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I failed to notice last week or so the stats counter on the blog surpassed two million visits. I was watching for this and it slipped by while I was asleep at the switch. It reminds me of the time in the 70s we all piled into the Ford station wagon to watch the odometer turn 100,000 miles, only to become distracted with the scenery. When we looked it was 100,003.

Two million visits! Patience above! The number is humbling. It is an honor that anyone stops by to read my scribbles. I don’t know the demographics, only then number. I don’t know how many were ‘bots’ or how many were people who actually wanted to come here. Perhaps some poor sod was searching for something like a ‘pest control company in Tewkesbury’ or ‘how to make a proper cup of tea’ – and got me instead. What a disappointment.* I wonder too how many of the two million were unique visitors vs. ‘repeats’. I daresay the number of visits from The Late Ann Marie must make for a third of them.

Now that I have done the obligatory Midwest self-deprecation, let’s look at the ‘wow’ element.

While I was minding my own business, writing what I want, there has been an audience and apparently a big one. It is literally awesome.

I have a fancy to figure out how long it took to get to a million and how long it took to make it two. There is another part of me that doesn’t care. I keep writing and a-scribbling and am just glad to have someone, anyone, drop by to read it all. No doubt many ‘visitors’ weren’t intentional or repeats, never to return. I like to belief even a one time encounter with someone can alter things. Every blogger buddy and Spo-fan started with somebody dropping in.

I am curious to see what the next million will be like.

Groovy.

*A cousin once told me she was googling for a javelina-shaped gingerbread cookie-cutter and found my blog that way.

The Board of Directors Here at Spo-Reflections recently had one of their so-called ‘Seasonal Board Meetings’, which is done every few years (when they remember). It is followed by a staff meeting and sponsored luncheon and (if all goes well) nobody dies. They were unanimous they can’t figure out what the gods am I doing here these days. They found my earlier-this-week entries ‘Urspo tells a story’ dirty and the ‘Wuthering Heights’ treatise disgusting and they liked them a lot, but there seems to be no consistency with theme or content. I explained for the umpteenth time when you have the brains a hummingbird as I do and are trained in the classic psychoanalysis of free association, that happens. As part of my performance improvement plan, they locked me in one of their oubliettes for awhile – ‘until I shape up’ – whatever that means. I am writing this from deep below Heorot Johnsons II. Like Milo, I have for company The Which. She lent me her WiFi password, thus this entry.

Being in prison with nowhere to go gives one time plenty of time to think. It was Memorial Day weekend 2005 when we moved to Phoenix. That’s seventeen years ago. I celebrate the event each year by making macaroni salad and spareribs. This year the salad turned out well. I didn’t repeat the mistake I did last year to use whole-wheat pasta but proper generic elbow macaroni. I am being lazy and adventurous to cook the ribs first by boiling and then finishing them indoors in the oven. Standing outside in the ardent heat over hot coals (and high allergen counts) isn’t much fun.

The years I’ve lived in Arizona have been a blur, made possible by doing the same job/doing the same things over and over. While there are ‘seasons’ here they are not as obvious (or as nice) as the typical ones in the Midwest. Perpetual sunshine adds to the sense of time both not passing and whizzing by like a rocket.  The pandemic didn’t help, although this now feels like a dream – did it happen? 

Looking forward, there are no immediate great plans for the summer or the next twelve months. We will allow ourselves a few weekend trips by car. These allow us to not lose too much time away (both of us don’t get paid when we do not work) and we can turn run tail and drive home if Harper is having problems. We are both a bit fearful to get too far away from home lest she take a turn for the worst. She is never happy at the daycare centre and at times she stops eating, causing the keepers to raise alarms.

So begins my 18th year in the Southwest. The food is good if you like it spicy.* I would like Year #18 to have some shake ups if I can get help doing so. 

Meanwhile I sit with figurative and literal fetters and wonder what happens next and when I get released. Probably this evening. While my boisterous bosses enjoy locking people up they aren’t particular about keeping them in.  

*By now ‘Mexican food’ has been changed to ‘food’. It’s what’s on the menu.  

I haven’t done a ‘meme’ in a while. This morning over breakfast Someone was reading ‘Vanity Fair’. I saw Lily Tomlin’s picture and asked about it. He explained the magazine has a meme that it regularly asks celebrities to fill out. He read me the questions and her answers. I thought this would be a jolly good fun entry for myself and Spo-fans to read and do. There are thirty-three questions, so I thought to break this into three parts of eleven. Enjoy. Spo.

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness? Being content in the moment at hand. Happily this is possible a lot of the time in various circumstances.

2. What is your greatest fear? The triumph of Ignorance over Reason in any scenario.

3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? To immediately go to “The Clown” in response to things.

4. What is the trait you most deplore in others? Certainty in something that is not true.

5. Which living person do you most admire? Malala Yousafzai.

6. What is your greatest extravagance? The general approach to buy what I want.

7. What is your current state of mind? This being Sunday of a three-day-long holiday my current state of mind is a perfectly happy one.

8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Constancy. Oftentimes this really is about stubbornness and invertebrate living.

9. On what occasion do you lie? Two come to mind:

#1: to spare needless pain in others.

#2: to avoid a truth that if revealed would serve no value.

10. What do you most dislike about your appearance? My abdomen. Were it were flatter.

11. Which living person do you most despise? At the present this is Putin.

Spo-fans as encouraged to give this a try; I would love to read your responses.

Spo-fans know I have long kept a paper journal. I started writing them in 1978 – at least that is the year of the oldest one I still have. Every year, usually between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, I go to a bookstore and buy a new one for the upcoming year. As bookstores disappear (as do paper journals) I now get them whenever I happen to stumble upon one.*  Last week, Travel Penguin (the dear!), sent me one. On its cover, written in gold, is “Bad Ideas”. It is a large one, bigger than and frankly better quality than the ones I usually allow myself to buy. Its finesses made me wonder if this one might be ‘The Last Journal’.

For some years I’ve had a fancy to splurge and buy better one, one bound in leather with special paper. I see them time to time; some of them run into the hundreds of dollars. I would use it as ‘The Last Journal’. I would put it up on the shelf with the finished journals, allowing a large gap from the current one (on the left) and The Last Journal leaning up against the right side of the shelf. When would I write in it? In an ideal world, I would know I am dying and this is my last year alive. Then I would stop buying the simple ones. I would write – for the last time – using The Last Journal, knowing what I write would be my last. I would not fill it with mundane daily doings (as is my wont) but with ‘parting thoughts’, whatever they may be. 

Of course, I have no idea when I will die – may it be a couple of decades from now! People seldom have the luck (good?) to know ‘this is the last year’ to plan accordingly. Chances are I will die quickly or even suddenly and not have a chance to use The Last Journal.  The purchase of The Last Journal and putting it up where I see it with the other ones, slowly growing and closing the gap between them, serves another purpose.  It serves as an “momento mori”, something that reminds me of my mortality. I think this is a good thing. It reminds me to write well and to fill these yearly journals with as much life events as possible. 

I’ve changed my mind about Travel Penguin’s recent gift. “Bad Ideas” will be Journal 2023. When I write in it, I will think of him everyday. In July Urs Truly turns sixty. I fancy my birthday prize to myself will be The Last Journal, large, leather-bound, with metal adornments (like my men). It goes up on the shelf and starts serving its purpose.  

*This works better. I remember the place and situation when I purchased the journal. 

I won’t turn on the news as it is all too much.

I open old books just to put my nose in them to smell them. This is a sort of aromatherapy that provides a bliss and memory of the time and place I read the book.

Mayonnaise is added to the mashed potatoes to give them a creamy taste, just don’t tell Someone.

The only solution is to just ignore it and wait for time and fate to sort it out.

I avoid Facebook as it makes me feel bad to see others enjoying their lives via travel and achievements.

Cinnamon is added to Mexican cuisine to get it a slight nuance.

I drop books off at the library that aren’t theirs, but are ones I’ve bought and read and don’t want anymore. I hope the library will find some way to use them. I feel some guilt doing this, as it isn’t clear if this is a not wanted.

Anchovy paste, just a dab, is added to sauces and such to give it a ‘umami’ element.

It infuriates me to see in the kitchen cabinets at the offices half-consumed boxes or bags of nibbles apparently forgotten for months if not years so I throw it them and no one ever complains about it.

I fast forward through all the ads on podcasts or YouTube. I always skip over the ads on Facebook. Stirges.

Speaking of Dungeons and Dragons, sometimes I read “The Monster Manual” just for the fun of it.

In the locker room at the gym I close doors left open and I pick up crumbled paper towels lying about the place. Men are pigs.

Almond extract is added to whatever I am baking to give it a slight distinction.

I would give it all up just to have a small cottage with a working fireplace and shelf full of books.

I wish someone would call me out of the blue for no reason but to say hello.

Note: the image of the ghost of Catherine trying to get through a window to find her love Heathcliff has figuratively been ‘haunting me’ (pun intended) I decided to write this entry. I hope it will scare away the ghost via a little (Spo) reflection. Spo

“You had a temper like my jealousy
Too hot, too greedy

How could you leave me

When I needed to possess you?
I hated you, I loved you too. ”

– Wuthering Heights, by Kate Bush.

The Muses (or someone like them) keeps poking me in the ribs to write about ‘Wuthering Heights’. I’ve been meaning to reread this book for some time, so I picked it up a month ago and I am reading one chapter a week, in a leisurely fashion. For thems unfamiliar with this Penguin Classic, WH was written by an Emily Bronte, a reclusive spinster, who apparently had no history of romance of any sort. She managed to write a lurid dramatic tale of a passionate dysfunctional relationship between two mismatched characters, Catherine and Heathcliff. The story begins when a Mr. Lockwood, who is renting lodgings from his landlord, the aged Heathcliff, encounters the ghost of Catherine trying to get in through a window. Naturally he is very perturbed and he demands an explanation for these sorts of shenanigans. The novel is the narration of a Mrs. Dean the housekeeper, who tells Mr. Lockwood the story of Wuthering Heights and how it all happened.

I like to reread the same books from time to time, for I get different things from them at different stages of my life.* I was in my 20s when I first read ‘Wuthering Heights’. I saw it then as a tragic tale of two star-crossed lovers, forever doomed, thwarted by society and public opinion. What a sad tale! Now at sixty I am less empathetic and patient with the characters. As a young man, I felt sorry for them. Could I not see then that there is no one likeable in the novel? Catherine isn’t a victim, but a dimwit who chooses to marry the colorless Edgar rather than her love Heathcliff. True, the two would have destroyed each other but it would have been fun while it hanged together.

I suppose my present disenchantment with the novel comes from me getting older while the characters in the book remain fixed in their twenties. I’ve grown wiser but they still have all the emotional storms folks have at that age. The age of Mrs. Dean isn’t revealed, but there is a sense she is older than they are. She tries to slap some sense into the impetuous Catherine to not marry for security and vanity sake. Alas it is to no avail. Ah youth.

I admit there is a bit of envy. I never had an intense love connection like Catherine and Heathcliff have. I have never loved someone with such intensity of feeling nor has anyone loved me that way. Miss Bronte seems to ask the reader: they screw up big time but in the end, wasn’t it worth it to feel such depth of feeling?

I confess I like the notion of Catherine’s ghost hanging about the place. There is something delicious about a person thwarted all their life still trying to pursue someone even from the grave. I suppose it touches on the universal desire we have to have someone so intense for us not even death can stop their love.

I am about halfway through the novel. Since I know what is coming I am curious to see how I feel at the end when it all comes crashing down. Will I feel pity, upset, or a sense of closure? That’s the beauty of rereading a book. You know what will happen but you don’t know. Reading is wonderful this way.

*A good example is ‘Oliver Twist”. When I first read it (in my teens) it shocked me these sorts of things actually happened; it read like a sci-fi novel. In my 20s it was almost funny, a very dark comedy. In my 40s I appreciated its pathos. The last time I read it, which was in my early 50s, it was a bit cheesy, a penny dreadful. I don’t plan on reading it again in my 60s.

What’s top of my mind: My health. I present have something and I don’t know what it is exactly. It feels like a bad head cold: body aches; mild warmth/fever; a congested head. No fun, this. I don’t think it is covid19 for I have no lung symptoms and I can smell and taste things. Chances are it is merely bad allergies and fatigue. To add insult to injury, my lower left back muscles are still in a tight spasm, making getting up painful. I am in bad shape.


Where I’ve been: The back parking lot at the MESA office. It’s that time of the year when the ardent heat of the Arizona sun heats cars so hot touching the steering wheel is difficult. I realized if I park in the back and not the front, the buildings block the sunshine and the car isn’t so bad. I have to walk around to get to it, but it is worth it. While everyone clamors to get the sunny spaces out front, I am more or less alone in the back. I should have thought of this years ago.


Where I’m going: A meeting with The Good Investor. This Wednesday morning we have an appointment with The Good Investor. He’s managed our ML funds for decades and we are overdue for a general check-in. Much of our savings are down, which is to be expected. In difficult times, we generally take the ‘wait and watch’ approach, and I suspect TGI will advise us to stay the course. Traditionally we would fly to Chicago for a long weekend and meet with him over a fancy paid-for lunch on The Magnificent Mile, but those were happier times. Today’s meeting is a zoom appointment. No fun, that.


What I’m watching: A rainy day in Somerset England. I enjoy putting on background ‘nature’ videos. I recently found one consisting of a rainy day in some place called Somerset, England. In the distance is stands a tower called The Glastonbury Tor. I listen to the sonorous sound of rain falling on the trees while I write my notes. I should look it up its history for the Tor thing looks ancient.

Has anyone been to Somerset England and seen this sight?


What I’m reading: Letters. Proper letters, handwritten and popped in the post, are rare gems and I recently received not one but two of them. Hot puppies! Both are from blogger buddies. I haven’t read them yet, as I want to make a proper time and setting in which to read these lovelies, carefully and with respect – preferably with a hot cup of tea. Tea and letters make a delightful combination. At the moment I can imagine no better.


What I’m listening to: Treatment options for refractory depression. What can you do with a case of depression that is still active despite time and treatments? There’s a bunch of options. First, you have to determine if there isn’t some other condition active and getting in the way. Second, you need to deduce if the case really is ‘refractory’ or just not ideally treated. Although there are various options to address a so-so response to treatment, the literature is surprisingly not clear which route to take. This is both frustrating and a comfort. The nice part: the patient and I can decide what’s best to do/try next, not some algorithm determined by an insurance company.


What I’m eating: Chicken Soup. Last weekend I made soup using a nearly picked over chicken carcass along with whatever vegetables were past their prime. The soup came out very well, considering all the ingredients were leftovers. I was pleased with my frugality and my industry. When I make soup, I am up to my oxters in amount. You could feed a charity kitchen off of my makings. I will freeze some for later.


Who needs a good slap: The inventor of the voice-activated telephone menus. The Medical Assistant told me I had to call some bean-counter to go over a case. I called the 1-800 number and was connected to one of those tedious ‘Welcome to our program, listen carefully for our options have changed” recordings. I jumped through the hoops to get to the person who wanted the call. Before connecting me, the voice asked me if I would be interested in participating in a post-conversation survey of my experience. I said yes. “OK”, it said cheerfully, “I will connect you to your party”. I was then placed on hold for about ten minutes. Then I heard ‘action’ – but it wasn’t to the bean counter. It was to the survey. “Welcome to your post-conversation survey’ it chirped. “Please rank us 0-10 how likely are you to recommend us?” I replied ‘0’. It asked me ‘why’. I left a terse message the ‘0’ was based on the highly unsatisfactory experience of being placed on hold and then dumped.

On my 1-5 scale, I give for two slaps, press 1; for three slaps, press 2.


What I’m planning: Macaroni Salad. Every Memorial Day I make me a big tub of macaroni salad, and not just any sort but a proper no-rubbish type. Gone are the Midwestern church picnic types I grew up with, dismal elbow macaroni in mayonnaise with not much else. I have a capital recipe. Last year I bungled by using a whole-grain pasta on the delusional grounds of making it healthier. This worked as it didn’t taste very good so I didn’t eat much of it.


What’s making me smile: A surprise package in the post. Patience above! Travel Penguin and Wicked Hamster (the dears!) sent me a package, out of the blue, for no reason other than he was thinking of me. It is full up with Spo-delights of books and items from their trip to Iceland. The Yule Cat ornament is especially nice as every time I hang it on the tree I will think of these two ersatz Yule Lads who gave it to me.

15. Keep your children’s drawings and paintings. Put the best on in frames.

Urs Truly doesn’t have children, so I am bereft of such works of art. All my brothers followed this advice that their kitchens and offices are full up with objects d’art from the early periods of their children’s artistry. These are usually done in the genera of crayon or magic maker: they are framed or tacked up onto activity boards. Overall I prefer The Old Masters. To my untrained mind, all kiddie-art looks alike, resembling ersatz Pollacks but done in primary or neon colors. How one goes about determining ‘the best’ must a tough one. The House Manager at work seems to have avoided this task by putting everything up; her office is covered in her children’s drawings.

I imagine parents regularly receive the bounty of their child’s oeuvre and what to do with it all must be a challenge. I suppose one cannot become an art critique and tell Junior you’d hoped the monster works would have been a limited series and you shouldn’t waste your talent but move on and let’s throw this one out shall we. Rotating the works, like they do in the art museums, is an option as kitchen wall space is limited.

I don’t recall my late Mother putting up my early works, but discovered she kept several of my drawings which she put in an accordion file which I got when she died. I have memories of drawing only some of them. I am not sure what to do with these. Out of whimsy, I thought to put a few up on the fridge or at the Mesa office, but they are painful to look at; after all no artist likes to look back on his or her early works. “Did your children do them?” I hear patients asking me, which is a dumb question really as who else but a parent would do such a thing? I would have to explain I don’t have children but I drew them in kindergarten which would probably get odds looks and serves me right. Oh the pain.

What I remember vividly is Mother framed my first attempts at painting, which were done in acrylics. My parents were quite fond of them. In contrast to see them drove me to distraction as the errors in them were blatant and embarrassing. I did keep one of them though. It was attempt to draw some boats and seagulls on a gray foggy day. I suppose it wasn’t bad for a first timer; it was the best of the lot Mother got framed and were still in the house when we closed it. The painting now stands in the Phoenix office on top of the bookshelf, far enough away I can’t see the awful details. I suppose this is as close as I am going to get to the mentioned advice ‘put the best in frames’. It has slightly improved my life to do so. Mother certainly improved me life slightly to keep these early Spo works. Would any one like one? I have heaps.

Spo-fans with children in their lives: do you put up their artwork, and where?

I haven’t written an entry in a few days. A few days ago, the lower back went into one of its spasms. My left-side erector spinae muscle once again tightened itself to a fraction of its usual length and won’t relax for anything. It isn’t painful but when I try to do basic things like rise from a chair it lets me know its not happy.  When this happens I walk like Grouch Marx and want to do little, including write. The Muses or someone like them senses this and they scram. Thus, no postings. 

Today Someone has his first Sunday off in so long neither of us remember when it last happened. He is spending the day sleeping. I ought to do likewise as I cannot do much. Not that I’m not trying. Time and laundry stop for no man.* I am getting the usual weekend tasks done, albeit slowly and with many rests.  

Speaking of medical matters, this evening I start a new medicine. I am highly allergic to sulfa antibiotics, and this one has a sulfur-base to it. The Good Doctor doesn’t know of any cross over, but it is possible. If I should develop a reaction, this may be my last entry for a while, if not forever. Now that I’ve frighten a great many of you, not to be worrying, it is as likely to happen as an Arizona politician admitting a mistake. A more likely side effect is having low blood pressure, which I hope happens, as it means I can lay off some of the meds I take for such.  Better life through chemistry.

The Muses sure have taking their leave, for I had a half-dozen half-baked starter essays, which look to be going nowhere, so I deleted them. I hoped they would be risen like bread dough when in fact they were more like partial-ate items that were pushed to the back of the fridge only to be thrown out past their prime. Speaking of leftovers, I have a Costco chicken near picked over that I ought to turn into soup.  By now I don’t follow a recipe but make it with whatever needs a food push. “Stone soup” I call it. More often than not they are tasty. Once in a while I make a very good one, but cannot recall exactly how it was made.  I still hang on to the belief chicken soup is the panacea of all ills. At least it couldn’t hurt. 

I hope my back muscle relaxes soon so I can walk erect and the Muses return for something more substantial to write.  Tune in tomorrow – adverse reaction to meds willing.

*I recently read one ought to wash the bedsheets in warm if not hot water to eliminate any wee-beasties; cold water apparently doesn’t do the trick.

Note: The Board of Directors Here at Spo-reflections loathes reruns. Disguising them as ‘classics” or ‘encores’ does no good. However, they are away today for a long weekend to The Time of Legends visiting their relations so I’m gambling they won’t notice this tiny leaf I’m slipping into the pile. Yesterday I wrote about The Story Teller archetype, which prompted me to look back into the archives for one to repost. So here it is. It is a bit of nonsense but I like it. I hope you do too. Spo.

The Lord-Great-Jaguar-Paw ruled a kingdom so old and ancient the homes and palaces were heated with rocks still cooling down from the Archaean. Lord-Great-Jaguar-Paw was the king’s official title as his preferred name “Most butch” was deemed too silly.

Lord-Great-Jaguar-Paw (known to his mother as Kitten) lorded over a very large province and a large family. His children were a source of great joy – and a puzzlement – for surely, he had ED. Yet every year Queen Sheila-Badger-Breath put out another child.  “Goodness knows where she gets them!” he would exclaim.

Some of his children were a worry. His oldest was a charming boy who liked nothing better than to make paper airplanes and race cars out of pinewood. Since neither of these means of transport would be invented for  ~ 3000 years  no one understood what the hell they were for.

The second son was a merry lad who liked nothing more than to arrange flowers and design next year’s robes for the high priests. He also choreographed the slaves who danced at the state banquets. “He will make some woman a good husband!”  LGJP would say to with satisfaction.

The third son had the unfortunate name of Evelyn. Apparently no one looked closely when he was born, and by the time of his baptism it was too late.

In a month that had two Mondays in the same week, Evelyn fell sick. He was speaking nonstop ‘in tongues’. At first it was assumed he had been blessed by the gods; people came from afar to hear his words. But soon it became apparent Evelyn was as crazy as a shi-t house rat.

LGJP called for Spo-Hugger-and-Kisser-of-Bears, M.D. to practice his craft. Dr. SHKB realized if he was discovered for the great physician he is he would never be released from service. Besides, he had theatre tickets that evening. At first he denied who he was. But with threats to cut off his tea supply, he changed his mind. He performed his shaman dance and sang prayers. He injected Thorazine. Lo! Evelyn was better and FSHKB’s worse fears were realized: he was appointed court shrink to LGJP.

He became famous for his healing. A little blue diamond-shaped pill from the far off kingdom of Pfizer cured LGJP of his personal problem, much to the chagrin of his wife.

He also cured the queen of her depression. He chose not to use the old Sumerian prescription of smashed pearls, cobra venom and mare’s blood (a remedy that killed as swift as a knife to the throat ). Rather, he administered a little green and white pill, 20mg, taken with food. Her relief was great but alas, she was no longer interested in sex, let alone with LGJP.

So Lord-Great etc. took onto himself a new wife and soon there were another troop of kiddies banging up the palace furniture.

To everyone’s surprise, Sheila did not hate the new queen.

The moral of this legend?  People are incalculable.

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