Coffee heat rising

The Planless Plan…

Okay. Go ahead. Imagine you’re gonna fix a nice meal. S’ppose, for example, you toss a lovely piece of steak on the grill. While you’re at it, toss on a handful of lovely fresh asparagus drenched in fine garlicky olive oil. Maybe place upon the plate half a gorgeous ripe avocado and a couple of sweet, scrumptious Campari tomatoes.

R-i-i-g-h-h-t…

Then consider the facts that your belly is still full from the munificent breakfast you turned out…that the bottle 0f red wine on the shelf is reserved for your son, for Christmas dinner…that any day you’d rather loaf with the dog and the birds on the side deck than bang around the kitchen…that it’s two o’clock in the afternoon: too late for lunch, too early for dinner…that there’s half a bottle of white wine, already open, in the fridge…that… Okay, that you’re too damned lazy to fix a whole meal.

…Right?

Luckily, we have the fixin’s for lunch, in the form of that refrigerated white wine. Heh heh heh… And some marvelous crunchy cheese cracker things that AJ’s serves up. They can’t be good for you. But surely they can’t be THAT bad for you, either.

Right?

Hanging out with my neighbor Marge, on the way home from a protracted doggy-walk. Her lovely husband Ward passed away, picked off by the covid virus while he was being treated for a recurrence of some old meningiomas. Just awful: they are (were) the BEST couple, mellow, kindly, friendly…the kind of people you would pay to have next door.  How dare he die, dammit, and leave her here to fend for herself?

Having recovered from the extended trauma of Ward’s demise (she went back to the Midwest to be with lifelong friends, then spent some time at their cabin in the north country…now is down here updating and spiffifying the city manse), Marge has installed new cabinets in the kitchen. Very handsome! She thinks, as I do, on how to stay out of a Rabbit Warren for Old Folks.

We must plan. We must plan carefully, with foresight aplenty.

We think. We think, Marge and I do, on the circumstances of J&L’s decision (J’s, actually: L was having none of it) to move into the horrifying Beatitudes, a rabbit warren for old folks.

Marge has met Margie, the 90-something pistol who is fending off old-folks’ prison from her house up near Gangbanger’s way. She knows something about her, but nothing like as much as I do.

I relay to her the report (from the horse’s mouth) that Margie took out a home equity loan and is using it to pay underlings to come in and care for her. Basically, she’s spending as much as it would cost to move into the Prison for Old Folks, but she’s in charge. She’s in her own home, with her own stuff and her own space and her own funny little dog and her own neighbors and her own lawn dude and her own…everything else. She hires people to take care of the yard, to take care of the house, and to take care of her.

This, of course, is not cheap. Both her husband and her only offspring having predeceased her, though, she has a way to finance it: a home equity loan. She has borrowed a sh!tload of money against the vastly inflated value of her pleasant North Central-style home, and she is using it to pay for the services, in that home, that she’d get at the Beatitudes if she sold the house and forked over all the proceeds to that outfit.

I am convinced that this is possible, if you think it through NOW, before you need it and not later, as the icy fingers of Death reach out toward you.

I grow old…I grow old…
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled…

Why?

Uhm…because T.S. Eliot told me so?

Ah: no. Who the hell did he think he was, anyway?

It only stands to reason:

You own assets worth something.
Some of us own assets worth a whole lot.
You know what you need.
You know what you want.
You know what you don’t want.

With those factoids in hand, it ought to be possible to anticipate a strategy for how to accommodate your future.

I hope.

Another Fine Day in Solitary Confinement

Ever wonder what on earth you thought you were doing? And why on earth you forgot you were doing anything, whatever TF it was?

This afternoon I stumble out into the front patio and find, perched atop the wall, my brand-new 2022 calendar. Apparently several days ago I must have carried it out there (why??? when????) and then carelessly left it sitting out in the weather.

And weather we had: two days of intermittent rain. The thing is drenched and dried, all wrinkled up, the entries I’d inked in melted.

Not to repeat my idiot self, but why?  Why did I do this and when did I do it and why did I wander off and leave the damn thing sitting out there?? A-a-a-n-d…how did I forget it for several days? It’s been two days since it stopped raining.

Come to think of it…did I take that latest load of clothes out of the washer??

***

Yes.

Hm…imagine that!

***

Out this evening with Ruby the Corgi, for a half-mile stroll a-eyeballing the Christmas decorations.  The young people who have moved into the ’Hood have run AMOK with the Christmas lights, and it is a hoot!  Almost every house is cascading in lights.

Mine isn’t, alas. I’d love to decorate the house, but there is no way in Hell (or in some manger, either) that I’m gonna climb up around the eaves and the roof and the tree branches…not once but twice, first to get the stuff up and then to haul it down and put it away. But that Scroogification doesn’t stop me from enjoying the fruits of other folks’ labor.

Ruby, being a dog, loves a doggywalk. And like her larger cousins the German shepherds, she’s interested in clearing the land of other dogs. 😀

Dog-lovers just do NOT get it when you tell them to keep their pooches away from your cannibalistic canine. Godlmighty, but people are stupid.

This afternoon we were walking in the park and came upon some nut case who had a squeaky toy, with which she was trying to lure Ruby over to the park bench where she and her dog had taken up residence. I had to make a long detour around that nitwit…she saw me trying to avoid her, which of course led her to squeak squeak squeak all the more vociferously.

Ruby, like Anna the German shepherd, is inclined to bite other people’s unrestrained dogs. Anna truly desired to kill them. What Ruby has in mind, deep in the depths of her canine soul, remains unclear. And I don’t wanna find out. The thing is, people are so effing STUPID about their dogs — and about your dog — that you just can NOT convince to keep their animal under control. When you ask them to call their loose dog or keep a grip on a leash, they’ll simper and coo “ohh don’t worry, they just wanna plaaayyy!”

Right. If removing your dog’s head is play, no doubt that’s so…

l think this murderous streak is characteristic of herding dogs. Though a corgi is little and fluffy and cute and looks a whole lot like a stuffed animal, the fact is they are bred to herd livestock and kill rats and foxes. And another fact is, they regard their humans as sheep, which must be protected and guarded. In that respect, they behave very much like German shepherds.

Later this afternoon a lady walked by on the other side of the street with a little white dog on a lead and a funny little black dog following her. Turns out the li’l black dog had been wandering loose and decided to adopt the woman. When Ruby tried to catch it, I realized it belonged to the neighbors cattycorner across the the street. When Joel (dad neighbor) heard the commotion, he came over and retrieved his funny-looking pooch. Very silly.

DepositPhoto; Rainy Weather © dnaumoidSoooo many things the decrepit brain spins its gears on, though! The rain-soaked calendar is the most egregious…of today, that is. This morning I realized I’m going to have to make a whiteboard list of all the things that need to be done, every day. Because…I can NOT remember them!

Today I noticed I hadn’t paid the Cox bill and one of the other recurring nuisances. Most of the utility bills are set up to auto-pay, but Cox is…welll…not what one would want to trust to get things right. So I feel a need to SEE that worthy corporation’s bills before letting go of the cash to pay them.

This, of course, requires…well…actually LOOKING at the bills. Which I failed to do this month.

Got that straightened out. But meanwhile the credit union has fancified its sign-in procedure, adding yet another layer of difficulty to hassle with. So that was frustrating and annoying. I may be reduced to having to pay recurring bills with checks again. Which is NOT a good thing, IMHO.

Then we had another Old-Lady Fret-Fest over the need to make at least one grocery run between now and the Christmas shopping frenzy. I’d figured I’ll go over to AJ’s on Friday afternoon.

All day today I’ve been thinking this is Thursday afternoon.

Right. That’s even though I spend every Thursday afternoon twiddling my thumbs in the church office!!!!  Why on earth could I possibly imagine today is Thursday and so I shouldn’t have to charge out into the traffic?

Wishful thinking, no doubt…

Along about two o’clock I tumbled to this little fact of life…just as I was about to fix the decent meal of the day. Dayum!!!! Drop everything, jump in the car, trudge through the traffic to the store, fight the crowds, trudge back…arrrhhhggghhh! 

But wait, wait!

Just as I’m scouting up the car keys, it dawns on me: Hey, stupid! You can send Instacart to do that! 

See what I mean? It takes me a half-hour or forty minutes to figure THAT out?????????

So tomorrow morning I’ll send an underling out to buy what I need to last the 10 days or so until the Christmas shindig. That will relieve me of a great deal of Christmas-Rush Hassle… But the question is, why on earth would I forget all about Instacart, when I was using them about once every week or ten days for a couple or three months? Mothballs in the brain?

I suspect this abrupt influx of senility reflects a combination of advancing age, chronic low-level pain, and the endless isolation brought on by the accursed plague. Ever since the disease descended on us — what, two years ago, now? — I have had almost ZERO social interaction. With anyone. Choir shut down. So did the church, more or less. WonderAccountant and I stopped going to concerts. My son is locked in his house, telecommuting. And of course you couldn’t get me into a classroom on a bet. Or on a lightrail train. Or just about anywhere else. Almost all my human interactions have taken place in doctor’s offices, dentist’s offices, and (occasionally) grocery stores.

No wonder I’m going nuts!

Scott, our beloved and retired choir director, is guest-conducting this week. We’re supposed to meet tomorrow morning for rehearsal. But alas…I would not risk my life to sing in a church, not on a BET. Choral singing is about the most dangerous thing you can do during a contagion. And given my amazing susceptibility to respiratory infections, you may be sure that if I catch this thing, it’ll be the end of me.

They’re saying the Pfizer shots are about the most effective vaccine we’ve got…but truth to tell, that’s not very effective. Apparently the omicron strain has found its way around all three vaccines, though the Moderna version was evidently pretty useless from the git-go. I’ve had three shots from Pfizer…but still…do I really want to tempt fate so I can sing a few hymns in a church choir?

Mebbe not so much…

What? A Poem of What…

Shot off in the purple haze emanating from the bottom of a bottle of wine…

************

“You fell,” he said.
“I’m not leaving my home,” she said.
Her home, where she had brought up the man in front of her from the age of about nine.

“You can’t stay here alone,” he said.
“I’ll be fine,” she said.
Unconvincing.
Unconvinced.

“No.”

“Yes.”

“We must put you somewhere else.
A home where someone is there
All the time
24/7
To look after you.”

“No.”

“Yes.”

Can you not imagine, my son,
How you might love your home
More than life?

No.

Can you not imagine, my son,
That some things matter more than life?

No.
“I am afraid for you.”

No. No, my son: you are afraid for yourself.
For your guilt. For your conscience.
Most of all,
For your impotence.
For the impotence that is human.

“We will sell the house.”

“No.”

“We can use the money to pay
For your care.”

No. No, my son. You will use the money
To pay for your guilt.
To pay for your impotence.

“Put her in this bed,” he said.
“And let her sleep.”

Let us sleep.

All of us.

*************

This afternoon I stopped at a house for sale in the neighborhood just to the east of mine. The houses are about 20 years older than the ones in my tract (which came into being in the early 1970s) and also about half again as pricey. Needed work, the place did. As I’m about to clilmb into my car, along comes a middle-aged man, who pulls into the driveway and climbs out of his SUV.

“Tryin’ to sell the place, are ya?” I ask.

“We have an offer,” he says. “Looks like it’s gonna go through.”

We chat.

His mother has lived there for lo! these many years. They moved in when he was nine years old, and that’s where he grew up. From his point of view, it’s the family homestead.

They have her in a “care home.”

I sense what this means: one of those fly-by-night outfits run under the radar by Tony the Romanian Landlord and his ilk, the one who has peppered the ’Hood with a half-dozen “nursing homes.”

He thinks it’s grand. It’s not, after all, the Beatitudes or the Terraces. That would be why I sit here getting shit-faced on the dregs of a bottle of Bogle.

Holy fuck, what a people we have become!

But meanwhile, beside it all and beneath at all: what do we do with our parents when they can no longer care for themselves?

What do we do with people that we, deep in our hearts and unmentionable souls, do not want to care for ourselves? Or cannot care for, wives and sisters and daughters having to go into the marketplace to help keep the roofs over our heads and the food on our restaurant tables and the SUVs in our driveways?

What?

Tell me we’re not this old…

…are we?

Walking the dog this morning, I fell into a reverie about my father and his life’s ambitions…this, stemming from the realization that my house, all by its little self, is worth FIVE AND A HALF TIMES the amount he had set himself as a goal to accumulate so that he could retire.

And “retire” was his life’s goal: he just wanted to quit working.

Quite reasonably: his job was hard (most of us would find it grinding), it kept him at sea most of his life, and at heart the man was a homebody.

He had dropped out of high school and lied about his age to get into the Navy by way of running away from home. So as you can imagine, he was not a real sophisticated guy when it came to things that you and I might have learned in high school and college, or in the sort of jobs we would have had as adults. He didn’t understand, for example, about inflation. For him, a dollar was a dollar and always would be a dollar.

He figured that if he could accumulate, in savings, $100,000, he would have it made. Whenever he reached that goal, at whatever age it happened, he would quit his job and retire to Possum Kingdom. 😀

Once $8,000 would buy you this house…

Well, Sun City came along at just about the time he was approaching his goal. He thought that was a grand idea: cheap houses and no damn kids barreling around outside squealing and laughing.

When he retired, he did have that hundred grand — and then some. As I recall, it was about a hundred & ten.

He worked SO hard. A ship’s deck officer worked 24/7, with crushing responsibility for a multi-miillion-dollar vessel filled with enough oil to destroy a hundred miles of coastline.

This line of thought arose when, God only knows why, I recalled how angry my mother used to make him when she would go out and diddle away some phenomenal amount of money on make-up or clothes. She loved make-up, probably because her endlessly toxic smoking habit had wrecked her complexion and traced a road map of wrinkles over her face. I can remember one time, when we were living in Southern California and I was in high school, we went into a department store and she spent two hundred dollars on makeup.

$8,000 wouldn’t buy you the front porch at this place…not today!

How much was that, really? Well… Two hundred bucks in 19 and aught 60 was worth $1,853.45 in 2021 dollars.

Holeeeee crap!!! Can you imagine? It’s a wonder she survived…clearly the man was a marvel of self-restraint.

Redfin thinks my little house is now worth $579,225. Well over FIVE TIMES the net worth he figured would sustain him from the age of about 55 through his dotage until he toppled over into the grave.

It didn’t, of course. He ended up having to go back to work, not so much because of inflation but because — another outcome of his financial naiveté — he had almost all his savings invested in insurance securities, which tanked shortly after he quit.

Never put all your eggs in one basket…

Wow. It’s hard to believe I am SO OLD that as I was entering adulthood a grown man could, quite reasonably, figure he could retire on a fraction of what my house alone is worth. A tract house that is most certainly not Mrs. Gotrocks’ dream home!

Their little house cost $8,000 when it was new. Redfin thinks it’s worth $274,000 now. That’s pretty cheap for middle-class housing hereabouts. Cheap because…well…Sun City. 😉

SDXB wants me to move out there, partly to get away from Tony the Romanian Landlord (who busies himself just now with installing a nursing home two houses up the street) and partly, o’course, because you can’t beat the price of the real estate there. But oh, my…Sun City.

I just do NOT want to live in a ghetto for old folks. This morning as Ruby and I were strolling around, we passed pretty houses with irrigated lawns, and xeric yards with lush trees and shrubbery. (Yards in Sun City are “desert landscaped” with gray gravel. Or gravel dyed green, presumably to ape the look of a lawn.) Stopped to chat with a neighbor who was having her kitchen cabinets refinished — woo HOO! Gossiped while we watched the carpenter work. Watched a nitwit roar up Feeder Street N/S on an unmuffled motorcycle. Frolicked around a grassy public park (there is no grass in Sun City, except on the private golf courses where no, your dog is not allowed). We admired a gaggle of little kids playing on the swings and slide (no, your kids are not allowed in SC, either). Roamed into the Richistans where we assessed the progress of a spectacular renovation job (no, there are no Richistans in Sun City: the houses are all of a kind). Hopped in the car and darted down to AJ’s (no, there are no AJ’s grocers in Sun City or anywhere near it) and bought a roll of spectacularly expensive dog food for the Queen of the Universe.

Yes. I could bank about $275,000 if I sold the Funny Farm and moved to Sun City.

But between you’n’me, I don’t think it’s worth the cost.

I do NOT know what, if anything, can be done about Tony’s empire-building at the expense of all the other neighbors’ property value … or even if it will come at our expense. But I do know I don’t wanna live in Sun City, no matter how much cash I can pocket by selling this place and moving out there.

But still, the thought lingers: I am SOOO OLD I can remember when a brand-new middle-class house cost eight grand, and when a house just like mine (same model, same size, same tract) cost a mere one hundred grand. And when a bag of make-up worth $200 would have bought you a freakin’ trip to Switzerland.

New Adventures in Real Estate

So time and Tony’s nursing-home schemes trundle on.

Since my last post, I determined that I’d better move out of here while the movin’s still good. Encountered a handsome young real estate agent () and spent most of yesterday gallivanting around the North Central part of the city looking at houses on the market.

And we did find a really nice place…not far from here! Just below Main Drag South. About the same size as the Funny Farm. Freshly renovated. Nice neighborhood. Convenient to all that which this house is convenient unto.

O’course, that nearby location means even if I keep my name out of the public record, Tony can easily follow me home if he spots me — as sooner or later he will — and then he will know where to harass me.

Oh well. The place is so appealing and so perfect, I was willing to take that chance.

So we wanted to invite M’hijito to come and see it before I arrive at a final decision to make an offer.

When I called him last night, he threw a baroque sh!tf!t. He does NOT think I should move out of this house, nor does he seem to believe that Tony represents any real threat.

Funny. The judge he threatened sure as Hell did.

Ohhhh welll…

The kid actually proposed to take over control of my financial affairs. O’course, he’d have to prove I’m incompetent, which he can’t. Especially since I can easily trot out the court transcript that records Tony threatening the judge. But an attentat like that would, you may be sure, permanently blight the mother-son relationship. Such as it is.

About 80% of the reasoning for selling this place and moving away from the Nursing Home Empire is to preserve the capital presently invested in real estate here in the ‘Hood. The Funny Farm is fully paid off, and just now is worth something over over half a million dollars. That is a bit under half my total net worth. So this house represents a large part of the estate he will inherit from me.

Well. If he doesn’t give a damn whether it loses value as it’s surrounded by commercial enterprises, why should I? And why should I go to the endless trouble and probably even more endless work entailed in transferring funds and moving house, just to preserve an asset that will go to him one way or another, whether it’s worth what it’s worth now or not?

Et honi soit qui mal y pense…

 

Real Estate, Landlords, and the ‘Hood: Update

Good grief! It’s been awhile since I’ve been here at FaM! In the interim, the real estate search project has continued. Tony the Romanian Landlord has made excellent progress on his project to convert our former neighbor’s home into a nursing institution. And I’ve learned a bunch of things.

I’ve been quietly and not-so-quietly looking for someplace else to live. Someplace not Sun City, not Payson, not Tucson, not Boise, and on and interminably on. Which is to say, someplace else to live in Phoenix, preferably in the zip codes that make up the “North Central” district.

Real estate is radically hot here just now. Any house that’s even faintly desirable moves within three days of appearing on the market. So it seems, at least. That is literally true in many cases, and in others, kinda metaphorically so. Nothing stays on the market for long.

And the prices simply defy belief! We are in California territory, folks. I thought I paid too much for this house when I bought it for #$232,000. It’s now worth at least $550,000!

Redfin thinks our beloved old house in Encanto is now worth $1,146,500. It was a gorgeous place, now gussied up with “more money than taste” embellishments.

My son’s charming but tiny little house? $480,208.

Can you imagine? It’s hard to conceive how young people can even dream of buying a freestanding house. And apparently they don’t: apartment blocks are springing up all over the city.

Oh well. In the interim, what else has happened?

Among other things, I learned that the quiet, elderly couple who live across the street from me are yet more of Tony’s relatives!

Yes!!!

They are Pretty Daughter’s in-laws! Her husband’s parents.

“Were” is, at least partially, the operative term. The old man died, and the elderly woman has been living there alone. My guess is that as soon as Tony finishes the nursing home two doors down, the first tenant will be Mom. Then he’ll glom her house and turn it into a nursing home, too.

Meanwhile, my eccentric next-door neighbor, who occupies the house between the Funny Farm and Other Daughter’s place, drained her swimming pool. She also had some masons lay two rows of large cinderblocks atop her back wall, so no one can look over her six-foot (now about ten-foot) wall into the yard.

When you drain a pool here, you often end up with a shallow puddle of water in the bottom of the deep end. This pond then merrily breeds mosquitoes. The damn thing is way across her yard from my side fence, so I can’t tell whether any such breeding ground is there. But her pool is right up against Other Daughter’s fence.

And lo! A few days ago Other Daughter reported that she came down with encephalitis! And she damn near died. Apparently at one point the doctors thought she was going to die. Then, when she came back around, they thought she would never walk again — she couldn’t move her legs!

Eventually she did recover control over her legs and is now walking briskly around the ‘Hood, as has been her wont forever.

The type of encephalitis that holds forth here is called Western Equine Encephalitis. A-a-a-n-d…it’s carried by mosquitos!

Whaddaya know?

I haven’t seen her long enough to catch her and clue her to the possible connection between this terrible illness and our neighbor’s mosquito-breeding bit. But if I’m right, she needs to tell her dad about that. If anyone can put the eefus on that, it’s Tony.

Otherwise, though, I have two big containers of mosquito bits. If Other Daughter could ascertain whether water is standing on the bottom of that pool, we could throw a fistful of that stuff over the wall, and that would take care of the problem.

But problem it is: if O.D. could catch a horrific ailment from bugs growing in a neglected pool, then so can other folks in the neighborhood. Including me. And Ruby. And all those old folks in Tony’s planned institutes.

That poor young woman! Can you imagine? What an ordeal!

Meanwhile, life goes on, for the rest of us as well as for O.D. The weather is beyond gorgeous. And I most decidedly do not want to move out of my house.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve driven from pillar to post, searching for some replacement for the Funny Farm. There’s precious little out there. Certainly precious little in the price range I can afford. There are some cute places here and there…but the cost is in the many hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the desired neighborhoods, affordable places are close to fine thoroughfares like Conduit of Blight Blvd., which emanates a deafening roar 24/7. Or they’re 900 square feet. Or they require tens of thousands of dollars worth of repair and upgrades.

Meanwhile, I become more and more aware that I like my house — nay, I love my house, and I do not want to move out of it. Within the next week or two, it’ll be too late to peddle it to some unwary buyer, because Tony will have his latest nursing home in business. And you know, maybe the correct attitude is, to quote our Late-Unlamented First Lady,

I don’t care.

Do you?

Those Eastern Europeans! Maybe they’ve got somethin’ there!

😀