Greetings from Flagstaff !

We’ve escaped the hellish heat of Phoenix and have gone to Flagstaff. Last night we actually slept with the windows open. Oh the joy!  Richard, our boniface at The Starlight Pines Bed and Breakfast, is busy making breakfast. He is well over four feet.  He constantly nags for Xanax but I gave him a Spo-shirt instead.

Later today Brother #2 and family arrive for a week’s holiday. They have never been to Flagstaff.  Richard has the joy of hosting a full house of Spos. Someone and Urs Truly are in the Dragonfly Room, Brother and Sister-in-law in The Peacock Room,  and The monster nephews in The Lily Room. Not only are the boys well over four feet, they are well over six foot. They bring with them her mother. She’s on the main floor so she doesn’t have to maneuver the stairs.  A house full of excited Spos can be quite boisterous. Richard just may need that Xanax.

What is more marvelous than waking up on a summer morning with no plans?  Until the callithump of relations arrive, Someone and I have nothing to do and no desire to do anything. We could go hiking – or shopping or whatever. We could sit on the porch all day and read if we fancy.  I can think of no better arrangement.  This must be what retirement feels like.

I call this indolence “Having a Jordan day”.  Years ago I had a patient named Jordon (not his real name of course) who entered into analysis at his wife’s insistence to find out what was the matter with him. He didn’t want to do anything; perhaps he was depressed. It turns out he was content to bum around, sit by the bank and fish. His wife – let’s call her Mrs. Jordan – wanted him to join groups, attend lectures, contribute to boards, and travel.  She saw his lack of activity/growth/networking as ‘wrong’.

I think there is far too much Mrs. Jordan energy running around these days making us run down and guilt-ridden when all we really want is to do the crossword puzzle.  Growth and social intercourse are good things but let’s not lose the value of Jordan Days.  There is goodness and healing for mere Being.

With that said, after we have our breakfast we will turn to each other and ask what does the other want to do. Both will say I dunno what do you want to do and so forth until something is settled. It may be mere sitting and reading. I am all for that. And if my inner Mrs. Jordan starts a fuss I plan to put a pie her in her puss.


Once again the earth has ridden the roundabout back to the spot that portends my natal day.  It’s the double-nickel occasion – 55 years old!  In this year’s video Urpso sits in the inglenook and meditates on this, that, and the other. He also thanks everyone for everything.

insanityWednesday has started off with a series of bungles that need immediate attention. I am supposed to have this Friday off but I am horrified to see I am booked solid from 745AM to 5PM. Either I forgot to request this day off or The House Manager didn’t pass on the announcement to the scheduling staff.  While I figure out who to blame The Wonder Receptionist needs to call twenty-five people to tell them their flight’s been canceled. I feel sorry for the new ones who have been waiting some time to meet me.  Oh the pain.

InsanityYesterday while trying to tidy-up around the internet I managed to mess up my passwords now I can’t get into anywhere. I am seriously thinking of going back to the ‘one password to rule them all’ approach rather than the dozen individual passwords I can’t remember. Oh the embarrassment.

My birthday prize to myself is purchased: a bottle of Knob’s Hill bourbon and a bag of Jalapeno potato chips. The latter is sitting on the cupboard daring me to wait until Friday. I shall have willpower although I may still ask Someone to hide it somewhere where I won’t be tempted.  Oh the joy.

Speaking of prizes, yesterday I decided to throw out the coffee beans I received at insanityChristmas time. I am not an expert on grinding beans but I daresay after seven months they aren’t any good. Yesterday I bought a bag of pre- ground coffee. I have a discriminating palate for tea but not for coffee; coffee tastes like coffee, especially after I dump Stevia and milk into it.* I think write Mr. Trudeau and ask him to send me a bag of Tim Hortons coffee. Better yet I will contact the handsome hombres at The Receiver Coffee Company on PEI and ask them send me some of theirs. Meanwhile I do with Dunkin Donuts, which is what Father uses, which is another example of how we turn into our parents. Oh the horror.



*One exception: Starbucks. I can tell the difference with this one. SB coffee tastes like someone extinguished a burning stick in it.

imagesUrs Truly is not often invited to shing-dings and parties. This is a pity as I have so many Spo-shirts to show. On the other hand the lack of bacchanals etc. saves me from the dreaded cocktail conversation called “So, what do you do?” Unless this is a party of ill-repute this means what do I do for a living.  I try to avoid this question in general; putting people into (occupation) boxes is not a good way to really know another.  In my case, the question is even more ticklish. There is nothing like saying the “P” word at a party to change the mood.   I used to lie and say I am an actuary which got most people to leave me alone.  Sometimes I reply I am a doctor (true) but this is “P-light” viz. I get a lot of sudden changes good and bad.

When I say “I am a psychiatrist”  many (the majority?) of party people do one of the following:

  1. Run away.
  2. Pick a peeve and try to get me to defend it.
  3. Ask for (free) medical advice.
  4. Start telling me their dreams.

Let’s start with 4).  There is nothing more boring to a psychiatrist than being asked to analyze a dream given impromptu and without context. Sometimes I cut the dreamer short by asking them to first provide their co-pay. Sometimes if I am tipsy (or the speaker handsome) I pretend to listen and after they are done rambling I reply with some generic chestnut or I tell him he and everyone in his life needs to take medications as soon as possible.

3) ain’t so bad as I always stick to general knowledge and I do like to shoot my mouth off. If they keep pressing for more freebies or specific advice I start asking personabl questions about their bowels, menstrual cycles, or sexual functioning, usually in a louder voice so others can listen in to benefit from my font of wisdom.

Under the right circumstances 2) can be jolly good fun. “Why should I have to defend that?” is usually not accepted.  Then I channel The Dark side of Psychiatry and pull up my Inner-Hannibal-Lector and cat-like before a cornered mouse I toy with them long enough to get them to leave in a huff or take route a).

Which leads us to 1).  This really happens. I was once at a party being sized up by a young woman (so much for her judgment) until I said I was a psychiatrist. Her eyes widened and she turned around and ran quickly out of the room and was probably never heard from again.  I sure know how to clear a room.

I don’t usually covet material matters. Indeed, I am trying to get rid of things, not accumulate more. I also like to think myself not a greedy person.  With that said my birthday is coming up. Birthdays conjure up The Child complex who has strict rules about the proper form for the celebration of holidays and birthdays.  Ask any child (including my inner one) what does one do on ones birthday and the top answer is ‘Birthday presents”.

This Friday I go to Flagstaff to join Brother #2 and family for a weekend. We will have a fine meal. This is quite fine/enough birthday for The Ego who recognizes my age as 55yo (oh the pain!) but The Child Complex thinks this is certainly NOT a proper birthday – for it lacks Birthday Prizes. As I can’t count on my relations to provide a pony, I will have to get a few concrete prizes myself to appease the poor little lad so keen on propiety.

As it is a road trip, The(birthday) Child will get some goodies seen purchased at gas stations. Gummi Bears and slushy drinks that turn the tongue blue should appease the kid – for a while. Pringles are nice as they can be snarfed down without getting ones fingers greasy. Afterwards the empty cylinder makes for a fun ersatz Punch & Judy bat to swat Someone on the leg.*

I will probably buy some tunes from Itunes if I can ever remember my password.

We are staying at the fabulous Starlight Pines B&B so I hope my chum and boniface Richard ‘puts out’ as it were with some sort of sweet with a candle on it. It’s a mawkish desire but nothing beats blowing out a candle to make a wish on one’s birthday to sooth even the most demanding Child Complex on the proper celebration of birthdays.

This makes a lovely birthday < food, good cheer, family, no Phoenix heat, and a couple of childlike indulgences to mark the day.

Later that night as a transitional object from Child to Ego, I will have a large bag of jalapeno Kettle chips with Knob Hill bourbon oh what a lovely snack combination. This beats ice cream and cake by a country mile.



*This is usually good for one whap only. The shows ends abruptly.

8f3d36dbf8bef0228aba29b1b41fdcba--clear-acrylic-martinis  The Lovely Neighbor has one month to pack up and get out of her now sold house. Every time we interact with her we get a ‘parting gift’. Yesterday she came over to use the fax machine and I received a set of cocktail swizzle-sticks with olives on them (how jolly).

She recently offered to give us the king-sized bed that was in the master bedroom neither she nor her later mother have used in a decade. It would save her the trouble of having to haul it to Virginia where it would no doubt just go into storage as she plans to live with her children for awhile.


The bed is in excellent condition; the mattress is like new. The iron sides and ‘canopy’ have the advantage of hanging things on it like trousers and bathrobes. I can see holiday decorations hanging and intertwined in the bars above.

This modest proposal has us thinking.

In the Spo-house is a queen-sized bed (master bedroom), a twin (guest room), and a futon (Henrik’s room).  A king-sized bed would probably make all the beds move over a room knocking out the futon to Craig’s list or charity.

I’ve never slept in a king-sized bed. When I’ve encountered them in hotels they give me a bit of unease. I feel silly taking up such a tiny amount of space with so much wasted. Having a king-sized bed might mitigate the nightly unconscious ‘battle’ for space in the queen. Harper always sleeps on my side. Sometimes when she becomes ensconced I go and sleep in the guest in the twin. The king would give the three of us all the personal space necessary for Midwesterners to feel they are sleeping alone. There is also the asset of having space to roll around as we toss and turn and not slap each other or squash the dog.

Yet, to put a king-size-titanic-unsinkable-molly-brown bed in the master bedroom takes up more space but puts it at odds with the rest of the bedroom furniture.  If that is important.

Someone plans to takes measurements and perhaps make little models to see how well this trickle-down theory of beds would work. I daresay we may have to give up some furniture at the other end and I don’t think Henrik would mind the brass bed (which is better than a futon anyway).

Anyway we have a few weeks to decide. To help out, we can always take it disassembled and either set it up or put it up for sale.


Today is Canada Day (not an official holiday in Arizona).  I wish all Spo-fans of the Canadian sort a happy birthday. May all your Tim-bits be chocolate ones.

Harper 31 copy

It is also Harper’s Birthday. I think she is eight years old; I have to look it up.  I could not ask for a better pooch.  Rescue dogs – them’s the best !


While we were taking our matutinal walk Harper and I saw Mrs. Oliver, the great horned owl. It is always a joy to see her. 



The lights in the laundry room went out. In the light fixture is a desiccated scorpion. This is not the first time we’ve found one of these villains in the ceiling fixtures. How on earth they get up there is a mystery. 



We had a lovely French rose the other night. It was dry, with mineral tones, rather than the sickly-sweet rubbish normally found in ‘cheap pink’.  



Oh but there is work to be done! Where does all the laundry come from?  This nonsense never ends. 



The Whisky Advocate had an article on matching whisky to nasty chips. Oh the joy.  This beats wine and cheese by a country mile. I plan to have one of these marvelous combinations on my birthday.




Finally, we are out of lens wipes – a crisis indeed! We use them constantly in the never ending goal to keep our cellphones and spectacles clean of grease and fingerprints. I bought the big box; I apologize for the big greasy finger pointing out the obvious. There is much rejoicing in the House of Spo. 

imagesI recently heard a podcast about peanuts. I found it most fascinating. This humble ‘nut’ started as something suitable only for animal-feed or the dregs of humanity. The peanut worked its way up as a cheap convenient protein source, only to explode into a stable of US kitchens. We all grew up eating peanut butter; it was ubiquitous in our school lunches.

Peanuts and peanut butter has lost its luster. Choosy mothers no longer choose JIF but something else entirely. They are skeptical of peanut butter’s calories, hydrogenated oils, and the lurking dreaded peanut allergy.

Like a lot of foodstuffs that became blasé in time the peanut is making a comeback via a reinvention. It is following in the footsteps of beer going from mass-produced rubbish towards ‘microbrews’ style butters and gourmet types.

The vast majority of peanut butter in the supermarket is made from ‘runner peanuts’, a peanut without complexity. The podcast hosts rounded up some of the imperial tidbit peanut butters and found them marvelous. They were complex, tasty, and remarkable, like my men.  They were particularly ga-ga over Koeze PB, made from a genera of peanuts called Virginia Peanuts.

Urs truly doesn’t eat much peanut butter given its calories, but let’s face facts: there is nothing more delicious than peanut butter on crackers with a glass of milk. If I am going to have some it might as well be ‘proper’ peanut butter. I ordered some online from Zingermans (the dears!) then I went off to Albertsons to buy me a typical jar as a control (Skippy) for my own double blind taste test.*


Behold the Butters !

Koeze PB had only two ingredients: Virginia peanuts and salt.

Skippy has peanuts, sugar, partially hydrogenated oil, and salt.

First of all I could taste a difference, which was nice. There is no point shelling out extra money if there isn’t any taste difference.

PB #1 was sweet and perhaps more complex with some slight bitter undertones.  It felt smoother on the tongue.

PB #2 was less sweet and in an odd way it tasted ‘more like peanuts’.  It had a simpler taste.

On crackers the nuances were not as obvious as when they were sampled via a spoonful.

Turns out #1 is Skippy and #2 is Koeze

This makes sense. Skippy has sugar and Koeze is merely ground up peanuts.  Add a bit of snob appeal and some PC views about staying away from sugar and additives and you get Koeze as the winner.

I had a slight ‘put off’ in the initial Koeze tasting as I am used to Skippy so Koeze didn’t taste ‘like peanut butter’ should. I know of a man who ate canned green beans all his life only to taste fresh beans properly steamed and he found them ‘not right’.

Spo-fans are urged to try some if they can.


Behold the battle of the butters; Someone is trying the crunchy one. 


*Sponsored by The NIMH and conducted by Someone.


While cleaning out papers at the office I found a small piece of art, which was lodged between some old journals.  The object d’art was almost tossed into the shredder with the JAMAs. It is a water colour of what I believe is The Pleiades.  On the back there is a signature “Betty James,  2003″. **  It was carefully wrapped in plastic; it looks as fresh as if were painted only yesterday.

Betty J. must have been a patient although I don’t remember her. Files from that time are off-site in some faraway storage bin. I have a vague memory of a woman giving me this bit of her artistry but the ‘when’ and ‘why’  is long forgotten. After it was discovered, I paused in silence and began thinking many thoughts. It was sheer luck I had found it at all; if I had been more hasty I would have missed it entirely. She was an elderly woman I recall; my intuition tells me is she is probably deceased.

What does one do with mementos that once had meaning but no longer do? It was probably given in gratitude. It was not some cheap or mass-produced item but an expression of her Self. I thought of all those who have gone before me who have touched me in some way. My soul swooned like Gabriel Conroy in “The Dead” to think upon it.

I decided I will get it framed and hang it in my office. When I see it I will think of ‘Betty James” although there will be no more recall other than what I have written here. The painting makes me think ahead to my own death. Now the artwork has meaning but it will become of no value after I go. It will cease to be a memory but merely some nice picture hanging in my office.  It will probably be tossed out along with the remaining JAMAs or put in a rummage sale.

In psychiatry residency we were taught our power is minimal but our influence vast. We may not leave specific legacies but perhaps we will touch others just enough to alter their life’s Journey to make a difference in their lives and those they encounter. I wonder if I did this for Betty James.  I assume I did something for her, as she gave me this gift. Today The Pleiades gave me another gift although I can’t put it in words.



**Not her real name of course.

I am up to my oxters in podcast subscriptions.  I consume podcasts in the same way some people can’t curtail their consumption of sugar.  I need to become more discriminatory in what I hear for it is not humanly possible to listen all I want. There is not enough time in the week to keep up with them all.  I now have two dozen.  Nevertheless they are jolly good fun and I love them so.

Here is an update of some recent podcasts I am finding remarkable and entertaining. They are worthwhile to pass on to Spo-fans.



You are not so smart

This is becoming quite a favorite of mine. The host discusses psychological topics of how we get bamboozled into believing things such as con artists,  advertising, and the placebo effect.  At the end of each episode he has (as a bonus) a cookie recipe. These scrumptious yummies are worth the wait until the end.



Science Solved it

The podcast team travel around like Scooby-do in the Mystery van to take on things mysterious in order to explain them through science. They set it up each episode like a mystery tale. The scientific explanations at the end are never a let down but more intriguing than the mumbo-jumbo surrounding the matter.


fake history

Our Fake History

This is another podcast for sorting fact from rubbish.  He takes on historical legends or common misconceptions about history and tells you what really happened.



Not all my faves are about psychology, history, or science; this one is about food. The lady-hosts take on topics like cheese, coffee, peanuts, spice, etc. to give you the history of such item and how it came to be.   It makes my mouth water.



This one is a bit of fun and nonsense. A married couple talks about the history of medicine such as TB, blood letting, and other zany things we used to do for medicine.  Their first episode is about trephination.  Oh the pain.  She’s the physician and straight man; he’s the comic sidekick layman.  They recently did a serious episode on the h/o ‘gay conversion’ which was not at all funny but it was most fascinating.

And finally, as a treat –


Inner Sanctum 

Last time I was in Michigan visiting the parents I told Father about podcasts and how they were similar to old time radio series. He was interested in finding his favorites programs like The Lone Ranger and The Bickersons. He introduced me to a long ago radio program favorite of his called The Inner Sanctum. It ran from 1941-1952. It’s a murder drama. It has marvelous sound effects; it gives me the creeps. How fascinating to hear how the writers and producers work with the ‘limitations’ of radio to make an effective and scary story.  The episodes open with a very creaky door slowly opening and inviting you into the Inner Sanctum. Just don’t listen to them at night.


If Spo-fans know of marvelous podcasts, please pass them on to me!

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