The liquor cabinet is full of whisky and yet there’s nothing to drink. What this means is there is a fine collection of expensive bottles – no rubbish indeed! – but I don’t drink them. Water water everywhere but ne’er a drop to drink. It’s not a case of being cheap. Drinking fine scotch, bourbon, and such delicacies is a social endeavor; it’s no fun sipping and savoring a rare single-malt on one’s own. It’s like viewing a beautiful sunset by yourself; you want someone there to share it with.  Another matter is it’s bloody hot out; when I imbibe I want something with massive amounts of ice. One doesn’t use vintage champagne when making mimosas and this goes double for Highland Park in the Manhattans.  A simple solution to this hoity-toity hobby is to go get a bottle of Old Crow for Pete’s sake but it feels funny to haul home some hooch when there literally isn’t room on the shelf for another bottle. 

A Spo-fan (who is well over four feet) recently wrote asking for advice about whiskey. I think this is rather sweet as his questions could readily be answered via an internet search, so I surmise he wants my opinion.  Here you are Spo-fan in Florida!

I don’t think it is sacrilege to put the remnants of several bottles taking up valuable space or past their prime into one ‘garbage’ bottle. This pastiche is good for highballs and for serving to the guests who are whisky-snobs. You pour some  and tell them you’ve found a marvelous 21yo blend and what do you think of it? 

Rye whisky is not made from rye bread.  You didn’t ask but neither is baby oil made from babies. Try to tell as many people as you can in town.

Single malt whisky and Coke-zero do NOT go together – ever.  Please don’t try this at home let alone order one in a bar. You will be seen as an interloper an object of suspicion and you will be ejected quick as a quarter note. 

Speaking of evil entities whiskies laced with cinnamon or honey etc. are not made with ‘quality’ whisky but that is not the point of them.  Traverse City in Michigan has a cherry-based whisky which is jolly good fun but I won’t admit to drinking such.  While we are on the subject of cherries I am like Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest “NO MARASCHINO CHERRIES EVER!”  I use Luxrado. They are dark, sweet, but not cloying – like my men. They compliment rather than dominate a cocktail. 

Your question how to make a ‘purple whisky drink’ makes me wonder ‘why’ but let’s stay on topic. The short answer: damned if I know. Potential purple mixers like Gatorade and Kool-aid sound Barney-like while no good comes from mixing blackberry cordials with bourbon. I suggest if you want a purple libation you drink Shiraz.  Australia has heaps. 

What are the best nibbles to use with the usquebaugh? This depends on the attributes of the drink. Bourbon and kettle chips are The Wonder Twins of the whisky world and I am dying to try Win Schulers bar-cheese if I can get my hands on some. Perhaps Brother #3 (the whisky-snob of the Spo-clan) can provide such to match with my mentioned 21yo blend.

I hope this helps.

Finally!  For some time we’ve been waiting for The Electrician or someone like him to appear and repair the faulty lights and outlets in the family room and kitchen. It turns out it was merely a loose wire; it only needed a new connection. The cost of this endeavor was frighting and in hindsight we could have done it ourselves but there is comfort knowing it was done proper.  Soon afterwards (or was it before?) The Exterminator came and sprayed something sinister to eradicate the creepy-crawlies.  We begged him to ban the bees but he wouldn’t touch them. In the backyard behind the wall with the grill a hive of bees has returned. There was a hive back there two years ago and The Beekeeper (who was well over four feet) managed to move them away. That was two years ago. A few months ago the bees returned perhaps the descendants of the exiles ala Battlestar Galatica. This next generation are ornery and more aggressive than the last set. The Beekeeper came back to attend again to the matter. This time he was not so PC but utilized a ‘scorched-earth policy’ to kills all the bastards. Normally I would feel guilty about this sort of thing but the dastardly dumbledores resemble hornets or something out of The Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual.  Fingers are crossed the bees, the scorpions, and the Gregor Samsas coming out from the drains are gone. Fat chance of that.*

What we don’t have is termites.  In Phoenix termites are not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’. I forget which bug-man held an inspection that concluded we don’t got any. Like the dentist it is advised to have an inspection for termites twice a year. One of the dudes (was it The Electrician?) wanted to sell us ‘termite insurance’ where he would come around two times a year but he wasn’t that handsome so we said no thank you. Besides there is The AC Man to attend to next. He will be more expensive than The Electrician/The Exterminator/The Beekeeper combined into one. One could live with bees I suppose and use an extension cord coming from the dining room but one cannot live sans AC (that means without). Happily our unit is going allegro non troppo without signs of illness but one never knows.

As I write this the ceiling fan in the home office is spinning and sounding like every screw needs tightening. Someone suggests we don’t turn it on lest the constant motion worsen the situation and it comes flying down like a sinister spider descending onto its prey.  I don’t have time to fix this; let’s hope The Electrician or someone like him knows of a good Handyman. I would like a nice Handyman.

So much for being an autodidact.

 

*Brother #3 solved his bug problem by raising chickens. He explains they eat everything and thanks to the pullets they have no bugs. Cute idea but then one has all the chickens to attend. I doubt the HOA allows chickens on the sensible grounds the coyotes, hawks, and owls will see our house as a literal Chicken Shack.

 

I recently wrote about my apathy towards wearing trousers around the house so I thought to follow with shoes. I am trying to remember to take off my shoes as soon as I come through the door on the hopeful grounds I am less likely to track in dust and allergens into La Casa de Spo. So far my allergies are no better for this newly-initiated habit but I am enjoying the ritual. I’ve heard tell this is an“Asian” custom; not only is it proper to take off your shoes when visiting Japanese and Chinese households not doing so is considered rude.*  I am quite content to parade around the place in my socks or better yet barefoot. Doing the latter is a tad dangerous due to the scorpions. The dastards usually are found leaping out from closed drawers rather than crawling across the floor but one can never tell. You learn quickly when living in Arizona to always look down where you are stepping. But I digress.

For reasons unclear walking around the house sans shoes and socks (that means without) causes foot ache yet staying about in socks does not.  It’s the tile that does it.

Not wearing shoes means you have to remember where you last had them on.  There are four exits here at La Casa de Spo: the front door, the door leading to the garage, and the two sliding doors that lead to the backyard. This means there are four places to drop your Doc Martens and it is a bit of a bother to run around the place trying to remember where they are.

This is as good a point as any to write (boost?) I don’t have many shoes.  A few are presently at the cobbler’s getting face lifts and new heels as I try to extend their lives well past their prime let along their fashion. People allegedly judge you by your shoes but I haven’t cared about what people think about my shoes since kindergarten. Then I was very conscious what I wore lest there was talk.  Then Mother insisted I get black not white sneakers as the former would not show the dirt as much. I was horrified. I already stuck out at gym time thanks to my inept abilities to do anything athletic: I didn’t need The Black Death sneakers to highlight my abnormalities.  I think I tried to throw them out. Once again I have lost my train of thought.

An advantage of taking off one’s shoes in the laundry room is they can go directly into the washer machine. If I had my way I would wash my wellies as often as my Mack Weldons but Someone won’t have it. Tennis shoes in the Maytag make a horrible clunk-clunk-clunking sound that reverberates throughout the world down to the ninth level of hell where Lucifer walks around in his Docksiders . I only wash shoes when they are visibly disgusting – enough to see stains on the black leather which I still just realize with fresh horror I still wear (although a few sizes larger). Happily freshly-cleaned Keds need never go into the dryer as everything here dries quick in the zero-humidity air.

That’s about it.

My feet and floors are relatively dust free.

Life is good.

Spo-fans:

Do you take off your shoes when at home?

Do you go barefoot?

Do you have cha-cha heels?

* I remember from my college days a chum from Korea named Chong-Bong Lee. Chong-Bong routinely took off his treaders every time he entered anyone’s dorm room. Considering most members of Couzens Hall had filthy rooms to start with I thought this gesture charming but not especially useful.

It’s happened. During a phone appointment a patient said she heard about the death of my mother and she asked me in a concerned anxious voice how I was doing. I replied I was doing fine. There was a brief silence; I sensed I had given the wrong answer. After a pause she replied in careful words well you seem to be doing ok  which was code for as you sound too cheerful for someone who has just lost his mother. We had other matters to attend so will write here what I wanted to tell her.

‘Getting over’ a death does not require lot of time or drama, nor does it demand 100% dysfunction. I am ‘fine’ for a couple of reasons:

Sorrow happens and Life is full of unhappy events. When one is at peace with the axiom Life isn’t always a field knee-deep in buttercups and daisies then when bad events happen it isn’t shocking.  I do not ‘want’ sorrow, nor do I look for it. I experience loss with sadness but I am not wiped out. 

During bad times I remember there are good things too. A vital element of resilience is knowing what you can and cannot do and focus on the later. I throw out the irrelevant questions  like “why did this happen to me?” and “what could have been done differently?” and ask myself rather ‘what can be done now to heal the wounds?” I have lost a mother but I still have father to attend.  He sounds so much better nowadays without the burden and worry of continuous caretaking.  We spoke on the phone today he is looking forward to some things including a large Father’s Day dinner. 

The final word on this topic may be the easiest one to apply. I continually ask myself “is this good for me or is it harming me?” The day mother died I thought to cancel the next day work and stay home. Then I thought ‘really? what good does this do for me?” and I so went in with the paradoxical job of helping others with their losses and sorrows. The Medical Assistant was aghast to see me; he asked if I didn’t want to take the day off – everyone would understand. No I did not. I felt sad but I was OK. That my dears is a pretty good definition of resilience. We do not get over but we do move forward.  

man-walking-down-road-to-sunrise

A curious Spo-fan well over four feet wrote me asking the whereabouts of The Board of Directors Here at Spo-Reflections for there’s been no news of the rascals Some fear they have flown the coop. No fear; I will tell you. They’re boxed up being careful about covid19. Good for them! This is not out of a sense of civic duty – far from it! – when it comes to contagion they run like spooked bunnies. They have all their supplies and Maxwell House coffee tins delivered to Heorot Johnson.  On a dark note they are holding as hostage few of the delivery boys for Danegeld or Albertsons coupons and that’s ugly. I attend all board meetings via Zoom which has the advantage there is no smell nor hand-to-hand combat as is typical in these meetings. Another perk of the lockdown is they aren’t paying too much attention what I write.  Rather than monitoring my prose they are engrossed in the Parcheesi set I sent them.  The dears sent me a thank you email for the game and another email thanking me ‘the thrall I sent them” viz. the Amazon Prime man who delivered it.  Thems that work at Amazon are accustomed to slave labor I know but TBDHSR needs to knock it off and release the poor sod pronto lest Mr. B comes a-knocking.

This evening I am watching “The Force of Destiny” an opera long on my bucket list to see. Thanks to the good folks at The Met I am finally watching it.  As far as Italian operas go it is quite cheesy with a rawther complicated story but admittedly it does have some nice tunes. Tenors are a fickle bunch who go from being moonstruck in love to mad-jealous in a heartbeat and thems in this one are particularly labile. Making things worse the two male roles are dressed in uniform so it is hard to remember which is the outraged brother and which is boyfriend in love with Leontyne Price. Ms. Price is doing a fine job singing but her disguise as a hermit fools nobody that’s Leontyne Price. There are a bunch of gypsies in this one running around singing from time to time for no good reason I can deduce. I am nearly 3/4 into the show and I fear it will end badly as operas do especially Mr. Verdi’s.  Curious! Operas a full of torture, rape, murder, adultery,  violence, betrayal etc. but no gay love  – at least not until Mr.Britten arrives on the scene.

Opps I gotta go. Brother and boyfriend (hers not his) are circling each other threatening in loud voices in E-flat and someone is going to get hurt unless the curtain comes down soon.  Tune in tomorrow for spoilers.

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Leonara disguised as a male pilgrim. …..  me neither. 

 

Uncle Albertson removed the coffee bean dispenser from his grocery store on the prudent assumption touching the levers leads to contagion. This is a pity for when Urs Truly drinks coffee he prefers purchasing beans over the powdered stuff.  I get a slight thrill at pulling down the metal lever to disgorge into my paper sack the column’s contents; it feels like a slot machine paying off.*  The tall brown cylinder columns are (were) labelled with coffee types chock-full with gustatory adjectives suggesting each bean type is unique as a fingerprint. They all look alike and I wonder if there is a single bag from which they are all filled.

Uncle A sells whole beans of course but they are not easy to find among the sacks, tins, and containers of ground goods.  I don’t know coffee as well as tea. There is a big difference in tea quality and I won’t buy rubbish.  I wonder if this holds true for coffee?  The price of coffee sure varies a lot. I recently bought beans allegedly organic dolphin-safe hand-picked by Peruvian virgins under a full moon or something justifying its 5x more expensive price tag compared to Maxwell House**.

When I go to the office I am always the first one there so I am Coffee-Master it is my job to make the coffee.  I enjoy grinding beans it is jolly good fun. The redolence of freshly ground beans is a very nice thing indeed.  Folks at work tell me ‘my coffee tastes better’ so perhaps the money spent on fancy beans makes a difference. I wouldn’t know; I put in Stevia and dried milk in my coffee which I suspect negates any nuances of the good stuff.  I don’t use expensive vodka when making Bloody Marys along the same line.

I am curious to hear from the Spo-fans:

Do you drink coffee?

Do you grind your beans?

What is your favorite brand(s)?

Do you have any recommendations for not-too-expensive pre-ground coffee?

whoah-so-thats-coffee-10653887

*I’ve learned not to shout “Bonzai! ” while doing this.

**My parents bought coffee in large metal containers. We kids enjoyed these as there were lots one could do with the discarded tins.  I see these sorts are still for sale. I am curious to hear from Spo-fans are they any good?

I recently had a first follow-up appointment with a patient who was pleased his ‘refractory’ depression was lifting with the new treatments and for the first time in ages he was had some hope of feeling better. He asked me how long have I been doing this sort of thing as I seemed to know what I was doing. I had to get out the calculator to do the math. If I count the years of residency I’ve been shrinking heads for nearly thirty years. Patience above! Thirty years! How is this possible? He saw me as some sort of genius while most of the time I feel somewhat a sham. This is called ‘the imposter syndrome”: it is a common emotion when you feel not as good in your role as others deem you to be. Despite thirty years doing this work I still often feel bewildered along the line of “what on earth am I supposed to do?”  I am in a profession where the older you become the more wise you are perceived to be. Having grindled whiskers and graying hair makes on look sage-like. In contrast I often feel nonplussed no different than when I was in training back in the early 90s. It is hard to be Dumbledore when you are feeling a ‘first year’.

Feeling helpless is different than feeling an imposter although they often go hand in hand.  Wednesdays have the sordid reputation of being the ‘worst’ day of the work week when it comes to workload and clinical challenges. “Wacky Wednesday” I call the day. Before writing this I had a look-see at the day’s roster and I am slightly horrified by its contents. I have four new people (two with sordid reputations) and a handful of “Zorgenkinder”*.   I feel unable to help them. You would think folks who are no better would eventually go away on the grounds I am not helping them but they stick to me like bumper stickers continually turning to me to ‘do something’ and I have no answers. After 30 years I’ve become only slightly more at ease to admit I don’t know how to help you any more/this is as good as I can get you”.

Mind! Lots of Medicine isn’t getting people ‘better’ but witnessing their pain and going with them on their Journeys. “Don’t just sit there, do something!” needs to be continually translated to “Don’t just do something, sit there!”

This Wacky Wednesday will probably be  a long difficult day and at times nasty. I will probably end in exhaustion with a pile of notes to write. They nearly always do. No doub I will feel helpless and a bit of an imposter too.I’ve managed to get through nearly thirty years of Wacky Wednesdays so I will get through this one as well.

 

*Zorgenkinder: a German word meaning ‘child of woe”, a stormy gloomy emotional type, sort of like Wednesday Addams without the charms.

Cookbook

Last night I made chicken and buttered noodles from the cookbook recently purchased from one of my favorite Michigan restaurants. It came out fair. Someone asked me if it ‘tasted right’ and I couldn’t quite say: the last time I had these delicacies was so long ago I can’t quite remember. Perhaps I didn’t make them proper or (this is a sinister thought) Zehnders purposely didn’t give out the proper recipe lest people stop coming to their restaurant.

I had a great aunt Flo who when pressed to give out her recipes she purposely left out one crucial ingredient. “Flo I made your deviled eggs but they didn’t taste as good as yours! Could you bring some to the next reunion?”

There is a Thai restaurant in Palm Springs with a delectable dish “Red Mountain curry”. Once upon a time I wrote them a charming email would they be dears and give me the recipe. I received a less than charming reply telling me no. It was in broken English which I wondered was a ruse to imply they didn’t understand the question. 

Reserving recipes isn’t limited to restaurants. Earlier this year I read a book on the history of Tiki drinks. The bartenders from the 40s and 50s were so guarded about their ingredients that when they died no one knew how to recreate these classic cocktails.  

Nowadays guarding recipes seems silly given the internet where one instantly finds recipes for anything and often in many forms.  Doing a complete turnaround the recipes on line boast theirs is the best of whatever you are searching to make.  Cook’s Illustrated regularly disassembles the classics and rebuilds them in better form.

None of this gels with my silly desire to have the ‘proper’ recipe for things. Thems with good ones keep mum while no one agrees on what is proper anyway.  There is no accounting for taste.

About the buttered noodles and chicken: I plan to makes it again and someday hope to visit the restaurant for the real thing.  The elusive curry dish I covet means going back to Palm Springs.

If any of my relations are reading this blog the key to Great-Aunt Flo’s recipes is to add a scant 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon to everything and Accent. 

This morning before it got too hot we rose early to go outside and put up the screens; they were long overdue. These dark fine meshes shield us from the sun especially in the afternoon. It is that time of the year when there is too much sun thank you and the less the better. Despite perpetual sunshine and no rain the pullulating plawnts in the backyard grow like gangbusters resembling something out of “Hot house” by Brian Aldiss.  After the screens were erected I pruned the palms and pencil plants that are trying like triffids to reach out and attack us as we walk past them. Under the bedroom window lies a potted prickly pear plant. It serves as a deterrent to robbers and breakers-in as no one in their right mind would come close to it. The Opuntia has grown too large so we moved it against the wall where it won’t be in the way. Despite our careful precautions we both managed to get needles stuck in our arms and hands. Oh the pain. The little bastard pricks refuse to come out and magnifying glass and tweezers (with careful patience) are required to extract them all. Happily once everything was done one merely drops into the cement pond and one feels instantly refreshed.

Last night I started reading “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James. For thems who haven’t read the book (nor seen the movie version “The Innocents”) the novella is a ghost story about a governess  who is trying to raise two children alone in a creepy house. The beauty of the story is one isn’t sure if the ghosts are real or the young lady needs her own screws turned as they are rawther loose. The work contains one of literature’s uncanniest situations, which was done quite well in the movie:

The cover of the book has a ghostly figure with outstretched hands touching the window glass as you look outwards and wonder if the pane is strong enough.  The cover is giving me the creeps and I am sleeping with the book in the drawer. Perhaps it was premature to have moved the prickly pear away from the bedroom window but there is nothing to stop ghosts, looters, and pencil plants from coming through the sliding glass bedroom door. At night Someone insists the doors be closed and wooden sticks be placed in their bases to prevent the doors from sliding. Up until now I thought this unnecessary but now I see its prudence. 

Another approach of course is to stop reading stories about ghosts and shambling  plants at bed time and read something else – James Thurber perhaps – so long as it is not his “The night the ghost got in”. 

ghost1

Mother’s funeral has been arranged for Saturday 18 July; it will be held at the church they have attended since the 70s. Long ago they bought a space in the church garden in which lies a quiet shaded area with a shelf for urns of ashes. I have long imagined her funeral would be a large affair attended by all her relations, her bridge groups, her chorale group, etc.  This could happen if we delayed the service long enough for folks to travel safely but Father decided to go ahead now. Instead it will be a modest gathering of the immediate members: Father, sons and in-laws, and the grandchildren.  Perhaps her only sibling my uncle will drive down to attend. They all can merely drive in but Someone and I being in Arizona need to get there somehow.

One choice is to fly. This saves time and money perhaps but this means going to the airport and boarding a plane. Blech. I don’t relish this option; even as I type I see the number of Covid19 cases in Arizona accelerating. I don’t wish to bring that to the funeral.

The other choice is to drive. Someone reminds me this can be done in two days if we push it (code: if he drives) or in three days in a more leisurely fashion (code: if I drive). I would like to stay in MI for more than the day of the funeral so with six days of travel this means up to 10 days off work. This sounds a lot but all our summer travel plans are canceled; the arithmetic for days off is about the same.  Driving means we have a vehicle in which to bring home all the things from the parent’s house my brothers put aside as for me. I have to fetch this stuff someday anyway so why not now with a car. Brother #3 suggests we rent a mini-van to avoid putting miles on our vehicle and it provides more space to haul back booty. I suspect he wants me to take more than I said I would including several large paintings.

Perhaps  a compromise is possible: I fly and Someone drives the U-haul but this seems covid19 hazardous and no fun. I like road trips of which I have frequently written. We have literally days worth of audible books and there is no lack of podcasts. Sleeping in hotels provides us with some beauty rest. I would rawther not show up for the funeral looking like I haven’t slept for two days.

Whatever the means I need to get cracking as it means the staff have to call ten days of patients to cancel and re-book. Many will howl like an orchestra of scorched cats but it is hoped they will become more patient knowing my mother has died.

 

 

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