Coffee heat rising


Yesterday in an antique online copy of the old ARAMCO newsletter Sun & Flare, I came across a photo of my grade-school pal, a boy named Ennis, one of the very few kids who was friendly to me when we lived in the dreadful oil company outpost called Ras Tanura.

Ennis! What a nice kid. Last time I saw him, he and I were pushing adulthood. It was someplace north of Santa Barbara, where his parents had gone when they retired. How fun would it be to track him down and say hello?

Well. None, as it develops. I could NOT find him for love nor money. Nor could I find any trace of an obituary. So, dead or alive, he’s nowhere to be unearthed.

In fact, his tracks are so thoroughly covered, it’s hard to escape the sense that he had a professional hide his identity and location. I’m pretty damn good at navigating the Internet and finding folks who think they can’t be found — as a researcher, that little skill comes with the job. But there was NOTHING, not a single mention anywhere.

On one level it’s interesting and reasonable — how much would you pay to bring an end to the blitz of advertising and spamming email messages? Just this morning, I’ve already deep-sixed seven nuisance messages in 45 minutes or so that I’ve been reading the news, and that doesn’t count the spam that’s automatically sent to the trash.

On another, it’s alarming…why would you care enough to erase yourself altogether? Is he a federal agent? An international spy? Maybe a crime boss? Or…a nut case?

I block phone calls from most area codes but my own, by way of limiting the number of nuisance phone solicitations. But erasing your identity altogether? That’s different from blocking those who pester you.

Could he have died? Possibly. He was only two or three years younger than me. And as a male: yeah, he could have keeled over from a heart attack by now. Plus the very air in Rasty Nasty was carcinogenic: filled with fumes from the refinery, long before anyone thought about limiting air pollution. Stinking air was just part of life, back in the good ole’ days.

But there are no obituary notices for him: not that I can find. No home-town papers or remarks in the Aramco Brats pages to the effect that he croaked over. Weirdly, I found an obituary for his father Tom, which goes on and on about the family members…but does NOT mention the son. WTF?

Nor does it mention his stint in Arabia…it mentions his wife and provides her photo, so yeah: it’s the same Tom. But an entire era of his life — including mention of the son who made up part of that era — is missing. And the obit was written by his niece, who surely would have known the family members.


Gettin’ all computer-hassled out…

Or maybe that’s “all hassled out,” in a more general way.

Tried to get in to Funny’s dashboard this morning. It wouldn’t take my password.

Tried again. It wouldn’t take my password.

Tried again. It wouldn’t take my password.

Tried…on and on.

Dug out the email address for BigScoots, the better to pester them. Type type type…

Tried again. This time it accepted the password. The SAME password I’d just entered repeatedly.

Yes. I do understand the need for computer security. I get hack attempt after hack attempt. Yes. And scam after scam after scam lands in my email inbox. Every day. Yes. I do know — from experience! — that there are large mailing lists organized by age, which sales hustlers use to target the marks they figure will the most vulnerable. If you’re over about 70, they figure you’re ripe for the taking.

As dawn cracks, for example, just in the e-mail inbox (not counting all the other possible avenues for scamming) we have

Hi Victoria,
I’ve selected a few opportunities you may want to explore. Apply directly if interested. If you’ve moved recently or would like to see different jobs click here and help me better serve you.

Have I applied for a job lately?


Have I contacted this outfit in any way, directly or indirectly?


Do they think I’m stupid as a post?

Sure enough

This morning I have to visit Young Dr. Kildare — his office is many miles closer to my house than the Mayo is, and so I’ve taken to seeing him for minor ailments, reserving MayoDoc for the heavy hitting. This is another nexus of computer hassle: every time you visit, they want you to sign into their annoying “Portal” and fill out redundant form after redundant form after redundant form. My computer will NOT let me into the thing, no matter what fu*king password I try. So I have to show up 15 minutes early and beg a staff member to help.

This is complicated by the fact that my appointment is for 9 a.m. — and they don’t open till 9 a.m.

but… <hard return hard return>…waitwaitwait!!!

lookee here! I’ve…


OMG! A miracle has happened.

I can’t believe it!

The night-long overcast has coalesced into a steady, pouring rain. The road crew out front has run off, presumably to a coffeeshop, leaving an army’s worth of equipment out in the road. I looked at that weather and thought…ohhhhhh shee-ut! Time for a strategic prevarication.

{grrrrr grrrrr…} I will be dayumed if I’m driving up the gawdawful Cave Creek Road to YDK’s office in the rain, through the rush-hour traffic under dusky early-morning skies.

one ringy-dingy
two ringy-dingies

Phone lady picks up.

I prevaricate extravagantly: “The city is digging up the road — apparently the sewer system has gone awry. [true; and true] I can’t get my car out of the garage [fake] and so it doesn’t look like I’m going to be able to get up to your place by 9 a.m. [faker than fake].”

She buys it!  Or at least, she kindly pretends to buy it…so I’m outta there.

Actually, the ailment that led to this morning’s appointment has magically faded away. Ear weirdness: felt like (are you ready for this one?) a strand of hair had somehow worked its way into the ear canal and was poking me in the inner ear.  Just in the past hour, though, that sensation (which I’ve been enjoying for the lo! these many days) has pretty much gone away.

Soooo…here we are, loafing in an easy chair, watching the rain and enjoying the enforced silence out front (soon to be broken, whenever the heavy machinery can be fired up). If I had any sense, I’d go back to bed and try to catch a few extra Z’s before these guys get down to work.

But no one has accused me, not lately anyway, of having any sense.

Tony’s Home for Wayward Delinquents is quiescent. Some of the kids live there; others are bussed in by van each morning. Strange. Do they close down when it rains?

Unlikely. Could be, though, that the city warned them that all mechanized Hell was slated to break loose this morning, so they may have arranged for the least stable of their inmates to be kept elsewhere today.

For awhile, I thought he’d acquired the house next door to the south of the Institute. But…now I think that doesn’t appear to be the case. Hard to believe the city would let him glom more than one house in a row to convert into reform schools.

What. A. Place. If I had any sense — and my son would pipe down and quit threatening to have me institutionalized if I dare to sell this house — I would move far, far away from here. EVERY DAY is a new litany of crime and craziness. And since the ‘Hood is bordered by the tired and sleazy west side, just on the other side of Conduit of Blight Blvd., and by one of the most dangerous slums in the state just to the north of Gangbanger’s Way, one does not feel very safe here. And one is bloodywell not very likely to extract enough from sale of a home here to move into anyplace safer other than the dreary, depressing Sun City.

Ain’t it fine?

Gas station barricade–wheee!
QT Employee stabbed! Yeah: you can walk there from here, no problem…
Build-to-Rent: The newest rage in real estate. Uh huh…that’ll add a lot of class to this area
Escaped prisoner captured in Phoenix Hotel. Hmmm…how d’you tell the difference between an escaped convict and the local yokels?
Body found in local canal. That’s about 20 blocks from here. You could walk there from the university.
Cop creamed in crash; suspects run off.
Another officer-involved shooting. This one, at least, is a distance from the ‘Hood. For a change.

One could go on and on and on. The local news runs like this every day, and a substantial number of the Happenings occur near or in the ‘Hood. This is why I drive across the city to go to a grocery store, rather than walking or driving to the nearby Albertson’s. It’s why I’d rather drive almost out to the university — any day! — to go to the Sprouts, rather than buy at the one within walking distance of the Funny Farm.

Computer hassles. Real-world hassles. Good grief! Where do I go to buy a cave in the red-rock country of southern Utah?

Ben FrantzDale, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

The Birds Are Gone

On a beautiful morning like this — cool and clear, the kids across the street playing, the dog roaming about, the coffee cooled down to drinkable temp — the side yard would normally be alive with doves, sparrows, and wrens. Not so today.

This is the first morning all winter that I’ve decamped to the westside deck to swill the remainder of a the breakfast pot of coffee. And y’know…there’s not a single bird out here. This, presumably because I haven’t hung a feeder full of seed out here in months — not since we were enjoined to quit feeding birds, because of a bird plague that was holding forth. Apparently, though, I was about the only one who knocked off feeding them. We can hear mad chirping and frolicking coming from somewhere across the road…no doubt someone else is luring them that way.

In fact…let us get up, stumble out front and see if we can spot where they’re congregating…


Nope. Wherever the attraction is, it isn’t visible from the front yard.

What is visible? The aging paloverde tree in front, the one I had planted when I installed all the desert landscaping. It’s sagging to the east, and come the next stiff windstorm, very probably will fall over, pulling up a fair amount of gravel and fake “hills” with it. And likely knocking down the tree next to it.

Hm. I could have it taken out. Or just wait until it falls over and see if the homeowner’s insurance will pay to clean up the disaster area.

Meanwhile, in the Department of Home Improvements, the new refrigerator has about stopped making its obnoxious, loud noise.

Check out the saga, if you haven’t been following along:

Chapter 1: Kickoff
Chapter 2: Run-Run-Run-Run-Runaround Run-Run-Run-Run
Chapter 3: Fiasco Central
Chapter 4: Fridge Fantasia
Chapter 5: American Products in the Can

The criminal refrigerator is now working reasonably well, if you can imagine. At least, it works for the time being. Its motor still makes more noise than I would like, but it’s not intolerable. The problem, evidently, is that the vendor sold me a damaged item, but forcing them to take it back appears be outside the realm of possibility.

BECAUSE I had, at the behest of an older and wiser neighbor, charged the damn thing on my American Express card (rather than paying for it out of pocket, as I’d planned to do), AMEX went in for the kill when I called and reported the antics described in these parts. They not only refunded my money, but they seem to have so intimidated the vendor that the crooks have never come and retrieved their clunk of a refrigerator.

In the meantime, I called a repairman who, with what we might call minimal effort (all that was needed was one, count it: 1 screwdriver!) managed to get rid of the contraption’s most annoying noises. Upshot: even though I surely would prefer a better unit, what I have now does work and does not require me to close the bedroom door to sleep at night.

Hence there’s no hurry to run out and buy another refrigerator. Eventually, I will. But…not now.

The message being, I reckon: ALWAYS charge major purchases on a major credit card! No matter whether you pay for the purchase on time, or in one fell swoop.


Hmmmmm…. Lookee here: I need to put up new Cat Barriers.

Tony the Romanian Landlord’s “Other Daughter” (as opposed to the one he calls his “Pretty Daughter”), who lives two houses to the west of the Funny Farm, is a cat lady. She collects the damn things — it seems to be one of her psychoses. When I had a vegetable garden, the beasts hopped over the fence and converted it to their personal outdoor sandbox…rendering all the veggies I was growing inedible. Tried putting mouse traps along the top of the wall, but the cats had no problem negotiating their way past those things. So now I strap strips of carpet tacks to the decorative row of block that tops the wall. This DOES work effectively to keep the little darlin’s out.

Looks weird. Annoys the Hell out of me. But annoys me one helluva lot less than cat shit in the veggies.

Surprisingly, they’ve lasted quite a long time — several years. But after all this time, the weather has pretty well done them in. So…before it gets hot outside, I’d better take them down and replace them with fresh strips.

Another little household task I could bestir myself to take on — before it gets hot! — is fertilizing the roses, which haven’t been fed in several seasons.


Aaaaahhh shee-ut! Cop Copter just barged over, flyin’ low.

He seems to have moved right on, though: probably headed to the scene of a crime in some other precinct.

I am soooooooo tired of the endless round after round after round of Events here! If I could move away, I would be outta here so fast it would make your proverbial head spin.

Where would I go?

Ideally…Oro Valley, a suburb of Tucson nestled against the foothills of the Santa Rita mountains. Less than ideally but probably OK: Prescott, once the state capital but now your basic tourist trap. Both venues are very pretty…relatively low in crime…large enough to possess most of the amenities one would like in an urban environment (adequate medical care, decent shopping, reliable utilities that don’t require you to truck in propane, something resembling a cultural life, proximity to airports, pleasant enough housing). They offer many qualities that this place doesn’t have and don’t harass you with many of the negative things that you have to put up with here. Like crime, crime, and more crime…

HowEVER… My son is dead set against my moving away from here. I believe he may want this house, which is several decades newer than his place, or that he wants me and his dad to stay within easy driving distance as we stumble deeper into senescence. Neither of us is more than about 10 minutes from his place, and our location puts each of us within easy shooting distance of not one but two major hospitals.

Oro Valley and Prescott; either one is a good two- to three-hour drive from here. Even Fountain Hills, which is conveniently close to the Mayo and many a mile from the local blight, is about 45 minutes away. One-way. I expect he realizes that if I were to move, it would be to someplace a good long way from these precincts.

Ohhh well. Speaking of moving on: up, up, and awayyyy!

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.

WERE the 1950s so bad?

A post from my favorite time-waster, Quora — just put this up last night.

Were the 1950’s so bad? How could we stand to gain by returning to more traditional family roles, with the wife in the kitchen and the man out getting the money? Why bother having a family if you need your independence too?

I grew up in the 1950s. Here’s what I recall about it.

My mother was home all the time — that was nice, I guess. My father went to work; he was a harbor pilot who worked swing shifts, so if he wasn’t working during the day, he was sleeping, and anyone else in the house had to be verrreee quiet. Or else.

I loved science, especially astronomy. When I told my parents I wanted to be an astrophysicist, they informed me that girls didn’t do that kind of thing, but I’d make a great secretary.

We lived overseas for ten years, in a Middle Eastern country where my father wrangled tankers for an oil company. My parents took great care to teach me that…

  • America was the greatest country in the world.
  • All other countries were inferior.
  • People with dusky complexions, such as the Arabs whose country we lived in, were inferior to white people.
  • Communists were the evil enemy. So were socialists. And anyone else who didn’t agree with our way of thinking.
  • A woman’s place was in the home.
  • And a lot of other blather along those lines…

We flew Constellations back and forth, when my father got a vacation (three months every two years). They were wonderful planes. Slow and noisy, yes. But what fun sleeping in your own fold-down bunk, stopping in country after country after country, cruising through the Alps, watching the sun rise over the Atlantic as you were homeward bound from Shannon, Ireland, to New York, being served breakfast, lunch, and dinner in your seat — that was traveling!

Nuclear war was a constant threat. After we returned to the States, we lived in a San Francisco high-rise. Every Saturday at noon, air-raid sirens atop our tower went off with a BLASTING scream. If, as a young teenager, I ventured to sleep in, the howling noise of these terrifying “tests” would literally lift me out of my bed.

  • We had air raid drills at school.
  • We had to register an escape plan with the school: in the event of a nuclear attack, would I be bussed down the peninsula, or would I be picked up by my parents at the school, or would I be sent home on foot to my parents to take shelter or to evacuate?

My father raised He!! and put a block under it when he found out the school had assigned me a locker mate who was a black girl.

  • I learned from her that black people are human, when shortly after my father had roared into the principal’s office, the little girl’s things disappeared from our locker. Weeks later, though, she reappeared…with burn scars all over her body. She had been helping her family fix breakfast when her robe caught fire; in a panic, she ran across the room and, before anyone could catch her, crashed through a closed Arcadia door, thereby adding life-threatening cuts and gashes to the burns she suffered. Black people can have scars? Pain? Terror? Panic? Who’d have thunk it?

Television was relatively new — still black & white — and some of the shows were great: The Phil Silvers Show, The Jack Benny Show, As the World Turns, The Twilight Zone, Dragnet, many more. As today, some were pretty stupid, too.

My mother got a job: her salary was $75… ”Such good pay — for a woman!” my mother crowed. It wasn’t enough to cover our rent, to say nothing of feeding us and running a car. If anything had happened to my father, we would have been flung into poverty.

Part of her job as a receptionist for the large apartment development where we lived was to greet prospective renters. She would hand them an application to fill out. As they left the office, she would mark, in code at the bottom of the first page, whether the applicant was white, black, Jewish (in her estimation), or Asian. Only whites needed to apply.

Phones plugged into the wall. There were no cell phones. If you had car trouble and could not flag down another driver, you would have to walk to a gas station or a store and use a pay phone to call for help.

Cars did not have seat belts, or if they did, they had only lap belts. And in many other respects, cars truly were unsafe at any speed.

If those were the best of times, you don’t wanna know what the worst of times were about…

Image: Wikipedia, Constellation


In the wee hours of a sleepless night, I like to pass the insomniac time by perusing and commenting at a site called Quora, where members dream up questions and other members write answers to them. This morning I came across this question:

If you had a child in middle school who was being bullied, how would you handle it?

Yeah…that one sure rang my chimes. Here’s my story, in response to folks who said you need to teach your kiddies to stand up for themselves and fight back:

Well… As a girl, no amount of “standing up for yourself” would have done a darned thing for me. First, I didn’t have the physical strength to fight off several boys, even if I knew how to do so. Second, indulging in any such unlady-like behavior (this was in the 1950s) would have caused unutterable trouble for me.

The only thing I could do was what I did do: watch the clock leading up to the 3:00 p.m. dismissal time. Have all my books and things stacked on the desk and ready to go. As soon as the bell rang, grab my stuff and RUN out the door and RUN AS FAST AS I COULD RUN back to my house. Fortunately we lived only about three or four blocks from the hateful school.

After about a year of this, my fifth- and sixth-grade teacher (whom I abominated), caught two of the little darlings where they had cornered me at the entry to the school.

To my horror, she said to dear little Tommy, “Go ahead. Hit her!”

I was too young and too terrified to understand what she was doing.

He stared at her.

“Go on! Hit her!”

Tommy, being a great deal smarter and world-wise than I was, paused. The temptation was huge, but he resisted and stood down. I got up from the pavement, grabbed my books, and ran away.

She must have given Tommy (and Barry, and Bruce, and the rest of the little charmers) quite a fine go-to-He!! lecture, because after that the worst of the harassment stopped. I was still miserable because I had essentially no friends. None of the little darlings would have anything to do with me. But at least they quit harassing me.

This took place in an American oil camp overseas, a compound much like a military base where we were trapped for the duration of each of my father’s two-year contracts. There was no place else my mother could send me to school. Finally, I got sick, and she and a friend who was a nurse persuaded the doctor to say I had infectious mononucleosis and must stay home. My mother hired my former third-grade teacher to tutor me — this woman had married an employee of the company; married women weren’t allowed to work for the company at the time, so she’d had to quit her job at the school. After some months of this, my mother managed to persuade my father that I was too sick to stay there and that she and I needed to come back to the States.

Never been so glad to get away from someplace in my life!

When we got back home, I tested several years ahead of my sixth-grade cohort, suggesting that home-schooling is a good thing. Once in the new school, where none of the new classmates knew I was the weird little kid, I got along just fine and in fact thrived. National Honor Society, accepted to college a year early, Phi Beta Kappa, three-year Ph.D. program….quite the opposite of what would have happened if I’d had to continue hiding from little criminals for several more years.

All of which suggests, I think, that if your kid is being bullied at school — especially if the kid is a girl and unlikely to have the strength or skill to fight back — one effective remedy is to take them out of the school. Transfer them to another school, even if it means you have to move to a different district.