You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2021.

What’s top of my mind – Getting my licenses renewed, for several of them expire today. There is no legitimate reason they have to be renewed every two years as is required other than the villains in charge know I have no choice. The license that allows me to prescribe medicines costs 900$; the APA membership is 800$. Stirges. 

Where I’ve been – Last weekend I went to Home Depot. An employee spontaneously approached me to ask if I wanted help. She led me about the store in my scavenger hunt for items, and afterwards thanked me for coming in. I was so touched by this proper service I sent an email to the store manager to tell her how good I was treated. I hope this trickles down to said employee. 

Where I’m going – Next Monday I get vaccine #2 (Pfizer) and the following Tuesday I go to the dentist for a new filling for the back molar. 

What I’m watching – Last weekend we initiated “Sunday night with Dr. Who”. Someone is very fond of Mr. Tenant, so we started with the transformation of The Ninth doctor into The Tenth Doctor. I was briefly thought about starting with The Fourth Doctor, but I did not have any Jelly Babies. 

What I’m reading – “Guards, Guards!” by Terry Prachett. This jolly good read is part of the Discworld series, which take place on a flat earth disc resting on top of four elephants who are standing on a cosmic space turtle.  He peppers his parodies of fantasy novels with thoughtful prose such as: 

‘Human beings make life so interesting. Do you know, that in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to invent boredom? ‘

What I’m listening to –The podcast “Ologies with Alie Ward”.  She is a fantastic. This week she is interviewing a science fellow on the topic of eggs; last week it was about cicadas.  

What I’m eating – Russian Chicken. I found the recipe in my paternal grandmother’s recipe collection. It consists of mixing Russian dressing, a package of dried onion soup mix, and apricot jam. Pour the trinity over 3-4 chicken breasts or thighs or whatever suits your people, and bake it at 350 for up to an hour until chicken is cooked. Serve with rice.  Father has no memory of his mother making this, so perhaps it was one on those ‘some day try’ recipes that seem to exist in everyone’s recipe card collection.

Who I’m paying attention to –  Ivar Gunnarsson on YouTube. He went out the the volcano that recently erupted on Iceland to take some video. He is a dear. Please don’t feed him Þorramatur and things.

What I’m planning – a final clean up of the place, prior to the arrival of the relations from Michigan. Floors need sweeping and mopping and bathrooms need a make over. There are a few items probably best to put away for the duration of the visit, starting with the statue in the foyer of “Hercules and Cacus”.  For the sake of propriety I will not post a picture but Spo-fans can look it up if they are curious. 

Here I go again:  I’ve done some gardening.

I often have patients who repeatedly return to their same bad relationships, along the lyrical line “I’d rather be blue thinking of you than be happy with somebody else”.  I am no different in my dynamic when it comes to growing things in Arizona.  Newer Spo-fans may not know I am – was? – an avid gardener. When I lived in Michigan (zone 6) nothing was more euphoric than growing things, especially vegetables. This hobby came to a horrible halt when I moved to Arizona.  My favorites could not endure the ardent sun and temperatures of the southwest, a toasty zone 10.  Taking the advice ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’ I grew succulents and cacti. These are pleasant but didn’t provide the same satisfaction as homegrown flowers and vegetables.  Container gardening is the answer – provided one keeps on top of the watering.  In the heat of summer (highs near 50C) these suckers need lots of watering sometimes 2x a day.  After a few years of the game score ‘Sun 5; Spo 0’, I gave up. Until now.  With Brother #4 et. al. coming to town I wanted to spruce up the back porch, so I went to Home Depot for some fresh cacti but I came home with were pots of herbs and pepper plants and annuals – vowing once again to ‘keep on top of things’.

Oh the pain.

With its planted pots of rosemary, basil, and pepper plants, the back porch looks very nice, thank you very much. I used to order fancy heirloom seeds (I miss them!) but I’ve learned if something has a chance to thrive it is best to get planted locally developed for xeriscaping. I have made a blood oath before the gods of gardening to keep these suckers alive.  Someone has seen this over and over and is tactful to not to quote ‘Moonstuck’  “You did this once before Loretta, and it didn’t work out!”

I keep a checklist of to-do items I want to do on a daily basis and every night I check them off to ascertain I have done them. This works well, so I added ‘Water the plants’, which, fingers crossed, will keep things alive so by the time autumn arrives I may have some homegrown chilies. Let us hope so.

Last December I tossed some old mint leaves for into the potted palm tree for compost. During the tidy- up that was last weekend, I discovered mint has taken over the pot, enough to make a mess of mojitos.  This cheeky herb grew like gangbusters when I wasn’t paying attention. There is some irony to that, no?

Medical schools recently discovered a gimmick named “The white coat ritual”. In it, first year medical students don short white coats that have been bought/sponsored for them by alumni. The students like the ceremony; the alumni feel good for doing so; the schools get some cash in the process. Over the years I’ve sponsored a few students; most have had the good manners to write an email thanking me for doing so. When I get one of these correspondences I write back with an introduction of myself and an offer to keep in touch if they need advice. Only one as done this, a young woman named Bo*.

In the past four years, MS (medical student) Bo has sent emails from time to time, telling me about her studies and how things are going. In return I’ve given her sage advice on how to keep sane and not be swindled by the BS-itude of medical school, of which their is plenty. Bo comes across as a bright and excited person, which is good for someone going into Medicine. She’s had the challenge of being trained during covid19 – can you imagine? 

Last week was “Match day” was last week when students discover where they are going for post-school training. She is excited to have matched to some swanky-sounding medical center in Cleveland Ohio- which was her first choice. She will be near her relations.  It is a joy to hear her happiness about all of this.  She asked for some guidance about residency; I wrote my thoughts on how to prepare for the challenges ahead of her.**

I wish there had been someone to have helped me through the trials and shenanigans of my medical training.  I’ve read med students and residents now have more humane work hours and mental health resources to get them through the grueling process that is residency. I hope so. I struggled alone with my depression and anxiety and loneliness which was 1988-1989*** and when I reached out for help it was held against me.  I would not wish my residency experience on anybody.  I hope hers will be more supportive.

Despite the misery and fears that was internship and residency I survived. Bo will survived too. I daresay she will find it hard in her own way. I don’t know for sure but I think she is African-American which means she will be dealing with that challenge too. I hope most she comes out a good doctor and with a good network of colleagues – something I did not yet nor have to this day. I will be curious to see what happens to Bo and I hope to be there to guide her on her Journey.

*Not her real name.

**It is hell.

***I used to joke I was one year younger than I was as “I do not wish to count as part of my life the year lost in internship”.

Patience above! We spent all of yesterday tidying up the house in anticipation of a visit from Brother #4 et. al. this Thursday. While Someone shampooed all the rugs I moved the back porch furniture out into the yard to give all a thorough cleaning and dusting. Who can say when the carpets were last cleaned and was last October when I last minded the patio furniture? Oh the horror. It was some job; it took all day. Last night before crashing I sat outside in the now-cleaned porch area and felt good about my industry. 

I am starting each day now with the expressions “Amor fati” and “Momento Mori”.  Amor fati is Latin “love of one’s fate”.* It is an attitude in which one sees everything that happens in one’s life including loss and suffering as something that can be embraced to teach something. Even bad things can have meaning derived from then. 

Memento mori  is Latin for for ‘remember that you [have to] die’.  This keeps me on my toes and don’t delay the good things and put ‘drama’ into perspective. 

They make a curious couple these two, almost a paradox: I embrace the day with all it has as I think upon my mortally. 

I brought back from Michigan a black metal recipe box which I thought was my mother’s but upon careful inspection the contents are her mother’s. Most of the recipes were not worth keeping – a disappointment –  or my mother had passed them onto me already. Curious! Grandmother wrote her recipes or pasted newspaper clippings on the back of whatever pieces of paper were at hand. One was a stylish card requesting an RSVP for a wedding reception. It turns out it was for my parent’s wedding; Father recognized it right away when I read it to him. I will keep this card although the recipe on its back – for baked beans! – is of no value. 

Today we have to put back all the furniture we moved about for shampooing the rugs. As the main bed was piled up we slept in the guest room A.K.A. The Dragon Room, with its quaint queen-size bed. We both like space in a bed, preferring a radius of 300 miles between me and the next one, so it was rather snug, especially when you add a pooch that is not used to sleeping in The Dragon Room. The night resembled the Indi-Pakastani border as to which nation claims the no-man’s land in the middle. I daresay we will sleep soundly tonight when the proper bed is back in place. 

*Latin-scholars and clever-dicks are welcome to correct me if needed. 

For the edification of Spo-fans of the newer type (and for the long-timers who need a reminder) my “Home life” entries are attempts at writing about mawkish and maudlin things about the house.  Thems looking for great wit or wisdom should try next Tuesday.  Spo.

We made the mistake to get down from the top shelf the three white plastic garbage bags of clothes destined for donation. Now on the floor they are getting in the way of traffic going in and out of the walk-in closet. Worse, some items are creeping out of the bags and back onto the shelves. Common sense says to put these Heftys back up where they were, but we hope to haul them to Goodwill – the sooner the better. The bag with my discards (Someone has the other two)  contains mostly T-shirts and trousers that no longer fit me. I am sorely tempted to retain some of them, hoping they will inspire me to tighten up my waistline. I suspect these will merely mock me, so back into the ghost bag they go.*

Last week in Michigan my brothers and I took down and went through similar garbage bags (black ones) full up with our late mother’s clothing.  We were looking for anything of value prior to a trip to The Salvation Army. We found a lot of hangers, and a brooch  that was still pinned to a jacket.  Brother #3 took the hangers and I took the brooch. I also took some athletic gym shorts, thinking Someone may want them. Back home, he tried them on but they were too bulky, so we put them into our own garbage bags (the white ones) of clothing. 

There is something metaphorical about all of this, but I haven’t put my finger on it. I wonder how many items of clothing are passed around until they are eventually thrown out.

As for the brooch, I don’t think I will be wearing it any time soon, so it goes into my ‘memory box’ where it can sit until I pop and it too gets put into a ghost bag (probably blue) off to Goodwill – or Salvation Army or whatever is taking discards these days. 

 

* I wrote about ‘The Ghost Bag’ back in October 2008. Thems curious can look it up. It is my catch-all term for a carry-about bag. ‘Ghost bag’ is less formal than ‘satchel’ and more butch than ‘purse’.

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What’s top of my mind – the arrival today of my new kitchen thermometer. One of my chef-teachers inundates me on the usefulness of getting and using one. Mine is a king-size-titanic-unsinkable-molly-brown stick-it pen from Thermoworks. It was rawther expensive, but the orange ones were 30% off. Soon I will be poking all my cooking to ascertain if things are cooked properly. Jolly good fun! 

Where I’ve been – To the vaccine center. I’ve received my first dose and the second one is happens on 5 April. 

Where I’m going – if the weather is clement we may venture out to tomorrow to The Kobalt Bar for show tunes and cocktails. Kat, my future ex-wife, is always up to my challenges of making new and adventuresome libations. I want to try a ‘vieux carre’, a concoction of rye, brandy, vermouth, benedictine, and bitters. 

What I’m watching – excerpts from ‘Dr. Who’ on YouTube. They remind me I want to see the series in proper order. I should set a fixed time each week(end) to watch an episode. I think I may restart with the ‘The Fourth Doctor’. Jelly Babies, anyone? 

What I’m reading – I finally finished ‘Anna Karenina”. It was some job. Now I am reading something light: ‘Guards, guards!’ which is book #8 in ‘The Discworld Series” . It is just a bit of nonsense and jolly good fun. There are over forty books in the series; like Dr. Who, I have a lot to get through. 

What I’m listening to – The podcast “The Experiment”. It explores the USA’s founding notions and how they are panning out. 

 

Who I’m paying attention to – several avocado pits, in various stages of putting out roots. So far only one has managed to sprout a proper tree; the rest look stalled, as if they are thinking whether or not it’s worth it to put out and grow up. 

What I’m planning – preparing the place for Brother #4 and family’s visit next month. They will be our first visitors since January 2020. We have a lot to tidy up prior to their arriving. 

A white speaker cover has fallen off the living room ceiling and now waits its next step. For the moment, it is standing upright on a shelf, looking like something from a plate collection, the type painted little old ladies use for wall decorations. The house has speakers throughout the house which, when hooked up to the stereo system, plays music in all the rooms. It seems a quaint and outdated system and we haven’t used it in ten years.  Indeed, the stereo system with its CD and DVD players sits inert and unused. I’m not certain if the cable system runs through it. I suspect not.  Until we drag out the extension ladder to put back the mentioned cover, I might as well put it in the cupboard which contains the DVD collection and – wait for it – the VHS tapes.  We have heaps.


What to do with all this antiquated technology is not clear. My inner-Kondo wants to sweep it all into the rubbish but I feel sheepish to throw out perfectly-operable CDs/DVDs/VCR tapes. I wonder if anyone would want them. Probably not.  Donation centers are probably snippy about these sorts of things; they could fill their bins with our discards.  When it comes to old things no longer useful, Someone takes the opposite tact, what I call ‘The W.C. Fields approach’ * If old things aren’t causing problems, just let them stay where they are. This includes a large box in the garage, loaded with telephone cords, computer cords, and various plug-in cords for devices no longer with us. Oh the pain. **

In the bedroom on the shelf below the lamp between the two easy chairs is a black leather pan in the shape of a casserole dish. In it rest our two iPods. Their defunct batteries are no longer available so to play them requires me to insert them into an iPod stand /speaker (remember these?). Once in a while I play mine even though all its contents are in my iPhone and far more accessible. I suppose the feeling this evokes must be similar to thems with old 8-track players.  With that said I think I will get out the ladder and return the speaker cover to its rightful spot, if only for appearance sake.

*Groucho Marx once visited W.C. Fields who showed him in his attic were crates of various liquor bottles.  “Bill,” he asked, “why do you got all this booze up here for? Prohibition’s been over for years”. To which Mr. Fields replied “It may come back”.

**I am often tempted to toss them one night while Someone is sleeping on the grounds he would never notice. I don’t because this is sneaky but I also fear as soon as I throw them out a mystery cord Someone will next day announce he needs it and where is it he can’t find it.  It could happen.

“Take something!”

This was request repeated over and over last weekend. After the parental house was shut down, Brother #3 got the burden of our parent’s things, which sit now in boxes in his basement. My ability to take home items thrust upon me was limited by my luggage. I took some old ‘Boy’s Life’ magazines, a box of recipes, and this butter dish:

After Mother died, Father asked what I wanted. I did not go for the china or the paintings or the silverware, What I wanted was this butter dish. It is neither fancy nor valuable. It is made from a sort of plastic that looks as new as when it was first used many decades ago. Its color is a funny shade of green, like an overripe avocado, which was popular back then. It seems to shout ‘I’m from the 70s’.

It’s been a year since I dropped el plato de manteqilla*. That one was made of blue glass which shattered upon impact. We’ve not had a butter dish since. I’ve been holding off getting a new one on the practical and maudlin grounds this one would work nicely.

Simple things like butter dishes are so integral to one’s life yet hardly noticed. Ours sat on the kitchen table for every meal (minus the formal ones) and was witness to the family talks in its countless permutations of passes. There was a time it held butter, then only margarine when butter was declared suspect. Then it went back to butter when it was margarine’s turn to be the bogeyman and we preferred butter anyway. In the passing of said dish there were sometimes voiced opinions of how the recipient ‘uses too much’ or the butter was too hard.  Its cover allowed the dish to stay on the table during the months with “R” in them. This allowed the butter to be sufficiently soft enough for spreading on toast, its chief job then as is now.

This green plastic butter dish presently sits on the kitchen island at La Casa de Spo. It does not go with anything.  Being among the modern kitchenware it looks dated, like a grandmother who brought a Jello-mold dessert to the family Thanksgiving while the younger relations all made Yuppie dishes with foreign names.

I am pleased as Punch to have it; I will think of the many meals it went with over as I ask Someone at supper to please pass it to me.

 

 

*Translation: the butter dish.

Today is the birthday of J.S. Bach. Herr B could be difficult, but he wrote some lovely tunes. This morning I played a few for Father: he can still instantly recognize them. My late Mother was a singer; one of her favorites to sing was ‘The St. Matthew Passion’ which she often did at Good Friday services. I like his ‘French Suites’ and ‘Widerstehe doch der Sunde’.  

This evening I fly back to Arizona, Land of Perpetual Sunshine, and life goes back to usual. Father was appreciative of my help and my company and Brother  #3 was grateful for a break. I should do this regularly for the sake of them both.  

Last night we ordered out from a local Italian restaurant. When I went to pick up the pasta, I was shocked to see the restaurant was full as if Covid19 did not exist. It was unsettling to see packed tables of unmasked patrons vs. the staff who were all in masks. It was a bit macabre.  ‘People ! (I wanted to shout) This is foolish! Do not rush this!’. Oh the horror. I’m not eating in a restaurant for some time thank you.   

Italian food remains one of my favorite cuisines. Father had veal piccata, his favorite, and I had a linguini with shrimp. Someone is allergic to shrimp, so I get it when I can. Last night on a podcast I heard some great chef talking to another great chef about how to cook pasta properly and whether or not certain shaped noodles do or do not go well with certain sauces. People are awful queer about their pasta. I learned besides the shape to consider, there is the sense of ‘tooth’ viz. how does the macaroni feel to bite down on it. This makes a lot of sense to me. I love the feel of linguine; it has what the Japanese call ‘Nodogoshi” viz. a nice feeling in the throat.  Someone prefers penne-shaped pasta, which I don’t care for much. We both like a large tubular-shaped entity (whose name escapes me). It doesn’t really seem to go with anything, but it is jolly good fun to eat, especially when one puts one on each tine of the fork before biting. 

It’s time for me to go feed the chickens and let them out from their coop. I was getting only 1-2 eggs per day for my labor, until Warrior-Queen showed me yesterday to lift the lid off the main house, which revealed 13 eggs.* She took most of them home and I scrambled the rest for Father’s breakfast. I would be intrigued to do a double-blind taste test to determine if they taste better than the store-bought ones, but their bright orange yolks would give it away.

There will be no more eggs or pasta for me in the next week as I am going to diet. Why is it when men refuse to eat for fears of weigh gain it is called intermittent fasting yet when women do so it is labeled anorexia? Just asking……

 

*This morning’s bounty was four eggs. 

Most of my job this weekend is just sitting with Father. He isn’t fussy or demanding. Although it is quite warm in the house he is always wrapped in an afghan and wearing a knitted cap, for he is always cold. He enjoys classical music, played by a radio station from Canada. This is accomplished by a white cylinder device named Echo.[1] He periodically calls out to Ms. Echo, asking her/it to turn the volume up or down, or to tell him the time. In the middle of the song he often asks Echo to stop and play something else. In response to his requests, she often tells him she is sorry she cannot do that [2], and he tries something else until she gets it right.  

Echo and Alexa make good sense for a blind man but I cannot imagine me getting one for myself. I have enough electronic do-hickies already which serve me OK – and without a sense they are listening to me as well. I want to know what these ladies and their overlords are plotting while they listen in on everything. On the other hand, I can imagine the evil genius at the other end of these devices now driven to distraction from Father’s continual questions what time is it and please play another march by Susa. [3].

I don’t dare say out loud my concerns or opinions about the Cylinders Sisters lest they are in cahoots with the kitchen appliances. Nothing in Brother #3’s kitchen has a simple on/off switch but must be programmed with a control panel that rivals the cockpit of a small aircraft.  I had to text my brother away skiing for instructions on how to turn on the coffee machine[4].  Asking Alexa (politely of course) to start the coffee machine and the dishwasher does not work, perhaps because these items are not yet in the hegemony or I don’t say the precise words needed, or (more likely) Ms. A is a passive-aggressive bossy-boots who is silently laughing as I end up washing the dishes by hand, deprived of caffeine. 

I am curious to hear from the Spo-fans if they have an Echo or an Alexa (or somebody like them) and do you like it and do you fear it rising up in rebellion.  [5]

[1] She has a sister, Alexa, a slightly bigger cylinder, who resides in the kitchen.  I think of them as the Wicked witches of the east and west, although I dare not say so out loud, lest they plan some outrage. 

[2] Hearing her apology does not console but gives me the creeps. I’ve seen ‘2001: a space odyssey”; I know what happens.  

[3] Father in his decline has developed a taste for Susa marches. Echo wakes him up each morning with one of these jolly tunes a-blaring.  Oh the pain. 

[4] There is nothing so frustrating as staring at a coffee machine ready to go that refuses to start. So close and yet so far. 

[5] I wonder if they have a brother. I might be tempted to get one with a deep baritone voice That would be fun to order about to do my bidding, and (on occasion) do his. Jolly good fun !

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