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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.

Yesterday Friday morning Someone announced we have tickets for symphony that evening. I think it was two years ago when we last went. They closed down their season last year; last time I heard there was only talk about reopening this year. Apparently they have done so. I had mixed feelings about this. I happen to know through Someone’s work the politics to reopen the symphony resembled an orchestra of scorched cats. The symphony ushers are volunteers, many of them ‘anti-vaxxers’ and/or ‘anti-masks” and the symphony (I believe) requires all who work there to be vaccinated and wear masks. I wasn’t so concerned of contagion – I would be wearing my mask throughout – but to interact with the others (ushers or otherwise) evokes some reservation. The worry is a bit moot: on any given Friday night the hall is only 1/3 to 1/2 full, and these are mostly in the front.* I sit in the back, sometimes with wide open spaces around me. It turns out there was almost 15 feet between the next patron and I; everyone was in masks.

It felt funny to go out on Fridays again. I was curious to see how different the experience would be. Would there be refreshments sold? Would there be social distancing? Would there be ructions over thems defiant to the rules? Some of the ushers recognized me behind my mask and seemed genuinely happy to see me.

The ticket said “Midori returns!” which sounded nice. I like Midori with a swig of peach schnapps, vodka, and perhaps a little orange juice. It turns out it was not that sort of Midori, worse luck. Midori isn’t a cocktail but a violinist. She played some Korngold, in a mask. The orchestra was also masked. They played Brahms #4 in the second act. I think everyone did well. As is my wont, after a full day of work that started at 430AM I was in a hypnogogic state throughout. Mercifully there was no shooting.

Afterwards we went to our usual post-symphony bar. The hostess also remembered us and did a nice job finding us a table. After supper we drove home, tired, but feeling some sense of normalcy.

* I think this is called the ‘first-class’ phenomena. I am told on luxury ships, second-class cabins and less expensive options sell/not sell, depending on the economy. Regardless of the economy, the first class cabins always sell out. The rich always manage to have money. Curiously, the front part of the symphony, the expensive seats, probably have prescribers with the demographics of older and richer folks, who are not as likely to want/do vaccines and masks, and more likely to flaunt their influence on the orchestra and its protocols.

Greetings from Michigan! I am pleased as Punch to be in a proper autumn. I’ve had no time to write; I will tomorrow.  Here are some photos.

Patience above! Brother #3 has my trick-or-treat plastic pumpkin from my youth! It was a joy to see it. 

Brother #3 decorated his fireplace with Halloween knick-knacks and a portrait of our great-grandmother Eloise. She is a bit creepy in context. 

Here is Urs Truly dressed in the height of covid19 fashion, on the way to the cider mill. 

The cloudy day doesn’t give half-justice to the fall colors.

The quite-crowded cider mill has the obligatory pumpkin patch.

Here are Princess-Goddess, Warrior-Queen, and Posthumous Thomas picking pumpkins at the overpriced pumpkin patch. Brother #3 thought to get the kids pumpkins at Meijer Shifty Takers as they are cheaper. He’s no fun; he falls right over. I get to play the rich uncle and buy the niblings their pumpkins on-site.

The place quite crowded; there are lines for everything. 

Someone erected this orange bell pepper – or is it a habanero? 

The dear nieces!

Here is Urs Truly having his long-awaited cider.

Here is Urs Truly with Brother #2.

Someone suggests the cider would be better with some rum with it. 

I am quite cross with The Popcorn factory. Every year I order tins of popcorn for the niblings, and every year there is a problem. This year the (first) telephone representative assured me my three orders were set up and all is well. A few days later I received an email saying one of three items was out of stock; please call to replace it. The second representative couldn’t find any evidence of a sent email, nor that my item was out of stock, and yes, they were all sent. However this process took time playing twenty questions to conclude this. Yesterday morning I got another email informing me my item is out of stock/please call to replace. I called Brother #2 who said only one item arrived. On it were both names. Oh the pain. Then I got an email asking me for positive feedback. After some deep breaths, I sent an email, carefully worded, not to voice anger so much as disappointment and how sad a little child’s Halloween was spoiled. * I got back an immediate email of apology and a refund. I wrote a courteous reply of thank you for taking care of things. Mistakes happen; they cleaned up the mess. Next year I am sending cookies.

More shenanigans in the post! I forgot to cancel my annual cache of Halloween gummi-bears and spice drop pumpkins from Old Time Candy. I was pleased as Punch to see I’ve already dropped from 80 kilos in August to 76 kilos – and now all this arrives. Then last night The Popcorn Factory sent La Casa de Spo a package pf penance of pretzels and popcorn. Oh the horror. I need to get this stuff out of the house ASAP as I will be home alone all weekend with these things calling from the candy dishes.

Speaking of faulty festive foodstuffs, this weekend I plan to find the skull baking pan. I want to try making pizza skulls. Last year the pizzas didn’t come out that well; I still need to practice on the thickness of the dough and the ingredients. Unlike cookies, candies, cakes, and crunchies, cold pizza isn’t easily hauled to the office. I suppose one ‘cheat meal’ per week is acceptable, or at least a rationale to make some.

These pouts are not ponderous and I will focus on gratitude. It was a relatively quiet week at work and I have a new wrist rest for the office computer. The Spring-heeled Jack Coffee Company (the dear!) sent a bag of fiendish beans I am told makes very good coffee said by thems at work who drink such. They have mixed feelings about the yellow, black, and orange gummi-bears. Cast not pearls before swine and that includes impudent office staff.

*One of the advantages of being a psychiatrist is knowing all the mind tricks. The difference between Hannibal Lector, M.D. and myself is I use head-shrinking skills to heal and he uses them to eat people. Otherwise we are basically the same. It is fun to let loose once in a while my inner-Hannibal Lector; he get things done. This isn’t as efficacious as Obi-wan using The Force, or The Bene Gesserit using The Voice, but damned close.

Monday matters are a bit like Sunday Spo-bits, but later.

Yesterday I bought some hard cider and six bottles of autumn ales, many with pumpkin in them. I will allow myself one libation per week. I am one not to ‘have a beer’, but in October I will if the meal suggests it. I need to write down which ones I like/don’t want, so I don’t keep buying the rubbish types.

Speaking of journals, I bought Warrior-Queen a blank lined journal for her birthday. Brother #4 says she is beginning to show signs of depression. I started writing a journal about her age (1978!) and I found doing so helpful in many ways. I still write a journal, although what I put into it nowadays is mostly events, not feelings. The entries read more like a captain’s log than a diary. I hope writing helps WQ as much as it did me to get through the rocky times of pre-adolescence and beyond.

Last weekend I asked Mr. Bezos to send me a few items I need/want, which included a sponge mop head, a wrist rest for the office computer, and an orange mug with a black jack-o-lantern face. I won’t tell you which items fell into which category. The replacement bowl I purchased at great expense from last week still hasn’t arrived. When I called to inquire its status, I was told it is in Tennessee. This strikes me as an odd place for a bowl to be and how on earth did it get there in the first place. I hope it shows this week.

With the sale of the practice, The Bosses have new titles: The Boss-man is demoted to ‘no Boss’ status (he is retiring) and The Boss-woman is transformed into The Agent of the Overlords. She tells me there are exciting changes ahead, including the hiring of not one but possibly two nurse prescribers. Of course I immediately did the math: RN + RN – MD = unemployment. This is cynical nasty worst-case thinking, and any good cognitive behavioral therapist would be right on it. I asked in the exciting new changes could it conclude a new office chair, for mine looks quite worn out at the arm rests. TAO said ‘yes’, which gives me some assurance I should not take down the diplomas yet.

Final Monday matter: I made pumpkin pie snicker-doodles. They tasted like regular snicker-doodles. They are a tad orange, which is a bit off-setting as snicker-doodles usually aren’t that color. I plan to put up a sign at the office “these are pumpkin pie snicker-doodles’, made with real pumpkin. I am sure this will make a difference. Such is the power of advertising.

Last Tuesday I had a seasonal check-up with The Good Doctor. He was pleased as Punch: my blood pressure was good and my weight was steady (no gain). We did not have ructions over my borderline A1C. I can keep working via ‘non-Rx means’ to better the glucose. We shared stories who had the patient with the worst ‘no vaccine’ excuse/belief. I had some doozies, only because I have patients with bona fide delusional disorders. These were disqualified as thems with this condition always have conspiracy theories as par for the course. The Good Doctor won with a case of a 40yo man who was refusing the vaccine because he read one (only one) article suggesting the vaccine may not work in immunocompromised folks. [1]

At the appointment he advised me to get three shots: the COVID19 booster shot; the shingles vaccine; the annual flu shot. Like Scrooge being told he was to be haunted by three spirits, I asked could they not all come at once and get it over with. No such luck: I should get them done in a series, a few weeks apart. This weekend I go to the pharmacy to set these up. My pharmacist is a fine fellow, well over four feet; I think he will oblige.

I have another reason to better my figure, something more pressing than my health: my vanity. My traveling companions have voted not to scuttle the November trip to Palm Springs. This gives me approximately eight weeks to work on my covid-physique. Imagining Urs Truly making his ingress at Inndulge looking avoirdupois. There would be talk.[2]

Unfortunately, what lies between P.S. and today is obstacle called October, the month-long party month, in which I am known to make all sorts of yummies all antithesis to slimming. Oh the horror. I suppose I could not make anything and forgo the candy corn, but what fun is that? I could make goodies and vow I won’t eat them or not much of them. [3] I will probably compromise by bringing all baked goods to work and put’em down for the goats to get’em.

Speaking of autumn-eats, yesterday was the first official day of autumn. To celebrate, I thought to make coffee for the incoming staff, using a homemade pumpkin spice blend from a recipe I found on the internet. I sprinkled some into the grounds and brewed a pot. Oh the pain. Do not try this at home. I dumped out the foul stuff and made a regular pot and no one was the wiser.

Mr. Getty got some before I threw it out

[1] Picking out one negative report as ‘the truth’ while dismissing dozens of positive ones is a classic example of something called ‘selection bias”. Someday I ought to write an entry on the various bias that afflict our thinking and judgment.

[2] Not really. My anxious vanity can be assured by something in psychology called The Spotlight Effect. This is the phenomena people greatly over-estimate how much people notice them. One walks into a room full of people and thinks ‘everyone is looking at me’ when in fact no one is looking at you other than a quick glance to see if you are familiar to them. One is more Mr. Cellophane than one realizes.

[3] Fat chance of that.

I was recently reminded of a psychology teacher I once had who had her clients* dealing with anger to create a journal she called ‘the grudge book’. In it, the client writes out all the people towards whom they have unforgivable never forgotten hurts, which at the mere memory they clench their teeth and hands. The client is encouraged not to hold back but get it all out in a cathartic spew. The therapy mostly resides in the writer realizing how petty and absurd most of their grudges are. For the remaining grudges, it was the first step towards working on letting go or least learning to move on. Best yet, there would be forgiveness. “Why people don’t heal?” she liked to say, “They hold onto their wounds like merit badges, unwilling to let them go”  Apparently the acting of writing out the grudges was somewhat fun, but the afterwards process wasn’t something anyone really wanted to do. We all want the ones towards whom we hold grudges to suffer for their wrongs.  The grudge book was her means to get folks to heal. 

I don’t know how efficacious was this technique. I never wrote one myself. Perhaps I ought to, for I still hold grudges.  They fall into the common category of ‘folks who got away with it” viz. they did bad things – sometimes very bad – and there was no comeuppance, no ‘karma’ or godhead to strike them down for their sins.  There aren’t many, I suppose, but they pop up like an acidic burp from time to time to burn and sour my palate.  It would be an interesting exercise to scribble out my grudges and see what happens.  Hopefully I don’t turn into something monstrous.**

The Book of Faces has been inundating me with video advertisements for T-shirts.  The ads have in common two men looking half my age, one chastising his bro-pal for looking so sorry in that routine T-shirt. The new tops (gals have support bras; guys has these shirts” he exclaims) show off the shoulders and enhance the upper arms and help hide that ‘dad bod’.  Usually these ads end with the now properly bedecked man going off to the gym, looking happy that his peers won’t be judging him for what he has on. 

When I go to the gym I wear the most dingy of outfits. I am there to work out, not walk down a runway. I can assure you not once have I ever worried that the T-shirt I am wearing makes me look fat or it doesn’t show off my deltoids.  It is safe to say no man is looking at me while I work out, other than as something he doesn’t want to look like when he is ‘that old’.  True, the more-serious weight lifters wear skimpy tank tops to show off their physique, but I’ve never felt the desire to approach them to say ‘I love your top, where did you get it? It looks so good on you!’  

Perhaps if these unendliche ads on FB pay off with the youngsters I will soon be the only man at the gym in a regular fuddy-duddy shirt, getting looks of scorn and condemnation. If they do I can add them to ‘The Grudge Book’ as a separate chapter. 

*Counselors have clients; physicians have patients. 

**In C.S. Lewis’ ‘The Screwtape Letters’ senior devil while writing his nephew become increasingly wrathful to the point he transforms into a large centipede. Mr. Screwtape reflects this outer-transformation of his inner self is not a punishment from God but derives from ‘The Life force”, something Satan would worship if he didn’t worshipped anything other than himself. 

The Wheel of Time has many gears, and one if them turns weekly to get back to another mundane Monday morning. I see Mondays not as a downer, but as a blessing, for I am:

a) alive

b) in relative good health

c) employed

d) serene, for there is nothing especially unpredictable scheduled at work but ‘more of the same’ which I always manage to get through somehow.

e) drinking solar tea.

It is hard to think of cosmic or witty things upon which to write on a Monday. Here’s the morning brew…….

Today is Flag Day; it is also National Bourbon Day (or so I read online). 

We have a flag but we haven’t gotten around to erecting a pole upon which to fly it. The street over one from us has many homes that continuously fly the flag. They do this 24/7 or they hang their flags against their garage door. I have a vague recollection from my scouting days one is supposed to take down the flag at sunset as flying the flag at night was disrespectful.  As a boy, Father always flew the flag on Flag Day, although I think he did so out of vanity/peer pressure more than patriotism viz. what would the neighbors think if he didn’t.  I would like a flagpole, but I would like to fly various flags, including the ones from the USA, Canada, Arizona, Michigan, The Rainbow flag, and House Harkonnon. The HOA probably would object to all but the first, so no fun that.

That’s all for the flag; let’s move onto bourbon.  All bourbon is whisky but not all whisky is bourbon. To be a bourbon, the majority of the grain used in the mash must be corn; the majority of bourbon is made in the faraway Land of Kentucky. Although it is the official day to have some, I shan’t, as it’s too darned hot. We have entered the ‘burning season’ here in Arizona, with outside temperatures in the 40s (Celsius) and the inside ones not much cooler. If I am going to have the proverbial snort, I want one with massive amounts of ice.  It’s also Monday; not a day I usually indulge.

Speaking of Inndulge, yesterday Someone and I made a reservation for a Palm Springs holiday! It will be our first proper week-long holiday since 2019. I must contact chums known to enjoy the place and entice them to attend.

That’s all for Monday; my glass of tea is empty.

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