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Man talking on the phone I Antique Design Illustrations

One item I did not bring back from Michigan was a rotary telephone. I found it underneath a pile of hoarded things piled up in the unused downstairs loo. It hadn’t seen daylight in decades. It was a squat black box-like thing with a clear plastic rotary dial. The base and receiver were connected by a thick coil resembling a small python. It was as heavy as a rock – no mobile type indeed! I understand Mother hoarding my childhood knickknacks as something I would someday want but why on earth keep such a phone? I remember it though; it was replaced sometimes in the 80s [?] with a modern ‘hip’ phones with push-buttons. It hung from the wall.

Younger Spo-fans* will be shocked to learn back then people did not call people but homes. When the phone rang the members of the household actually got excited someone was calling and for whom. “Spo residence!” said the person who got to the phone first. Then there was a pregnant pause in the house until the listener reached out with the receiver to another announcing ‘it’s for you” and you were obliged to (oh the horror!) get up and go to it.  Nowadays when I am on the phone I tend to walk about. Back then your walking was limited by how far the coil would expand. You were obliged to sit and talk oblivious to anything else.  Multitasking while on the phone was considered rude.

Phone calls then were positive and surprising. Nowadays when the phone rings my first emotional reaction is to cringe. No one seems to call anymore; the calls I get are from telemarketers, scam artists, robocalls, and other villains of the trade.  Call ID helps screen out the ugly but it eliminates the anticipation of who this may be.

Another then and now matter: phones stayed put; you went to them. My grandparent’s phone was located in the ‘phone room” under the stairs. Nowadays the little bastards cleave to our sides like tots with separation anxiety, constantly chirping and whining to get us to pay them attention.  Iphones also wander off and run and need constant minding where they are located. Old phones did not budge an inch from their stands; you knew where they were at all times.

I actually thought to bring the old rotary back and “go retro” but then I remembered we no longer have a land line – another extinct species in the phone world.  I may try to reuse some of the ‘rotary rules’ with my iPhone just to teach it a lesson it is not the boss of me.** I may even return to saying “Spo residence!” when someone calls just to throw off the telemarketers a bit before hanging up on them.

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*The Board of Directors Here at Spo-Reflections sometimes keeps demographics on what sorts drop by.  The last batch of data is maybe four or five years ago; it suggested Spo-fans are of the older type between 55 and 2,000 years old. The data looks skewed as it included folks like The Muses and The Norns. I suspect they are older than 2,000 but ladies (let alone archetypes) do not tell their age or weight. Youngsters who show up to Spo-Reflections usually do so by mistake when they google something that takes them here.  I can almost hear their howls of disappointment when this happens.

**Fat chance of that.

There is a fantasy series titled “The incarnations of immortality” written by Piers Anthony. He takes the Jungian concept of archetypes and inverts it. Rather than the common man having archetypes within him Mr. Anthony  (clever man!) has the archetypes of Time, Death, Nature, War, and Fate as jobs filled in by ordinary folk. Fate of course is a three man job – no, make that a three woman job rather. These employees come and go while the role of the office stays. I think of this concept whenever encountering a revolving door of in and out staff members.

The last incarnation of The Medical Assistant (#4) quit suddenly to take an ‘opportunity of a lifetime’ job. This left me in a lurch with no word from The Boss what’s to be done. The Desk Receptionist (another archetypal job)  took over as if nothing had ever happened. Today I came to work to drop off finished forms and pick up new ones to encounter a stranger stating she was just hired as for the next incarnation of The Medical Assistant. I forget what her name was/is. It sounded like Lucretia Borgia which I hope is not prophetic. I hope #5 works out and stays awhile.

Someone got a recommendation of a lawyer we could use to write our wills. This woman would be the second one to the incarnation of The Attorney. The first one was so long ago I cannot remember her name. We favor applicants of the female persuasion; it is good to have a strong Warrior Queen type woman for legal matters.

The fellow filling the present post of The Good Doctor incarnation has done so for over a decade and I am pleased as punch he has managed to stick around. I often hear the laments from my own patients their PCPs change of them frequently sometime yearly when insurances change. People come and go so quickly here in Medicine nowadays. Gone are the good old days when your GP and you grew old together eyeing each other wondering which will expire first.

As for Urs Truly I have been The Shrink since 2005 for which my patients are most grateful*. I am an incarnation of the staunchest type well over four feet. Please don’t feed me buns and things.

 

 

*Well most of them anyway. There’s no pleasing some.

Before covid19 my job got me up from the chair every 15 minutes to escort  folks to and from the waiting room. I got a lot of steps in this way. After work it was off to the gym which I did regularly. It was March when I was last there. Now I sit all day doing zoom/phone appointments. You know where this is going: I am out of shape and very much so. The only exercise I get is walking the dog which hardly counts given their staccato leisurely pace. The bathroom scale says I haven’t gained too much weight compared to January but I know better. I’ve lost muscle mass and it has been replaced by fat – mostly in the midriff making all my trousers snug if not impossible to wear. Oh the horror; oh the embarrassment! I hate how I look: a beachball on stilts. I am avoiding certain blogs known for their photos of dudes in excellent shape as they  evoke sorrow not pleasure to see them.

What I need to do is find some sort of home exercise for cardio-health and for weight loss – and stop eating so damn much. This resolution comes at the worst time of the year viz. the ardent heat of August. Going out of doors to do anything let alone exercise is a dangerous endeavor unless done in the early morning hours.*

Other variables are what to do and when to do them.** There isn’t much space/room at La Casa de Spo in which to do exercises. Sometimes when out walking the dog we see folks in their open garages bench-pressing or jumping-about. Alas Babylon! Our garage is full up with no space to pretend I’m Richard Simmons. 

I need to research what is most efficacious program under such circumstances. None of this is impossible it is just difficult. “Getting started” is the worse part as it reveals how out of shape I really am and all the losses since March time. 

Someone has a pile of clothes to donate; they don’t fit him anymore. I took back two berms that barely fit me. I hope to use them as goals. 

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*A couple of friends of mine routinely rise at 4AM to bicycle at least twenty miles. They are trim and buff. They regularly post this on Facebook. They are also retired; they go back to sleep afterwards to estivate in the 40C-plus sunrise.  Stirges. 

**I dislike exercising in the morning preferring ‘right after work’ circa 5-6PM but the house is 30C at that time. This is more likely to bring on a heart attack than health benefits. 

Going through the accordion files brought back from Michigan I found my undergraduate diploma. I’ve long wondered what happened to it; long ago I gave it up as lost. Bless you Mother for these saving things. It’s fascinating to see what is in these files. Here’s a short list:

Photos of Urs Truly from day one up to adolescence. 

My report cards, year books, and graduation programs from grade school through med school. 

An envelope with some of my baby teeth.

It is a minor miracle I managed to survive let along turn out OK given some of my grade school report cards:

“Spo tunes out if possible and consequently does a hit and miss directions in his workbook. I am trying to stress with him the importance of listening and reading directions.”

This shows my humming bird brain isn’t a consequence of brain damage from the year of my internship but was there from the get-go. 

The grade school gym teacher Mrs. Mougk wrote:

“He doesn’t seem interested in team sports the only time I’ve seen him become excited was when we learned flag marches”. 

No kidding lady!  It is amazing how things are so obvious in hindsight. 

It will take weeks to sort through all these treasures putting them in order. It is uncertain what to do with all of this old data. Do I really need to keep all these old report cards and yearbooks?

One thing is certain: I will frame the UG diploma and hang it on the wall among the others. After hanging it I will reflect upon my fourth grade report cards and perhaps wave a flag while I march about the office.

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One of my greatest childhood joys were trips to my grandparent’s house and going up to the third floor what constituted an attic/storage space. At the top of the stairs was a large pile of Boy’s life magazines and Walt Disney Comic books. There were my uncle’s back when he was a boy and involved in The Boy Scouts.  These were from the 50s. It was the late 60s and early 70s when I read them but I thought them ancient.  I read The Boy’s Life magazines solely for the comic series. They had titles like “Space Conquerors” and “Kam of the Ancient Ones”. I would spend hours up in the attic reading and rereading them.

The Walt Disney comics were mostly about the adventures of Donald Duck and his three nephews and their rich great uncle Scrooge McDuck.* There were other relations like Grandma Goose and Gladstone Gander – whatever happened them I wonder?

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This is a photo of one of the BL magazines I read and still possess. They were sooo 50s filled with lots of manly scouting things for white boys to emulate. It’s all nifty.

In my youth I also enjoyed newspaper comics. Each afternoon I would eagerly await the arrival of The Detroit News and directly go to the comic section to get caught up on my favorites.  I was quite judgmental about them; I had a keen eye – and opinion – on the quality of a comic’s drawing, plot, and humor. I became upset when one of my favorites suddenly dropped out of circulation. I was equally bummed when some comics kept going.**

Speaking of comics I’ve had an interest in reading – or is that rereading? – “Little Abner”. As a boy I didn’t understand what it was about. It seemed to be drawn well so it got high marks for that. ‘Lil Abner’ seemed odd and without a point.  Someone tells me the man who drew this long time comic strip was a nawful man and the cartoon was similarly odious. I want to see if this is so. I looked it up on line last night: I have decades of reading to do if I am to succeed with such. Mr. Abner may have to wait his turn as I first reread The Walt Disney Comics I brought back from Michigan.

I fantasize about waking up on a Saturday morning to see it pouring rain all day thus canceling all activities and allowing me to sit in a chair, a pot of tea to my left and a stack of comics to my right.  As it never rains here this set up never happens. If I am going to return to the likes of Pee Wee Harris and Unca Donald I better book them.

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*Back in the 50s Mickey Mouse was a secondary character, almost an afterthought; he was  hardly the ‘star’ he is today. I wonder when/why Donald and Mickey changed status?

**The worse example of this was “The Family Circus”. For Spo-fans unfamiliar with this maudlin comic, it is a one frame/one line comic with the same set up: one of the little tykes says something in the ‘aw, ain’t that cute” category. This never changed; I found it boring as hell. I hear tell it continues and remains quite popular. I see it as a sign of the general lack of taste in American mentality.

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Going through my childhood items I looted from home elicits longing for times past or things lost. Everyone does this to some degree. There is a dark side to nostalgia:  we often whitewash the past into something better than it actually was. Worse, libido (psychic energy) is not grounded in the present where it ought to be. This prevents gratitude of the present and thwarts going forward. This is not good. Most of psychotherapy counseling is an attempt to get the past ‘past’ and no longer haunting the present.  “What’s good about the past is incorporated into the present and what’s bad about the past is .. past”.

That said a child-like complex in me sorely misses some things.  In the Captain’s chest of childhood knickknacks is a small pouch of desiccated brown ‘spots’ of an unknown entity.  What were they and why did I put them away in my box of treasures?  It took a few days to connect the dots: they are elm tree seeds!  I nearly came to tears at this Proustian revelation.

I grew up on a cul-de-sac street lined with elm trees. As a boy they seemed mammoth,  on equal status with sequoias in their majesty.  When you entered the street you drove under their majestic branches as if traveling down a Gothic cathedral.  With the approach of a summer thunderstorm the elms would sway in a sonorous message heralding the storm’s arrival.  In the autumn these mighty trees covered the lawns with their brown-speckled yellow leaves deep as a shag carpet.  The white snows of winter (there was more snow then) contrasted with the brown gray of the mighty trunks.

Then the Dutch elm disease came and wiped them out. I don’t remember witnessing this – perhaps my mind as shaken the scene like an unwanted etch-a-sketch drawing.  I don’t know if elm trees still exist. Rumor has it there are communities of elm trees in the small towns of the Canadian plains, zealously guarded from outsiders.  I hope this is true and someday their seeds can be returned to Midwest USA.

Last month I drove down Faircourt St. to see the homes of my youth. They hadn’t changed but they all were exposed to the sky like a newly built suburb. The trees were short Japanese maple types no taller than a man on a ladder.  It all looked vulnerable like King Lear naked to the elements.

I thought to put the decades-old elm seeds (dry as ancient parchment) into potting soil and see if they would germinate.  If successful I could bring the saplings back to Michigan and plant them like Johnny Appleseed.  I hate to think all that work would merely result into a quick death from the same bugs.  I think I will merely keep the seeds in the chest among the Boy Scout items and my elementary report cards as things from the past that are never coming back.  I am putting on my bucket list  “Walk among elm trees”.   Maybe it’s possible.

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The second half of July is when each day feels more or less like the other. It is the pinnacle of summer; there is a sort of timeliness to it. This is made even more so in the covid19 situation in which even the workdays do not differ from each another. There is nothing to look forward to such as a pending holiday or visitor. Every day is Blursday at least for a fortnight. It probably will continue unaltered into August.

Superficially this situation resembles the ‘endless summers’ of my childhood. As a boy it seemed a bore to wake up to another hot day and wonder what on earth was I to do to pass the time.* As I’ve aged the phenomena of Zenosyne becomes more real and I long for Time to just stand still for once. This week my wish is granted. I suppose there is a sense to Time standing still in the dog days of latter July as it is too bloody hot to do anything . I work a long work day and then I stop to eat dinner with Someone. We play a board game or a round of cars (whist or spades) while we wait for the sun to set to allow a dog walk. Then I do paperwork and read some prior to retiring and repeat.

Funny how my mind works. You would think having my wish granted for Time to stand still would provide some peace but it flits about thinking of the pending autumn and the future in general. There is no ‘future’ really. There is ‘Nothing to be done’ to quote Mr. Becket. Someone and I are like his tramps waiting for Godot who doesn’t ever come and probably doesn’t exist. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn the play takes place in the heat of a summer morning.

There is one perk: in the dog days of summer one doesn’t have to think about the future ordo anything at all but merely get through the Blursdays. This week I am putting aside all cosmic ponderances this in favor of mundane matters such as what to make for dinner to differentiate the day from yesterday. It is not a bad state of being.  With the temper hitting 47C there is little choice.

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*I learned quickly not to go to Mother with remonstrations of ennui. Mother’s panacea for all ‘Mom I’m bored” complaints was to shoo us out of doors or give us a task to do.

Someone went to work today; it has been a long time since he has done so. As a consequence I am ‘home alone’ for the first time in many months. It feels a little strange to be by myself but it also feels nice. I love him like my luggage but other than the times I go into the office Someone and I have been in the same room (figuratively speaking) since March.

Spo-fans with scurrilous minds may be wondering if I am up to no good that’s certain but what’s happening today is quite mundane.  I have some old eggs now hard-boiled and chopped into egg salad – something I’ve not made in decades. I plan to sweep and mop the kitchen which hasn’t had a proper cleaning in months (at least by the look of it). There are still lots of boxes to unpack and the contents find places for. 

It should all be pleasant especially since I get to play podcasts Someone doesn’t care for. Better yet – no music or podcasts at all. During Mother’s memorial there was a time of silent prayer when there was no talk nor music – only silence. I thought: when did I last have quiet? Who knows when. Yes, that sounds quite nice. Someone doesn’t come home until 530PM; I have an all day time to tidy up and there’s work to be done – in the context on lovely solitude. 

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Pensive

When The Board of Directors Here at Spo-Reflections hired me to write for this blog they gave me a list of no-no rules. [1] The #2 rule was not to write when feeling despondent for it makes the blog look bad. [2] Alas I am ‘in mood’ as it were. Even Someone nade a comment I am ‘cranky’ which is code for being a total bitch.

I am feeling some depression. I could list a catalog of complaints what is going into this, but I will forgo doing such. [3] Some of my condition is the result of physical matters: I am feeling exhausted from traveling for six days without quality sleep. On the road we ate lousy food (mostly drive through rubbish) so this effects my moods as well.

I’ve been thinking about death a lot. Mother’s passing is the main matter of course. Yesterday blogger-buddy Eric R. informed me our fellow blogger-buddy Kelly Stern is dead. He had a fall – on his 50th birthday no less! – he died from internal hemorrhage. What an end. I have his “Kelly Stern” rainbow flag to remember him and a large red umbrella I got in a fund raiser he did some years ago. I move his blog into a folder I have for ex-bloggers who have died or merely disappeared. The file grows with every year.

The same morning after learning of Kelly’s passing I went back to work to learn a patient had died – I don’t know what happened. Whenever a patient dies the doctor immediately starts wondering ‘could I have seen this coming and could I have done something to prevent it”.

Time and death are integral as the former leads ultimately to the latter. Funny how living in covid19 makes Time feel at a standstill. [4] There is nothing at the moment to look forward at the moment other than the awful months leading up to the election. I sense Hallowe’en will be canceled by the zealots who are against it on the hypocritical grounds it could harm the children when they are now promoting shoving kids back into classroom.

During dark times (and dark thinking periods) I try to draw on the wisdom of The Stoics and the strength of people I know (real and fictional) to persevere and not despair. I work on Sisu.[5] It isn’t easy. For me trying to be Stoic is like trying to be a perfectionist when you can’t get anything right.

Nostalgia has evoked in me the childish emotion of wanting someone with power and authority to take me in his/her arms and tell me everything will be all right. I know there is no one who can do this.

That’s enough for now. It is Friday morning and I have a full day of patients to see and try as I can to help them with their sorrows. I will do a good job doing this; I cannot do this for myself though – at least not now. I hope a weekend of better sleep and proper food helps.

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[1] The interview process for the post was a bit harsh. It consisted of being kidnapped in the middle of the night and dragged off to the HR department of Heorot Johnsons in a net usually used for herring fishing. There I was a given the Hobson’s choice of a position in the scullery or writing the blog. We sealed the contract with a minimal amount of blood letting. Afterwards we had a jolly communal cup of meade which I remember tasted like a urine sample from a diabetic of his meds.

[2] The #1 rule:  do not to drop your pants in public.

[3] OK here it is: the lunacy of US towards covid19 and the realization Trump will be re-elected heading us into an autocratic state. There is also my body image. Enough said.

[4] This morning I learned of a whimsical word via The Grammar Girl podcast. It is for not knowing what day of the week: Blursday.    Isn’t that apropos?

[5] Sisu is a fabulous Finnish word. Go look it up why don’t you.

 

This one was written sitting in the passenger seat of a rental BMV whizzing westward on I-44. Today’s stretch started in Springfield MO and ended in Albuquerque NM. We drove through hostile Oklahoma territory where no one was singing Rodgers & Hammerstein but touting rather Trump 2020 flags and no one wears a mask.  You would think sitting in a car for twelve hours would be tedious but it is not so. I have lots of car activities which make time go quickly. The flat plains put me into a dwam.

Behind me in the back of the SUV are several boxes of ‘loot’ I took from the parent’s house, done in the post-funeral luncheon house cleaning.*  I am still reflecting on what I took and what I did not take. The car is full but it is not packed. I did not take anything of true value; I left behind the offered crystals, silverware, and knick-knacks of reported immense value. I think I will write a separate entry on what I took but focus here on the ‘why’. My loot is mawkish nostalgia of childhood books and artwork. I also took all of Mother’s recipe clippings and I sorted them on the road between Michigan and Illinois.  Many ended up in the trash bins on the interstate rest areas but not all – there are a few saved to try some time.

Away from the house a part of me now wonders why I bothered to rescue this stuff. I am connecting the dots it has something to do with not wanting time to pass; I want something from childhood to continue. 

I thought a lot about death on this trip. Mother is dead and the house of my youth of sixty years will soon be no more.  On the three day trek to Michigan I heard Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods”. In it the gods of yore are fearful of dying as modern people no longer think of them let alone believe in them.  They want to continue; they don’t wish to disappear.  There is some similar in my souvenirs in the pages of my boyhood books and in my teddy bear which I haven’t seen in fifty years. 

I went on emotional intuition to take these items and sort them back at home during more quiet and less emotional times. If my things have no god-energy I can always donate them. 

So – not to end on maudlin note I also took a 6 quart dutch oven still in its packaging, unused. Who knows when mother bought it and why she never opened and used it. It is the only ‘new’ thing I took and by doing the universe seems balanced: the old and the new. I plan to break it in by making one of the soups from the mentioned recipe clippings that made the cut. 

I will be home soon; I look forward to seeing Harper and sleeping in my own bed. I come back feeling changed in a way. I will figure out the nuances later.

 

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*This is a good time to plead to Spo-fans to please clear out your crap while you are alive rather than leave it to your loved ones to do. 

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