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Every Thursday Someone picks me up after work and we go to our favorite pub for show tunes and libations. The bar consists of an outside lounge area and an inside spot with bar, stage and tables. In clement weather the wall dividing the two areas is rolled up to connect the spaces. Someone and I like to sit at the bar, to better see the videos and be near to Kat, my future ex-wife, who ‘mans’ the place.* The average age of the patrons at Kobalt (for that is the name of the gin-joint) is ‘up there’, reflecting the demographics of thems who still go to bars. Last night, to my amazement, sitting out in the lounge area, were four young men. The fellows, who looked to be on their early 20s, weren’t watching the screens but chatting among themselves while they all looked down into their laps at their cellphones. I felt as if I was observing a herd of animals thought to be extinct. I cannot remember when I last saw young people – let alone at a bar.

When I was in my 20s, back before cellphones (can you imagine?) in order to find future ex-wives or other types, one went to a bar. There was nowhere else to go other than dangerous places. These bars were fun, often crowded, and with the sense of adventure who knows what sorts you may meet. There was a careful craft of chatting -or cruising if that was what you wanted. Over the decades the bars declined in number and in necessity. Youngsters can find similar sorts elsewhere, and with apps one does not need to go out looking for disquisitions. Bars – what few still up and going – are considered ‘fogey’. They are still good for a fundraiser but what’s the point of going to just hang? Besides, they play old movies and old music sang by old people. Impudence !

I had mixed feelings about seeing the lads. Part of me was happy to think gay bars may be having a come back** if the next generation starts going. Another part felt like an old geezer watching whippersnappers walking on my lawn. I wanted to go over to the group and schmooze a bit as if we were in the 80s again but I sensed they wouldn’t have a clue how to do this and I would be seen as an interloper, an object of suspicion, or worse yet – a wicked old screw. So I didn’t. I sat with my boulevardier (not rubbish) and listened to Babs singing “Don’t rain on my parade” which is probably another one the kids out front haven’t a clue.

I will be curious to see how fare the bars now that the covid19 restrictions are loosening up. After a year of isolation perhaps folks – even the young ones – will want to congregate for company again. I hope the oldsters make them welcome and Kat keeps employed.

Speaking of company, last night one of the youngsters came in to use the loo and he stopped at the bar to ask Kat what was presently playing. It was “Being Alive’ from ‘Company’. Someone have to restrain me from falling off my barstool or swatting the scoundrel when he voiced ignorance of song, musical, and the composer. This is what happens when kids are let loose unsupervised.

*Someone need not worry. Kat may be #1 on my list for future ex-wives, but her list of future ex-wives is quite long and I’ve lost count where I stand. The likelihood of us getting together is less than winning the lottery.

**”I hate that word ! (said Norma Desmond) It’s a return”.

Yesterdays’ post with its mention of painting rocks seemed a success with the Spo-fans. The Muses (or somebody like them) inspired me to write some more about color, so here it is.    Spo

Someone should have asked a few logical questions when he met me. If he had, he would have put a healthy distance between himself and a man who wants to give the world a paint job. He likes subdued earth tones* while Urs Truly goes for bright bold colors – the louder the better.  No pastels for me thank you very much! Give me hues as red as blood and greens that shame emeralds. 

This has always been the case.  Closing down my parent’s house I got to look at a lot of old photos and artwork from my youth Mother had saved in accordion files. Even then my approach was to use bold colors. There is a report card from my kindergarten teacher and first color critic, Miss Watkins. She writes I tend to not ‘match colors to reality’. I draw trees with bright blue tops and I do people’s faces in rainbow colors although she comments I do have a careful eye for color-coordination and staying within the lines. Prophetic! I also found an old box of Crayloas. In it the browns and gray crayons were almost unused while the yellow, greens, and blues were half consumed. Going by length, it looks like bright red was my favorite**  I was pleased when the rainbow was adopted as the ‘gay colors’.  I’ve heard The Fundies are outraged The Gays have ‘stolen and ruined the rainbow’. Posh-posh I see to them. You all weren’t using it properly, so we took it over and serves you right.

If you should be invited to the master bedroom’s walk-in at La Casa de Spo you would be immediately soothed by the well-coordinated quiet subtle colors of clothing on the starboard side of the closet. But if you should steer hard to port you would be dazzled by racks of brilliant color resembling a poorly made float at a gay-pride parade. Even the masks are divided into two piles: one of light blue, black, and gray (blech) masks and the other pile… well you get the picture.

One advantage of going out looking like a luau is Someone can find me easily across a crowded room.

Which leads me back to the rock that was mentioned in yesterday’s post. I’ve decided said rock is going to be a bright yellow, like that of a lemon or blue as sunlight in a sapphire. Maybe I will paint it with both colors. If anyone objects, I will say it is a U of M emotional support rock and shan’t be moved. Of course this may result in my maize and blue boulder being hurdled through the front window but I am willing to risk it. Fools like me who are crackers for color takes their chances against thems who want a world in off-white.


*After all he is a ‘Spring”.

**I went bright red myself when I discovered Crayola ‘retired’ one of my favorite crayons: Prussian Blue.  This was done on the notion children these days do not know what Prussia was.  Oh the horror.

What’s top of my mind – A matter at work. The Boss-Man announced he is going into semi-retirement and some sort of national chain of mental health clinics will be taking over running the place. My other boss, The Boss-Woman, who is well over four feet, remains ‘the boss’ but it not clear what her role will be. Details to follow as they arise. Having new owners A.K. A. The Overlords raises all the usual questions of what will change. I am in a good position that if there is any funny business I can pack up my marbles and go elsewhere. The HQ of this conglomerate is located in Florida. One thing is positive: I get a new title, that of “Florida Man” . 

Where I’ve been – Total Wine. What I like to drink in the spring/summer months is inexpensive white wine. Often these sell for less than ten dollars and they come with a staffperson’s rave review. I lump these into the category of “Summer rain”, a reference to the movie “The Women”.  Explanation on request, or better yet, see the movie. 

Where I’m going – to the office of The Good Doctor. It’s time for my quarterly blood work to check on cholesterol and what-not. Between my lack of exercise and poor diet I suspect the numbers will not be good. 

What I’m watching – the post. I am expecting some pasta and a parcel of fabric. Some folks like to monitor their arrivals via apps but I like the surprise to find something in the mailbox.

What I’m reading – I am slogging my way through “Spoon River Anthology”. It is not a quick read as I like to pause and reflect on the entries. 

What I’m listening to – Takashi Yoshimatsu. My bouncy in his early 20s dental hygienist told me this fellow and his music ‘are to die for’. In return, I educated him the painting of Steve Martin in dentist attire that is hanging in the waiting room is “The Dentist song” from “Little Shop of Horrors” – something he had never heard of. Ah youth. 

What I’m eating – Tomato soup. I made my first batch – ever. I disliked Campbell’s which was what tomato soup meant in my childhood house. I made a ‘5 ingredients” recipe consisting of canned tomatoes (proper ones no rubbish), butter, onion, garlic, and broth. It turned out well; I would make it again. Someone likes tomato soup with a soupçon of cream. 

Who I’m paying attention to – Nobody really.  After a long day of paying attention to others the last thing I want to do is pay attention to anyone else. 

What I’m planning – Painting a rock. Among the gravel-sized stones that make up the yard I found a rock about the size of a muskmelon. I don’t know how it got there. It is now sitting sentinel on the sidewalk leading up to the front door. I want to paint it a bright color like yellow or verdigris or even Jungle Red. Whatever the color, this will probably upset the HOA and/or attract hoodlums to steal it.  All the same I want to do it. Photo to follow. 

Oh ya,* it’s allergy season here in The valley of the sun. I have all the usual symptoms including red itchy eyes and frequent sneezing. My sneezing is profound. I may not be the strongest of fellows, but I can boost my sneezes have the force and intensity of a category 5 hurricane. One of them blew off my mask. I am experimenting with what time of day is best to take an antihistamine. if it is taken too early in the day this results in me falling asleep, while taken too late in the day makes waking in the morning difficult. This miserable allergic state lasts until we get a few days in a row of temperatures above 40C. Thanks to global warming, this comes earlier every year, so there is a silver lining to that cloud. Last night it rained a bit, I hope enough to wash the air out a little.

I ordered a box of the new pasta shape, cascatelli. There is a waiting period of twelve weeks for the demand is huge. While I was on the website I ordered a few boxes of some other interesting shaped pastas. Speaking of pasta last night I made bucatini for the first time. It is like a fat spaghetti, almost an udon. Poor Someone. All our meals now resemble “The British Bakeoff” as I continually critique the cooking and badger him for feedback. He prefers watching TV while eating rather than analyzing what’s on the plate. I suspect he may soon take over some of the cooking just to have a quiet dinner. He’s in for a spaghetti-like shockaroo when the boxes of pasta arrive.

This evening over a chicken dish I’m planning to create I want to talk to Someone about the pending neighborhood yard sale. There is a lot we could unload and get some money to boot, provided we act now to prepare for such. I suspect this won’t happen given time/energy constraints of the week. I am half-tempted to just put out on the curb this Saturday a large box with a sign that says ‘FREE’ on the hopes somebody will take it all. Ironically things left curbside with a ‘FREE’ sign more often than not raises suspicion to its value and the donor’s intent and in the end the giver has to haul it all back inside the garage. I can’t imagine anyone wanting our snow shovels nor the grass clippers we brought from Michigan many years ago but no harm trying.

*My upper peninsula attempt at ‘yes’.

“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive but in finding something to live for”.  – Dostoyevsky

A week ago I thought about writing on the lofty topic that is ‘The Meaning of Life’. The Board of Directors Here at Spo-Reflections quickly pointed out to me I’ve written on this topic before – about a half a dozen of times. They suggested I write about something else – ball bearings perhaps. I capitulated as I like all twenty toes. Spo-fans got wind of this and began howling like an orchestra of scorched cats, demanding that I do so. When these two forces move in conflict, I usually choose the latter and keep my boots on.  Spo

As we age and encounter matters of Life we lose faith in ourselves and others. Injustice, ignorance, pain, and death are everywhere and feel insurmountable. Life feels meaningless. We desire meaning yet we face there is none. Albert Camus called this The Absurd: wanting meaning in a meaningless world

The sad fact about Life, the Universe, and Everything is not that they are hostile, but that they are indifferent. The recognition of this axiom forces us into 5-6 outcomes. 

Denial. We look to religion to provide meaning. A god or gods and their religious structure provide us with explanations and meaning. My cousin is devout in her religions and answers all questions of doubt with dogma. If questioned, it evokes quick great wroth; it shakes her to the foundation.

Distraction. Sometime called ‘manic defense”, people throw themselves into activity and past times to keep busy. This option is exhausting: if they should stop they become in touch with the meaningless and in the end it seldom works. 

Suicide. Life with no meaning often leads to suicide.

Creativity. People become artists, actors, and politicians to make something meaningful for themselves and their fellow man. 

Then there is something Camus, Beckett, and pals suggest is better and the right way:

Acceptance. To accept that Life ultimately has no meaning is a paradox. By doing so, we are free to make our own meaning. This approach faces the truth without succumbing to delusions, distractions, or despair. Back to Mr. Camus, he saw acceptance not as passive helplessness but as an act of resistance: to look directly at the meaningless of the universe and make it so. You live Life well, knowing full well it is meaningless. ‘One must imagine Sisyphus as happy at his task.’ he wrote.

In the play “Waiting for Godot” there is a character with the ironical name of “Lucky”. He is the Absurd Hero. His life is meaningless but he returns to it. At the end of the play, he is the one who does not fall to pieces or keep false hopes as the other do.

Mind! Acceptance does NOT evoke sadness but wards off the depression that comes from doing otherwise. 

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live can bear with almost any ‘how.’”

Mr. Frankl wrote this in his book “Man’s search for meaning”. He describes how he survived being a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp. In his memoir he writes he managed because he felt his life had purpose. 

In the end we are going to die and what we do along the way is up to us.  It is up to the individual to live the life of the universe in one short life.

There you have it. 

Tune in tomorrow for a digit count.

The spring allergies are in full swing, complete with sneezing, congestion, and eyes that resemble cherry tomatoes. I have the usual risk/benefit choice of whether or not to take an allergy pill. I would feel better but there will be side effects, sometimes called adverse drug reactions. I will walk around in a daze if I am walking around at all.

I think a lot about risk/benefits. Recently our financial advisor who assured us our choice of a ‘low/moderate risk’ investment approach combined with ‘staying the course’ hasn’t made mega-bucks but it has succeeded that in 2020 we actually made money. I continually advise my patients about the risk/benefits of this or that treatment, especially medications their risks and benefits.

I like to think I good at risk/benefit analysis and I make rationale decisions, but I am not so sure. Human beings are horrible at weighing the risks of things, preferring to make decisions based on worst-case spectacular what-ifs over the mundane and the likely. I have a patient who refuses a covid19 vaccine as she heard seven people out of several million had a bad reaction (true) but she smokes, daily rides a motorcycle without a helmet, and she regularly plays the lottery. I have patients who refuse medication for bipolar depression as they read online they could get a life-threatening rash from it (true) yet they don’t bat an eye when I point out their daily long time use of Xanax is associated with falls/hip fractures and early-onset dementia.  Statistics about the (very slim) chance of dying in a plane crash or an intruder breaking into your home vs. the statistics of dying from cardiovascular disease (common and quite preventable) persuade nobody.  I suppose we are wired to zero-in on worse case scenarios. A tiger in the jungle only has to jump once for us to cash in our chips. Our ancestors didn’t have to worry about avoiding a diet of drive-through and a lack of moving and wearing seatbelts as they didn’t live long enough to see the consequences or these endeavors.  

So much of our economy seems based on appealing to emotional response to snowball-chance-in-Phoenix emotions. Security systems, handguns, government policies – even news shows all take advantage of our wiring for the worst case scenario. Paradoxically lotteries and casinos do the same. I have never bought a lottery ticket as I prefer to put that money into mutual funds. While both are a sort of ‘fingers crossed/hopes the works” the latter is more likely to pay off.

I take my cholesterol and blood pressure medications and I wear my mask and seatbelt too. I try to eat sensible and I opt out on extended warranties. I don’t worry about being struck by lighting unless it is raining, nor do I worry people of color want to break into my house.*  I might live a longer less anxious life this way. Sometimes being sensible saves your life. 

*Stats indicate the ones to be wary of are white males 15-40yo. 

Stinko. Once again I thought to write upon a topic only to pause and look through the files to discover I’ve written on it before – frequently. Once again Mnemosyne, goddess of Memory, is asleep at the switch and has failed to slap me silly saying “You’ve already done this!” I am presently listening to one of my favorite podcasts, ‘Stuff to blow your mind”. On weekends they regularly post reruns, titled “From the Vault”. I thought to do likewise. After careful consideration I think not. I don’t recall right now any blogger-buddies who do this. Mostly, it seems a defeat of sorts to report entries. Writing a blog entry starts like the opening of the musical ‘Sunday in the Park with George’ with the artist standing before an easel.

‘White. A blank page or canvas. Challenge: to bring order to the whole. Composition. Balance. Light. And harmony. “

Somedays this is doesn’t happen so well.

Some bloggers take the Tom Lehrer approach: ‘If a person can’t communicate the very least they can do is to shut up”. Some bloggers post everyday out of principle; it is better to post something than nothing. I very much admire thems who do so. When I don’t blog this is usually due to lack of time rather than a lack of inspiration.*

I have to remind myself this is not Instagram, nor is it The Duke of Edinburgh award, and no there are no deadlines or numbers to meet. ** This is my diary and doodle pad and often a spew-bucket for whatever Archetype or inner-author wants out. This ‘Rosemary Brown approach’ to writing seems to work most, so I keep going. The blog has the category “Best of Spo-reflections”; if the Spo-fans want to see my best compositions (in my opinion anyway) they can do that already. The rest can pop by daily to see what’s on my mind and I hope it’s worth reading.

Thems who blog: do you post reruns?

Thems who read blogs: do you enjoy old posts from the past?

*Probably there are readers who wish I would take Mr. Lehrer’s approach after gazing upon some of my more insipid entries. No one has yet been so crass as to write in the comments “nice try but you shouldn’t have”.

**My old contract had such stipulations but it was lost when Heorot Johnsons I burned down. I discretely expunged such clauses from the new contract. So far The Board of Directors Here at Spo-Reflections hasn’t noticed. Sometimes it is a good thing to have illiterate bosses.

I recently heard the joke ‘what was Jesus’ greatest miracle?’ Answer: he had twelve close friends in his 30s. The humor rests on the sad commentary men are not good at making and keeping friends and this only worsens with age. Older men who lack friends are at great risk for loneliness, depression, shortened life-spans, and suicide.

The predicament is worse for straight men but gay dudes have it tough as well. In history the love of a man for his comrade was something held in high esteem; it was considered more noble than the love for his wife or to his family. In modern times, if there is any sign of love between men they and those around them become uncomfortable – does it mean they are gay? Even the gay guys are guilty of this. Modern folks who read how two men in history loved each other as brothers conclude they couple were closet cases. Sometimes gay guys struggle making male friends from the awkwardness of boundaries: are we just friends or friends with benefits or what? Whatever team they bat for, it’s tough for men to be friends.

Women don’t usually have this problem; on the whole they are much better at making friends. My late Mother could go into a crowd of female strangers, start talking, and within twenty minutes she had formed a budding relationship “Oh, do join us for bridge/church/gym class” etc. She once conveyed she was bewildered why Father needed a lot of work to form a bond what she could accomplish without much effort. I told her to imagine trying to form a friendship when you are not allowed to talk about your feelings, your home, your sex life, or personal problems. I remember coming home to a neighborhood party to discover all the ladies where in the kitchen, gabbing, and the men-folk all went to the living room. The women were talking about themselves and making plans; the men were discussing baseball.

The situation is a bit better now that men (and women) are beginning to realize the importance of middle-aged and older men having buddies, but there is little success yet towards achieving this goal. Many of my male patients (gay or straight) tell me they would like friends but they don’t know how. This problem is made worse by the covid19 situation; we aren’t supposed to go out and socialize.

Traditionally men form a sort of friendship through a goal or a project. They join a sports team or a chess club. This gives men something to do and cooperate with and through this they may form a lasting relationship after the activity is completed.* Gay men have bars and some apps to try, but these are usually useless for forming pal-ships.**

My twenty year old nephew tells me he has about a dozen friends, which he fatally figures will drop off after graduating from college, but he hopes by the time he is in his forties one or two will have endured. “Cause you can’t make friends later”. I don’t have any easy answers for him or for my lonely friends/patients what to do about this. I only know it is something they need to work on. Like Ursula K. LeGuin’s concept of “Those who walk away from Omelas” I cannot describe it and it is possible that it does not exist. But it is worth walking to find it.

Spo-fans of the male persuasion: do you have chums? Do you have someone besides your spouse you actually talk with?

Spo-fans of the female type: do you have gal-pals? The menfolk in your life: do they have friends?

*Not often though. What usually happens is these relationships are compartmentalized. ‘Chuck’ is the pal with whom I play chess and ‘Bob’ is the fellow who plays second base on our softball team. For a man to call Chuck or Bob and ask him to go out and do something else out of context would probably bewilder both parties so it isn’t done.

**Nowadays going to bars to meet others is a dead enterprise. Everyone is engrossed in their phones. I am not aware of any apps for straight mean looking for chums. I cannot imagine one working.

Yesterday I had a handful of patients who used the word ‘existential’ to describe their emotions, pointing out what they were experiencing wasn’t going to be helped through medication (true).  Unfortunately, I was not able to give them my usual ‘how to deal with existentialist crisis’ at the end of a twenty-minute medication check up (worse luck) but it inspired me to write out something to give them as a reading material. I figured I would first write it here for the Spo-fans to read and comment and give feedback. However, this feels too lofty and too lugubrious for this morning. I am too much in a cheerful mood to reflect on the meaningless of life. * I am debuting my ‘colorful ferns’ ensemble today at work and afterwards at happy hour.  Travel Penguin (the dear!) sent a Aperol cocktail recipe for me to try; I am looking forward to this as well.  So – my philosophical treatise on how to cope with the meaningless of Life will have to wait another day. Perhaps next Tuesday: Tuesdays are rather meaningless in my opinion.

The Board of Directors Here at Spo-reflections sent me an invitation to their grand opening party; Heorot Johnsons II is up and ready for business. I am helping them with the preparations, hoping to avoid the fracas that was the opening of HJ1. Then, they got all the guests inside, got them pixilated, barricaded the front doors, and robbed the guests blind. I suggested this time to avoid a brannigan they ask all the Archetypes to bring housewarming gifts (livestock should be alive) so there will be no need for pillaging and pickpocketing. Sometimes they actually listen to me.

They haven’t settled on the band: it is down to two groups: “Drottnar”* from Norrland or “The Rolling Stones”** from Angle-land. Each band sent promo photos and TBDHSR is trying to figure out which one to hire. The latter group looks as old as the Archetypes so perhaps it is the best fit for the demographics of the guests. 

I look forward to ‘returning to the office’ after a year of blogging from home. I was promised Wi-Fi and indoor plumbing and a new Tarnhelm (mine is quite rusty) so things should be good to go for fantastic blog entries – like the meaningless of life.  Hot puppies.

*A real band

**Also a real band – sort of.

What’s top of my mind – Finances. We just got off a video conference with our investment man, Merrill Lynch Jr.  He conveys a rosy picture that our investments are going well.  Only matter: change my old SEP account to a newer model with better payoff. There is nothing like a new frock to brighten up the day, or in my case, a new shirt. He’s going do some sort of predictive analysis of how much money we may have in 5-10 years. I sounds like a Tarot reading. Regardless, Someone says I am not to think about retiring any time soon. Stirge.

Where I’ve been – online looking for bathing garments. Vilebrequin makes the type of trunks I would Iike viz. loud colorful fabric in bold colors. Patience above! These sell for .. wait for it… 250$! No way Jose! Most of the time I don’t wear trunks or just use running shorts. Vilebrequin inspires me to perhaps try to make my own. 

Where I’m going – speaking of paying up the nose for things, this weekend I plan to go to AJs to find a particular pasta I want to try. For thems not familiar with AJs, this is a sort-of grocery store stock-full of expensive imperial tidbits. I can’t imagine actually buying staples there – not without a sizable income.  Maybe I will go to Joannes to see if there is a pattern for swim trunks.

What I’m watching –  the avocado pits sitting on the kitchen window shelf. Finally! A few are sprouting green trunks! They sure took their time deciding whether or not to come out. Now they are off and running. 

What I’m reading – Medical newspapers. I get several in a week and they pile up. I read (viz. scan) them in one sitting. I avoid the letters to the editor for they are a gloomy collection of laments of Armageddon. Once in awhile a actually learn something. Most ‘news’ my patients tell me about new meds long before I do.

What I’m listening to – “The Age of Victoria” podcast is doing an episode titled ‘Meet the prisoners” about thems transported to Australia. It is a very sad tale. I wonder if Australians are proud or ashamed of their roots viz. a dumping ground for The Empire’s unwanted. On the positive, the majority of the transported don’t sound ‘criminals’ as bad off/poor/desperate. Thems who survived sure had guts and determination – I would be proud of that. 

What I’m eating – the last of the six meal-kits. Tonight’s menu: cod and vegetables. 

Who I’m paying attention to – Yesterday at work we had a record number of ‘no-shows’ from previous phone appointment types now obliged to do zoom – and it didn’t work.  I suspect they will call today and be told there is no soon makeup appointments and they will be charged for the no-show. I won’t directly hear this orchestra of scorched cats but I will hear about it. Oh the horror.

What I’m planning – Soup of the month is coming up due. I need a recipe apropos for spring viz. seasonal vegetables.  Any suggestions from the Spo-fans?  

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April 2021

Spo-Reflections 2006-2018