So some guy was shot dead just around the corner last night — over by the freeway, but still within walking distance of the Funny Farm. That would explain the excited burst of cop sirens along about 9 p.m.
Blasts of alarm have become so commonplace I no longer pay much attention to them. If the cop helicopters take up residence directly over my block, yeah…I’ll get up and lock the doors. Otherwise…please, dudes: make my day.
Occasionally (well, we could say more like about once every three days), I reflect that it’s probably past time for me to look for housing in some quieter part of town. Or of the state. I suspect that one reason my (former) mother-in-law has lived to 103 is that she dwells in peace: Grand Junction is about as quiet and laid-back as it gets. She hasn’t been subjected to a lot of environmental stress from traffic noise, cop and ambulance sirens, endless copter fly-overs, car alarms, house alarms, barking watchdogs…or, presumably, from daily newspaper reports of mayhem.
That kind of background stress has got to take a toll.
If you’re going to live in Arizona, the answer is to move away from Phoenix. The city, except for a few enclaves and the gentrification-engineering of the downtown district, has largely deteriorated into a gigantic slum. Areas that once were modest middle-class/working-class areas are now mostly working poor or not-working-at-all. To give you an idea: teacher pay (these areas were places where public school teachers would live) is now so low here that the state cannot hire or retain teachers at all. Some districts have no senior staff; most teachers leave the trade after three or four years.
The result of right-to-work-for-nothing laws is that you end up with large segments of your society living in poverty. And poverty, alas, brings with it drugs, alcohol, psychological suffering, and crime. Hence: a neighborhood shopping center where you dare not carry your purse across the parking lot, or where the residents drive miles away from home to buy their groceries at safer venues; people getting shot dead on the street corners; and criminals moving into your neighborhood.
The other day the dogs and I were walking over in Richistan when abruptly we came face-to-face with two of the scariest dudes I’ve seen in a long time. One of them…well…you know how some men get a certain “look” about them after they’ve been in prison for awhile? They put on weight because of the bad food (which they’d probably eat on the street anyway), but they also put on muscle because they pass the time working out; they also take on a kind of self-defensive aggressive demeanor that can be distinctive. One might even say…heh!…arresting.
Well, one of them looked like that: the biggest, baddest dude in town! 🙂
The other was a smaller, fairly slender punk riding a bike that was too small for him — i.e., it no doubt had been lifted out of someone’s yard. It was 80+ degrees and he had on a sweatshirt with the hood pulled over his head, hiding his face. Uh huh…a man has to keep warm, eh?
They had a big old bloodhound with them. It wanted to go after the corgis, but the big bruiser kept it under control. He was polite and well-mannered — his companion was reclusive, but the tank came across like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. It was painfully obvious that they were casing the neighborhood, looking for the best houses to burgle.
There’s a Humane Society shelter just up the road. These guys go to the shelter, “adopt” a dog, and use it as a ruse: they’re “walking the dog” while they’re checking out your house to rip off. So: no question that was what was going on.
The problem with moving out of Phoenix to someplace quieter and ostensibly safer is…well, there are two problems:
a) The suburbs, home of white flight, are now ALL homeowner’s associations. Developers build their tracts as HOAs, and they stay HOAs. I do not want to live in an HOA. I have enough layers of government to deal with, thank you very much; I don’t need another bunch of busybodies bossing me around.
Nor, just between you and me and the lamp-post, do I especially want to live in a lily-white ghetto. Weirdly enough, I happen to like a little diversity in my surroundings.
b) They are halfway to California. They’re so far away from anything that, like my friend KJG, you find yourself driving until you’re blue in the face any time you want to shop or meet your friends or go to any events. I don’t want to live on the road to Mandalay, thank you.
Smaller towns here are poorly provided with infrastructure. Medical care in Arizona, by and large, isn’t great to start with. In a place like, say, Yarnell or Patagonia, it’s nonexistent. You live there at your risk…especially as you get to the heart attack age. And most small towns in Arizona are pretty grody: you want to see poverty here, you visit the rural areas.
Arizona’s closest approximation of MiL’s home town, Grand Junction — the largest town on Colorado’s Western Slope — is Prescott. And it surely is a nice little burg. A little touristy, but not excessively so: it also has a Costco and grocery stores that serve real people who really live there. It has a few decent restaurants, and it has a cultural life of sorts.
But it’s not cheap to live there. Housing prices are fairly high, and the cost of gasoline and groceries is significantly higher than in the big city. And there, too: although the county medical center is one of the three best in the state, that actually ain’t sayin’ much. It’s hot in the summer — cooler than here, but still warm enough to need air conditioning — and cold enough in the winter that it sometimes snows, meaning you couldn’t get away with leaving the heat off all winter long, the way I do here. And there’s a chronic water shortage. So utility bills would be significantly higher.
Plus of course the cost of moving house takes your breath away.
So I dunno…I probably don’t want to move away. But if my son didn’t live here…if I didn’t have the church choir…I surely would.
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