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Someone’s work at the convention center is closed. He’s at home now and the auguries portend no soon end to his or anyone else plight. He’s going to try on-line delivery groceries to cut down or perhaps discontinue our need to set foot at Uncle Albertsons. Back in my bachelor I did this sort of shopping. I recall it was called “Pea pod” and I found it a marvelous thing. Maneuvering a car in Chicago traffic was a tedious time-consuming endeavor. Whenever I remembered something I wanted I would add it to the list and eventually I press the ‘send’ key and hey presto! some nice person delivered it all to my doorstep. If Someone’s present efforts succeed we will have eliminated another reason to go outdoors.


I’ve already begun to wonder how much of all of our retreats will reverse when the coast is clear. After weeks – months? – of working at home/not going out/ordering things in (food and everything else) will we all throw it off and return to an gregarious business-as-usual existence or do we continue to stay put at home?

There is a Japanese word for this sort of people: Hikikomori. They are the ones who have withdrawn from society to seek extreme degrees of isolation and confinement. They don’t go out. They work and eat and do everything at home. All is brought to them (but company) through the means of their computers and phones. They are usually teen-types and younger men who have grown up with technology and without lessons in social skills. Perhaps they have severe social anxiety or depression or agoraphobia. No one really knows for sure why they are this way; they aren’t the types who respond when sociologists reach out to them.

In the olden days these sorts were hermits or mystics. They withdrew from society to focus on the numinous and grow in wisdom. I don’t think today’s stay-at-home types (voluntary or involuntary) are seeking enlightenment. Rather we are binge-watching reruns and eating comfort food.

I mustn’t let germs or government gel with my proclivity and desire to crawl into a hole and shut off the world. Somehow I need to stay in touch with others and keep my composure so when I emerge from this biological retreat I shell return to a salubrious and wholesome social well-being.



I went through the weekend without reading any blogs. This is a first in a long while. I feel guilty for this; if I want readers it is only good manners to reciprocate by reading others. It wasn’t like I was ‘busy’ yesterday. Without any external there’s-work-to-be-done chores and time spent at the gym/grocers etc. there was ample time to do so. A part of my psyche went several stages above and beyond ‘social distancing” and didn’t go online. As I do some self-analysis on this matter I realize going online to visit my blogger buddies (the dears!) means first going through Yahoo! where I see alarmist headlines and (oh the pain!) always a photo of He-who-won’t-even-be-acknowledged. I can’t stand even the sight of him. The proper bastard has even barged into my personal zone. Enough of that! This evening I will have lots to do The Board of Directors Here at Spo-Reflections and I will go a-viking to everybody on the blog roll and read how all are doing. I hope well enough.

It is Monday morning prior to what looks like a typical busy workday. The roster seems ‘business as usual’. There are a bunch of video appointments today but not many. Nobody at work has told me how these video/telephone appointments are determined vs. the face-to-face ones. Perhaps it is insurance-driven or patient-preference? I insist on seeing new patients face-to-face as so much information is not gathered in a sitting down interview. Curiously the newbies are all showing/not cancelling. Some of them have been waiting for months for their evaluation. So far no one has complained about having to come in; quite the contrary some are actually thanking me for ‘being here’.

And now to the sensitive topic of toilet paper. Last week while rummaging about the unused guest bathroom I found five rolls. Holy mackerel what a find! I put these strays in the laundry room cabinet with the ones already accounted for. There are a total of 14 rolls. Has anyone actually done the math how long a roll last? There are many variables:


Number of people in the house.

If the people are ‘wadders’ or sheet-oriented in their application.

The quality of the toilet paper.

The amount of Mexican cuisine and curried snacks consumed (oh the pain!).


I suspect and hope fourteen rolls for two (male) adults are enough for a long while. I’ve try to be more prudent in the number of squares taken at a time. One nice thing about going to work is this cuts down on home-based TP consumption. The third floor where I work has ~ six businesses that share a common loo (one for each sex); there doesn’t seem to be any signs of such running out at work. This may be because many of the other businesses are not open. I shudder if there comes a time when I am obliged to bring TP from home to use at work. By then I will insist on working at home,  if not for my physical wellbeing than for my backside.


This morning having woken from a series of disturbing dreams I did not find myself having been transformed into a large-size monstrous vermin (it could happen) but in a pleasant mood. The sun is shining and it isn’t too cold. Provided I didn’t turn on the cellphone to read the headlines  to spoil things Life looks good today. I am quite aware things are not that jolly but it helps to disinvite the world in when one isn’t even out of bed.  Every morning I say a silent prayer to whatever gods that may be listening: “I am thankful I have another day – more Life.”  These days gratitude is heightened and good for that.   

Unlike many I went to work last week. It felt good to be in some sort of normalcy especially when I remember I am trying to heal the sick ‘in the trenches’ as it were as doctors ought to do (at least the ‘good ones’ anyway).  I am going on the surmise it is just as matter of time I get the bug or at least ‘turn positive’ and have to stay home for a fortnight or more.  This dreadful prediction is another aspect folded into my morning meditation of thanks I’m still here for now.


It’s Saturday and there’s work to be done. I am grateful for some charting to do. Lands sakes! There isn’t much else to do really!  However all is not drab and drudgery. We have a ‘date’ this evening. The fellows with whom we were to rendezvous in Palm Springs have proposed we do some sort of ‘virtual dinner party’. This means we all make a meal and somehow sign onto the internet so we can see each other eating and we natter.  This will be a new experience and I wonder if I will I awkward. Watching folks eat online shouldn’t be any different than watching them munching in real life no? 

Then there is the menu. Someone and I were scheduled this evening to eat leftovers or who-hash or (worse) open tinned cans of something. Does one dress up and make something fancy for a virtual dinner-party? I looked it up online and Miss Manners is silent on the subject.  I suppose in normal times I wouldn’t dream of going out with chums to a restaurant without attending to my appearance and being on my best behavior. I go with the notion virtual dinner manners and protocols ought to be the same – even with familiar friends whom I have seen parading around ‘sky-clad’ at clothing optional resorts.  

This leads me to the delicate topic of what to call such virtual experiences.  This morning I was online with Brother #3 and Father; they referred to our trio-communication as ‘having a three-way’. This is not an appetizing notion. I did not explain my more lurid association with their word-choice. Is there a less-suggestive word for such social intercourse? 

I bet you a nickel this evening somebody will make the ribald joke of ‘having a three-way’ and threaten (as a reference to Palm Springs shenanigans) to drop his pants in the middle of dinner.  This is something normally one doesn’t do at proper dinner parties but all bets are off if there are cocktails involved or The Other Michael is in high spirits. 

I need to start watching my diet. There is a perfect storm brewing consisting of inactivity at home and high-calorie/comfort foods and boredom eating. They are all coming together to wreck havoc on my waistline. I see signs at the grocers I am not alone in this health hazard. What’s flown of the shelves are the pasta boxes, canned comfort foods and peanut butter jars;  fresh fruits and vegetables remain plentiful and untouched. Sitting on ones butt at home and eating nasty chips while binge-watching episodes of Big Bang isn’t good on body or soul.
In response to the creeping crud I am being more conscious to eat less and eat better. I’ve become a fan of sheet pan vegetables. I chop up the veggies and toss’em in olive oil and whatever spices and herbs are at hand. They are spread onto a baking sheet and baked at 450F for 15-20 minutes. They’re tasty, quick, and not too expensive – like my men.
I have to be mindful what happens next viz. avoid those oh-so-tasty ‘dips’ full of nasty calories and hidden sugars (oh the horror!). The covidiots aren’t interested in vegetables let alone the more exotic types so I have heaps to choose from. I am getting into baking rutabagas and aubergines and even okra when it’s available. It’s almost a challenge now to see what can be cooked on a sheet pan. So far I haven’t found a vegetable that doesn’t stand up to this mode of cooking although I’ve learned green beans and sliced carrots don’t appreciate a full 20 minute in the oven as they turn into brown withered things quite unpalatable.
As for exercise I try to get up and move every 15 minutes. Harper is quite glad to help me in my endeavors not to sit still. She never tires of quick five-minute walks around the block. I haven’t gone so far as to make a ‘home exercise program’. I suppose I should do so as eating less and more sensible may not suffice particularly when a certain someone brings home nasty chips whenever he goes to the grocers to fetch more vegetables.* Enough now with the pasta-based dishes! Begone you thawed slabs of mystery meat put into the freezer during The Pliocene epoch.

Tonight’s menu consists of grilled vegetables with coucous. It’s a start.

If Spo-fans have fabulous grilled/baked vegetable recipes please share’em in the comments.




*I shan’t say who.

In “The Manticore” by Robertson Davies a terrified man is frozen into inaction. His traveling companion urges to go on:

“I can’t Liesl !  I’m done.

You must.


What gives your strength? Have you no God? No, I suppose not. Your kind have neither God nor Devil. Have you no ancestors? “

At first he is nonplussed.

“Ancestors? Why, in this terrible need, would I want such ornaments?”

Then he remembers his great-great-grandmother Maria who was ostracized from Ireland for having an illegitimate pregnancy. She journeyed alone to Canada to start a new life for herself and her child.

“I suppose I must have called upon Maria and something – but it’s absurd to think it could have been she! – gave me the power I needed to wriggle that last few yards…”

In times of strife I too look for fortitude. I leave no stone unturned, searching for Strength in all its (her?) forms. I draw upon my own ancestors, the Spos who braved an Atlantic crossing in 1630 to seek a new life, who endured The flu pandemic of 1918, and who managed through The Great Depression.

I also look to the brave people in plays and literature. I reach into my bag of courageous characters and out comes… Mother Courage! from the play of the same name.  When I get a stir-crazy in my many roomed house (with access to outside) I remember Anne Frank who sat in the same room over 700 days.

At times I communicate with the saints. I like the saints; they were on the whole an unfortunate lot literally taking the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune but did not falter.


While I look for Courage I am asked to be courageous for others. I see this in the anxious eyes of my patients and sometimes with friends or members of my family. This makes me feel a fraud. I want to say to the world I am just as scared as you perhaps more. When this happens Maria-like the legion of saints, ancestors, and storybook characters rise up in my psyche and remind me courage is not having no fear it is being brave when you are frightened.

They comfort me; they stiffen my spine.


Where do you go when you need courage? Tell me in the comment section.

I work up today with some sneezing and morning crud in the lungs and a stuffy nose. Someone has this too. We’ve had the doors and windows open lately. Yes, it’s seasonal allergies time. If we were to go out in public now our symptoms would be misinterpreted as ‘the virus’ and panic would ensue. Not that we are going out much. Today Friday marks the end of the “Palm Springs 2020” holiday. If we had gone we would have been ousted or (worse) obliged to stay in California.  It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good. I’ve gotten a lot done around the house. The shelves are all organized and all the shirts are ironed just for once.*
Spending a week at home doing housework and reading books and things impromptu must be what retirement is like. If so I could do this. There is a difference: the retirees I know seem to be more away from home than not. It must be a disappointment for them to stay put and not travel. I hope they have enough books and shirts to keep them occupied.
Alas Babylon!  I am not retired. Next Monday I return to work, ‘business as usual” – or perhaps not. I’m curious to hear if there will be more than usual cancelations and ‘no-shows’ or will quite the opposite happen viz. more than usual calls for appointments to see me. I haven’t yet heard from the bosses if it will be status quo or they will allow telephone appointments. The latter would be OK by me I suppose. Face-to-face appointments are not ‘covered’ for payment and liability. I am not going to worry about today.
I think I will start the allergy pills so people won’t be agitated when I cough and sneeze and I perhaps I will feel better as well. The first pills always knock me out like nobody’s business but what the hell if I were to sleep for a few days there’s no harm lost. The timing is good as was my scheduled week off I suppose. I’ve had two strokes of good luck this way. I hope for a third : my case of corona19 will be a less than lethal. I am not so foolish as to believe I won’t get it. May it be just enough pathology for me to survive and qualify for the T-shirt and have the quiet satisfaction I did my part to keep it from being no worse than it was.

Mid section view of a mid adult man ironing a shirt on an ironing board


*This has put a strain on decorum: when all the shirts are simultaneously washed and ironed I’ve discovered we have more shirts than hangers and more shirts than closet space. Someone isn’t going to work anytime soon either so these freshly washed and ironed shirts are going to sit on the racks for some time. Who knew hoarding hangers was more necessary than hoarding paper products ?


I’ve lived through a dozen of Armageddons so I recognize one when it happens to me.  In each I felt I and/or the world would end and in each case neither did. Of course this track record doesn’t guarantee this storm will go the same route but it is a fair enough bet. Whenever I face an uncertain and worrisome future what helps me most is the philosophy of Stoicism. Trying to define Stoicism in a few paragraphs will not do it half justice but I would like to write a few bits about some of its points, hoping it helps.

Stoicism is a helpful and practical philosophy especially when it comes to dealing with Life’s sorrows. Stoicism is based on the hypothesis Life goes bad and bad things will happen but they are survivable. We are far more capable of enduring hardships than we presently suppose. It helps us deal with the anxiety and anger that the bad times evoke.  

The Stoics were not fans of attempts to assuage anxiety through expressions like “Don’t worry!” and “Cheer up!” and “Things will be OK!”. They were not at all optimistic types. When it comes to Hope, as Rocky says to Bullwinkle: “But that trick never works!”  Bad things happen folks and there is no sugarcoating it or wishing them away.* But – and this is the huge consoling Stoical but – things will sort out ‘ok’. Each of us is stronger than we think. We will get through it.  You discover you can go without a lot you thought vital.  

Having the wrong (optimistic) idea about Life leads also leads to anger. This originates from misplaced hope smashing into reality.  When one expects good things to happen (or at least bad things to no happen) and this doesn’t occur: we are surprised and outraged and this leads to anger.

A bigwig in the School of Stoicism was a fellow named Seneca. One of his best quotations:

“What need is there to weep over parts of life when the whole of it calls for tears?”

I know a lot of medical history. What we are experiencing now is no different than any other plague time history. We are no better than our ancestors at handling pandemics and our emotions when in one. History repeatedly shows after the end of tribulations things settle down into some sort of new normalcy.  Stoicism helps me steer through past and present turbulent waters into the calm and until the next storm arises. If my ship should sink and I drowned I will take peace knowing I lived ‘well’ , not ‘as long as I hoped’. 



*They were also not fond of efficacy of prayer either. 

I feel it is my civic duty to order take-out. All the PHX restaurants are closed now but for take-out. I feel sorry for the waitstaff. Really though I prefer take-out to cooking and there isn’t much at home to cook anyway. A lot of human ‘thinking’ is figuring out a way to support the charming illusion you are essentially a nice being when in fact you a nawful person. This is rationale/split thinking is called cognitive dissonance and we all do so as not to go crazy.  It is only Wednesday and I am already a little bit crazy not being used to staying home during my spring break. Someone is better at this than I am viz. sitting still while I bounce about the place looking for things to do. Worse –  it is raining which evokes those rainy-day projects so I have no reason to complain. 


Hot puppies!  Proper cheese! 

Brebis d’Ossau

French mountain cheese from the Pyrenees.

From the pink and purple hydrangea-dotted mountainsides of the Pyrenees comes some of the best sheep’s milk cheeses France’s Basque region has to offer.

A month ago when I was planning to be in CA this week I ordered some imperial tid-bit cheesy comestibles. When the trip was canceled (the dears!) was kind enough to divert the order to La Casa de Spo. It arrived today. The three cheeses are a happy consolation prize for my deprived winter holiday.  I will eat them with relish over the next few days. Happily there was no grab-and-go on crackers at Uncle Albertsons. The pasta, bread, and tortilla chips were all striped bare but not the crackers. I have given up on the ‘logic’ behind the hoarding. 

Brabander Goat Gouda

Goat gouda milkshake.

Brabander goat’s milk gouda is made in the Brabant region in the south of the Netherlands from the pasteurized milk of Saanen goats. The wheels are aged for around six months under the direction of Betty Koster who runs Fromagerie L’amuse, Amsterdam’s best cheese shop. What’s especially interesting about the aging of these wheels is that it’s done in a facility that has very little climate control, like cheese rooms used to be. For a few days in the summer they might turn on the air conditioning to keep it from overheating, but otherwise the cheese is allowed to mature at whatever seasonal conditions happen to blow through the windows. The old-school environmentally-low-impact aging makes cheese that has seasonality and takes a careful palate to master.
English Farmhouse Cheddar

English Farmhouse Cheddar

Universally imitated, never replicated. The original cheddar.

Like the British Empire, cheddar conquered the world—it’s the planet’s most widely copied cheese. Ironically, with so much emphasis on imitation, the original has become an endangered species. It’s rarely found in this country and is worlds apart in character from its copycat cousins.

Montgomery’s is one of only three farms in its ancestral homeland making truly traditional farmhouse English cheddar. Big, clothbound drums are made by veteran cheesemaker Steve Bridges every day except Friday. All the milk comes from Jamie Montgomery’s herd of just under 200 Holstein-Fresian cows, which graze on a nearby hill rumored, incidentally, to be the site of Camelot. Their cheeses have a golden color, a warm, flaky texture and a penetrating, memorable flavor. Each one is spoken for—they’re taking no new customers.

Most folks like wine with their cheese but I prefer bourbon and whisky depending on the cheese of course.  Some of my sources for the stuff recently emailed assuring me they’ve got heaps and it is all on sale but I don’t think now’s a good time to splurge on luxuries like Limburger. Someone I suspect is going to be out of work more of less for some time. I guess my job is secure. I doubt the bosses will cut back hours or close shop. I’ve never done tele-psychiatry as it was ‘not covered’ and really there’s been no need to do so what with people on a long waiting-list to come in to see me.  It would be a shame to close down especially when I run out of cheese.  Next week when I return to work I will learn more  and/or order some Fourme d/ambert or Mileens (no rubbish).



While rummaging around the closet looking for some allergy pills I discovered eight – that’s right – eight! – bottles of hand sanitizer gel. I had completely forgotten about them. For some time I’ve considered tossing them as worthless; now they are valuable – at least in the eyes of others. I don’t use the stuff; I prefer washing my hands with soap and water. Isn’t it funny how we value things?  This week I would gladly trade a bottle for foodstuffs which is what I don’t have.  I suspect putting an ad on Craigslist or standing outside the depleted supermarket in a trenchcoat lined with the stuff won’t get me a bag of potatoes or (better yet) some tins of tuna so I won’t. It feels silly: here am I with eight bottles on the shelf and people would kill for such while I have heaps.  There is a metaphor here but it hasn’t yet gelled.*

My decision to be virtuous about not hoarding may backfire as we don’t have much food reserves. I figured after a week of stockpiling their larders the hoarders will be sealed-up and satiated that the stores will replenish and I can buy some groceries.  I am doubting this strategy now.  The hoarders seem to be going back for more and thems who weren’t hoarding are doing . Uncle Albertsons seems more depleted than ever. Someone and I will have to be prudent in what we eat. I have two comforts: I am trying to lose weight anyway and I did not run barking mad to the stores as so many did.

After I finish this entry I will go on-line and check-in at work and do some charting. Then I will take a small nap or perhaps clean the kitchen. I finished a book this morning and will start another one this evening. It’s not bad really provided I turn off the news. For introverts like me this is lovely.  To my fellow introverts: please check in on your extroverts. They are having a hard time.



*I should get a bonus for such a good pun !

This was to be my fun-filled jam-packed week off but as Blobby says: I got nothing.

A few days ago in reaction to the news Palm Springs is canceled I considered as consolation prizes we could do some day trips and go out and eat at some restaurants we’ve been meaning to try – but these have all shut. It looks like it is to be a week of ‘home alone’ as it were. This would be too bad off. I enjoy my times off with home projects and books. At home we have sufficient foodstuffs and (when I last checked) enough toilet paper hohoho.
I don’t know if my work place will close. It sounds a bit funny doesn’t it that a medical office would close due to sickness. The majority of the business is psychotherapy work which may decline as people try not to go out. If the counselors call it quits and/or the staff get sick/fearful to come in maybe we would be obliged to close. If so how would patients get hold of me? When I am on holiday I check-in with work daily for Rx requests and patient phone calls. I fill the former and tell present incarnation of The Medical Assistant to put out the fires. What will happen if he isn’t in to take the calls? All these what-ifs! Many businesses are feeling similar angst about the future especially when it comes to income and employment. I suspect my bosses will decide on ‘open for business’ until it isn’t possible or we are told not to.
I usually sleep soundly on those nights when I know I don’t have anything the morrow to wake up for. I suspect I won’t sleep too well tonight being unsure what the next week. We will see. We will all see. I know to be patient and take one day at a time and things will sort out eventually. That is a comfort.

Spo-fans: are you out of work? Are you worried about finances?  What will your week entail?

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March 2020

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