Coffee heat rising

She had good taste…

Here’s a poem that Puerto del Sol published some time back. Truth to tell, the content is from a letter I sent to my son when he was in college. I’d retrieved a set of my mother’s stoneware from a dank storage bin at my Ex’s house — she died a year before my son was born. I guess the headnote is part of the poem…

Nice Taste

After two years of searching, my ex-husband and his new wife find my mother’s stoneware dishes, right where he/i/we put them, must’ve been ten or fifteen years ago . . . in the tin shed behind the carport, cardboard boxes rotting off them like peeling sunburned skin, roach grubs and scorpions scuttering in and out, but amazingly they’re all intact, or as intact as they were when they came into our hands. I write to my son about the dishes and his dead grandmother, whom he has never known.

It was all Denby and Heath in those days.
That was what the young society matrons
had because of course that was what one had.
Denby. Heath. Big lurching plates in dark lurching
colors, swamp green and mud brown and marsh blue
lighted here and there with dabs of St. Elmo’s fire:
orange and gold.

Well so I had to have some Heathware because
your dad and I couldn’t afford Denby
Though Sara B* had Denby, wouldn’t have
anything else and somehow Barbara B**
got Denby, too, well because her mother
worked in a jewelry store
(shh) and got (a discount).
So what I chose was olive green, not to say
avocado green. “Choose things that don’t
go out of style,” she used to say.

And that was what she would buy for me,
ageless clothes that stayed presentable for
ten years and looked like they were purchased
for my grandmother.

It never occurred to me that olive plates would
someday say, enunciating crisply, “Nineteen-sixty-seven.”
How could we ever go out of style?

The bridal buying frenzy infected her.
After I was settled in my new house she
remade her empty nest. One of the things
she refilled it with was a new set of stoneware,
just like the stylish young women’s: Heath.

Only she picked white. White with dust-brown unglazed rim.
Alabaster and earth.
Simple. Clean. Understated. Elegant.
And god help us,
to this day
they’re the height of style.

 

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.

The Queen of Ugly

I just can NOT do Zoom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay.

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

And when he came back with them?

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

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

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

The Attic Bootie

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

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

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

No.

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

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

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

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

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

Holy sh!t.

§ § § §

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

§ § § §

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the Village Cluster

Ever think of a city not as a single vast sprawling entity but as a set of villages that, for whatever strange reason, happen to have clustered together? That, sometimes, is what lovely Phoenix seems to be. Not just in relation to its endlessly sprawling Southern-California style suburbs, but where its own internal districts are concerned.

And one of the quirks of living here is that you tend to hang out a lot in your own village and, for long periods, to visit only a limited set of other villages. One reason for that, of course, is that you have a routine that puts you on a fairly set path. The other is that driving in this city is not very much fun.

It used to be fun — driving, I mean. Back in the dark ages, when the roads carried about a quarter to a third as much traffic as they do today, sometimes one would actually get in the car and go exploring, just for the helluvit — because yeah, driving here used to be a pleasant way to pass the time. Now it’s just a giant, sprawling headache.

Today I had to revisit the dermatologist whose office is halfway to Yuma. This time I and my fellow homicidal drivers escaped the panoply of wrecks. But I had a couple of errands to run on the way home. This required me to visit my old stomping grounds — the historic Encanto District — and then cruise up Central Avenue to AJ’s fancy overpriced grocery store. Usually I evade driving on Central, because I hate the accursed lightrail train, which makes a hair-tearing mess of the traffic signal timing. But today cruising north on that tangled road seemed like a path of…well, less resistance.

Mid-central Phoenix is one of the “villages.” It’s one my mother and I used to hang out in a lot, and it’s also one I used to drive through with some frequency when the ex- and I lived downtown. Today it occurred to me that my mother would barely recognize it, here in the 21st century. For that matter, the 20-year-old me would be lost there, too. Our favorite venue, the formerly upscale Park Central, no longer houses stores at all, leastwise not so I can see. It’s mostly offices, a modern art gallery, and clutter. All up and down Central Avenue, developers have built four- to six-story apartment buildings, as well as a few new high-rises. These apartments are real rabbit-warrens…all shiny and new now, but the sort of junk that you know will be just that — junk — within a couple of decades: crowded and cramped and tenementy. A few places persist, but most of our old hangouts are gone, replaced with smaller, shinier, more harder-edged hangouts.

So after driving and hassling and driving and driving, I finally arrive home. Let the dog out. Sit down. Turn on the computer. And find this amusing message in the email from WonderAccountant, my neighbor across the street:

Hi–

I guess this is the happening corner.  This morning I looked up from my computer to see a police car parked in front of my house with the officer walking towards the northeast corner of the house.  They began talking to a person that I could not see.  A few minutes later two policemen escorted her to another waiting cop car down in front of Felicia’s house.  Not sure what was happening.  The woman was youngish, African American, wearing leggings, boots, and a knitted cap.  It struck me that she was dressed for the weather.  I didn’t see anything else.

 Perhaps you did?

Perhaps not, this being the first I’d heard of it.

Felicia is Other Daughter for this blog’s purposes, the lesser offspring of the Perp, known to the real world as Tony the Romanian Landlord. Between me and Felicia lives Terri, another freelance accountant. That gives us three lone women living in a row on this side of the street. And of course, facing us we have W.A., who is alone all day while Mr. W.A. works at his partnership’s office.

{sigh}

Yesterday I was mooning on to myself about how much I love my house and how much I love my neighborhood and how really, when ya come right down to it, I can’t imagine moving (because no place is any better and precious few places are as good) and how for sure I’m going to age in place and stay here till I croak over.

Today Prescott and Tucson look better and better…

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.