Coffee heat rising

Of Taxes and Best-Laid Plans and Lamps…

WonderAccountant is having a tax frenzy. Honestly…I don’t understand how anyone can do that crazy-making tax-prep ditz for a living!

I thought I’d set up my spreadsheets to totally simplify this year’s antics, but apparently I failed. One thing I didn’t realize is that repairs and maintenance on the house are now tax-related because we’re now a sole proprietorship, not an S-corp. It’s been many a year since I incorporated The Copyeditor’s Desk. We decided to de-incorporate, though, because she felt we would do better on the personal tax side if we did that.

This afternoon the young(ish) eldercare lawyer is supposed to call. I want to discuss the matter of the long-term care insurance, which everyone is telling me to get rid of. Naturally, when I called to cancel it, Metlife had a trained poodle on the phone coming up with every which way to keep me paying premiums.

So the next step was to plow through a four-inch-deep pile of paperwork from Metlife and its predecessor, TIAA-CREF. Metlife is truly notorious for trying to weasel out of paying benefits.

It was my understanding that if you quit paying, the issuer was supposed to pay back your premiums ($19,000, so far, since I started with TIAA in 2001). But…no. However, according to the original policy, which as far as I can tell was unchanged when Metlife bought TIAA’s LTC insurance business, they apply the balance to any nursing home bills you rack up — but they do not repay the unused premiums to you.

Well, after all these years, 19 grand would pay for 2.8 to 3.6 months of nursing home bills (private room/shared room)

Most people die within 3 months of admission to a nursing home. So what remains there would probably cover most of the bills.

If I quit paying premiums now and instead put the money in a CU savings account, at $133/month, that would add up to $1596 a year.

American baby-boomers can expect to live to be about 85, on average. So that would add $15,960 to the 19 grand already in Metlife’s coffers, for a total of $34,000 available (supposedly) to cover nursing home bills. Assuming I can get Metlife to return my money to me if I cancel their policy. At about $5,000 a month (by then, presumably), that would cover about 7 months in a home.

Some people, of course, are stuck there for a good deal longer than that.

My healthier relatives — the Christian Scientists who did not drink and did not consume coffee and walked daily and ate what we today call “whole foods” — lived to be 94. They each effectively dropped dead of heart attacks. Neither one went into a nursing home. But…let’s suppose you weren’t made of quite THAT sturdy stuff, but still you managed to stumble along to, say, about age 92 or so… Hmmm…. That would leave time, at $133/month, to accrue $27,132 for nursing home coverage. Let’s figure the price will be around 6 grand a month by then, eh?

$27,132 plus 19 grand (assuming Metlife even still existed to cough it up, assuming Metlife would cough it up) would give you $46,132 as a nursing home fund. Assuming nursing homes cost about 6 grand a month by then, that would last you about 7 1/2 months. According to my English-major arithmetic, which is nothing to place a bet on.

So…you’re takin’ your chances. My father was in a nursing home about two weeks before he croaked over. But…heaven help us! D-XMiL is a hundred and five years old and still alive, laying in a bed in a nursing home unable to see or hear. God help her. And she’s been in that state for years.

Interesting. Assuming inflation drives nursing home costs to “only” $5000 a month in 10 years (not a safe assumption) and to 6 grand in 15 years, the number of months that saving program would cover is almost same.

Jeez. Think o’that…

So after a brief telephone chat, our proposed new estate-planning/elder-care lawyer engineered a meeting in a couple of weeks. He thinks — contrary to the advice of the financial dude and the accountant but in accord with Consumer Reports’ opinion, that it’s actually a good idea to continue paying LTC premiums, if you can afford it. I can, but it frosts my cookies. PLUS: reviews of Metlife are awash in horror stories. Apparently they do every goddamn thing they can to avoid paying as agreed in their contract.

In less tenebrous climes…

Isn’t that a great word? Translations of the Greek epics describe Hades — which was just an underworld populated by the shades of the deceased, not Hell as in a place of torture — as “tenebrous.” Shady. 😀

In less tenebrous climes, the new glass shade arrived to replace the one I busted a couple weeks ago. None of us — we’re talking moi and not one, not two, but three lamp store and repair folks — could find one just like the deceased. The closest I could find is not opaline — it’s just milk-white — and is shallower & flatter than the late lamented shade. However, if you’d never seen the old shade, you sure wouldn’t know any better. I think it will do the job just fine. And to my amazement, it fits in the fixture and accommodates a 3-way bulb just fine.

The Lamps Plus dude proposed to adjust the fixture to make it fit exactly, which I suppose would be nice. But the fact is, it looks fine and I fail to see why it needs any adjustment.

And also in the lights department: The middle bathroom in my house is illuminated by a pair of matching wall fixtures, one on each side of the mirror over the sink, that each use a couple of small halogen lights. Naturally, one of those crapped out this morning.

So it was off to French’s Electric Co to try to snare replacement bulbs. Good luck, I figured, since every light bulb that works has been taken out of our sticky little hands.

To my surprise, they had a few! 40 watts, said he. So I bought the whole boxful, sensing that these will not be around much longer.

Indeed, when I got home I found that 40 watts was what the fixture was rated for…but that the other bulb in the lamed fixture was a 120-watt number. Jeez. So I replaced them both, elegantly not touching the glass on the things. Perfect!

Then I noticed that another bulb was out on the other fixture. Replaced that. Noticed that the two bulbs in there were also 120 wats. Hm.

BUT…the result was gorgeous! Much brighter than the incumbents…so much so that one could in theory paint one’s face in front of that mirror, which until today has not been an option. It’s been much too dim in that bathroom to make up your face.

I hope these will last. The upshot, though, was that I used two of the four lights I’d bought, trying to stockpile three of them for future use. So now I’ll have to go back over to French’s and buy another box of them, hoping to have enough to last into my dotage.

What a stockpile I have in the storage room! Almost every drawer is jammed with incandescent lightbulbs. That’s how much I hate, loathe, and despise the eye-stinging light from those horrid LED things. Once my stash is gone, I guess, I’ll have to switch to candles.

Since I habitually turn off the lights whenever I leave a room (unless I have to go out after dark and need to make it look like maybe someone’s home), light bulbs last a LONG time at the Funny Farm. A couple of those bulbs in the bathroom had been there since I had the fixtures installed — sixteen years ago. So I expect eight or twelve extras will last until I croak over. And then some.

Old Age: Fightin’ Back!

Yay! This morning WonderOrthodontist decided not to perform the next step in replacing the busted tooth, because he felt it needed some more healing time. Six weeks!!

This was not something I was looking forward to: I’ve had about enough pokes in the gums to last me for the rest of my life. So despite having to trudge over to his place through the rain, I was delighted to dart in, socialize with his charming staff members, admire his cuteness briefly (this is yet another highly educated specimen of gorgeousness!), and dart out.

However…  Driving across town reminded me — again — that Old Age is creepin’ up. That would be old age in the form of freaking senility.

I have to admit that I am beginning to feel some concern about issues that seem to be associated (possibly) with age.

Ever since I tripped in the dark over that busted slab of sidewalk, I’ve felt weirdly unsure on my feet. Especially in the bathtub…but also just about anyplace in the house. I find myself picking my way across the floor, particularly near steps, for fear I’m going to trip or misstep again. That is not my style.

But given that I walloped myself magnificently and that it took weeks and weeks to recover, it makes sense. It’s reasonable, right?

Fine. However, we have another issue that is much more worrisome: an apparent growing degree of confusion.

This is not forgetfulness, though like anyone over about 50, I forget where my keys are if I don’t put them away where they belong. As issues go, that one is neither very serious nor does it seem to be getting worse.

The problem has to do with not recognizing or remembering exactly where I am, even though I’m on a path that’s so beaten it’s practically polished.

I have been driving in this city since 1966. That is fifty-four years. I navigate by dead reckoning because a map of the roads and neighborhoods is imprinted on my consciousness like the migration routes in a mallard’s brain. Yea verily, I know the city so well I can get from point A to point B without even looking where I’m going. No, I don’t have to read the road signs anymore.

Except…

The other day I went out to the credit union, which lurks on the ASU West campus at 45th Avenue and Thunderbird. You understand, I worked at that place for ten years. I drove out there five or six days a week, every week, at least once and often twice in a given day. Frequently I drove out and back after dark, to teach night classes.

ASU’s westside campus is bounded on the east side by 43rd Avenue and on the west side by 51st Avenue. Both of these are faceless, bland, Southern-California-style runways that pass through faceless, bland tracts falling to decay and past faceless, bland strip malls that invite you to do nothing more than to pass them by.

So I’m cruising up 43rd, and on the way am looking for a Fry’s Supermarket that stands on an east-west thoroughfare called Peoria — another faceless, blandly ugly road. When I can’t find the thing, I figure it’s on the next road over, west of the campus, not east of it.

I know that is wrong, because I know what’s on 51st, and it ain’t a Fry’s. But nevertheless I come to believe that is the case. But here’s the thing: I think I’m on 35th Avenue and that the next road on the other side of the campus is 43rd. Which it decidedly is not.

When I realize I’m not northbound on 35th but instead am already on 43rd, I become seriously confused…as in I don’t know quite where I am. Not until my car comes up beside the campus do I recognize where I am, but I still can’t understand why 43rd is in the wrong place.

It’s not, of course…35th is the road I use to drive from the campus up to the Costco on the I-17 — it’s another couple miles to the east of the campus.

Even after I finish the errand in the credit union and climb back into the car, I’m still almost convinced that 43rd is on the west side of the campus. To wit: I’ve come unstuck in space!

That was creepy.

And now we have today. I head off to the orthodontist’s. His office is situated on a road I have used to drive home from the ASU Main campus and back and forth to various shopping and business venues for many, many years. I’ve been to his office several times over the past three months or so.

The usual route would be across Glendale (which gets renamed “Lincoln” as it passes eastward) to 36th Street, down through a ritzy neighborhood to Stanford, eastward again past the swankiest private school in the state, and then south on 40th to the doc’s office building. However, Glendale/Lincoln has been all dug up for yet another public-works boondoggle and is projected to be so for months. It is one of the most heavily traveled surface streets in the city, and so has been bumper-to-bumper all the way from 24th Street to Tatum, on the edge of Scottsdale.

Avoid!

Hordes of avoiders are driving all the way down to Camelback Road to move east and west across the north-central part of the city. Thus, Camelback Road:

Avoid!

So the plan is to drop down 7th Street (where I have to buy some gasoline) to a major feeder street called Missouri, cruise across that to 24th, and from there go north and then navigate east across Stanford to 40th Street.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

See…the problem is… Stanford doesn’t go through to 24th Street.

You have to pick it up on 32nd, where it debouches into the fast-moving traffic flying between Camelback and Lincoln.

I know this. I know it as well as I know where the water glasses in my kitchen cupboards are.

Nevertheless, I make my way across Missouri to 24th and then northward…growing ever more puzzled that I can’t find the turn onto Stanford.

Not until I get almost all the way up to Lincoln do I realize that I’m on the wrong road to turn east on Stanford!

Got that? I’m as lost and as confused as a flatland tourister from Cleveland!

This is alarming because I’ve used that Stanford cut-through for years to get across the city to and from Scottsdale, to get to my hair stylist, to dodge traffic while coming back from Tempe, and to evade the eternal mess on Camelback Road.

Holy sh!t.

It begins to look a whole lot more alarming than “losing” your car keys or your glasses. It begins to look a whole lot like real senility.

I should not be confused in any way about something I’m so familiar with. Something’s wrong there.

{sigh} Reflecting on this predicament this afternoon, I wondered if I might be doing something to cause this — other than simply aging. If so, what might that “something” be?

Well, there are several possibilities, to tell the truth. For one, I hardly ever go out any more — that’s why the mileage on my car is so low. I hate driving in Phoenix’s wackshit traffic, and so avoid it as much as possible. That’s why I quit the Scottsdale Business Association: that drive to the Pavilions, way to Hell and gone across two freeways in the rush hour, was more than I cared to contemplate.

So we have some candidate causes here:

  1. Lassitude. I’ve stopped doing almost everything. I’m not even keeping up the garden.
  2. Lack of social contact. The church is the only place I see people anymore.
  3. Illness and injury. Neither of these can be helping the situation.
  4. Drinking. Possibly two or three glasses of beer, wine, or whiskey are 2 or 3 too many.
  5. Lack of interest in much. I don’t give a shit anymore.
  6. Desire to stay off the roads; increasing dislike of driving.
  7. Age.
  8. Possibly signs of senile dementia.

Could be any of these. Could be all of ’em, eh?

So the question is… Is there anything that can be done about this stuff?

Obviously, there’s nothing I can do about getting older. Nor, if I’m losing my marbles, can I do anything about that.

Maybe I can slow the process down a bit, though.

  1. Get off the duff! Get back to gardening (at least), get back to hiking in the mountain preserves. Pick up a goddamn pen and start writing again. Take the dog to different places to walk. Re-explore the Valley.
  2. Revive old friendships and relationships. Try to inveigle my way back into SBA or, failing that, rejoin the Chamber, whose avatars persist in nagging me to come back. Join one of the many groups at the church.
  3. Drink water, not wine or beer, with dinner.
  4. Get over it about the damn traffic! Stick the dog in the car and take her to other parks and hiking trails. Or just drive up the rim and hike in the sticks.
  5. Do some shopping. I haven’t seen the inside of My Sister’s Closet of Nordstrom’s Rack in two or three years.
  6. And…keep a record of these happenings, to see if they continue even if I manage to change the elements above.

Frankly, I don’t feel much hope that throwing myself around to bring a little more life back into my life is going to make much difference. Doubt if it’ll do much harm, though. And if I do have a record of this weird stuff, at least I’ll know whether it’s real. Or not.

 

An Aging-in-Place Solution?

Yesterday, while idling away some time by ogling real estate ads, I stumbled across an amazing factoid: An apartment in the very elegant highrise where three of my friends reside costs, astonishingly, no more than what I could net on sale of my house!

WTF? These are very nice apartments in a very stylish part of town. Friends’ place overlooks the Phoenix Country Club. The lightrail cruises right past on Central, inviting you to ride up to AJ’s (my favorite gourmet chow line) or down to the Heard Museum or the Phoenix Art Museum or the Civic Center or the East Valley.

The place looks spectacularly expensive, and in fact I recall a friend speculating that one couple we know must have spent an arm and a leg to move in there.

Maybe. Maybe not. One ad shows a two-bedroom palace identical in layout to our friends’ place for right about what my house is worth. These are very pleasant apartments with spectacular views in a choice urban locale.

As I gazed at the photos of this dwelling, it occurred to me that the place is larger, brighter, and far more liveable than the two-bedroom apartment my elderly friends retired to at the Beatitudes, a life-care community. And it ain’t costing its occupants $7,000 a month to live there!

Of course, neither does it provide nursing home insurance for two aged adults. But…but… Think about that. If you were to put 7 grand a month aside, in short order you would have more than enough to cover even a fairly lengthy stay in a nursing home.

The average cost for a two-person room in an Arizona nursing home is $171 a day; for a private room, $212. So, hmmmm….. $212 a day comes to a tab of $6572 for ONE month in a nursing home, for ONE person. That’s less than my friends at the life-care community are spending per month — but for two people. In other words, between the two of them, in 60 days they spend enough to put each of them up in a nursing home for a month.

Hm. The average stay in a nursing home is 835 days, we’re told (by a not altogether unbiased source…). That’s  about 27 months. Clearly, a hefty monthly set-aside will cover nothing like the amount of time you’ll be warehoused. That doesn’t include the care you would need at home; apparently many people receive several months of this kind of assistance. Fidelity estimates a couple will spend $245,000 on healthcare ABOVE AND BEYOND nursing care. Holy shit.

On the other hand, these figures are not the only ones out there. A 2009 study showed the median length of stay for those who did not die in the nursing home was 5 months.

The median length of stay was only 5 months (IQR 1-20). The majority of residents had short lengths of stay, 65% of decedents had lengths of stay of less than one year, and over 53% died within 6 months of admission.

At $6572/month for each of my two friends in the old-folkerie, a 27-month stay would cost just ONE of them  $177,444. Meanwhile, to live on the campus in a two-bedroom apartment, in the run-up (we might say) to the nursing-home stay, my friends are presumably paying $3500 apiece: we’re told the tab is 7 grand for the two of them. Each of them is effectively being charged $3500 a month to stay in a tiny two-bedroom apartment until such time as they need the nursing home (IF they need the nursing home).

Okay. $6572 for each person for nursing home care, right? The buy-in at this old-folkerie is $350,000±. If one of them keels over today, that $350,000 would cover 53.3 months of nursing-home care: twice as long as the exaggerated median stay cited by companies who want you to buy nursing-home insurance or buy into a life-care community (i.e., just about enough to cover a median stay for each of them, if you believe those figures). It’s ten times as long as the median stay reported by an unbiased research study. If they both keel over today, their buy-in would cover each of them for about 26 months.

But the buy-in isn’t all. Even after ponying up the entire sale price of their home just to get in the door, they’re still paying $7,000/month in rent on their cramped apartment: $3500 apiece from now until they croak over. And…for each month that they spend that $3,500 apiece, they pony up the cost of almost two months in the nursing home.

Fifty-three months of coverage for the buy-in price alone? Yes. That does add up to ten times the median nursing home stay, as calculated by research that is not dedicated to scaring the bedoodles out of old folks.  But okay, that 7 grand is for two people: only slightly more than the median cost of a month’s nursing home stay, per partner.

Hm.

So, if you were to take your $350,000 and park yourself in 1 Lexington Avenue, deep in the heart of Phoenix’s endlessly gentrifying North Central corridor, in comparison with what you would get for $350,000 at the old-folkerie, you would have…

  • A significantly larger and nicer apartment…
  • …in a vibrant part of the city that is NOT adjacent to the meth-ridden, crime-infested Conduit of Blight Boulevard, as is the case for the old-folkerie in question
  • A concierge parked in the lobby
  • The lightrail within steps of the front door
  • $7,000 a month in your pocket, which would buy a WHOLE lot of in-home care for the two of you, or, should the occasion arise, two months of nursing home care per one month of $7,000 set-aside
  • Entertainment, cultural events, restaurants, and a very fancy grocery store along that light-rail line
  • Freedom from surveillance by hired nannies
  • A private residential environment (albeit in an apartment building), as opposed to an institutional environment

The more I think about this, the more I think…wow! That’s the answer!

The one and only thing gives me pause about moving into one of those places right now: the dog.

I can’t imagine what I would do with Ruby. Schlepping her up and down a tower in an elevator several times a day so she can be marched around until she does her business does not seem even faintly practical. It would be out of the question if I happened to be as sick as I have been over the past three months, what with a case of bronchitis and then a fall that has spavined a hand and a leg. Unless you lived on the ground floor, you simply couldn’t have a dog…and there are no ground-floor apartments in that place.

If I moved in there now — which as a practical matter might be advisable — I’d have to find another home for Ruby. And I don’t wanna.

Ruby is about five years old now. The median life-span for corgis is 12.5 years, though some have been known to go as long as 16 or 18 years. Assuming she’s typical, she should live another seven years. In seven years, I’ll be 82.

That’s not an unreasonable age to move to an old-folkerie. However, this house is costing me significantly more, when you count in details such as property tax and homeowner’s insurance and the cost of the pool and the yard, than one of those apartments would cost, even with the $333/month property tax and the $716/month HOA fees and the $88/month homeowner’s insurance. I think.

But…

It looks a great deal as though the monthly costs there would be much higher than they are here, primarily because the property tax is much higher here and because I pay no HOA fees, exorbitant or otherwise. My homeowner’s insurance is significantly higher, but not THAT much higher.

By way of comparison, if you add the property tax, the HOA fee, and the homeowner’s insurance, you get a base cost per month of $1,137 to live in that place. That, of course, doesn’t include water, electric, and whatever they charge you to park in their garage. If you add up my present property tax, homeowner’s insurance, Gerardo’s bill, and the pool guy’s bill, you get $460 a month. [Of course, that doesn’t include the occasional but inevitable hits like roof repair, air-conditioning and plumbing repair, or the breath-taking water and power bills…but stlll…it’s nigh enough unto apples-to-apples.]

!!!

That’s a far cry from $1137 a month. And from the 7 grand a month we’re told our friends are paying over at the old-folkerie.

What do you get, compared to the Funny Farm, for that $1137/month?

  • Greater security
  • A concierge
  • Proximity to a credible (though not ideal) hospital
  • Public transit right out the front door
  • Cultural attractions, restaurants, and shopping within walking distance
  • Less space to have to take care of
  • A stunning view of the entire East Valley
  • A prestigious address
  • If you like to travel, a place where you can just lock the door and take off whenever you please
  • And probably lots fewer burglaries, cop helicopter fly-overs, and drug-addicted bums

What do you NOT get? Ahhh…there’s the rub! You don’t get…

  • Two Arizona sweets and a Myer lemon that are laden with fruit just now
  • A pool where you can skinny-dip every day of the spring, summer, and fall
  • Goodly distance between you and the closest neighbor
  • Ruby the Corgi
  • A shady neighborhood of million-dollar homes through which to walk the corgi
  • A neighborhood park
  • Young upwardly mobile neighbors moving in with their cute little kids
  • A Sprouts within walking distance (not that one would walk down Conduit of Blight Blvd to get there…but still…)
  • A Walmart Neighborhood Grocery (a bigger asset than we of the snooty upper middle class would like to admit) within a five-minute drive
  • Friendly neighbors in a politically active neighborhood association
  • Cops regularly watching the place from helicopters
  • A garage in which to park your car right outside your kitchen door

So it goes.

Just now, it looks to me like the pro’s of staying in a house that’s much larger than I need, located next to a dangerous meth slum, outweigh the pro’s of moving into a (very nice!) mid-town apartment that’s half the size of the Funny Farm. For less money but at the cost of having to stay alert to what’s going on around me, I get more space, a private pool and yard, great neighbors, and Ruby the Corgi.

 

Stay or Fly: The Busted Paw, the Peeper, and the Doc

Sooo… After the little jig I did yesterday to deflect the turkey who was transparently casing my house, I had to cancel out of choir. This provided the opportunity to move the 2:00 p.m. appointment at the urgent care unit next door to the neighborhood Albertson’s forward to noon. This turned out to be a good thing for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that I diddled away two hours there. If I’d gone in at two, that caper would have consumed the entire afternoon.

They decided the pained paw probably has no fracture in any of the complicated set of bones that make up a human hand. But nevertheless, they sent the X-rays to a radiologist for assessment, later in the week. So that was mildly reassuring.

So I ended up chatting at length with a PA, these groups’ answer to an MD. What a doll! He fessed up that he was 53 — dayum! Born 20 years too late. He was an Indian gent — India Indian, I mean. Two daughters, wife, nice career. And even warier than I am of Life in the Big American City. I mentioned to him that when I fell I was walking Ruby the Corgi, and in passing remarked that I used to have German shepherds but at my age feel I’m past the time in life that I can effectively handle a large, high-drive dog.

Now get this: the clinic is right on Conduit of Blight, the border between the ‘Hood and a meth-ridden slum. And he says — apparently PC is not a Thing in New Delhi — that given some of the people he’s seen in that practice, he strongly recommended that I get another German shepherd, for my safety. But not just any German shepherd. “Spend the money, raid your life savings, to get a fully trained German shepherd.”

Yipes!

I said, “Well, it’ll have to wait until the corgi passes on, another five to seven years.”

He said, “No, don’t wait. If you have a trained German shepherd (by that, he clearly meant protection training), you will get another ten years of independent living. Otherwise, you won’t be safe and you’ll have to move on before then.”

Holy mackerel!

That was quite the exchange, because…well…we’re talkin’ about a guy who deals all the time, day in and day out, with the denizens of Meth Central. He remarked, too, that social problems in this country have become exponentially worse. And no amount of education or social service seems to be helping. He had, he said, seen young men with master’s degrees in fields like business and science, “melting away” (his phrase) as drug addicts.

Well. However. He is not a guy who deals with German shepherds all the time. In my experience with them (about 20 years’ worth), a good GerShep does not need protection training or any other kind of training other than basic obedience work to do the job for you. This fella, for example, would no doubt prove himself useful in an emergency…

The problem with a Gershep, provided you know what you’re doing and you’re lucky in your choice of companion, is not training but expense. These are very costly dogs to care for throughout a nine- to twelve-year lifetime. They can develop some spectacularly pricey ailments, not the least of them pannus, osteoarthritis, dysplasia of several varieties, thyroid failure…and on and on. So, in retirement the problem is not so much the dog’s strength and need to have you be incontrovertibly Alpha; it’s that you can’t afford the health risks when you’re living on Social Security.

At any rate, such speculation does nothing to address the issue of a sh!thead casing my house, just as we come up on the High Burgling Season that is Christmas gift-exchange time.

The plan: I happen to have an old stereo sitting in the family room. Believe it or not, the thing still works. So the strategy is to turn it to an NPR yakathon, turn up the volume, crack the solid-core door into the garage open, and lock up the dog in the back bedroom. That way, anyone who approaches the front of the house will hear the blabbity-blabbity through the tinfoil garage door. We are told this strategy — leave a radio or TV set on — is pretty effective against prowlers, because they can’t be sure no one is in the house.

Ruby sleeps in her nest under the toilet all the time I’m gone. If I just close the bedroom door, she won’t be able to race outside through the garage and head for Yuma when I come home. The radio will be plainly audible through the garage to anyone who approaches the front of the house, and of course it blats right through the glass doors and windows in back. Its racket doesn’t carry through that solid-core door; hence, I’ll need to crack it open a bit.

HOW, you may ask reasonably, did I instantly size up our passer-by as a would-be burglar?

By his dogs.

His dogs were  behaving as though they wanted to be nowhere near the guy. While he was ogling my house from in front of WonderAccount’s place, they were hunkered on the ground behind him, as far away as they could get at the end of their leashes.

That is not normal doggy-walk behavior. Dogs do not huddle behind you when you take them on a doggy-walk. They drag you down the street.

Plus…after innumerable daily doggywalks of my own, I know all the dogs in our neighborhood. His are not among them. By extension, I know most of the neighbors by sight…never saw this dude before.

The dogs’ strange behavior drew attention to the guy’s strange behavior. And the guy’s strange behavior was…strange.

But THEN…heh heh heh!

When I pretended to drive out but in fact circumambulated the block and showed up back in the driveway about 40 seconds later and found him ACROSS THE STREET AND LURKING NEXT TO MY HOUSE on the east side, where he was studying the front entrance and the front patio, well…he did himself in with that stunt.

Seriously: it could not have taken more than 40 seconds to get back to my driveway. The next street north was empty — nary a soul out in front — so I gave that six-banger a mighty hit of gasoline and JETTED up the road. I would be surprised if it took much more than 30 seconds for me to re-coalesce in front of the Funny Farm. And lo! there he was, upping the ante on the casing job.

German shepherd. Hm. Pit bull, maybe?

One Damnfool Thing after Another

Ohhh dear Lord…what have I done to piss You off this time?

😮

Okay. Last night I made an appointment at the Urgent Care to get the probably-not-broken (I hope) hand X-rayed at 2 p.m., allowing time for choir and the service and for driving back & forth.

This morning when I awaken, the paw is notably swollen — a new development. Though I manage to bring the swelling down with an ice pack, I figure this is a clue to a fractured knuckle or other bone near thereunto. I’m pissed, but glad I’d made the appointment.

Twenty to 10, I hop in the car and head out to the church…

Well…to the end of the driveway.

There, right across the street, is some guy whom I’ve never seen and who has The Look of a denizen of the far side of Conduit of Blight Blvd (which marks the border of a meth slum). He’s standing there peering around and punching at a cell phone.

Taking notes, are we, buddy?

He can see me leave, and he also can see there’s no other car in the garage.

Last time the neighbors and I called the cops for a prowler, it took them 45 minutes to show up.

So…I drive around the block and circle back. By the time I reach the Funny Farm, our guy has crossed over to my side of the road, gone around the corner, and is now standing next to the east side of my house, punching more data into his cell phone.

After a quick command decision to cut choir and church, I pull into the garage and holler for the dog, loud enough to be heard. Hope the guy hasn’t been watching long enough to know the dog weighs all of 25 pounds, not all of 95 pounds.

Why am I staying here? Is this God asking me that question?

I need to move either to Sun City — a ghetto for old folks — or to Prescott, where it’s probably snowing right now.

Actually, it’s not. Snowing in Prescott, I mean. Just damn cold: 36 degrees. No. I do not want to live in Prescott much more than I want to live in Sun City. But…do I really want to live a half-mile (or less) from a vast swath of dangerous blight?

Ohhh well. Having made the decision to abstain from church, I managed to move the Urgent Care appointment up from 2:00 p.m. to noon, the earliest moment when they have their X-ray equipment working. That rescues the afternoon from chaos, anyway.

I guess.

Walloped

Friday night (is this really already Sunday?) Ruby & I went for a doggywalk after dark. A neighborhood community party was going on in the park, and, attracted by the happy sounds, I decided we should walk down the road that separates Upper from Lower Richistan and follow it over to the park. It’s quite dark along that stretch. And…in the past five or six years, a developer purchased a piece of horse property which he converted into a small HOA of ugly two-story McMansions, surrounded by an ugly stuccoed wall. Just fit right in to a neighborhood of sprawling single-story 1950s-to-70s ranchers, eh?

Oh well. Aesthetics aside, the builder took as much leave of his senses as he did of his taste. Between this fine wall and the city sidewalk, in a little easement about, oh…maybe six or eight feet wide, he planted several sissou trees.

These fine plants  get HUGE, and they’re extremely aggressive. Their roots will heave every wall and pavement within 40 feet of the trunk.

Not surprisingly, one of these charmers has lifted a whole slab of sidewalk along the way to the park. Since I rarely walk down that way (the park being, alas, a good place to stay away from in the absence of, say, a German shepherd), I’d forgotten about this little eruption. Sooo…trotting along behind a charging corgi, I tripped over it and fell flat on my face!

Wrecked my glasses — that’ll be $200. Wrenched my right hand. And blasted the patella on  the right knee.

Fortunately, I was able to flag down a driver cruising home from his law office. He drove me and the dog back to the house — we were about a half to three-quarters of a mile out.

These small dings hurt like the dickens, especially the hand. I applied ice packs, of which (given my various recent adventures) I have a-plenty residing in the freezer. But though they still hurt, I really do NOT want to spend yet another night in the Mayo’s goddamn ER, not after just barely getting over a two-month bout of bronchitis that I believe I picked up there.

I didn’t think anything was broken. But two days later, the hand is pretty badly swollen, Naturally, it’s Sunday. Made an appointment at the local urgent care joint this afternoon, where I hope they will X-ray it and tell me yea or nay, is a knuckle or metacarpal busted

Lucky thing I only busted my glasses, and not a hip…it was dark as pitch down there, and if I hadn’t been able to get up and step into the roadway to wave my paws and holler, I wouldn’t have had a chance of getting anyone to notice me.

Come to think of it, though, it’s kinda remarkable that a nearly 75-year-old broad could fall flat on her face (twice! this is the second goddamn time — the first was at a dead run) and not break anything., Now that the pain has subsided (presumably under the influence of three ice packs), I doubt if anything is actually broken, except for a chip off a dental crown.

Thankful though I am that no more serious injury was done..HOW could I do without these little interludes? Let me count the ways….