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It has been a very long day, my first day back at work after a week off.  No surprise, there were piles of charts to attend, people to call back, forms to fill out etc. It happens every time I go on vacation.  You think by now I would be used to it. Happily, I didn’t come back to any overt disaster.

A couple of patients noticed I was shaven. If there were more, they didn’t mention anything.  none of the staff said anything either.   tomorrow I meet with my boss –  I’m intrigued to see  if he notices.

Overall I do not like being without a beard.  I thank you for all the compliments,  but I think my chin and face looks funny.  maybe it’s because I looks so much like my father now.  I used to joke I grew a beard so people could tell us apart.  I think this joke has some truth to it after all.

After I get caught up and my body gets back on  Pacific Standard Time,  I hope to have some time and wit to write something inspirational.

I have sported whiskered (more or less) since 1997.  Every once in a while I grow tired of myself  and I shave.

It feels odd to be sans chin grizzle. There is a tightness in the skin.  I constantly pick my chin – my fingers keep going for something no longer there.

Most people are too polite to tell me I look weird without a beard or they prefer me how I usually am.

I think I look better with a beard. I think most men do. I usually go without a beard for a week. Then the combination of having to shave, missing my whiskers, and feeling silly makes me grow a new crop.

But until then, it is fun to see if anyone even notices.

Someone hasn’t said a word yet.

We are back from the annual Ontario holiday. We went to the usual haunts and did the usual things.  We saw some friends and had a good time.  The missing piece to this otherwise perfect pie was the lack of downtime. We were always on the go – going to theatre, to dinner, or running around town to see the sights.  Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed all of this but I didn’t make room to just sit. Too bad, as there were some excellent spots to do just that. At our motel there were chairs looking out onto the lake.  It was rustic. Swans swam in it.  It was a perfect place for a sit and a book.

I am normally a squirrel that gets restless easily. There is no such thing as a quiet weekend, for I am always getting up from a chair to go do something. I have a meditation pad, but it never gets used.  I feel guilt every time I shake off the dust.

Americans are suspicious of sitting. ‘Doing nothing’ is still interpreted as Sloth, a deadly sin. (Doing nothing used to anger The Puritan God; now it angers The Economy). Even leisurely vacations are frowned upon. If you reply to the question “What did you do on your vacation?”  with “Oh, nothing” you are perceived as an object of suspicion.

There are so many good reasons to sit still.  It is time we all make an effort at slowing down and halting from time to time. Or else. What I mean is, the body and mind have marvelous ways to slow you down if you don’t do so voluntarily. And this is usually not done in a pretty way.

I too need to make downtime. And I need to practice sitting still. This Labor Day Weekend I have no plans. I will avoid making any. I will  fight the impulse to putz around the house or do ‘catch up’ – or any of the other many euphemisms for ‘keep working/don’t do nothing”.  Let my fellow Americans and Puritan ancestors screech and howl.

I apologize for not being on line this week.  I haven’t had access to the internet all week until now. I promise this weekend to get ‘caught up’ with all my blogger buddies.

I wrote this one a few days ago, after a nice meal.

I am in Stratford Ontario for my annual holiday. I have been coming to Stratford every year since 1982.  It is a comfort to see stores, eat at the same restaurants, and do the same routine, year in and year out.  Like most people who have annual rituals, I want things to be constant. Nothing should change.  Not surprisingly, things have changed here; it is rather haughty to hope a town will stand still x 20 years. Happily the ambience of the place remains. My favorite book store may have have changed location (sometime in the mid-90s) but the same fellows man the cash register – I joke they haven’t moved since I last saw them the year before.

We attend a certain pub. It opened in the early 90s, and has been more or less stayed the same. Even the owner hasn’t aged. On the menu is bruschetta. It is without doubt the best I have ever had – enough said. Perhaps it is because we visit in late August when local tomatoes are available. Whatever it is, the simple ingredients come together to make a found fit for the gods. I order it every year. I look forward to this dish (with a glass of red wine) the way other people look forward to Thanksgiving turkey.

This year it was not on the menu; apparently the victim of too many years and time to try something new. Intellectually I was OK with this, but the Child within me felt like Christmas had been canceled or somebody announced we weren’t going to have gingerbread cookies this year – we’ve had them for 50 years now, so let’s have oatmeal shall we?

After 10 years or so of showing up/being known and (hopefully) being a polite patron, I spoke with the owner.  I acknowledged progress, yet mourned the passing of bruschetta.  She soon brought out a plate made special for me – bruschetta. Despite her apologies the tomatoes were not good this year, my taste buds moaned with pleasure from it.

So I had my bruschetta after all. August was saved. I have the satisfaction of living another year well. I am back in Canada. I see the shows.

And I had tomatoes and goat cheese on bread, with a glass of red wine.

This is a quick one, to let you know I am still alive…..
We are in Toronto. We had a splendid day walking about town. We went to the ROM to see the First Emperor of China. He was buried in a massive tomb with his terra cotta warriors. Some of them were on sale in the ROM Museum Store, but we declined.  We had a few beers on Church street. We heard a marvelous drag queen show. Now we pack our bags and drive to Stratford.  We will have 4 days or so of familiar rounds of theatre, talks, dinners, and seeing some old friends. When I have some time, I will write a more ‘real’ post. There is nothing like sitting by the pond at the Forest Motel and writing blogs.

See ya soon…


Tea, Tea, warm and sweet…..

I am back in Canada, which allows me to get a decent cup of tea. I’ve been gathering up various teas in the same way people buy bags of fruits when they visit Florida.

In the States, when I ask for tea, this throws off the salesperson. They have to remember where the hot water is located. Nine times out of ten I get a plain generic tea bad along side a cup of ‘hot’ water.  Oh the horror.

But not here. Tim Horton – bless’em – has pre-made properly steeped tea ready for purchase.  They make a fresh pot every 20 minutes or so, or so I am told.

Normally I drink ‘quality’ tea. These are loose leaf quality leaves ‘hand picked at 3AM by 5th generation tea pickers’ as I like to say. They are complex, balanced, and delicious – but they are not great for the morning.

Sometimes what I want is something strong and deep, (like my men) guaranteed to waken a dead man’s eyes. In this case I need to go ‘down’ not ‘up’ the quality ladder. But what to do?

Barry’s Tea is heralded as just the right tea for this need. Yesterday I went to an Irish shop and asked the saleslady – a real Irishwoman! – the difference in brands. No fancy explanation were given “Irish Breakfast is strong, Gold Label stronger, and Classic Label is the strongest.” She brewed me a sample. Wow.  Now I see why the Irish add cream or milk to their tea. Barry’s is strong tannic tea – but not bitter or plain.  This is great. Strong tea with flavor. A marvelous wake up tea is discovered !

For the grand finale,  I am off to Stratford, where I get purchase most of my teas.

Distinctly Tea offers hundreds of teas. I will stock up on Whites, Greens, 2nd growth Darjeeling (no rubbish), etc.

I am a happy pup.

Yesterday when I was on the plane to Canada, I put down the tray and there was an advertisement. I like to think I make my purchase decisions based on a careful consideration of options and fact, but I often sense I am being schnookered.  Perhaps this defines successful advertising – the sucker thinks he is making his own decision but he’s he is really being led by the nose.

I am bombarded by ads all day long *.  My work journals are full of medication ads. Every day I see T-shirts and designer clothes that make  people into walking billboards for products. Every time I go on the internet there are ads. If you were to ask me “What ads did you see today?” I would pull a  blank. “Lots, but I can’t remember any or them.”

As I grow older ,I grow more comfortable with products I like and already use.  New and fancy packaging or fabulous promises usually turn me off to a product, not make me want to try it.

My emotional disdain for advertising is based on the “Summer Rain” phenomena. For Spo-fans sadly ignorant of this movie “The Women”,  I will need to explain. In “The Women” the heroine thinks her spouse gave her a bottle of “Summer Rain” perfume based on something special about her.  She later learns the saleswoman who sold it to him was going to sell him ‘Summer Rain” before he even approached the counter.  I hate this.  In our house we call any purchase of  dubious objectivity a ‘Summer Rain”.

Oh well. I try my best to keep conscious, read labels, ask questions, and think before buying.  I try to get the facts behind the hype.

And I don’t buy no things from Joan Crawford.

* Like the ad on the tray. It was for a vitamin powder called Emergen-C. It tells me “The more you support your immune system, the more you support our eco-system.”  This claim has an asterisk in it guiding me to some very small fine print stating this claim has no support by the FDA, nor is Emergen-C intended to treat disease.

I don’t normally ‘get into politics’ with my patients. First of all I don’t have the time. Second, knowing their political views (whether similar or not to my own) gets in the way of the neutrality of treatment.

On the other hand, stupid people drive me effing crazy.  I should clarify my terms. Stupidity is different than ignorance.  I am “ignorant” how to change the oil in my car; I don’t know the means to do so. But with learning, I think I could do it. Until then, I defer my ignorance to someone who knows. I often tell people I don’t have an opinion on something as I don’t have the facts needed to form an educated opinion.

If I didn’t know how to change the oil but know damn well how it is done and how it should be done, well, this defines stupidity for me.

I have a handful of patients who identify their political views as “Tea Party members”.  (By the way, all five of them are either on Social Security disability, or receive Medicare).  I realize an ‘N” of 5 is a small number upon which to derive opinion. Perhaps they don’t represent the majority of tea party people. After all, they are seeing a psychiatrist for some sort of mental illness.

What burns my bacon is their stupidity of American history, particularly towards The Boston Tea Party. You would think they would want to know all about the event from which they derive their name. I’ve asked them what they know but the event; not one of them knows much about it – or has the facts right.  All five tell me it happened because citizens were angry that England raised the tax on tea. The Tea Party was a protest about high taxes. “Is there more?” I asked each of them. No, there is nothing more – it was about higher taxes, spoken with conviction.

I am taking a course on American History, and the professor repeated something I have heard before. The British government was trying to assist the ailing East India Company, so it LOWERED taxes on tea, hoping the lower price would promote better sales and help out the Company.  The tax was lowered on tea for all in the empire, not just in the colonies.

Some of the original Tea Party members made money through smuggling.  Their illegal tea was cheaper than the official stuff. The newly tax reduced less expensive competed with their ‘business’. So one of the reasons for destroying the tea was typical self-preservation.

Bostonians also felt the cheaper tea was some sort of trap. If they started buying more tea, would the British Government would come back and start re-taxing the tea?

Like most events, the elements that went into TBTP were complex.  But higher taxes apparently wasn’t one of them. I suggest to modern day Tea Party members they focus on what was behind the event – anger at a government for seeing us merely as “plantation owners” without the full rights and respects of subjects.

I would be more likely to ‘hear” Tea Party member’s issues if they didn’t sound so stupid misquoting history.

And please stop slandering my favorite beverage.

The number of visitors to Spo-Reflections has been in decline for some time now.  Not too long ago it was getting over a 1,000 visits a day, sometimes 40,000 a month; can you imagine?  Now it gets a fraction of what it used to be. Every week it sees less and less numbers.

I suppose this reflects a general decline in blogging. More and more bloggers close down and go to Facebook, Twitter, or they pursue other hobbies.  Perhaps the ‘stalkers’ who drop in but don’t comment have become bored or found new blogs to read. Who can say.

I try to stick to the original concept I write for artistic and Self expression. If anyone reads my work – let alone comments – this is a bonus. Visitors are supplemental, not integral.

Still, I have to admit it makes me sad to see my 15 minutes of fame passing. The Midwestern in me assumes this is ‘my fault’ viz. what I write is boring (translation: I am boring) and I need to ‘do something about it.” I have no real data on the matter, so it is easy to project neurosis onto it.

I want assure my intrepid Spo-fans I am not stopping. So long as I feel a need to write (and enjoy doing so) Spo-Reflections will remain up and running. I don’t plan on changing (except the headers).  I won’t succumb to vanity.

I mourn the loss of bloggers gone or lost. I am so happy to the ones who hang in with me. And I remain grateful for anyone who stops by; I am honored so.

I don’t usually remember my dreams (worse luck).  Naturally I am eager to ‘latch on to them’ and see what juicy tid-bits The Unconscious sends me. Most of the time my dreams are of little worth. It honks me off my personal unconscious is so insipid.

Recently I had a dream-bit of a conversation with my father. We were discussing ‘where he is going to live’. The dream was apparently set ‘after mother died”. (No, she is not dying – this was a dream).  The discussion was for him to live his children, rotating every few months. It made sense he would live with me in the winter months.  He was reluctant to do this, as he ‘didn’t want to be a burden” etc. I was pointed out he never learned much independent living and he needed someone to care for him.  There I woke up.

“What shall we do with mother? (or father)” is a common question most grown up children have to ask at some time.  This is particularly so when parents are frail or live far away.

My Godfather, a living saint, managed to work and caretake his bed-ridden mother at the same time. How he managed is a mystery, but he did both.  I have a friend who regularly care takes his elderly relatives, but this is his ‘full time job’ as it was.

Curious; is there some evolutionary advantage for having a gay child so they are more available to tend to you in your old age?

“What to do with mother?” is a common problem I see at work. Children with parents with mental illness like Alzheimers or depression wring their hands mother or father won’t let them intervene. Elderly parents don’t want to loose their independency, or reverse roles with their children.

Back to my dream, I think it reflects my anxiety about my parent’s future. My parents are becoming frail. I worry about them, particularly in their two story house; mother can’t manage the stairs anymore. My brothers and I have recommended they sell the house and get something one level and smaller. This is overall poo-pooed. They like their house.

Time will sort this one out. I hope ‘what happens” is more proactive than reactive.

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August 2010

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