If You Were Your Kid…

If you were your kid and you were an American, come of age in a time when America the Great was rapidly turning into a Third-World Country, what would you do differently from what your parents did? From what your kid him- or herself is doing right now?

Do strange little thoughts like that ever cross your mind? They sure as Hell cross mine.

My father planned carefully for his retirement and his old age. Thanks to his planning — and to his lifetime of amazingly hard work —  I haven’t had to put in that much single-minded effort: he left me enough to live on comfortably through my dotage. But that’s not so true of my son.

Although my son’s dad is affluent, like me he also no doubt will live (expensively) into advanced old age. My son’s grandmother just died at the age of 106 (no, that is not a typo), having spent the past 20 years wasting away ruinously in a nursing home. The new wife is a good 20 years younger than me, and though she has a highly competent son, she also has a feckless, dependent daughter who never will be able to care for herself and her offspring. Thus most of whatever my son’s father has now will be dedicated to supporting the less gifted occupants of that side of the family.

My son, the recipient of a spectacularly expensive private education, has a decent job but not one that will make him rich. It can, however, allow him to work remotely from just about anyplace that he chooses.

My mother smoked herself into the grave in late middle age. We have no clue how long she might have lived had she never picked up a cigarette. Her father died of Hodgkin’s disease, an acquired cancer not uncommon in his part of the country: we have no idea how long he might have lived had he dwelt someplace else, never smoked, and never drank. Her mother chippied herself into the grave: we have no idea how long she might have lived had she never been exposed to the kinds of reproductive viruses one acquires during a wildly misspent youth. But the other women on her mother’s side of the family were Christian Scientists who lived into advanced old age: we do know that in the absence of alcohol and tobacco, they lived into their mid-90s even without ever going anywhere near a medical doctor or a patent medicine.

So what we have here, in the planning department, are two people — me and my son — each of whom have a shot at living into advanced old age. Or not.

What can be done for my son — by me or by him — to ensure that he will be financially secure into his dotage?

We know that I absolutely positively do NOT want to spend my last years in a “life-care community,” a rabbit warren in which to lock up old folks. My father consigned himself to one of those places after my mother died, and I have several friends who are now living (expensively) in similar prisons. I will take a swan-dive off the North Rim of the Grand Canyon before I allow that to happen to me…and that also is neither a joke nor a typo. My house is paid for: if I die tomorrow my son will inherit a piece of property worth about $400,000, free & clear. My son’s house will be paid for in another 10 or 15 years; it will be worth around $325,000 to $350,000, if all things remain equal. He lives frugally and invests in IRAs, and so he presumably will have some retirement savings in hand, if he lives into his dotage.

BUT…

The Covid-19 fiasco has shown his employer, clear as handsomely chlorinated swimming pool water, that there is no reason to maintain expensive office space to support a profitable insurance business. He believes the company will never re-open its pricey new digs in Tempe, a dreary suburb of Phoenix. Shortly before the Covid fiasco began, he was promoted to a managerial position. He remains a manager: remotely.

What this means is that there’s really no reason for him to continue living in a dump like Phoenix, a vast, ugly, crass bedroom tract that we might kindly call L.A. East. If the company settles permanently into a mode in which most or all of its mid-level employees can work online, he could in theory live anyplace he pleases.

And there are many, many better places to live.

In Arizona alone, for example, towns such as Prescott, Bisbee, Patagonia, the outskirts of Tucson, and even Payson have far more temperate climates and are nowhere near as grubby and  crime-ridden as Phoenix. Nor is there any reason to stay in a culturally backward hole like Arizona. If you want to live in the Southwest, there are many better places to live in Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and parts of New Mexico. If you don’t mind jumping on a plane to visit your employer for monthly staff meetings, Oregon, Washington State, parts of Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, and waypoints are highly desirable venues. With a fistful of cash from the sale of two houses, you could easily install yourself in the Low Countries, Ireland, the south of France, Italy, Scandinavia, Switzerland, Canada, New Zealand, or parts of Australia.

Why stay in a declining economy with a corrupt leadership and a moribund health-care system?

Why not use the capacity of electronic telecommuting to ensconce yourself — now, while you still have some years to enjoy life — in a better place?

If I were my son, I would be so gone. Right now: I wouldn’t wait for retirement, certainly not given the wacksh!t direction into which our country’s politics have dragged us. I probably would leave the US, given half a chance to pull it off. But even if I chose to stay in the this country, you can be sure it wouldn’t be in Phoenix.

Speaking of the which: as we scribble a cop helicopter is buzzing its way toward us, the dog has flown into a batsh!t frenzy, and I suppose I’m going to have to get up, dig out a pistol, and lock the security doors. So much for the scheme of taking a moonlight dip in the pool.

Where would you want your kids to spend the best years of their life?

Gasoline-o-Wow!!!

The dermatologist has summoned me to revisit her redoubt tomorrow morning — on the far side of the universe: south of Sun City, west of terrifying Maryvale. This entails driving driving driving…and guzzling of gallons of gasoline.

The tank was about a third full, which probably would have sufficed to get there and back. But I didn’t want to take a chance, so decided that when I took my mail-in ballot up to the post office today, I would buy some overpriced gasoline at the QT. And while out, run by the Leslie’s Pools store to pick up a replacement for a cracked pump pot basket.

Y’know…the last time I filled the gas tank on that car was May 14. That was two months ago. So that suggests the car used only a third of a tank of gas a month, under the Quarantine Regime.

The amount I pumped this morning — to replace two months’ worth of fuel — came to $20.30.

Now consider this: On April 1, when the present covid imprisonment began, my gasoline budget was ninety dollars a month! And yes, that is how much I regularly spent on gas then.

What has done this trick is ordering groceries, household supplies, and gardening products through Instacart and Amazon. For eight bucks, Instacart will make a run on whatever crazy place you please. And Total Wine, BTW, will deliver for “free.” At eight bucks a trip, two carefully calculated grocery-store or Costco runs per month cost you all of $16. Okay…$20.30 plus $16 will set you back all of 36 bucks…a far cry from $90 worth of gasoline.

What’s racking up that 90 bucks? Running around town to buy this, that, and the other at Costco, Walmart, Albertson’s, Safeway, Home Depot, and waypoints, whenever you happen to think of it. If instead you’re budgeting your car rides — by sending runners to pick up items from those stores and then using your car to travel to local destinations only when you absolutely have to — you could cut your gasoline costs alone by 50% to 66%.

But of course a car’s costs include far more than just gas. There are, for example, the oil changes, the new batteries, the tires, the smog tests, the insurance, the registration fee…and that’s only for newer cars that are relatively trouble-free. And it assumes you’ve paid for the damn thing and are not coughing up anything from $300 to $600 a month for a car loan.

What this suggests is that replacing your car with delivery services, Amazon (which also is essentially a delivery service), and ride services like Uber and Lyft could save you shitloads of money. Even if you kept your car, budgeting your rides to go only to places where you have to show up in person — the doctor, the dentist, the vet, the hair salon, the movie theater — would cut the cost of car ownership drastically.

It might even allow you to get rid of the car altogether. When you really need a car to haul something or go on a vacation, rent one. Otherwise…why pay to park one in your garage 365 days a year?

If you had a redundant two-car garage, what would you use it for?

Too Stunned to Come Up with Titles…

Supposed to be a chilly 116 today. Brrrr! Break out the down jackets! 😀

The heat isn’t the issue: humidity is. We have a skiff of high overcast this morning, and it is like a freaking sauna out there! Walked the dog about 3/4 of our usual doggie route, stopping to chat with my crony Margie about our favorite subject, the (mis)State of the Union. That ole’ Goldwater Girl hates Trump as much as I do! 😀

LOL! For a Republican president to piss off a classic Arizona Republican…that takes some doin’. Impressive accomplishment!

For the past few idle hours, I’ve been coveting a nice shiny new pick-up. Sounds crazy…but…

Around here, it makes some sense to drive a pick-up or an SUV, because the occupants of our roads and freeways are batshit crazy. Speed limits are fairly high, and your fellow homicidal drivers are…exactly that: homicidal. Many are armed. And some are very dangerous. So you want a few layers of steel (or at least plastic…) between yourself and your fellow lunatics. You need at least a 6-banger — an 8-banger is a little much unless you tow a big load, but the piddly little engines that grace most passenger cars today will not suffice to dodge out of a challenging situation. It also helps to have a driver’s seat that puts you where you can see on down the road, thereby allowing you to evade some adrenaline-stimulating moments.

At any rate, the short-bed Chevy (ooohh candy-apple red!!!!!!!!!) will not fit in my garage. Well. It would. But not and also leave room for the washer & dryer. 😀 This explains why so many of the natives leave their pricey rides parked in the driveway, where the local bums break into them. If I had a side yard where I could park it… Hmmmm…. Y’know…they’re going to gate off our alleys, by way of discouraging the resident bums from sleeping behind our yards and jumping the walls into our yards to steal stuff and molest three-year-olds. I wonder…would they allow you to park a vehicle behind your yard, in the gated alley? What would stop you from rebuilding a wall so as to provide a pullout to stash a vehicle?

Heeee! Speaking of the resident Bums vs. the resident Young Urbanites…you should’ve seen what came trotting past me & the pooch this morning.

We’re just approaching Upper Richistan when what should come jogging down Richistan Lane but the most spectacular nubile you’ve ever seen in your life.

Her long, lush hair, which would flow about halfway down her back if she paused long enough for it to settle down, is tied back in a thick ponytail and swinging luxuriantly in the air with every long, graceful stride she makes. A pair of shorts cut off at tush level reveal every inch of her long, graceful legs, and then some. She is drop-down-dead gorgeous, and her every move shouts “CFM.”

And then the locals complain about sh*theads stalking them around the park? Seriously? What is the matter with people?

Of course, the lady had no clue that just yesterday as the hound and I were walking along Richistan Lane about three blocks closer to Gangbanger’s Way, we passed a bum snoozing in the shrubbery in front of one of the horse properties up there. But still…if you live here, you know the oleanders serve as bum motels. And you know most of our honored bums are half out of their heads on meth and other drugs…or just natively out of their heads.

*****

And speaking of “we’ve been cooped up in our houses too long,” this morning at the Sprouts I intercepted THE single BEST come-on I’ve ever heard, bar none:

I’m stalking across the parking lot toward the store’s entrance, all gussied up in the required mask (red flowers: an Amazon special!) and with an antiseptic wipe in hand to scrub down the grocery cart handle. Coming out of the store is a slender middle-aged man. Says he, from behind his strip of cloth, “I LOVE your mask!”

Heeeeee! Is that good, or is that great?

***** Otherwise: GAAAAHHHHHHH!*****

When a trip to the grocery store leaves you craving a bourbon and water at 10:45 in the morning….

So I get to the Sprouts about 5 minutes before their advertised opening time, 9 ayem. The parking lot is half-full, and customers are already marching out with loads of groceries. Ducky.

And indeed, there are plenty of people in the store, milling around and rubbing elbows.

Manage to find most of the stuff on the shopping list, at times with difficulty. The corn-on-the-cob…forgodsake! They toss it in the bin in the husks, which is fine, except they’ve stuck up a sign enjoining you from pulling back the first inch or so to see whether a given cob is ripe or wilted or…what. So this is a pig-in-a-poke purchase.

But WonderAccountant said she got some really good corn on the cob there, so I thought okayy what the heck.

Later, while I’m soaking all the produce in Dawn after I get back, I do pull off the cornhusks and think…hmmmm…you charged your customers money for this??

Oh well. Better than going hungry. I guess.

Now I roll the cart out to the car, bearing several bags of the coveted produce. Fling wide the gates (of the SUV) and find…what?? WHAAAA????? Sitting there is a small full-size watermelon! 

WTF?  I must have bought it the last time I traipsed to Sprouts, longer ago than I can remember, and forgotten to haul it out of the back of the car. This means two very ominous things:

  1. In no way, nohow, do I remember buying this thing(!!!!!).
  2. It’s been over a week since the last Sprouts expedition, which means that melon has been sitting there in 116 degree heat for day after day.

The senility stuff is starting to get ominous. I mean, maybe it’s one thing to overlook a melon sitting in the back of a vehicle, in a spot where you don’t habitually stash the groceries. But for days I’ve been saying to my self “i want watermelon must get watermelon in next Sprouts run i miss my watermelon…” So…I bought that watermelon purposefully and consciously, paid for it, stashed it in the back of the vehicle, brought it home, unloaded all the groceries around it, and…completely, 100% spaced the thing! 

I seem to be getting more and more weirdly forgetful like this. Just now I went to start the washer. Where’s the laundry detergent? Why isn’t the laundry detergent on top of the dryer? WTF, am I out of laundry detergent?

Well. No. It’s where it’s always been: in a gigantic Costco industrial-supply container set up on the work table next to the dryer, parked in such a way as to make it easy to draw out a half-capful of the stuff per load. And “always been” means for years and years.

Now, I think that is damn scary.

At the Sprouts…picked up a bottle of a woo-woo quack nostrum called melatonin, which is supposed to work wonders for you. One of the wonders is that it supposedly helps you to sleep through the night. So sick of waking up at 3 in the morning am I that I decided to try this stuff. To be fair: the Mayo devotes an entire webpage to it, wherein the authors claim that it indeed does help insomniacs to sleep without interruption. (In my case “interruption” is not le mot juste: at 3 a.m., I’m done sleeping, and it doesn’t matter what time I went to bed…) The Mayo says that taken within reason, the stuff is safe to ingest, and that there’s some science indicating that it works. Why not? Nothin’ ventured…

More to the point, some recent studies suggest that chronic insomnia is associated with increased mortality and with major cardiovascular events, and that daytime napping among the insomniac set is linked not with better outcomes but with greater risk.  Well. Every day I try to make up for the lost nighttime sleep by napping in the afternoon…if you believe this research, that’s suicidal! 😀

All of this is spectacularly vague, IMHO. Think very hard about the structure of these studies, and you come away wondering izzat so??? But that nothwithstanding: it is annoying to be wide awake at three in the morning after a full four hours’ of sleep and not be able to grab even a few more winks between three and dawn.

So…we’re justifying the woo-woo snake oil not with science but with a craving to be less annoyed….

At any rate, the richly aged watermelon is in the fridge. It doesn’t have any soft spots on it, so I think there’s an outside chance (way, way outside, as in the outer reaches of the Oort Belt) that it hasn’t spoiled. We shall see. Eventually. All of the other produce and items packed in water-resistant plastic have been soaked in Dawn and cold water, rinsed, dried, and put away.

WHAT a job it is to try to disinfect every goddam piece of produce that comes into your house.

My mother did this every time she went to the commissary for TEN LONG YEARS while we lived in Arabia. Horrors!

We surely fail to appreciate what it means to live in a First-World country. 

Shopping without Shopping…

So this morning I determined to put my life on the line and make a Costco run, after dropping off a client’s check at the credit union. This would normally be routine around here: the CU is right on the way to the Costco on the I-17, and so two errands are easily run in one trip. And that Costco is better stocked than the down-at-the-heels store closer to the ‘Hood — a store slated to be closed permanently in a couple months.

On reflection, though… Why?

Seriously: covid figures are going batshit here. At this point, Arizona is as bad off as New York was at the height of its contagion, and our whole state probably doesn’t have as many people as NYC does. Why risk my health and very possibly my life by charging into the germ-laden atmosphere of a wholesale big-box store? Is that or is that not freakin’ kee-razy?

Well, yes, that is pretty lunatic.

So the decision was made: hold the check until the next one shows up, and hold the suicidal shopping jaunt — indefinitely. Instead, order up the coveted items through Instacart.

There are some drawbacks to Instacart, the main one being that because relatively few Americans make a habit of eating whole foods, most of Instacart’s runners have NO clue how to select fresh produce. Nor do they recognize a decent variety of cheese — to them, all cheese is Kraft rubber cheese, and that is what they will grab off the shelf if you ask for cheddar. Even if you ask for a specific brand! 😀

Costco has self-righteously announced that it will not sell alcoholic beverages of any kind through delivery services. So that means if you need to restock the wine, you have to make a SEPARATE order to some other store. So now I’m waiting for someone to show up from Costco and someone to show up from Total Wine. This, IMHO, is mildly annoying. Not a big deal, but…annoying. Time-wasting. Tip-wasting: now I have to tip two runners instead of the one who was really all that was necessary.

Also problematic is that when it comes to Costco, Instacart sends its staff to the one closest to the delivery address. Well. Our Costco, which will close permanently in another month, is located in a slum. Just the other day a woman was killed in the park there by a drive-by shooter. It’s not a place you would willingly go, if there were an easy alternative. And, like any other sensibly run retail enterprise, Costco markets to the local demographics. So a number of things that are available at Costco stores in more middle-class and up-scale locales are not offered at our Costco. Chunk blue cheese, for example. Apparently the only thing pore folks know to do with blue cheese is crumble it up and sprinkle it over a salad. Hence, the only blue cheese you can get there comes in crumbles packed into a plastic container.

But all in all, my sense is that Instacart has more benefits than drawbacks. Videlicet:

Most obviously, it saves you time and gasoline wasted traipsing around the city. I haven’t bought gasoline since the first of April, largely because I’m not traipsing to stores every day or two.

In the Time of Plague, it puts a layer between you and the Infected, reducing the chance that you will catch the dread disease.

As you get older and can no longer navigate insane traffic and acre-sized stores, Instacart makes it possible for you to stay in your home rather than having to move to a life-care community.

On the other hand…

The Instacart lady just arrived. Instead of the deli-packaged black olives I’d ordered, she bought a bottle of icky green factory olives. The salt I’d ordered, which I thought was coarse-ground, is actually fine-ground and so cannot be used in my salt grinder.

That latter is not her fault: she picked up the item I pointed to online…I failed to realize it wasn’t coarse-ground.

Therein lies another drawback: miscommunication.

Soooo…oh goodie gumdrops! Now I get to sit around and wait for the delivery from Total Wine. Then climb in my car, traipse to Costco, stand in line at the return desk, and try to extract a refund for these useless items.

Directly obviating the specific reason for paying extra for Instacart delivery: to avoid exposure to the covid virus.

Lockdown Learning: Hacks from the Covid Confinement

So here we still are: the Body Politick getting mighty restless after a good two months’ of confinement to our homes. This has turned into one helluva journey. But from my point of view, a number of things have presented themselves as valuable clues for the future project of Aging in Place.

Because of course that’s what I intend to do, with a little luck: stay in my home until I croak over from old age. Being stuck in your house because you dare not venture out into a contagion is much the same, in many ways, as being stuck because you can’t or should not drive or because you’ve gone too lame to hike around supermarkets and big-box stores.

Here are some little discoveries that have come about from the great Covid Confinement Event, discoveries that can be applied now or in the future:

  • When I’m not darting off to the grocery store or the vet or the church or the Walmart or the Costco whenever the whim so moves me, gasoline consumption drops to almost nil. Literally. After two months, that car sitting in the garage still has half a tank of gas in it. And it wasn’t full when the quarantine fiasco started.
  • The insurance companies having registered this, my insurer dropped my auto premiums by 15 percent.
  • Savings on gasoline (to say nothing of savings on car insurance) would easily cover the cost of several Instacart or Amazon deliveries each month.
  • For the nonce, the cleaning lady could go. Or at least be cut from every two weeks to once a month. Much as I’m…well..Not Fond of housecleaning, I’m having no problem keeping up with it. And it’s kind of pleasant not to have a visitor show up and bang around for four or five hours every couple of weeks. The house would be fine if WonderCleaningLady surfaced just once a month, and I would save 50% on that onerous bill. In the age-in-place department though: obviously as I get older I’d have to increase the frequency of the cleaning visits. But that time, apparently, has not yet arrived.
  • Having groceries delivered may actually save on grocery bills, because sending someone out with a list eliminates impulse buys.
  • Instacart runners know little about selecting certain kinds of groceries, especially produce and ingredients for cooking from scratch. Ordering groceries through Instacart is, to put it mildly, a learning experience.
  • Therefore the Ager-in-Place will need to visit markets in person about once a month, even if it means using Uber or Lyft to get there.
  • Amazon vendors gouge spectacularly when given any excuse to do so.
  • Mormons are scary-smart during a national emergency. And they don’t stint on the generosity.
  • Ways to exercise need to be found and engaged. Sitting and playing with a computer all day leaves you with your joints frozen up. 😀
  • You could save a w-h-o-o-l-e lotta money on groceries and probably eat healthier by making every second day a Veggie Day. That is, eat meat one day, and the next day have all vegetarian meals. This will extend your supply of meat during the present crisis. But if you made it a regular habit, now and evermore, it also would cut your grocery bills and much reduce your cholesterol levels.

So there are some life-lessons one could apply to daily existence, now and evermore. How many will stick remains to be seen. But I intend to adapt at least some of them to Life After Covid, willy-nilly.

Not in Kansas Anymore…

Argh. We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore, that’s for sure!

As a side note to today’s craziness..do you  like to bake bread? If so, try to get your hands on some of this stuff.

This is the Italian flour the Instacart lady showed up with a few days back, instead of the regular white unbleached Pillsbury-type stuff normal people use. Never heard of it, but since actual white flour is now a collector’s item, yesterday I decided to “stretch” my remaining flour with some of the Italianate stuff.

So, my breadmaker holds 5 cups of flour. I put in 2 cups of the Anna Nappy stuff and 3 cups of regular flour and then proceeded as usual. I like to have the breadmaker knead the dough; let it rise in the breadmaker’s container; then turn it out into a couple of loaves, let them rise on the counter, and pop them into an oven. (Tastes better than cooking in the breadmaker, for unknown reasons…)

Well. This combo made, bar none, THE most delicious white bread I’ve ever concocted! 

Dunno what it would do if you tried making the bread with nothing but the fancy Italian stuff, but a slightly less than 50/50 mix was awesome.

Speaking of food scarcity…M’hijito decided to opt the Costco junket this afternoon. Becaaauuuse: they won’t let you in there without a face mask, and he doesn’t have one.

Jayzus…. So I ordered up a few items via Instacart.

Costco has at least 50 varieties of cheap….ahem… delicious wines in the $8 to $12 range. Online? You can access two of them. Yeah. Neither of them anything you’d care to have. So I ordered one mediocre bottle of cheap red, and I guess when that’s gone — about a week from now — I’ll have to send another pup to Total Wine or AJ’s to get a couple of decent vintages.

And are they gouging on the prices!!!! One bag of Ruby’s favorite chicken jerky doggie treats? $24.39. Yeah. No kidding. For 3 pounds. If my ’rithmatic serves, that’s eight bucks a pound!!!!!

Plus tax.

Mygawd. You could buy a damn chicken and turn it into jerky on your grill, for a whole lot less than that.

{sigh} So I guess I’ll have to make my son a face mask. On the other hand, one of the women in the ’Hood has been making and selling them: $6 apiece. That might be preferable to cutting up a good scarf or pillowcase for the purpose.

****time passes…passes…passes****

Eventually, an Instacart guy showed up from the first Costco run of the day. (A real cutie, we might add! Born a mere 50 years too late…) He couldn’t find the brand of cheddar cheese I buy ALL the time there, and tried to claim he’d asked someone for it. This, after I explained in the special instructions where to find it. That’s hopeless BS, because the stuff is a standard there — has been for years.

So…after giving them several chances, I’d say Instacart is NOT going to do the trick as a stand-by in one’s dotage. Their contract help just doesn’t understand enough about food or about shopping to come up with the most ordinary boring stuff that you buy all the time.

Exactly how you would work the age-in-place scheme if you couldn’t get to the store and dodder around in it…escapes me. It might be that you could hire a college kid to make grocery runs for you. In that case, you’d have to do some serious training, because Americans apparently know next to nothing about real food. Evidently all anyone eats anymore is processed junk. So…how do you help them to recognize real food and, in the case of produce or fresh, raw meat, to discern whether it’s any good????

****

Thought I was kidding about the food dehydrater? Hmmm…not sooo much. The top of the line for these gadgets at Amazon sells for what three (count’em, 3) bags of doggie treats go for at Costco. Cheaper ones range from $40 to $60. Forhevvinsake, it would pay for itself in doggy treats alone in about three months…plus you’d know what was in the stuff.

The lady who makes the face masks says she’ll put a couple of them in her mailbox. So I’ll drive one down to my son, which will elicit a crabby response but at least he’ll have one. And so will I. I’ve been too lazy to make the things (plus I think it’s pointless, since they do nothing to protect you from getting the bug and probably do rather little to protect anyone else). Anyway, at least we’ll each be able to disguise ourselves as righteous, when called upon to do so.

heee heee hee HEEE! On that note, that idiot Trump is in town, entertaining his constituency of morons and sheeple. I just checked news.google.com and found THIS bit of hilarity.

Nope. Not in Kansas any more…