Coffee heat rising

Bang-Bangs in the Night

{sigh} Two in the morning. Wide awake. Gunshots in the distance, emanating from Gangbanger’s Way. Pop pop pop sounding above the roar of wailing hotrods and motorcycles.

Lordie, how I hate living in Phoenix. Especially this part of Phoenix. It’s never quiet here.

Gangbanger’s delineates the middle-class zone flanking North Central Avenue from the dire slum of Sunnyslope (and I do mean “dire”: a drive through that place is like a visit to a Mexican barrio, where people live in huts and abandoned railroad freight cars). That balmy boulevard is frequented by bikers and gang members. The ‘Hood is technically part of Sunnyslope, though in fact most natives regard the area to the north of Gangbanger’s as the ‘Slope, and North Central as extending south from Gangbanger’s to about Camelback or Missouri. Whatever…the noise and the crime emanating from those northerly precincts are…well, characteristic.

That we are theoretically part of Sunnyslope (though no one who lives here would ever admit that) is what keeps real estate prices relatively low. I couldn’t even begin to afford this house if it were in a better part of town.

{moan!} Now Ruby the Corgi is awake. Is she going to demand to go outside?

Hmmm…not too insistently. Yet.

oook. whine.

Okay…i take that back…

Get up. Lift the dog off the bed. Follow her to the back door. Accompany her outside, barefooted. Not that cold out there, but still…surely there are other things to do at two in the morning. Well…2:30 now. Wait until she does her thing. Follow her inside. Bribe her with a dog treat to get back on the bed.

Gooood morning, America! {sigh}

Is this as terrible a place to live as I think it is?

Probably not. Our enclave, per se, is no slum, though we’re flanked to the north and to the west by districts that do deserve that accolade. You’d be crazy to put your kid in a public grade school here, though the high school (thanks to the efforts of one heroic teacher and her allies) is highly rated — nationally. People actually move here so as to get their kids into Sunnyslope High School. Which, when you think about it, is kinda bizarre.

Cheaper, by far, than having to put them in the Catholic or private high schools here. Brophy Prep, where we sent our son, will set your retirement date back quite a bit, as will All Saints Episcopal, the favored private grade school for the lawyerly and the doctorly set.

What a place! Cheaper than Southern California, no doubt, but still: Southern California Redux.

There was a reason I hated living in Southern California — several of them, as a matter of fact. When we first moved here, in the early 1960s, this place had its own character. Provincial, yes: but still…it was its own place. But now — largely thanks to our honored leaders’ pig-headed civic planning (they quite deliberately and openly modeled the Valley after the L.A. area), — it’s crowded, smoggy, hostile, noisy, and overall an unpleasant place to live.

Well. Unless you consider snow more unpleasant than the serenade of unmuffled engines and gunfire. And 112-degree summer days. 😀

I do not know that I would want to live in snow….matter of fact, I suspect I wouldn’t. But wouldn’t that be better than mobs and mobs of people, gunshots at two in the morning, and the serenade of gangbangers’ hogs?

There are quieter venues to live in this place. Sun City: there, you can enjoy the quiet of the mausoleum, punctuated by the roar of fighter jets emanating from Luke Air Force Base. Fountain Hills, way on the other side of the Valley, offers you the quiet of an upper-middle-class suburb, punctuated by the roar of passenger jets heading into Sky Harbor Airport. In between: noise, traffic, crime, and more noise.

The bikers have quieted down. Three in the morning. I’ve gotta go back to bed.

arrrrghhh!

Another Fine Day from Hell y-Cumin’ In…

Yes: this is going to be a day from Hell. Only quarter to eight and I’ve emptied the refrigerator & freezer, packed what would fit into the big freezer in the back of the house; stashed the rest of it on the kitchen counter.

Can’t empty the refrigerator compartment until the guy gets here to deliver the new fridge, which could be any time between now (ten to 8 a.m.) and 5 or 6 p.m. So all that stuff will have to be taken out and stashed…who knows when? Who knows where? Then immediately placed in the new refrigerator, which we can only hope will chill down fast. Fortunately, it’s wintertime, so if I turn off the heat, the ambient air can be relatively cool in the house. So with any luck, nothing will spoil.

Meanwhile, the brats in Tony the Romanian Landlord’s day-care for juvenile delinquents* continue to make pests of themselves. Just now a big van drove up to that house and dropped off a bunch of them. One of the girls over there has taken to showing up at my door begging for help, claiming someone has hit her (quite possibly true, given what we know of the way he brought up his own daughters). After this, when I see that kid at the door, I’ll call a cop. She can explain the problem to the police, who are the ones who should know about it.

No sign of Pool Dude. It’s 8 a.m.  He’s usually here by 7:00. Hope this doesn’t mean we’ve lost him…I have nooo idea where to find someone else to do battle with that thing. He does a wonderful job: the water is pristine clear, with nary a sign of the usual algae curtains growing on the walls.

His presence or absence may be moot, though: with no end in sight to the growing Southwest water shortage, the city or the state may mandate that pools have to be drained. In that case, I may build a patio over the top of the thing. But…let’s borrow that trouble a little later.

Later this week: another expensive home improvement: installing motion-sensitive lights and a security camera on the side of the house facing the Romanian Reform School. The little dollinks throw rocks at the side of my house and the roof. Although I’ve seen them in action, I want some proof so that I can call the cops on him again. And if I can find out what agency he’s working with, I can put in a complaint with that outfit.

Four hundred dollah for that little embellishment!

Really, I should put the house on the market and move away from that mess.

That would make sense, eh? Blow 5 or 10 grand to escape a malicious nuisance? Right….

Probably makes more sense than fighting it. BUT…my son is dead-set against my selling this place and moving somewhere else. Why? Escapes me. I suspect the sub-text is that he may want this house for himself, and he hopes to sell the aged, un-air conditionable shack where he’s living now.

Hmmm… Supposed to rain tonight and all day tomorrow, continuing into the week. Goodie…a little more hassle!

A-n-n-d speaking of expensive home improvements: we’ve got delivery of a new refrigerator AND a new microwave scheduled for today. Yeah: they both crapped out at once, to the tune of $1500!!!

Satan and Proserpine, who were inveterate DIY nuts, replaced all the appliances in the kitchen. As one might expect of a set of gadgets installed at the same time, they’re all crapping out at once.

Actually, the built-in double oven crapped out a long time ago. Since I can’t afford to replace that and it’s not something I must have to live a halfway normal life, I use those ovens as storage cabinets. The countertop oven and the backyard BBQ take up the slack. In theory, I could even bake bread in the countertop oven, but since I can get excellent bread at the corner Sprouts and down at the beloved AJ’s market, that idea is moot.

Ohhh well. If I have to sell the house to get away from the Tony Situation, at least we’ll have two brand-new kitchen appliances as a selling point.

* Hmmm… Looks like I’ve never held forth on Tony’s Home for the Delinquent and the Hapless. Okay…well, that tale will be forthcoming, maybe today while we await the advent of the appliance guy. And what a tale it is!

Woman as Cargo Camel

Women’s clothing, as those of you who are female know, often has no pockets. If pockets exist, they’re more decorative than functional. Yet women, especially mothers, have to carry around piles of junk and debris. If you have kids, you need to haul stuff for them. But even if you don’t: a woman’s wallet is not made to to go into a pocket. Hence, the purse: a pack for a pretty little camel.

Some time ago, I decided to throw over those traces. I wanted to quit lugging a purse around, once and for all. Reasons abound:

  • Hauling a bag over your shoulder or in your hand everyplace you go is a nuisance.
  • It makes you a target for purse-snatchers and muggers.
  • Purses are easy to misplace, easy to forget.
  • Once you’ve lost a purse with your wallet in it, the resulting hassle defies belief:
    • Searching from pillar to post for the thing
    • Calling the bank to disable use of lost bank cards and checks
    • Ordering new bank cards and checks
    • Lost cash, if you carry cash with you (I no longer do so, for exactly this reason)
    • The amazingly time-consuming hassle of replacing a driver’s license
    • More hassle to replace other forms of ID and entry cards
    • Buying a new wallet, which at best rquires an Amazon order, but more likely will require traipsing to a department store
    • Putting someone else up to buying groceries and the like until replacements arrive

On and on and on…

Contemplating these joys, and, after having been chased around an Albertson’s parking lot by a panhandler (thief?), I decided to go into full rebellion: REFUSE to carry a purse around.

This is more difficult than one would think, because of the way women’s clothes are designed — presumably to fit some clothing maker’s idea of “sexy.” About the only clothing item that consistently has pockets is a pair of jeans. And even then, pockets in women’s pants are often shallow and tight, making it difficult to carry even a small wallet. And most women’s wallets are anything but “small” — the maker’s assumption being, reasonably enough, that the thing will be carried in a purse.

So…how to pull it off?

Several strategies, at least one of which entails some risk:

  • Hide your driver’s license in your car, so that you always have it at hand..
  • Get copy of your driver’s license to carry into a store, in case someone demands to see it when you go to write a check or use a charge card.
  • Get a metal card carrier and stash all your ID and credit cards in it.

Obviously, keeping your driver’s license in your car is, in some respects, a bad idea: anyone who steals your car or even just breaks in will be stealing one of your key pieces of identification. However if you’re lugging a purse around, all you have to do is forget it someplace or get it yanked off your shoulder as you’re walking across a parking lot. I’ve come to regard stashing it in the car as worth the risk.

Accepting that risk frees me from having to lug a bag everywhere I go, from trying to find someplace safe to stash it when I get to where I’m going, from having to remember to take it with me when I leave that destination, and from the risk of purse-snatching. It also means I have to look for clothing that has pockets — and pretty much precludes wearing anything very “fashionable.”

Fortunately, because I no longer go into an office, I can live in jeans. With the shift from office to working online from home, this is probably true for more women than it has been in the past.

And I’ve found that it’s very much worth the effort to shed the purse-hauling custom. Without a bag full of identification, cash, phone, bubble gum, and whatnot, the local Albertson’s parking lot — a haven for panhandlers and shady types — becomes a great deal less menacing. The risk that I’ll misplace an indispensable piece of identification almost disappears. No bag hanging off my shoulder means no sagging clothing, which means I can wear lighter, cooler shirts in the summertime. And it’s one fewer thing to have to remember all the time.

WERE the 1950s so bad?

A post from my favorite time-waster, Quora — just put this up last night.

Were the 1950’s so bad? How could we stand to gain by returning to more traditional family roles, with the wife in the kitchen and the man out getting the money? Why bother having a family if you need your independence too?

I grew up in the 1950s. Here’s what I recall about it.

My mother was home all the time — that was nice, I guess. My father went to work; he was a harbor pilot who worked swing shifts, so if he wasn’t working during the day, he was sleeping, and anyone else in the house had to be verrreee quiet. Or else.

I loved science, especially astronomy. When I told my parents I wanted to be an astrophysicist, they informed me that girls didn’t do that kind of thing, but I’d make a great secretary.

We lived overseas for ten years, in a Middle Eastern country where my father wrangled tankers for an oil company. My parents took great care to teach me that…

  • America was the greatest country in the world.
  • All other countries were inferior.
  • People with dusky complexions, such as the Arabs whose country we lived in, were inferior to white people.
  • Communists were the evil enemy. So were socialists. And anyone else who didn’t agree with our way of thinking.
  • A woman’s place was in the home.
  • And a lot of other blather along those lines…

We flew Constellations back and forth, when my father got a vacation (three months every two years). They were wonderful planes. Slow and noisy, yes. But what fun sleeping in your own fold-down bunk, stopping in country after country after country, cruising through the Alps, watching the sun rise over the Atlantic as you were homeward bound from Shannon, Ireland, to New York, being served breakfast, lunch, and dinner in your seat — that was traveling!

Nuclear war was a constant threat. After we returned to the States, we lived in a San Francisco high-rise. Every Saturday at noon, air-raid sirens atop our tower went off with a BLASTING scream. If, as a young teenager, I ventured to sleep in, the howling noise of these terrifying “tests” would literally lift me out of my bed.

  • We had air raid drills at school.
  • We had to register an escape plan with the school: in the event of a nuclear attack, would I be bussed down the peninsula, or would I be picked up by my parents at the school, or would I be sent home on foot to my parents to take shelter or to evacuate?

My father raised He!! and put a block under it when he found out the school had assigned me a locker mate who was a black girl.

  • I learned from her that black people are human, when shortly after my father had roared into the principal’s office, the little girl’s things disappeared from our locker. Weeks later, though, she reappeared…with burn scars all over her body. She had been helping her family fix breakfast when her robe caught fire; in a panic, she ran across the room and, before anyone could catch her, crashed through a closed Arcadia door, thereby adding life-threatening cuts and gashes to the burns she suffered. Black people can have scars? Pain? Terror? Panic? Who’d have thunk it?

Television was relatively new — still black & white — and some of the shows were great: The Phil Silvers Show, The Jack Benny Show, As the World Turns, The Twilight Zone, Dragnet, many more. As today, some were pretty stupid, too.

My mother got a job: her salary was $75… ”Such good pay — for a woman!” my mother crowed. It wasn’t enough to cover our rent, to say nothing of feeding us and running a car. If anything had happened to my father, we would have been flung into poverty.

Part of her job as a receptionist for the large apartment development where we lived was to greet prospective renters. She would hand them an application to fill out. As they left the office, she would mark, in code at the bottom of the first page, whether the applicant was white, black, Jewish (in her estimation), or Asian. Only whites needed to apply.

Phones plugged into the wall. There were no cell phones. If you had car trouble and could not flag down another driver, you would have to walk to a gas station or a store and use a pay phone to call for help.

Cars did not have seat belts, or if they did, they had only lap belts. And in many other respects, cars truly were unsafe at any speed.

If those were the best of times, you don’t wanna know what the worst of times were about…

Image: Wikipedia, Constellation

Bullies…

In the wee hours of a sleepless night, I like to pass the insomniac time by perusing and commenting at a site called Quora, where members dream up questions and other members write answers to them. This morning I came across this question:

If you had a child in middle school who was being bullied, how would you handle it?

Yeah…that one sure rang my chimes. Here’s my story, in response to folks who said you need to teach your kiddies to stand up for themselves and fight back:

Well… As a girl, no amount of “standing up for yourself” would have done a darned thing for me. First, I didn’t have the physical strength to fight off several boys, even if I knew how to do so. Second, indulging in any such unlady-like behavior (this was in the 1950s) would have caused unutterable trouble for me.

The only thing I could do was what I did do: watch the clock leading up to the 3:00 p.m. dismissal time. Have all my books and things stacked on the desk and ready to go. As soon as the bell rang, grab my stuff and RUN out the door and RUN AS FAST AS I COULD RUN back to my house. Fortunately we lived only about three or four blocks from the hateful school.

After about a year of this, my fifth- and sixth-grade teacher (whom I abominated), caught two of the little darlings where they had cornered me at the entry to the school.

To my horror, she said to dear little Tommy, “Go ahead. Hit her!”

I was too young and too terrified to understand what she was doing.

He stared at her.

“Go on! Hit her!”

Tommy, being a great deal smarter and world-wise than I was, paused. The temptation was huge, but he resisted and stood down. I got up from the pavement, grabbed my books, and ran away.

She must have given Tommy (and Barry, and Bruce, and the rest of the little charmers) quite a fine go-to-He!! lecture, because after that the worst of the harassment stopped. I was still miserable because I had essentially no friends. None of the little darlings would have anything to do with me. But at least they quit harassing me.

This took place in an American oil camp overseas, a compound much like a military base where we were trapped for the duration of each of my father’s two-year contracts. There was no place else my mother could send me to school. Finally, I got sick, and she and a friend who was a nurse persuaded the doctor to say I had infectious mononucleosis and must stay home. My mother hired my former third-grade teacher to tutor me — this woman had married an employee of the company; married women weren’t allowed to work for the company at the time, so she’d had to quit her job at the school. After some months of this, my mother managed to persuade my father that I was too sick to stay there and that she and I needed to come back to the States.

Never been so glad to get away from someplace in my life!

When we got back home, I tested several years ahead of my sixth-grade cohort, suggesting that home-schooling is a good thing. Once in the new school, where none of the new classmates knew I was the weird little kid, I got along just fine and in fact thrived. National Honor Society, accepted to college a year early, Phi Beta Kappa, three-year Ph.D. program….quite the opposite of what would have happened if I’d had to continue hiding from little criminals for several more years.

All of which suggests, I think, that if your kid is being bullied at school — especially if the kid is a girl and unlikely to have the strength or skill to fight back — one effective remedy is to take them out of the school. Transfer them to another school, even if it means you have to move to a different district.

Is Costco Worth the Hassle?

So…yes: this afternoon it was off to Costco, after a lengthy absence from those sylvan fields. Grand fun, in a shopper-ish way… Two bottles of nice wine at a more or less cut rate (one red, one white). My favorite, unmatchable cheddar cheese — can’t get anything remotely like it in any of the local grocery stores. A sweet little long-sleeved shirt, truly softer than soft. A boxful of quinoa salad, very excellent. Two big containers of chopped vegetable and barley soup, all tomatoey and delicious-looking.

And on and on.

Stand in line at the cash registers. Watch the cows come home. Breeze through the check-out. Finally get out of the store and…

…yeah…

Hit the road just as the rush hour gears up.

Ugh!!!!!

Long, slow, annoying, jack-around drive home. But finally get here without killing or being killed. Unload the car. Feed the dawg. Give her one of the new allegedly tooth-cleaning treats.

The soonest I managed to get Ruby in to Wonder-Vet’s for a surgical tooth descaling and polishing is next April!!!!! So if these silly chew things work, she should be in much better shape for that misadventure.

In the meantime, though: yech! What an awful trip. Which brings us to the Question of the Day:

WHY AM I DOING THIS?

Yes. Why do I shop at Costco at all?

Truth to tell, it’s been a good two or three months since I last trudged out there. Lately, it’s occurred to me that I can buy everything (except the kewl cheap clothing) at AJ’s, Safeway/Albertson’s, and Sprouts. Don’t even have to risk my life for some of that: I can walk to the Albertson’s and the Sprouts.

I wouldn’t do so — at least, not without a hefty male companion — because it’s unsafe to walk down there, whether through the ‘Hood or along Conduit of Blight Blvd. Especially along CofB…. But it’s a two-minute drive in the car. Both Albertson’s and Sprouts now have security guards shooing the hustlers out of the parking lots.

AJ’s is a little bit of a drive, especially near the rush hours…but nothing like the horror show entailed in driving way to Hell and gone to either of the nearest Costco stores.

Except for the beloved casual clothing items, everything I would ordinarily buy at Costco is available at the local grocers. So…

So…

So, yeah: why AM i doing that?

?????

Right. I don’t think I’m gonna do it any more.

May renew my membership (their plans start at $60 p/a). But I think probably not. Especially if I find I’m only going out there a few times a year. Their automotive department truly did pay for itself with the late, great tire episode. Without a doubt, I got my money back in spades after having bought the Dog Chariot’s tires at Costco. But…does that require me to shop in their store?

Prob’ly not.

I think, yea verily, that I’ll keep up the Costco membership (for the sake of the tire shop) but limit shopping trips to a few a year, in search of specific items you can’t get easily at other venues.

Meanwhile, speaking of doggy treats: it’s time to walk Ruby…or rather, for Ruby to walk the Human.