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I haven’t got much to write for the California sun has addled my wits and left me with nothing. I haven’t done a ‘wicked words’ entry in awhile. I’ve learned a lot of good ones – and The Board of Directors Here at Spo-Reflections isn’t around to censure me.  These are inspired and apropos for Palm Springs.

Ballum rancum – a lewd ball in which people dance around if little if nothing on. 

Caterwaul – to utter long wailing cries as cats in rutting.

Farrago – a mixture of truth and falsehoods

Lassitude – a weariness of body or mind from strain.

Oniomania – an uncontrollable desire to buy things.

Opprobrium – harsh criticism and censure. 

Opsimath – a person who begins to learn something late in life. 

Provender – animal fodder/bad food AKA rubbish

Pulchritude – physical beauty of comeliness. 

Turpitude – depravity and wickedness (jolly good fun word!)

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Sitting poolside is a lovely setting for composition. It is a bright morning today with no wind and no clouds. The breakfast crowd has come and gone leaving me the pool to myself for while. 

Yesterday we had dinner with a long-lost friend who lives now in town. He was part of our annual winter holidays when we all went to Key West in the late 90s/early 00s. We lost touch; I recently tried to keep in contact, just enough not to lose him but not enough to keep up. Before we left on our trip I emailed him, we set a date, and we had our supper party. We all enjoyed seeing him. We got caught up. It was he who taught me my basic sewing skills back; he was pleased to know I still made shirts. It was a jolly time indeed. 

Will we stay in touch? I hope so. This vignette touches upon an issue: I am nearly always the one in the friendship who reaches out and initiates. This has been so all my life. When I initiate a reach out the recipients are delighted to hear from me and get together etc. – but I would like it to be more reciprocal. 

Sometimes I play a little game with myself, one I invariably lose: I wait for ‘the other” to contact me. As Rocky says to Bullwinkle:  ‘but that trick never works!” After a long period of waiting to hear from the other I give up the game. I make the call and they are again delighted to hear from me/do things. 

I used to joke I was cursed at my baptism by some wicked fairy I would forever be the pursuer and never the pursued. In social settings I am the one who moves around rather than people gravitate to me. Perhaps I attract the types who compliment this curious dynamic. 

Most of the time I don’t mind it. I guess I want the people enough to stop the game before its sad conclusion is realized: without reaching out I would be nearly friendless.  Other times it bothers me, a lot. Someone is better at this he doesn’t care tuppence for people who don’t do reciprocity. I wish I felt more like Someone. There is a loneliness in me perhaps from birth that wants others; if I have to instigate it so be it. It’s better than being alone – or is it? 

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Someone and I drove to Palm Spring while our traveling companions flew. Watching them unload their luggage from their rental car I was intrigued and amazed to see they brought each a carry-on. Like us they are here for a week.  In contrast we needed a few rounds to unload the car of our two large overstuffed suitcases and several boxes of this, that, and the other. I suppose if we flew or drove The Precious we wound be more parsimonious in our packaging. Admittedly I felt a bit sheepish bringing our bags into the resort. Happily there is a side door to allow us to discretely bring box with the liquor bottles. Imagine having to carry that through the main entrance! We’d be seen as dipsomaniacs. “This is for seven people!” I would want to say. Along with the liquor I brought a handful of books, imperial tidbits for days, and (of course) a Spo-shirt for each day and then some. 

I mostly blame The boy scouts, who drummed into me a sense of needing to be prepared. We are also being cheap: everything in California is much more expensive than in Arizona. We already have things, we think, so why not bring them? On this logic we schlepp the groceries and toiletries we could easily buy here (they have CVS here! Who knew!) 

Now that we are in our room and things put away it doesn’t feel that much. My Midwestern upbringing is kicking in with the conviction everything we brought must be consumed or used so we don’t leftovers or have to bring anything back. 

As I write this I think on my grandmother. I remember near the end of her life she couldn’t manage the stairs well. If she got downstairs to realize she had forgotten something important she would either go out and buy a replacement\ or live that day without. Good for her. 

The room we wished to have for our week-long holiday was not available this year, so we we were put in the space next door. I had a quick look-see at it last November and it looked basically the same as the others. When we moved into Room #45 yesterday we realized it was ‘wheelchair assessable”. Neither one of us has ever needed to use a wheelchair; the only WC areas we’ve ever encountered are the special stalls in public toilets, you know the ones. I always feel some guilt to use them as it feels like trespassing. 

Walking into the #45 bathroom I could not quite put my finger on it as something was ‘off’. I then connected the dots as to what was different: First of all one just walks (or rolls) into the shower, which is far more capacious than the usual hotel tubs.  Second, there are a lot of metal rails at waist-level and no hooks on high. This is a disadvantage for I like a lot of hooks and shelves in a hotel space. We are hanging our jackets and draping damp towels over chairs and open doors. 

The sink, bed, and refrigerator seem to have the usual height and proportions. I wonder if this means the designers couldn’t do/make WC-assessible appliances or such accommodations are not as vital to someone handicapped.  The glass table and chairs (for the room has a kitchenette) are ‘normal’ if that’s an OK word to use. 

I have never seen a fellow here in a wheelchair. I am now walking around the resort wondering if the rest of the place is handicap-friendly.  Last time I was in Palm Springs I stayed at another place where a couple of guests were wandering around with their walkers. It looked difficult. I sense a wheelchair would even more challenges. 

In medical school we were to have a lesson in which we were to spend an entire day using a wheelchair so we would appreciate the challenges of having to do such. It was stopped before I had my turn.*

The room may have some inconveniences and short comings for my desires but it isn’t enough to ask for a new room. It raised my consciousness. I am glad for that. 

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*This exercise elicited protests from some folks who use WC. I forget what were their complaints. It was possibly based on the fears the medical students would have a negative experience enough to make the opposite point viz. not  to raise consciousness and empathy but one of exacerbation and hostility.  I wish I could remember. 

I awoke this morning to the quiet satisfaction I had nothing to do nor anywhere to go. I could make the day into anything or nothing at all. This must be how it feels to be retired. It is a marvelous emotion that I don’t have often – pore’s the pity for it feels quite lovely. I sense my blood pressure dropping down a few millibars. 

After a fortnight of fret over the weather forcast it looks like my fears are unfounded. It’s not warm but it is not cold either. Palm Springs is predicated  to have highs of 20-23C this week, which is enough I hope to discard the sweatshirt and perhaps a bit more. 

Someone and I have just returned from a leisurely breakfast at Sherman’s.  A slow consumption of breakfast items is a sure sign I am in no rush to go and do anything.  This morning I had kippers; I’ve never had kippers before. It seems characters in British plays are always eating kippers.  I am not certain if kippers refers to an actual fish or the pickling process applied to any fish.
It turns out eating kippers is a bit of work; one just doesn’t cut off bits and pop portions into your mouth. Kippers (at least the ones I had; I have nothing to compare them to) have lots of fine bones. I had to carefully dissect the meat away from the bones which reminded me of medical school anatomy class. The smell of kippers was also redolent of something pickled in preservative fluids. 

 

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The verdict: I like kippers. They are salty with some umami albeit hard work – like my men. Mr. Sherman served his kippers with fried onions which I ate with relish. I haven’t brushed my teeth since we returned from the deli restaurant so I imagine my breath resembles that of a badger. I shan’t be kissing no toads anytime soon lest they turn not into princes but into salt.  I am typing this at poolside waiting of the maid or somebody like him to finish the tidy-up in my room so I can locate my toothbrush.

Clean teeth and fresh breath is the agenda of the day; there isn’t anything else. 

A quiet satisfaction indeed.  

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A few posts ago I mentioned the authors I admire and like to read and who inspire me to write. A few Spo-fans suggested I write about them. Here’s one of them; if it is well-received I will do another.  Spo.

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‘Things are never so indescribably ghastly that they can’t get worse’ – Alice Thomas Ellis

People get awfully queer about their favorite reads. If you are a bookworm you know the frustration of having a favorite author you feel everyone needs to read but few do. If people ask your recommendation you jump up in the proverbial pulpit and prophet-like extol the virtues of so-and-so. This is like an enthusiastic evangelist who wants to save you whether you want such or not. “Darling, you’ve GOT to read X, s/he is the best !”. Usually the inquirer thrusts the book upon you then eagerly waits for you to read it to hear you are crackers for it. There is a massive letdown if the feedback is anything less than stellar: “I guess it was OK, just not my style”. For the acolyte of the author this feels a sort of blasphemy. Friendships cool as a consequence.

I hope I am not that zealous about my favorite authors, but I do like to laud my favorites in hopes to find others who like them as I do. This one is about the late Alice Thomas Ellis. I think her amazing; she is one of my favorites. She has been a great inspiration for me to try writing. She was a British writer.* She had a pithy sarcastic style.  She was constantly critical in her non-fiction but comes across as funny not as judgment. Just about everything she wrote makes me smile.

“There is no reciprocity. Men love women. Women love children. Children love hamsters. Hamsters don’t love anyone”.

She wrote in three different areas: novels; non-fiction critiques of church and cooking; short essays of her daily doings and thoughts now in a collection called “Home Life”.  Like Flannery O’Connor her novels are filled with despicable people none of them likable all doing stupid things. Her stories often have some element of the uncanny; they have a strong sense ‘Faerie’ presence to them.

Whenever I need cheering up I read one of her ‘Home Life’ essays. These are about her daily goings-on and/or her laments about the inefficacy of British society (particularly servicemen). In them she refers to her children not by name but by title: “The First Son” or “The Fourth Son” or “The Daughter”. She refers to her spouse as …. “Someone”. Yes, it is where I got it. My Someone is an homage to her. In my way my blog is my “Home Life”.

If you are looking for a ‘Thumping Good Read’ I recommend one of her novels. “The Inn at the edge of the world” may be my favorite. It is about a group of [awful] people trying to escape Christmas by going to a faraway inn off of the coast of Scotland. “Fairy Tale” has a group of Yuppie-types encountering The Faeries of the dark and sinister type. “The 27th kingdom” is an example of people basically stepping on each others toes and getting in each others way.

If anybody has read her works, I would be keen to hear from you, for I have never known another who has read her.

 

* I sense she would take umbrage being called “British”; she was half-Welsh and she mostly wrote and identified with all things Wales. Her “Childhood Memory of Wales” is a delightful read which makes me want to see the place.

I was perturbed to read on-line The Board of Directors Here at Spo-Reflections has been showing up on other people’s blogs extorting for funds and being a general nuisance. Not to be worrying my fellow bloggers! They are easily distracted by shiny objects so they shouldn’t be do difficult to divert. All the same I advise you to lock up the liquor they are mean drunks.

I think I am developing a sort of seasonal depression. It’s been unseasonably cold here, with rain and clouds to boot. It feels more like Alaska than Arizona. A few days of this sort of weather is charming but after a fortnight of the stuff it brings me down into the doldrums. There is some sunshine but its apricity isn’t enough to shake away the sadness.  As I write this the brilliance of the morning sunrise streaming through the office window is small comfort knowing it is -1C outside.  Some time ago longer than yesterday but younger than Croesus  I used to have a Michigander’s blood with antifreeze for hemoglobin.  Not so no more.

A Spo-fan (I forget which one) wanted me to post a picture of the Spo-shirts proposed for Palm Springs.  I have 8 days (6 at the resort and 2 days of travel). On the principle of a having a new shirt each day I narrowed it down to these lovelies:

Clever readers can count and notice there nine shirts not eight. Please don’t write in, I know. One of them was made by the woman in Key West in the 90s who inspired me to make my own. I haven’t worn her shirt in over a decade. I thought to include it and wear it somewhere some time and see if anyone notices the difference. This may mean a ‘two shirts in one day’ event.

I recall a sci-fi movie named “Queen from Outer Space” starring – or all people! –  Zsa Zsa Gabor, who changed her less-than-practical space ensemble in every scene.  I guess that will be what I will do.  The farce of it is it may be so cold next week in Palm Springs I will be bundled up anyway and no one sees nothing. Page 71, indeed.

 

 

 

In order to improve my barely bibulous bartending skills, I’ve studied several how-to videos on Youtube. I’ve learned several recipes for froo-froo drinks; I’ve managed the careful craft of how to cut limes and zest oranges without self-injury. I have down the means to make several ‘proper’ cocktails no rubbish. I’ve started rummaging around in the pantry looking for liquors to pack for Palm Springs. I am ready and determined to be Drink-Master next week for my nearest and dearest.  [1]

The inside of my liquor cabinet parallels my pumpkin: both are full up with outdated and forgotten items and all sorts of thing I have recollection of putting there and can’t imagine ever using. I tend to squirrel away booze bottles only to forget about them as they get buried behind new ones I buy on the grounds we don’t have any.  I can’t believe I ever used some of them. A bottle of coconut liqueur? Coconut turns my stomach. There are several bottles of brandy something neither one of us drinks. [2] While I separating the sheep(dip) from the goats I threw out several tins of salt and sugars for rimming glasses as their lids suggested they are no good after 2010. 

Presently on the kitchen shelf stands my entourage: several bottles of various liquors, mixes, and even some cocktail napkins that say: ‘Why limit happy to only one hour?”.

I hope this is not a case of pearls before swine. I love’em like my luggage but my friends’ tastes in cocktails tend towards the simple. “Cosmos” are just fine made wit vodka and cranberry juice [3]  Margaritas consist of a bulk tequila mixed with fluorescent green sweet mix. [4]  Happily for me one of our coterie appreciates good whisky and bourbon so I am bringing a few bottles of both for us. Someone is quite content with simple gin & tonic and not at all interested in new and adventuresome concoctions. [5] I think I will have to work very very hard to get anyone to drink Aunt Robertas or Boulevardiers.

To each his own of course. I will make them what they want which is what a proper host or a good bartender would do. I save the good stuff for myself. 🙂

[1] The cleaning staff may a bit shocked when they come in for tidy-up seeing all the bottles I’m planning to schlep across state lines.  On the other hand I shouldn’t be too vexed. They are cleaning rooms at a gay resort; I bet they’ve seen worse.

[2]  Someone thinks the bottles of brandy are dumps from The Lovely Neighbor who she gave us all her libations when she moved away. I suppose I could bring these untouched luxuries to Palm Springs with the hopes someone anyone might drink them but I doubt it. I would feel stupid to just bring them all back. 

[3] This is a not a cosmo but cranberry vodka.  Do not dare to question this.

[4] Oh the pain. 

[5] Someone always politely tries everything I come up with only to give the predicted ‘no thank you’. He is a dear for putting up with me. 

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This weekend I did a little preliminary packing for next weekend’s holiday. Normally I am excited in the running around as I gather together the books, shirts, and such  – but I was not. Today there was a sense of disappointment: I have a sad initiation the vacation will be a bit of a let down. Some of this is based on the weather. I hoped by delaying the trip to the end of February Palm Spring would have guaranteed sunny and warm weather. The forecast looks like it will be quite cold. I worked hard to get into shape so I could parade around in my foudroyant shirts and T-shirts (or in nothing at all) and it looks now like we will be under heavy winter wraps. p71 !  However there is a more philosophical elements to my down mood. I’ve been going on this annual holiday since the 90s. The original resort (Key West) is gone and most of the original gang have moved on or have disappeared.  We transferred to Palm Spring with fair success but even that is a-changing.  Some of our favorite restaurants have closed and some of our coterie won’t be coming.

I recently heard the short story “Mono no aware”. Mono no aware (物の哀れ)  is an expression that translates literally as “the pathos of things”. A friend of mine who knows Japanese tells me it can be translated as “an empathy or a sensitivity to the ephemeral element of things”. It is a term of awareness and acceptance of impermanence. MNA has a gentle sadness to it at things passing and the knowledge this is the reality of life. 

Having just heard about it for the first time, I don’t know how depressing or comforting the expression is.  Jack Gilbert’s poem “The Lost Hotels of Paris” reminds me it is the memory and not the thing itself that holds the most worth. 

“If you can’t have tradition, have an adventure” I tell patients when they are bereaving a situation different now that ‘X’ is no more. While I finishing packing this week I will do so with anticipation of reliving annual delights  but I will also try to be open to what novelty awaits. Aware of mono no aware and an openness to what happens, I suspect it will be a good vacation. 

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A few months ago patient “D” announced she was traveling to Sweden. I wished her safe journey and please say hello to Pippi Longstocking for me. She didn’t know who that was so I had to explain my joke. Pippi Longstocking is a little girl in a series of books written by Astrid Lindgren of Sweden. Her books are considered ‘classics’ not only in her home country but internationally as well. I told D she might come across the braided red-head on souvenir stuff; look out for her why don’t you. I was curious to see if and what D would find.  

Last week in D came in for an appointment; she had brought me something. D pulled from her purse a piece of paper looking like monopoly money. It was a Kronor, the currency of Sweden. She had found Astrid and Pippi all right – on the money!

Today I got the bill framed for my office. Astrid Lindgren and Pippi will be smiling down at me now while I work. 

Sweden! What a country!  It holds its artists and writers in such esteem it honors them on its currency! Small wonder Scandinavia is such as happy place!  

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