Coffee heat rising

Real Estate, Landlords, and the ‘Hood: Update

Good grief! It’s been awhile since I’ve been here at FaM! In the interim, the real estate search project has continued. Tony the Romanian Landlord has made excellent progress on his project to convert our former neighbor’s home into a nursing institution. And I’ve learned a bunch of things.

I’ve been quietly and not-so-quietly looking for someplace else to live. Someplace not Sun City, not Payson, not Tucson, not Boise, and on and interminably on. Which is to say, someplace else to live in Phoenix, preferably in the zip codes that make up the “North Central” district.

Real estate is radically hot here just now. Any house that’s even faintly desirable moves within three days of appearing on the market. So it seems, at least. That is literally true in many cases, and in others, kinda metaphorically so. Nothing stays on the market for long.

And the prices simply defy belief! We are in California territory, folks. I thought I paid too much for this house when I bought it for #$232,000. It’s now worth at least $550,000!

Redfin thinks our beloved old house in Encanto is now worth $1,146,500. It was a gorgeous place, now gussied up with “more money than taste” embellishments.

My son’s charming but tiny little house? $480,208.

Can you imagine? It’s hard to conceive how young people can even dream of buying a freestanding house. And apparently they don’t: apartment blocks are springing up all over the city.

Oh well. In the interim, what else has happened?

Among other things, I learned that the quiet, elderly couple who live across the street from me are yet more of Tony’s relatives!

Yes!!!

They are Pretty Daughter’s in-laws! Her husband’s parents.

“Were” is, at least partially, the operative term. The old man died, and the elderly woman has been living there alone. My guess is that as soon as Tony finishes the nursing home two doors down, the first tenant will be Mom. Then he’ll glom her house and turn it into a nursing home, too.

Meanwhile, my eccentric next-door neighbor, who occupies the house between the Funny Farm and Other Daughter’s place, drained her swimming pool. She also had some masons lay two rows of large cinderblocks atop her back wall, so no one can look over her six-foot (now about ten-foot) wall into the yard.

When you drain a pool here, you often end up with a shallow puddle of water in the bottom of the deep end. This pond then merrily breeds mosquitoes. The damn thing is way across her yard from my side fence, so I can’t tell whether any such breeding ground is there. But her pool is right up against Other Daughter’s fence.

And lo! A few days ago Other Daughter reported that she came down with encephalitis! And she damn near died. Apparently at one point the doctors thought she was going to die. Then, when she came back around, they thought she would never walk again — she couldn’t move her legs!

Eventually she did recover control over her legs and is now walking briskly around the ‘Hood, as has been her wont forever.

The type of encephalitis that holds forth here is called Western Equine Encephalitis. A-a-a-n-d…it’s carried by mosquitos!

Whaddaya know?

I haven’t seen her long enough to catch her and clue her to the possible connection between this terrible illness and our neighbor’s mosquito-breeding bit. But if I’m right, she needs to tell her dad about that. If anyone can put the eefus on that, it’s Tony.

Otherwise, though, I have two big containers of mosquito bits. If Other Daughter could ascertain whether water is standing on the bottom of that pool, we could throw a fistful of that stuff over the wall, and that would take care of the problem.

But problem it is: if O.D. could catch a horrific ailment from bugs growing in a neglected pool, then so can other folks in the neighborhood. Including me. And Ruby. And all those old folks in Tony’s planned institutes.

That poor young woman! Can you imagine? What an ordeal!

Meanwhile, life goes on, for the rest of us as well as for O.D. The weather is beyond gorgeous. And I most decidedly do not want to move out of my house.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve driven from pillar to post, searching for some replacement for the Funny Farm. There’s precious little out there. Certainly precious little in the price range I can afford. There are some cute places here and there…but the cost is in the many hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the desired neighborhoods, affordable places are close to fine thoroughfares like Conduit of Blight Blvd., which emanates a deafening roar 24/7. Or they’re 900 square feet. Or they require tens of thousands of dollars worth of repair and upgrades.

Meanwhile, I become more and more aware that I like my house — nay, I love my house, and I do not want to move out of it. Within the next week or two, it’ll be too late to peddle it to some unwary buyer, because Tony will have his latest nursing home in business. And you know, maybe the correct attitude is, to quote our Late-Unlamented First Lady,

I don’t care.

Do you?

Those Eastern Europeans! Maybe they’ve got somethin’ there!

😀

 

Real Estate Window-Shopping

Tony the Romanian Landlord, my bosom enemy, has bought the house catty-corner across the street that recently went on the market when the long-time owners decided to retire to the high country.

Tony, after a hostile encounter some years ago, hates me with all his flinty heart. And he’s a nasty fellow. Some of the neighbors around him think he is Romanian Mafia. I don’t…I think he’s just a guy who’s trying to get ahead and is doing so by the rough customs of his native land. But that notwithstanding, during our last encounter he threatened a judge and scared my lawyers so badly they urged me not even to go home, but to rent someplace far, far away, spend the night there, and sell my house right now.

I declined.

He himself has never tried anything, but his mentally ill ex-son-in-law did, presumably to get in good with Dear Old Dad. After my German shepherd took out after him, he ended up sitting in the middle of his driveway weeping. Poor li’l guy.

That the old man has got his hands on a house this close to the Funny Farm is a concern. When my neighbor right behind me sold so she could move into an old-folkerie, she told her realtor (who happened to be her cousin) NOT to sell to Tony. Well….the instant the For Sale sign went up, he showed up at the door. And he was, she reported, absolutely enraged when the realtor refused to do business with him.

But he did get his hands on this latest sale, across the street. I don’t know what he intends to put in there — he cranks his money with a chain of nursing homes, all installed in formerly private homes in residential neighborhoods. But you can be sure it ain’t good.

The previous owners took excellent care of the house, and when they put it on the market, it was gorgeous. Freshly painted. Beautiful flooring. Nice yard. Nice pool.

Tony’s boys have been in there for weeks pulling the house apart. They’ve deconstructed the interior and have been inside building stuff: presumably dormitory-style cells to accommodate whatever fine folk Tony intends to put in there.

So the question arises: Should I sell now and get out of here while I can? If he does what I think he will — install some highly undesirable institution in there — because Arizona law requires sellers to disclose any potentially negative issues, I won’t be able to sell this place for what it’s worth: about five and a half hundred thousand. Much less than that, and I won’t be able to buy a comparable house in a reasonably safe neighborhood…real estate values have run amok here. And of course, the way to frost his cookies would be to move just as he’s finishing up his repurposing construction and before he can move in a crew of clients.

This question has been nagging at the back of my mind for some time. Lately I’ve explored several neighborhoods in what is called the “North Central” district, searching for a place comparable to mine. By and large, these are scarce: North Central is a tony area occupied largely by affluent business executives, lawyers, and doctors. I live on the fringe of North Central, just below a violent and alarming slum called Sunnyslope. A canal and a main drag known to FaM readers as “Gangbanger’s Way” delineates my middle-class neighborhood from that more wild and woolly part of town. But…the wildness and the wooliness depress the property values in our tract. Get deeper into North Central, and I can’t begin to afford to buy.

While I was over on the far northwest side of town yesterday, arranging to ship the ailing MacBook off to the Apple factory, I had to drive through a part of the Valley called Arrowhead Ranch. This is a large Southern-California style tract development, most of it on the high end. I would call it upper-middle class, by and large; however, a few years ago the Republic reported that the Arrowhead area has the largest number of millionaires per-capita in the Valley.

Apparently most of these are owners of service businesses — carpet-cleaning, air-conditioning, pool building and repair, & the like — who live over there because it’s relatively close to their establishments. It’s the only upper-middle-class area between the I-17 and Waddell…which is a LONG way west.

When Arrowhead was first built out, I wasn’t impressed. But as I drove home over surface streets that took me through the increasingly dire slum just to the north of the ’Hood, I thought that place looks better by the day….

The houses are stick & styrofoam, which to my mind is the hallmark of cheap construction (literally: a strong man can put his fist through an exterior wall…that’s how the burglars got into a friend’s home out there). But if you can get past that…some of these places are pretty nice. This one, for example, is comparable in size to my house, only in the late 20th-century plaster-&-styrofoam style. Personally, I hate those glass-top stoves…and they’re apparently in most of the houses out there. I saw ONE gas stove during 45 minutes or an hour of browsing this morning. I’d about concluded that they just don’t have gas service in Arrowhead….but there one was. Presumably a younger crowd of homeowners means a preponderance of people who don’t cook at home, or who think cooking has to do with microwaving.

It is a LONG way from the church — a good 40 minutes or more, depending on traffic. So that activity would go away. More to the point, it’s just as far from my son’s house…meaning I would see him even more rarely than I do now.

This place is a thousand square feet larger than mine, almost.  Kinda cute. But it’s north of the Loop 101 freeway, which is…kinda weird. The dust-catching “plant shelves” (trans.: we are too cheap to build the walls all the way up to the ridiculously elevated ceiling) are a turn-off, as are the factory-made kitchen cabinets that don’t go up to the ceiling, either.

And this one:  Hmmm…. Same bland, cheap architecture…right on an artificial lake (read: mosquito-breeding pond). And no wall between you and the scenic view. Meaning no privacy in your backyard. No skinny-dipping: you’d have to lash yourself up in an elastic strait-jacket every time you wanted to go swimming.

This is not a bad little shack, in the price range. Once again, only a hot plate for a stove. Backyard scenically opens onto the golf course.

Know what happens when your house sits next to a golf course? I looked at one of these fabulous golf-course abodes at Arrowhead some years ago, before I bought my present house. People whack golf balls off-target and they fly into your house’s walls. That plaster can’t withstand the pounding, so it’s soon pitted with golf-ball sized divots. Notice the screens on the windows in back…no doubt there as much to keep the glass intact as to provide “shade.” Backyard is dreary…looks like it’s never been landscaped — notice the neighbor’s yard is pretty lush. Suggests the place was used as a rental for a goodly period, or that the outgoing owner let everything die. Hmmm…

In.
Aus.
Pi.
Cious…..

Then there’s this. Another fine golf ball target. What on earth do you suppose IS the appeal of all those plant shelves? Just imagine having to keep it clean! And that bathroom, where they ran amok with the Mexican tile: eeeeeek!

The demented high ceilings: you, too, can pay APS to air-condition the stratosphere!

These places make our early 1970s houses look good by comparison. Our design is more intelligent. No stupid plant shelves. No stratosphere-high ceilings. Gas service, so you can have a real stove if you want one. Only drawback is the proximity to the slums on the west side of Conduit of Blight and to the north of Gangbanger’s Way, and consequently the crime level and the ever-present stoned-out transients. But that can be dealt with by a good, loud dog.

Mr. WonderAccountant is about to retire. Their son and his young wife took up residence in the West Valley, and they’ve been urging the WA’s to move out there: just now they live right across the street from the Funny Farm. WonderAccountant herself does NOT want to go. She likes it here. But…if they do one day move, you can be sure Tony will glom that place, too. About the only way I could keep him out of it would be to buy it myself and rent it, or sell it to someone of my choice. I actually could… Even without selling my own house, I could probably buy that place with cash.

But I’d sure druther not….

Don’t know what the jerk is doing to the place across the street, but after weeks of daily banging around, his crew are STILL deconstructing and reconstructing over there. Presumably they will make it a drug rehab half-way house or an institution for raving lunatics. If I’m going to move away from whatever gem he’s installing over there, I do need to get on the stick…get sold and moved before he puts a public nuisance in there that will make it impossible to sell this place for the going rate….which of course I would need to clear in order to get into someplace comparable somewhere else.

Hadn’t considered Arrowhead before…but now it’s definitely on the radar. Encanto — where DXH and I first lived, in an absolutely gorgeous 1929 house — has the same issues as the ’Hood does: crime and bums. But look at this little cutie.  That is right around the corner from where we lived, literally: we were at 326 on the next street south of Encanto. The Encanto area and its adjacent, ritzier Palmcroft district are just flat overrun with derelicts, burglars, and wannabe rapists. Hence the bars on all the doors in this little house. Probably all the windows are alarmed — or not: actually, those old-fashioned crank windows with the steel frames are hard to break into.

Eight and a quarter for THIS????? What ARE they smoking?

Whoa!!! Lookit this! Dayum! Right on the fringe of Darkest North Central! It’s a little too close to Glendale, a large and noisy thoroughfare. But it’s in a pretty tony area….the price is a little alarmingly low for that part of town. Wonder what’s wrong with it? All you can tell from these images is that it needs to have the backyard landscaped. I could easily do without my swimming pool…and look at all the space for one’s German shepherd to run around back there. Hm.

I’m afraid the racket from Glendale would be unacceptable, though.

Another one down in that area. It’s a cute little house. Pretty much in the middle of the neighborhood — relatively quiet, one presumes. Floors need to be redone: that could be an expensive proposition. The bamboo patio is a little weird — presumably the jungle is for privacy, since the thing is in the front. And personally, I really don’t like electrical lines spanning the pool. They may not be legal: today the code says you can’t build a pool beneath electric lines.

Uh oh! Just remembered I need to go to the store….and eeek! It’s almost noon. Thank the heavens for Instacart!

Whaddaya think, dear readers? Hold the fort? Or take the path of least resistance and move, before Tony installs whatever malign disaster he’s working on?

Apartment House Dreamin’?

Of late… I grow more and more intrigued by the possibility of trading the Funny Farm in on a swanky apartment in the mid-town area. These are now proliferating with gay abandon, all over downtown and midtown Phoenix. Many of these places look very nice, indeed.

My agèd friend J., in insisting on moving herself and her husband L. into the prison for old folks that is the Beatitudes, was right in thinking that trying to live independently as you progress deeper and deeper into the Land of Old Age gets riskier and riskier with the passing the months and years. Now, she and L. were in their 90s when she insisted that they up and move into an institution. AND, more to the point, they had a dangerous lunatic living next door, who threatened not only them but other members of the HOA — one of whom was on the freaking City Council. Apparently nothing could be done about this nut case until she actually assaulted or murdered someone…and since the wretched woman had become quite a nuisance, it was reasonable to say “Let’s get away from this.”

And given their age, it was reasonable to decide the best “away” was into an old-folkerie.

But…ugh!! What a way to live! In a dormitory for old folks.

It seems to me that if you lived in a high-rise apartment whose building was well maintained and centrally located, you could replicate most or all of the services offered by the Beatitudes. Videlicet:

  • Meals can now be ordered and delivered right to your door — easily and at reasonable cost.
  • People in our economic class have cleaning ladies: J. & L. already did. She (imho) didn’t do a great job, but neither L. nor J. could see well enough to detect the places this woman failed to dust. But if you had a competent and caring lady, like the wonderful Luz, she would keep your place as clean as it needs to be.
  • Exercise classes? Phoenix College has them! For one heckuva lot less than it costs to live at the Beatitudes. PC is a five-minute drive from North Central.
  • Entertainment and mental stimulation? Midtown Phoenix is the home of a little theater troupe, a library, two major museums, a busy arts center in a refurbished shopping mall, parades, movies, a major community college with classes coming out the wazoo…. All of those strike me as a lot more entertaining than patronizing amusements put on for inmates.
  • Emergency and routine heathcare? Once you’re in mid-town, you’re right next door to not one but two major medical centers: St. Joseph’s & Good Sam. True, if you had a heart attack or stroke, you’d have to get an ambulance to take you there…but there are ways to simplify that chore.
  • Meals? Central Avenue is literally lined with restaurants. The inimitable AJ’s is within walking distance of some of the new apartment buildings; at any rate, the lightrail goes right up to AJ’s front door. Also along the way is a Safeway. Plus Instacart will deliver any groceries your little heart desires, from just about any vendor.
  • Uber is all over that part of town. Anywhere you wanted to go — to a store, to a theater, to a sporting event, or to the interminable visits with doctors and dentists — you could  be chauffeured.
  • You could hire a practical nurse to come in once a week — maybe even more often than that — to check on your health and be sure you’re safe. Possibly you could hire such a person to show up once a day…or recruit volunteers from your church to check on you.
  • The “Communicate America” emergency alarm service — where you push a button hanging around your neck to call an EMT — would serve just about the same purpose as living at the Beatitudes or its competition, the Terraces, in terms of assurance that you could get help in an emergency. Their device has a number of minor annoyances, and the service is pricey; an Apple Watch will do the same thing, as will an iPhone.

Those steps would provide the same services and goods that an old-folkerie would: food, regular check-ins, emergency services. Uber could take you to church, plays, movies, restaurants, grocery stores, sporting events,  and whatever else you pleased to do. For that matter, if you lived on Central Avenue, public transit would take you to most of those places. In other words…if you thought it through, you could replicate the services and advantages of an old-folkerie, without the depressing disadvantages. And being in one of those centrally located apartments would facilitate that scheme.

I’m thinking that given my age, even though I’m still pretty spry, maybe I should think about how I can get myself into one of those places and make it work as a haven for the pending decrepitude. A lot of those strategies could be replicated right here in my own house…EXCEPT…

  • The house is not as centrally located
  • You’d have to oversee yard and pool help as well as cleaning-lady and LPN help
  • The nearest hospital is John C. Lincoln, which IMHO is about as second-rate as you can get
  • On the other hand, the house is paid for, so the amount you’d have to pay in HOA fees for one of those apartment buildings would cover the cost of hired help..

This is something that bears thinking upon…

Newton’s Third Law of Disequilibrium

Is it some law of Nature that you can never, ever have a dull moment? Newton’s Third Law of Disequilibrium, maybe?

So I have this mailbox made by an outfit called MailBoss, which I installed while we were having a rash of mail thefts here in the ’Hood. This monster is the Fort Knox of the mailbox world. It is freaking impossible to break into. When you buy it, they give you two (count’em, 2) keys for it. And the instructions explicitly state, in words of one syllable, that you’d bloody well better not lose the keys because they cannot be replaced AND there’s no way in Hell you or anyone else will be able to break into the locked mailbox.

Yes sir. Got it, sir!

I thought I had lost one of the keys. I keep one hanging from a nail inside the front security door, which itself is pretty impermeable. The other, to my knowledge as of about 10:00 this morning, was…well…disappeared. So I went this morning to take the surviving key to my killer locksmith over in Glendale, a guy who no doubt ranks among the top Killer Locksmiths on the planet. I doubted he could copy it, but figured it was worth asking. The worst he could do would be to laugh and say “noooo way!”

But y’know…it was hot…it was humid…i was tired…i did not feel like schlepping to the gas station and then driving from pillar to post…so decided to belay that errand for a day or two. So, turn around, come back and hang the key back in its place.

So I think.

This afternoon when I went to find it? GONE.

The spare key in the drawer (I thought)? NOT THERE.

This elicited a high panic of epic proportions. Dammit, I thought I was gonna have a heart attack!

After much frantic searching — like 30 or 40 panicky minutes — I finally found found the spare key. A-n-n-n-d after I stopped hyperventilating, eventually found the other key, too.

But oh MAN! What a moment of panic!!!!!

I figured I was going to have to order a new mailbox. The thing is SOOOO HEAVY it takes three men and a horse to install it…and now we would be asking the three men and the horse to UNinstall one of the monsters and put a new one in. Good luck with that! And in the meantime, I’d have to drive to the post office to pick up my mail every day!!

Auuughhhhh!

Honest to God, I do not know when I’ve ever been so upset.

And now as the sun settles toward the west, storm clouds are blowing in. Got the camp lantern out, as we almost surely will lose power sometime between now and midnight. Let’s hope that holds off until after it starts to rain, which will cut the heat to about 80 degrees. It’s already dropped to about 100. How…refreshing!

Soggy Day in Rattie Central

Rathame…

At 7:00 this morning it was 90 degrees and overcast. And damp. Very, very damp.

That is extreme, even for lovely uptown Phoenix! Especially for this time of year. Normally it’s very hot, but also very dry in July. So you can bitch and whine about the heat, but it’s basically empty bitching and whining.

That is so until early August, when we start to get the kind of weather we have now: hot and humid. The difference is, in normal (pre-Paved Paradise) times, we would have had a spectacular thunderstorm every afternoon or evening, followed by much cooler temps.

*****

And during the interval when this scribble was interrupted by a phone call from WonderAccountant, it’s started to rain. Hot, wet, and raining.

W.A. is having a wondrous Adventure in Medical Science. She experienced some chest pains; her husband drove her up to the Mayo, where she enjoyed a number of interesting tests, experiences, and discussions. [heh! typed “unjoyed” there…have we discovered a new word for this sorta fun?) They concluded she was not having a heart attack — what she was having, they seem not to have figured out. But she is now reamed steamed & dry-cleaned, so called to cancel our planned evening at the concert tonight.

Between you’n’me, I’m very sorry she wasn’t feeling great but moderately relieved that we don’t have to venture out tonight. Really, I don’t enjoy driving in the rain and the dark with my fellow homicidal drivers (talk about taking your life in your hands!!), and truth to tell, even with the full complement of covid shots, I’m just not very comfortable about spending time in crowds.

An hour of gossiping produced a consensus that we both think the Mayo Clinic is far, far superior to most of the medical practices in the wild here, as experienced during our respective lifetimes as Arizonans. I guess if I ultimately make up my mind to move, it’s gonna be to someplace closer to the Mayo’s ER — EMT’s in this part of town will NOT take you to the Mayo. They give you the choice of John C. Lincoln (please just take me to the Hormel slaughterhouse…), St. Joseph’s (where one night I waited outside their ER for over five hours, before I finally gave up and had a friend come take me home; then got another friend, by dawn, to drive me to the Mayo, where they slapped me into surgery before I could even take a seat in their waiting room), or Good Samaritan, where I haven’t been back since I gave birth without anaesthetic.

Okay, to be fair: the anaesthetic wasn’t needed.  I thought labor was supposed to hurt a whole lot more than it does, and so by the time we arrived there, the kid was ready to pop out.

*****

Apparently Rattie attempted a foray into the yard this morning, despite all the throwings-around by Gerardo and his crew. Ruby signals Rattie’s presence by going batsh!t every time she spots the little gal through the Arcadia door.

Rattie has gotten wise to this, since every time I hear Ruby go on a tear, I let her out the garage door (which is a lot easier to open, because of all the anti-burglar hardware on the Arcadia). Ruby shot out and patrolled the side yard, but by then Rattie had either hopped back over the wall or climbed up into the trees to take refuge. I think the former, since Ruby evinced a great deal of interest in the odor trail along the wall’s footing and the view of the top of the wall.

I do hope the blockading strategy will keep her out, but fear the truth is we are going to have to take the tangle of cat’s claw vines down off the alley wall. If I could think, offhand, of a legal way to replace the jungle plants (which make for a fine Rat Hotel) with something that would block the view of the backyard, that’s what I would do. But to run a couple more rows of block along the top of the walls here in the ‘Hood (which are about 5½ feet tall, easy for a grown man to peer over), you have to get a permit from the city. This involves a bureaucratic hoop-jump that I do not wish to engage.

Neither, I suspect, did any of the neighbors who have taken matters into their own hands — many of them have piled several rows of block atop the developer’s original walls, far more than would be legally allowed. However, I have a friend whose ex-wife enhanced her backyard wall — in a house, like this one, that occupied a corner lot — and was ordered by the city to take the entire expensive thing down. So she ended up with no wall, no privacy, and no money.

Even if I jump through the regulatory hoops (and succeed…), they no longer make cinderblocks in the kind of dust-gold color the developer used, back in the early 70s when he built out this tract. So whatever goes along the top would not match the wall. One could, in theory, paint the wall…opening not only several cans of paint but also a whole new can o’ worms… But that, then, would have to be maintained for the duration of the house’s existence.

If you could find chimney-red cinderblocks (not an impossible proposition), you might be able to make it look like you intended to have a contrasting line of decorative (heh) block along the top. But since no one else has done this, dollars to donuts it’s not a practical idea.

The vines have some distinct benefits, not the least of which is that they cut the stupefying heat that would be reflected off that wall in their absence. Secondarily, they produce rafts of very lovely bright yellow flowers.

So it goes: lovely Phoenix, Arizona, July 16, 2021…

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!