Coffee heat rising

Duck and Cover! HOLY mackerel!!

LOL! (okay okay, you have to be a fully jaded resident of the ‘Hood to think this is funny…baaaad human!) Remember how I wondered, in a recent post, how long it would take the young military family who just moved into my old house, up near the intersection of Gangbanger’s Way and Conduit of Blight, to discover that a cop helicopter parks over the house every Friday and Saturday night at 11 p.m. sharp? Welp…yesterday we got Parked Helicopter with a vengeance — and not even a Friday, not even the middle of the night. 😀

Along about 7 in the morning, we got the old familiar WAP WAP WAP WAP WAP…but louder than normal. Meaning closer than normal: the guy was hovering over a house one street to the north and three lots to the west of the Funny Farm. WTF?

Check the neighborhood Facebook page, where gossip has it that a cop was killed in the slum apartments to the west of us, facing on Blight, and they’re trying to catch the perp. Or noooo, it was a K9 cop that was shot and killed. Or…whatEVER…somethin’s comin’ down….

Hm. Fetch the pistol. Consider whether ’tis better to lock all the doors and hunker down or to throw the dog in the car and head out to Sun City. Blight is shut down tight…I’d have to go around Robin Hood’s Barn to get west to drive to SC. My son, you may be sure, would not be pleased to see his muther and her dog show up in his driveway at seven in the morning.

An hour or three later, the story  finally hit the local PlayNooz. They killed the perp, but the dog, contrary to earlier reports, was not dispatched to its maker.

Over to Faux Gnus, to see what they have to say about it. Believe it or not, Fox is the only decent broadcast news station in the county. Hmmm… This report has the dog shot, too. The apartments are not the weary piles directly to the west of us, but an even tireder complex just north of Gangbanger’s Way. This garden spot adjoins the trailer park where we nearly bought a mobile home for SDXB’s mom, Tootsie…but (fortunately…wisely) thought better of it.

Those folks who moved into my old house, much closer to that bucolic intersection…bet they’re just beginning to get the idea of why I moved away from there. Won’t be long before they start to wonder why the hell they didn’t just move into base housing for the duration of Dad’s assignment.

Yarnell’s a-callin’… One thing you can say about Yarnell: even if they have a police department (highly unlikely), it can’t afford a helicopter.

No helicopters over this one…

The Queen of Ugly

I just can NOT do Zoom.

And why can I not do Zoom? Because the damn thing shows you — all through the online get-together — a video of yourself. There are some things in this world that I do not wish to see, and that — an image of myself — ranks right up at the top, Number One, among the things that I do not wish to see. Ever.

Nor that anyone else should have to see, come to think of it. 😀

For reasons that no one seems to know — or to be willing to articulate — I am spectacularly unphotogenic. Have been for all of my life. Pictures of me apparently don’t actually look like me. Or if they do, it’s pretty tragic.

I can see myself in the mirror, and I imagine I look OK. I’m not especially fat. Or especially skinny. I do not dress spectacularly, but neither are my outfits unusually dowdy or ugly. I wear good make-up and I do know how to apply it. My hair is a radiant chestnut with red and blonde highlights — and even in my dotage it has hardly any gray. Guessing from the reflection in the mirror, I’m neither very pretty nor very homely.

Other people claim that I look normal enough, even attractive. When I was young and buxom, men used to holler at me, follow me, and make passes at me.

But aim a camera at me, and that changes instantly. In any kind of photograph, whether it’s a still photo or a video, I come out looking uglier than Pussley. More than homely: ugly. Doesn’t matter what I’m wearing. Doesn’t matter what the background is. Doesn’t matter how my hair is styled or how much or little makeup I have on. In any image, I look so ugly as to bring tears to my eyes.

Which is exactly what happened when I turned on Zoom this evening. The program first off shows you an image of yourself. And…oh, my God. It actually did make me cry, so hideous did I look in that thing.

So…’bye! Turned it off. Wish I could turn off the memory.

Years ago, I needed to get a publicity photo done for a book I’d written. I was working at Arizona Highways magazine that time, as staff editor. If you’ve ever seen Arizona Highways, you know that its specialty is making photos look gorgeous.

The magazine’s photo editor, who was an experienced photojournalist and very talented with a camera, proposed to photograph me for this particular milestone. This was very kind of him, because he really did happen to be a high-octane talent.

I tried to explain to him that no matter what anyone tried to do, photos of me invariably made me look like the Wrath. (You understand: he was not the first professional photographer who had tried to do a portrait of me!)

He was having none of it. He felt assured that he could produce a photo that would make me look great and help sell books.

Okay.

I got my hair styled and laid on the make-up and tricked myself out in my best professional clothes. He showed up with more gear than you can imagine, including special lights and a background and a reflective umbrella thing and…it was all very impressive. I smiled into the expensive professional camera and he took a slew of photos and a good time was had by all…and then he went off to develop the things.

And when he came back with them?

Yep. I looked like the Ugly Duckling magically transformed into an Ugly Woman. He had to allow that was the case. I said I tried to tellya: any time anyone tries to take my picture, this is how it turns out.

He studied the photos for what seemed like quite a few minutes and finally said, truly puzzled, “I just don’t understand it.”

Neither do I. But I sure hate it. And I hate Zoom as much as I hate any other photo device. They all make me cry.

The Attic Bootie

So yesterday SDXB and NG (Semi-Demi-Exboyfriend and New Girlfriend) drove into town so we could get together to try out a new hiking area. We’d focused on an obscenely upscale neighborhood where we would find some mild grades with paved roads. This worked well — we strolled past $10 million homes that looked more like hotels than like dwellings, had a great deal of fun laughing at people with no better taste or better ways to waste their money, and got about two hours of mild exercise. Then returned to my house without the usual side junket to the sidewalk café at AJs, for fear of the plague germs.

A-n-n-n-d…before they could get out the door to head back to Sun City, what should happen but the doorbell rings! Here’s this elderly couple. Their daughter and her family have moved into my old house, three lots in from Conduit of Blight Blvd.

For reasons that no one can imagine, they’ve climbed up in the attic and found…yes! The several boxes of old freelance clips and journals that I “forgot” up there, on purpose, because I didn’t want to drag 200 pounds of paper down the ladder and because I didn’t want any of that stuff. I figured Celia, who bought the house from me, would throw it all out if/when she found it.

No.

Somehow, they’d figured out who it belonged to and found out where I live. And they decided to drag all that junk over here! 

Well. Frankly, I had no idea how I was gonna get it into the garbage can behind the old house. And I have no better idea how to get it into the garbage can here. If I’d wanted it, I wouldn’t have left it behind, would I have? Arrrrghhhhhhh!

They’re a sweet couple: they live in Payson. Daughter’s married to an Air Force captain. Two kids, just reaching high-school age. Apparently Dear Daughter hasn’t lived there long enough to register that the cop helicopters park over that house at 11 p.m. every Friday and Saturday night. And I sincerely hope the guy across the road, the one who was given to throwing the living-room furniture through the front window and to engaging in fist-fights with workmen in the driveway, has moved out. Surely the abusive son of the divorcee across the street has moved out — what a sh!thead that guy was… Her parents must be dead by now…I sure hope she’s not living there alone with that brute, a fine chip off the paternal block.

Well, I expect when the captain sees some of the shenanigans that go on there all the time, they’ll be movin’ on.

Meanwhile, this pair dragged these 15-year-old boxes of paper into the house and dropped them on the living-room floor. And you know that anything that’s been sitting in the attic of a house occupied first by the feckless Yola and then by a series of renters is full of termites!

Holy sh!t.

§ § § §

So this morning I went through all those boxes the new neighbors hauled over here. Interestingly, there was no sign of termites munching on paper — or of any other kind of bugs. I do not spray for these pests, which are endemic here, because I’m allergic to the crap bug guys spray around — and because a coworker who did hire regular spraying got very, very sick from the stuff and almost died from it. She and her dog, both. She almost died before, by sheer serendipity, the veterinarian registered the fact that her symptoms echoed the dog’s and alerted her doctor.

So we take our chances with marauding six-legged critters.

Having won that wager, I’ve now filled up Other Daughter’s gigantic alley trash bin as well as my own, and there’s still stuff to figure out what to do with.

One box was full of old Arizona Highways magazines that I wrote for or that I edited while I was on staff. I hate to throw those out. Old issues of Highways are worthless, because every little old lady in the state has jammed her garage with them. But there’s kind of a sentimental value to them. I guess. For me, and for me alone.

On the other hand, if I’ve survived the past 15 years without mooning over them (or having them stashed in my present attic…), there’s really no reason I can’t get through the rest of my life without them. And…I have no idea where to put them.

Then there are a half-dozen or more binders full of notes for articles I wrote during my journalistic career. Again: WHY do I need those? And remaining to be cleaned up and put away: a gigantic, fat binder full of correspondence from 1987-88. Back in the day before we had e-mail, letters were…you remember: letters. Apparently I kept a copy of everything I wrote to friends and to my mother-in-law…talk about obsessive!!!!

As for the journals? Twenty volumes of them, stretching all the way back to high-school years!

This morning as I was staring at this debris and wondering what to do with it, I noticed in a letter to my former boss at Phoenix Ragazine that I’d had a killer book idea: a guide for academics to writing for the popular media. My gawd! WHY did I let that one fall by the wayside? Jeez: $$$$$$$$$

I think my old editor Jennifer Crewe is still at Columbia. She’s a big cheese there now. Maybe I’ll send her a proposal.

LOL! Might have been the first to think of that back in 1988, but by now surely it’s been done. Still. It can’t hurt to ask.

§ § § §

Good lord! Plowing through all this old paper — even in a superficial way, just to figure out what year we’re talkin’ about and what binder to stash it in — really brings back the memories.

Lots of letters and stuff from my late mother-in-law Henrietta. She and I fell out long before I left her son, but remained on speaking terms until then. She’s the one who lived to be 109 years old. God help whatever may remain of her, wherever it may be.

She had two sons, both of whom she doted on. One was my husband, who took after his grandfather, a level-headed small-town business owner. They say that with human males, one’s nature skips a generation: a man is more likely to take after a grandparent than a parent. And DXH was exactly like that. If he’d been born in the 19th century, he’d have been a clone of his grandfather, except that he wasn’t as outgoing and social as the old man. But otherwise he would have had a similar life and similar lifetime achievements.

She also doted upon DXH’s brother, of course. A long and in places tartly hilarious (in other places pathetic) story attaches to that one’s post-collegiate years, but we probably should not rehearse that here, since most of the principals are still living. Suffice it to say that those journals record some interesting and amazing customs of the Vietnam war years.

Every page of those journals and letters is full of crazy memories: graduate school, Phoenix Ragazine, Arizona Highways, the life of a society matron, academia, local and national politics, on and endlessly on. Can’t read a paragraph of that junk without being reminded of some saga, most of them best not reproduced for public consumption.

Someday, though, I suppose they’ll make interesting historical documents. Assuming my son doesn’t throw them out after he inherits them.

Life in the Department of Looney Tunes…

Phoenix: what a place!

This morning I had to traipse to the dermatologist’s, a 40-minute trek, each way. About half of this journey traverses a seven-lane surface street called Northern Avenue. The odd lane in these big main drags is a center lane restricted to left turns. You can use them to turn left ad lib across oncoming lanes just about anywhere in the middle of any block, but at the major intersections they’re (obviously) controlled by the traffic light. There, you pull out partway into the intersection on the green. Poised in the void between 12 lanes of intersecting vehicles, you stand till the light turns yellow, at which point you floor it and  FLY across the oncoming traffic as though your life depended on it. Which it does. If you can’t cut some oncoming driver off safely or slink in behind him as he shoots past in the opposite direction, you wait till the light turns red and then cruise across three lanes of restless and annoyed drivers. (All Arizona drivers are, by nature, restless and annoyed. Many have certain other features, such as drunk, stoned, crazy, stupid, and whatnot.)

So I’m cruising westerly, westerly, ever westerly when, at 27th Avenue, I come across a nice wrecky-poo in the westbound left-turn lane. A moron has miscalculated and driven out in front of a cross-bound vehicle. Speed limit on these streets is 40 mph, which means everyone is driving 50 mph. Not surprisingly, the moron’s truck has been creamed. The front end is crumpled tinfoil. A cop is trying to restore order. Passersby are gawking. An ambulance approaches.

My coconspirators and I manage to sneak through the green light before another emergency vehicle arrives and while the cop is distracted with trying to deal with the smashed vehicles’ occupants.

Back up to speed, we approach 35th Avenue — this is the next intersection on down the road! From a distance, we can see flashing lights and…and…yes!!! ANOTHER wrecky-poo!

This one defies belief.

As we approach the intersection, we find a good-sized pickup — Silverado or F250 size — in the left-turn lane. A moron has rear-ended this vehicle, apparently at speed. IN THE FREAKING LEFT-TURN LANE! Moron’s car is unrecognizable. But he’s managed to smash into the truck so hard that he’s pretty well bashed in the truck’s bed and its rear wheel wells, and…get this… A wheel on the moron’s vehicle has sprung loose intact from the car and it has rolled down the road and underneath the rear end of the truck, where it is now wedged, standing upright.

WTF?????

This also appears to have happened just a few moments ago. A couple of befuddled-looking cops are on the scene starting to wrangle some stunned-looking participants. We who are passing drivers push on, before these cops can think to hold up the traffic, and we all escape intact.

Ahhhh…. Just imagine how stoned or drunk you would have to be to believe the center two-way left-turn lane is another ordinary traffic lane, so that you’re cruising along at 40 to 50 mph in it. And accordingly, because you figure everyone else is doing the same, you don’t happen to notice that the guy in front of you is stopped. With his left-turn signal flashing.

What a place, indeed!

Scam Alert

One ringie-dingie…two ringie-dingies… In comes a robocall from some outfit claiming to be Amazon, saying I’d made a $400 charge there and they were calling to confirm that.

This is complete BS.

DO NOT ENGAGE with these crooks. Check your Amazon account for charges, and then contact Amazon’s customer service. They will check further to be sure nothing is amiss.

If you’re senior-citizen age or you have older relatives, you should be aware and alert older folks to this scam. Crooks get age-related lists of names and phone numbers from outfits like AARP and target older people with this sort of hustle, because elders tend to be more trusting or more easily confused than younger people. Hang up on them!

Inflation

So I’m sittin’ around here (actually, slamming around doing some housework and unplugging the kitchen drain) when for unknown reasons the brain decides to reflect on bygone quarrels between my mother and my father over the way she used to spend “his” money.

In those days, it was almost impossible for a woman to get a job that paid more than pocket change. At one point my mother got a real estate license and went to work for a broker who was peddling property at the Salton Sea (we lived in Southern California at the time) — it was quite the little scam, from which she made approximately nothing. Actually, I believe her take was in the negative numbers, by the time you added up the gasoline and the cost of the damage to the car’s paint from sandstorms out on the desert. So in fact, whatever we lived on was what he earned.

My father deeply resented the way she would spend “his” money, although we did not live high off the hog in general. We rented mid- middle-class apartments, drove Fords, never traveled, did not go out to eat, did not gallivant to speak of. But she did like to buy clothes and makeup and she did like to shop in department stores. One time when he was home from the ship he happened upon a bill from a department store, the result of which was quite a sh!tfit, in which he ordered her to “stop spending my money.”

She used to shop in this department store, not far from where we lived…she was a hopeless sucker for the cosmetics salesladies. It was a nice middle-class store, but nothing swell-elegant. It was probably a Broadway: on the order of a Dillard’s. Not I. Magnin or Saks, but not Penney’s either.

She liked to wear lots of makeup and lots of perfume. Because she smoked a LOT, her skin was a mess to begin with and she needed perfume to temper the tobacco stink. And we’d spent 10 years in Saudi Arabia at a time when people imagined that a “healthy tan” was good for you. This meant her face was your basic shoe leather, the result being that every morning she would sit down in front of her dressing table and coat herself in layer after layer of moisturizers, cover-ups, foundation, rouge, and powder. An easy target for a sales pitch, she never understood (or rather, she refused to believe) that there was essentially no difference between a cheap make-up like, say, Coty, Avon, or Revlon and pricey stuff like Estée Lauder, and so she would allow herself to be talked into buying a whole line of spectacularly expensive products.

I can remember standing around a cosmetics counter with her as she browsed and bought and yakked and browsed and bought and yakked and finally we came away with something over $100 in make-up and perfume. This was in Southern California, so I would have been in my first or second year of high school — 1960 or 61.

Know how much a hundred bucks in 1961 is worth in 2020 dollars? Eight hundred sixty-nine dollars and twenty-nine cents! 

Holy sh!t!!

No wonder the poor guy blew a gasket! That would have been as much as he earned in a month — maybe more — going to sea full-time! As a Merchant Marine commander with a license to sail oil tankers of any tonnage on any ocean…

When I went to the University of Arizona in 1962, my father gave me $1000 a year to live on. It was enough to pay my tuition, the dorm rent, books, and food…with a little left over for clothes and incidentals. In 2020 dollars, that would be almost $1,000 a month, though after my freshman year tuition was essentially free. So…just imagine how outrageous spending a month’s worth of that on make-up would’ve been. 😀

Strange, what crosses your mind when the place is quiet and you have nothin’ else to think about but cleaning the kitchen counters…