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Someone got his second covid19 shot this morning; his appointment was at 430AM. We woke at 330 to drive to the stadium parking lot where shots are given in a drive-through. It went smoothly and the staff were most courteous. We were home by 530AM; today we are rawther tired. He’s taking a nap and I will take one too after this is posted. 

Before he retired to The Dragon Room, Someone finished our taxes. For the first time in decades we owe money. Father would be pleased. He believes getting a refund is a bad sign. “You gave the government a free loan!” he would say. We feel bad not because we owe taxes but we made more money in 2020 than in 2019. It feels bad almost guilty feeling, when so many people suffered in 2020.

Sunday is turning out to be the day to cook – new and adventuresome dishes. Around noon I made a chili with chocolate. There was some philosophical discussion over lunch whether this constituted ‘proper chili’ as it had beans in it. I suppose it was more ‘stone soup’ than chili as I put a lot of leftovers into the dish, including some carrots going bad. I didn’t care for the chocolate, which didn’t taste so ‘mole’ as a toll-house cookie that happened to fall into the pot. This evening I am making a sockeye salmon (no rubbish) baked in aluminum foil with a sauce*, prior to a few minutes under the broiler. 

Final Sunday Spo-bit:  there is a blue bucket at the bottom of the cement pond in the backyard. This weekend it’s been windy, so things blown into the pool isn’t surprising,  but where the bucket came from is anyone’s guess. The more important question is how to get it out. It is just out of reach so I may have to brave the cold and enter the pool for ‘first dip’ of the season – over a month ahead of usual. I think I will text Mr. Aaron, the pool man, could he be a muffin an extract it when he is here this Tuesday. He can keep it for all his troubles. For all I know it’s his. 

*Soy sauce; rice vinegar; honey; sriracha; chopped basil; chopped basil, ginger. 

The Muses (or somebody like them) decided to wake me this morning with this entry in my mind. One takes what one can get, especially at 430 in the morning.     Spo

Expergefactor [n.]:  something that wakes you up, such as an alarm clock or some outside factor like birdsong or the back up of a delivery truck. 

This Saturday morning I woke at 430AM and figured, what the hell, let’s put the kettle on and do the dishes and some paperwork until Someone rises and we go visit Uncle Albertsons.  Thirty years ago I considered 430AM was ‘the middle of the night” as I stayed up until one am and rose no easier than ten.  Father had a different sleep/wake cycle, probably European time, and thought his children’s sleeping on Saturdays a sign of laziness or pathology. It had to be remedied lest we boys degenerated into crazed sterno-bums.  It took three decades but the goal is accomplised: I now sleep and rise likewise.  My twenty year old self would be horrified to know I have turned into a morning person.* Such is life. I tell my patients for good sleep one should always rise a the same time everyday, regardless how you slept the night before.  I rise every day at ~ 5AM even if I don’t want to.  Harper, who likes her morning walks,  is my fail-safe expergefactor.

When dating a potential partner one should find out sooner than later about the ‘deal-breaker’ traits like ‘do you smoke?’ and ‘do you drink?’ and ‘what is our religion (or lack thereof)?’ and finally ‘do you eat Swedish fish?’, but I would add “when do you sleep?”.  Someone can sleep in when he wants, lucky fellow, and he finds it bewildering/annoying I ‘have to get up” so early on weekends. I learned quickly not to repeat Father’s rituals to rouse the slugabeds sleeping soundly on Saturdays with cheerful but assertive ‘there’s  work to be done!”.  No indeed!  By the time he wakes a few hours later I’ve done a handful of tasks albeit quiet ones lest I disturb his slumber. Aren’t I the thoughtful one. 

This morning on Facebook I left a comment with a friend who lives in North Carolina.  She replied: “shouldn’t you be asleep?” A fair question. I should but I am not. If I stop trying to be twenty years old again, it doesn’t matter when I sleep and how much, provided I wake feeling refreshed. Harper agrees and Someone can go sleep in the guest room if necessary. 

 

Spo-fans: when do you saw wood?

Does your bunkmate have similar sleep/wake hours?

Are there ructions about sleeping in?

 

*Turning into your parent is the primal scream of youth throughout time. It’s rawther Freudian.

Groucho Marx wrote he sometimes had coffee with his friend, Milton Berle.  Mr. Berle liked coffee, and how well it was made effected his whole demeanor. Groucho once came to congratulate his friend on his successful show only to discover Mr. Berle looking low as if his dog had died. Why? The coffee was lousy.  Another time when Mr. Berle’s career and stocks were spiraling down, but he found MB quite cheerful, happy as a clam at high tide. You guessed it: the coffee was hot and it had been made well his satisfaction.

I would like to think my demeanor is based on the ‘big picture’ and not the little things, but I know I have mood-determining matters like Mr. Berle and his coffee. Let’s list a few.

Beverages.  Like Mr. Berle and his coffee, a well made cup of tea* (hot or cold) or a proper-made cocktail (no rubbish) sets the scene for a good meal or social.  I’ve learned not to order hot tea in restaurants as nobody here in The States knows how to make one properly. I am wary of ordering certain drinks in certain bars or restaurants lest the bar staff doesn’t know what they are doing.   By the way, a nice hot cup of tea is the panacea for all bad moods and ills. Do not dare to question this.

Laundry. Someone is quick to point out my moods and attitude are greatly influenced by the levels of laundry and its status. If the laundry is done, folded, and put away, my consequential insouciance is impervious until the dirty duds drawer starts filling up again.

Thunderstorms.  Many folks (most?) become disconsolate in rainy weather but Urs Truly invariably cheers up at the sight of such, even to the point of excitement if there is thunder. Even as a boy I received a pending thunderstorm with all the excitement of Christmas morning.  I get cheerful at the mere memory of some whoppers from my youth. The rainstorms in Arizona are called ‘monsoons’. They don’t last long and they seldom have thunder. Unlike Midwest America proper storms that roll in portending  doom, they start suddenly and right from above. They are a big page 71.

 

Rolling down grass hills.  This is an activity that seldom if ever fails to make even the gloomiest of days brighten with the radiance of a brilliant sunrise.  While tea, cocktails, clean clothes, and thunderstorms can be disappointing, rolling down grass hills never does. Even a little roll is better than no roll, and the slope does not matter too much. 

Come to think of it, this is the panacea of all ills and not a hot cup of tea, although the later is more available and less likely to stain the clothes resulting in more laundry. 

 

I routinely ask my patients what’s happening since we last met and if there is anything exciting or ominous in the immediate future. Thanks to covid19, the usual response I receive now is ‘nothing’ and ‘nothing’. This is often said with a grin and the add-on ‘I’m boring!”. I usually reply I like boring; it’s a sign no bad matters are happening.

Most emotions point us to pay attention to something, but boredom tells us what we are doing isn’t worth our while. With the instant availability of cellphone shenanigans, boredom is now rarer than at any other time in history – and more awful when experienced.  We would rather eat rats at Tewkesbury than experience boredom.  I recently heard about a study on boredom involving college kids asked to do nothing but sit and think in a room that had in it a device that would give a small but unpleasant electric shock if touched.  It turns out a sizeable amount of participants preferred shocking themselves – sometimes often – to that of being bored with their thoughts. 

Our monkey brains are wired to learn and grow and do things that have meaning and when this isn’t happening, we become sorely vexed. An element of why folks to do drugs, drink, smoke, eat junk food, etc. is they feel bored and cannot think of anything else to do.  Most job dissatisfaction is based on boredom and the underlying sense what they do has no meaning.  

Urs Truly is seldom if ever bored, simply because I always have something that interests me. I feel fortunate this way. There is nearly always something to do and what I have to do is worthwhile. Like Mary Poppins’ spoonful of sugar, I make meaning out of the mundane.  However, the dark side of this is I don’t allow myself times to be bored. This would be a good thing I reckon. Many authors and inventors relate their ideas came to them during quiet times of boredom when they were not distracted by things.

Covid has many folks feeling bored for the first time in a long while.  Rather than try to escape from it, let’s try to learn something from it. The quote “Be still, and know that I am God” holds truth that when things are quiet we are open to inspiration and insight.   

What’s top of my mind – the weather. Unlike the rest of the nation, AZ is at its ‘good time’ of the year. The outside temperatures are ~ 25C / 77F, which allow me to open the windows wide and do some spring cleaning. It’s time to tidy up the back porch, which is unused since October. 

Where I’ve been – last weekend a friend was in town and he invited us out to dinner at a restaurant with outside dining. Someone and our friend have had their shots; I have not. I was not comfortable despite the social distancing and a breeze blowing to wipe away the contagion. The food was excellent but I could not relax being around so many people, most of them not wearing masks. I don’t foresee doing this again any time soon. 

Where I’m going – In two weeks I travel again back to Michigan, Land of Perpetual Snow and Ice, to care for Father for a few days. This allows Brother #3 some time to scram to who knows where for awhile.  

What I’m watching  – The Great Courses’ series on Mesopotamia. I am learning of the great city of Ur, where I get half of my pen name. 

What I’m reading – I am on page 700 of ‘Anna Karenina’; there are 200 pages to go. I’ve been slogging through this ponderous novel for some time. I know how it’s going to end*, thanks to know-it-alls,  but I want to see how it happens.  

What I’m listening to –  podcasts.  My recent favorites are ‘Ologies’ and “Hidden Brain”.  ‘Ologies’ is hosted by a very entertaining woman who interviews various science experts and the later is hosted by a fellow as he explores human sociology and psychology.  I recommend both. 

What I’m eating –  I still have grapefruit to eat from January’s season. Happily they do not grow tired although they do go a bit dry. I have five left.  I will eat them with relish 

Who I’m paying attention to – Someone of course. 

What I’m planning – I am composing a list of things that need doing about the house prior to Brother #4 and family visiting us in early April. We’ve had no visitors to since January 2020 or longer perhaps. There is a lot to do, such as cleaning the carpets and clearing out the ‘blue room’ A.K.A. as the guest bedroom A.K.A as Someone’s Storage space. 

The Muses must be a bit peckish as the only thing they are providing me this morning is a treatise on Goldfish crackers. Spo-fans wanting something interesting to read are invited back tomorrow when The Fates have a turn.  Spo.

Last night when I should have been sleeping, I was reading* and eating Goldfish crackers, pizza flavored.  Nothing I have ever ate sold as ‘pizza flavored’ actually tastes like pizza, so that was a disappointment – the taste I mean. There is a satisfying crunch to the little things, combined with a good read, that makes for a satisfactory situation. It mars sleep but isn’t it worth it?  This morning while making the bed I came across two crackers that somehow made it through the night intact.**   Like myself Goldfish crackers have endured the decades. 

Goldfish crackers is one of two crackers that are the official crackers at La Casa de Spo. The other is cracker is Ritz, which Someone eats with relish. 

When I was a boy, Goldfish crackers came in only a few flavors; nowadays there are nearly three dozen of them can you imagine.  I have a recipe of goldfish crackers crusted chicken breasts, which sounds low-brow and a waste of crackers but I vow someday to make it. 

Crackers have gotten a lot of bad press lately, given they are ‘high carbs” and made with nasty white flour (oh the horror!). Someone’s Ritz crackers have ‘reduced fat’ and ‘whole wheat’ varieties to assuage guilt, but this is rubbish.  One does not eat crackers in order to be healthy. Goldfish crackers are jolly good fun, that’s all, and there is no point in trying to make them virtuous.

This morning I went online to learn some history of these magnificent munchies and I came across someone’s rating of the thirty types. The writer concluded the “Princess” variety as the best tasting of the bunch.  Now, I like cheddar Goldfish as they are made with real cheddar, and I like parmesan Goldfish as they are made with real parmesan. I didn’t look what goes into ‘Princess’ Goldfish, but I saw they are ‘a limited variety’. I suppose it is hard to find the proper ingredients these days.

 

 

*Alice Thomas Ellis, one of my favorite authors.

**Yes, I ate them.

It looks like I need to get some new white tube socks; the ones in the sock-drawer are looking rawther threadbare. I put the clean ones into the drawer on the right and I pull out a new set from the left so they tend to all wear out at the same time.  My shirts and undergarments go in and out in a similar pattern and decline. I merely replace them with identical attire. 

I cannot remember when I last bought new clothes. It bewilders me to read about folks who turn over their wardrobe at a shocking (to me) frequency. I take the ‘how long can I wear this before I have to replace this” approach.  I hear tell it’s trendy now to wear the same clothes on a daily basis as a sort of uniform (think Mr. Jobs at Apple in his now-iconic attire).  There are now rumblings about the high cost to the planet for new and frequently replaced clothes and it is better to hold onto them as long as you can. If so, then I was a ‘trend-setter” long before it became ‘hip’ to wear out the woolies.  I am a believer in Goodwill-type stores for shirts and khakis, often getting things as a sensational price that look no worse for the wear. And it is jolly good fun too.

Once upon a time I thought it prudent to have one stylish outfit just in case I am invited to a swanky soiree, in which I would make an ingress, with heads turned and all mad-jealous at my appearance. This never happened – even before covid19 forced us to stay home in our jammies, so I never had such an outfit.  I wonder though if thems ‘into clothes” are still buying such outfits, if they have no place to go.*

Last year the APA Secret Police sent out a bulletin reminding me I should always dress in contemporary professional attire on our zoom calls, but I’ve grown horribly sloppy. I often show up for appointments in my “Sitka Alaska” sweatshirt and cargo shorts (oh the embarrassment), and white tube socks (those without holes) but so far no one seems to give a hoot.  Father taught me to emulate the dress-code of the man in charge; the Boss-man I have dresses like he just came in from working in the garden so I needn’t worry.

Back to the task of buying new clothes. It’s been ages since I stepped foot in a men’s department store. In my youth I patronized proper men’s stores with salesmen who actually knew their stuff and my tastes and provided service.  Alas, that breed died out ages ago. I should go online to Lands End, which is reputable if a bit boring. Then again I am boring, at least in my daily attire.

I long for the days when I go to Palm Springs where I wear a newly made Spo-shirt and make an ingress with heads turned and all mad-jealous at my appearance.  Come to think of it that never worked either. 

 

*Perhaps they go out anyway  or they wear their ensembles on Instagram. Spo-fans with Instagram accounts: please tell me what people wear there – or do there for that matter. 

 

Cold call:

n. a telephone call to someone who is not known or not expecting contact, often in order to sell something.

v. to call someone without preparation or referral.

Most Spo-fans I surmise are old enough to remember a time before iPhones when telephones were attached to the wall or sitting ensconced on the table, and it was the ‘house phone’ not an individual. The question (after saying hello and who this was) was ti ask “Is so-and-so there?”. This  was followed by the recipient calling through the house “The phone’s for you!” I hope my memory is correct on this one that most phone calls were not expected but surprises – and pleasant ones at that. When you learned who was on the line your affect lit up with an “Oh, hi!” and what you were doing was stopped for awhile to gab a bit. If you didn’t want to talk, the picker-upper told the caller ‘you could not come to the phone right now’. If you really didn’t want to talk to anybody, you just let the phone ring.  It was an arrangement that worked.

I recently learned the expression ‘cold call’. Apparently people no longer like phone calls from others. What was once considered a pleasant surprise is an upsetting interruption. Texts out of the blue are OK but not phone calls. I admit when my iphone rings my emotions are not that of elation but dread someone is wanting to talk to me, so I am no different on this one. All the same I don’t like it.   

Brother #3 tells me his sons (now in their early 20s) never call anybody. They text rather. They see calling as a quaint old people’s thing. They also associate see all calls as cold calls.

I blame telemarketers why we cannot have nice things. We had such sales calls on our land lines but they seemed the exception not the rule.  I also blame our mania to multi-task. We can carry on a text conversation while bouncing about but a phone with a cord to the wall obliged us to stop what we were doing to do the call, which wasn’t a bad thing.

I still call folks, but I always ask: “Did I catch you at a bad time?” which is an indirect speech act to ask “Do you want to talk to me now?”. Sometimes I am told yes, and I call back later. Unless my friends and family are insincere, it seems they still enjoy my phone calls out of the blue. 

I have one friend who does not have a cellphone (can you imagine?). When I call George, I am calling his house. Sometimes he is not there or he does’t pick up (he also does not have an answering machine). He is always delighted to talk with me and he never tells me call later. It is like a phone call from the past, and it feels lovely. 

Spo-fans: do you still call people just to chat? 

Ten years ago or so I wrote about the family nemesis, Dicky Purdy. Newer Spo-fans may find this amusing as he’s been much on my mind as I am planning a family gift.

When my father and his brother were boys, their father would ask his sons (as fathers do) to take out the trash or mow the lawn -now.  As sons do they promised their dad they would do it, but not right now. “Oh fine,” Grandpa Spo would say, “I’ll get Dicky Purdy to do it”.  The Purdys lived down the street, and their son Richard was either a very good boy who always did what his father asked him to do or he was a bit ‘slow’.  Whatever he really was they boy was the bludgeon to bop on Father’s and Uncle’s heads to get them up and going.  Sometimes they did a job of which Grandfather would find fault.  “Dicky Purdy could have done this better!” which supports the hypothesis he was a bit of a dimwit.

You can see where this is going. My brothers and I along with our cousins all grew up with our fathers conjuring the demon that is Dicky Purdy to get our lead-butts moving.  Dicky Purdy (whom none of us have ever met) is passed down from generation to generation. Once I asked the nephews Thing One and Thing Two if they have ever heard of Dicky Purdy. Rolling their eye and replying with a touch of rancor, oh yes, they have heard of Dicky Purdy – frequently –  and if they ever should meet the man they would pummel him.

I remember once meeting up with my cousins at an airport but could not find them, when I heard over the speaker “Dicky Purdy! Dicky Purdy! Your party is waiting for you at Gate B3!” where I went to meet up with my cackling cousins.

Kat, my future ex-wife, recently opened a T-shirt business. I’ve asked her to make a dozen shirts which I plan to surprise all my brothers, my cousins, and their children.

I hope they like it.

Thanks to covid19  I’ve stayed home and my pastimes have greatly diminished – not that they were zany or frequent to start with.  I now get my pleasures in mawkish ways such as growing plants from avocado pits and better organizing things like the shelves. When I am feeling daring I  try cooking something new. My 20s self would be appalled by this seemingly boring life I lead nowadays.  Even if we were all suddenly released from house-arrest I wonder how much I would do.  Weekends (once upon a time) were supposed to be for travel and goings-out.  Nowadays they are used to work about the house. Tomorrow’s project: drain the hot tub. I recently had a look-see and what I saw isn’t attractive. The word ‘organic’ comes to mind, the consequence of neglect.  I hope when it is detoxified and the new filters are placed I will actually use the damn thing.

Spo-fans may think the hot tub at La Casa de Spo is a dip of Dionysian doings, but this is not so. Someone has no interest in it, so it’s my solo spot. The spa is built to seat six (eight in a pinch) and it is fun when there are others there to converse, laugh, drink, and so forth but we’ve had no visitors in over a year.  Hot tubs and cellphones do not mix – not until I get a cover that is water proof – so I can’t bring that with me to keep company.

Sitting by ones self in a hot tub sans phone sans company sans everything may be calming for some but not for Urs Truly.  My hummingbird brain immediately flits about thinking about all the things I could be doing about the place.  I remember this when I tried meditation which was a bust. At least in a hot tub one feels obliged to stay there now you are in, and getting out is cold anyway.  

Zoom meetings are popular these days, so I wonder if one can zoom with chums while sitting in the hot tub. This doesn’t sound practical, given the noise of the jets and the hazard of the laptop dropping into the water.  ‘One must keep seated for the entire performance’ lest there is scandal.  Yes, zoom and other video devices should not be brought into the hot tub.

Nothing to be done really but sit by myself and clear my mind and look up at the stars and try not to think on the dishes and the ironing.  

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