Coffee heat rising

Woman as Cargo Camel

Women’s clothing, as those of you who are female know, often has no pockets. If pockets exist, they’re more decorative than functional. Yet women, especially mothers, have to carry around piles of junk and debris. If you have kids, you need to haul stuff for them. But even if you don’t: a woman’s wallet is not made to to go into a pocket. Hence, the purse: a pack for a pretty little camel.

Some time ago, I decided to throw over those traces. I wanted to quit lugging a purse around, once and for all. Reasons abound:

  • Hauling a bag over your shoulder or in your hand everyplace you go is a nuisance.
  • It makes you a target for purse-snatchers and muggers.
  • Purses are easy to misplace, easy to forget.
  • Once you’ve lost a purse with your wallet in it, the resulting hassle defies belief:
    • Searching from pillar to post for the thing
    • Calling the bank to disable use of lost bank cards and checks
    • Ordering new bank cards and checks
    • Lost cash, if you carry cash with you (I no longer do so, for exactly this reason)
    • The amazingly time-consuming hassle of replacing a driver’s license
    • More hassle to replace other forms of ID and entry cards
    • Buying a new wallet, which at best rquires an Amazon order, but more likely will require traipsing to a department store
    • Putting someone else up to buying groceries and the like until replacements arrive

On and on and on…

Contemplating these joys, and, after having been chased around an Albertson’s parking lot by a panhandler (thief?), I decided to go into full rebellion: REFUSE to carry a purse around.

This is more difficult than one would think, because of the way women’s clothes are designed — presumably to fit some clothing maker’s idea of “sexy.” About the only clothing item that consistently has pockets is a pair of jeans. And even then, pockets in women’s pants are often shallow and tight, making it difficult to carry even a small wallet. And most women’s wallets are anything but “small” — the maker’s assumption being, reasonably enough, that the thing will be carried in a purse.

So…how to pull it off?

Several strategies, at least one of which entails some risk:

  • Hide your driver’s license in your car, so that you always have it at hand..
  • Get copy of your driver’s license to carry into a store, in case someone demands to see it when you go to write a check or use a charge card.
  • Get a metal card carrier and stash all your ID and credit cards in it.

Obviously, keeping your driver’s license in your car is, in some respects, a bad idea: anyone who steals your car or even just breaks in will be stealing one of your key pieces of identification. However if you’re lugging a purse around, all you have to do is forget it someplace or get it yanked off your shoulder as you’re walking across a parking lot. I’ve come to regard stashing it in the car as worth the risk.

Accepting that risk frees me from having to lug a bag everywhere I go, from trying to find someplace safe to stash it when I get to where I’m going, from having to remember to take it with me when I leave that destination, and from the risk of purse-snatching. It also means I have to look for clothing that has pockets — and pretty much precludes wearing anything very “fashionable.”

Fortunately, because I no longer go into an office, I can live in jeans. With the shift from office to working online from home, this is probably true for more women than it has been in the past.

And I’ve found that it’s very much worth the effort to shed the purse-hauling custom. Without a bag full of identification, cash, phone, bubble gum, and whatnot, the local Albertson’s parking lot — a haven for panhandlers and shady types — becomes a great deal less menacing. The risk that I’ll misplace an indispensable piece of identification almost disappears. No bag hanging off my shoulder means no sagging clothing, which means I can wear lighter, cooler shirts in the summertime. And it’s one fewer thing to have to remember all the time.

One thing after another…

Man! Has it ever been a busy few days! Where to start?

Dog Busting, Friend Busting, Weekend Busting

My good friends KJG and VickyC have been machinating a weekend junket to Payson, whither KJG and Mr. KJG recently moved. We were hugely looking forward to seeing the G’s in their new home, a Very Big Deal indeed.

Between the time I left  yesterday morning to drop Ruby the Corgi off at my son’s house for the day and the time I arrived at VickyC’s house in a historic downtown neighborhood, KJG had called, reached VickyC, and said the plans were off.

Mr. KJG had taken their beautiful and endlessly beloved pet greyhound for her morning walk, and while he was out a neighbor’s loose mutt attacked them. The greyhound was alarmingly injured. What the status is now, I do not know — no reply was forthcoming from my emailed inquiry, so in true Drama Queen mode, I assume the dog is dead or in extremis.

This greyhound is Mr. KJG’s baby. They both really love that hound. Should it be permanently hurt or dead, then that is a major tragedy in their household.*

The thing is, rural veterinaries are often not equipped to cope with this kind of emergency. When Charley had his self-induced heatstroke while on the road with M’hijito, the vet up in Nowhereseville said that if the dog was to survive at all — which he did not think would happen — he would have to be transported to a 24-hour emergency vet in the Valley. Additionally, greyhounds are not like normal dogs. One of their eccentricities is that they cannot tolerate the anaesthesia normally used in veterinary practices — they require a special anaesthetic, and they require a vet who a) knows this (good luck with that!), b) who has the stuff in stock, and c) knows how to use it. So you pretty much have to have already established a relationship with a vet before anything happens to such a dog. They’ve been there plenty of time to have done so, but I’m sure this esisode was not a grand way to launch the weekend.

Meanwhile, a new bishop for the diocese was consecrated. It was quite a chivaree and one that I wanted to attend and to sing at. However, my friends and I had made these plans many weeks ago, and trying to get three busy schedules to coordinate is quite a challenge. So I didn’t feel I could duck out of it…

*Some hours later: We’re told the dog is patched up and will be OK. Good news!

Planning for Good Works

VickyC and I punted by going to breakfast, then briefly browsing some antique stores, and plotting some schemes for volunteer work. She is a graduate of the Valley Leadership program that trains young executives, and so has all sorts of contacts and projects.

After many years at her current job with a regional water supplier, she recently applied for a position with a national nonprofit for which my ex- once served as state president and then as a national board member. Naturally, I was very interested in this development and suggested that I’d like to volunteer, assuming all his old cronies have now moved on. That appears to be the case, and so if she gets the job maybe I can sign back on.

Meanwhile, her employer encourages people to participate in community work, and so she already is much engaged. Among of her interests are the de-privatization of our prison system and initiatives to rehabilitate offenders back into society so they do not end up going back to jail. One of the groups she works with is looking for volunteers, so she may introduce me to those folks.

Sometimes I think it’s time to quit the editorial business — just shut it down, rather than continue wrestling with getting paid and ponying up cash to have the taxes done. WonderAccountant has already suggested we de-incorporate it, and we’re about to send in the paperwork to convert it to an LLC. This would much reduce the costs of tax preparation, and also much de-complicate the work she does for me and the bidness. But…given what I’m paid, I do wonder why I even bother: wouldn’t it be better to do something that helps folks for free?


All the edible contents of the pantry have been sitting in the freezer for a good three days now. That’s twice as long as is supposedly needed to kill off any infant moths and their eggs. Yay!

That cabinet is now mightily cleaned and very tidy. So today I retrieved the food and packed it back onto the shelves. Very nifty.

I’m almost certain that this infestation came from the dog kibble, an elegant variety of which I buy at an expensive gourmet grocery store. This stuff, I use as doggy treats and to spike the corgi’s custom-made chow. Although I threw out a bunch of aging products, the kibble was really the only thing that clearly was occupied.

WhatEVER. All the pantry goods are now secured inside jars with tight lids, even the pasta. That should discourage any further depredations. And it sure makes the shelves nice and neat.


Mattress Gambit

So I finally gave up and went to a MattressFirm outlet, the one next door to the Whole Foods at Town and Country. The general over-pricedness of this shopping center — well, with the exception of the Trader Joe’s, the upscale thrift store, and the Nordstrom’s Rack — does not inspire confidence. However, I did find a very comfortable inner-spring mattress, exactly what I had in mind, for well under a thousand dollars.

Can you imagine: $1,300 to $1,500+ for mattress from Penney’s????? Next door to the Costco in one of the grungiest shopping centers in the city???? A store that employs, far as anyone can tell, exactly ZERO sales people? Give. Me. A. Break.

This prize is supposed to be delivered tomorrow, and they will cart off the huge, unmoveable clunker that’s been occupying space in the bedroom for the past fifteen years.

Briefly, I considered having the delivery guys just tote it into the former TV room, which just now serves no purpose. A bed in there would turn it into a guest bedroom, eh?

But really, the room is too small for a queen-sized mattress. I’d have to buy some sort of platform for the thing or else just set it on the floor, neither of which I wanna do. Other furniture in there would have to go. And given that no one ever stays here overnight, the whole idea looked like a great deal more trouble than it’s worth. Really, it would make more sense to get an Ikea bed platform and toss a twin-size Tuft and Needle pad on it. Or a futon. So…

Vacuum Cleaner Fiasco

Now that did turn into a fiasco, when in a fit of frustration and exhaustion I abandoned the supposedly unfixable Shark vacuum at the 35th Avenue Sew’n’Vac, an outfit that in the past has cheerfully repaired the things.

Apparently staff there outright lied when they said parts could not be purchased (oddly, they’re readily available on Amazon) and the machines cannot be opened to work on them (oddly, Amazon customers report all kinds of repairs having been done on their older models).

By leaving the machine there and asking them to throw it out so I didn’t have to tote it home and figure out how to dispose of it, I essentially let the store steal it. And…they have in the past sold second-hand vacuums.

But…I have another old Shark vacuum, which runs fine but is just old and tired. I use it to vacuum the car and pick up the occasional mess of broken glass. After I realized that yea, verily, parts are easy to order and others report no problem with repair jobs, I called another vacuum repair store. The guy who answered said they could clean and refurbish that vacuum.

Since I truly hate the new Shark I bought at Costco the other day — it’s swiveling suction head threatens to yank your shoulder out of joint — I’m thinking I’ll have this other repair guy fix up the old one and then return the $150 number to Costco. So that will put a bundle of cash back in my checking account and relieve me, temporarily, of yet another source of annoyance.

Pool Fiasco

The newly (expensively) refurbished pool pump doesn’t seem to be working. Just now I’m too tired to be mad as a cat about that…but I surely should be. Yesterday I spent half the afternoon cleaning up the algae infestation that resulted from sending the damn pump to the shop for a week or ten days. WHAT a mess, and what a project!

The vacuum just simply does not run when plugged into the (expensive) new inlet on the side of the pool: hangs up on the accursed new hair-resistant drain covers and stops dead. And it is sucking air, causing the pump to cavitate.


So it’s now plugged into the strainer basket inlet. Again. This required reattaching three lengths of plastic hose. Still sucks air, still cavitates but now it runs like a bustard.

I’m thinking it’s possible one or more lengths of that hose is leaking. A couple of them are pretty old. But that stuff is ridiculously expensive . I really, truly do NOT want to go out and buy half a dozen lengths of it. They do have pool vacuum hoses at Amazon, but reviewers seem to hate them, and they come in 30- or 40-foot lengths. The shorter lengths — four or five feet — are preferable because you don’t have to replace the entire pricey length if one crack shows up, and because they’re easier to store.

At any rate, I’m getting very, very tired of paying Swimming Pool Service & Repair to get the damn job done right. They soak me for a service call every time they come over here to do something that should have been done as part of the refurbishing job.

The newly purchased hose bonnet gadget — used for picking up large debris that could damage Harvey the Hayward Pool cleaner — proved to be exceptionally annoying. The maker has added a new blandishment: lengths of nylon brush around the circumference. This stuff a) does not play well with the coarse new Pebble-sheen surface and b) pushes the debris out of the way instead of letting the device suck it up into the bonnet.

This afternoon I realized I could take a flat-head screwdriver to the frame and prize the stupid brushes out. By then Harvey had sucked up most of the BBs that had blown out of the damned palm trees into the pool, so haven’t yet tried to see how this “improvement” works. But, dammit, I see that I can get the old-fashioned no-cutesy-brush version from Amazon, for a lot less than I paid at Leslie’s. So I may try to snap those things back in, return it to Leslie’s, and order one that’s not so extortionately priced.

Doggy-Walk Fail

On the way back into the ’Hood from church, what should come galloping across the road but the BIGGEST, HEALTHIEST, HUSKIEST coyote I’ve ever seen in my life. He was gorgeous — in great health, full coat, and at least as big as a German shepherd. And on a dead run, presumably streaking away from something that spooked him.

One of the little girls on the corner of the road that leads toward La Maya and La Bethulia’s house started to putter after him on her bicycle. No grown-up being in evidence, I pulled a U-ie and cruised down the street after him. Didn’t see him in the alley, though that’s the most likely place for a coyote to take shelter. Stopped by La M’s neighbor’s house, where the family was puttering in the front yard, and told them to keep an eye out for the coyote-hunting kidlet. They hadn’t seen him come by, so he presumably shot up the alleyway.

At any rate, it’s now after dark. Ruby the Corgi has not had her daily doggy-walk, but with that big fella in the offing, I think I’d just as soon not take her out in prime coyote-prowling hours. So…she’ll be unhappy with me all evening.

So. Yeah:

One damfool thing after another!

Is Your Contractor Insured? Really?

So here’s another little life lesson I learned from the Olde Folkes yesterday. Decided to present this in a separate post, because it is a VERY big effing deal. Y’ere ’tis:

Whenever you have a contractor of any kind working around your house, ALWAYS BE SURE THEY’RE INSURED!

That’s even if you think they’re the nicest folks to come along since God created the Angel Gabriel. Even if they seem honest as Abe. Even if they work as hard as a plow horse.

Got that? Don’t just ask if they’re insured. Demand to see the policy. You want proof positive that they have general liability insurance or that they’re licensed and bonded with your state registrar of contractors.

When J & L sold their home of 40 years and moved to the Beatitudes, a life-care community, they hired two women who are in the business of helping elders move into old-folkeries. There are a number of these places in the Valley, and the pair have registered themselves with a bunch of them. For J & L, who are in their nineties and were moving to an apartment that was — maybe — two-thirds the size of their home, only with no garage and no garage storage and a tiny kitchen and no room for L’s office, these two ladies were a godsend. They advised on what furniture could fit into the new digs and where it could be fit, they packed up as much as could be stuffed into the apartment and arranged for movers, they put stuff away in closets and cabinets, they even got someone to custom-build a way to hang the expensive draperies J wanted to take with them.

As part of the bargain, once the couple was moved out the moving helpers were to arrange and supervise an estate sale, to sell off the (many) possessions that simply could not fit into a tiny apartment on the fourth floor of an old-folks’ home.

I remember thinking, as the two women were telling me this, I don’t recall seeing any ads from your outfit in the estate-sale listings to which I subscribe in gay profusion. Are you trying to say “yard sale,” dears? If so, how’s about telling the client that? But I kept quiet. Maybe, after all, they did their estate-sale business under some other moniker.

Okay. So this gigantic project chugs along and eventually they get the folks moved. They tidy up the remaining goods, and now this estate sale is supposed to take place the following day.

That night, the house is broken into and everything of significant value is stolen. The women say the lost items were appraised (really??? Who are you kidding?) at $5,000.

The house is locked up behind mighty iron security gates, brain-banging deadbolts, and an expensive and efficient alarm system. Sooo…WTF, say I.

J says the two women “forgot” to turn on the burglar alarm when they left that evening. The perps, who magically knew the alarm company’s stickers on the window alluded to nothing, broke a window, climbed in, and made themselves to home.

“Forgot:” Yeah. R-i-i-i-g-h-t.

So now the women tell them that they — J & L — will have to make this claim on THEIR homeowner’s insurance!

Say what?

Can’t you just hear the insurance adjustor’s reaction?Ohhh no. Not a chance in Hell. You had already moved out of the place and you had consigned the property to these people; therefore the consignee was responsible.”

And…say what? Five. Thousand. Dollah? Don’t think so.

I’ve done a lot of yard sales in my life. And neighbors who used to live across the street from me, a  pair who became dear friends, were in the yard-sale business. And…well…y’know what? The entire contents of that house including all the stuff they moved into their new home were totally absolutely not worth $5,000. They had a few works of art that were worth something…but they took those with them.

So. IMHO we’re lookin’ at a scam here.

But that’s just IMHO, eh?

The point is, once the possessions had been handed over into the care of the assisted-moving business, they became the assisted-movers’ insurance company’s responsibility, not the homeowner’s.

Dollah to donuts, that is what my friends’ insuror will claim. And several dollahs to donuts, these women have no business insurance or anything vaguely resembling it.

At the risk of repeating myself…

Whenever you have a contractor of any kind working around your house, ALWAYS BE SURE THEY’RE INSURED!

Use It Up or (Dammit) THROW IT OUT

So I’ve spent the past few days helping some dear friends move out of their home of 40 years. They sold it, successfully, and now they’re moving into a very attractive and comfortable life-care community. I’d call it the Queen Mary on a Concrete Foundation…it’s quite the luxury liner.

These are folks who live a normal life in a normal home: they’re not what you’d call, by any stretch of the imagination, “hoarders.” They buy what they need. Over time they use it up and go back to Costco to buy some more of what they need. They have a lifetime of tschotskes of the sort that come to rest in the homes of ordinary people: pieces of cherished artwork (some of it valuable); several exceptionally handsome (and exceptionally expensive) lamps, the usual collections of dishes and pots and pans and glasses and whatnot; a computer and a desk and a filing cabinet and a TV and a couple of easy chairs and all those good things. If you were invited into their home, you would find it pleasantly middle class and comfortable.

But…my friend Ms. J has lived there 40 years. She and her late husband built the house all that many years ago. Mr. L, her present husband, married her and moved in heaven only knows how long ago — I do not, but can say they’ve been married as long as I’ve known them, which is some 18 years.

It’s a two-bedroom house, explicitly and attractively designed for an aging couple to spend the rest of their lives in. The late husband passed; she remarried, and now the two incumbents are in their 90s. They decided the wisest thing to do, at this point, would be to follow their friends into the environs of the upscale old-folkerie, where they will be cared for like passengers on some grand luxury liner until they shuffle off this mortal coil.

Sensibly enough, they signed up for a two-bedroom apartment, which they got. It’s a very, very nice place. And it appears, at a glance, to be about the same size as their long-time manse. It has two bedrooms, two bathrooms. A separate dining room, a nice living room.  A full-size kitchen. A washer and dryer. A truly spectacular view off the sixth floor. Three restaurants for you to dine in with your monthly chow allowance. Cleaning help included. A library on-campus. Clubs, activities, transportation…the certifiable Life of Riley.


A two-bedroom house with 40 years of seniority does not easily fit into a brand-new two-bedroom apartment.

The apartment doesn’t have a garage: the garage that has sheltered a lifelong accrual of collected valuables. And most to the point, the garage that housed a large upright freezer, the home of innumerable Costco Lifetime Supplies of various food items. Nor does an apartment have the kind of closet space and kitchen space offered up by a house, even a modestly sized house.

Much of the stuff that couldn’t be moved or that is now simply redundant will be offered up in an estate sale, getting it out of their hair, out of their adult children’s hair, and out of the movers’ hair.

What a job! Moving is always a challenge…but when you’ve been in a place for 40 years, it’s more than a mere challenge. “Ordeal” might be le mot juste.

I was reminded by this adventure of the many (many!) times I’ve held forth on the subject of decluttering, dating way back to 2007. And…then was reminded that I need to put my money where my mouth (or keyboard) is. It has been quite a while since I’ve shoveled out the Funny Farm. So this week, I think, I’ll go through the closets and toss out anything I haven’t worn (or wish I hadn’t worn…) in the past year. Also need to go through the garage cabinets, kitchen cabinets, and office closet to get rid of things I’m just not using.

This is a good thing to do whether you live in your shack until the end of your life or are forced to move to some place that’s easier or cheaper to care for.

Moving is difficult under the best of circumstances. But when you’re in your 90s and you’ve been accumulating stuff in the same place for the past 40 years, it’s quite the nightmare. Whether you move or whether you shuffle off  this mortal coil in place, leaving your worldly goods to your unlucky offspring, you need NOT to accumulate junk.

That was something my father the sea captain knew by habit, since most of the time he lived in a first mate’s or captain’s cabin on a tanker: i.e., one room. My mother also knew not to stash too much junk — and he wouldn’t allow her to — because they moved so often. But y’know…I’ve been in this house for almost 15 years and hope to live here until I die. Whether I get shanghaied into an old-folkerie or just leave this place to my son, it would be a good idea to clean out the unused junk now, while I still have the strength to do so, and then to make it a habit to throw out anything I haven’t used in the prior year. I sure don’t want my son to have to deal with shoveling out all the junk you can collect over a lifetime.

This month being January, a thought occurs: Why not designate January as THE annual decluttering month? Then you would be reminded to shovel out the redundant junk on a regular basis, instead of getting around to the job only when forced to it. January is a perfect time: right after Christmas, when you’ve presumably acquired some new junk to find a home for.

Receipt Eradication…

So as you know if you’re been around here long, the ‘Hood is not the most halcyon corner of Lovely Uptown Phoenix. The area is richly decorated with homeless drug addicts, most of whom are harmless. More alarmingly, it’s frequented by burglars, car thieves, porch pirates, and assorted other interesting wildlife. One species of these is the identity thief. These creatures scavenge in the garbage and recycling bins, searching for pieces of paper bearing someone’s identifying information. About 95 percent of the junkmail that the postman brings — just about all that he brings these days, by the bushel — fills that bill. But it can easily be disposed of with my current crook-repellent scheme: drop it in a plastic bag with some dog mounds and a little water and let it marinate for awhile before throwing it in the garbage. That’s fine for the usual junk mail and credit-card offers…but credit- and debit-card receipts are a different critter altogether.

And by this time of year, I’ve got a lot of them. I like to hang onto receipts for awhile, lest I need to return something, confirm that a charge was actually made, or ask some question about a purchase. After a year of stashing random pieces of paper into storage, there’s enough kindling there to set fire to the Parthenon.

Getting rid represents what we call, in capital letters, A Nuisance. My paper shredder will only handle a few at a time. Sitting there running fistful after fistful of receipts through that thing is a time-consuming, eye-glazing hassle. But it’s also a hassle to drive the junk down to the annual community Shred-Fest, stand in line, and keep an eye on the proceedings to be sure whatever you put in there actually does get ground up.

T’other day an INSIGHT visited me: the stuff that’s used to print receipts isn’t actually ink. It’s a sort of powdery substance that’s shot on the (interestingly health-threatening) paper in the shape of letters and numbers. Maybe…just maybe the stuff would rinse off in water. If it would…well! Then you could take the whole pile of debris, toss it in a bucket, pour some water and detergent and maybe a shot of Clorox over it, and voilà! Problem solved.

A brief experiment with this idea showed that, amazingly enough, it works. You don’t even have to swish the paper scraps around in the water: get them wet, and the printout (not the ads on the backsides) fades right away.

Hm. No grinding. No schlepping. No burning. Nice!

Now, there’s one thing you should be aware of, and that is that cash-register receipts are printed on paper that contains toxins: BPA and BPS. This stuff, you don’t want to get on your hands…or inside your pockets, or inside your wallet. But of course you can’t help that unless you decline to accept a receipt or ask for an emailed receipt (creating yet another time-sucking hassle). At any rate, you certainly don’t want to burn these things in the family-room fireplace.

Wot the hell: after seven decades of wallowing in cash-register receipts, I have yet to die. But still: knowing about yet another health hazard, you’ll want to minimize your fiddling with the things — maybe use rubber gloves during the elimination process.

So here’s how this went:

  1. I dumped the collected receipts in a plastic scrub bucket.
  2. Then poured in just enough water to cover them — added a squirt of Dawn detergent.
  3. Let it set while I went on about my business.
  4. Couple hours later, came back to find a bucketful of blank receipts.
  5. These I poured into a sturdy black lawn bag (new, leak-free) set down inside a plastic trash can so as to simplify holding it open.
  6. Dumped the last few days’ collection of dog mounds in on top of the slurry and quickly tied off the top.
  7. Dropped the package into the alley garbage bin.

The papers were already dissolving, so except for the plastic bag (and the BPA…and the BPS…), this stuff should biodegrade fairly fast. You can buy compostable plastic lawn bags at the Depot and at Amazon, and those would be the things to use for this purpose. And for just about any other bagging purpose.

Finally, step 8: wash out the scrub bucket.

Since this bucket is used for mopping the floors, obviously I didn’t want the BPA and the BPS smeared all over the house. It probably would be better to use an old paint can and reserve it just for this purpose. But not having one around…  I placed the bucket in the garage work sink (do not clean out the bucket in a bathroom or kitchen sink or tub, or in any sink that’s likely to be used for cleaning clothes or washing dishes). Dumped in some more Dawn and filled it with the hottest water I could draw out of the tap.

Went off and let it set for another couple of hours. Then came back, scrubbed the bucket with a brush, and poured the contaminated water down the drain.

Rinse out the bucket well after this step, obviously.

Do I like dealing with contaminated paper and contaminated water? Hell, no. But in terms of my own health, it’s probably safer to get it wet than to grind it up and spew powdery BPA/BPS dust into the house’s or the garage’s air. For future reference: to avoid exposure to the stuff through this avenue, ask for an emailed receipt or decline to accept a receipt unless it’s for something you might want to return.

Looks Like It’s Time to Move Along…’s been a sh!tty few days here at the Funny Farm. So much so, I’m thinking there really isn’t much to hold me here in lovely uptown Phoenix, a city deliberately cloned on another city I’ve long detested, Los Angeles. This afternoon I started thinking — seriously — about unloading most of the junk and moving somewhere far, far away. Preferably in another time and in another galaxy.

Looks like it’s time to move along…

But where?

Locally, there’s Prescott, a nice little burg where the summers are cooler and the ambience is a little more small town. Payson: a little too embedded in forest-fire country for my taste. Tucson: another developer’s hell. Moving on… Patagonia, Sonoita: maybe. Probably chez pitz unless you have a fair amount of cash, though. New Mexico? Can’t afford Santa Fe and not impressed with other venues I’ve visited there. Idaho: too cold in the winter. Oregon, Washington: can’t afford it. California: can’t afford that, in spades, and don’t want to live in dread of forest fires, mudslides. and earthquakes.

{sigh} Thinking on the question while cruising the Internet, what should I come across this afternoon but a YouTube squib about some poor homeless woman who’s living (happily, to hear her tell it!) out of her car for $800 a month:

Eight hundred bucks a month? Unless she’s making a car payment on the clunk — or buying a lot of meds out of pocket — that seems a little high. Especially since, because she’s using an old milk bottle as her toilet, she seems not to be haunting campgrounds.

If your car is paid for, what do you have by way of costs?

  • Groceries and personal items — a couple hundred bucks a month, at most.
  • Gasoline — depends on how much you drive. In my vehicle, I’d expect a couple hundred miles on a $30 fill-up. Say you don’t drive every day (why would you, if you come to rest in a decent free or cheap spot?)…a hundred bucks would take you, maybe, 700 miles…that’s a lot of territory. A lot of free or nearly free state and federal parks. Hm. $122 + $100 = $222.
  • Occasional stop to revive, take a private shower, get a decent meal: YMCA costs $22.50 a month. Okay, we’re at $244.50.
  • Car insurance: My car insurance was $1400 this year; about $117 a month, bringing the tab to $361 a month.
  • Campgrounds: BLM, national forests, and national grasslands are free. Average cost for a night in an RV park is about $30, but in many you get a hot tub, showers, and a laundromat. So, if you camped on public lands say, 6 nights a week, and then visited a fancy resort (as it were) once a week, that would rack up another $120 a month: total: $481.
  • Car upkeep: depends on how handy you are and what kind of condition your clunk is in. Maybe on average ±$50 a month ?? If it averages out to $50 a month (in addition to gasoline), then we’re at around $531.

That leaves about $270 for clothing, sight-seeing, an occasional night in a motel…hmmmm…. From that, pay for a rented mailbox to give yourself a place to receive mail and provide a fake address for things like voting and registering the vehicle…not much. You’d still end up about $200 less than the purported $800.

This assumes you already own a full complement of camping gear. Of course, if you were gonna take off for the open road, you’d sell all your worldly goods, leaving more than enough money to buy everything you’d need to live on the road. This lady sleeps in her car. It being a small sedan, that sounds like an extraordinarily uncomfortable arrangement. My vehicle, on the other hand, being a crossover, has plenty of space in the back — fold down the back seats and there’s room for two adults to sleep uncomfortably or one to stretch out with her dogs. You’d probably want a tent and various other camping tools, though, since in dry conditions tenting is probably more comfortable than sleeping in the back of a vehicle.

Much of this stuff would be one-time buy:

Some of it would be pricey: a tent’s not cheap, for example. Neither, obviously, are a pistol or shotgun and ammo. Or a decent sleeping bag.

Things like toothpaste, laundry detergent, stuff for cooking (salt, pepper, cooking oil, etc.), paper towels, and the like would be covered in the “grocery and personal items” budget. Phone: throwaway thing with minutes. Very cheap.

I fail to see how this would cost you $800 a month, unless you were staying in campgrounds often. But you wouldn’t have to. There are a lot of places to throw down for free. Indeed, these YouTube videos look like they were made in a place up the road, westerly and northerly of lovely Phoenix, where groups of footloose people bivouac out on the desert. It may not be altogether legal, but no one seems to stop them.

Personally, I prefer to camp in solitude, preferably by a lake or river where one can bathe and get water to boil for cooking and drinking. Silence, after all, is golden.

SDXB and I traveled in this mode all over the backcountry of Alaska and Canada. In summer, it was a lot of fun, fairly easy, and amazingly cheap — we traveled for three months for under a thousand bucks. That included airline fare to and from the Northwest, and bus fare across the Canadian plains.

For awhile, we also had a lash-up very much like the one this lady is traveling in:

There are some serious drawbacks to the camper lifestyle, and it’s probably not something you’d want to take up as a permanent dwelling. Although we had a friend who did so, pretty much. Here are the issues.

  • A camper is expensive to buy and expensive to maintain (not to say a giant PITA to maintain).
  • The camper also limits the kinds of places you can go: it has to be set up on level ground (or leveled with those stanchions you see in the video), and it torques if you try to drive it across an arroyo or riverbed on a dirt road.
  • This means you find yourself spending a lot more nights in paying campgrounds than one would like.
  • It uses far more gasoline even than an SUV, to say nothing of a sedan or crossover vehicle. It uses more gas than an unadorned pickup, for that matter.
  • It’s hard to park it in a grocery store or motel parking lot.
  • It’s like pasting a sign on your back reading “Burgle me!”

But it has some major advantages. Videlicet:

  • Air conditioning!
  • Heating
  • A shower (not very usable, but there it is)
  • A toilet (which has to be emptied and cleaned out, if you like that kinda thing…)
  • Electrical hook-up that allows you to use and charge a computer and phone at a campground
  • A stove
  • A sink
  • Running water
  • A table with bench seats
  • A bed
  • Doors that lock

These are all excellent things. The trade-offs are higher costs and more things to break.

We never spent any lengthy periods in the RV, partly because of the hassle factor and partly because it quickly proved itself impractical for the kind of off-road camping we preferred. So I couldn’t really tell you what it would cost. But I’d guess $800 would be on the low end.

I dunno. Living on the road seems like an awful lot of work. Given that out in Sun City, taxes are a third and insurance is half of what I’m paying here it would surely make better sense to get over my aversion for the place (it’s a mausoleum!), sell my house, and just move out there. That would be the path of least resistance.

Though I’d have to find new homes for the dogs: you can’t let a dwarf sheepdog go out to pee in the yard with the coyotes running around out there. They’ll grab your dog and be off with it before you can say…jackrabbit. And no, you can’t have flowers or a vegetable garden, either, because the rabbits (whose ubiquitous presence calls in the coyotes) will level anything you plant in the ground, other than a palm tree or a grapefruit.

But…with no further reason to stay here (except the church…and there are lots of churches, no?), I guess I can start thinking seriously about moving away from the blightrail and into an area with lower crime rates, lower property taxes, and fewer bums.

So it goes…