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First of all I want thank the folks who wrote supportive comments to yesterday’s lugubrious post. I almost didn’t post it. Things are tough. We aren’t allowed to pick the times we live in; we are only given the choice to rise to the occasion or to succumb. I hope do the right thing.

Today is Father’s birthday; he is 86. Brothers #1-4 have been texting back and forth trying to come up with some sort of prize for the occasion. Being blind, we can’t give him books and he has all the audio-books he needs for a lifetime. “No prizes!” he states (sounding like his mother) “I just want phone calls from my sons”. I hope Brother #3 and #4 and family will get together and grill something scrumptious and everyone has a good snort in his honor. I know I will.

I made my first loaf of bread In the Spo-fan Memorial Mix-master.* For kneading, it beats my hand-work by by a country mile. It was the best loaf I’ve made so far and I was pleased as Punch. I grade it at a B+/A-. I didn’t bake it long enough, and I think I should ‘knead’ it longer next time. My next loaf should be an ‘A”. After I get the hang of white I will try rye or ‘egg’ or something.

Going to the gym is discouraging. I try to go and do something every day but something always manages to get in the way. Last week it was car troubles. I am going a few times a week rather, which is better than not going at all. Whenever there are missed days, it feels like I am ‘starting over at the beginning’. How soon my strength leaves me! I would like to get some muscle on me but at most it feels like the best I can do is keep from losing more. At nearly sixty years old, this may be all I can do. Alas, Babylon! I fear I will never become one of Fearsome Beard’s pin-ups. I used to worry the fellows at the gym were all looking at me in contempt but I realize this is not so. They don’t look at me at all; they think I’m hopeless. ho ho ho.

It has been a long while since I made a Spo-shirt; I can’t remember when. I’ve been wondering about the the ‘why’ of this. It’s mostly because I have sunk all my sewing energy into making masks and I have plenty of Spo-shirts already. I don’t need more. Many don’t fit anymore, worse luck, but I don’t want to give them to Goodwill. I wonder would it cheer me up to make a new one (XL this time). After all there’s nothing like a new frock to brighten up your day. At home in the drawer there are two rolls of cotton fabric from which to choose: #1 is white with black abstract black strokes, it resembles a Jackson Pollack painting. #2 is a fabric of U of M maize and blue “Ms” I bought for an alumnus who changed his mind he thought it too gaudy to wear to a parking lot pregame party.* I may make both into shirts and keep one of them, putting the other one up for raffle.

*Can you imagine?

*The Kitchen-Aid. I have a vague memory of some relation referring to all stirring appliances as mix-masters. Mix-master is a bit more fun to say too. The bread recipe was given by Lori (the dear!) and made in the Kitchen-Aid donated by another Spo-fan (also a dear!). There is lots of love going into my baking.

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.

Patience above! It’s been a few days since I last posted anything! I try to write something everyday but some days it is just not humanely possible. That’s not actually true, I could write a few things ahead of time to post later, or write something on the fly, but it would be gnomic maxims not worth reading/doing. My boisterous bosses are rawther unsympathetic towards excuses like having to do my job and the value of getting decent sleep. However, they recognize rubbish when it’s written, and they don’t prefer it to nothing. With that said I will toss an imperial tid-bit to the Spo-fans until I can come with something more substantial to write. Spo

In trying and depressing times I find my usual defense mechanisms want to take over viz. crawl into a ball hedgehog-like and close the door and lock it from within. After a lifetime of doing so I recognize when this happens. I have to put up a pretty stiff battle not to succumb. I think upon My Strong Ones (real/imaginary; dead/alive) to stiffen my spine and resolve my determination to persevere and Do The Right Thing.

Here is a mantra I often consult; it was written by the Stoic of our time, Ryan Holiday. I have it on my phone to see on a regular basis. May it give us assistance towards Courage, Justice, Strength, and Wisdom.

See things for what they are.

Do what we can.

Endure and bear what we must.

What blocked the path is now the path.

What once impeded action advances action.

The obstacle is the way.

The title is a eighteenth-century version on ‘random thoughts’……..

Mr. Bezos (with an ‘S’, please note) recently delivered onto me of twelve cotton handkerchiefs. I was trained at an early age never leave home without one, lest there were sneezes and such. The fine linens are white, square and slightly diaphanous – like my men. They replace the multi-colored bandana serving as substitutes for a proper handkerchief. The bandanas are quite dog-eared and worn out from use and countless washings. Besides, these lovelies slightly sticking out from my backside pocket often elicit unseemly propositions depending on the color of the bandana. I hope with white ones only signal I have the sniffles.

The freezer needs to be unplugged and thawed, for the pull-out drawer is again impeded by a large irregular stalactite of frost. This is some job, for it means transferring the contents of main space to to the refrigerator freezer and whatever coolers are at hand. It is an ill will that blows nobody good; it gives me a chance to look at the ‘mystery’ containers to see if I can identify their contents enough to put them back or thaw them for consumption. I thought I promised myself I wasn’t going to put anything more in the freezer unless it had precise information tied to it, such as what is is and the date of cryogenics. Someone (probably myself) has put a square Tupperware container in the back labelled “Walt Disney”. This is funny but not helpful.

The Harper Hound has an appointment this week with the veterinarian. For a month we have been putting saline drops in her eyes on the hope this clears up her corneas. Someone and I agree her eyes look clearer. I hope the vet says we can stop this for now, for the Rx is bloody expensive, especially when it is just a saline solution. Whoever is behind this racket is making a fortune.

The Arizona opera company and The Broadway company in Mesa announced their upcoming seasons and both of them pulled the same: they have one ‘must see’ show in a series of six along with five stinkers. This obliges one to buy the series in order to see the one you want. The AOC is doing ‘Don Giovanni’ (always fun) along with …. wait for it…. ‘The Sound of Music’. The Broadway company is putting on ‘Six’ but this is married to (oh the horror) “Annie”. Sooner I’d eat rats at Tewkesbury than see those abominable bromides. So, I have to wait in turn for thems willing/wanting to buy the series before I can try to buy tickets to “Six” and “DQ”. Chances are there won’t be many and what’s available will be the bad ones in the back balcony. It makes me grumpy to write this.

Last night I had one of those god-awful dreams that was a conglomerate of non-sequitur events resembling word salad. The only thing I remember of the mish-mash was being in the museum of the tomb of the Chinese emperor, you know the one, the one with all the stone statues. I was transporting a pale green vase on a trolley, and a bump caused the century-old relic to fall and break. So I threw it away. I haven’t had a chance to make sense of this and I doubt there isn’t any. Sometimes a cigar is a cigar and sometimes Urs Truly’s hummingbird brain likes to shuffle images at night for no reason but to stick its tongue out at my analytical training and taunt it ‘try making sense out of THAT one”. Stirge.

While sitting at my office desk feeling the radiance of another brilliant sunrise on my face I think myself one of the most fortunate fellows possible.

At night I repeatedly return to the larder to find something to munch, knowing there is nothing there but I go anyway.

I look at my work roster and see a handful of Zorgenkinder* and wonder what on earth am I going to do that can make any difference.

I send out random texts like “This is a random thought I am thinking about you :-)”. Although I don’t expect a return, I feel a bit let-down when it isn’t acknowledged.

Fish sauce adds a touch of umami to my cooking; I put a dash in soups, sauces, and what not.

I go to the home library to find an old book or magazine from my childhood. I open it up and stick my nose into it and take in a deep whiff. The redolence of old paper and ink is enough to induce a euphoria and flashback memory of places from my youth.

It feels like everything I know is wrong, and I have been duped into believing all sorts of rubbish that is passed off as truth. It makes my blood boil to think of it.

My evenings are spent not doing the dishes nor writing the day’s notes nor anything productive but consist of lying on the bed with Harper at my side while I mindlessly scroll through my phone. Every time I do this there is a part of me that knows this is a waste of time yet I do it anyway.

My written 7s have little bars drawn through them, something I have done since grade school. I saw it in European documents and I thought this very stylish. It still makes me laugh at this ‘light in the loafers’ sign so soon seen in my youth. Does anyone else do this?

There is a thumping sound emanating from the laundry room area that wakes me in the night. It resembles the drums in the ‘Moria” scene from “The Lord of the rings”. I worry we have an infestation of orcs or very boisterous scorpions. Rationalists in the house tell say has something to do with the water-softener but he doesn’t wake up in a gummy-panic waiting for The Balrog (or somebody like him).

I wish to retire – now – this instant.

I don’t ever want to retire, so long as I enjoy my work and I am needed.

Cheap white wine or a rose makes for good ice cubes: I put one (sometimes two) in my drink along with some conventional ice cubes. This gives the water and other libations a bit of umami, as it were.

Somebody says something in the comments about how they enjoyed today’s post; this makes my day.

The Board of Directors Here at Spo-reflections tells me to stop fishing for compliments and write something substantial next time.

*German for ‘problematic child’

Last night Saturday evening I went to the symphony, as is my wont. Someone was usher captain, which is his wont. What was not ‘wont’ and not entirely welcome was the repertoire. I thought I was getting Schubert or Schumann, or one of that crowd. Instead it was a ‘Salute to The Beatles”. I would have turned tale but we were sharing a ride, so in I went.

On stage was bit of symphony, mostly strings, slightly off to the stage right.* On the other side were the usual instruments seen at a rock concert. There were three or four singers I forget how many they kept bouncing around. None looked like The Beatles and they looked like they had been born decades afterwards.

The audience was interesting. I sense many of them have never been to the symphony before now. Urs Truly was dressed in dress shirt and bowtie and the rest were in clothing I will call ‘old hippie attire”. Many were well over four feet. I give them credit: most kept on their obligatory masks and were well behaved nor did they record anything, which is a huge no-no at the symphony.

The music itself was many familiar songs and some I hadn’t ever heard before, I liked that. Unfortunately the music was played ‘all the same way’, making it more like ZZ-top. Someone had ushered the show before and as I went in he handed me some orange rubber ear plugs saying ‘you’ll need these”. Oh the pain. It was bloody loud and the earplugs were greatly appreciated.

About ten minutes into the show the sound system blew out and the CEO of the symphony called for the intermission now to fix things and the show would be done x 90 minutes with no break. People were cool about this. She later joked the overtime won’t be too bad and hinted of some sort of refund or discount to all. The symphony is hurting financially, so overtime and discount can’t be a good thing.

Somebody decided people cannot sit and just listen to music but they need something to watch, so on stage was a large screen for quick-changing photos of The Beatles (mostly Paul) and ersatz 60s cartoon figures dancing about. I found this a distraction to the music, so I closed my eyes. This, and wearing a mask and earplugs made me feel I was at a concert of “Tommy’ by ‘The Who’.

I often doze at classical music concerts, and I’ve always assumed it was the music that did it. Despite the loud get-you-moving music and folks jumping about waving their cellphone lights (what, no more lighters?) I still managed to drop off. I am not what to make of this date, but it is curious.

See you all at The Phoenix Symphony’s salute to ‘The Monkees’ – in E-flat

*Afterwards over a late night supper Someone said many of the orchestra were not playing but were supernumeraries. Apparently so many have to be on stage in any performance. Music unions are fascinating things. He also said the management would sooner eat rats at Tewkesbury than have overtime happen as this is mega-expensive.

It’s been cloudy and rainy these past few days – we even got some hail! – with temperatures as low at 1C and highs only about 12. It is what I call “Alaska weather”. This normally would be cheer me, but I haven’t felt warm in a week.* It’s another example of ‘turning into my father’. He is constantly wrapped burrito-style in blankets yet reports feeling cold. My blood has thinned so living where I do; I don’t feel comfortable until 30C.

A Spo-fan recently asked how goes my new year resolution to throw out something on a daily basis. This is going well, thank you for asking. I’ve started with dead appliances and cans of old paint and have moved up to garments and books I will never use again. There used to be a mailbox-like receptacle outside Uncle Albertsons for used books, but it is no longer there. I suppose the organization was getting more than they bargained for. It reminds me of the time when my parish announced it was going to hold a rummage sale and was bombarded with so many donations it lost money having to pay someone to haul away the heaps of unused items. When the weather warms up some I plan on rummaging through the cabinets in the garage, goodness knows what’s in them. I think that’s where we put the snow shovels and winter boots when we moved from Michigan. I hope Goodwill can do something with them.

This week I learned of the death in the family. My mothers’ favorite cousin (my first cousin, once removed) her husband has died. My immediate family members all had the same reaction: “Sis” outlived another one. Both of her previous husbands died of cancer, and now she’s outlived her third. I wonder what’s that like, to outlive your loved ones. Father doesn’t come out to say it but I know he would have preferred going before his wife. On the whole, widows fare better than widowers; the ladies at least have a network of friends and family while the men-folk only had their wives. I got cousin Sis’ address from my Katy my second cousin. I will write Sis a note this weekend. What I write won’t do any good, but the fact I did so I hope will bring her some comfort.

Harper update: thank you everyone for your support in yesterday’s post. She doesn’t have cataracts but ulcerative corneas. The opaque look to her eyes comes from sloughing cells on the corneas. The vet (a very nice woman, well over four feet) advised us to use saline eye drops for lubrication and osmolality balance to better things. Fingers crossed. She isn’t liking this of course. It is a two-man job: one to hold her eyes open and another to apply the drops. Funny what we associate. Someone quotes from the movie “A Clockwork Orange” “It’s a crime!” while I recite Shakespeare “What thou seeest when thou doth wake, do it for thy true love take….”

*As I write this I have on a jacket and the space heater is going allegro non troppo but I still feel cold.

Patience above! It has been a roller coaster of emotions this week. My situation changes from day to day nowadays. Spo-fans know I’ve been scrambling to find a remedy to having missed the deadline for signing up for insurance. I’ve been working with The Insurance Broker, a fine fellow well over four feet, who managed to find some ala “Obamacare”. I went from despair to relief and hope. It will be expensive but far less than paying out of pocket monthly for our meds. The deadline to apply is 15 January. I’m on the last leg of the application process, when I get an email from The House Manager, telling me The Boss talked to her boss at The Overlords – and it is fixed; I only have to go to the website and sign up. I was struck speechless by this thunderbolt. Someone and I did so right away. Funny how emotions work. I should feel elated but instead I feel dubious along the line ‘is this legit?” I am in the strange and ironic predicament of going from NO insurance to TWO insurances. Today I talk to The Insurance Broker as to what to do. I think I am still going to apply for Obamacare as I don’t entirely trust my work insurance. My Boss – whose been very supportive and advocational on my behalf – gave me her boss’ email to ascertain I am insured.

Someone is Usher-Captain at the symphony this evening, and I have a ticket to go. I plan on attending the concert wrapped as if I were attending a plutonium distillery. Normally we go out to Hanny’s afterwards. Two days ago, we figured we shouldn’t anymore given our dire expenses situation. With recent happy news, we decided we ought to go as a sort of celebration, but now with Covid we are back to not going.

By avoiding Aviations after the concert, it is better for The Austere Diet. I was 78 kilos on 1 January. Thanks to abjuration of sugar and booze, and a daily diet of stress, I am down to 76 kilos. I see The Good Doctor next month to check if my labs improved. The irony of obtaining insurance is TGD may not be covered by it. It would be awful to have to change physicians after 15 years.

One more random thought: I have lost my key to the PHX office, a white plastic white card I apply to the magnet-like device on the front door to let me into the building. I have to wait outside to main entrance door, like King Henry IV, waiting for Gregory’s pardon, for some trusting soul to let me in. I fear The House Manager will snap a tether with this one, after the insurance fiasco.

This sh-t never ends. But on a happy note, it works out somehow. I can sleep better this weekend – provided I don’t contract covid at the concert. It’s Shostakovich, so it’s worth it.

Let’s end on a happy tale, that really happened:

“Have you gained or lost any weight since your last appointment?” I asked a patient on a zoom meeting on Thursday.

“I don’t know,” he replied, “I don’t have a scale”.

Do your pants feel tighter than usual?” I inquired.

“I’m not wearing pants” he replied.

Someone works his last “Nutcracker” Christmas Eve afternoon. The odds are good he will come straight home and directly to bed. This is understandable, but a pity, as I ‘ve planned a resplendent Christmas Eve dinner. I don’t have anything else to write about at the moment, so I thought I would share. Spo.

Poinsettia Cocktails. Last year Christmas Eve we were invited to Kobalt, our favorite watering hole. Kat, our favorite bartender (oh how I miss her!), was working that night. I was horrified at the notion of spending Christmas Eve in a bar – this sounded shocking and depressing, but admittedly more pleasant than the crowd at St. Joan for ‘midnight mass’ at 7pm.* Truth be told it was jolly good fun. Kat served poinsettia cocktails – which is what I am concocting tonight. It is cranberry juice, a bit of simple syrup, some sparkling wine, and an orange twist.

Oyster dip. The Lovely Neighbor (I miss her as well!) would invite us over on Christmas Eve for drinks and nibbles. Her mother, the late Merle, always made an oyster dip. I will make some myself in honor of her and the day. I thought the recipe was a complex one but in fact it is merely tinned oysters and a certain type of diced tomatoes, served on crackers. I will eat it with relish.

Stuffed jalapenos. Years ago in Santa Fe, after a lunch in which we drank Bloody Marias, we did some temulent shopping which included a chile-shaped metal stand in which to roast jalapenos. We felt foolish at first for this purchase, but over the years we’ve used it many times. What goes for stuffing, varies with the season and one’s fancy. This year’s poppers will have in them cheese, bacon, and chopped onion.

Salmon. My Christmas Eve dinners now always have a salmon as its centerpiece, and I am not Italian either. I cooked mine in a foil wrap. The sockeye salmon (proper salmon, no rubbish) bakes in a sauce with basil and spices. I tried this before and it didn’t work out; the foil had a puncture and it made a frightful mess of things. I will double-wrap this bad boy so as not to repeat the error.

Green bean casserole. Dammit I want some, so I am making some. I will do it the good-old Midwestern way using tinned beans and cream of mushroom soup. Don’t judge. I grew up on this sort of stuff. It made me the man I am today. I will coif it a bit and make it ‘southwestern’ with some added chilies.

Speaking of Midwest traditions, my late Mother always had a birthday cake on Christmas Eve for Baby Jesus. These cakes never had candles I recall, as Baby Jesus was in our hearts and not around to blow them out. Someone and I won’t be having a cake this year, but I made some cookies. BadNoteB (the dear!) sent a recipe for ‘PMS ginger chocolate cookies’. I will serve them for ‘small chocolate cone’ tonight.** I don’t have any pain, so the ‘Pain Management Service’ element of the confection will be lost on me. I hope they pair with Constant Comment tea, which is the the official tea at Christmas time.***

Cheers!

*Over the years, attendance at midnight mass has dropped off considerably, apparently no one can or wants to stay up that late anymore. The mass, rescheduled for 7PM, swells its normal capacity five-fold and is quite boisterous what with children running around. Given covid19, I will keep away – again.

**Spos refer to all desserts as ‘small chocolate cone”. This is like the British calling all their desserts ‘pudding’.

***Addendum: I just cooked a batch of ~ 3 dozen of these cookies. They are scrumptious. The ginger and the chocolate make a lovely balance to say ‘this isn’t just an ordinary chocolate cookie’. I give them 5 stars.

I haven’t written the Jolly Old Elf in decades. There are many reasons for my lack of writing. The main one is the lack of correlation between composition and results. It was the Late Anne Marie, not Kris Kringle, who finally provided that blasted pony I’ve been wanting since I was six. Now that I have such (thank you WQ!), there doesn’t seem much incentive to write. On top of this, I pretty much have what I want and need. What ideas I have for Christmas go to Someone and my family Secret Santa. On the other hand, it wouldn’t hurt to write St. Nick on the grounds ‘no harm asking”. I thought I would CC the Spo-fans. They may find my letter amusing and who knows, maybe some munificent Spo-fan could come through if the Big Guy Up North* doesn’t put out – again.

Dear Santa,

Once again I take mouse in hand to write you. Despite what you may have read on social media I have striven to be a good boy this year. The Elf on the Shelf may have mentioned a few slips and shenanigans but if you consult The Cup Sprites and The Car Key Gnomes (overall more trustworthy types) you will learn I haven’t been that bad. I’ve tried to be nice and make my bed everyday, and avoid curried snacks. Please consider coming down the chimney this year to La Casa de Spo this Christmas Eve. Due to doctor’s orders I’m avoiding sweets this season, so I won’t have any milk and cookies for you, but I promise pretzels and bourbon, no rubbish-type. I remember doing once before when I was a boy upon Father’s recommendation, and I recall you gave us an extra swell prize that year for our thoughtfulness.

I would like a box of crayons. I know this sounds funny, coming from a man nearly sixty years old. I haven’t had any since I was ten. Back then there were eight crayons in my box; I hear tell today’s boxes have far more numbers and variations. In first grade I sat next to Erin; she had a box of 24. She implied I had less-than-ideal parents who apparently didn’t have the money or the knack to provide me with ‘a decent set”. The little bitch wouldn’t share any of them, even though I asked her nicely, explaining my ‘blue’ was an inadequate a tone for my picture and her ‘sky blue’ would have worked. I’ve felt deprived and emotionally scarred ever since. I recently found via Facebook Erin now looks like Baby Jane Hudson, minus the charms. This is mild justice at most. I box of crayons would do a lot of good and heal long time wounds, especially one with sky blue.

Yours,

Spo

P.S. What I really want is a box with a ‘Prussian Blue’ crayon. I was quite saddened to read on-line this color (my favorite!) was discontinued on the grounds children today don’t know what “Prussia” is. I do know what Prussia is, so if Herme or one of his crowd can recreate one for me, this I would be better than all other colors combined.

*That’s St. Nick, not Justin Trudeau.

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