Coffee heat rising

Weekend as Hassle Magnet

Why do these little shenanigans always happen on the weekend? And why is my house falling apart?

What. 

A.

Day.

After much banging and thrashing, I pour a glass of cranberry juice (tastes a lot like Campari), pick up the laptop, and Ruby and I stumble out to the front courtyard, where the human can take in the afternoon air and the dog can bark at passers-by.

This latter: not needed. The Lesbian women who moved into the transferred military family’s house are having a small party. One of them has such a loud voice that as she carries on and laughs, you can hear her clear over here. At first I thought they were fighting, and that one of the ladies was shouting at her partner. Not so: they’re just exuberantly enjoying a good time.

So the crumbling fixture of the day: All these houses are plumbed so that the water into the tubs and showers is regulated with a single faucet handle, one of those annoying Mixet-brand things. I hate those things, but there’s nothing you can do about it, if that’s the way the damn house was built. So OK, there’s that.

At one point, a year or so ago, a plumber replaced the annoying round faucet thing in the middle bathroom, where the tub is.

Yesterday I’m in the tub and…POP! The goddamn handle comes off.

Its set screw has worked loose.

How hard could this be, right?

Well:. Very. Nigh unto impossible. The decorative goddamn handle has a little chrome plate whose sole purpose, far as I can tell, is to look pretty. Well. It hides the set screw, which is nice. I guess. Said set screw is now rattling around inside the “compartment” created by this inspired arrangement. And I can. not. get. the. chrome plate. OFF. Can’t prize it loose with my fingernails. Can’t prize it loose with a screwdriver (of any size). Can’t prize it loose with an Exacto knife.

Perhaps my expectations are too high…

So I schlep it up to the Ace Hardware and ask if they can get it loose. And by the way, do they have a staple gun?

Yeah. The staple gun episode. 

Cut to the other project of the day, re-hanging the (genuine!) Navajo rug on the rebuilt wall in the family room, whence I had to remove it for the Great Plumbing Disaster of November 2020. The wall is now rebuilt, replastered, and repainted, and all that is needed to restore normalcy is to return that rug to its vaunted place.

Except…

Isn’t there always an except?

When I moved in here, I’d attached the spectacularly expensive hand-made rug to the wall by stapling strips of the low, flat side of Velcro. Not the coarse krinkly tangly side, but the side that the coarse krinkly strip hooks into. These are just clingy enough to hold the rug on the wall, but not rough and coarse enough to tear at it. Worked perfectly.

So this afternoon I go to re-attach the strips, which the drywall guys have kindly set aside. And…

I can. not. find. my. staple gun. Searched from pillar to post and could not find it anyplace. Only thing I can figure is I must have “lent” it to someone, never to see it again. Hence, the trip to Ace: buy a replacement goddammit.

Their guy gets the decorative gadget off the faucet handle. He sells me a staple gun and a box of staples (can’t find those here, either).

Getting in and out of this strip-mall’s parking lot is innaresting, because for reasons that defy comprehension, they’re building a large QT in there. They’ve taken out a venerable old restaurant that died during the plague and are now putting up gasoline islands and a junk-food joint. But it being Sunday, there are no workmen, which is good because I have to go back up there right away.

The staple gun comes encased in a carapace of plastic that I cannot break into. My scissors will not cut through it. None of my tools work on it. So…I schlep it back up there and say you get it open.

Which they do.

Meanwhile, I did manage to get the faucet handle back on so as, for the time being, it works. But…in the course of things, forgot to insert the plastic ring/washer thing in first, causing the silver cap thing to slip inside the top of the compartment and get stuck there. Looks fine if you don’t know what it’s supposed to look like, so I decided that’s…what it’s supposed to look like.

Finally back in the house with the freed staple gun, I manage to put the rug up. And realize that when I first put it in place, the job took me all of about 10 or 15 minutes. This time, the chore has consumed half the afternoon! I take this (no doubt correctly) as a manifestation of advancing age. Nothing about this little project would have confused me or frustrated me 15 years ago. I remember putting that thing up after I moved in and thinking what a great, simple, easy idea it was.

Still haven’t found the old staple gun, which was infinitely superior to the new one — like all old stuff is infinitely superior, I suspect. Better made. Easier on the hands. Less chintzy in appearance.

The day started with a similar little fiasco. When I woke up at 3:30 as goddamn usual, I remembered ohhh shee-ut i’ve gotta be at the dentist’s at 7 a.m. Goodie gum drops. It’s early so I’m reading the client’s copy and cruising the news sites when I think…wait…this IS Monday, right? Who knows, when every day is the same…. Look at the computer’s date line and yup, it says “Monday.”

Damn.

So along about 6:30 it’s out the door. You can see where this is going, right? After a suspiciously uneventful trip, I arrive at the mid-town high-rise where his office resides. Park in the pay multi-story parking lot…sliding in because the pay-ticket arm is up. Only one other car is parked on the ground floor. Odd. But dawn has barely cracked, and besides, the quarantine is still on. I still don’t think much about this.

Get parked, walk across the plaza to the building’s door…Locked. No security guards in there, either.

Screw it: I turn around and head back to the Funny Farm. Once here, I turn on the computer again and see not Mon in the little date line but Sun.

Jeez. Just the way I love to start the day. Not one day, but two days a-running.

Dogs, Scofflaws, and Penitentiary Gray

Penitentiary Gray: the color of 2020?

One of the disorienting characteristics of Old Bat-hood is that your home is decorated in outmoded styles and colors. It stays that way because you like it that way. But occasionally gazing upon the latest fashion is…well…yes, disorienting. 😀

The dog and I got a very late start on this morning’s doggy-walk. Last night’s chill persisted for some time after dawn, plus the human is in an even lazier mood than usual. So it was after 10 before we set out. By then, almost all the dog-walking hordes had come and gone. The city is laying down black oily stuff over the cracks in Richistan’s neighborhood lanes, so we detoured to the park. This is usually problematic, because during the doggy-walking hours the place is overrun with dogs, many of them in the company of morons who ignore the large signs that read DOGS MUST BE ON LEASH. The latter — dogs, not morons…or rather, dogs as well as morons…are running loose unattended and can be quite a nuisance if they choose to pick a fight. Which inevitably one of them will.

But late in the morning, the park was almost empty, except for a cluster of parents with small children frolicking on the playground equipment and sharing their covid germs with each other and with their relatives. Quite lovely: quiet, peaceful, green…a perfect doggy-walk.

We got about four-fifths of the way around the park before we ran into the obligatory moron: some woman with not one but two big mutts running loose. One of them spotted Ruby and immediately charged her, followed by the moron’s other loose dog. Ruby being a corgi and therefore unafraid of anything, charged back. Within seconds, a dog-fight was about to start.

I hauled Ruby to the street and hollered CALL YOUR DOGS to the moron. She managed to deflect them as I crossed to the other side of the road. “What part of the law can you not understand?!” I hollered at the bitch. The human one, that is. People are SO frickin’ stupid!!!!!

The thing that pisses me about this is that I pay for that park with my taxes, too. Every year my property taxes go up. Last year they were wayyyy on the high side of what I can afford, leading me once again to contemplate the probability that I will not be able to live in my home for the rest of my life. If I’m going to be made to pay ruinous taxes, I should at least be allowed to use the facilities those taxes pay for — to use them safely and without harassment from scofflaws.

Oh well.

Have you noticed that The Stylish Color of 2020 is — appropriately enough — penitentiary gray? It seems as though every freshly painted house in the city is painted the shade of Sing Sing’s walls. Just hideous! Started counting them at the far side of the park. By the time we got back to the Funny Farm — about a third of a mile — I’d spotted TEN (yes: 10) penitentiary gray houses.

Gray and white is the new avocado green and gold. 😀 People decorate the inside with gray and white, too: every refurbished house has gray floors, gray walls, and white trim and cabinets.

Neutral colors were the style when I moved into this neighborhood, during the late Middle Ages, and they persisted for a good 20 or 30 years. My house is painted a bland shade of desert-floor gray-brown, with smart white trim (that, at least, has not gone out of style). Most of the neighbors’ houses are cream-colored or beige. Whatever dark prison gray is, it’s certainly not bland.

Here’s one that someone thinks is “awesome“:

And it no doubt would be, if you buy everything at Ikea and so can afford to redecorate when you get tired of it…in about a year or two. 😀

 

Morning in Arizona…

You have to be an Arizonan to think a cloudy morning is gorgeous. 😀 The weather is finally cooling off — at darned near the end of October. The summer of 2020 has got to have been the longest summer on record, here in these parts. We’ve had three-digit heat until just the past week or so. Finally was able to turn the watering system from daily to once every other day. By now, it would normally be about time to cut it back to once every three days.

Keeping potted plants alive in a low-desert summer is a challenge, unless your plants are all cacti. Anything that has actual leaves on it has to be watered every. single. morning. Miss a day, and your plant keels over dead before sundown. A large part of my garden resides in pots.

The usual winter flocks of birds have yet to migrate this year. The few doves and finches that stayed behind are not even finishing off all the seeds that fill the feeder each day. It’s possible, I suppose, that they may have been frightened off by the occasional appearance of the hawk that’s come a-visiting. But I doubt it. First, they’re not that smart. And second, the hawk’s appearances are few and far between.

The Rattie gambit continues. At this point, she has allowed herself to be persuaded to enter the cage trap by following a trail of bait — pieces of apple seem to be her favorite. BUT…she’s too damn smart to try to grab the piece left on the little plate that triggers the door to fall.

Right now the door is secured open, so as to persuade her that nothing could be safer than the cozy den that is the inside of a rat trap. The plan is wait until she’s confident enough to stroll back and forth  — and to take the bait from the trigger — and then set the trap to slam shut on her.

Roof rats are said to adore peanut butter. She didn’t seem impressed by the gobs M’hijito smeared on the trigger. So the next plan is to get some peanut-butter candies and set one on the trigger plate.

Last night, though, she did stumble onto a glue trap. But…after dragging it across the yard, she managed to shed it outside the doorway to her den.

It is not good when you realize that a small rodent with beady little eyes is probably smarter than you are.

The endless national quarantine also drags on. The church has opened in a half-baked way, but since I’m told there’s a real good chance I’ll die if I catch the present contagion, I’m staying away. Choir is shut down, of course — singing in a choir being about the riskiest thing you can do when an epidemic disease is about. Our choir director is engineering the most amazing compendiums of our voices, having us sing our parts at home into a computer and then blending all the recordings into one highly convincing production. Problem is…

Well, the truth is…I don’t sing. I sing along. The choir is generously laced with professional and near-professional-quality singers. As long as I’m near one of those talented singers, I can manage a serviceable job. But sitting here in front of my computer, my rendition of Joan Baez sounds a whole lot like Daffy Duck.

The Frontline crew — the group of women who volunteer to staff the office’s front desk — are back in business. But for the same reason I’m staying away from choir, I’ve de-volunteered for that, too. Picking up a phone and speaking into a handset that at least ten other people have used and that, with a bunch of little holes in it, would be impossible to disinfect, does not seem like a wise move.

Meanwhile, the antic Hallowe’en festivities are also off, at least on our street. The WonderAccountants and I usually sit in their driveway to dispense candy and ogle the goofy outfits. Because this is a middling affluent neighborhood surrounded on three sides by low-income areas, people truck and bus their kids into the ‘Hood, we we get to enjoy dozens and dozens and dozens of adorable kids and teenagers in the craziest outfits you ever saw. Sometimes the moms and dads are decked out, too!

A great controversy arose on the neighborhood Facebook page, pretty much echoing the nation’s artificially hyped ambivalence about the risks of covid-19. Some people are saying they’re not participating in Hallowe’en this year. Others are saying they most certainly are, and defiantly pile up vast monuments to Hallowe’en in their front yards. And still others suggest we set up tables in the park and try to dispense candy from a distance. As it were. Here on our end of the street, we’ve come down on the side of the better part of valor. I do not know what the Evangelicals across the street — the ones who believe covid-19 is a hoax dreamed up by the Democrats to make Donald Trump look bad — plan to do. Oddly, it seems not to register that a holiday celebrating Satan and his demons isn’t exactly Christian…but they regularly participate.

Whatever. I will spend the evening listening to Ruby have a barking frenzy every time anyone even so much as approaches the house, to say nothing of ringing the doorbell. And that’s too bad. Hallowe’en is my favorite holiday. But not this year.

Sooo… days and days and days go by with no human contact. Luckily, I was already something of a hermit, and so I’ve not completely lost my mind — assuming it wasn’t already lost before this stuff happened. Often when Ruby the Corgi and I take off for a doggy walk, we meet Margie, the bodacious 94-year-old Lhasa Apso Lady, with whose dog Ruby has managed to make peace. But that’s it: one human, sometimes, in a given 24-hour period.

But what the heck! I’ve managed to rack up 425,000 points in the Washington Post’s online time-waster games. That’s quite a chunk toward my ultimate lifetime goal of 1 million points.

A Dog in the Night…

Arghh! Ruby just had a barking frenzy, MUST GET OUT IN BACK arf arf arf arf arfety arf arf!!!!! 

{sigh} Get up. Open door.

Dog shoots out like a charging rhino. A very short rhino…

Neighbor’s pipsqueak dog is yapping. That’s prob’ly what set her off.

Chase after her. She heads straight for the rat trap, craftily arranged next to the entryway to Ratty’s nest in the cat’s-claw tangle.

DOG!!! DON’T EAT THOSE APPLES! Those are for Rattie!

Chase dog away from rat trap. Rattie can be heard hissing inside the shrubbery. Did you know rats can hiss like a cat? Oh, well…now we know she’s home.

All that hullabaloo will probably chase her away from the bait. Now it’ll be another week or two before I can set the trap to catch her. The plan just now is to lay little pieces of fruit out, arranged in a trail that leads into the cage trap. But secure the trap door open, so she gets used to going in there and eventually will be lulled into taking pieces off the small metal shelf that actually is the trap’s trigger.

She seems to like apples. But Rattie being a fruit-eating critter, last night I cut up a couple of grapes and tossed those out there. She was havin’ none o’ that.

So. Okay. Rats don’t like grapes.

Who knew?

Actually, it may make sense. Grapes are toxic to dogs, whom domestication has rendered pretty brainless. Could be the things are toxic for rats, too…only rats have enough sense not to eat poisonous fruits.

Ruby is now determined to get out the back door and investigate the rat issue…which is a dog way of saying “…and eat those pieces of apple.”

ohhhhh gawd! On that note, I’m going to bed, already! 😮

Adventures in Home Ownership: “Foist It Off” Edition

How tired can you get from watching someone else work? Just this moment, I’d say plenty. 😀

Yesterday nothing would do but what I had to take on the overgrown layers of foliage that border the west end of the pool. The pool equipment is hidden behind a veil of cat’s claw vines, which climb the steel fencing around the gear. “Veil” had morphed into “pile” over the past few years. Cat’s claw, an invasive and pesky imported plant so named for its scratchy little thorns, is a vigorous and aggressive monster of a vine. Like the jungle plants that cover ancient cities in the Amazon, it will inundate anything around it, leaving nought but a green mound visible to the human eye. It has its uses, but must be kept under control

That latter bit has decidedly not happened in the Funny Farm’s backyard.

A blue plumbago — a lovely plant — had disappeared beneath the green tsunami, as had much of a very assertive rose bush. A cape honeysuckle, quite a pretty shrub, had escaped being submerged by growing about 12 feet high. Green tentacles were reaching out to eat the Meyer lemon on the far end of the planting bed.

So yesterday afternoon I managed to trim back the rampant growth on the north and south faces of the pool-equipment fence, but couldn’t reach the towering overgrowth without a ladder. That plant extends  about 12 feet high. Instead, I wanted to free the rose bush from the strangulation…not an auspicious job: the rose is about dead, suffocated beneath the jungle. WHAT a gawdawful mess over there! The rose and the cape plumbago and the blue honeysuckle were BRAIDED with cat’s-claw runners.

About the time I got most but not all of the cat’s-claw runners unwound and pulled out of the ornamental plantings, along came the cops. 

Is there some reason we can’t have any peace in this place?

Cop copter streaks in, barely clearing the tops of the palm trees, and starts roaring around down at the end of the next street north. That’s one (count it: 1) row of houses north of where I’m standing with the back gates unlocked and the inside gate hanging open. They’re actually searching the end of that block and the alley that runs behind the Funny Farm. Drop everything and run to shut and lock the gates. Stumble inside and think Fu*k it! Time to knock off anyway.

Probably a good thing: I was getting pretty tired, and it did, as predicted, reach almost 100 degrees yesterday.

Anyhow, what I thought would be a two-day job morphed into at least four days’ worth. Maybe more: wasn’t counting on how much dead stuff underneath there would be.

At the point when this realization dawns, the giant trash bin in the alley is now full to the top. Trash pickup isn’t until next Thursday.

This seriously risks the neighbors reporting me to the city, since you can’t miss where all that cat’s claw came from. The reason I’ve let it grow out there is that it adds about three feet to the height of the six-foot backyard wall. Many of the neighbors have piled a couple extra courses of cinderblock atop their original walls — very possibly without benefit of permit. Apparently nothing will be done about this particular violation unless a neighbor complains. Which of course they won’t, because they’re doing the same. The cat’s claw gives me, legally, an eight- or ten-foot wall that the local prowlers can’t see over, making it impossible for them to spot the dog door or to case the windows and human doors on the back side of the house.

This morning I took on the tangle of dead twigs and branches that were left behind (though more cat’s claw needs to be trimmed off the top of the mound — that will require risking life & limb on a ladder). Filled the wheelbarrow three times and BARELY cleared out most of it. There’s still at least two more barrows-ful under there, and when I climbed in under the damn mound to pull out a gigantic sucker, what should I find but a goddam GROVE of baby palm trees growing under there!!!

With the trash bin in the alley already almost full, I figure I’ll have to sneak the wheelbarrow down the alley to dump the debris in other houses’ bins. This won’t matter much, because none of those people ever seem to throw anything away — only the young parents across the alley (four tiny kids = a whole lot of diapers and junk-food wrappers!) and I seem to use the one that serves four houses here.

After wrestling and yanking and cutting and hacking, I come to appreciate one basic fact: I am too old and too out of shape to keep on doing this for the next four days or so. That’s how long I figure the job will take, with me working until I can’t lift my hand, giving up, and then coming back out the following day.

***

Stumble inside. Call Gerardo to see if I can put him up to fixing this mess.

He says he’ll be over at 1:00. That means 2:00. Eventually he surfaces, along about 4:00 p.m.

Gerardo’s men cleaned up the mess out back, per my instructions. They did more in under an hour than I figured to accomplish in another three for four days!

Yellow yard
Yellow: the desert’s favorite color.

Gerardo, if you calculate how much he earns here and then expand that out to, say, six hours a day, giving him two hours to drive from pillar to post (and he does — he has jobs ALL over the Valley), and then has to schlep to the dump on the far, far north side: at $80/job, if he can get in two jobs per hour he’s earning $160/hour, which would give him $960 a day. However, from that he has to pay his two underlings (who are his cousins and so know where he lives…) and cover the costs of fuel and maintenance for his truck, trailer, and lawn equipment. And he says it costs $50 to take a load into the county landfill.

Hard to guess what he nets…but…some years ago I read a newspaper article (remember when we had newspapers?) going on about where the Valley’s largest concentration of millionaires resides. Turns out it’s not Paradise Valley or Scottsdale…it’s a mid-middle-class development on the westside called Arrowhead. Nice, but not gaudy: these folks don’t put on airs. And as it develops, a large number of our millionaires are in the landscaping business. Hard, grody work, but if you work smart and handle money well, you can make a decent living at it.

At any rate, he’s highly motivated to give a low-maintenance yard like mine a lick and a kiss, since he no doubt earns a lot more elsewhere. I asked a guy who was working on a house over in Richistan to give me an estimate, and what he wanted was so ridiculous I can’t even remember it. Gerardo has been trying to build his business in commercial properties — apartment complexes and office buildings. No doubt that kind of work would add up to a lot more per job, and require a lot less schlepping around.

So…yeah. I’ll have to chat with him about keeping that damn vine under control. One major problem is that Gerardo and his guys are not really gardeners. They’re landscape maintenance dudes. That means they do the heavy, broad-stroke work, but not the dainty little details of planting and cultivating things. They seem not to know much about plants — they know about lifting and heaving.

Thank the heavens…since that’s something I’d like to know as little about as possible. 😀

Standing By…but Not Standing Back

…got fruit?…

As we noted a day or so ago, the comments section at Funny isn’t working properly. Some readers may be able to post a comment in the “Reply” feed, but it won’t show on the site. Yet. It will be forwarded to me, though, meaning I can see it. But no one else can. Feel free to stay in touch! 🙂

Funny’s Web guru has located a new template that’s remarkably similar to the one we’ve been using. But he’s had to go out of town, so it’ll be awhile before the issue is fixed.

Meanwhile, life continues. Ruby the Corgi has proved her worth as a ratter. Did you know corgis are bred as ratters as well as for herding? Yes. You have never seen anything move as fast as this dog when she launches after her prey. Except, of course, for Rattie.

For some years, Phoenix has been infested by roof rats, a relatively small rat (compared to a sewer rat) that favors fruit. I think of the little pest as a kind of wingless fruit bat, actually. They’re attracted by citrus — of any kind: Rattie will happily eat the Meyer lemon outside the back door. They’re strangely charming, in a rattish way. The problem, though, is that they’re extremely destructive. They can climb straight up a block wall…and once they get into your attic, they’ll gnaw on the wiring — which can cause a fire. Get under the hood of your car, and they’ll eat the hoses and wiring. Got a washer in the garage? They’ll chew up both the wiring and the hoses! Inside your house, they’ll slip in behind the sofa, dig their way inside, and establish a nice comfy nest in the furniture, there to bring up the family.

So: needless to say, no matter how cute Rattie may be, she’s gonna hafta go.

The easiest way to dispose of these fine creatures is poison. Last time I had one as a guest, she took up residence in the garage, underneath the washer. . At that time my room-mate was a German shepherd, who was pretty easy to keep an eye on. This made it possible to lay poison bait behind the washer & dryer and keep an eye on the place until the victim croaked over in the middle of the floor.

Today, however, Rattie has staked out her territory in the backyard. First off, she built a nest under the westside deck. After I stuffed steel wool into every nook, crack, and cranny around the thing, she moved into the river rocks that line a drainage ditch across the backyard, and then built a cool tunnel along the base of the cat’s-claw hedge.The backyard is inhabited by Ruby the Corgi, and so poison is out of the question.

Wilier strategies are in order.

My son gave me a box of sticky-board traps. Problem is, Ruby got stuck in one of those at his house, and it was quite the little fukkin’ disaster. The dog almost croaked over in her terror, and to free her, we had to hack the thing out of her fur with a pair of scissors.

He also gave me a couple of cage traps. These ingenious devices have a little platform that’s connected to a delicate catch. You put the bait on this platform and when the critter lifts it up, it releases the door, trapping the critter inside.

Very clever.

Problem is, rats are very clever, too. Indeed, most likely they’re more clever than the human. Rattie has successfully evaded the glue traps. I barricaded Ruby out of the area under the tree where I placed these traps, by surrounding the tree with a wire garden-border fence — plenty of room for Rattie to get through to her favorite lemon stash, but not enough for Ruby to squeeze through.

Or so I thought.

Took her a week or so to find her way inside there. Once she was in, she panicked. Luckily I spotted her and managed to get her out before she flailed onto the glue traps…Whew!

Rattie built a nice nest in the middle of the marjoram patch. Tossed a glue trap in there. She moved on.

Next trick: try to lure her into the rat cage. First time I tried these, Rattie laughed. Noooo…not interested in your peanut butter, thankyouvery much. A cruise of the Web produced some clues: get the critters used to the traps by locking the door open and putting food in there for several days & nights, so they expect to find treats in there.

Well. This sounds good, eh? Little pieces of fruit around the entry, a few inside the little palace.

These gems looked good, too: to the resident mockingbird. He would be the critter who unearths seedlings and yanks exotic little vines out of their pots.

Adjust strategy: place the fruit out at night, after the birds have gone to roost. Keep Ruby indoors, so she doesn’t eat the fruit herself.

So now we’re on the second night of baiting the un-set trap. We shall see if Rattie can be fooled. She’s a smart little beastie, so it remains to be seen whether she can be trained to go inside the trap and munch on a bait set on the spring platform.

Too bad she’s such a nuisance and that she carries any number of noxious diseases and parasites. She’s kinda cute. In a rattish sorta way. 😉