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The day after Thanksgiving is marked for making soup. Truth be told I enjoy making and eating turkey soup more than the actually turkey dinner of yesterday. The turkey dinner can be hit or miss but turkey soup is forgiving.* I used to follow recipes for this, but I’ve learned over the years this doesn’t require any it is make-it-up-as-you-go-along using whatever is at hand. I follow the ancient recipe:

  1. Take whatever you have
  2. Boil it in water for a while
  3. Eat it.

First step is to get out the carcass from last night and strip it of as much meat as possible for Someone to make a pot pie. There is usually enough left on the bones of the bird for the soup. The late Ann Marie AKA Warrior-Queen (may she rest in peace) gave me a few years ago an electric knife after I mentioned wanting one here for some years. I think of her whenever I use it.

Harper who can sleep through earthquake is awake and by my side for this step, begging for turkey bits, which she gets, but she is insatiable. She doesn’t mind those nasty bits covered in ‘jelly’ which I dislike.

The only question (still unanswered which is better) is to sauté the vegetables first adding the turkey or add them chopped to the simmering soup. This year I am doing the latter, using up some not-so-crunchy carrots and limp-looking celery in the fridge. I am having sense to let the carcass simmer for as long while to let water take on as much flavor as possible before adding herbs and salt and such.

The simmering soup gives the house a nice smell. After an hour or more I pick through the soup and remove all the bones, which are bereft of meat. Some folks strain all of this and just use the broth and add fresh new vegetables and chopped meat but I figure they are there already so what the hell. My way saves on vegetable but there is always a surprise bone bit in the servings.

Near the end there is the question whether or not to add a starch like pasta or egg noodles. There is a half box in the pantry of small orzo-like pasta whose only use is in soup. If I add chopped potatoes Someone is less likely to eat it. Egg noodles are my favorite but these lovelies could be used later on in a tuna fish casserole so I guess I will use the pasta bits after all.

One year I added a fancy rice but we both thought it overpowered the soup. This is turkey soup dammit not rice soup.

No matter how I make turkey soup it comes out more or less OK and there is enough to feed a well-patronized soup kitchen. Some if it will be eaten this weekend but a lot will be put into containers and frozen for later. I must must must remember to label these things as all frozen container contents look alike.

So that’s what I am doing this day. Someone is working at the convention hall in which a nation-wide bridge tournament is being held. My eyes cross at the sorts he must have to contend with today. I am glad to be at home in the kitchen stirring once, stirring twice, stirring turkey soup no rice.

*Yesterday’s turkey was a flop. We followed the advice of J. Kenji López-Alt on how to cook a turkey. He has never steered me wrong so I suppose the failure lies in operation error. The white meat was OK but the legs and inner thigh region came out hardly looked. Oh the horror. Someone and I took off some of the breast meat and ate with relish washing it down with large amounts of Gewurtztraminer wine to kill any bacteria. I put the bird back in the oven and we forgot about it engrossed in Doctor Who. The now well-done bird was a bit beyond table presentation but what the hell it’s going in soup and pot pies anyway. I may write Mr. Lopez-Alt to tell him his recipe is a turkey.

Thanksgiving day nowadays is a quiet affair. Gone are the days with the usual trappings of family get-togethers and football games on the TV and formal dinnerware. Back then I would often wake to watch the parade from NYC but without a TV and living on the west coast means this isn’t happening anymore. I wonder if the absence of the Macy’s parade is why Thanksgiving morning no longer feels like a holiday.

Someone and I will spend the morning doing food preparation. This year it is his turn to cook the bird so I needn’t fret how to do it. He doesn’t take truck with all the fancy ‘this is how to do it right’ hacks; he puts the bird in the oven and that’s that. I will allow myself some holiday delicacies of cooled shrimp with a good scotch. I will call my relations (gathering at Brother #4’s house this year) and text my dear ones a happy day.

The Homeowners Association forbids Christmas lights until Thanksgiving but sure as taxes by the end of today many will have their displays up and running. People in these parts go for the gaudy cover-everything-with-lights approach. If I put out lights they are modest luminarias to light path to the front door. Inflatable contraptions are popular. A few doors down that neighbor erects an inflatable Santa Clause who is sleeping in a bed with a blanket over him. Somebody always tries to insert a stick underneath the blanket which is removed as obscene and then someone tries again. It is the Desert Ridge equivalent of trying to burn down the Yule Goat in Sweden.

On social media (at least on FB) people often list all the things they are thankful for. I have a lot which I sometimes have to remind myself of. I will say here (for this is blog-land) I am thankful to be part of this community. I am grateful for the friends I have met through blogging.

I am very thankful to the Spo-fans who keep coming by to read my scribbles. You can imagine how good that makes me feel, I thank you for that.

Have a good day



What’s top of my mind: Thanksgiving. We will make a modest dinner of turkey, stuffing, and Kung Pao Brussel Sprouts, along with a sweet potato soufflé. Someone likes pumpkin pie, so he will make one for Small Chocolate Cone. This ‘modest dinner’ will provide many meals for us, including turkey for soup and a pot pie. Gewürztraminer is the official wine at Thanksgiving.

Where I’ve been: On the floor of the grocery store. I was at Uncle Albertsons the other day and wanting unsalted peanuts for Kung Pao Brussels and Deviled Peanuts. The peanuts are located on the lower shelf and all the ones out front and visible were gone. I can’t squat down that far anymore to reach in the for what may be in the back. I looked around to see if the coast was clear and I lay down in the aisle to extend my hand to the get those last two jars just out of easy reach. Just as I retrieved them a stately dame came around the corner with her full shopping cart and almost ran me over. Oh the embarrassment. She was not paying attention as she was gabbing on her phone. In her defense I don’t suppose she expected to see a man spread out on the floor in the snack section holding his nuts and struggling to stand erect.*

Where I’m going: Black Friday sale (sort of). For his birthday prize Someone wants a TV for we’ve been bereft of one for up to a year, so it is off to Best Buy (or something like it) this weekend we go. Sooner I’d eat rats at Tewkesbury than enter a store the weekend after Thanksgiving but there it is. We need one with precise measurements, so we won’t be overwhelmed by too many choices and mammoth screens wide as boats.

What I’m watching: The Who (David Tenant).
We are almost done with the episodes with Mr. Tenant. I will be sad to see him go. I hear tell he will be filling in for Dr. Who in the current series until the proper one is available. Someone thinks we should jump right to that one and skip the next Doctors (three of them?) but I won’t have it. The next incarnation after Mr. Tenant seems a nice fellow and he wears bow-ties so that’s a good sign.

What I’m reading: ‘The Krampus’ by Al Ridenour. Mr. Ridenour wrote a book on the full history of this fine fellow. I’ve become more attracted to the dark side of Christmas/Solstice season. It certainly doesn’t lack for variety of bogey-men and witches. Most cultures in Northern climes have a few of these sorts.** I think it would be jolly good fun to dress up as one of these frights one of these Decembers. I think I would be a good Krampus, but I probably resemble more The Belsnickel.

What I’m listening to: The Messiah. ‘No Christmas music” before Thanksgiving, but afterwards is the rule. I have a sort of progression of holiday music which starts with Mr. Handel’s oratorio (in E-flat). I like hearing this one early in the season, between Thanksgiving and the first of December.

What I’m eating: Edam cheese. Latter-day Spo-fans may not know it is a tradition in the Spo clan to have edam cheese with the pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. After all, we are one quarter-Dutch. Grandfather would get a large red-wrapped globe of the stuff from Holland Michigan. He would cut off the top along the “Arctic circle” and gouge out chunks with a specific silver cheese spoon. I buy a more modest one the size of a large hamburger patty (probably made in Wisconsin) and eat it with relish. Someone doesn’t care for cheese with pie, he likes whipped cream, which he whips from liquid – no rubbish types out of a cannister.

Do you eat cheese with your pie? Whipped cream rather? Ice cream? Do tell.

Who needs a good slap: The sore loser in race for AZ governor. The loser, whom I refer to as Serena Joy, won’t admit defeat and plans to drag this out kicking and screaming until (she hopes) people succumb and declare her the winner. It wasn’t too long ago the GOP demanded voting recounts in Maricopa County, which was costly, repetitive, and in the end still didn’t show anything – yet they never admitted they were mistaken. Taking a leaf from this book Serene Joy is going to do similar. A man with the government here in town is now in hiding from death threats from her minions, which she won’t publicly condemn. I sense she is hoping they do a Jan 6 coupe here in town on her behalf.

On my 1-5 scale, I give Go-jump-in-the-lake 5 slaps.

Who gets the fist bump: The nieces. I wanted to send a photo of The Yule Cat to Princess-Goddess the other day via Brother #3. He texted to just send it directly to her. I wasn’t aware she had a cellphone, since when? He responded with the cryptic two-word reply ‘middle school”. I got her number and texted her, telling her straightaway who I was with photo so she wouldn’t think I was some perv-stranger who was after her. Right away she texted back and we had a lovely text chat, in which she used full sentences. I asked if Warrior-Queen had a phone as well. It turns out she does so I texted her too. She was skeptical at first, informing me she was showing this to her parents for confirmation I was who I said I am before proceeding. Good for them for being careful and using proper sentence structures with their Uncle Spo.

Have you heard of kids in middle school having cellphones? This sounds not right.

What I’m planning: Turkey soup. I enjoy taking the turkey carcass and extracting as much meat for Someone to make a pot pie. I then take the carcass and put it in boiling water along with various vegetables to make turkey soup that I will put in the freezer (next to the pecans) for winter consumption. I think I enjoy the soup more than the actual turkey.

Anyone with any tips/recipes what they do with their turkey leftovers?

What’s making me smile: Formal dinnerware. The cupboards at La Casa de Spo are full up with several sorts of formal dinnerware, a collection of his, mine, ours, his mother’s, and my grandmother’s etc. We never use this stuff, having had no formal dinner in ages. At Thanksgiving I insist we pull out a few plates and wine goblets from one of them and have our dinner on proper china. It’s a bit tedious to wash up I know but it’s nice to use to formal gravy boat again along with the elegant glasses reserved for special occasions that never happen.

Do you have fancy dishes at Thanksgiving?

*That doesn’t sound right but The Board of Directors Here at Spo-Reflections thought it funny and wanted it left unedited.

**Santa Claus is a wash for he has no Shadow side to round him out psychologically. Happily the good Dr. Seuss remedied this deficiency via The Grinch, who seems to be catching up to Kris Kringle in popularity.

Nuts (and their ilk) are tasty neat-to-eat treats. They are not often consumed at La Casa de Spo as they are high calorie and there’s no stopping eating them all once started. The laughable ‘servings per container” on the containers is ignored to eat the entire jar, so it is best to avoid having them around tempting ones lack of willpower. My late Mother would put out ‘bridge mix’ nuts in fancy bowls for her bridge parties, making nuts associated in my mind with special occasions. Nowadays I associate them with the holidays, eating them between Thanksgiving and New Years.

There is a brown nut in the shape of a slightly deflated football; I think it’s called The Brazil nut. Those are tasty but seldom sold separately. I am not a fan of the cashew, although its history is a fascinating one. Apparently this little crunchy lovely comes from the heart of a very toxic covering growing on a very toxic plant, conjuring up how on earth did the ancients figure out this bit was edible and worth the effort. There was a very large nut among the bridge mix that certain older relations referred to with a horrible nickname which I won’t write here. I never learned its real name so I can’t ask for it, worse luck.

Another memory from my nutty childhood is older relations putting out a bowls of walnuts at Christmas time, which were piled high with a heavy steel nutcracker on top. I never got the hang of how to use it, which was probably a good thing. Nowadays one can buy walnuts sans shells (that means without), which makes them too easily consumed in large amounts. I always thought they looked like little brains, so I wasn’t found of these either.

I like peanuts most although most nut connoisseurs poo-poo them as common. Technically they aren’t nuts but let’s not split straws. One can get ‘nut mixes’ lauding there are no peanuts or not many which sounds no fun to me. I am not one for the sweets but I eat honey-roasted peanuts with relish.

Every year at Christmas out of whimsy I make batches of ‘deviled peanuts” which is basically tossing unsalted peanuts in some oil and whatever spices are at hand and roasting them on a pan. I’ve learned if I add too hot of a hot sauce Someone won’t eat them which means I end up eating them all which is not good on my waistline. This week I found a few recipes in my collection of torn-out recipe clippings in the ‘to try’ accordion file. I will have nuts for days if I make them all. One involves using curry powder which means curried snacks. Oh the horror.

At the bottom of the kitchen freezer next to Walt Disney is a bag of pecans neither of us remembers when it was purchased or why. Perhaps one of us was thinking of making a pie and never got around to it.* I’ve been wondering what to do with them other than throw them out. Pecans don’t strike to me as munching nuts but something put into cookie recipes.

Last weekend we did our shopping for Thanksgiving and Someone proposed we get some nibbles for Thanksgiving prior to dinner, so we bought a large tin of mixed nuts. The Car Key Gnomes (or someone like them) opened them last night while we were sleeping to have themselves a few so it is doubtful if any will be there by Thursday. I may have to make my deviled peanuts early.

Ending with a ha-ha joke, I think it was Noel Coward who told people off with the saying:

“And you can put it where the monkey hides his nuts”

*I have never made a pecan pie. I must have had one once upon a time but I can’t remember exactly.

I’ve been up to my oxters in work this week and haven’t had any time for anything else.* Everything is connected to everything else. The office computer at MESA isn’t working, obliging me to do my notes by day by hand only to write them into the system at home in the evening hours. Hopefully this passes and the sooner the better.

It’s Saturday morning and the usual ‘there’s work to be done tasks” list is longer than usual. While my back was turned and glued to the screen La Casa de Spo has fallen into decay. The Cup Sprites (or someone like them) have made messes in every room and the pile of dirty duds to be laundered rivals the height of Fafner’s hoard. Oh the embarrassment and oh the horror to boot.

I am going to take in a deep breath and call on my Midwest matron ancestors to give me the strength and the Pine-sol to help with this mess. These Warrior Women when confronted with washing would roll up their sleeves to do battle against dust and debris. Generations of Spo who did justice against the lead-butt slow-leak attitudes of thems who were all too ready to accept squalor as OK means of life. By day’s end I hope all is done and if this goes really well I may get a hot dish out of it – but not too spicy as you know Uncle Milo has his troubles. Now who said that?

Come back tomorrow for something worthwhile to read. 🙂

*This is not literally true. There is some time (1-2 hours) in the evening when I could be doing things like reading blogs or writing entries but a part of my brain (frontolateral medial cortex I reckon) that puts me into a obstinate state of being in which I do nothing productive apparently to prevent the other brain parts from going into overload and staging dramatic breakdowns.

It’s cooled off considerably here in The valley of the sun and it’s clouded over. It feels like Alaska without the rain. The air-conditioner, which was going non-stop for months, has shut down into its winter hibernation. The screen door is allowed to say open which allows Harper in and out access as she pleases. Like the Rum Tum Tugger she’s always on the wrong side of every door. For awhile this is remedied until it becomes cold enough to keep doors closed. 

Given my 100% Nordic genetics and Midwestern stock you would think I would be impervious to the cold and once upon a time I was but no more I’m not. Living in AZ gets one accumulated to 40C – 50C temperatures that when it drops below 20C it feels positively gelid. 

Age is another factor. Old folks lose heat from their extremities at an enormous clip and I have arrived to this condition. Patience above! I’m turning into my father again. He is always cold even in summer. He always wants his ‘fleece’ around his shoulders at all times. I used to think this daft but this season I feel similar. Oh the horror.

At the end of the bed is a trunkful of blankets and comforters which I am using to wrap myself burrito-style wherever I am sitting. It’s hard to remember not too long ago I couldn’t get the bedroom cool enough for a good night’s sleep and now I am dragging the space heater around me like Jacob Marley with his chains.

Hot drinks help. I have a collection of Celestial Teas to help keep me warm when proper tea is not indicated.* Sometimes while sitting I put on the laptop a virtual fireplace whose flames and crackles somehow feels warming to see and hear.  

Of course things would be better if we turned the heat on.  Someone never feels the cold and turning on the heat is discouraged until it become ‘too much’ which sometimes doesn’t happen until mid-January. By then Urs Truly resembles The Little Match Girl or Mr. Disney in his Frigid-aire. Oh the pain. 

The cold season feels long as a Helliconia Winter but in time it passes and soon the AC at La Casa de Spo is again going allegro non troppo and the ardent heat of spring and summer have me longing for colder days. Maybe in global warming will remedy the cold temperatures and we will all have to move to Alberta to experience cool climes to again enough to wear our fleeces. 

*As a general rule I avoid caffeinated beverages after 3PM lest I develop insomnia. 

The other day I connected the dots to discover I probably do a lot of mansplaining. I don’t do the usual type, thank goodness. I don’t tell people in a patronizing way they are wrong and I am right and let me tell you why – or so I hope. My type of mansplaining is more along the line of Mr. Know-it-all* so excited about facts I want to share them without first pausing to consider if the listener really wants to know about The Wat Tyler Rebellion or the difference between the words ‘continual’ and ‘continuous’ or whatever piece of useless data that happens to be first and foremost in my frontal cortex. My zeal to accumulate all knowledge – and share with others – is a long time tedious trait in need of careful watching.

Work is a bit different that people are paying me to know things and up to date on stuff too. I learned early in medical school I wasn’t the brightest bulb in my class but if I explained things patients thought me a genius. The staff at work are a different matter they are sort of a captive audience not easily able to tell me to flake-off I’m working and no I don’t care to know about the Oort Cloud.**

I know I am not alone having a zeal to share knowledge and trivial tit-bits. Most of my travel-buddies are scientists who are all too eager to tell you at the drop of a hat over breakfast all there is to know about rocks, beetles, and 17th-century Europe*** Happily most of the time I lean forward as this is exactly the sort of stuff I relish.

Poor Someone. I regularly walk into the room where he is watching TV or working on line to share with him some interesting thing I just learned. He’s a captive audience like the staff at work as well but he he more leverage to tell me to flake-off I’m working. Bless him! He never directly tells me to go away stop bothering me, He has a sort of grin that goes on/off quick as a quarter-note to register he’s heard my little science report and returns to what he was doing until I came along. Family has learned not to trigger me with statements such as “I wonder what X is about” although come to think of it Brother #3 and to some extent Brother #2 do similar.****

I am doing a better job at keeping my mansplaining to a minimum and only telling facts and data if asked but it ain’t easy. I am like a soggy piñata that will unleash all sorts of goodies at the slightest tap. As Spo-fans know, on occasion I write on topics in a way just to get it out of me. At least here if you don’t like it you don’t have to read it. 🙂

*Someone calls me “Doctor Smarty-pants who reads a lot of books”.

**It’s really interesting. Go have a look-see online why dontcha.

***All in all a bad time.

****Brother #4 does so as well but it is limited to Sports. Oh the horror.

Urs Truly is going to be busy today making dinner and giving out treat to the beggars (may there be many!). Later on there are Tarot readings for the Spo-fans who signed up for such. Happy Hallowe’en to all and don’t fall off the broomstick like you did last year. Here’s some poems apropos for the evening. Spo.

The Little Ghost – E. Millay

I knew her for a little ghost
     That in my garden walked;
The wall is high—higher than most—
     And the green gate was locked.

And yet I did not think of that
     Till after she was gone—
I knew her by the broad white hat,
     All ruffled, she had on.

By the dear ruffles round her feet,
     By her small hands that hung
In their lace mitts, austere and sweet,
     Her gown’s white folds among.

I watched to see if she would stay,
     What she would do—and oh!
She looked as if she liked the way
     I let my garden grow!

She bent above my favourite mint
     With conscious garden grace,
She smiled and smiled—there was no hint
     Of sadness in her face.

She held her gown on either side
     To let her slippers show,
And up the walk she went with pride,
     The way great ladies go.

And where the wall is built in new
     And is of ivy bare
She paused—then opened and passed through
     A gate that once was there.

The Haunted House

Not a window was broken

And the paint wasn’t peeling,

Not a porch step sagged–

Yet there was a feeling

That beyond the door

And into the hall

This was a house of

No one at all.

No one breathed
Nor laughed, nor ate

Nor said “I love,”

Nor said, “I hate.”

Yet something walked

Along the stair

Something that was

And wasn’t there.

And that is why weeds

On the path grow high,

And even the moon

Races fearfully by–

For something walks
Along the stair–

Something that is

And isn’t there.

The Listeners


‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,   

   Knocking on the moonlit door; 

And his horse in the silence champed the grasses   

   Of the forest’s ferny floor: 

And a bird flew up out of the turret,   

   Above the Traveller’s head: 

And he smote upon the door again a second time;   

   ‘Is there anybody there?’ he said. 

But no one descended to the Traveller;   

   No head from the leaf-fringed sill 

Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,   

   Where he stood perplexed and still. 

But only a host of phantom listeners   

   That dwelt in the lone house then 

Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight   

   To that voice from the world of men: 

Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,   

   That goes down to the empty hall, 

Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken   

   By the lonely Traveller’s call. 

And he felt in his heart their strangeness,   

   Their stillness answering his cry, 

While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,   

   ’Neath the starred and leafy sky; 

For he suddenly smote on the door, even   

   Louder, and lifted his head:— 

‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,   

   That I kept my word,’ he said. 

Never the least stir made the listeners,   

   Though every word he spake 

Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house   

   From the one man left awake: 

Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,   

   And the sound of iron on stone, 

And how the silence surged softly backward,   

   When the plunging hoofs were gone.

Whew! I got all the Hallowe’en trimmings up and the candy is ready too. The “A” list kids (good manners and costumes) get full-sized Chuckles. The “B” list gets Hallowe’en gumballs (10 in a roll). I have little plastic cauldrons tied with ribbons of orange and purple, filled with small-sized bits of things (including Kerrs) for the small beggars. There is a bucket of Smarties for the ill-mannered and any kids dressed as politicians. I used to give out the “C” candy to thems not in costume but I know now not all can afford this.

I’ve learned from experience making a full course Hallowe’en dinner (as is my wont) is a lot of work to do on the actual night, so I will do so this evening. Spooky slaw, flank steak, and pumpkin curry soup. For small chocolate cone I have skull cakes. There is usually plenty of leftovers, so they will be eaten on Monday along with some squid-ink pasta with sautéed orange and green peppers.

30 October is Devil’s night, or was. Once upon a time Devil’s Night was a big deal back in Detroit when I was growing up. We were good boys and never went out on “Mischief Night” as Father liked to call it. I have never liked the association of “the devil’ to Hallowe’en as it was a pagan holiday and Lucifer Morning Star need not be dragged into it. With that said I remember having three cliché heads of devils that lit up. I put them in the window on Devi’s Night to keep away kids thinking of soaping our windows.* Brother #2 and I would go out on patrol though looking for hooligans and signs of soap and toilet paper shenanigans. We went with our next door neighbor Mrs. Couk, who had a similar curiosity. As few times were were stopped by Police asking why were out, but the presence of an adult saved us from being arrested. Mercifully there was no shooting.

Did you have/had ‘Devil’s Night” where you live?

I mentioned in an earlier blog entry it’s time to haul out the heavy comforter. I’ve looked in all the usual places and it’s nowhere to be found. I cannot imagine we would throw it out, and the house has limited space for such so what the hell? I am all for getting a new one – along with a new mattress too. The current ones are quite old and not even the right size for the bedframe we inherited when The Lovely Neighbor moved away. Rumor has it mattresses accumulate a lot of weight in dander and nasty wee-beasties to lose one’s appetite to think on it. Buying mattresses is a tiresome task. I hear tell one can do this sort of thing on line where some nice fellows (hopefully well over four feet) show up at your doorstep with new ones and better yet haul away the old ones.

Speaking of fellows at the door, yesterday the doorbell rang, sending negative emotions through me like a Pavlov reaction. No one rings doorbells any more, at least no one I want to see. Those sorts text me they have arrived. I looked through the peep hole to see a couple of men, on the young side, and well over four feet. I think they were soliciting votes and not religion. They looked too old and not dressed right for Mormons. I realized I was in T-shirt and Jack Weldon boxers (the official attire for home alone on Saturday) so I thought it tactless to open the door and say “won’t you come in my dears, I’ve been expecting you!” so I didn’t.

Finally …. Spo-fan MarkB (the dear!) who dwells in the faraway kingdom of Nevada sent me a parcel full up with Hallowe’en treats and nibbles, including this treasure:

Proper sugar-coated rats from Tewkesbury! I shall eat them with relish!

Thank you MarkB!

*Fat chance of that.

Note: this is a mawkish piece of no importance, a piece of prose for fancy. Folks looking for profound insights will be disappointed, as will impudent Board of Directors looking for action. Spo

When I was a lad I grew up on a cul-de-sac shaped like a needle with a large ‘eye’. Back then the street, which was called Fair Court, was lined with elm trees. From my perspective they were tall as sequoias and together made a gothic roof of leaves shading the street, giving it a slight cut-off-from-the world feel. The next street over, to the south, off of Mack Ave., was its sister street, Ford Court. It too was lined with trees of elm and oak. On Hallowe’en both streets took on an enchanted forest-like ambience which thrilled me to no end. On Hallowe’en I would first make the rounds of the homes on Fair Court where everybody knew me, and then it was off to Ford Court, where I knew only The Barches. Ford Court I recall had older and oddly-shaped homes which gave the street a more foreboding look. To get from one street to the other meant cutting through the municipal park at the end of each street’s ‘eye’. It was not lit at night. Can you imagine the scary delight of going through a dark forest-like park on Hallowe’en, not knowing what may be lurking around each elm? “Something is following us!” one of us would shout and we would shriek and run to the sidewalk entrance onto Ford Court, safe from spirits in Sweeny Park.

At the end of the eye of Ford Court, located among some oak trees, stood a small house with a stone stairway porch step leading up to the front door. With its “A”-shape frame it wasn’t like the others houses. It was a witches’ house, no doubt about it. Jeff Barch told us Fair Court kids nobody every came there and nobody was ever seen leaving the driveway thus confirming our assumptions it was enchanted by a witch. Some of the younger kids casted doubt on this hypothesis as there werent any gingerbread children in the front yard but we older and wiser kids knew better. This was a ploy. The painted iron jockey at the end of the driveway with its outstretched arm holding a ring was once was a little black child who foolishly wandered onto the property and was transformed and forced to stand guard as a warning to others to stay away.*

The sensible approach to stay away from The Witch House was discarded on All Hallow’s Eve. Who better to trick-or-treat with than a real honest-to-goodness witch? We took precautions though. We would go the porch steps never alone but two by two while others stood guard at the bottom of the steps ready to holler a warning if there were signs of green hands reaching out from the door or up from the top step. Oh the horror.

The fact that we never saw the witch was a relief and a disappointment. That crafty crone would set outside her door a dummy, dressed as a gypsy (as they were called then) sitting on a lawn chair, holding a wicker basket with a sign attached. The front porch light was green or purple, never white as the other neighbors had on their porches – more proof of sinister shenanigans. The outfit didn’t vary but the sign did. It always had an ersatz spell, written in large loopy handwriting, along the lines of:

Here’s some sweets

For the needy

Please take one

Don’t be greedy

So far as I remember no one ever violated the rule to take only one treat. What would happen if you dared to take more was something unimaginable. The mannequin would come to life and grab the greedy child, caught red-handed as it were, and drag the misfortunate one into her house for a fiendish feast. Perhaps the villain would run off feeling smug with four or five three musketeers only to suddenly be turned into one of those ‘jockey’ fellows or worse a black squirrel, which were ubiquitous.**

For ambience her A-shaped home with the dark light and dummy could not be beat. However, what The Witch of Ford Court provided wasn’t anything special. It was mostly ‘fun-sized’ Snickers or Dots, or Mounds (ugh); it was a disappointment. You would think a serious sorceress would put out something special, not what the mortal neighbors provided from their conventional homes with their no-stairs porches.

I didn’t bother to keep an eye out in my plastic pumpkin which treat was the witch treat. I figured if I ate hers and turned into a toad everyone would know who did it and storm her house as they do in the black-and-white horror movies and burn her at the stake, which would be one of the flag poles the two courts had in their ‘eye’. Happily this never happened and every Hallowe’en she put out the dummy with her basket of treats.

The elm trees are all gone now, dead from Dutch elm disease and replaced with small non-shading Japanese maples, making the two courts ordinary and exposed, typical suburban types. All the residents of my youth on Fair Court and Ford Court are either dead or moved away. I haven’t been back to them of the connecting park in decades. I have no need to see Fair Court again, preferring my memories to the actual places. There is a part of me that would like to return to Ford Court and go up those concrete steps again to The Witch House and knock on her door. I imagine it slowly opening revealing The Witch who was really the mannequin, dressed in her gypsy attire. “Come in! Come in!” she would say “I’ve been waiting all these years! How I’ve longed to see you!” and I would go in – finally – for tea and fun-sized treats and stay a spell.

Just be on the look out for a new (white) iron lawn jockey or a bewildered-looking black squirrel.

*Later in life I would see the same statue on the driveways of others in suburbia and realized this wasn’t magic but racism.

**Andrew C. who lived at the end of Fair Court told us kids black squirrels were that way due to black magic. The witch turned children into black squirrels and if none were around the witch she created them out of brown squirrels. Father told us black squirrels came from Canada, but we didn’t believe him. How on earth could a squirrel swim the Detroit River? Andrew’s theory made more sense.

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November 2022

Spo-Reflections 2006-2018