So along about 5:30 a.m. Ruby and I are trotting into the part of the ’hood that houses the lower-end richerati, several streets of spacious, sprawling 1950s and ’60s ranch houses, most of them beautifully maintained on quarter- to third-acre lots. We see an old guy in a pickup putter by. He waves, friendly.
He stops the truck in front of the shade-tree mechanics’ house (more about which later) and we see an animal at his feet. I’ve forgotten to change from my reading/house-navigating glasses into my annoying bifocals and so think he’s lifted a small dog out of the truck.
What? You drive into our neighborhood so you can walk your dog on our streets? Wouldn’t you rather be at the park? Eh…maybe not: I won’t take my dog into the park at this hour because of all the dogs running off the leash. Why should he?
As we draw closer, his companion resolves into a cat, not a dog. It’s Old Yaller, one of the mechanic brothers’ loose cats. And the guy? It’s the old guy who wanders around the neighborhood feeding treats to people’s dogs. Amazingly, he also doles out kitty food to the cats that are allowed to roam free around the neighborhood!
He’s a nice old boy, lonely. His wife died of a dreadful, slow-killing cancer sometime in the past year. Well, he fed the local livestock before she croaked over, so evidently he had some loneliness issues even before then.
We stop to chat. He asks if Ruby can have a treat. When I say sure, he breaks out a gigantic Milkbone, the likes of which she’s never seen in her entire seven months on this earth. She doesn’t quite know what to do with it. He breaks it in half. After some experimentation, she manages to chew it apart.
He gets in his pickup and drives off to his next destination, Santa Claus in a 350-reindeer-power sleigh.
Old Yaller, the biggest, most fearless cat you’ve ever seen in your life, lives in and around the garage of the house where the two shade-tree mechanics dwell with their ancient mother. One of the brothers has a job — he works at night and surfaces around 6 a.m. The other: ??? They spend their free time fiddling with old junkers and motorcycles. With the bikes, in particular, it’s pretty obvious that they’re fixing other guys’ hogs for pay. The house is strangely painted — blue, with white batten boards creating a striped effect. The neighbors call it “the ice-cream house.”
Heh. The neighbor who came up with that name is the one who fills her house with livestock. She and her husband have over a dozen dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, and whatever in there. They’re not all “in”: this is another pair of worthies who let their damn cats run around free to devastate native birds, geckos, and small mammals. When asked, the wife will tell you that their cats are “good cats” that would never harm another animal…well, except for the dead hummingbird Puddy-Tat dragged in the other day, wasn’t that cute?
I suppose any older neighborhood has its share of eccentrics. We seem to have quite a few…maybe that’s because, as Southwestern development goes, ours is a relatively “old” area. Many of the original owners still live here, but they’re now very elderly and some seem to have taken leave of their marbles.
The tax evader — one of those guys who carries a card declaring him to be a citizen of the sovereign nation of himself — finally lost the house at the entry to the shady, lush cul-de-sac over in that part of the ’hood. He wasn’t living there: he was letting some old guy live in the place, free of charge. No rent. That guy practiced a kind of benign neglect: the house had irrigation, so the lawn and trees were generously watered. Four huge orchid trees graced that house’s front yard, and they were gorgeous. Even though the house was pretty run-down, you didn’t notice because those trees were so spectacular.
At any rate, the place was eventually attached for taxes and then sold to a fix-and-flipper. This guy, we learned, hired the lowest bidder to do the renovations. We know this because a neighbor across the street from this manse is a contractor and he made a bid on the job. He was underbid to such an extent that, he said, there was no way the guy who got the contract could possibly do anything other than a slipshod job.
And he’s right: just from the outside, the place looks terrible. The idiots pruned back the trees till they looked like broomsticks, and then shut off the irrigation! For reasons unknown to any sane human being, they replaced the incredibly cheap irrigation with a sprinkling system that dispenses the world’s most incredibly expensive treated city water to the front yard. But they didn’t turn it on all summer. So, those trees aren’t long for this world: cutting them way back and then turning off the water during a 115-degree summer is a guaranteed way to kill them.
The new front elevation, painted a stark, eye-searing white, includes an extension of the garage and a new front wing that juts out into the front yard and a little scorching hot front courtyard with this WEIRD keyhole thing on the wall that apparently is supposed to serve as a fireplace. That’s evidently not how they conceived it — they must have thought of it as a decorative element — but evidently someone pointed out how absurd it looked and as an afterthought they tacked on this tiny square brick chimney that looks like they added a crooked top hat on top. Just hilarious.
Welp, that place has been on the market for a couple of months now. No takers.
Do you think it’s the shoddy construction?
Or could it be the level-2 sex offender living next door?
Yeah. Directly across the street from the mechanic brothers is a level-2 sex offender living out his days with his mother. In Arizona, as presumably in other states, they make it virtually impossible for these guys ever to get a job, even if someone wanted to hire them. And then they charge the guys for the cost of their probation officers’ salary. If they don’t pay up, they throw the guy back in jail. So that means the only way the guy stays out of jail is if he’s lucky enough to have a relative — usually a mother — who will give him a place to stay, support him, and pay the bills for his probation.
That place is amiably run down, too. After she dies, who knows what will become of him?
Chances are all most perps did was diddle a teenaged girlfriend, hardly an act of demented rape. But one never knows. “Level 2” means “moderately likely to reoffend,” an assessment made on who knows what fuzzy criteria by who knows what authority-crazed functionary. Still. You can go here and find out what the guy actually did: in our neighbor’s case, “attempted molestation of a child.” If you were the sort who had a family large enough to fill a five-bedroom house, you’d have to be batsh!t crazy to move in next door to him!
And, IMHO, you’d have to be a little eccentric to buy a fix-and-flip right next door to the guy’s residence, what with sex offender maps readily available online.
Moving on, we passed through the very fanciest part of the ’hood — extremely nice, peaceful, and shaded indeed…who knows what goes on behind those exquisitely manicured front doors? 😀 And from there it was on to the park.
There we saw a big bruiser with a large pit bull running loose off the leash. They were having a grand old time. We walked past on the other side of the street. I silently renewed my vow to stay away from the park when my dogs are with me.
A couple of women drove up in a small SUV. Opened the door and out jumped a happy-go-lucky spaniel type. It shot off down the road like a rocket, its ninny owner calling weakly after it. When the dog finally tired of running around and came bouncing back to her, she managed to grab it long enough to hook a leash to its collar.
Like…really? You really put your dog in the car without a lead on? And you really drove off down the road with your dog bounding around in the car without even so much as a fu*king leash on it??????? And do you really not see that pit bull over there?
Sorry. Willful stupidity drives me to profanity. I simply cannot bear this kind of idiocy.
If you can’t fit your dog inside a crate, fine. This was a good-sized dog — not as big as a German shepherd, but pushing it. I couldn’t have wrangled my GerSheps into a dog crate on a bet. And sometimes I did have to drive them around…dogs have to go to the vet now and again, for example. But whether your dog goes into a crate or not, PUT A LEASH ON YOUR DOG WHENEVER YOU HAVE IT INSIDE A CAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Even a minor fender-bender is loud, startling, and scary. Anything larger is traumatic and terrifying. The instant you or some rescuer opens the car door after an accident, that dog is going to shoot out and run off like the Devil himself was chasing it. If you have a leash already on the dog, at least you have a vague shot at grabbing it and keeping the dog sort of under control after a collision. If you don’t…well, say good-bye to Fido.
Up the road and around the corner. Cut through the yard, recently mowed, of the vacant house on the corner. The owners must be in the old-folkerie. For some reason, they or their kids have not sold the house. Probably promised the parents they wouldn’t, in hopes that maybe one or both of them eventually would escape the old-age prison. This has gone on for years, so it looks like there’s not much likelihood that will happen. At least they have a lawn service come and beat back the weeds once or twice a month.
Past the house where the neighbors had someone, evidently a professional artist, paint a bizarre tropical sunset mural on the two-car garage door. Mercifully, that garage is set back off the street and protected by a shade structure, so the masterpiece is relatively unobtrusive.
Past the house the young people bought. They pulled out the desert landscaping — which indeed did need to be refreshed — bladed the front yard, and planted a gra$$ lawn. The water bill elicited by attempts to keep a grass lawn alive here will boggle the mind. Think of the trips to Hawaii those kids could have taken instead!
Past the former Dave’s Used Car Lot, Marina, and Weed Arboretum, now neatly and tidily cared for by its new owners.
And finally into our yard: that would be the one overgrown with trees and shrubbery, quite deliberately planted in layers for the purpose of blocking the view to Dave’s UCLM&WA. It looks like a jungle out there now. Really, about half the plantings should be removed.
But which ones? The olive that casts lovely shade in the front courtyard? The mesquite that I think could go but whose extirpation my son objects to? The vitex that bursts into exuberant bloom a couple of times a year? The sky flower that only blooms once a year but that is truly exquisite? The yellow oleander, possibly useless but also given to blasts of amazing flowers? The unbelievably graceful and beautiful desert willow? The unknown xeric shrub that’s covered with snowy white blossoms about half the year? The bubble-gum plant that puts forth fuschia-colored hummingbird flowers that smell for all the world like Fleer’s?
Well, none of them, probably. The eccentric resident is a plant hoarder.