Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

April 3, 2020
by funny
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Dispatch from “Prison”

This, my friends, is The Life.

Yes, I’m afraid so… All my Facebook friends are whinging mightily on and on about being cooped up at home, poor souls — well, except for one Fortunate Soul who happens to live on some acres of spectacularly gorgeous country. But the city mice? squeak squeak squeak squeak!

😀

Welp, I’m also a city mouse. But one with some weird traits that suit her well for Covid Quarantine.

At heart, I’m a recluse. Am now, always have been. Well, no: I might not have been in the first grade…but six years of unrelenting grade-school bullying and ostracism left me distrusting people and most comfortable with my own company. The more people I get to know, the more I like my dog…

You think that’s a joke? Not. So. Much.

So the fact is, an ordinary day around the Funny Farm is not so different from a day of Self-Isolation.

I live in a beautiful house with a beautiful yard and a handsome pool (already almost warm enough to swim in!). My job is something I’ve been doing 100% from home since 2000-and-aught 9. I’m good at it and I like it. And you know…there’s always something to do around a house that sits on a quarter-acre lot. The weather is spectacularly gorgeous: in a few minutes I’m going outside to dine on the patio. And there are moments — quite a few of them — when I suspect the highest and best use of one’s personal time is loafing.

Dog and I made a one-mile circuit of the park this morning. When we left at dawn, I hoped we would have some dog-free, human-free peace. Who gets out of the sack on a weekday when they don’t HAVE to go to work?

Yeah.

First cross-street, through the gloaming along comes a couple with a yappy little dog, It flies into a frenzy when it sees Ruby and tries to attack her. Luckily these two are smart enough to have their pet on a leash. It yaps and lunges savagely, but we get away unscathed.

We continue toward Lower Richistan. On the other side of the street, along comes a woman with a large white dog. She thinks she has it under control, no doubt…but not so much. It lunges at Ruby and tries to charge us, dragging the young woman off the sidewalk and into the road.

We get by this obstacle, and from there find the way un-doglested. There is NO one in the park — I imagine this is because of the covid scare. We manage to walk along the west sidewalk all the way to the south side, with no pestering or even threat of pestering. Cruise through the neighborhood to the south of the park. Walk north in the general direction of the Funny Farm.

But no. Here’s a moron with a big dog off the leash.

They’re a distance from us, so we forge on.

Around the corner, and here comes some guy in a car with two huge mutts in the back seat. He parks his car, flings open the door, and lets them charge into the park.

We walk across the street to avoid that catastrophe waiting to happen, with some success. I make a mental note: STAY COMPLETELY AWAY from the park (that you pay for with your taxes), no matter what time of day it is!!!!!

***

And dinner, partaken of in mid-afternoon, because I ate so much for breakfast that I’m not hungry till then, is fairly decent: grilled steak, roasted potatoes, grilled asparagus, a fine salad with fresh Meyer lemon and olive oil dressing, a passing decent cheap red wine, and a dose of Talenti ice cream.

Laundered clothes: usually I let a vast load pile up before diddling away time with that task. but with the current scare under way, I’m tossing stuff in the wash every couple of days.

The houses in this neighborhood have a peculiarity that, when I first bought here, I regarded as very tacky: all but one of the models have the washer/dryer hookup in the garage.

Of course! Everyone wants to spend time in 110-degree summer heat or 40-degree winter chill laboring over the laundry, right?

Well, at the time I bought into the ‘Hood — the height of the Savings & Loan Fiasco — I needed a place to live, and as a beggar couldn’t be a chooser. As it has developed, though, this trait has had a number of benefits. Obviously, it keeps the noise and mess out of the living area. Also, a couple of times when a washer has overflowed, it has saved me from having to clean up a gawdawful mess from the inside floors. And what is now to the point: After an outing to some germy store, I can shut the door behind me as I drive in, hop out of the car, and immediately strip off my clothes and throw them in the washer. A sink with a bar of soap is right there for the obligatory hand-scrubbing.

Discovered a way to build bird-proof “cages” to protect the vegetables I want to plant from the pet wild birds that have moved in to take advantage of the bird feeding stations. Planted a couple of heads of lettuce outside, and the birds leveled them to the ground. They also shredded a beautiful little succulent that I bought a few weeks ago and delayed planting outside till the weather was better. Managed to keep them out of the chard seedlings by draping nylon bridal-veil mesh over a stick, but that won’t last once the plants get a little bigger.

Next: to make a bunch of face masks out of a pair of old Laura Ashley pillowcases I found in the linen closet. These are supposed to be doable in 10 minutes. We shall see…they look pretty easy. Want to make some for myself, m’jiito, and the neighbors.

Then, once it’s good and dark, it’s off for the second one-mile walk with the hound. The plan is to try to get two miles of walking a day, by going out in the morning and the evening for one-mile junkets.

Fewer people are out with their dogs after dark, though last night I encountered three of them. One had a crazed yapper. The other, a couple, had a large retriever-like thing that was well behaved enough, and a big white pit-bull mix that…well, these stupid people had the mellow retriever attached to the large male human, and the pit-pull attached to the willowy female. The pit-bull launched into full attack mode when it saw Ruby. We were on the other side of the street. The damn dog dragged the woman into the street and pulled her down the road, trying to get at me and my 23-pound pooch.

She managed to regain her footing and haul the dog to a stop, but it looked pretty iffy there for a few seconds.

See what I mean about people? You just can’t fix stupid, no matter how hard you try.

April 2, 2020
by funny
1 Comment

Greta

Do you ever have some deep regret come back and haunt you? Something you could have done, you should have done, you didn’t do…

Greta, of all the dogs in my life, all the many dogs, was the one dog I’ve loved more than any other dog, and quite possibly more than any other human. She was the most superb spirit I’ve ever known, through 75 years on this endless earth.

We’d acquired Greta the German Shepherd from some neighbors who divorced. I don’t know how old she was, but I think she was around four, maybe even five years old at the time. She was fully grown, settled into calm maturity when we acquired her.

A few years later my son was born. Then a few years after that, we moved uptown to a new old house in a new old neighborhood. Greta came with us. By then we’d gone through two other German shepherds and a Labrador retriever. If Greta was three when we got her, she was eight when we moved to North Central.

Another three years or so went by.

Greta liked to take the sun in the back yard, loafing outside the big Arcadia doors that opened off the living room.

This one late morning I happened to look out there and saw her laying there in a puddle of her own urine.

I had been told, back in the day, that when an elderly dog became incontinent, that was the end of its life: the time had come to put the dog down.

Steeling myself, I called the vet, put her in the car, and drove her down there.

This vet was a friend of mine. But he wasn’t around when we got down to his office. The receptionist told me to take a seat in the waiting area, which I did.

Greta was actually OK. She was just kind of doddering around, looking a little puzzled.

Across the room was a man and his…whatever the f*ck she was…girlfriend, abused wife, concubine, WTF. He had a nondescript dog with him, large and pit-bullish.

Greta is just standing there. She’s not doing anything to anyone.

The guy suddenly growls at me, “Keep that dog away from me. If you don’t, I will let my dog go and it will kill your animal.”

Huh?

I was so stunned by this attack I didn’t know what to say.

He repeated his threat, into my silence. And then he repeated it again.

I got up, handed Greta over to the receptionist, and left.

Why?

First, why did I not tell the receptionist (who had walked out of the room when this happened) that this guy was threatening me and she should either tell him to leave or call the police?

Why did I not turn to his miserable little woman and say, “Hey, sister: pay attention. A man who will mistreat another woman and some aging dog will do the same to you. Get away, bitch, while you can!”

Why did I not say to the little bastard, “Make my day!”

Why did I leave my beloved dog there?

Why did I not ask, “Is there something that can be done about her incontinence? Can we fix this, even if just for a little while?”

Well. In those days I didn’t have my day made by confrontation. Today I’d take that sh!thead on, even if I had to do it with my bare hands. Today I’d have a cell phone, and I would call the police and say some rabid guy was threatening to sic his dog on me and I needed a cop there right away. Today at the very least I would have started shouting at the top of my lungs for Jerry, my veterinary friend.

In those days, I’d never heard of a UTI. And even if I had heard of it, there may not have been the antibiotic treatments we have now.

In those days, I’d been told, more than once, that when an agèd dog loses control of its bladder or bowels, the kindest thing is to put it down.

In those days, a woman stayed quiet, lady-like.

In those days, I never would even have thought of standing up to a male.

Every now and again, this vignette comes back to me — like now — and reduces me to tears.

March 28, 2020
by funny
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Fear and…Cleaning?…in the Time of Cholera

Yipes! It’s 10:30 at night and I’ve written exactly nothing at Funny!

One could claim one was busy all day…but other ones would know one was cooped up in the house all day and sooooo… 😮

Truth to tell, though, the house can keep one busy, if one were inclined to take care of it properly. I laid off WonderCleaningLady at the start of the Corvid scare, and so she hasn’t been around for a couple of weeks. And you could tell: the dog hair was ankle-deep.

So I broke out the vacuum cleaner and filled up its dirt holder twice with poochie puffs. You never saw so much dog hair in your life!

To complicate matters, the penicillin the endodontist prescribed for the endless post procedure caused my hair to fall out. Fortunately, I have plenty of it. Because plenty was on the floor…whence it ended up wound tight around the vacuum’s beater bar. Took some doing — and a pair of needle-nose pliers — to prize that out.

Swiffered up after the vacuuming expedition; then mopped the kitchen floor. Scrubbed the dog paths off the hallway walls. While at it, cleaned the baseboards in the bathroom, where Satan and Proserpine replaced the builder’s dust-resistant, easy-to-keep clean bullnose baseboards with something that looks sort of like crown molding. The worst dust-catcher you’ve ever seen…what on EARTH could they have been thinking? Cleaned the bathrooms. Sorta cleaned the kitchen (it doesn’t get very dirty when most of what you cook is grilled outside!). Fixed an awesome meal of scallops, spinach, tomatoes & tomato sauce (with lots of garlic, o’course) over tagliatelle. Drank half a bottle of wine.

Waited until after dark to walk the dog.

Yes. After dark is the perfect time for a doggy-walk! We ran into only one (1) human with only one (1) dog in an entire mile of trotting along. Hooo-ray! It’s a lovely evening, even if, yes, one could do without the cop helicopter. Mostly he was over Meth Central, though…by the time he came our way, he’d turned off his spotlight, apparently headed back to the heliport.

Otherwise spent most of the day cruising the Net. Gavin Newsom expects FIFTY-SIX PERCENT of California’s population will have come down with the coronavirus in the next six or eight weeks. Meanwhile that idiot in the White House keeps sniping at governors who ask for federal assistance, and his nitwit followers dream up conspiracy theories about his medical advisor, the only one in the whole bunch who can utter an accurate statement. In other (brown…) fields, our moron Sleaze-in-Chief is using the Covid-19 epidemic as an excuse to suspend environmental laws! And also meanwhile, the CDC supposedly came out with a recommendation that all Americans should wear face masks (contravening earlier advice that they do little or nothing to stop you from catching the disease) while medical workers who need face masks are struggling with a shortage…but now denies they said that. Oh, and a tornado blasted an Arkansas town.

Holy mackerel. Thank God it’s past time to go to bed.

March 26, 2020
by funny
3 Comments

Of Groceries and Gates

The major grocery chains in lovely Arizona are posting special Old Folks’ early-morning shopping hours on certain weekdays, by way of minimizing corvid exposures to the most vulnerable segment of our population. If you’re 65 or older, you get to make a dawn shopping trip in a low-population store.

So yesterday, armed with shopping lists from the Old Folks (who are literally locked up in the Agèd Rabbit Warren Arms) and from WonderAccountant, who as you can imagine has her nose on the proverbial grindstone. Out the door in the wee-hours darkness, I arrive at AJs as the door opens, a little before 5 a.m.

Me and a bunch of other old buzzards.

We dodder around the store and pick up…uhmmm…whatever is left. I managed to find almost all the stuff I needed, which wasn’t very much, and the couple of small items for WonderAccountant were on hand. But finding the loot that Joan had ordered up was a whole ‘nother story.

She wanted eggs, preferably boiled. There were none. Nothing, zero: no eggs at all.

Whipped topping: I did find some of the squirt-on stuff. Not sure that’s what she wanted, but that’s what they had left.

1/2 gallon lactose-free milk. She was in luck: no one wants lactose-free milk, so there were two cartons there; otherwise, nary a drop of milk in the dairy cabinet.

Speaking of the which, I wanted a container of heavy cream: no such thing.

Pepperoni pizza for Lee: after much searching I finally found one. Didn’t look very good — frozen. They usually get one of those huge freshly made numbers from Costco. I fear he will not be happy with this factory…thing.

Large bag frozen blueberries: not a frozen berry of any variety in the entire store. I grab a package of fresh blueberries, which will last them all of, oh, probably one breakfast. Better than nothing, I hope.

Cat food: managed to find a couple cans of stuff (looked like one serving apiece, weirdly enough) and a bag of kibblish stuff, neither of which I believe their cat will eat. Also got a roll of Freshpet cat food — Freshpet, apparently, is so overpriced as pet food goes that no one will buy it even if it does look like their furbaby is going to starve. Otherwise: that cupboard was bare.

I was able to find all the things I wanted except the cream:  tea, Jet Dry, avocadoes, coconut-flavored paletes, lettuce — so felt pretty smug about that.

Okay, so after I got the WonderAccountants’ items delivered to them, I called Lee and told him I was on the way down to the Beatitudes with their loot.

You simply would NOT have believed… When I’ve yammered “prison guards” in earlier communications, I imagined I was joking.

Not…so…much…

They had THREE barricades for you to get through. First you have to get past the gate guard. To do that, you’re diverted into a parking lot where TWO guards give you the third degree, quizzing you with about a dozen questions as to your health, your reason for being there, your whereabouts over the past two weeks, your international travel, your local travel, and on and on. They take your temperature — with a thermometer that doesn’t work: it registered something like 96, and I happen to know my temp that morning was 98.0, which is elevated for me…my normal temp is around 97. (Admittedly, I was having a hot flash when I took it myself, but usually hot flashes don’t make any difference in your thermometer-type temperature).

Then you get back in your car and drive up to the front, which they’ve barricaded with tables. There you are once again ordered to state your business. I was able to drop off the groceries with the worthies manning this barrier and get back on my way. Later Joan called and said they’d received them.

Later in the day, the guy I contracted with to install a new gate to replace the tumbledown thing Satan and Proserpine left behind, all these years ago, showed up to install it. He did a beautiful job! I’m thrilled! Now instead of the rotting wood thing that dragged on the ground, we have a fine metal-framed number with indestructible fake wood stuff as paneling, and it has A DEADBOLT!!!

Which brings us to the true, 24-karat gold holy shit! moment of the day….

Once he got the gate hung, he found the deadbolt they’d supplied him was defective. A part inside was bent. So he decided to schlep to the Depot to pick up a new one.

The guy is gone the better part of the afternoon. He finally shows up and installs a deadbolt that works like it was made of silicone. It’s a very nice piece of hardware, and he extracted five keys so I would have them for my son, Gerardo, Luz, myself, and an extra.

What took him so long at the Depot was…they are letting only fifty people into the store at any time! 

He said they make you stand on a spot outside the door and wait your turn to go in the door. Can you imagine?

While he was here, he remarked on the black granules that washed (or were beaten) off the roofing shingles during the latest storm. He lives right around the corner (!!  Close enough that his little girl rode past on her bike while he was working!), and he said they had hail over there. I said I thought it sounded like hail, but I couldn’t see any ice on the ground. He said it was kind of slushy and didn’t last long.

Hm. So I called George the Insurance Dude, who recommended a roofer to come inspect.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll get another new roof out of this!

This gate thing is very pleasing. The incumbent was decrepit when I moved in and had devolved to “tumbledown.” Getting it open and closed was a chore — and the cops having kicked it apart in pursuit of Matthew the Garage Invader didn’t help it.

§ § §

So at any rate, I made a nice discovery in the course of today’s adventures: Hitting the grocery store before dawn cracks is a GOOD thing, not the PITA one would assume.

This kinda pot

Seriously. I was home by 5:40, with the grocery pickup done for three households. That meant I had the whole rest of the day, UNINTERRUPTED, to do more interesting things, among them paying work. The stuff I wanted and needed to do was not, after all, interrupted by the annoying time-sucking shopping chore.

One project: I bought two of those little heads of butter lettuce that come in a plastic box with the roots still on, sitting in a little depression with some water in it. (One actually was a mix of loose-leaf varieties.) Some years ago, Iearned that those things will grow if you stick one of them in the dirt, with a few leaves remaining on the head. Soooo…I pruned a bagful of leaves off the things, then took the pretty new Mexican pots that I’d intended to use for decorative cacti, filled them with potting soil, and stuck the little guys in there. If they take root, I’ll have two handy-dandy heads of lettuce right outside the back door.

§ § §

Later in the day,  it dawned on me that I’d made a MAJORLY mistake. Took those keys from our Gate Guy, the ones he’d had made at the Home Depot, marked them for what they’re for, put them away…and failed to wash my hands. Dawned on me as I was sitting here with my hands…where? on my face, of course. Ohhh shit.

Well, let’s hope he managed to escape HD without getting exposed. So far the covid infections have been mostly in the East Valley, I think. As of yesterday, we had 251 cases in the county, if which 15 were on the ASU campus. As of two days ago, 17 people had been hospitalized, and 1 had died. There were 26 cases on the Navajo, most of them in Chilchinbeto, which is beyond remote. On the other hand, of late some guy flew in to Sky Harbor on a jetliner with it.

George (Insurance Dude) recommended a roofer, who perked right up when it was proposed he should inspect the roof. 😀 The guy just e-mailed to inquire about contact info…sent him the fone number and address.

How kewl would it be if I can extract another $10,000 roof from the insurance company? Holy mackerel! That would make the roof last longer than I will, which means one fewer maintenance headache for the duration of my time in this house. THIS time, though, if we get away with this I’m going to ask to have a light color. The stuff they showed me last time was all pretty dark, which is brain-banging stupid in Arizona.

The fascia board on the roof thingie in front has what looks like dry rot (gulp! termite damage???), so while he’s here I can get him to look at that. If they have the roof off, they should be able to fix that then, and maybe even that cost can be foisted on the insurance company.

So, that which doesn’t kill you fills up every minute of your day.

Life proceeds, in spite of it all.

March 21, 2020
by funny
7 Comments

Why Toilet Paper? Well…here’s why

So we’re sittin’ around here, contemplating the mysteries of Life, the Universe, and All That, when one of the greatest of mysteries impinges upon our consciousness: Why are vast tribes of people hoarding toilet paper, in the expectation of a (usually rather mild) disease that is unlikely to cause diarrhea? Even with with quarantining a given (which it was not when the toilet paper mania began), what is the fixation on TP?

Welp, I have — AH HAH! — a theory.

Here ’tis…

Funny’s Theory of Toilet Paper Affection

Among the American affluent classes, and the somewhat moneyed middle classes, everybody and his little brother, sister, aunt & uncle has a vacation home in the boondocks: In Arizona, for example, that would mean forest and desert retreats like Pinetop, Payson, Strawberry, Prescott, Yarnell, the North Rim, the White Mountains, Bisbee, Patagonia, and many waypoints north to south, east to west. Most of these second homes are furnished for weekends; some for a month or two of full-time residence during the summer. But by and large they stand vacant and waiting.

So. If you could see Armageddon coming — in the form of a contagious disease that was likely to get you and your family confined to your home for several weeks — where would you rather be held captive? In a plaster and styrofoam hut in a jam-packed eave-to-eave suburb? Or in a glorified “cabin” (more like resort quarters) on three acres of forest or scenic grassland?

You got it.

If we still had the ranch up on the Rim outside of Yarnell, that’s where I’d be right now.

And what are you gonna do if you figure the kids are going to be shut out of school, you’re probably going to be told to work from home (or be laid off), and all of you are going to be locked up together for anywhere from two weeks to three months?

What you are gonna do is load the kids and the dog into the vehicle, turn on the burglar alarm, lock up the shack in the Valley of the We-Do-Mean Sun,  and drive up to your vacation cabin. That’s what you’re gonna do.

And if you’re going to hole up for some period up to, say, 90 days with your three kids, the family dog, the cat, and two sets of in-laws, what are you gonna need, in addition to food? That’s right:

Toilet paper!

Nor would you need an expensive, maintenance-sucking second home to feel the impulse to stock up with necessaries. Many people in our parts have campers — either pickup shells that convert your Ford F-150 into a rolling hunter’s cabin or fancy living-rooms on wheels of various sizes, some as capacious as a small house. What would you bring with you if you figured you were going to be living out of your car or camper for anywhere from three weeks to three months?

Hell, yeah:

Toilet paper!

Even if you don’t have a vehicle tricked out to accommodate the Life of Riley, plain old camping is just not that hard — even over the long term. SDXB and I did it for three straight months, trekking through the outback of Alaska and Canada. With a camp tent, a propane campstove, a few dishes, and a couple of towels. We slept under a roof one (1) night, when it was raining too hard to cope.

We did it for fun, so trust me: it was no particular hardship.

But…if you weren’t an experienced long-haul camper but you figured you’d better be prepared to stay in the boondocks for a good long while, and you planned on car-camping rather than hiking, what provision (other than food) would you really, truly, NOT want to run out of?

Yup:

Toilet paper!

heee! So this is the theory. People aren’t buying TP to stock their houses here in the Big City. They’re using it to stock vacation homes, campers, cars, duffle bags full of camping gear. They’re not stocking one home. They’re stocking two, or even maybe three, if they have a vacation house and a camper.

March 20, 2020
by funny
0 comments

How to Sanitize Fresh Produce: Kill those Corvid Germs!

I

So there you are in the grocery store, one of the few moments when desperation drives you to enter a public place, and you buy a bunch of lettuce and apples and oranges and melons and whatnot… Things that you would normally eat without cooking them. But what if another shopper or three has breathed on the stuff? God help us, what if someone has even coughed on it?

Well, you know, in a time when a contagion spread by contact with surfaces holds forth, that is a real concern.

When I was growing up in Saudi Arabia, back in the Dark Ages, I learned a method for sanitizing fruit and salad produce, a technique that was taught to all the women in camp.

All produce sold through the camp commissary was farmed in the Middle East. At the time, fields there were fertilized with human waste, and so any scrap of fresh lettuce, veggies, or fruit was likely contaminated with amoebic dysentery organisms. The way to sanitize this produce was as follows:

Rinse your produce first and set it aside. Fill a large pot or the kitchen sink with dilute Clorox — about a tablespoon of chlorine bleach per gallon to a sink full or kettle full of cold water. (My mother used more Clorox than that, she being she.) The water should have a slight chlorine odor. Do not used fancified variants of Clorox: no scented version, no Splashless, no High Efficiency, no other b.s. You want just plain old-fashioned Clorox. Submerge the produce in the chlorinated water and let it set for 20 minutes to an hour. Drain the sink, refill, and slosh all the produce around in clean water; drain again and then refill and rinse again. Finally  rinse each item well under running water before letting it drain dry and putting it away in the refrigerator.

This method does not work safely on items that are porous, such as strawberries. Consequently we couldn’t buy things like strawberries and raspberries in the commissary. Also, leafy greens, such as lettuce, will wilt quickly after being treated with Clorox, so you need to eat them within a few hours after sanitizing them.

An alternative to Clorox is iodine water sanitizing pills for campers. You can use common household iodine for this purpose, too: about 5 drops per quart. If you’re using the tablets, which you can get at sporting goods store & probably at Amazon, as I recall it’s 2 tablets per quart. It takes about 30 minutes to disinfect.

Better yet: cook everything before you eat it. 😉