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There is a ritual catching on in medical schools called The White Coat Ceremony. I’ve not seen one myself, nor was I in one.  Apparently the schools welcome their incoming students with a presentation of their short white coats. My school has reached out to its alumni to sponsor a student via purchasing his or her lab coat. The recipient of this medical munificence gets a card with the donor’s name. We donors are encouraged to write a few words as well.

Urs Truly always has a desire to write great or witty prose; I am first in line to do so. I’ve decided to forgo brevity and wit so I won’t write such things as  “Don’t bother” or “It was hell” but write a proper letter.

Here is the first draft for Spo-fans entertainment and input.

Dear student,

Welcome to the wonderful and wacky world of Medicine. I wish you well. I am nearly thirty years ahead of you. I would like to share with you some sage words for you to keep in mind as you fall down the rabbit hole.

First of all, keep an open mind. The dirty secret is hardly anyone ends medical school with the same vision they started with. Practically everyone changes their specialty and some do so a few times. Most of what you will learn in med school will be either obsolete or useless by the time you hang out your shingle. Yes it’s important to pass the tests but the real point of school is to learn to think like a scientist with a critical eye. Learn to learn.

It will often seem overwhelming and tedious; many times you will doubt your sanity why the hell did you get into this when everyone else your is making money, having fun, and getting sleep too. It all seems tiresome while you were in training but from my view looking back it is a blink of an eye in one’s lifespan.

You will run into many doctors who will complain and discourage you. They will make you wonder if Medicine was a mistake. Shun them and seek out positive role models.

Above all else: take care of yourself. Even caretakers need care-taking.  You will be no good to others if you are no good to yourself.  If you need guidance – or just a shoulder to cry upon – page.  Despite it all it is a marvelous Journey. I’ve had no regrets; I hope you have the same.

Spo-fans know Urs Truly is working on a cookbook. The tome is not exquisite nor original but pragmatic. It is to be a collection of my favorite recipes, which are presently scattered throughout a my cookbook collection. Some examples: Mother’s gingerbread is located in her church’s women’s cookbook. When Someone makes a pot pie, that recipe is in a  Betty Crocker cookbook. James Beard American cooking Cookbook has my recipe for Jam cake. You get the gist.  It would be nice to have them all in one book for easy reference.

Every year since I was a little boy Mother’s side gathers on the same summer weekend for a family reunion. Everyone brings food of course, and someone always makes a layer salad. This same dish, timeless and unaltered, has graced the buffet table for over 50 years. I want that recipe in my book, although I have never made it myself. “To the research” as my colleague says.

I soon became overwhelmed by the myriad of variations of this recipe. There are 5, 7, and even 9 layer versions. Throw in the recipes titled ‘Layered salad’ and there are enough to make one every night for years without a repeat. Oh the pain. Which one was is closest to the one in my memory? I’ve had it many times but never stopped to consider the ingredients.  Stinko.

Then I came to my senses. Nearly all my Facebook ‘friends’ are relations, so I posted the question which relation on Mother’s side makes this or who has the recipe.[1] It finally got around my mother’s cousin’s wife, Aunt Gail who is the maker of the dish. [2] She sent me the recipe, which I duplicated without editing :

Layered Salad:

1 head chopped lettuce 

3-4 stalks of celery finely chopped

2-3 carrots finely chopped

1 can drained sliced water chestnuts
1 small onion finely chopped
1 small bag frozen peas
(layer these items in pan, then spread top with mixture)
2 cups mayo
2 Tbs. sugar
(cover and let set in refrig. overnight…then add)
3-4 large tomatoes sliced thin
4-5 boiled eggs sliced thin
1 jar bacon bits
shake on Parmesan Cheese

This lovely dish captures the urtext of Midwestern cuisine. I plan to make it as soon as I am off my diet and I plan to eat it all myself. [3]

Meanwhile, other female relations on both side of my family tree sent me their versions of this mercurial entree.  Cousin/Aunt Joy sent me this one:


What I adore most about this is the nostalgia of the typewrite on an index card, which is stained no doubt from use. I particularly find charming it the dropped letters.  The typist got to the end, made a typewriter boo-boo, and decided it was good enough and not worth typing the card over again.  The typist (probably her mother, my father’s cousin) had to compact the directions for the sake of space, hoping one would intuit the directions. I plan on making this one too; I am curious to see which better floats my boat, as it were. I suspect both will be enjoyable. [4] After all, there is nothing as comforting as food with family history as its main ingredient. It may not be haute cuisine but it made with love. [5]

Spo fans who have fabulous layer salads (7 or otherwise) are invited to share their recipe in the comment section.  I would be blithe to have them. 


layered salad


[1] A clever-dick Spo-fan from Canada, noticed for his good looks and wit, left the comment in his house 7-layer salad is called lasagna.

[2] I knew this but I had forgotten. Mother keeps in touch with all her cousins of which she has plenty. I used to know them all but now I get them confused. Just hate that.

[3] I will have to eat it all myself for Someone is highly adverse to mayonnaise and I don’t think using sour cream or yogurt will do the dish justice.

[4] I am already conjuring up my own Urspo-layer salad, using the best bits of each and with possible add-ons and higher quality ingredients – no rubbish.

[5] And maybe made with a slightly altered version that has a secret ingredient one keeps to oneself so the others can never make  it quite as good as you. 🙂

Last year when I attended my uncle’s funeral I was struck by the homogeneity of his network. The reception was at a very swanky golf resort. The entrance was gated and I needed a clearance to enter. The grounds were dripping in opulence. Even the attendees gave off a redolence of great wealth. Everyone was white and Republican. As I mingled I wondered to myself if these folks had any contact with their fellow Americans other than each other. I doubted it. At the time I felt a smugness I was better; I had a ‘broader base” of contacts.

But do I really? Stepping back from the contents of my late uncle’s world and looking at my own, mine is probably no broader.

Smoking is an example. Other than The Lovely Neighbor I can’t think of a single soul that I know who smokes. Yet 25% or so of the nation smokes. I bet smokers have among their friends a lot of smokers.

You will be shocked to hear nearly all my friends are gay, male, and liberal in their politics. The closest I have to a broader network is through blogs – yet even these fine folks are generally cut from the same cloth. I bet there isn’t one among my reads who is conservative, anti-gay, pro-Trump, and/or uninterested in Self growth.*

Is my memory faulty when I recall it used to be different? As I grew up I remember I was around people of many views, habits, and backgrounds. In school, scouts, and such there were many different sorts; we didn’t agree, we sometimes argued, but we didn’t completely isolate.

It is no surprise to me to read places that combine types do a good job at diminishing fears and bias. Whites are less fearful of Blacks when both are in the military (or pirate ships for that matter). Conservatives are “less anti-gay” when they know someone personally who is.

I would like to remedy this in my life viz. have a more expansive circle. I think it would be good for me and for them – and for the nation too in a way. Now how does one do this? I think my biggest challenge isn’t finding others of different sex, race, politics or religion, but of different sexual orientation.  Can straight and gay men be friends?



*The tendency to surround ourselves on-line with only those who are like is sometimes called ‘cyber-balkanization’.

I have just returned from boxing up a collection of cookbooks; it is a ponderous parcel. The Lovely Neighbor (who is in the process of preparing her house for a move) gave me a pile of cookbooks the size to rival Fafner’s hoard. I did not have the heart to refuse her. In the same week Someone cleaned the pantry. This left my cookbook collection overflowing their shelves and TLN’s donations piled up on the dining room table. It was time to take action.

OzkyU_8n  I recently listened to an interview of a Japanese lady who is apparently The High Priestess of tidy up and organization. She inspired me to tidy up my tomes. Her approach rests upon the axiom one’s possessions should elicit joy and anything else ought to be discarded.

It was not easy applying this philosophy to old books, especially cookbooks. I’ve kept a lot of them out of guilt that someday I will use them, yet I haven’t and I doubt I ever will. Many I had forgotten they were even there. I took this sage’s advice to express gratitude toward each book as I put it on the ‘out-it-goes’ pile. Indeed, while many I never used, nearly all of them had given pleasure at their purchase. Some cookbooks have memories of trips when I bought them. Her approach made tidy-up and letting go a bit easier. My messy shelves are now organized and stream-lined to the ones I cherish. I threw out the many “Oriental” cookbooks from The Lovely Neighbor as there were nearly a dozen. I now have only two or three, which is enough.

Ironically I am working on making my own cookbook, a collection of Spo-recipes which are my favorites. They are not exquisite but the ones I use over and over. I think it convenient to have them all in one volume. I am separating the sheep-dips from the goat-cheeses to only include the recipes I find delicious, memorable, and worth repeating, like my men.

The end point: a shelf of cookbooks few but useful, along with my own. I am keeping The Cooks Illustrated magazines and the plastic filing-box of TV-recipe cards. Any additional recipes I need in life is covered by the Betty Crocker, Epicurious, and NYT Cooking apps.


This vision bring me joy indeed.

The Japanese lady would be proud of me.

David G. (the dear!) recently posted a thoughtful and erudite entry with the title

“What do I need more of in my life?”

Rather than giving him a short answer in the comment section, I am replying with an entry of my own. My first respond to the question was rather flippant. I responded with “a houseboy AND something I won’t write out lest my family be reading this”.  The entry could be comical or with gravitas.  I am going with the latter.

Yesterday I had plenty of time to contemplate this lofty question. I was busy around the house tidying up and tending to things that needed doing. I was quite happy to be alone and lost in my thoughts and activity – a true sign of introversion!

What do I need more? I need Time. I shall be cautious here, for Time can not be made or lost, only spent wisely or foolishly. Everyday (Lord willing) I wake up to 24 hours in which to do – what? Three things:

1 – Work. Like most folks my day is mostly consumed with my job and its needs. When I am not seeing patients, I am dictating note/charts, filling out forms and returning phone calls.

2 – The daily tasks of living, the mundane things like making meals and the bed, and taking care of the dog. There is always the ‘house problem de jour” that demands attention.

3 – Then there are the things I would ‘like to do”. These are legion. I started a list of them but it became as long as a line at Best Buy on Black Friday Best Buy. It made me shudder so.

#3 is what I want more of in my life. It sounds like the lyrics of a Jim Croce tune.

What I try to do each day is delegate some Time each for 3 and not  just 1 or 2 of time consumption. I might read, or work on my two books, or sew a shirt (many to do).  #3 type of Time is usually conducted in the portion of day formally known as Vespers. Alas I can’t do too much of #3 lest it eat into sleep.

So that’s your answer, David G. I want more Time, untainted with the demands of work and Life’s’ mundane maintenance. I suppose this makes my request to be a “Man of Leisure”.  How lovely that sounds.

PensiveOne of my favorite poems is Ithaka by C.B. Cavafy. This poem tells us it is not The End that matters but The Journey towards The End. However, one needs an end goal, something towards which you travel. It gives you the incentive to make The Journey.  Without an Ithaka one is likely merely ‘drift’ – or make no Journey at all.

Last weekend I did the usual there’s-work-to-be-done chores. I got through all the necessaries: paperwork, some exercise, and the laundry. I had a few niceties such as supper with the The Lovely Neighbor, and a show.  I cleaned the backyard so it is once more decent for sitting. It all felt good to do. It was a pleasant enough weekend.

Now it is Monday morning. I sit at my desk, preparing for another week without surprise or difference. They go by faster and faster in the spiral known as zenosyne.

I have a good life and job; I am not unhappy. Yet, there is something missing. I have no long term goals other than some half-baked Bucket list goals which never seem to transform into reality given all the daily doings demands. In short, I have no Ithaka.  And I want one.

Now, the opposite approach to Life is a sort-of ‘zen’ philosophy of living and loving Life’s contents allowing the years to go by without a worry where it all goes. It is a rudder-less boat you allow the wind to take where it wills. My parents never worried about ‘going somewhere’. They grew up, went to school, married, had and raised children, and retire to now make up their retirement days as they wish. They are very happy and content people. I wish I could be that way.  Alas, something else is in the recesses of my pumpkin that resonates with Mr. Cavafy’s poem. My psyche is not human but X-man that must find its Journey.

I suppose I would feel a bit more at ease if I had concrete tokens in place such as a will, a retirement vision and plan how to do my Bucket-list items. At the moment I have none of these – and the week’s demands will keep me busy enough to get to Friday as before.

I don’t know where this is going, which is the point. I am not content with The Cheshire Cat approach to Life.

I want an Ithaka, and soon.



Like anyone who goes on Facebook or Youtube – or just goes poking about on the internet – I am inundated by advertising.  Even off the computer ads are everywhere. I pick up a magazine or medical journal and there they are. Last week a galvanic electronic sign – big as a house – was erected alonside Highway 101. It lights up the night like a carnival cruise ship; it can be seen from a mile away.

People are always trying to sell us things.

Like most people I try to ignore them all and I like to feel I am impervious to their siren songs.[1] Or am I? Advertisers, no fools, are becoming more and more surreptitious in their wily ways to get into our psyches. When they are not making up weasel ways to get me to buy their products, they are trying to wear me out through attrition.[2]

Perhaps I am living in a fool’s paradise thinking I am not influenced by the continual conga-line of company ads. I like to laugh at Mr. Z with his FB ads for I don’t remember any of them, let alone buy anything via FB. No doubt he has the last laugh; I’m certain he’s selling my data to all sorts of villains who hope to put up in front of me bright shiny objects of my liking. [3]

Like King Cnut, I may not be capable to hold back the sea of ads but I can be conscious and skeptical to the contents of ads. It helps from time to time to turn off and tune out from dastardly devices and read a book. It reminds me of the traveling door to door salesman. If the doorbell should ring we didn’t have to answer it.



[1] Having humming-bird brains is helpful. I am easily distracted by ads but I hardly pay any attention to them. By the time I have suppressed the pop-ups or have looked the other way I’ve already forgotten what it was. ADHD has its attributes.

[2] Most of the time this backfires viz. repetitive ads. By the fifth time I’ve been obliged to see/hear it, I make a vow I’d rather eat rats at Tewkesbury than buy the product. On the other hand every podcast has been flogging Blue Apron, and I’ve bought it.

[3] They must still be in the planning phase for personalized ads for I haven’t seen any for housekeepers, handsome hombres, and nasty chips.

The Lovely Neighbor is getting rid of all her things in preparation for her house sale and a move to Virginia. I am sad to see her go. When her mother Merle died last month I knew TLN would not stay alone in that big house when all her kin are back east. If she had her way she would give us her entire household.  “Take something, anything!” she said today as I visited her to see how she was doing.  I told her what I really wanted was a recipe. Merle made an oyster dip which she served at every party and dinner. That is what I wished to take to remember her.

Whenever someone dies or goes away for good I want a souvenir of them. This is never something large or precious, nor is it merely a photograph. What I want is a recipe. Food is my means to recall someone I love and miss. Friends and family get associated with a dish or cookie or even a cocktail. One bite or sip brings them back to me.

I learned today The Lovely Neighbor’s late mother’s recipe is neither complicated nor haute cuisine. It consists of two tins of oysters, diced, combined with some diced tomatoes (also tinned) and a few dashes or tabasco. That’s it. The dip is served with Ritz crackers. It is not ‘gourmet’ but it works. Its aroma and taste brings back Merle. I miss her. I surmise whenever I have oyster dip I will remember her. This beats all the photographs in the album book.

I have many such food-memories associations. Most of them are simple fare. None were consciously set up to do the job; they merely happened. I have a cup of coffee, I think of Lena. One cup of tea and I hear my grandmother. I nibble some edam cheese and I Grandfather is alive again. “I smell olives” conjures loving memories of The Cajun.

I suppose this is another argument for lots of home cooking and haggaes. I don’t care too deeply for inheriting Grandmother’s furniture. Her recipe for Russian Chicken*, handwritten on an index card in large cursive penmanship, is something I really cherish.

Spo-fans are invited to share if they have a dish associated with a loved one.


*Russian Chicken

10 ounces of preserves: apricot, pineapple, or peach. 

I package of Lipton onion soup mix.

1 bottle of Russian dressing (or make your own).

Mix the three ingredients together and pour over 4-6 chicken breasts.   Cover and bake x 90 minutes at 350F.

David G. (the dear!) recently blogged how he goes about finding topics for a blog entry. He asked his readers how do they do theirs. My response is this entry. I have several roads for inspiration.

The first route is to sit on a tripod stool over an opening in the earth. I inhale vapors and go into a trance, allowing Apollo (or the Electrician, or someone like him) to possess my spirit. The cryptic babble is then written out in long hand. I don’t do this one much anymore as it gives me over-the-top wisdom hangovers.

The second is a surreptitious route: I go around my favorite blogs and steal their ideas upon which, such as how I decide to blog from David G.

Door #3 resembles Beethoven’s notebook. He would walk about always with a notepad. If a little ditty popped into his mind, he would pull out his notebook and write it down. Later he used it in his composition. The difference between Herr B.and Urs Truly is he used paper and quill and I use my iPhone. The other difference is he is dead and I’m not.

Most of the time I rely on #4, which is to sit in front of a blank screen and stare at it with a vacuous expression and wonder again what on earth am I going to write or should I finally give it a rest for Pete’s sake I’ve written on everything there is and there is nothing I haven’t dragged on stage from my life past or present and besides who reads this rubbish anyway and yes I said yes I will Yes.  Sitting and looking idiotic isn’t pretty or pleasant but it leaves the door open for members of Goddess-Groups Inc. to drop by for tea and inspiration.  Spo-fans know the Drama Personae:

The Fates

The Muses

The Norns

The Graces

The Furies


The Skanks *

One of these lovely lady-groups puts a kernel of creativity into the recesses of my pumpkin. Sometimes they take the Carol Kane approach “Sometimes you have to slap people in the face to get their attention”.

Once in a while, in a pinch, the bellicose Board sends me something upon to write, especially if they are in a swivet over drops in the number of comments. Their suggestions are either benign albeit useless “Hey, green is a nice color. Why don’t you write about something green” (which isn’t easy) or sardonic “Oh, for Thor’s sake anything but another “Walking the Dog” entry !”

It is amazing how I compose anything at all given these noisy Archetypes flitting about my Psyche like angry bats, but I manage somehow.


*Once – lord love us ! – The Archies paid a visit. The Board of Directors Here At Spo-reflections dumped them and their sottish entry into the Glomma. It was quite tactless but they were very angry.

I woke this morning to the sound of rain and the smell of petrichor; I was immediately transported into a good mood. Inclement weather does this to me. I feel at ease and happy on rainy cloudy cool days. They call for staying indoors and think introverted thoughts. It is on such days my Psyche turns inward to the Collective Unconscious for a visit with Qi. It would be a delight to sit with The Sage all day, without moving or saying a word, taking in an amalgam of  smells and sensations, waiting for wisdom to creep in like fire smoke.

I am at work at the Mesa Office. Today’s appointment book is solid from 8 to 5. This will not be a day of sitting quiet. I will be quite active, listening to patients and deducing what’s to be done. Many of them will require me to be “on my toes” as it were. This is hardly the quiet day I envisioned for Wisdom to sneak in an insight.

Or is it? We err in our belief The Numinous enters only when we are quiet and focused, or in a religious-like situation (whether formal or substance-induced). Wisdom constantly knocks at our noggins, seeking permission to enter. It is possible to receive such even when very busy or doing the mundane. It is like a quiet ostinato in the loud orchestra of daily doings. It is easily missed if you are distracted by the mundane melodies of the day.

By the end of the day I will have my usual fatigue having seen over two dozen patients and a handful of phone calls and crisis. The weather report says it will clear and it will be perpetual sunshine. The day will have had some Wisdom as well, if only I am aware enough to receive it.


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