole bag of ‘bridge mix’ chocolate covered raisins or whatever suits your people.


Alas Babylon ! I can’t invite over chums for games to show off my treasure.  I will try this weekend to entice Someone away from his TV to play cards etc. I will set out ‘bait’ in the form of five types of nibbles. 

What shall I fill them with? 

The Spo-fan with the best list wins a month’s worth of valium (5mg). 

I need to start watching my diet. There is a perfect storm brewing consisting of inactivity at home and high-calorie/comfort foods and boredom eating. They are all coming together to wreck havoc on my waistline. I see signs at the grocers I am not alone in this health hazard. What’s flown of the shelves are the pasta boxes, canned comfort foods and peanut butter jars;  fresh fruits and vegetables remain plentiful and untouched. Sitting on ones butt at home and eating nasty chips while binge-watching episodes of Big Bang isn’t good on body or soul.
In response to the creeping crud I am being more conscious to eat less and eat better. I’ve become a fan of sheet pan vegetables. I chop up the veggies and toss’em in olive oil and whatever spices and herbs are at hand. They are spread onto a baking sheet and baked at 450F for 15-20 minutes. They’re tasty, quick, and not too expensive – like my men.
I have to be mindful what happens next viz. avoid those oh-so-tasty ‘dips’ full of nasty calories and hidden sugars (oh the horror!). The covidiots aren’t interested in vegetables let alone the more exotic types so I have heaps to choose from. I am getting into baking rutabagas and aubergines and even okra when it’s available. It’s almost a challenge now to see what can be cooked on a sheet pan. So far I haven’t found a vegetable that doesn’t stand up to this mode of cooking although I’ve learned green beans and sliced carrots don’t appreciate a full 20 minute in the oven as they turn into brown withered things quite unpalatable.
As for exercise I try to get up and move every 15 minutes. Harper is quite glad to help me in my endeavors not to sit still. She never tires of quick five-minute walks around the block. I haven’t gone so far as to make a ‘home exercise program’. I suppose I should do so as eating less and more sensible may not suffice particularly when a certain someone brings home nasty chips whenever he goes to the grocers to fetch more vegetables.* Enough now with the pasta-based dishes! Begone you thawed slabs of mystery meat put into the freezer during The Pliocene epoch.

Tonight’s menu consists of grilled vegetables with coucous. It’s a start.

If Spo-fans have fabulous grilled/baked vegetable recipes please share’em in the comments.




*I shan’t say who.

In “The Manticore” by Robertson Davies a terrified man is frozen into inaction. His traveling companion urges to go on:

“I can’t Liesl !  I’m done.

You must.


What gives your strength? Have you no God? No, I suppose not. Your kind have neither God nor Devil. Have you no ancestors? “

At first he is nonplussed.

“Ancestors? Why, in this terrible need, would I want such ornaments?”

Then he remembers his great-great-grandmother Maria who was ostracized from Ireland for having an illegitimate pregnancy. She journeyed alone to Canada to start a new life for herself and her child.

“I suppose I must have called upon Maria and something – but it’s absurd to think it could have been she! – gave me the power I needed to wriggle that last few yards…”

In times of strife I too look for fortitude. I leave no stone unturned, searching for Strength in all its (her?) forms. I draw upon my own ancestors, the Spos who braved an Atlantic crossing in 1630 to seek a new life, who endured The flu pandemic of 1918, and who managed through The Great Depression.

I also look to the brave people in plays and literature. I reach into my bag of courageous characters and out comes… Mother Courage! from the play of the same name.  When I get a stir-crazy in my many roomed house (with access to outside) I remember Anne Frank who sat in the same room over 700 days.

At times I communicate with the saints. I like the saints; they were on the whole an unfortunate lot literally taking the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune but did not falter.


While I look for Courage I am asked to be courageous for others. I see this in the anxious eyes of my patients and sometimes with friends or members of my family. This makes me feel a fraud. I want to say to the world I am just as scared as you perhaps more. When this happens Maria-like the legion of saints, ancestors, and storybook characters rise up in my psyche and remind me courage is not having no fear it is being brave when you are frightened.

They comfort me; they stiffen my spine.


Where do you go when you need courage? Tell me in the comment section.


I am back to work now after a week off  for (non) vacation. I am back in the saddle as it were. Some have questioned this viz. why the mental health clinic hasn’t shut down. I may be a psychiatrist but first and foremost I am a physician. I took an oath to help others so here I am.* On the positive I don’t physically examine patients and I can put a good enough distance between my and the patient’s chairs.


Most of the patients are coming in as usual; there are not too many no-shows or cancellations. Even the evaluation patients (newbies) are making their appointments. The medical assistant tells me the bosses have OK’ed some ‘telepsychiatry” and I am trying this out.  The ones down to do this are highlighted in lime green on my roster. There aren’t many so far. Curiously no one is complaining they were obliged to come in. Rather some are conveying gratitude I haven’t closed down.
The therapists are working – some of them anyway. They’ve been interpreted as ‘medical’ so can keep working if/when Arizona goes into more stringent circumstances.

The patients aren’t especially anxious/depressed about the what-ifs.). No one has come in in hysterics or seemingly gone off the deep end although I’ve heard about some patient’s loved ones buying up months of tinned meats and ammunition.

The ‘chief complaint” seems to be having ‘cabin fever’ being at home with the spouse and the kiddies who are already rambunctious and bored. Only a few patients are agitated/anxious about pending doom situations but these sorts tend to be agitated/anxious about anything and everything so this isn’t greatly different.
Few seem worried about loss of income/work; I wonder if this is because more basic needs are paramount (food and supplies.

I myself don’t feel particularly anxious. I don’t shake hands or physically examine my patients. The patients sit a reasonable distance away from me. I’ve had training in Infectious Disease and I treat OCD-types so I know what to do about touching things. I open the doors using paper napkins and a regularly wash my hands and wipe down the keyboards etc. I’ve gone on the conclusion it is not if but when I get the damned bug I only hope that when I do I am one of the 80% who will have a ‘mild case” only.**

I am writing this at 3PM during my 15 minute mid-afternoon ‘break’. The place is relatively quiet. I don’t hear much activity in the adjacent rooms although the receptionists managing the phone calls sound as busy as ever.

It will be curious to see what happens next. The number of corona cases will increase before it dissipates. I will probably go to more ‘on line” lime green patient appointments and less face-to-face ones. Maybe we will shut if the business drops. Who can say.  So much of life is based on the notion we don’t know what to expect next. We will take this one day at a time and find out.


Post-script written at 330PM:  my 315PM patient said he’s glad I was here and I do important work. That made my day.


*I did not take the Hippocratic oath as it required one to swear by the Greek Gods. At the time I was an active WASP and to do so violated the first commandant. Rather I took The Declaration of Geneva of the World Medical Association. I forget which version it was; it’s been updated a few times.

**Even that sounds horrible and nasty.

I need a brief break from ponderous erudite posts and The Board of Directors Here at Spo-Reflections is breathing down my neck to put out something ‘funny’.  Until I can cook up something ‘funny’, here’s some memes to give you a smile or even a chuckle. Feel free to take’em. 

Wait 2


more weird stragiht

Theres always time for tea

Goblin King

Rats at Tewke

books  La Casa de Spo has three rooms in which there are books. The ‘Blue room’ has a closet in which hangs no clothes. Rather its shelves hold books – lots of books, piled high as Fafner’s hoard and as precarious as Fibber McGee’s. I don’t often go in there not so much out of fear of an avalanche but to avoid the pain of seeing such a mess. All journeys start with a step and all projects tedious start with doing something/anything. Today I decided to pull out the books I know I won’t every read again.  

I grew up with the unspoken dogma one doesn’t throw out books. At most you gave them to charities or to bookstores to sell. Otherwise you kept them ‘for later’ and to stock your shelves in a sort of bent status symbol that shows your supper-invite your reading history. I simply do not have the room for all my/our books and I certainly would not show anyone the contents of The Blue Room closet – oh the embarrassment!  I made some progress therein but not as much I had hoped.  Here’s the report.

Most of the books stayed put.

Approximately 5% were pulled but were put back by fiat of Someone who wanted them kept for someday reading.

A handful of tomes went from one closet to another. I would find something I hadn’t read in a long time. I would exclaim “Oh, that’s a good one!” and transfer it to the “to-read’ shelf situated in the master bedroom closet.**

In the end it is estimated only 5% of the Blue Room books were actually extracted. They now lay in a cardboard box in the garage for donation. 

The process elicited in me a mental list of some books I want to read. I finished the project by going online to Amazon where I bought three new books.*** True they are Kindle-types so they won’t take up space but what the hell. This is what happens when a book-lover is asked to clean out his books. Might as well ask a dragon to fork over his hoard of gold. 

It looks like I will have plenty of time in the near future to read what with the evenings and weekends freed from outside sources of entertainment. I can’t say I am saddened by this. Some of us have been practicing social distancing all our lives and now it is vogue if not mandatory. There is nothing better way to do it than with three rooms of books. 


*The office room (room #2) has the books of worth and desire. I see them every day and it is a joy to do so. I run my fingers over them. On occasion I pull one of them down from the shelf and read choice bits – a literary tonic that always does me good.   

**The “To-read” bookshelf (room #3) is already saturated with books; it doesn’t need more. I made next to it a new shelf which I christened “The to-reread” bookshelf. Lord help me.

*** ‘The Plague’ by Albert Camus: ‘Equal Rites’ by Terry Prachatt; ‘The Faceless Old Woman who secretly lives in your home’ by Welcome to Night Vale. Jolly good fun !

I work up today with some sneezing and morning crud in the lungs and a stuffy nose. Someone has this too. We’ve had the doors and windows open lately. Yes, it’s seasonal allergies time. If we were to go out in public now our symptoms would be misinterpreted as ‘the virus’ and panic would ensue. Not that we are going out much. Today Friday marks the end of the “Palm Springs 2020” holiday. If we had gone we would have been ousted or (worse) obliged to stay in California.  It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good. I’ve gotten a lot done around the house. The shelves are all organized and all the shirts are ironed just for once.*
Spending a week at home doing housework and reading books and things impromptu must be what retirement is like. If so I could do this. There is a difference: the retirees I know seem to be more away from home than not. It must be a disappointment for them to stay put and not travel. I hope they have enough books and shirts to keep them occupied.
Alas Babylon!  I am not retired. Next Monday I return to work, ‘business as usual” – or perhaps not. I’m curious to hear if there will be more than usual cancelations and ‘no-shows’ or will quite the opposite happen viz. more than usual calls for appointments to see me. I haven’t yet heard from the bosses if it will be status quo or they will allow telephone appointments. The latter would be OK by me I suppose. Face-to-face appointments are not ‘covered’ for payment and liability. I am not going to worry about today.
I think I will start the allergy pills so people won’t be agitated when I cough and sneeze and I perhaps I will feel better as well. The first pills always knock me out like nobody’s business but what the hell if I were to sleep for a few days there’s no harm lost. The timing is good as was my scheduled week off I suppose. I’ve had two strokes of good luck this way. I hope for a third : my case of corona19 will be a less than lethal. I am not so foolish as to believe I won’t get it. May it be just enough pathology for me to survive and qualify for the T-shirt and have the quiet satisfaction I did my part to keep it from being no worse than it was.

Mid section view of a mid adult man ironing a shirt on an ironing board


*This has put a strain on decorum: when all the shirts are simultaneously washed and ironed I’ve discovered we have more shirts than hangers and more shirts than closet space. Someone isn’t going to work anytime soon either so these freshly washed and ironed shirts are going to sit on the racks for some time. Who knew hoarding hangers was more necessary than hoarding paper products ?

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March 2020

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