Coffee heat rising

Another Fine Day in Crime Central

Jayzus, what a day!

We’re awakened at dawn to the tune of the neighborhood watchdog, Will, urging us on Facebook to stay inside! lock the doors and windows! do NOT go outdoors! and don’t answer the doorbell either!

Turns out a murder has taken place just a few blocks to the north of the ‘Hood, in a historic slum neighborhood called Sunnyslope. Cops are swarming. And yes, it’s just another morning in Crime Central.

Shee-ut. This means Ruby and I can’t do today’s doggy-walk. And for that matter, we can’t loaf around the yard with the doors open, either.

WTF?  Well, it was just another day in lovely Sunnyslope. Yet another guy was on the run from the cops, having shot a fellow denizen in his pickup. Shot him dead….nice aim.

The perp fled down the canal….the very canal that runs up behind those cute little antique workers’ houses I was, in passing, coveting.

Couple days ago, a not-very-smart young woman was jogging on the same canal pathway. Nabbed, raped, and thrown in the drink.

Fortunately a passer-by found her and fished her out of the water before she was drawn into one of the weirs, which would’ve been the end of her.

Y’know….this ain’t politically correct, but…i will be dayumed if I can figure out why women figure that “liberated” means “free to wear skimpy outfits over their nubile and sexy bodies as they trot up and down public streets with their boobs and their bums bouncing.” PoliticallyCorrectly, sure: in theory we should be able to do anything the guys can do. But that ignores biological reality: to wit, that some males see any female as fair game and no amount of Liberation will change that fact. The reason you wear clothes that cover your body is to keep your body to yourself, as much as possible.

Dare to say that, though, and…

§ §

Yesterday on the (incredibly long) way home from the dermatologist’s office, I managed to dodge whatever was going on at Conduit of Blight and Main Drag South. Place was swarming with cop helicopters and patrol cars. Whipped into the ’Hood and made it into the garage without incident. Which is always nice.

Derm was pleased with the way the schnozz is healing, after the surgery to slice off an alleged carcinoma. She wanted me to buy some scar cream to help with that process — sold, of course, by their office. Fortunately I’m now on to their business plan: so, when presented with an opportunity, asked how much. FIFTY-EIGHT BUCKS. Thanks, said I. Bye!

Drove home, stopping at two drugstores and a supermarket. At least one didn’t have it. The other two didn’t have staff to help find stuff. Dodged the cops into the ’Hood, darted into the Funny Farm, fired up Amazon, and lo!! As suspected, there was the very stuff the doctor ordered: Forty bucks. 

Any question why I so often feel like I live in a Third-World country?

After driving driving driving, I arrive at home, greeted by a corgi. Dust settles. Dog goes out. I pour a glass of wine. Cop copters roar over the Farm.

Call the dog. Shut and lock the doors. Pour another glass of wine.

Another armed robbery….nothin’ to look at here, folks. This, also, in lovely Sunnyslope: right where I’ve been coveting those cute little old houses with the gigantic yards.

Soooo…there’s another real estate transaction that goes on the shelf. Waaayyyy in the back of the shelf….

§ §

Come noontime today, it’s over to the church for the volunteer gig: once a week I staff the reception desk in the church office.

Sitting at the front desk in the church office building, putting in my duly appointed volunteer time. Gasp!!!!!  It is sooooo excruciatingly b-o-o-o-o-r-i-n-g! Even more so because everyone but the ubiquitous Nanette is out, apparently all day. NOTHING is going on, not even the phone jangling.

Stupidly, I grabbed the wrong pair of glasses as I shot out the front door…the distance-only pair, not the bifocals. Soooo….I can barely see the computer I brought to amuse myself through the long, silent, tedious afternoon.

So the time goes by

very…

very…

very…

s-l-o-o-w-l-y……

From the church it’s down to AJ’s to pick up some more fruit and…maybe something for dinner, since I don’t feel much in the mood to fire up the grill.

The smog is so gawdawful the sunlight looks yellow, and the sky is colored a strange shade of yellowish gray. Just like lovely Southern California. This was one of the several reasons I loathed living in Long Beach. Driving here has gotten a lot like driving in SoCal, too.

Just an ugly place. Yech.

If my son decides to retire to Utah and I’m still living, I’m a’following him!

Seriously: he has a daydream of telecommuting from some sylvan spot in the boondocks. He’s especially interested in southeastern Utah or southwestern Colorado. And since, far’s I can tell, he no longer goes into an office at all, really there’s no reason he couldn’t do exactly that: move to the sticks and do his job online.

I personally would not choose to take up residence in Mormon Country. Doubt if he has a clue how hard it is to buy a bottle of wine in those precincts.

But seriously: Arizona has some very pleasant towns and wide-spots-in-the-road in the sticks, where the locals’ morals don’t interfere with your choice of dinner beverages and a decent regional medical center is within a 20-minute helicopter ride. Anyplace between Tucson and Nogales would fill that bill very nicely. Same is true of the Prescott area.

But as for Phoenix? It’s L.A. East.

And lemme tellya: there was a reason I hated living in Long Beach, all the time I was in high school. Now I feel much the same way about the crowded, hectic, smoggy, crime-ridden Valley of the We-Do-Mean Sun.

This old bat would give a lot to get outta here.

Hyperinflation and the House Shopper…

Welp, in the middle of the great flap over the Nose Cancer (the upshot of which was “they got it all,”  astonishing surgical skill demonstrated in the process), we learned that the dread Tony the Romanian Landlord is back up to his tricks. Turns out he bought the house across the street, recently put up for sale by a neighbor couple who retired to the high country. A-a-a-a-a-n-d…he’s got an army of workmen in there gutting it out (the house was up-to-date and in primo condition) so as to turn it into yet another halfway house or nursing home.

Tony is in the settlement home business. He grabbed a home on a pretty little street where one of my friends lived, let it stand vacant and weedy for a year or more while the recession trudged past, and then turned it into a nursing home, replete with the traffic and the damage to neighboring property values that entails.

Phoenix’s wise City Parents, in a fit of merciful generosity, made it legal to do so. They installed an exception to the city code that forbids running businesses out of homes in residential tracts — for nursing homes and halfway houses. The fact that these places are ill-regulated (if regulated at all) makes our wise leaders no nevermind.

One of said fine establishments here in the ‘Hood is leased out to a nursing home whose employee was regularly raping a vegetative woman. Got her pregnant, not that it mattered to her, because she was perpetually unconscious. Yes, permanently. But it did matter to her family, who quietly installed a camera in her room and filmed the guy diddling his “patient.” (Read “prisoner”…) So as you can imagine, Tony is less than fully appreciated here in the ‘Hood.

When I realized he was up to his tricks again — this time right across the street — I decided it was time to move. Enough, after all, being enough. The property values here in the ‘Hood are so inflated that I could buy something comparable anywhere in the central part of the city…or in Scottsdale, or in Paradise Valley, or in any number of local venues.

So I called my friend Nancy, who happens to be an ambitious Realtor, and asked if she would look for new digs. One possibility is a high-rise apartment on Central Avenue…but ultimately I discarded that idea because I like Ruby the Corgi, I’m not getting rid of her, the hassle involved in coping with a dog in an apartment is more than I can cope with. And besides, I like having a yard. And a pool, for that matter.

Nancy is hot to trot. She wants me to take out a loan right now so’s I can buy a place, and then after we sell this one, if I choose to do so I can then pay it off.

She says my house will sell within a few days — the market is extremely hot. And apparently that is true, despite astonishingly inflated prices. Very few places are for sale, and some of those are…uhm…heh…amazing. Yet none of them stays on the market for long.

Shoofing around…

Here’s this little shack directly to the south of here: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/1619-W-Frier-Dr-Phoenix-AZ-85021/7777319_zpid/  Four thousand square feet for $1.5 million. Right. Moving on.

Okay, so I thought this one looks pretty promising, also in a neighborhood to the south: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/7720-N-17th-Ave-Phoenix-AZ-85021/7777063_zpid/  If it weren’t almost 800 grand…

Here’s a bargain at $586,000…  https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/812-W-Orangewood-Ave-Phoenix-AZ-85021/7777565_zpid/  It hasn’t moved in almost two months, which says something’s majorly wrong with it. Like, say, 586 grand?

Here’s one in the price range, slightly smaller than the Funny Farm: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/7819-N-17th-Ave-Phoenix-AZ-85021/7777084_zpid/  Not a bad little house, especially if you’re charmed by 1950s windows and can do without a garage for your car.  The area around it looks a little flakey…possibly rentals???

We have this “hidden gem”: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/7731-N-17th-Dr-Phoenix-AZ-85021/7777054_zpid/  On my yellow pad I noted “too close to 19th Avenue; a little funky. No garage.”

$1.2 million for this: https://myhomegroup.com/homes-for-sale-details/7508-N-13TH-AVENUE-PHOENIX-AZ-85021/6279740/123/   Seriously??????

No? Well, OK, how about this stunner: https://www.redfin.com/AZ/Phoenix/7620-N-17th-Dr-85021/home/27609886 Check out that one-car car-port, and the great turquoise floor! The historic tile! The prison bars on the exquisitely designed add-on’s windows, and the fantastic acres of dead grass…

Otherwise, amazingly few offerings. I found several small sub-neighborhoods that looked pretty desirable, but nothing for sale in them. Here’s a cute little place, supposedly in the price range at $483,169: https://www.redfin.com/AZ/Phoenix/911-W-State-Ave-85021/home/27949284  “Currently off market.”

But here we have new construction!  In my not-very-humble opinion: exceptionally handsome, exceptionally livable and hevvin help us, it even has a garage, albeit one lacking a door. But…well…it’s right on one of the mainest of the city’s main drags. Enjoy traffic racket? Love the parfum de automobile exhaust? This is the place for you! https://www.zillow.com/community/willow/29377516_plid/

Moving on, I stumbled across THE most astonishing enclave (as it were): https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/213-E-El-Camino-Dr-Phoenix-AZ-85020/7794151_zpid/  This is on a street of little shacks built for agricultural workers. They’ve been enormously gentrified, presumably because young people with a little money and a lot of energy can’t afford anything else. They almost back onto the Arizona Canal, which is…well… Let me put it this way: it’s a Bum’s Highway.

This little place is surprisingly cute, all fixed up the way it is. But…yeah. I peeked in a front window and saw a bedroom that wouldn’t hold a twin bed! 

Well, actually, it would: it has a little nook clearly made to hold a twin or maybe a bunk bed. It’s the tiniest little place: smaller than a modern apartment. But it does have a nice big yard. It’s in a district called Sunnyslope, long renowned as an antique slum, home to the Valley’s Hell’s Angels. You would be dodging bums by day and bullets by night. But otherwise it’s kinda kewl… 😮

Got home after a couple hours of driving around to find Nancy (realtor) on the phone, hot to trot. She gave me the name of a lender to call. I was too pooped to deal with that y’day afternoon, but guess out of courtesy I’ll have to call him today. But pretty clearly this is a lost cause.

She said houses are selling within a matter of days, the market is so hot. She thinks my house (which by comparison with this stuff is some sort of a miracle) will sell instantaneously.

Ohhhkayyy… But the problem with that is every other house that comes on the market is the target of a feeding frenzy. And do you seriously believe I would have a snowball’s chance to snab a place comparable to the beloved Funny Farm?

Really. This makes effin’ Sun City look good! Ahhhh yes, Sun City:

Actually, some of those places wouldn’t be bad, if only they weren’t in a ghetto for old people.

All of which makes the Funny Farm look extremely good. Evidently I would be stark raving cahRAZY to move at this time. I do love my house, but given the Tony situation would move if I could find anything even faintly feasible.

Uhm. Maybe.

By the time I got home from eyeballing the market, I needed one of those beers in the fridge. Or maybe the whole frikkin six-pack….

I guess I’m just going to have to deal with Mr. Boca. He does know which side his butter’s breaded on, and so he doesn’t represent a physical threat. Having a social service agency across the street may not be pleasant….but nothing lasts forever. Including Tony. If he predeceases me, there’s a good chance the new settlement house will be returned to residential status and life will return to normal. Especially if enough neighbors complain.

Mules

Another essay found in DropBox. This one was published in a short-lived but delightful Tucson monthly.

She looked like some vision from the nineteenth century, trudging alone up the Bright Angel Trail in her long, brilliant amethyst skirt and black velvet blouse. After the dose of hokeyness we had just taken from the fake cowboys with the Grand-Ole-Opry drawls back at the South Rim, we could easily have believed she was an actress tricked out as an Indian woman, like the giant costumed Mickey Mouse at Disneyland.

She had to stand aside so our fourteen-rider mule string could amble downhill past her. Up close we saw genuine gray hair showing beneath the heavy scarf covering her head. Her elegant, lined face was the color of Supai sandstone. Around her neck, arms, and fingers she wore several pounds of turquoise and silver—all notably unlike the stuff for sale in the El Tovar gift shop. Yes, we were kicking dust into the eyes of a real, live Navajo matriarch.

Nice touch. Walt would have liked it.

Photographer Peter Ensenberger and I were on the Grand Canyon mule train on assignment for a children’s magazine. We were supposed to cover the trip from the point of view of two twelve-year-olds, but when the boys announced they were too terrified to cling to the lumbering beasts down ten and a half miles of steep grades, we abandoned them at the top with one of their fathers. The youngsters’ defection left us in the company of a pair of retired snowbirds touring the West in their camper, two capable wranglerettes, and eight self-consciously hilarious gay caballeros who planned to meet two hiking buddies at Phantom Ranch.

We soon found ourselves on the edge of a sheer precipice, sharing a four-foot-wide path with scores of tourists on foot. The unimaginable view that looks flat as a postcard from the rim pops into three dimensions once you’re in the Canyon. Three deep dimensions. The still, lucent spires and buttes, the heartbreaking cliffs and folded layers of sandstone, shale, and limestone seem so vast you feel suspended in space. There’s an eerie sense of free-fall, as though you were floating above the swallows that dart to and from their rocky nests.

Mules are not as sure-footed as advertised. Jane, the lady snowbird, rode a steed given to tripping over pebbles and wheezing and groaning with exertion—and Jane was far from overweight. At one point her mule stumbled, its knees buckled, and it almost went down. An animal that came that close to falling on a wide, fairly level stretch was less than reassuring when we reached Jacob’s Ladder, a set of narrow, steep switchbacks that trace a fault line down the face of the 500-foot-high redwall limestone cliffs.

The biggest menace to mule navigation is not stones, plump tourists, three-foot-wide paths beside numbing heights, or pits of ankle-deep sand, but the hiker. Every time we approached one, wrangler Jill grew nervous. Most tourists are cooperative, if begrudging, about stepping aside and waiting for the mules to pass. The problem is that mules tend to spook around hikers—particularly the exotics attracted to the theme park that is the South Rim, folks with buzzing video cameras at their eyes and Walkman headsets in their ears.

Jill’s mule, Thelma (the animals all bear names wranglers think sound quaintly rural), had gone down into the Canyon only twice, but she already knew that she loathed hikers. She viewed backpacks with something akin to mule terror. Every time a human carrying a pack came near, Thelma considered bolting. By instinct, a mule knows that togetherness keeps one safe and solitude exposes one to wolves. So if Thelma, our leader, were to take off down the trail at a dead run or decided to jump over the ledge, thirteen others would follow.

“No mule has ever gone off the edge with a rider on it,” Ensenberger kept insisting. He’d been listening to our new friend, the Fred Harvey P.R. man. If that factoid is true, I figured, it just increases the odds that one soon will.

We came around one bend to find a man with a backpack and a hiking staff perched over the immense void on a tiny outcropping no more than three feet square. Across the trail from him, four people flattened themselves against the wall like lizards on a rock. My stirrup grazed a hiker’s belly—no way around it. A thick yellow cloud of dust, as suffocating as Mexico City smog, rose around us and hung in the air long after we were gone.

More than 100,000 people walk the Bright Angel Trail each year. They have to compete for space with a permanent 130-head remuda of mules. On any given day, sixty-six mules for guests and wranglers may be traveling the Bright Angel and South Kaibab trails, plus another thirty in the pack string. That comes to something over 35,000 mule trips a year.

A normal 1,000- to 1,200-pound equine excretes about forty-four pounds of manure and six quarts of urine a day—so says William Schurg, director of the University of Arizona’s horse program in the Animal Sciences Department. The Grand Canyon mule averages about five hours a day on the trail, 365 days a year. Let’s do a little math. When all 96 passenger and pack mules are on duty, they emit roughly 307,000 pounds of mule patties a year. They also piss 10,512 gallons of urine on the trails. More than enough odoriferous gifts, certainly, to make sure that each hiker gets his or her own to slog through or skip around on every trip.

We arrived at the cottonwood groves of Indian Gardens, where we annoyed some more walkers by making them wait while our troupe was assisted in dismounting, seasoned rider or no, one by one. On this early spring day, the crowded campground was almost as busy as a National Park Service tent tenement in August. We took a short break for lunch, a pit stop, canteen refills. Then onward, pushing our sore bodies and sweaty mules the four more miles to the bottom.

The power was out when we rode into Phantom Ranch, a pastoral resort made of native rock and shaded beneath cultivated cottonwoods near the confluence of Bright Angel Creek and the Colorado River. Our hosts advised that if we wanted warm water for a shower, we should try to get to the bathhouse first. Ensenberger and I briefly considered that and then headed straight for the bar.

There we met a diverse group of hikers and campers. Topic of conversation? You guessed it: mules. A robust middle-aged woman from Scottsdale, an affluent suburb of Phoenix, was complaining about interminable waits endured while mules rested on the trail and wranglers held forth about scenery, history, and geology.

We grabbed our beers and fled outdoors.

At dinner—steak and potatoes, family style—we sat with members of an extended family who had converged at the Canyon from waypoints nationwide. A server set a flask of burgundy on the table, which wove its way from hand to hand.

“Want to do some wine?” a young swain asked his girlfriend.

He said it with a straight face. The guy actually talked that way.

#

After the feed, Ensenberger got his camera and we took off to catch sunset’s last light on the inner gorge.

The Colorado was running jade green, except where silt-laden Bright Angel Creek dumped mud into it. Fly-casting, a man hooked an eighteen-inch trout and released it.

While Ensenberger chased light and shadows, I watched the creek pour into the river.

The sheer quantity of water that flows across the earth’s surface, ton after roiling ton of it, enough to dig this “horrid abyss” through two billion years of rock, gives you pause, especially when you consider how it has been spoiled. You wonder whether that shimmering rainbow trout was safe to eat—what exotica had made its way up the food chain to the fat, shining fish? Not even mules can stomach what flows in the Grand Canyon. When we crossed Garden Creek, wrangler Jill warned us not to let them drink the water, because it would make them sick.

To prevent further contaminating the Colorado, river runners have to carry chemical toilets and tote out human waste. Yet for the sake of entertaining a few tourists, the Park Service permits mule ride operators to turn the Bright Angel and Kaibab trails into the world’s longest urinals.

Given all that sewage, “real” hikers avoid those two conveniently located trails, leaving them to hoi polloi who drift through in their campers and Winnebagos. “You can’t always have the ideal situation,” says Flagstaff writer and Sierra Club activist Dan Dagget, “because it is crowded, it is narrow, and a lot of times [wranglers] want to stop and talk where it’s not the best place.” Dagget chooses lesser-known trails and stays away from the ones around Grand Canyon Village. Robert Lippman, a Friend of the Colorado River, agrees that those who complain can “go away from the main trails.”

But that’s not an option for the visitor unfamiliar with the Canyon or less prepared for serious hiking. Any proposal to limit mule traffic is bound to be greeted by that dreaded charge, “elitism.”

Never mind that few underprivileged faces can be seen at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. It will cost you $206 to ride down there and stay overnight. True, if you hike, a crib in a Phantom Ranch dorm will lighten your load by just $19—but the steak dinner is $23 and breakfast costs $8.50. This is a place where folks “do” wine.

The people discommoded (if one dare use that term) by the mules are exactly those proles who know no other place to hike in the Canyon. The ones who outnumber riders by more than three to one.

Some environmentalists favor keeping the mule traffic. If tourists are lured to specific districts, the theory goes, damage from crowds of gawkers and geeks will be contained while larger wild areas continue unmolested. Dagget echoes other outdoorsmen when he says the South Kaibab and Bright Angel trails are “a sacrifice area to start with.”

Now there’s elitism for you. Who do these people think they are, to talk about sacrificing the Grand Canyon?

My friend Jean Cole, who at the age of sixty-six hiked up the South Kaibab Trail in three hours, says she can remember when mules were restricted to Bright Angel. Now trains go down Bright Angel and up the South Kaibab; meanwhile, over on the North Rim, a concessionaire sells mule rides on the North Kaibab.

Might not be a bad idea to cut back Thelma’s trips to just one trail. If that means fewer people in the saddle, tough—tourists with enough stamina to ride down thirty-degree inclines for five and a half hours can manage to walk instead. For a rider who is inexperienced, as concession operators say 98 percent of their customers are, the mule trip results in every bit as many blisters and aching muscles as would a ten-mile hike. As a trade-off, 100,000 hikers would have access to a centrally located trail free of filth and large, nervous, stinking roadblocks.

Evening’s bronze glow faded into putty-colored dusk, and with it this reverie.

#

Next morning before the heat was on the air, we headed up the South Kaibab Trail into the highlands of kitsch, phony Native Americana, and Tusayan, home of the most expensive McDonald’s in the western hemisphere.

The Kaibab is dust-dry and much steeper than Bright Angel. It covers the 4,400-foot climb in eight miles instead of ten and a half. After every two or three switchbacks, we had to pause to rest the mules, hauling them around each time so their heads faced out over the awesome drop.

We were passing through a set of tight switchbacks called the Chimney, a few hundred yards from the rim, when we saw her again.

Like a silent brooding spirit, she looked exactly as she had the day before: the black velvet blouse, the splendid jewelry, that ground-length skirt a lustrous orchid hue. Only ths time she wasn’t alone. She had with her two young adults and about a half-dozen ebony-haired children, all dressed in the serviceable styles offered by places like Wal-Mart. A small and beautiful woman, she radiated moral authority.

She and her clan stood aside while the mule train passed. We got a few feet beyond them and stopped one last time. There, our sturdy steeds elected to unload. Thelma voided a massive, mucous pile. My mule spread its legs and released a river of urine. Down the line behind us, I could hear a great splattering and plopping as the rest followed suit. A hot, musky, gut-wrenching stench wafted on the breeze, and the dust beneath us turned to muck.

We moved on. And that was the last I saw of her.

—30—

Epistle from the Church’s Reception Desk: You Know You’ve Been Stuck in a Rut Too Long When….

…driving through your city’s downtown is like visiting some other planet! 

😀

Our city council likes to describe lovely Phoenix as a collection of “villages,” a metaphor whose purpose always sorta escaped me. But today it occurred to me…they could be right.

This morning before hitting the volunteer desk down at the Church, I had first to drive ALLLLLLLL the way to the far West Valley to pick up my lab report from the eager-to-operate dermatologist over there.

Then drive home, copy her report and write a note to MayoDoc explaining what OrthodontistDude said (viz.: don’t let any mere dermatologist slice up your face…get a plastic surgeon to do it) and expressing, as subtly but also as obviously as possible, the possibility that she might refer me to such a creature. Then get back in the car and drive and drive and drive and drive to the far East Valley to deliver this message. Then drive and drive and drive and drive to get back to the church, for whose activities I was (as announced to my coworker) running late.

It was the most extraordinary experience, driving from west side’s acres of former cotton and corn fields, now sprouting houses, CLEAR ACROSS THE CITY to the farthest eastern reaches of Richlandia! Because…I had to drive through downtown Phoenix, a garden spot I haven’t visited in a good 20 years. Or more. Then, once on the far side of those precincts, up Scottsdale Road through the fields of the now much updated and re-commercialized tourist traps.

The city of Px has changed SOOOO much as to be — seriously: no exaggeration — unrecognizable.

I used to work downtown, for a law firm that occupied three floors of a high rise. And DXH and I lived for about 15 years within walking distance of that small-town business district, in a much-gentrified antique central neighborhood. So, I knew the downtown area well.

Today the freeway was up-gescrewed, so I got off just to the west of the downtown commercial district and elected to cross the city on a main drag called Van Buren Street. This was my old stomping grounds: the Firm was located two blocks to the north, and this also was the route I used to take driving  across the city from our classic antique house to the university in Tempe. So I know it well. Or…so I thought.

What I found was not my mother’s route to Tempe…that’s for sure!! 😀 The entire downtown area has been SO MASSIVELY TRANSFORMED as to be unrecognizable!

Old bars and whorehouses are gone. So are most of the old office buildings and many of the old high-rises. These have been replaced by huge, shiny new high-rises, And the old SROs and dives? Mile after square mile of brand-new, very fancy mid-rise apartment buildings. A vast athletic arena covers blocks. The scary slums around the mental hospital: gone! Replaced by more apartments.

This goes on for blocks and blocks and blocks. Parts of it look like San Francisco; some of it reminds you of the higher-tax regions of L.A. What a thing to see!

Seriously: except that the roads follow the same routes, it was like driving through some other city.

driving driving driving…eventually I come to Scottsdale Road and turn north for the miles-long journey toward Shea Blvd. Out of the light-industrial low-rent area, northward into touristy downtown Scottsdale. And my gosh! Same story! It’s like the whole damn place has been demolished and rebuilt! Only a few of the buildings look familiar. Most of them are newer, snazzier, and ritzier!

driving driving driving driving…finally hit Shea Blvd. All of the formerly upscale housing developments along that route are now…MORE upscale! Walled, gated “communities,” not mere housing tracts. Holee moleee!

It’s a positive development…I guess. Goes a way toward explaining why property values are exploding in the’Hood. Any place that’s centrally located and middle- or upper-middle-class is going to inflate wildly in price, with all that fancy architecture and expensive real estate surrounding us.

But y’know what? When I got home to the ’Hood nestled between Conduit of Blight Blvd and Gangbanger’s Way, it struck me that our neighborhood has also gentrified madly…to the point where it is MUCH nicer and much more pleasant than snooty Scottsdale!!

 Those overpriced stick-and-styrofoam tract houses with their orange cement tile roofs do not hold up well to the passage of time: surely not as well as slump block and shake shingles. Our houses look soooooo much better and our irrigated yards with their towering green trees look sooo much prettier than those desert-landscaped McMansions…it rather defies belief!

And herein lies the point: When you live in your own “village,” an enclave of a vast urban jungle, you have your own aesthetic, your have your own ethic, you have your own shopping venues, social resources, churches, cops, veterinians, yard dudes, dogs, cats, and funny-looking neighbors. You have, in short, everything you need within arm’s reach. You don’t even notice the change going on in nearby “villages..”

No wonder the fix-and-flippers are having frenzies grabbing up our houses and selling them for three times what they’re worth… Who’d’ve thunk it?

Unstuck in Time

Disequilibrium, indeed. More like “unstuck in time,” I fear.

I’ve disliked the modernified Scottsdale Fashion Square for some years. Once a pleasant place to shop in tony venues, in recent years it has been upgraded to “contemporary”…another word for “cold,” “hard-edged,” “noisy and echoey,” “engineered to feel hectic,” and…well…”not a place you’d like to hang out if you had some other choice.” So by and large I stay away from it, because a visit there usually devolves into an annoyance of one sort or another.

But…my MacBook needs some attention. Actually, what it needs is a compatible external hard drive, preferably one designed to work with Mac equipment.

Apple kindly closed its store in Biltmore Fashion Park, which was at least moderately civilized. Their other store, in Arrowhead Mall, is too small for its clientele: every time you go there, you find yourself waiting interminably for help, crammed in elbow-to-elbow with a whole bunch of other glassy-eyed folks who are waiting interminably.

So. Let’s try something altogether different, in the Apple Department.

After I seethed my way back across the city and got back into the house, I searched Google for independent Mac technicians, and lo! Found several. One over at 32nd Street & McDowell answered the phone and said to come on in any day this week.

He said to call in the morning of the day I’d like to meet him and make an appointment then. So…by tomorrow I should have regained part of my sanity — whatever is left of it — and so I’ll arrange to get this thing over to him and get HIM to fix it.

Orrrr… As for the hard drive? Says he: it needs to be formatted for the Mac.

Who knew?

Where was I in my planned rant?

Yes, the uglified Scottsdale Fashion Square. It is a long drive from the Funny Farm through unpleasant traffic: a good 30 to 40 minutes, outside of rush hour. When you get there…I swear…every time you surface over there, they’ve changed things around and fucked things up. Now you have to navigate past a trolling valet parking service to make your way up into a high-rise parking garage. Memorize where you left the car. Find the steps or elevator. Memorize which set of steps you used to get down to the ground floor. Then hike.

And hike. And hike.

The Apple store is ALLLLL THE WAY ON THE FAR SIDE of the freshly ugly mall, forcing you to walk up and down steps, through hectic crowds, past endless kiosks selling junk, all the time accosted by the loudest echoing racket you ever hoped never to have to hear. The atmosphere is cold, snobby, overpriced, hectic, and annoying.

Finally I get there. I tell the service rep I have an appointment. I explain that the Macbook won’t talk to the hard drive so there’s no question of backing up data: it just can’t be done. She gives me a blank look. For all the world, it appears that she doesn’t understand what I’m talking about.

I try again: “I would like to buy an external drive that is compatible with this Macbook — preferably one that is made by Apple.”

Blank look.

After another try, I give up.

Furious, I stalk back to the car and head back out through the ever-evolving landscape that is the ever-Los Angelizing Valley of the We-DO-Mean Sun.

Yechhh!

Remember when malls were fun to shop in?

Remember when customer service was not more aptly called customer disservice?

Remember when Apple had awe-inspiring, blow-you-away, superb customer service?

The present angst is, I am quite sure, because I am unstuck in time: a creature of another age. And I can tell you for damn sure, the present age is not one I would like to live through much longer. What a flikkin’ dystopia we inhabit!

Driving homeward, homeward, ever homeward across the east/west main drag that in Ritzyville is called “Lincoln Boulevard” and in mittel-America is called “Glendale Road,” (interesting how rich folk get more characters for the words used to describe their thoroughfares, no?), it struck me that the whole city has changed significantly over the past five or six years. Not as annoyingly or as extremely as Scottsdale Fashion Square, but still…a lot. Mostly, in the regions I drifted through, in the form of gentrification of already pretty damn fancy houses. All along the way, houses have been fancified, dandified, and — often — ripped down and replaced with ultra-modern mansions painted eye-searing white.

Neighborhoods are recognizable, but…different.  The whole city is recognizable but different, I guess. Most of it, anyway.

So… Yah. I guess the issue here is that I’m unstuck in time. Living IN the here and now, but not OF the here and now. I feel like I’m afloat in a fluid reality. That which is real is not what was real.

Some squib on the vicissitudes of advancing senility that I read the other day said that one of the ways to stave off dementia is to drive around new neighborhoods. In this city, driving around old neighborhoods is driving around new ones. 😀 Seriously: it was kinda fun cruising through old stomping grounds that no longer look quite the same, and then sliding through the new stomping ground and finding previously undiscovered short-cuts and pass-throughs. If this activity staves off Alzheimer’s, I guess I’ll be buying a whole lot more gas. For awhile, anyway…

Soggy Day in Rattie Central

Rathame…

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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