Coffee heat rising

Hyperinflation and the House Shopper…

Welp, in the middle of the great flap over the Nose Cancer (the upshot of which was “they got it all,”  astonishing surgical skill demonstrated in the process), we learned that the dread Tony the Romanian Landlord is back up to his tricks. Turns out he bought the house across the street, recently put up for sale by a neighbor couple who retired to the high country. A-a-a-a-a-n-d…he’s got an army of workmen in there gutting it out (the house was up-to-date and in primo condition) so as to turn it into yet another halfway house or nursing home.

Tony is in the settlement home business. He grabbed a home on a pretty little street where one of my friends lived, let it stand vacant and weedy for a year or more while the recession trudged past, and then turned it into a nursing home, replete with the traffic and the damage to neighboring property values that entails.

Phoenix’s wise City Parents, in a fit of merciful generosity, made it legal to do so. They installed an exception to the city code that forbids running businesses out of homes in residential tracts — for nursing homes and halfway houses. The fact that these places are ill-regulated (if regulated at all) makes our wise leaders no nevermind.

One of said fine establishments here in the ‘Hood is leased out to a nursing home whose employee was regularly raping a vegetative woman. Got her pregnant, not that it mattered to her, because she was perpetually unconscious. Yes, permanently. But it did matter to her family, who quietly installed a camera in her room and filmed the guy diddling his “patient.” (Read “prisoner”…) So as you can imagine, Tony is less than fully appreciated here in the ‘Hood.

When I realized he was up to his tricks again — this time right across the street — I decided it was time to move. Enough, after all, being enough. The property values here in the ‘Hood are so inflated that I could buy something comparable anywhere in the central part of the city…or in Scottsdale, or in Paradise Valley, or in any number of local venues.

So I called my friend Nancy, who happens to be an ambitious Realtor, and asked if she would look for new digs. One possibility is a high-rise apartment on Central Avenue…but ultimately I discarded that idea because I like Ruby the Corgi, I’m not getting rid of her, the hassle involved in coping with a dog in an apartment is more than I can cope with. And besides, I like having a yard. And a pool, for that matter.

Nancy is hot to trot. She wants me to take out a loan right now so’s I can buy a place, and then after we sell this one, if I choose to do so I can then pay it off.

She says my house will sell within a few days — the market is extremely hot. And apparently that is true, despite astonishingly inflated prices. Very few places are for sale, and some of those are…uhm…heh…amazing. Yet none of them stays on the market for long.

Shoofing around…

Here’s this little shack directly to the south of here: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/1619-W-Frier-Dr-Phoenix-AZ-85021/7777319_zpid/  Four thousand square feet for $1.5 million. Right. Moving on.

Okay, so I thought this one looks pretty promising, also in a neighborhood to the south: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/7720-N-17th-Ave-Phoenix-AZ-85021/7777063_zpid/  If it weren’t almost 800 grand…

Here’s a bargain at $586,000…  https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/812-W-Orangewood-Ave-Phoenix-AZ-85021/7777565_zpid/  It hasn’t moved in almost two months, which says something’s majorly wrong with it. Like, say, 586 grand?

Here’s one in the price range, slightly smaller than the Funny Farm: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/7819-N-17th-Ave-Phoenix-AZ-85021/7777084_zpid/  Not a bad little house, especially if you’re charmed by 1950s windows and can do without a garage for your car.  The area around it looks a little flakey…possibly rentals???

We have this “hidden gem”: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/7731-N-17th-Dr-Phoenix-AZ-85021/7777054_zpid/  On my yellow pad I noted “too close to 19th Avenue; a little funky. No garage.”

$1.2 million for this: https://myhomegroup.com/homes-for-sale-details/7508-N-13TH-AVENUE-PHOENIX-AZ-85021/6279740/123/   Seriously??????

No? Well, OK, how about this stunner: https://www.redfin.com/AZ/Phoenix/7620-N-17th-Dr-85021/home/27609886 Check out that one-car car-port, and the great turquoise floor! The historic tile! The prison bars on the exquisitely designed add-on’s windows, and the fantastic acres of dead grass…

Otherwise, amazingly few offerings. I found several small sub-neighborhoods that looked pretty desirable, but nothing for sale in them. Here’s a cute little place, supposedly in the price range at $483,169: https://www.redfin.com/AZ/Phoenix/911-W-State-Ave-85021/home/27949284  “Currently off market.”

But here we have new construction!  In my not-very-humble opinion: exceptionally handsome, exceptionally livable and hevvin help us, it even has a garage, albeit one lacking a door. But…well…it’s right on one of the mainest of the city’s main drags. Enjoy traffic racket? Love the parfum de automobile exhaust? This is the place for you! https://www.zillow.com/community/willow/29377516_plid/

Moving on, I stumbled across THE most astonishing enclave (as it were): https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/213-E-El-Camino-Dr-Phoenix-AZ-85020/7794151_zpid/  This is on a street of little shacks built for agricultural workers. They’ve been enormously gentrified, presumably because young people with a little money and a lot of energy can’t afford anything else. They almost back onto the Arizona Canal, which is…well… Let me put it this way: it’s a Bum’s Highway.

This little place is surprisingly cute, all fixed up the way it is. But…yeah. I peeked in a front window and saw a bedroom that wouldn’t hold a twin bed! 

Well, actually, it would: it has a little nook clearly made to hold a twin or maybe a bunk bed. It’s the tiniest little place: smaller than a modern apartment. But it does have a nice big yard. It’s in a district called Sunnyslope, long renowned as an antique slum, home to the Valley’s Hell’s Angels. You would be dodging bums by day and bullets by night. But otherwise it’s kinda kewl… 😮

Got home after a couple hours of driving around to find Nancy (realtor) on the phone, hot to trot. She gave me the name of a lender to call. I was too pooped to deal with that y’day afternoon, but guess out of courtesy I’ll have to call him today. But pretty clearly this is a lost cause.

She said houses are selling within a matter of days, the market is so hot. She thinks my house (which by comparison with this stuff is some sort of a miracle) will sell instantaneously.

Ohhhkayyy… But the problem with that is every other house that comes on the market is the target of a feeding frenzy. And do you seriously believe I would have a snowball’s chance to snab a place comparable to the beloved Funny Farm?

Really. This makes effin’ Sun City look good! Ahhhh yes, Sun City:

Actually, some of those places wouldn’t be bad, if only they weren’t in a ghetto for old people.

All of which makes the Funny Farm look extremely good. Evidently I would be stark raving cahRAZY to move at this time. I do love my house, but given the Tony situation would move if I could find anything even faintly feasible.

Uhm. Maybe.

By the time I got home from eyeballing the market, I needed one of those beers in the fridge. Or maybe the whole frikkin six-pack….

I guess I’m just going to have to deal with Mr. Boca. He does know which side his butter’s breaded on, and so he doesn’t represent a physical threat. Having a social service agency across the street may not be pleasant….but nothing lasts forever. Including Tony. If he predeceases me, there’s a good chance the new settlement house will be returned to residential status and life will return to normal. Especially if enough neighbors complain.

A Raft Made of Palm Fronds

Where we lived in Saudi Arabia — I grew up in an oil camp full of American expats on the shore of the Persian Gulf — the fences between our houses were made of sticks derived from stripping the leaves off the center spines of palm-tree fronds. Date palms, oleanders, a kind of jasmine shrub, and a tree-like affair that looked a great deal like a paloverde were the only things that grew out there, where the soil was mostly sand and salt. A sort of bermuda-grass would grow, in a sickly and lumpy way. But otherwise that was about it.

I had a plan, when I was a little girl.

It was to run away.

Not just to run away, but to sail away — because obviously, even to the mind of a young child, the only plausible means of escape were by air (impossible for a kid without her parents) or by sea.

The latter would be exquisitely dangerous. Even the ten-year-old I recognized that. But it was reasonable to reflect that to be dead would be better than to continue living in that place.

I was an unpopular little kid — a weird one. School was an unhappy place for me. And home wasn’t a whole lot better when I wasn’t sequestered in my room,  terrified of my father and  miserable in general with life.

So I hatched a Plan.

The Plan was to build a raft, equipped with a sail made from a sheet, and set to sea off the coast of the Rub al Khali, one of the most barren deserts on the planet. The body of this raft would be made of palm ribs, readily available from the fences the Arabs built to delineate the lots that held the Americans’ company houses. These I would lash together with rope and wire.

Once fully equipped, I would sail down the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz, then make my way up coast of Asia. Cross the Bering Strait and make landfall in Alaska. From there I would walk and hitch-hike down into California. And once home: take up the lifestyle of Little Orphan Annie.

Great idea, ain’t it?

This evening I was led to reflect on my father’s life, blighted as it was from the beginning by circumstance, and how he managed to overcome most of that. Yet…how any extended happiness contrived to elude him.

My father was a change-of-life baby, an unfortunate surprise for his parents. His youngest brother was 18 years older than he was.

His father did not want to raise another child, starting out in middle age. So he ran off, leaving the infant and the 40-plus mother in Texas to fend for themselves. She had inherited a substantial amount of money from her own father, who had made a fortune freighting buffalo hides out of Oklahoma into Kansas. Some time later, the unwilling dad was found by the side of a remote East Texas road, allegedly a suicide.

That, I think, is dubious. Given that during his careers as a prison guard and as a cowboy he had plenty of opportunities to make the occasional mortal enemy, I suspect it’s just as possible that he was murdered. But that, interesting as it may be, is neither here nor there.

My grandmother diddled away her late father’s wealth (equivalent of about $2.75 million in today’s money), swindled by dubious building contractors offering to fancify her home and by spiritualists who promised to contact the dead in séances from the living room. When the two older brothers learned their expected inheritance had been looted — way too late! — they turned on each other. My father dropped out of high school, lied about his age, and joined the Navy.

Hence, a career as a deck officer: Navy, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine. It was this seafaring work experience that bought him a handsomely paid, all-expenses-covered job as a harbor pilot in Arabia, steering supertankers in and out of the port at Ras Tanura.

He led an interesting life full of interesting (but also often tedious) adventures. He worked hard. He set himself the goal of earning and putting into savings the amount of the fortune his mother squandered. Today, that’s no great pile of dough — to buy my little tract house would cost five times that many dollars. But he wasn’t an educated man and he didn’t understand about inflation. And besides, by the time he retired, the dollar hadn’t lost so much value that he and my mother couldn’t live a modest middle-class lifestyle on what he’d saved. They paid for everything in cash: cars, the house in Sun City, their daily necessities. If they couldn’t afford to buy it in cash, they didn’t buy it. And they lived pretty well.

That cash-only lifestyle — and its obvious benefits when good times turn to hard times — was what taught me never to buy anything that you can’t afford to pay for out of pocket. That includes a house: if you don’t have $500,000 in savings (and then some), don’t buy a $500,000 house. Buy a $100,000 house and pay for it in cash dollah.

[Unless, of course, your investments are returning more than the amount of interest you would have to pay on a mortgage loan. That concept was above my father’s head, but it’s worked OK for me.]

I think he never had a very happy life. Or if he did, it was only for short stretches. He went to sea most of his adult life: hard, tedious work. As for the ten-year stretch in Arabia? Who knows what he really thought about it: he wasn’t a complainer. I doubt if he thought much about it one way or the other: he took things as they lay.

My mother used my (supposed…) infection with mononucleosis in the 6th grade as an excuse to demand that we come back to the States. He reluctantly agreed. We moved to California, where for a few years he shipped out of Rodeo (in the San Francisco Bay Area) and then for a few more years out of Long Beach. By nature he was a homebody — he loved to putter, and he would cheerfully do things like scrub the kitchen floor for my mother. But now “home” was a cabin on an oil tanker.

He retired in the late 1960s…just in time for a wild inflationary period. Shortly, the value of his life savings shrunken, he had to go back to sea: he was on a boat when I graduated from college, and he was stuck in a storm off Alaska when I got married.

Finally he retired again, once and for all, and came “home” to Sun City.

I believe he and my mother were happy enough there, for awhile. But it wasn’t long before she smoked herself to death. Not surprisingly, given that she was smoking six packs a day by the time she died, she lasted only another six or seven years after they moved to Arizona. Then he had to care for her while she died hideously over a four- or five-month period.

Devastated by her death and the horror show that accompanied it, he sold the Sun City house, moved to a life-care community, and married a woman he met there. This was not an especially happy match. But because he was afraid that if he divorced her she would get all his money (Arizona is a community-property state), he stayed miserably in the union. By way of survival, he snuck off and rented a studio at another old-folkerie…he would tell the wifeling that he was taking the car to the repair shop, and then he would repair, all right: to the other apartment and sit in front of the TV all day.

LOL! You shoulda seen the Vigoro fly when she found out about that! 😀

When you come right down to it, life is a raft made of palm fronds, isn’t it?

The State of the…Whatever-We’ve-Got-Here…

Today’s Quora post:

What are your thoughts on Dr. Fauci telling reporters that America might still be battling smallpox and polio if today’s kind of misinformation existed back then?

Unstuck in Time

Disequilibrium, indeed. More like “unstuck in time,” I fear.

I’ve disliked the modernified Scottsdale Fashion Square for some years. Once a pleasant place to shop in tony venues, in recent years it has been upgraded to “contemporary”…another word for “cold,” “hard-edged,” “noisy and echoey,” “engineered to feel hectic,” and…well…”not a place you’d like to hang out if you had some other choice.” So by and large I stay away from it, because a visit there usually devolves into an annoyance of one sort or another.

But…my MacBook needs some attention. Actually, what it needs is a compatible external hard drive, preferably one designed to work with Mac equipment.

Apple kindly closed its store in Biltmore Fashion Park, which was at least moderately civilized. Their other store, in Arrowhead Mall, is too small for its clientele: every time you go there, you find yourself waiting interminably for help, crammed in elbow-to-elbow with a whole bunch of other glassy-eyed folks who are waiting interminably.

So. Let’s try something altogether different, in the Apple Department.

After I seethed my way back across the city and got back into the house, I searched Google for independent Mac technicians, and lo! Found several. One over at 32nd Street & McDowell answered the phone and said to come on in any day this week.

He said to call in the morning of the day I’d like to meet him and make an appointment then. So…by tomorrow I should have regained part of my sanity — whatever is left of it — and so I’ll arrange to get this thing over to him and get HIM to fix it.

Orrrr… As for the hard drive? Says he: it needs to be formatted for the Mac.

Who knew?

Where was I in my planned rant?

Yes, the uglified Scottsdale Fashion Square. It is a long drive from the Funny Farm through unpleasant traffic: a good 30 to 40 minutes, outside of rush hour. When you get there…I swear…every time you surface over there, they’ve changed things around and fucked things up. Now you have to navigate past a trolling valet parking service to make your way up into a high-rise parking garage. Memorize where you left the car. Find the steps or elevator. Memorize which set of steps you used to get down to the ground floor. Then hike.

And hike. And hike.

The Apple store is ALLLLL THE WAY ON THE FAR SIDE of the freshly ugly mall, forcing you to walk up and down steps, through hectic crowds, past endless kiosks selling junk, all the time accosted by the loudest echoing racket you ever hoped never to have to hear. The atmosphere is cold, snobby, overpriced, hectic, and annoying.

Finally I get there. I tell the service rep I have an appointment. I explain that the Macbook won’t talk to the hard drive so there’s no question of backing up data: it just can’t be done. She gives me a blank look. For all the world, it appears that she doesn’t understand what I’m talking about.

I try again: “I would like to buy an external drive that is compatible with this Macbook — preferably one that is made by Apple.”

Blank look.

After another try, I give up.

Furious, I stalk back to the car and head back out through the ever-evolving landscape that is the ever-Los Angelizing Valley of the We-DO-Mean Sun.

Yechhh!

Remember when malls were fun to shop in?

Remember when customer service was not more aptly called customer disservice?

Remember when Apple had awe-inspiring, blow-you-away, superb customer service?

The present angst is, I am quite sure, because I am unstuck in time: a creature of another age. And I can tell you for damn sure, the present age is not one I would like to live through much longer. What a flikkin’ dystopia we inhabit!

Driving homeward, homeward, ever homeward across the east/west main drag that in Ritzyville is called “Lincoln Boulevard” and in mittel-America is called “Glendale Road,” (interesting how rich folk get more characters for the words used to describe their thoroughfares, no?), it struck me that the whole city has changed significantly over the past five or six years. Not as annoyingly or as extremely as Scottsdale Fashion Square, but still…a lot. Mostly, in the regions I drifted through, in the form of gentrification of already pretty damn fancy houses. All along the way, houses have been fancified, dandified, and — often — ripped down and replaced with ultra-modern mansions painted eye-searing white.

Neighborhoods are recognizable, but…different.  The whole city is recognizable but different, I guess. Most of it, anyway.

So… Yah. I guess the issue here is that I’m unstuck in time. Living IN the here and now, but not OF the here and now. I feel like I’m afloat in a fluid reality. That which is real is not what was real.

Some squib on the vicissitudes of advancing senility that I read the other day said that one of the ways to stave off dementia is to drive around new neighborhoods. In this city, driving around old neighborhoods is driving around new ones. 😀 Seriously: it was kinda fun cruising through old stomping grounds that no longer look quite the same, and then sliding through the new stomping ground and finding previously undiscovered short-cuts and pass-throughs. If this activity staves off Alzheimer’s, I guess I’ll be buying a whole lot more gas. For awhile, anyway…

Rat Wars: Cavalry the Rescue

The enemy

My goodness! You should have SEEN what Gerardo and his crew (a.k.a., his immediate and extended family!) did this morning! .

So…a little background: determined to engage full battle with Rattie, a week ago I asked folks on the RP Facebook Page for recommends for someone who can cope with roof rats. Called the most ecstatically raved-about gent. The guy wanted a thousand dollars to secure the fort against rats and kill off any present occupants.

Don’t think so, brother..

Depressed, call Gerardo. He says, as usual: ay señora, no problema! 

He shows up with his crew, he himself armed for full battle. And those guys worked themselves like freakin’ oxen!.

Gerardo, who in his inimitable way knows what he’s doing (in spades), climbed into the accursed attic. Fatlady followed him up to survey the battleground. Satan had sealed most of the openings with sheets of wire screen. In the gerjillion-degree heat, Gerardo checked every opening, repaired all that which was decrepit, and installed new barriers where necessary. .

His sidekicks, a.k.a. los gentes de la familia, pruned back every tree branch that was within leaping distance of the roof (which was one whole helluva lot), hauled the copious trimmings into the alley, and generally supervised the boss. .

The day

The boss climbed up on top of the freaking chimney(!!!!!), where he was annoyed and disgusted to find piles of rat poop (not unlike cat poop, interestingly enough). He cleaned up that mess, and then he installed a heavy-duty screen barrier across the top of the chimney to keep Rattie and her tribe out — as well, one presumes, as the errant dove and pigeon. .

Jayzus! The heat and the humidity defied belief!.

They cleaned up the entire vast mess and presented what Gerardo clearly thought was a blinding bill: $550, which included $200 for a check that had gotten left under the front-door mat until it melted in the recent rain..

As nothing, IMHO, compared with the other dude’s $1,000 starter fee. Gerardo pledged to keep the barriers in good repair, going forward, and the trees trimmed back from the eaves..

I suggested that he and his crew toss off their togs and take a dip in the pool to cool themselves down in the crushing heat — promising to hide in the bedroom and not disturb their masculine sense of propriety. He would have none of it. .

You realize that Gerardo makes his son — yes, also an Eagle Scout! — work all summer? Yes. He had his kid in tow, heaving and hauling. 😀 No goofing off for that young gent. .

Wow!

Real Estate Through the Roof: Right up with the cop helicopters

Seven a.m. and it’s hotter than a two-dollah cookstove out there. Around 100 degrees, headed for 115. And humid: 21% just now.

Speaking of the loony tunes entailed in living in Phoenix, lookit THIS.

$585,000 for THAT? A tiny little out-of-date bungalow, built in 1941, no pool, fake grass(!!) or else plain dirt, in one of the noisiest parts of the city: 1700 square feet including the guest house(!!). For less than that (by far), you could buy a palatial apartment in my friends’ high-rise right on Central Avenue, with a view of the entire East Valley from Camelback to the South Mountains.

Real estate prices have gone bonkers here. Here’s a bargain: 395 grand to live in 1500 square feet in the middle of Drug Dealer Central. Hoooly mackerel! I wouldn’t get out of my car in that area.

Here in the’Hood, they’re asking $519,000 for an 1839 s.f. house cattycorner up the street from the Funny Farm. That’s just insane. The upshot of it is going to be that property taxes soon will go so high here I won’t be able to afford to stay in this house much longer.

They’ve done a lot of fix-up on that house, clearly with an eye to selling it. Interestingly, I haven’t seen a lot of workmen over there — ever. So he must be pretty handy: presumably they redid the 1970s kitchen themselves, turning it into the latest in stainless and granite.

I’m thinking I should replace the Mexican tile countertops in the kitchen here. Put in slabs of granite. Mexican tile is wildly out of date now, plus it has a crack in one place.

*********

…or maybe not…

*********

Pool Dude showed up about 7:30. Along about then a cop copter starts circling frantically over Upper Richistan. This continues all the time he’s working.

Out of curiosity, we call up the neighborhood Facebook page:

Does anyone know why the police have 11th Ave between Wunderland and Larry’s Lane blocked off? I hope all is well with our neighbors..

Alyssa L: Oh no! I hope everyone is ok too

Donnie DS: There are looking for a man that ran into that block. There were 2 men suspected of assault. They have one in custody already.

Reply: Donnie DS thank you. My husband just spoke with the officers and confirmed the same. The officer said they are looking for someone. While there the police were searching the backpack of the one suspect and found a gun. Police said to remain vigilant. They have brought in a K-9 unit so hopefully they find him quickly.

    • Reply: Laurie L I wish the police would have given you a description so we could possibly assist.

Reply: Carrie B Hispanic Male, Blue shirt, tattoos

Bj U: seems like they’ve got him surrounded in the Donleys’ yard, i can hear them yelling orders

Reply: Bj U I hope so. The officer just told me they may need to be coming into my yard and to have everyone inside doors locked

Reply: Bj U he just told me they’re finishing up.

AC W: My husband was the one involved in the assault. Here’s a picture he took beforehand. He’s still with the police, but this is what he texted me.

“He asked me what I was looking at them and I said I wanted to see where they were going. So he stopped in front of me and told me he’d stay right where he wanted. Then he pulled the handle of the gun up from his waistband. I hit him w my coffee cup and knocked him down. Then his buddy jumped me, and I fought him off as best I could. They took off eastbound on Larry’s Lane and I chased them as far as the firefighter’s house. Then I banged on his door and asked him to call 911.”

AC W: Oh gosh! Hope you’re okay! Glad the police are out in force. Praying for everyone’s safety!!!

Reply: Emily P Glad you guys are okay.

Reply: Wendy R WOW! hope they find them. how scary!! Is your husband ok?

Reply:  AC W He is fine. Just a little scratched up. Apparently the other guys are a bit more beat up. They have one suspect and the gun. The other guy is completely surrounded.

Wendy R Go Phx.PD!

AC W such a scary situation! Glad they have the guys!

Reply: AC W glad your husband is ok. Thankful he is out there looking-after our neighborhood, just hoping something like this doesn’t happen again!

Reply Sid C: AC W glad he’s fine . Thank him from the neighborhood for us. RP sticking together.

[And so on….]

Holy sh!t. Ruby and I were over there about an hour earlier: Upper Richistan is our favorite doggy-walk venue.

See why one of my mottos is “Over my dead body”?

Pool Dude was here throughout the episode.

{sigh} I prob’ly should have gone back to the Hidey-Hole and retrieved my father’s .38. But with PD here, I figured things were probably as OK as they were gonna get. Besides which, you know and I know that Pool Dude undoubtedly does not wander around people’s backyards without resources. And I’m dead sure he can shoot straighter than I can.

Think of that. People are willing to pay upwards of 500 grand (upwards of a million, over in Upper Richistan) to live in…THIS place????