Coffee heat rising

The Walking History Archive

Have you ever noticed how weird it is when you’ve lived in a neighborhood for so long that you remember the people-before-the-people-before-the-people who now live in this or that house?

Honestly. Sometimes I feel like I’m a creature from another century. Which, come to think of it, I am!

This morning the Hound and I strolled through a small tract just to the south of us. Those houses have traditionally been more expensive than the newer (but now “vintage”) slump-block houses of our tract, though we’re catching up fast. But young people are moving in there and fixing those places up, too, adorning the walls with lots of eye-searing white, prison gray, and charcoal black paint. And the houses respond well: some of them look very nice, indeed.

Case in point: a house on the corner of a little neighborhood lane that debouches into the park.

I seriously considered buying that house, at the time SDXB and I were engaged in battle with the Romanian Landlord (aka The Perp). It had separate mother-in-law quarters, a spacious apartment with everything a guest or an elderly parent would like to have. My idea was…I would buy the house. SDXB and I would sell our houses up here and move in there. He would have the MiL quarters to use as he pleased: as his man cave or his office or his own private apartment, whatever. It’s a very pleasant house in a very pleasant neighborhood.

Only obvious drawback was that it wasn’t far enough away from the Perp, for our lawyers’ taste.

SDXB is chronically armed to the teeth. I’m not exactly defenseless myself, plus at the time I roomed with a very large, very menacing German shepherd who didn’t take no flak from no-one, not even a half-baked Romanian mafioso. But that notwithstanding, he absorbed the lawyers’ hysteria and betook himself to Sun City. I, having been there and done that, declined to go along, so stayed right where I was. And still am.

But nevertheless, that house had a genuine, nonimaginary drawback: its history, one that you’d think would make it hard to sell.

It had belonged to a couple who had a young child, a little boy. The dad was a cop.

One day the man came home and set his service revolver down on the coffee table. What would possess you, I can’t even begin to imagine…but yep! That’s what he did. Little boy came along when the parental backs were turned, found the gun, and picked it up to play with it. It discharged and shot the child in the gut.

He survived, surprisingly enough, but the slug ripped his intestines apart. He would have to wear a bag on his belly for the rest of his life.

The marriage, not at all surprisingly, could not withstand any such event. The couple divorced and disappeared into the Naked City. Another couple came along, lived there for a year or two, and by the time of the Perp Adventure were themselves moving on — that’s why the house was on the market.

We decided against buying it.

SDXB moved to Sun City.

Anna the GerShep chased the Perp’s would-be revenging son-in-law off and so terrorized the poor man he ended up sitting in his driveway sobbing. She and I were never bothered by that tribe again.

Animosities ceased after I rescued the Perp’s grand-daughter from a vicious dog that attacked her, by getting her and her puppy atop a mailbox stanchion and then facing down the damn dog…which was no less cowardly, really, than the son-in-law. 😀

I can walk through this whole area and remember a lot about the people who have lived in any given house over the years. I’m an ambulatory local history journal, I guess.

iPhone to the Rescue!

So the kewl iPhone just saved the day! 

Landline went dead. That, of course, meant that I couldn’t call Cox from here, and since I’d have to use WonderAccountant’s phone to reach Cox from her house,…well, there’s a limit to how much nerve I have.

But ta daaaa! The iPhone got right through to an exceptionally funny and clever Cox phone tech. It took her a few minutes to identify the exact problem (among several options), and then she was able to coach me through rebooting the landline’s modem. And it WORKED.

How neat, eh?

Ate up a bunch of minutes, though:

Consider: you, the blessed customer, get on the phone to Cox….

Forthwith the annoying AI bot tells you that one (1) person is in the queue ahead of you and the wait is about 3 minutes.

Then it comes back on and, after four or five minutes of superbly annoying jingly noise, tells you there are three people ahead of you and now the wait is 7 minutes. After it tells you another couple of times that varying numbers of customers have jumped the virtual line ahead of you, a human comes on. Mercifully, this was one very bright human.

The whole adventure probably consumed about 20 chargeable minutes.

Despite the tech’s expertise and grace, the episode brought me back to the feeling that for what Cox is charging — which is outrageous, IMHO, for phone service that’s not real phone service — it might be better to have a half-dozen inexpensive flip phones in the rooms where I think I should have an extension in case I fall and need to call 911, and then use the iPhone for regular talking on the horn to friends and sales associates. Thereby getting rid of the landline…

Cox charges $32.49 a month for a phone service best described as third-rate. It cannot be relied on. It goes down whenever the power goes out, which in these parts is every time it rains. And today it went down because, said our excellent Cox lady, every now and again you just have to reboot the modem. That means unplug it from the power, remove the battery, waitwaitwaitwaitwait, plug the battery back in, waitwaitwaitwaitwait,  plug the power cable back in, waitwaitwaitwaitwait…and hope for the best, such as it is. I’m paying Cox $390 a year for THAT?

The reasons I have a phone in every room are a) so that I don’t have to jump up and RUN to answer the phone every time it rings and b) so there will be a phone to call 911 from if I fall and can’t drag myself into some other room where a phone is located, or reach a phone up on a table or a counter. Both of those issues can be easily resolved with cell phones: the iPhone can simply be picked up and carried around. The proposed flip-phones, which would have no minutes on them and so could only be used to dial 911, can be set in every room, preferably near the floor (again: in case of falls). All cell phones have to be able to dial 911 whether or not they have paid minutes on them. So there would be no reason to pay for minutes on any of them, except maybe to have one preloaded in case something happened to the iPhone.

And the reason I haven’t started learning to use the iPhone till now, after my son gave it to me last May: what’s my excuse?

Fear.

I have developed such a flinch reflex about techno-hassles that having to learn some new gadget or new software just makes me cringe. And this iPhone thing: it’s a whole universe unto itself. You reach a certain point in your life where the if it ain’t broke why fix it? question applies with a vengeance. You just don’t want to struggle with having to learn still more involved, complicated frustrations, especially when you know how ephemeral computer technology is: in another couple of years, you’ll have to discard all you just learned and figure out some new involved, labyrinthine complication.

And I’ve resisted the whole cell phone idea for a whole long series of reasons…

  • The things are damned expensive. If you drop it or lose it or someone steals it, you’re out a chunk of dough…to say nothing of subjected to hassles without end.
  • The idea that advertisers and Big Brother or WhoEverTheHell can track your location with these things gives me the willies. Big time!
  • Have you reflected, ever, on how stupid people sound when they’re walking down a sidewalk and yapping into a cell phone? Folks. I don’t want to hear about your kid’s school day or the office gossip or what restaurant you’re planning to descend on tonight…and neither does anyone else! And I most certainly do not want to number myself among the yappers.
  • I value my privacy. I don’t want people to be able to get ahold of me no matter where I am or what I’m doing! I do not want anybody, whether Big Brother or Big Merchandiser, to track me everyplace I go. Mostly, I would like people to leave me alone.

Learned a double-click trick from the veterinarian’s technician today…it lets you scroll through open apps. 😀 Very entertaining.

 

 

She’s OUT! She’s Off and Running!

So I’m chowing down on breakfast whilst browsing through The Economist — the single best general-interest periodical for people with functioning brain cells, IMHO — when I hear Ruby launch into a yap-fest: YAP YAP YAP YAP YAP…from…huh? From the front of the house????

WTF!?!

Leap to my feet, race through the open back door into the yard, jumping into an old pair of clogs on the way, and fly into the back yard, hollering RUBY! RUBY!!

No dog.

Round the corner of the house at a dead run and see Ruby bounding cheerily toward me…through the open side gate!

WTF, indeed! That thing has a double-cylinder dead bolt, and it gets locked every time the gate is pulled shut.

Love up the dog, lure her back into the house, then go outside to figure out what that’s all about.

Well, the doorknob-like handle on this gate has never been real efficient. Its little latch bolt — the tongue-like thing that fits into the strike plate and holds the door shut — wants to slip out of its assigned nesting spot, though it will stay put with some coaxing.

But the thing isn’t locked, and I know I locked it (it’s a double-cylinder deadbolt, so locks with a key from both sides). Because I never walk away from a door or a gate without locking it and checking to be sure it’s locked…for reasons that have been described floridly on this very blog.

So, yea verily WTF!?! Did somebody pick the lock open?

Unlikely. Why bother when there are so many juicier targets all around? Besides, it was raining last night. No burglar or bum in his right mind would be tromping around in that.

But o’course, the “in his right mind” part is operative. Hmm.

At any rate, thank the heavens Ruby had a nice little bark-fest while she was exploring the front yard, probably occasioned by some other dog owner walking their pal past the shack. And thank the heavens (x 1016) that she came to call.

It rained enough during the night to turn the backyard’s quarter-minus into slush, so now the kitchen floor is covered with mud.

But at least the little dog did not get hit by a car, creamed by a passing neighbor’s pit bull, or stolen.

And NOW…yea verily… I don’t even get through this short blog post when a helicopter — a big one, sounds like the military copters that emerge periodically from the Reserve base down on McDowell Road — comes ROARING over the top of the house, at tree-top level. Holy shit! Who are THEY after?

No one, evidently. He continues on, westward ever westward, so probably it’s a military exercise in how to chase down snipers in civilian residential areas. Ducky.

We’ve gotta get outta this place…

Accommodations…

Time heals all things, you know. Especially that human flaw known as memory. 😀 As the days, the weeks, the months, the years pass, that which once was clear as crystal becomes, shall we say, somewhat clouded. And those things that you do on autopilot?

Yes. Little acts like putting the keys in their accustomed place, setting your glasses on the usual counter, stashing your credit card where it belongs, feeding the dog at her favored hour…well…they just go away. If you set the keys someplace other than where they belong, they’re gone. Possibly lost to all posterity. If you put your glasses on the kitchen counter instead of next to the bathroom sink when you went to wash your face, they’re disappeared. It may be days before you find them. And feed the dog? You fed the dog? Really?? Why is she gazing winsomely at you like that, then?

This morning I went to take Ruby for a doggy-walk. I normally keep the car & housekeys, which share a key-ring, stuck in the deadbolt in the office door. That way they do not sink beneath a pile of paper or get lost under a blanket or get left on a bathroom counter or set down carelessly on top of the washer or…whatEVER. But not so, today!

No keys in the office door.

Oh, shit!!!!!

No keys on the bathroom counter. No keys on the kitchen counter. No keys on the table next to the front door. No keys IN the front door. No keys in the garage door. No keys in the basket that holds the dog-walking gear. No keys on the desk. No keys on the nightstand. No keys in the pockets of the jeans I wore yesterday. No keys in the back door. No… Fukkin’ KEYS.

After banging from from pillar to post and back again, I was beginning to get hysterical.

But the dog craved a doggy-walk, so after much digging around in the junk and old keys drawer, I found a key ring with a key to the front door and a key to the extra-hardened deadbolt on the exterior front prison door. As we’re flying around getting ready to go out the door, I happen to slap my right hip and find…

oh…yeah…

The keys. In my jeans pocket.

Note that I’d already checked those pockets twice and didn’t feel the wad of metal in there.

The in-storage keys already in hand, the regular keys went into their accustomed place in the office deadbolt. And off we went.

Whilst tromping around behind the dog, it occurred to me that instead of using the ring that holds the key to the security door’s deadbolt, the key to the front door’s deadbolt, the key to the side gate, the key to the car, the key to the office deadbolt, and the key to my son’s house, for a doggy walk I really should carry ONLY the keys to the front door. What do I need with ALL the keys to the kingdom when I’m traipsing round the neighborhood?

Why not LEAVE that collection in its accustomed place and use only the back-up keys for the front door, but instead of keeping them in the key drawer…hook them to the dog leash before putting the leash away.

Then the keys would be in the same place as an object that I have to have in order to leave the house with the dog.

Duh!

I think of this as an accommodation to advancing senility. And it occurs to me that you could make all sorts of accommodations like that. For example: put things away in places that are associated with the thing.

Obviously the deadbolt on the office door is associated with the keys. But since loss of the car key is one whole helluva lot bigger deal than loss of the key to the front door…put a Door Keys Lite chain with the gear that has to be used to walk the dog. Hence: far more likelihood of finding them on the run. And if they’re lost? No big deal: there’s still a wad of keys hanging from the office door.

The iPhone is on a perch on the office desk because… the home base to the annoying fake land-line phone is on that desk. Clearly that’s where phones go, right? The flashlight is in a drawer next to the back door because…if you needed to go out in the back yard after dark when the power is out, you’d need a flashlight…obviously.

One could dream up any number of logical (or semi-logical) connections like that to help you remember where you’re put stuff or what you’re supposed to do.

Another option is to create a spreadsheet recording what you’ve done or what you’re supposed to do…and when…and where.

The accursed pill conundrum — another joy of Old Age — presents an example. At 12:30 this afternoon, I took an aspirin. There is no way in Hell I will remember exactly what time (or even vaguely what time) I dropped that dose of acetylsalicylic acid. Not a chance…unless I’ve written it down. In a spreadsheet. And lo! Lookee here! At about the same time I also took a Claritin, hoping the dizzy spell that caught up with me as the dog and I were trotting around was an allergy, and not a covid-19 symptom. Forgot about that…because I’ve about forgotten about the vertigo, which went away shortly after I slurped down the antihistamine.

A container with separate slots for each day and specific hours is grand for pills…but requires you to remember to look at the container. Not, we might add, a foregone conclusion.

But determining to make an entry in a spreadsheet for each dose does help keep track of what you’ve taken, when.

Well. Assuming you remember to enter the…entry.

Bum’s Paradise

Having taken to walking the pooch twice a day on mile-plus rounds of the ‘Hood and the Richistans (upper and lower), of late I’ve found myself noting the amazing number of places where homeless folk (who abound in our parts) could pass the night without harassment.

Most of these people are pretty harmless, except that they steal. Apparently few of them have the energy to commit a rape (except for the guy who jumped over one family’s back fence to show off the family jewels to a couple of toddlers…he was a little strange…). They rarely heckle women. Their burgling skills do not often rise to the level of breaking and entering. At the park, the poor souls just sit there and zone out, far as I can tell. They will, of course, take anything from your yard that’s not red-hot or nailed down, by way of peddling it to support their drug habit: bicycles, trikes, children’s toys, decorative plant pots. And at any rate, one would just as soon not host uninvited guests in one’s side yard, especially since some of them will leave a bit of a mess at their campsites.

The tide of bums that came with the extension of the light-rail boondoggle up Conduit of Blight Boulevard has receded a bit, of late. Dunno why. My guess would be that either the city has finally heard the nonstop complaints from outraged neighborhoods (hah! fat chance!!) or maybe the lightrail has stopped forcing people to get off at the end of the line, up at the intersection of Blight and Gangbanger’s Way. Over in the Richistans, a well-connected and ambitious neighbor led a charge to make the city install gates on one of the alleys. That alone seems to have interrupted the invasion: apparently that alley was a Bum’s Highway, and now that passers-through can’t get to where they want to go via the neighborhood short-cuts, they stick to the main drags.

The main drags are surely where they congregate. Between Conduit of Blight and the freeway, sometimes I’ll count 10 to 15 panhandlers begging for handouts along Gangbanger’s way. If you try to go into the Walgreen’s at the corner of Main Drag South and Conduit of Blight, you’re likely to be swarmed by a crowd of panhandlers — I will no longer get out of my car in that store’s parking lot, nor will I visit the Albertson’s across the street at that intersection. One reason for that is that the city has kindly installed a meth clinic on Main Drag South, a few blocks to the west of Blight. Users ride the lightrail up to M.D. South, walk over and get their fix, then loiter around the convenience market across the road from the clinic, where they dig through the trash and pester customers for handouts, and hover around the parking lots and bus stops near the intersection.

Makes Sun City look good, doesn’t it?

Well. No. Not yet, it doesn’t. But there’s still Fountain Hills, Prescott, and Patagonia… 😉

So anyway, back to the point: Yesterday afternoon I’m counting. Since we often walk through the Richistans after dark (yeah, I know. But a] if someone is going to pounce you, they’ll pounce you in broad daylight as easily as after dark; and b] well…ahem… Make my day!), I’ve noted the number of nooks, crannies, shrubs, unused spaces in carports, pony walls that hide space from street view, and the like.

When SDXB and I spent three months backpacking and camping through Alaska and Canada, we rarely stayed in campgrounds, unless we’d bummed a ride with someone who was given to spending time in those places. Most of the time we just set down wherever we happened to be. Occasionally we would set up camp in parking lots — and interestingly, no one would stop us or roust us. So I’ve developed an eye for decent places to camp in urban settings.

  • Oleander hedges with enough space between them and the yard’s fence to fit a sleeping bag
  • Empty carports
  • Side yards with no motion-sensitive lights over them
  • Pony walls that create comfy hiding spots, right out in front of God and Everyone
  • Vacant properties
  • Alleys

The alleys here are long, perpendicular flophouses. The bums use them not just to camp in but as toilets of convenience. And on pickup day, they’ll go through the trash before the trucks arrive, looking for credit-card statements and other documents that they can sell to identity thieves.

We passed six such alleys, which in theory could accommodate dozens of bums in peace and quiet. In the low-rent section, the original alley right-of-way included an alcove for trash cans behind each residential lot. The little strip of alley behind my street has about a dozen of them. These provide comfy, semi-private hideaways for the weary traveler. They make convenient outhouses, too. And just in the mile and a half circuit that Ruby and I traverse on a routine doggy-walk, there are forty eight properties with comfortably dark side yards or pony walls that block the view from the street.  In addition, some months ago a house caught fire, rendering it uninhabitable. Apparently the residents had no insurance — or maybe setting fire to your shack whilst cooking meth renders it uninsurable, I dunno. That place has been abandoned, apparently with the furnishings intact: a perfect bum’s hideaway!

In addition, the neighborhood fly-by-night nursing home entrepreneur (Yes: Tony the Romanian Landlord found a new money-making gambit!) had bought and converted a big old ranch house on the northern end of Lower Richistan, right before the covid plague struck. His client nursing-home operator shut it down, evidently trying to cut their losses in time of covid, and so that house stands vacant. To his credit, he keeps it maintained…but with a quarter-acre backyard, covered patios, and an empty carport, it still is a perfect site to throw down for a night.

So that’s about 60 potential campsites. Just on a walk that doesn’t even cover a tenth of the neighborhood’s area.

Think o’ that! No wonder the place is overrun.

 

 

 

The Ineffable Impossibility of Covid-19 Vaccination…

Speaking of prepping, as we were yesterday, this morning I tried (again!) to make an appointment through the Arizona Department of Health Service’s web portal for covid vaccination. Here’s what happened:

I went all the way through DHS’s appointment calendar TO THE END OF JUNE — and even tried a few dates in July — and for every single search got a “no events open” reply. Either the system doesn’t work, or they are 100% booked through the beginning of July. And, presumably, beyond.

Each search requires 11 clicks-and-waits. Over and over and over. So to search through to the end of June requires 1,837 clicks-and-waits, only to be told “NO” about 30 days a month, for all hours of the days and nights.

If something comes up that you have to leave your computer and attend to something else, to return to the search you have to jump through the ENTIRE SERIES OF SIGN-UP HOOPS AGAIN. The system doesn’t remember anything more than a few slots of data, so you have to plod through that whole rigamarole again to restart your search, filling in dozens of slots and replying to irrelevant and intrusive questions.

How hard do you suppose it would be for DHS to post a calendar showing when the next available dates are? If such a thing exists, it’s not evident on their website.

By the end of June, the plague probably will be over. So presumably if you live that long, you won’t need a vaccination — that’s some comfort. I guess.

How hard, really, would it have been to simply fund dry ice containers for pharmacies in each ZIP code? Having been through pharmacy school, surely the employees at these sites would be clever enough to understand how to keep the vaccine frozen, and why. Yes, it would be expensive. But it couldn’t cost much more than funding a laughable, almost unnavigable website and paying legions of healthcare workers to staff centralized sites that are open 24/7.