Man talking on the phone I Antique Design Illustrations

One item I did not bring back from Michigan was a rotary telephone. I found it underneath a pile of hoarded things piled up in the unused downstairs loo. It hadn’t seen daylight in decades. It was a squat black box-like thing with a clear plastic rotary dial. The base and receiver were connected by a thick coil resembling a small python. It was as heavy as a rock – no mobile type indeed! I understand Mother hoarding my childhood knickknacks as something I would someday want but why on earth keep such a phone? I remember it though; it was replaced sometimes in the 80s [?] with a modern ‘hip’ phones with push-buttons. It hung from the wall.

Younger Spo-fans* will be shocked to learn back then people did not call people but homes. When the phone rang the members of the household actually got excited someone was calling and for whom. “Spo residence!” said the person who got to the phone first. Then there was a pregnant pause in the house until the listener reached out with the receiver to another announcing ‘it’s for you” and you were obliged to (oh the horror!) get up and go to it.  Nowadays when I am on the phone I tend to walk about. Back then your walking was limited by how far the coil would expand. You were obliged to sit and talk oblivious to anything else.  Multitasking while on the phone was considered rude.

Phone calls then were positive and surprising. Nowadays when the phone rings my first emotional reaction is to cringe. No one seems to call anymore; the calls I get are from telemarketers, scam artists, robocalls, and other villains of the trade.  Call ID helps screen out the ugly but it eliminates the anticipation of who this may be.

Another then and now matter: phones stayed put; you went to them. My grandparent’s phone was located in the ‘phone room” under the stairs. Nowadays the little bastards cleave to our sides like tots with separation anxiety, constantly chirping and whining to get us to pay them attention.  Iphones also wander off and run and need constant minding where they are located. Old phones did not budge an inch from their stands; you knew where they were at all times.

I actually thought to bring the old rotary back and “go retro” but then I remembered we no longer have a land line – another extinct species in the phone world.  I may try to reuse some of the ‘rotary rules’ with my iPhone just to teach it a lesson it is not the boss of me.** I may even return to saying “Spo residence!” when someone calls just to throw off the telemarketers a bit before hanging up on them.

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*The Board of Directors Here at Spo-Reflections sometimes keeps demographics on what sorts drop by.  The last batch of data is maybe four or five years ago; it suggested Spo-fans are of the older type between 55 and 2,000 years old. The data looks skewed as it included folks like The Muses and The Norns. I suspect they are older than 2,000 but ladies (let alone archetypes) do not tell their age or weight. Youngsters who show up to Spo-Reflections usually do so by mistake when they google something that takes them here.  I can almost hear their howls of disappointment when this happens.

**Fat chance of that.

There is a fantasy series titled “The incarnations of immortality” written by Piers Anthony. He takes the Jungian concept of archetypes and inverts it. Rather than the common man having archetypes within him Mr. Anthony  (clever man!) has the archetypes of Time, Death, Nature, War, and Fate as jobs filled in by ordinary folk. Fate of course is a three man job – no, make that a three woman job rather. These employees come and go while the role of the office stays. I think of this concept whenever encountering a revolving door of in and out staff members.

The last incarnation of The Medical Assistant (#4) quit suddenly to take an ‘opportunity of a lifetime’ job. This left me in a lurch with no word from The Boss what’s to be done. The Desk Receptionist (another archetypal job)  took over as if nothing had ever happened. Today I came to work to drop off finished forms and pick up new ones to encounter a stranger stating she was just hired as for the next incarnation of The Medical Assistant. I forget what her name was/is. It sounded like Lucretia Borgia which I hope is not prophetic. I hope #5 works out and stays awhile.

Someone got a recommendation of a lawyer we could use to write our wills. This woman would be the second one to the incarnation of The Attorney. The first one was so long ago I cannot remember her name. We favor applicants of the female persuasion; it is good to have a strong Warrior Queen type woman for legal matters.

The fellow filling the present post of The Good Doctor incarnation has done so for over a decade and I am pleased as punch he has managed to stick around. I often hear the laments from my own patients their PCPs change of them frequently sometime yearly when insurances change. People come and go so quickly here in Medicine nowadays. Gone are the good old days when your GP and you grew old together eyeing each other wondering which will expire first.

As for Urs Truly I have been The Shrink since 2005 for which my patients are most grateful*. I am an incarnation of the staunchest type well over four feet. Please don’t feed me buns and things.

 

 

*Well most of them anyway. There’s no pleasing some.

Before covid19 my job got me up from the chair every 15 minutes to escort  folks to and from the waiting room. I got a lot of steps in this way. After work it was off to the gym which I did regularly. It was March when I was last there. Now I sit all day doing zoom/phone appointments. You know where this is going: I am out of shape and very much so. The only exercise I get is walking the dog which hardly counts given their staccato leisurely pace. The bathroom scale says I haven’t gained too much weight compared to January but I know better. I’ve lost muscle mass and it has been replaced by fat – mostly in the midriff making all my trousers snug if not impossible to wear. Oh the horror; oh the embarrassment! I hate how I look: a beachball on stilts. I am avoiding certain blogs known for their photos of dudes in excellent shape as they  evoke sorrow not pleasure to see them.

What I need to do is find some sort of home exercise for cardio-health and for weight loss – and stop eating so damn much. This resolution comes at the worst time of the year viz. the ardent heat of August. Going out of doors to do anything let alone exercise is a dangerous endeavor unless done in the early morning hours.*

Other variables are what to do and when to do them.** There isn’t much space/room at La Casa de Spo in which to do exercises. Sometimes when out walking the dog we see folks in their open garages bench-pressing or jumping-about. Alas Babylon! Our garage is full up with no space to pretend I’m Richard Simmons. 

I need to research what is most efficacious program under such circumstances. None of this is impossible it is just difficult. “Getting started” is the worse part as it reveals how out of shape I really am and all the losses since March time. 

Someone has a pile of clothes to donate; they don’t fit him anymore. I took back two berms that barely fit me. I hope to use them as goals. 

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*A couple of friends of mine routinely rise at 4AM to bicycle at least twenty miles. They are trim and buff. They regularly post this on Facebook. They are also retired; they go back to sleep afterwards to estivate in the 40C-plus sunrise.  Stirges. 

**I dislike exercising in the morning preferring ‘right after work’ circa 5-6PM but the house is 30C at that time. This is more likely to bring on a heart attack than health benefits. 

Going through the accordion files brought back from Michigan I found my undergraduate diploma. I’ve long wondered what happened to it; long ago I gave it up as lost. Bless you Mother for these saving things. It’s fascinating to see what is in these files. Here’s a short list:

Photos of Urs Truly from day one up to adolescence. 

My report cards, year books, and graduation programs from grade school through med school. 

An envelope with some of my baby teeth.

It is a minor miracle I managed to survive let along turn out OK given some of my grade school report cards:

“Spo tunes out if possible and consequently does a hit and miss directions in his workbook. I am trying to stress with him the importance of listening and reading directions.”

This shows my humming bird brain isn’t a consequence of brain damage from the year of my internship but was there from the get-go. 

The grade school gym teacher Mrs. Mougk wrote:

“He doesn’t seem interested in team sports the only time I’ve seen him become excited was when we learned flag marches”. 

No kidding lady!  It is amazing how things are so obvious in hindsight. 

It will take weeks to sort through all these treasures putting them in order. It is uncertain what to do with all of this old data. Do I really need to keep all these old report cards and yearbooks?

One thing is certain: I will frame the UG diploma and hang it on the wall among the others. After hanging it I will reflect upon my fourth grade report cards and perhaps wave a flag while I march about the office.

 

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7 August is Harper’s birthday; she is eleven years old today.  She is visibly older, graying and slowing down. Sometimes she is so sound asleep it worries me but then she perks right up for a treat or a dog-walk. May she have many more years of good health and happiness.

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While packing up after Mother’s passing I often wondered why she saved what she did and more than once I had frustration at her holding onto the rubbish. However I was grateful she held onto some things. For example: this teddy bear. It’s mine. It is my childhood bear. He has the precise if unimaginative name of Teddy.  I used to tie bow ties on Teddy usually apropos for the season. He’s worn this Christmas yarn bow tie for nearly forty year I reckon.

Teddy has a scandalous story. Through love and constant companionship I wore him out to the point Teddy was threadbare and falling apart. Mother told me he was looking sickly and we would send him to “The teddy bear hospital” for rejuvenation and have his gaping stitches resewed.  A week later Mother revealed a large box that had arrived in the post: it was Teddy back from his admission!  Once again he was fuzzy! He was bright and beautiful as if brand new. Then I wore him out again as seen in the photo. Only the onset of adolescence stopped a second near-complete demise.

Years later Mother confessed she had thrown Teddy out and had simply bought a new identical one. It is the only time I have ever known her to lie to me – other than Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the trustworthiness of the police.

 

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One of my greatest childhood joys were trips to my grandparent’s house and going up to the third floor what constituted an attic/storage space. At the top of the stairs was a large pile of Boy’s life magazines and Walt Disney Comic books. There were my uncle’s back when he was a boy and involved in The Boy Scouts.  These were from the 50s. It was the late 60s and early 70s when I read them but I thought them ancient.  I read The Boy’s Life magazines solely for the comic series. They had titles like “Space Conquerors” and “Kam of the Ancient Ones”. I would spend hours up in the attic reading and rereading them.

The Walt Disney comics were mostly about the adventures of Donald Duck and his three nephews and their rich great uncle Scrooge McDuck.* There were other relations like Grandma Goose and Gladstone Gander – whatever happened them I wonder?

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This is a photo of one of the BL magazines I read and still possess. They were sooo 50s filled with lots of manly scouting things for white boys to emulate. It’s all nifty.

In my youth I also enjoyed newspaper comics. Each afternoon I would eagerly await the arrival of The Detroit News and directly go to the comic section to get caught up on my favorites.  I was quite judgmental about them; I had a keen eye – and opinion – on the quality of a comic’s drawing, plot, and humor. I became upset when one of my favorites suddenly dropped out of circulation. I was equally bummed when some comics kept going.**

Speaking of comics I’ve had an interest in reading – or is that rereading? – “Little Abner”. As a boy I didn’t understand what it was about. It seemed to be drawn well so it got high marks for that. ‘Lil Abner’ seemed odd and without a point.  Someone tells me the man who drew this long time comic strip was a nawful man and the cartoon was similarly odious. I want to see if this is so. I looked it up on line last night: I have decades of reading to do if I am to succeed with such. Mr. Abner may have to wait his turn as I first reread The Walt Disney Comics I brought back from Michigan.

I fantasize about waking up on a Saturday morning to see it pouring rain all day thus canceling all activities and allowing me to sit in a chair, a pot of tea to my left and a stack of comics to my right.  As it never rains here this set up never happens. If I am going to return to the likes of Pee Wee Harris and Unca Donald I better book them.

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*Back in the 50s Mickey Mouse was a secondary character, almost an afterthought; he was  hardly the ‘star’ he is today. I wonder when/why Donald and Mickey changed status?

**The worse example of this was “The Family Circus”. For Spo-fans unfamiliar with this maudlin comic, it is a one frame/one line comic with the same set up: one of the little tykes says something in the ‘aw, ain’t that cute” category. This never changed; I found it boring as hell. I hear tell it continues and remains quite popular. I see it as a sign of the general lack of taste in American mentality.

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“Enough nostalgia!” was the title of the email from The Board of Directors Here at Spo-reflections. I am to write about something anything that doesn’t involve me as a child.*  So be it. 

In the 70s/80s after her parents died Mother took from their library twenty small red books of short stories. I don’t know why she took these tomes; I don’t recall her ever reading them. They have stayed untouched on a shelf in the guest room for thirty years until last month when I took them.  

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“The World’s 100  best short stories” and “The world’s 100 best short novels” are lofty titles. Mind! these tomes were published nearly 100 years ago in 1927. I love a short story especially if it brilliant in prose and (better yet) it ’moves me’ in some way. ** For Spo-fans fond of literature, think quickly –  what short stories would you list as ‘the world’s best’?***   I am curious to see about three matters:

1 – Do I recognize any short stories still read in the present, the ones that have stood the test of time and why is that so?

2- Do I recognize the authors but not the compositions included in the elect?

3- The authors and titles unknown to me: lost masterpieces or dated duds?

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The first volume’s table of contents suggests some of each of the three categories. I recognized right away “Luck of Roaring Camp” and “The most dangerous game” having read them myself in high school. I don’t remember ‘why’ they are good so they will be worth a reread. I recognize the names of Victor Hugo and O. Henry and Mr. Stevenson – but not these stories. The other names and titles are unfamiliar. 

I suspect I am going to encounter a lot of disappointments; I fancy keeping ‘score’ as how many are ‘good’ vs. forgettable. I have my fingers crossed I will come across a few gems.

Later: I just finished reading the first short story “The two-gun man”. Page 71indeed!  It is a simple cowboy story with a plot twist ending that is quite predictable. One wonders how this  got in among the ‘Top 100’. I hope it doesn’t portend how things are to be. After all I have 99 more to read. I will keep you posted if I find any TGRs (thumping good reads).

 

*Vikings are notoriously non-sentimental beings although they are wildly superstitious about change. They will hang on to something old and long past its prime on the grounds ‘it is custom’. One shouldn’t try to update their wardrobe especially their Mack Weldons which haven’t been undated since the Punic Wars. 

**My list of my best short stories is available upon request for thems interested.

***Please list in the comments any short stories you believe are must-read-or-perish.

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Going through my childhood items I looted from home elicits longing for times past or things lost. Everyone does this to some degree. There is a dark side to nostalgia:  we often whitewash the past into something better than it actually was. Worse, libido (psychic energy) is not grounded in the present where it ought to be. This prevents gratitude of the present and thwarts going forward. This is not good. Most of psychotherapy counseling is an attempt to get the past ‘past’ and no longer haunting the present.  “What’s good about the past is incorporated into the present and what’s bad about the past is .. past”.

That said a child-like complex in me sorely misses some things.  In the Captain’s chest of childhood knickknacks is a small pouch of desiccated brown ‘spots’ of an unknown entity.  What were they and why did I put them away in my box of treasures?  It took a few days to connect the dots: they are elm tree seeds!  I nearly came to tears at this Proustian revelation.

I grew up on a cul-de-sac street lined with elm trees. As a boy they seemed mammoth,  on equal status with sequoias in their majesty.  When you entered the street you drove under their majestic branches as if traveling down a Gothic cathedral.  With the approach of a summer thunderstorm the elms would sway in a sonorous message heralding the storm’s arrival.  In the autumn these mighty trees covered the lawns with their brown-speckled yellow leaves deep as a shag carpet.  The white snows of winter (there was more snow then) contrasted with the brown gray of the mighty trunks.

Then the Dutch elm disease came and wiped them out. I don’t remember witnessing this – perhaps my mind as shaken the scene like an unwanted etch-a-sketch drawing.  I don’t know if elm trees still exist. Rumor has it there are communities of elm trees in the small towns of the Canadian plains, zealously guarded from outsiders.  I hope this is true and someday their seeds can be returned to Midwest USA.

Last month I drove down Faircourt St. to see the homes of my youth. They hadn’t changed but they all were exposed to the sky like a newly built suburb. The trees were short Japanese maple types no taller than a man on a ladder.  It all looked vulnerable like King Lear naked to the elements.

I thought to put the decades-old elm seeds (dry as ancient parchment) into potting soil and see if they would germinate.  If successful I could bring the saplings back to Michigan and plant them like Johnny Appleseed.  I hate to think all that work would merely result into a quick death from the same bugs.  I think I will merely keep the seeds in the chest among the Boy Scout items and my elementary report cards as things from the past that are never coming back.  I am putting on my bucket list  “Walk among elm trees”.   Maybe it’s possible.

The hosts of “The stuff you missed in history” podcast routinely do episodes titled ‘Unearthed” in which they report on various things ‘dug up’ as it were. I am doing similar digging by sorting through the boxes I brought back from Michigan. I feel like an archeologist going through a tomb.

I am currently going through two brown accordion files found in a drawer in the basement. They are filled with assignments and artwork I did in grade school. They have not seen daylight in fifty years.* It is sweet and bewildering why Mother saved this stuff. Perhaps Spo-fans who are parents can explain for me why mothers squirrel away these elementary school essays – so they can be found fifty years later? I admit I appreciate her doing this. It is a bit painful reading these rudimentary papers most have red ink corrections in the margin. There is a program from 1974 of the 6th grade choir performance of the songs of “Charlotte’s Web”. I still recognize most of the names of my schoolmates. The program says I sang a duet with Charlie Thomas who later in life became my first boyfriend – cause and effect?

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I now have the ‘family chopsticks’ a collection of 10-12 plastic sticks once white now beige with time looking like ancient ivory. They have sat in the silverware drawer all my life. I have no recollection of us ever using them. On them are four Chinese characters. I have never stopped to ponder what they say. If anyone knows Chinese I would be grateful for a translation. Perhaps they say “Wan Kow carry-out” as that is where my parents always got their to-go Chinese.

I got the album with my baby photos. They start from the get-go. The photos go to pre-adolescence when they suddenly stop for unclear reasons. Perhaps Mother lost interest in the project or she had other albums to do. On the first page is my natal wrist band spelling out my last name in pale blue beads the size of peppercorns. There is a shocking revelation here: Mother said I was lucky as I was born on the 7th day of the 7th month at 7AM in the morning.  The birth certificate say 654AM.  Dear me! My life is based on the lie and all is ruined!  I may have to impale myself on the chopsticks.

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*One tome is a collection titled “Poems I like” which included at the end some of my own. I don’t remember writing these. Another is a cookbook, fabulously decorated and written in earnest. It is humorous and humbling to see signs of being light in the loafers at eight years old. 

Walking the dog

It’s rawther hot this week. The original forecast was for highs of 47C* but it ‘cooled off’ to highs of merely 44C. Harper normally gets two walks a day but not now. It remains well above 40C in the evening and the pavement is too hot for dog feet.  At least for now dog walks are done in the pre-dawn in the chill of 30C. 

The creatures of Arizona are acting likewise; we see a lot of them on our morning strolls. This morning in the middle of the sidewalk was a big fat lizard. At first we thought it was dead but with a touch from the treaders it bolted quick away quick as a quarter note. Later on our peripatetic stroll was again interrupted this time by a long thin snake crossing the sidewalk. I couldn’t identify what sort of snake it was. It didn’t coil and rattle at us – a good sign. It didn’t seem to notice us as it slowly slide across the sidewalk. Harper was uninterested in the lizard but she was not liking the snake. She paused at a distance worthy of covid19 protocol and turned around as if to say walking was canceled. We waited for said serpent to complete its crossing and then we went forward.

Afterwards Harper had the rare ‘two dumps’ on this walk – perhaps she had the proverbial ‘scared sh-tless’ from these encounters.  Good thing I always travel with extra bags.

This is the time of day when folks can exercise without developing instant heat stroke. On our walk Harper and I encountered creatures of the two legged sort but they weren’t as interesting as the reptiles. They whizzed by us as they ran around us oblivious as the snake.**

We are back home and the sun has risen. I have a full day of work while Harper is already asleep on the unmade bed. It’s a dog’s life in the dogs days of summer. 

 

*That’s Fahrenheit for bloody hot. 

**The protocol of greeting fellow morning strollers is not clear. With women I tend not to say anything or even show signs of acknowledgement unless they say hello first. This may be sexist but I don’t want to be seen as a perv.  Men walking dogs look less up to no good especially if I am talking silly to the dog for the approaching female to hear I am a dope and no threat.  I tend to say good morning to the menfolk and thems in groups as I am considered no threat.

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