Coffee heat rising

Happy Gnu Year!

Every wonder if we’ve come unstuck in time?

Well, the answer is yup. We sure have.

This morning I conceived an anachronistic  desire for a product that I imagined was commonplace.

To wit: a pair of kitchen tongs, the kind you pick up a steak with to flip the meat over on the barbecue or in a frying pan.

You realize: these are now quaint, hard-to-get rarities… You can barely find a pair, not for love nor money. Today I went to FOUR HUGE STORES in search of one stupid pair of tongs, like this:

The Epicurious Guide to Kitchen Tongs
Or this:
Image may contain Scissors Blade Weapon Weaponry and Tool
Photo by Shutterstock

Mine were the second model. After quite a few years of service, the thing just wore out. Fell apart in my hands when I lifted it out of the dishwasher, the little screw that serves as its axis having rusted through.

Well, I figured this was an Albertson’s sorta thing, since I’ve always bought cheapie day-to-day cooking tools in supermarkets. Zip down to the corner store: nope. They ain’t got it.

Okay, well, let’s try the Safeway, which serves a more upscale clientele — folks likely to have backyards and therefore likely to have backyard grills — so it was off to that store. BUT on the way, let’s stop at the Walmart, which is likely to sell the same gadget for fewer dollars.

At the WalMart: no sign of any such thing. Asked an employee: never heard of it.

The Safeway lady knew what I was talking about, but she couldn’t find it.

Head into the Safeway parking lot  toward my car, which I’ve parked at the far end of the lot so I can pull straight through. There next to the Tank is a young couple looking very distressed, standing beside to a late-model sedan, also parked facing outward….with its entire front end smashed in. The girl is trying (unsuccessfully) not to weep. The guy is manfully holding up.

I offer to give them a lift. They say someone is on the way (so they were told…been there, haven’t we?) They’re upscale-looking black folks…the only dusky faces in the entire parking lot.

What a predicament! I figure it’s no wonder the girl is about to cry.

There’s no way in Hell that car could have been driven from the street into the parking lot. That means some bastard must have backed into her car, bashed the bejayzus out of it, and taken off. And that means he missed my car by about three feet…

Felt really terrible for them, but secretly was glad to stumble homeward.

Thence to the AJ’s, which is a bit of a specialty store…for that reason I didn’t think they’d have tongs. But I did need some dog food, and the ritzy stuff Ruby favors is most likely to be on offer there. And lo! Darned if they didn’t have a pair o’ the things! Overpriced, of course — it being AJ’s. But at least there. Scored the dawg food, too.

Three o’clock in the afternoon and traffic was bumper-to-bumper-to-bumper. You’d have thought it was 5:00, if you didn’t have a clock in your car.

Life in the Big City…ain’t it grand?

Speaking of which: more shootings, more violence on the route I take to the dermatologist’s office, which is way on the west side. To get there, I have to pass through a venerable slum called Maryvale. Well actually: no. To get there I can cross over to the far west side on a northerly route, which takes you through mile after mile of middle-class ticky-tacky, most of which is reasonably safe, and then drop south on the Interstate 17.

But to come back toward home, I tend to drive a mid-town/southerly route, eastward across a surface street called Indian School, because it takes you near the best Sprouts store in the Valley. From there I can go straight north, through a reasonably safe area. To the extent that any area of Phoenix can be called “safe.”  Any of the east-west streets at the latitude of Indian School and west of the 17 very, very far from “safe.”

So how was your New Year’s festivity?

Do you have access to fireworks in your parts?

For some years, fireworks were outlawed here, except for a few small bang-bangs on the order of cap-gun paper. Then the right wing and its corporate allies rose in revolt, and at this time just about everything is legal here except for the ones that go waayyyy up in the air. The result is an astonishing display of public stupidity: fires, children and pets terrorized and hurt, nitwits injured, air polluted for days, and more noise than you can conceive. 😮

The racket goes on and on and ON into the night, eventually tapering off around 1 or 2 in the morning. It really is stupid stuff, though a lot of the locals love it.

Every year I think that NEXT year I’m gonna go out on the desert and camp through New Year’s Eve. But…that project, truth to tell, would make for even more hassle and annoyance than staying here and staying awake through the festivities, at least till 1 or 2 in the morning. Plus the weeds in the alley and the mounds of cat’s-claw vines over the backyard walls present a very serious fire hazard. Afraid it would be pretty foolhardy to go off and leave the Funny Farm at risk of uninterrupted vandalism or accident.

Oh, well. It’s only a little after 8 p.m. Think I’d better not take the dog for an evening walk, partly because it’s darned cold out there (another “atmospheric river” wafting in from California) and partly because idiots are still blasting away with their bang-bangs, which is likely to terrorize Ruby. All I need is for her to break free and run off into the night!

So instead, alas, I’d better treat the (still!) wounded eye and the dislocated jaw before attempting to hit the sack. And so, awa-a-{stumble}-a-a-y!

Another Day to Cope With….

One of the joys of old age seems to be that almost every day of your life is filled with hassles, most of them entailing trips to doctor’s offices or efforts to keep your personal infrastructure running. Today’s menu includes both of those.

Something has happened to my ancient land-line phone. When I’m talking to someone, they complain that I’m “breaking up” and they can’t hear the conversation. I have no problem hearing them, so apparently the issue is with the out-going function, whatever that is. Cox, after a long and annoying runaround, agreed to send someone out to try to fix it. Which of course he’ll be able to do only if the problem is with Cox’s lines, not if the problem is the gadget itself.

He’s supposed to appear between 8 and 10:30. Let’s hope (against hope….) that he actually shows up in that time frame. Because I’m supposed to appear, too: at the dermatologist’s office, an hour-long drive across the city. I’ll have to leave here by about 11:30 to get there on time.

So there’s exactly no wriggle room there.

A signal joy of old age, at least for people who have lived all their lives in sunny climates, is that your skin sprouts carcinomas like an Ohio farm field sprouts corn. Since the last time I saw Dr. Derm, I’ve developed at least three and probably more spots that will have to be cut or frozen off. Whee! I can hardly wait.

If the Cox guy says the problem with my phone is the devices, then I’ll have to stop by a Best Buy and pick up another set of phones that don’t make me crazy trying to work them. Assuming such phones are still being made….

The ones I have came from Costco. There’s a Costco on the way back from lovely Avondale, but it’s in a part of town where I’m not at all comfortable getting out of my car. Plus the first (and last) time I went into that store, their staff was astonishingly rude to me…. So I’m not about to go back there.

If I have to buy another phone, then, I’ll have to go to the Costco wayyyyyy up on the freeway, halfway to freaking Flagstaff, or the one all the way over at 44th street. I’ll be spending the dermatologist’s time at 107th Avenue. Streets in Phoenix are on the east side of Central Avenue; Avenues are on the west side…that’s 151 blocks of hectic city traffic to contend with: a good 20 miles from my house. The Costco I usually go to is 23 miles from the derm’s office and 9 miles back from that Costco to my house: 32 miles through crazy-making, dangerous traffic. In the rain.

The likelihood that I’ll be able to find a new land-line phone is slim to none, o’course. Most folks have thrown those out and replaced them with cell phones.

Now…that’s nice….except….

a) I am all learning-curved out. Try as I may, I can NOT figure out how to use the expensive iPhone my son gave me a couple years ago. He gave me the phone just as the plague was coming down on us. Result: the classes on how to use it that took place in a local senior center were shut down. They’ve never resumed. The class that the Apple store offers, wayyyyyy to hell and gone on the northwest side of town, was a ridiculous joke.

b) It’s another thing to lose. If I don’t set it down in the SAME PLACE every time I pick it up, I’m going to lose it. That’s not a “maybe.” That’s an “absolutely positively.” Then I will spend heaven only knows how long banging around the house and the car frantically searching for it…give up…and finally several days later — after I’ve bought a new phone — find it. This is not a device that works for old folks, for people whose lives have any distractions whatsoever,  or for those who aren’t memorizing every goddamn step they take as they move through life.

c) It’s something else for phone solicitors to pester me with. I’ve managed to block most phone soliciting on the land lines (at the expense of blocking all incoming calls from the west side and from many area codes).

I get up to ten nuisance phone solicitations every day. Blocking area codes and certain prefixes cuts this to two or three pestering calls per day. My phones are set up to minimize that harassment.

Change my number over to the iPhone and…yeah. Here we go again!

It appears you can replicate the area-code blocking on an iPhone, sure. But you have to pay for the privilege! Natcherly.

Lordie! It’s after 7 a.m. Gotta start running…


P.S. Just to frost all those cakes, I go to let the dog out and find…it’s raining!

Ohhhhh Hell & damnation. It’s hard enough to schlep to the far, far west side under the best of circumstances. But to do it while dodging around repairmen AND coping with the homicidal drivers on slick, wet roads…dayum!

I may have to call the dermatologist and reschedule, if they’ll allow it.


Cox guy in. Cox guy fixes phone. Finds defective cable. Fixes. Cox guy out.

Meanwhile, adding a litle chaos: pool dude in, pool dude paid, pool dude out. Dog gets into pool area but, for a miraculous change, does NOT fall into the (icy-cold!) drink.

Doctor’s appointment canceled: saved from THAT unholy hassle.

Lost iPhone found. Plugged back in.

It’s ten minutes to ten.

Now…if the dust will just settle….maybe I can have breakfast???

Staying Safe in Your Dotage

Gotta share this little essay I just posted at Quora. The prompt question was “How Can We Reduce the Number of Falls among Senior Citizens?”

Good question, eh? Here’s what I propose:

  1. Live in a place that has a minimal number of stairs. These are ridiculously easy to trip on.
  2. Where a step or more is unavoidable (for example, my house has a sunken family room, meaning that to get in or out of it, I have to step down or up), have a banister or countertop that you can hang onto whenever you have to navigate the steps. Train yourself to put a hand on this countertop or banister before taking the first step up or down, and hang on for the whole journey.
  3. Have several extensions (if you have a landline) or several cell phones that can be used to dial 911. Place these in strategic positions near the floor. For example, I have one in the bathroom (I set it within reach of the tub any time I take a bath or shower), one in the family room, one in each bedroom, one in the kitchen, and one in the dining room. DO NOT assume you will remember to carry a phone around everywhere you go when you’re at home: equip the home with many phones that can be reached from the floor and can dial 911. If these are cells, be sure they’re kept charged.
  4. Be sure each room has plenty of lighting. Make it easy to turn these on and off — at least one light in each room should turn on and off with a wall switch near an entry.
  5. Train dogs and cats to stay out from underfoot while their humans are walking around. This is easier said than done; you may need to hire a professional trainer for some pets.
  6. Do not(!!) have throw rugs laying around on the floors. Where you really need a throw rug — such as a bathroom rug next to the tub — be sure it has a latex backing or place a non-slip mat under it.
  7. Be sure your shoes and slippers have non-slide soles. Do not wear footwear that might slip on a tile, linoleum or wood floor.
  8. Do try to remember to carry a cheap, charged-up flip phone in a pocket at all times, except when you’re actually laying in bed or bathing in the tub or shower. Again, bear in mind: BY LAW ALL CELL PHONES HAVE TO BE ABLE TO REACH 911, no expensive connection required. This means that if you fall, you can use the phone to call the Fire Department or the Police, but you can’t call anyone else with it. I use these throw-away phones as an emergency SOS device when I walk the dog.
  9. Inspect sidewalks in the neighborhood. Look for places where the pavement is heaved and where the curb might not be easily visible at dusk or in the dark. Be sure to point these out carefully to the elder and remind them to watch their step in that area. If the sidewalk is heaved, call the city and ask them to come fix the paving.
  10. Suggest that the person carry a walking stick, whether or not they need it for mobility. I carry a hiking stick with me every time I walk the dog, not so much to avoid falls but as a shilelagh for self-defense — we have many drug-addled transients, prowlers, and coyotes in these parts. While I have indeed used it to chase off all comers (including Wile E. Coyote), it also works nicely as a support when stepping up and down curbs and around heaved pavement.
  11. Get plenty of exercise. I walk one to two miles a day, which I consider minimal. If that’s not practical, join a health club where you can exercise on their machines and swim in their pool. Use it or lose it!

And finally, if you have cleaning or yard care help coming in to do housework or outdoor maintenance, keep an eye on what they’re doing. They often don’t realize that some of your eccentricities — such as placing phone extensions on or near the floor — are there for a reason, so they’ll readjust things to fit their definition of sanity.

Electronic Run-arounds in the Wild New Year

Well, if starters are any clue, it looks like 2023 is gonna be one helluva year. We have…

  • a monster blizzard blasting away at most of the country, which has…
  • blocked air traffic and no doubt much of the highway traffic nationwide…
  • Covid resurgent in China, which has obligingly reopened its borders(!)…
  • a major storm bearing down on Northern California, whose residents by and large do not know what is meant by the term “major storm”…
  • starving refugees from garden spots like Rohynga
  • a pair of tourists stroll out across a frozen lake in northern Arizona, fall through the ice, and drown (what is it about Arizona that reduces tourists to morons?)
  • a-n-n-n-d…on the micro-level: my jaw hurts, possibly dislocated

It’s supposed to rain tonight and tomorrow, with temps in the 50s — which here in the low desert is passing crisp.

Naturally, whenever you need to talk with a doctor, it’s ALWAYS a weekend or a holiday. Called the dentist’s office. Got a runaround. He was supposed to call me back. Nary a word…probably because he’s calling from a blocked area code. My phone is set to block calls from several of the area codes around Maricopa County, where I know no one and which are regularly spoofed by nuisance phone solicitors to disguise pestering phone calls.

So: electronic runarounds of the day #1 and #2: jump through hoop jump through hoop jump through hoop to finally get a human at the doctor’s office, and then get told he’ll call me back…which doesn’t happen, probably because I’ve had to disable part of my own phone system to block the nonstop barrage of phone solicitation.

Next: I need some more nose spray — the stuff that actually works, to wit: Afrin.

Big Brother wishing to protect us from ourselves, you can no longer buy Afrin in a sane size. You get half an ounce from any purveyor at Amazon. (Why? Because if you overdo the stuff, you just make your nose stuffier than it already was. Since you’re too stupid to grasp that concept, Big Brother must take it out of your sticky little hands…)

So any time now I do need to get off my duff and traipse over to the Albertson’s or the Walgreen’s and buy some more of the damn stuff. And…how can I count the ways I do NOT want to go out in the traffic, dodge fellow homicidal drivers, dodge stoned bums, dodge panhandlers for the privilege of buying enough nose spray to unclog my damn head???

This is likely to turn into another runaround, because you can be sure one or the other of those stores no longer carries the gunk at all. AND you can be sure that whichever store I enter first, that’s the store that doesn’t carry it anymore. Yep.


Woo HOO!

Wrongola! The journey down to the bum-infested corner was a success! Not only did the corner Walgreen’s NOT have any bums standing at the door (someone new bought the franchise and apparently decided to clean the place up a bit), but they DID have Afrin in a full one-fluid-ounce size!!!!

A miracle.

That’ll last me at least a year or two. I’m thinking maybe I’d better buy another bottle or two, because dontcha just KNOW this is the last we’ll see of that stuff…  Two more squirt bottles of that size would probably last me to the end of my life.

Hungry. The other day I (stupidleeee!) bought a microwaveable package of something billed as macaroni and cheese. Ohhhkayyy…

NOW, I figure, is the time to heat that stuff up. Num num, eh?

Well, no.

NEVER is the time to heat that stuff up.


What on EARTH is the matter with Americans that we eat the sh!t you can buy off grocery shelves???

Ugh. Macaroni and cheese that was absolutely, positively devoid of flavor.

Who eats this stuff?


After a few icky bites, I threw the whole thing out.

You — yeah, you, dear reader: you’re presumably American, right? Or more or less so?  Do YOU eat crap like that? WHY?

For less than the amount of time it took to drive to the grocery store, I could have condescended to make myself…you know…an actual sandwich. With real cheese on it. And a real tomato on the side. I could have fired up the barbecue and tossed on a slab of steak, a hamburger, or a chunk of chicken. And a fistful of asparagus spears, doused in olive oil and fresh lemon juice.

Why, really, do we sacrifice edibility for what we imagine to be convenience?

Cruising back into the’Hood… The homeless folks were resting in the bus stop’s covered bench. None of them seemed to be hitting up passers-by, probably because there were no passers-by — the locals having grown wise to the ecology in those parts. One of them had what looked like an iPhone, but it might have been a cheaper smartphone of some other brand.

Before we squawk YOW!! I CAN’T AFFORD ONE OF THOSE THINGS, in fact, they don’t afford them The local social services provide them, free, to the certifiably homeless. Yes, it would be significantly cheaper for the taxpayer to provide flip phones that could be used to dial around. But WTF. There must be better things to complain about. Somewhere.

Still. I do wish someone would pay my T-Mobile bill, so as to make using my cell phone free…



Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Hope you all have a happy holiday!

Things are bustling right along here in the ‘Hood, very Christmasy. This quasi-historic neighborhood has filled up with young and ambitious new neighbors, full of civic pride and shenanigans. The neighborhood association is now run by young folks… This year they took it into their lively collective mind to promote displays of luminarias all up and down the streets.

The luminaria, in case you haven’t heard of it in your part of the country, is a Mexican tradition. You take paper bags and place candles in them, sunk in a bit of sand on the bottom of the bag, and then line your sidewalks with them.

They’re very pretty. And distinctively Southwestern. This year many of the neighbors have set them out along the sidewalks and drivewauys.

I don’t do it myself, because I think they’re a fire hazard. As Ruby and I made our mile-long perambulation this evening, I counted six of them that were totally, unmistakable fire risks: parked under shrubs and low-hanging tree branches. Personally. the chance of fire is more than I want to take on.

Plus it’s quite a project to fill dozens of paper bags with sand, park candles in them, and set them all out around your yard and driveway. To say nothing of having to pick them all up tomorrow morning! 😀

Next, as the night ambles on we’ll have the fireworks racket from the ethnic neighborhood to the north of us. This also is a popular tradition…and since fireworks are now sold legally here, we get banged and boomed all night for every possible occasion. Christmas, alas, is now one of the occasions. And New Year’s. And the Fourth of July. And Cinco de Mayo. And…whoever’s birthday it is…on and on and on. Some people’s dogs are very scared by the racket — and if they get out of your yard are likely to be GONE, never to return. Probably to get run over, in their panic, on Conduit of Blight or Gangbanger’s Way.

Ruby lives in the house — I let her out to do Her Thing, of course, but most of the time she loafs inside. Even then, she’s still scared of the noise. Takes up residence under the toilet, where she hides until such time as I go to bed, haul her out, and put her on the blankets with me.

Tomorrow it’s over to M’hijito’s house, where he intends to put on one of his feasts. That kid can cook!

As can a couple of his friends. When they were younger fellas, they seriously contemplated starting a catering business, cooking up fancy meals for customers. That never came to pass (they all went off to college and got — urk! — jobs, if you can imagine), but nevertheless around the holidays they still entertain the families.

Weather here remains steady: cool (in the crisp 60s, Hevvin help us!), classic Arizona climate. It looks like all He!! has broken loose across the country: hundreds of thousands” without power as snow and storms swirl around them. Rarely is one really, really glad to live in Arizona. But this IS one of those times.

My mother spent part of her childhood in upstate New York, on what she described as a “dirt farm” owned by her paternal grandparents. They didn’t have the proverbial nickel or a dime, evidently: anything they ate, they had to raise themselves, and the house had no inside bathrooms — just an outhouse. One winter they had a monumental snowstorm, much like the one we’re seeing now. She said so much snow piled up, they couldn’t get out the doors at all: they had to climb out a second-story window. Her grandfather had to shovel a tunnel out front, so they could use the front door at all.

Sounds like what they have now is very much like that. Only at least they have vehicles that can navigate snow. And central heating (the only heat in her grandparents’ house was from an iron stove). Just imagine what it must have been like to live in those days!

Jeez. It’s only quarter to seven, and the nitwits are already out there banging away with their firecrackers. Why are people so…jerkish?

Ruby doesn’t seem unduly disturbed, though. Guess she’s grown accustomed to human foolishness. 😀Christmas tree

Food Prices: Brace for Impact!

This just in from my friend La Maya, who, having escaped the Great Desert University, is living in retired splendor in Northern California:

As I recall you were not an egg-eater, but just a heads up on a situation that may make it to Arizona. Apparently, CA has been struck by the bird flu. I went to Trader Joe’s and the egg shelf was empty. Inquired with manager because while I’ve seen them get low on the eggs I have never seen a completely empty section. Well, he informed me that the bird flu has hit the chicken stock so they are no longer ordering from their distributor. Then the next day I get an email from my sister in the Imperial Valley, who was informing all of us sisters to be prepared if and when we can find eggs: her husband paid $8.79 for a dozen and a half of eggs. The flats of eggs were going for $75 to $80. Yikes! I eat eggs almost every day of my life….not a good situation….

Something to be aware of. But that’s not all. From FaM reader JestJack, a long-time frugalist who lives on the East Coast:

Aaaand here in the Free State ….where nothing is free…Eggs are going for $5 a dozen…And was chatting with a DF who is in the cattle business…He warns “ya ain’t seen  nothing yet” as far as beef prices…Looks like beef will be more of a “garnish” in the near future…I just scored some grass fed” NY Strips on a “whim” for $7.99 on discount…They were delicious…DW was tickled pink!

Hmmm…. Few things would drive me to Costco on the day before Christmas weekend. But this just may. La Maya’s right: I can’t eat unadulterated eggs (they make me baroquely sick unless mixed with other ingredients). But word of astronomical beef prices certainly could get me off my duff.

One package of Costco steaks lasts me for months, partly because I eat many things other than beef and partly because a Costco lifetime supply is just about that. When you cut a package of four steaks into single-serving sizes, you end up with enough meat for 12 to 16 meals.

Well then, I’d better get going: it’s already 8:30, Costco opens at 10, it’s a half-hour drive to the nearest store, and I’m not even dressed yet. And so, awayyyyyyy…..