Coffee heat rising

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.


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:


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.


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.

Où sont les amours de lointain?

“Where are the loves of yesteryear”… Ever amuse yourself on the Internet for an hour or two looking up old lovers — les amours de lointain? What a bizarre experience.

Every time. Some would say that’s because my amours of yesteryear were themselves bizarre. Which would, one might admit, be to a degree true.

Today I took it into my bored little head to look up a man I dated throughout my junior and senior years at the august University of Arizona. Let’s just call him “Bob.”

I met Bob at the campus swimming pool, where I spent a fair amount of the summer session between my sophomore and junior years hanging out. He was older than me, handsome, and ever on the make. I had pretensions of smartness, was moderately cute, and had a 20-inch waist and big boobs. An affaire de coeur quickly coalesced. We became a Thing, and we remained Thingly for most of my undergraduate career.

My parents hated Bob. They had, we might quietly remark, no clue how much better he was than Jim, the sh!thead who was my sophomore-year heart-throb. At least Bob didn’t end up in the slam…look at it that way. My mother adored Jim. Handsome, charming, rugged, sleazy Jim. She never heard about his rather spectacular experience with the Highway Patrol. Historic, some might say…

Think of that. She lived the rest of her life without ever knowing him well. 😀 Thank God!

But back to Bob. My parents intuited, on sight, that this guy was a low-key scoundrel. That, I thought — and to this day feel — was an over-reaction. He was a jerk. But as scoundrels go, he really would have had to work to rise to the level of some of the charmers that inhabited the landscape of my life.

At the time I met Bob, he was in his junior or senior year at the University of Arizona. I was a preternaturally advanced student in French, a language that I spoke fluently, and was headed for a richly funded three-year Ph.D. program. I doubt if he really understood what that meant, because in those days women were not expected to have careers — certainly not as university professors — except that it kept me hanging around lovely Tucson all year. Bob was not the kind of guy who came from a background where women did anything other than clean house, f*ck, and raise children. But then, that was about all my parents really expected of me. Far as they were concerned, I was at the UofA to find a man, not to get some exotic graduate degree that would prepare me to do…what? Teach high-school French?

To give you the same introduction to Bob’s character that I had: Bob paid his way through the University — covering out-of-state tuition, which was as stiff in those days as it is now — by stealing hub caps.

Yes. That was his job at the time: hub-cap thief. So successful was he that at one point along the line the Tucson newspaper ran a story about the shocking rash of hub-cap thefts in the city. Bob knew a fence who would buy as many hub-caps as he could steal…and he stole a lot of them, obviously.

He was pretty good at stealing. Once I was in the university bookstore with him. He picked up some book off a rack — as I recall, it looked like an expensive textbook — and slipped it under the letter-jacket that he always wore. Zipped up the jacket three-quarters of the way and coolly stood in line with me at the cashier’s counter as I paid for the stack of textbooks I was buying. Not a blink. He did the same at the library, except that we didn’t have to go past a cashier.

So it was that Bob was single-handedly responsible for all those annoying exit-door alarms in every bookstore and library across the country…

Bob being my first real boyfriend, I was hopelessly enamored of him. And one must say, he was one studly fella.

Yet as time passed, I began to see him in a less and less Valentine-pink light. Stealing from the bookstore? Stealing hubcaps? Okay, that was interesting, kind of picaresque.

But then came the time that I was offered an opportunity to spend my junior year in France. This was outside the usual university-sponsored junior-year-in-Wherever program. One of my friends, who was French, had come to the UofA the year before. Her parents, out of…je ne sais quoi — gratitude? ignorance? some sort of scam? offered to let me spend the year in their apartment in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a rather fancy neighborhood. We might say.

Not being the adventurous type and having seen the world several times around, thankyouverymuch, I failed to see the amazingness of this opportunity. But Bob sure did. And he wanted to go along.

So, he proposed a strategy: I would get a grant or scholarship to support me in France for a semester or (preferably) a year, I would stay in this place in Neuilly for free, and he would come along with me. We would live together in Paris for a year…on the money I would collect from the proposed scholarship.

Got it? This dude proposed to sponge off his girlfriend for a year in France.

I declined the opportunity.

But I did not decline to continue the love affair.

This amour continued through my junior year. Bob was a year ahead of me. He lived with two other guys in a shabby apartment off-campus — standard shabby student housing — and I lived in the dorm, as all unmarried female students were required to do at the time.

The first time I began to have really serious doubts about the guy — can you imagine not having such doubts after it became obvious that if I married him I would never see my parents again, or that he was a professional thief, or that he figured it was OK to sponge off an 18-year-old girl? — came when he delivered an admiring report about an escapade on the part of his best buddy. Said buddy had married a young woman and they were living happily ever after in lovely Tucson. After they were wed, she became pregnant — as young wives were expected to do, back in the mid-1960s. She grew quite large with this pregnancy, so that toward the end she was not able to accommodate his persistent desires for sex. So, buddy had bragged to Bob, he betook himself to a bar, picked up a chippy, and got it off with her. Bob thought that was brilliant!

He went on and on about what a brave, fine, and righteous thing it had been for this guy to relieve himself in the vagina of some chickadee he’d picked up at a bar, while his wife was left at home — presumably cleaning house or washing the dinner dishes and lugging her vast belly around.

That was the point where I first thought, seriously, “hmmm…maybe Daddy is right about this clown.”

Then we had the draft issue.

The Vietnam War was still in progress, and young men were being drafted and sent off to be sacrificed in the meat grinder of Southeast Asia. Bob had no moral qualms about the war — he did not oppose it on ethical grounds. He probably didn’t oppose it at all. But he absolutely positively had no intention of going to Vietnam.

By then, I had realized that I was not going to marry the guy — men could still avoid the draft if they were married. Luckily, the government changed that rule right about then, so getting me to marry him would not have kept him out of the army. But…being enrolled as a student would still protect you from the draft.

So, Bob came up with another plan: graduate school.

A student, Bob was not. I was attending lectures for about half his classes, taking notes, and writing his papers. He was barely managing to pass the mid-terms and finals. But because I could generate passing grades for his courses while I was asleep, he did finish a bachelor’s degree in business management — the standard rubber-stamp degree for young males at the time. The second-to-last thing on this earth Bob wanted to do was take more coursework. The last was to fight in Vietnam.

So, he decided, he would enroll in a master’s degree in the dumbedest-down, most Mickey-Mouse graduate program he could think of: elementary education. This would protect him for at least another two years. Assuming he could avoid the draft at that time, he would then take a job at some school with the goal of parlaying his B.S. in business into a principal’s job within a few years. Principals, he reasoned, earned a living wage, unlike teachers. He was accustomed to living on next to nothing, and so he would put up with the low pay until he could get into an administrative position: that would be far better than a tour of Vietnam.

Dumbed-down and Mickey-Mouse were les mots justes for a course of graduate studies in elementary ed at the UofA’s College of Education. Incredibly, the guy earned three units of graduate-level credit for a course in bulletin-board making!

No joke: graduate credit for sticking little cut-out felt figures on a corkboard!

That academic year ended. I took one summer session in Tucson but then had to go home to lovely Sun City for the remainder of the summer break. This gave my parents a chance to have at me. By the time we returned to class in the fall, the scales had fallen (or been ripped) from my eyes, and I told Bob to get lost. He was shattered. I was sad, but convinced my parents were right: l-o-o-o-s-e-r.

A lifetime has passed. Occasionally I wonder what happened to him. At one point while I was working at the Great Desert University in lovely Tempe, I looked him up and discovered, to my amazement, that he, too, was on that campus. He had some kind of nondescript administrative job.

Today I decide, out of (altogether-too-) idle curiosity, to look up old Bob and see what became of him. And lo! where should I find him (where else) but on LinkedIn.

Just now? He’s an associate vice-chancellor at the University of California campus where my cousin and her mother went to school. Before that: same position, only at Santa Cruz, where he spent four years in a job with the same title. He only lasted one year at Oregon State, doing something unmentioned for some foundation. Three years as associate vice president of a Florida university. And three years in that assistant vice-dean position at the Great Desert University.

Sure am glad I didn’t have to follow that character all over the country, these past few decades. Santa Cruz might have been nice. But Davis…not so much, probably. Certainly not in his company. 😀

As for the drug dealer? What happened to him?

That guy was a Republican Party operative during Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign. He and his associates were responsible for a variety of “dirty tricks” (yes, they called it that even then) employed to get Goldwater nominated over the rival candidate. His mentor was a member of the Arizona House of Representatives, who was a first-class sleaze. One of this boyfriend’s jobs was to scout up prostitutes and other willing adventuresses to serve as escorts for visiting Republican bigwigs, to keep the guests entertained while they were in Arizona.

A few months after I married my husband, the friend who had introduced me to that Republican worthy called on the phone with news.

“Did you read the story in the paper about Jimmy?” All excited…


“He was just arrested driving across the California desert with the largest haul of cocaine that has ever been nabbed!”

Yep. That was Jim. Never did things small.

Last time (and the first time, come to think of it) I looked him up online, which was a couple years ago, he had turned to charitable works after he got out of the slam. He was somewhere in New Mexico, serving as an executive director for some nonprofit working on one of the Indian reservations. What exactly this outfit did was unclear.

Today? No sign of him, that I can find. Or care to spend enough time trying to find.


So I’m sittin’ around here (actually, slamming around doing some housework and unplugging the kitchen drain) when for unknown reasons the brain decides to reflect on bygone quarrels between my mother and my father over the way she used to spend “his” money.

In those days, it was almost impossible for a woman to get a job that paid more than pocket change. At one point my mother got a real estate license and went to work for a broker who was peddling property at the Salton Sea (we lived in Southern California at the time) — it was quite the little scam, from which she made approximately nothing. Actually, I believe her take was in the negative numbers, by the time you added up the gasoline and the cost of the damage to the car’s paint from sandstorms out on the desert. So in fact, whatever we lived on was what he earned.

My father deeply resented the way she would spend “his” money, although we did not live high off the hog in general. We rented mid- middle-class apartments, drove Fords, never traveled, did not go out to eat, did not gallivant to speak of. But she did like to buy clothes and makeup and she did like to shop in department stores. One time when he was home from the ship he happened upon a bill from a department store, the result of which was quite a sh!tfit, in which he ordered her to “stop spending my money.”

She used to shop in this department store, not far from where we lived…she was a hopeless sucker for the cosmetics salesladies. It was a nice middle-class store, but nothing swell-elegant. It was probably a Broadway: on the order of a Dillard’s. Not I. Magnin or Saks, but not Penney’s either.

She liked to wear lots of makeup and lots of perfume. Because she smoked a LOT, her skin was a mess to begin with and she needed perfume to temper the tobacco stink. And we’d spent 10 years in Saudi Arabia at a time when people imagined that a “healthy tan” was good for you. This meant her face was your basic shoe leather, the result being that every morning she would sit down in front of her dressing table and coat herself in layer after layer of moisturizers, cover-ups, foundation, rouge, and powder. An easy target for a sales pitch, she never understood (or rather, she refused to believe) that there was essentially no difference between a cheap make-up like, say, Coty, Avon, or Revlon and pricey stuff like Estée Lauder, and so she would allow herself to be talked into buying a whole line of spectacularly expensive products.

I can remember standing around a cosmetics counter with her as she browsed and bought and yakked and browsed and bought and yakked and finally we came away with something over $100 in make-up and perfume. This was in Southern California, so I would have been in my first or second year of high school — 1960 or 61.

Know how much a hundred bucks in 1961 is worth in 2020 dollars? Eight hundred sixty-nine dollars and twenty-nine cents! 

Holy sh!t!!

No wonder the poor guy blew a gasket! That would have been as much as he earned in a month — maybe more — going to sea full-time! As a Merchant Marine commander with a license to sail oil tankers of any tonnage on any ocean…

When I went to the University of Arizona in 1962, my father gave me $1000 a year to live on. It was enough to pay my tuition, the dorm rent, books, and food…with a little left over for clothes and incidentals. In 2020 dollars, that would be almost $1,000 a month, though after my freshman year tuition was essentially free. So…just imagine how outrageous spending a month’s worth of that on make-up would’ve been. 😀

Strange, what crosses your mind when the place is quiet and you have nothin’ else to think about but cleaning the kitchen counters…

The forgetfulness of places

Can you remember your parents remarking, when you were a young pup, that your town was developing so fast  they could hardly recognize their regular stomping grounds as they were driving around, year after year? When we lived in Southern California, my mother used to say that off and on — we could even describe it as “all the time.” After we moved over here from unlovely Long Beach, occasionally she’d remark on the extirpation of the orange groves and the cotton fields as the booming Phoenix area Californicated at a breakneck pace.

I wonder if this sense that everything familiar is disappearing or being unrecognizably altered is a function of age, or if it’s objectively true.

Probably a little of both, hm?

This morning I had to present myself down at the dentist’s office at 9 a.m. sharp, for a routine cleaning and to discuss the endodontical adventures. Once again, there was hardly any traffic at what should have been the height of rush hour. Dr. D’s office is on the sixth floor of a mid-town high-rise, a district best described as damned toney. His offices look out onto a spectacular view of north Phoenix that goes on and on and eye-bogglingly on, halfway to freaking Las Vegas. I flew into the parking garage at about 10 minutes to 9:00…the place was empty. I mean seriously: the entire ground floor was vacant. I grabbed a crip space, leaving five empty. Otherwise, I think there were less than half-a-dozen cars on on that floor.

That was weird.

Upstairs, his sidekick told me they’d had to close their office for two months. I didn’t ask for details, but I gathered from her and a little later from him that the state came in and shut down dental offices everywhere. Can you imagine being forced to close your business, from which you earn your livelihood and with which you pay at least three full-time employees? Holeee ess aitch ai!

All being found well — or at least, better than anyone expected — I escaped unharmed and went on about my business. Without the Really Old Folks in tow, I’d forgotten to put up my Official Mickey Mouse Club Crip Space Hanger (I don’t use it unless I’m chauffeuring the old people around). But luckily no one cared: the crip spaces were empty and no ticket was in evidence.

So: two moments of small mercies in the space of 40 minutes.

Whilst driving downtown, I had that uncanny “not in Kansas anymore” sensation: that the city has changed just enough in the six or eight months since I last covered that route that the place seems kinda out of whack.

It was like driving through canyons of shadows. All the way down Seventh Street, one of the two main drags that flank the central corridor, the cityscape looked familiar…but also NOT familiar. Enough has changed that nothing is quite the same. Strip shopping and tired gas stations have been replaced with shiny new rabbit-warren apartments. Easy-to-navigate intersections are now festooned with complicated left-turn lights, no turn signals, time-of-day turn lanes, on and on. New high-rises block the view of the South Mountains. Run-down shopping centers have been resuscitated as office developments. Yet many of the same old businesses and buildings are still crumbling away beside the roadways.

You look down the road and you see what you see…but you also see shadows: shadows of what used to be there. Weirdly, it’s like looking at two photo transparencies overlaid on each other.

Having escaped from the dentist, I decided to go by the fancy new Sprouts at 7th Avenue and Osborn, my old stomping grounds. This store occupies the space of a defunct Basha’s grocery store, one of a historic chain of markets that used to hold forth across the state. I used to shop there all the time when we lived in the historic Encanto District. Not a great store, but close to home and good enough for day-to-day needs. Catty-corner across what is now a large, busy intersection is a Safeway, which has survived the present wave of gentrification.

Grab what I need, shoot through the check-out line, and sashay out the door, headed back to the car, when I see a poster.

A fifteen-year-old girl has disappeared from the corner of 7th and Osborn: large reward on offer. Her photo shows a pretty young thing. Now, you may be sure, a dead young thing, dissolving away somewhere out on the desert.

Holy sh!t…a fifteen-year-old nabbed. I don’t know why I’m so shocked by this: it wasn’t safe when we lived there. I used to walk up to this store now and again. And yes, men harassed me unless I had the German shepherd with me. Occasionally a guy would stop and try to get me to climb in his truck. No way, then or now, would I let a fifteen-year-old girl walk around there, even though that busy corner has several attractions designed to call young people: a corner pizza parlor, a fitness studio, the Sprouts, a popular Mexican restaurant, the Safeway… True, the corner is much, much nicer, much modernized over when we lived there…it doesn’t look unsafe. Back in the day, you knew it was unsafe, just as here in the ’Hood you know Conduit of Blight and Gangbanger’s Way are unsafe.

We had friends of the liberated female persuasion who believed that women should refuse to be daunted by the risks inherent to living in a large, low-rent city, or by harassment from every passing male who didn’t realize you carried a pistol in your purse. Women, they insisted, have a right to live in this society and a right to move around without being harassed, and so we should all go on about our business as though we do have that right and expect it to be honored.

Right. Like you can’t be dead right, hm?