Coffee heat rising

A Minor Triumph…and a YIPES!

So when I moved into the Funny Farm, lo! these many years ago, the flowerbed under the front window hosted four strange and rather dowdy plants. These things, a variety of bamboo (we’re told), were planted by Satan and Proserpine (the previous owners) as supposedly highly xeric. The path of least resistance has long been to ignore them. They need to be hacked back every couple of years — a task honored more in the breach than in the act. By and large, they’re forgotten until it occurs to me that I can’t see out the front window.

But fall being Arizona’s answer to spring — and fall finally having arrived in the past week — I decided I would spend the day cleaning up the gardens out here. And one of the things I’d like to do, thought I, is get rid of those damn bamboo-oid things and replace them with something prettier. Such as three or four dwarf bougainvillea.

The full-size boug over by the gate has thrived for years. It’s pretty well sheltered, so even a hard frost doesn’t faze it much. And it does appear that hard frosts are, once and for all, no longer in the cards. And a bougainvillea is truly a beautiful plant. Look up dwarf bougs online and indeed do find them…to the tune of around $30 to $35 apiece. Holy mackerel.

But I remain determined: these are the perfect plants for that spot. If I’m going to get them, I’ll just have to spay some stupid amount of money.

Amazingly, just as I’m about to finish my breakfast and get down to gardening, along comes Gerardo and his crew. I ask them to pull out the bamboo-oids, which they do…with enormous difficulty. The ground is dry and hard there, and the plants are firmly anchored into the concrete-like ground. They have to take a pick-axe to the things to get them out. But get them out, the eventually do.

Exit Gerardo and friends. And over to Whitfill’s.

The place is a madhouse, fall having sprung…you never saw so many pushy rich people in your LIFE! And all of the nursery’s numerous blue-shirted staff were collared. Open your mouth to ask a question and somebody barges in and collars the buy.

I finally manage to push my way up to the cashier to ask if the have any such critter, and she says all the bougainvillea that are staked are regular size; all the ones that are not staked are dwarf size.

Ohhh-kayyyyyy… Back onto the lot to explore two or three cluttered acres again. Just about to give up when I spot a cluster of small bougs in pots, but I can’t tell what they are, except to see they have wonderful classic maroon blossoms. And along comes a blue-shirted fellow, clearly fresh from the men’s room, who is unattached. Ask: “Are these dwarf bougs?”

“They are,” says he.

Since I haven’t been able to snag a cart, either, he helps me carry them to the cashier.

“Are those $10?” she asks.

“Uhhmmmm…” Say what? “Well, they have a number marked on the pot.”

“That’s ten bucks, then.”

Seriously? They’re upwards of $30 at the other merchants that stock them. I don’t argue. Outta there with four healthy little plants, only $43 lighter.


Back to the house. Loaf around for awhile. Admire the sparkling clean pool, visited this morning by the brand-new pool guy. He has fixed it, and apparently it is going to stay fixed, at least for awhile. He came by at 7, chatted, cleaned the walls and steps, fooled with the chemicals, chatted some more. Played with Ruby, who thinks (like all guests) he’s some sort of god.

Get up and clean the front window, which, for the first time in several years, I can reach.

Drag an old hose long enough to reach the excavated flowerbed out to the front; unkink it, and miraculously to get to work. Pour water on the flowerbed (we might note that an hour later said water has not soaked in: a sterling bad sign).

Ruby is coming and going (mostly going) during all this.

A little later, for reasons I do not recall I happen to look out the back door…and the back gate is standing open.


Remember, that gate has another barrier behind it, in the form of a padlocked steel gate. And that gate? Ruby can easily slip under it. Once escaped, she’ll run off to Timbuktu.

In a moment of real panic, I call and search for the dog.

Mercifully, she’s fallen asleep in her favorite nest under the back bathroom toilet.

This would mean, you understand, that she hasn’t noticed the gate hanging open. An  hour or three ago, she was soaking up the sun out by the orange tree that happens to stand right next to that gate. If it was open then she would have noticed.

You understand: Ruby can slide under that gate. I can crawl under it. And a fairly slender man could no doubt squeeze under it. Not only that, but this morning the cop helicopters were buzzing back and forth for a good hour, obviously looking for someone.

All of which that suggests strongly that somebody came into the alcove, over or under that locked steel gate, and unlocked the wooden gate into the yard. OR…more rationally, one of the lawn guys could have opened the gate, found he couldn’t get out to the trash can, and just turned around and hauled his leaves and junk out to the truck’s trailer…forgetting to close the gate.

Holy crap! The back door has been standing open most of the afternoon — the day is gorgeous and Ruby has been wandering in and out. If anyone actually got into the yard and he did it while the kitchen security door was hanging open he could’ve just walked right into the house.

Find another padlock and attach that to the latch on the wooden gate. So now we have to negotiate two goddamn locks just to take the trash out. Make that four: the deadbolt on the kitchen door and the deadbolt on the heavy-duty kitchen security door.

Well, thank God that Ruby slept through whatever happened there, or just didn’t happen to wander into the backyard while that gate was open. If she had, she’d have been long gone. Her collar has her name and phone number on it, but she doesn’t wear that thing in the house. And she is chipped. But either way, she’s quite a stealable little cherry. Chances are about 50/50 that whoever found her would never bring her back.