Adventures in Home Ownership: “Foist It Off” Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

Yellow yard
Yellow: the desert’s favorite color.

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

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

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

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

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

Life at the Funny Farm: September Edition

Jeez! 9 ayem and I’m flat-out exhausted! What a Morning from Hell! Up at the usual 5 a.m. but dawdled over the computer, so the Hound and I went out the door late.

Because it’s so late, we hit the road at the height of the Dogging Hour. Every chucklehead and his little brother and sister are out with their pit bulls, Aussies, spaniels, poodles, German shepherds, dalmations, chihuahuas, Bernese mountain dogs, Boston terriers, dachshunds, akitas, vizlas, and reservation dawgs. This adds a great deal of stress to a doggywalk because Ruby wants to LUNGE at every goddamn one of them. That, as you can imagine, tends to alarm the fellow dogs, which then go in for the attack by way of protecting their humans. To prevent this, every time someone comes along with a pooch, I have to stop and make Ruby “SIT! STAY!” until they go by us.

This is WHY we leave the house no later than 5:00…by way of avoiding the dog-walkers’ rush.

So we walk around the corner to see if our neighbor Signey is out with the kids. She lives right next door to the house where La Maya & La Bethulia lived before La B decided to pathbreak their escape to California, and at this time of year she’s often sitting in front with her small children and her herd of tiny, funny-looking adopted dogs.

And yes, she’s there. We start to schmooze…

New neighbor comes out with his dogs and walks off around the corner. She points out one of them and says it’s a pit-bull/shepherd mix and is extremely aggressive. She says it went after one of her pipsqueaks and almost killed it before she was able to tear the animal away from it.

Lovely. The scrawny male human looks like he weighs…oh…maybe 150 pounds, at the outside. Mmmm hmmmm…

She dotes on Ruby and rubs her hands and face ALLLLLLL over the dog’s fluffy corgi fur. Then she says happily, “And the kids are going to school.”

Oh. Good. It’s not maybe…it’s absolutely positively: You just rubbed fistfuls of virus into my dog’s coat! Jezus Aitch Keerist, but people are stupid.

By the time we get to Feeder Street N/W, there’s too much traffic to get across the road safely, so we wander back into the ’Hood, up the street I used to live on, around and around. This route is neither as long nor as pleasant as the stroll through the shady realms of Upper Richistan, but at least we don’t have to risk life or limb to get there.

Herd the dog back to the house, and now I have to wash her. She sleeps on my bed at night, and I do NOT want Signey’s kids’ classmates’ germs all over my bedding. Or all over the floors and furniture in my house, either.

Washing Ruby is quite a production. She hates it, she is terrorized by it, and she puts up one bitch of a fight. Decide against assaying this battle in the backyard — at that hour, it’s cool enough outside that cold water out of the hose could in fact harm her. So I have to drag her into the bathroom to wash her in the tub.

WHAT a fight!!!  I finally haul her into the bathtub, then get her wet all over, then scrubbed down with shampoo, then rinsed, then out of the tub…. Did I mention that she hates being wiped down with towels, too?

She goes shake shake shake shake shake shake shake… and covers the cabinetry, walls, and floors with billowing sprays of dog-water.

More fighting. Her hair is thick and she’s getting fat and I don’t get far with the towels. Dig out a hair dryer, plug it into a socket near the floor, and drag her over.

You thought the bathtub episode was a fight? Hah!

Finally manage to get enough of the sog out of her fur that I figure she probably won’t get chilled enough to get sick. I hope. By this time, though, the sun has risen and the air is warming, so…this is prob’ly a safe enough bet.

Clean up the mess and…clean up the mess and clean up the mess and clean up the mess and clean up the mess and….

Put the towels and the towel that fell off the towel bar into the bath water and the dog-wiping towel and the microfiber rags used to finish the dog-drying into the washer. Get out of my wet clothes and toss those in the washer. Find something else to wear. Climb into the shower and wash my own much-doggified body and hair before getting dressed.

By now it’s 8 o’clock!

Fix breakfast. Pour coffee. Just begin to drag the melon and the other goodies out to the table on the garden deck when ARF ARF ROAR YAP YAP ARF ARF WOOF WOOF ARF ARF YIPPETY YAP YAP YAP!!!!!!! 

Pool Dude.

Pool Dude is a chatty kinda guy. He does like to talk. Rudely, I sorta ignore him without saying in some many words arrghhh leave me alone because i bite! He goes on about his business. Putters around. Surfaces to explain his scheme to provide a refurbished pool cleaner gadget of the Amazing Variety, a plan that was derailed during the week. No problem. We discuss last night’s political side show, he being right-stage, me being left-stage, both of us being gun owners. I can’t get .38s. He has a bunch of ammo stashed. We figure we’ll be needing this, though I suggest it’s mighty doubtful that Trump’s bully boys will be rioting through sub-suburban neighborhoods. He says he’s taking no chances.

I say my plan is to get a blowgun. He says…

…hang onto your hat…

He used to make them! 

I mean, really. You’ve heard of “never a dull moment”? Around this place there’s never a sane moment.

I say I understand you can make them with PVC pipe. He says noooo, the diameter would be too large. You need copper piping.

Hmmmmmm……  Suppose Home Depot will cut that stuff to measure for me? Waddaya bet?

Which do we live in? Monty Python ShowTwilight Zone? Or just another planet altogether?

Pool dude out. 

It’s almost 10 a.m. I’ve got to go to Costco. On the way home, maybe I’ll stop at the Depot and see what I can get by way of lengths of copper tubing. Hmmmm….

You thought YESTERDAY was another lovely day in Arizona?

Hah! Every day is lovelier than the next. Check out this little fella..

….and tell me if you don’t think our sweet pet Rattie isn’t one helluva lot cuter than that rat…

Which is cuter? Rat 1 or Rat 2?

Rat 1’s handsome profile was captured early of a fine Arizona day on a neighbor’s security camera.

See that thing in his hand? That’s not a Budweiser…that’s a pistol, wrapped in a plastic grocery bag.

The gate he’s coming out of? That’s an alleyway entry to a neighbor’s backyard. The photo was caught yesterday by someone’s security camera and posted to the neighborhood Facebook page. Said the proprietor: “This individual was spotted at approximately 7:25 this morning exiting our backyard at our home on El Caminito Dr. I did not see any evidence on any of our security cameras of this gentleman entering our backyard.”

At first I thought it was our boy, the one the cops were chasing around yesterday. But now I think this fella is a little older than that kid, healthier-looking, somewhat better built. So we have not one but two of ‘em frolicking around the alleys.

Meanwhile…the evening sun is sinking like a red-rubber pie tin. The air is still thick and brown from the smoke drifting across from the West Coast, the sun so dim you can stare right straight at it. Though one (who does not suffer from asthma) has no problem breathing it, the stuff out there can’t be very good for you.

My plan is to catch Rat 2 and stick her in a cage with a big bowl of bird seed (she loves bird seed) and a bag of oranges (she adores oranges), toss her and the dog in the car, and start driving driving driving. Patagonia, here we come!

Hummer heaven: Patagonia

Another lovely day in Arizona…

So along about 3 or 4 a.m. I happened to remark to a correspondent that the day was shaping up to be a Day from Hell…

Chortle! One should never say things like that. God finds those one-liners too, too funny.

Well, wait though: Her practical jokesterism at least did not extend to conkering out the car. That’s good, no?

Dawn cracked, and I decided to try to find out what could be done about the propane bottle that developed a weird leak after the barbecue cleaning dude reattached it to the system. This was about as fruitful as you might imagine any bureaucratic exercise to be. After jumping through a long and pointless series of phone hoops, I gave up with the city. Called Gerardo, who said he would don his Superman cape and fly over this afternoon. This was another exercise in futility, but as it develops, it’s prob’ly just as well that he didn’t. In fact…very, verrreeee good that he didn’t surface late this afternoon….

But we get ahead of ourself…

First, I go on about my business: traipsing half-way to Timbuktu to visit WonderDermatologist. She agrees that the Thing disfiguring my left-hand finger-flicking finger is yet another precancer and must go. Now.

Does she wonder how I am going to drive with this crucial navigation instrument disabled? Probably just as well that she doesn’t. She practically runs her nitrogen squirt bottle out of juice. This is good. I’m invited to visit her again in two weeks, when we’ll assess how today’s antics worked, and out the door I streak.

Decide to venture across from the 101 on Gangbanger’s Way,  a thoroughfare that runs faster and more smoothly than Main Drag South, which at this time of year is more crowded than Gangbanger’s. Fly low up the freeway, fly low across the city…through the lovely slums that grace the central west side, ahhh yes eventually arriving at the war zone that is the intersection of Gangbanger’s and Conduit of Blight Blvd.

This journey is one endless reminder of Southern California and all that I used to hate about it. The smog. The traffic. The ticky-tacky. The instant-slum tracts. The tired and dreary strip malls. The crowded roads, sun glaring off acres of asphalt. The panhandling derelicts. The exhausted workers navigating the streets on foot. Lordy, but Phoenix is SUCH an ugly city! Just like Long Beach: an ugly place to live.

You know, I do love my neighborhood. It’s a pretty little enclave, gentrifying like mad now that young parents have learned they can put their kids in the Madison schools from here. (Madison is the only decent centrally located public school district.) But driving in from the northwest on Gangbanger’s Way is just deeply depressing…and it gets creepier and creepier as the months pass.. From about 43rd Avenue all the way over to about 23rd Avenue is plain old slum, dirty depressing dangerous and scary. Some of the houses facing Gangbanger’s around 23rd are OK, holding their own; then, eastward-bound, they give way to commercial properties, some of them abandoned.

The city is about to extend the accursed lightrail up to MetroCenter, which is now dead, a ghost mall. Why? It escapes comprehension. The highest and best use of that property would be to turn it into a social service center for the homeless, but the city has big (hallucinatory) plans to revive it as offices and medical centers. Har har harrrrr!!!!!!! So this boondoggle will be yet another fantastical waste of taxpayer money, and the train will continue to transport drug addicts and homeless into our neighborhood.

Catholic Social Services has built a charity home for pore folks on Main Drag South at Conduit of Blight, and an even bigger project has gone up on Main Drag about a half-mile west of that. Alas, while this kind of housing is indeed much needed, projects good neighbors do not make…

So…every now and again I think about whether I should move while I still have the physical strength to do so. And if so, where???? If the church never re-coalesces, there’s really no reason to stay in North Central. Or in Phoenix at all. But where on earth to go???

  • Sun City is a definite NO.
  • Arcadia I cannot afford.
  • Biltmore I cannot afford.
  • The Southern-California style ticky-tacky tracts of the far east and west valley: no, thanks.
  • Payson: eek! no Costco!
  • The south of France I cannot afford.
  • But why not Fountain Hills? Like Sun City, it’s quiet as the tomb, and it’s close to my doctors’ office and close to the kind of shopping I enjoy. Nice view of the mountains, and a straight shot up to Payson, where KJG and Mr. Firefighter hold forth!
  • Oro Valley outside of Tucson is supposed to be very nice, and it’s convenient to Tucson. It is part of Tucson these days, actually.
  • Prescott: a possibility, but further from friends and established huntin’ grounds than I’d like.
  • And of course Patagonia, venue of some lovely country houses just up the road from the border with Mexico…

Depressed after this fine tour of my hometown, I crawl back in the sack for a little nap, hoping to catch up the sleep that ended around 3 this morning.

Soon enough, Ruby jumps to attention. DAWG ON POINT!!!!! 

Something is going wheeeeeeeeeeeee….

What? Rattie’s in the hall? I hear a squeal, and it ain’t the Song, Song of the Rat. No indeed. It’s the serenade of a vehicle that needs a brake job.

WTF? Climb out of the sack, stumble to the front windows, peer out and lo! A cop SUV is idling in the street in front. Two of the biggest rhinoceroses you have EVER seen charge into the front yard (Holy doggerel! Where’s my pistol?). Call the hound to heel…and watch the show.

These vast lumbering critters roust some poor, scrawny little bum out from under the shade trees in front, where he’s been trying to sleep in the gravel.

Yes. That’s on the gravel. Like, little sharp pieces of granite.

Understand: it’s 108 degrees out there. He must weigh all of 130 pounds, he’s filthy, his hair is matted, he doesn’t even have a backpack in tow. They start to rough him up. Amazingly, he manages to slip out of the grip of the guy who’s grabbed him and he takes off down the street. The cops give half-hearted chase but quickly stand down. Doesn’t seem to enter their minds that he could easily hop over the wall into the backyard, just like Matthew the Garage Invader did. Now moderately well armed myself, I watch them give up and drive off. Then I patrol the front and back yards and the alley.

Poor little sh!thead. What do you suppose brings a man to such a pass?

Gerardo did not show up. Good thing! Otherwise he and his suspiciously unilingual cousins would have landed in the middle of this…uhm…manhunt. {sigh} Could be they drove by and saw the game in progress, so decided to move along.

Welp, our visitor having failed to steal today’s Amazon delivery, we also move along: Unwrap the package of tinfoil pie tart pans and combobulate the much-vaunted RAT REPELLANT DEVICES!

The scheme is to punch a hole in a pie tin, run it up the metal rod that holds the bird feeder (endlessly attractive to Rattie), and secure it in place over the existing DYI rat baffle, made of a plastic doodad that has proven too small to discourage our little pal. Fiddle with this briefly, and dayum. I think it’s gonna work. If it doesn’t, at least we had some fun trying it.

The resulting gadgets look weirdly like little flying saucers, come to light on the bird feeders’ hangers. Got them attached fairly firmly (if hilariously) but gave them just enough play to wiggle a bit, should a four-legged critter decide to climb on top of the UFO. Unless Rattie is acrobatic enough to jump down and backward in one motion (from a platform that wiggles), I don’t THINK she can hop from the contraption to the lower end of the hanger. If she can, by golly, she’s earned her share of those bird seeds!

Seriously, I think if she tries to proceed past the tinfoil barrier, she’ll most likely fall on the ground. This will cause an annoyed Rattie but should do no damage to much of anything else.

Cop helicopter shows up a little before 7 p.m. and frantically buzzes the street just to the north, right where my old house resides. They used to materialize every goddamn Friday and Saturday night at 11 p.m. sharp. This is a little early for them…maybe our scrawny guy showed up at someone else’s motel. 😀 Now, shading a little after 7:30, they’ve roared off somewhere else and it’s quiet out there again.

So it goes. That is what we Arizonans call “one helluva day.”

To top it off, WordPress crashed as I was finishing this post, so that helluva day is no longer today but vaguely yesterday. Wouldn’tcha know?

 

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? 

Adventures in Pharmaceutical Marketing

Okay, so day has dawned. Accordingly, I leave the house at 8:30 to make the 20-minute drive down to the dentist’s office. Because I know which roads the City has kindly ripped up, blockaded, flooded, exploded, and whatnot, I fly in the door right on time, to the minute: 9 a.m.

A-n-n-n-n-d-d-d-d-d….

Yeah. No dentist.

Whyyy, one might ask?

“Wrong day.”

Waddaya mean, wrong day?

“It’s Monday. Not Friday. Today is Friday.”

Evidently I wrote it down on the wrong day on the calendar. Come to think of it, though, it’s a minor miracle that she’s there, because she’s waiting for her out-of-town relatives to show up and meet her there, whiling away the time fiddling with some new computer software. But she’s getting worried, because she thinks they should’ve gotten there by then.

I say the traffic is its usual bitch-ish self: they’re probably tangled up in whatever mess the city has kindly created along any of the several routes whereby they could have found their way to Dr. D’s office. She says yeah, that’s what she’s thinkin’…but she’s still worried. I ask her if she needs me to do anything for her — pick up some office supplies (there’s an office supply store just down the street), donuts, or any such. She says naaahhh….the truth is, all she really has to do is wait for the relatives to surface.

I’ve already made my way down to her precincts by avoiding Main Drag East, whose blacktop the City has bladed off all the way from Gangbanger’s Way down the entire length of the central city to someplace south of the Doc’s office, mile on mile on catastrophic mile. To accomplish this evasion, I’ve driven way out of my way over to Throughway Drag, a long, dreary strip of asphalt that will take you from way, way south of the river through downtown, through mid-town, through North Central and then the blight that is Sunnyslop, up and up and up till you reach the 101 freeway and from there dumps you into tract-littered desert, a deeply dreary journey, indeed.

Needing a flu shot, I decide to navigate back up Throughway Drag, because it takes you past a Walgreen’s and a Safeway, both of which dispense the flu vaccine. I don’t really need anything else in either store, but both of them are more or less on the way. Sounds propitious, hm?

Hit the Safeway, a right turn off Throughway, easy to access. Not very crowded. Prance to the back of the store, where the pharmacy resides, and find just one (only 1!!) customer ahead of me at the pharmacist’s counter.

She is a very elderly woman, all wrapped up for wintertime (it’s 105 out there now as I write this) and leaning on a walker as she tries to fill out a form the pharmacist has inflicted on her.

No kidding: this thing is PAGES long. And no mere 8.5 x 11 pages: page on page on page of 8.5 x 13-inch paper, covered with lines for her to fill out.

The poor soul is sifting through the goddamn thing, line by line by interminable line, trying to figure out what they want her to fill in and trying — with little success — to dredge the required data out of her memory.

She struggles and she struggles and she struggles and…

I stand and I stand and I stand and I stand…and….

Finally I think OH FUCK IT! It’ll take less time to drive across the intersection to the Walgreen’s, park in their lot, hike to the back of the store,, and get the damn shot there. So I leave her doing battle with Safeway’s paperwork and head across the street.

Yeah.

There it only takes about 10 minutes to get the attention of one of the two clerks. I say I just want a flu shot. She says no problem, and proceeds to give me the Covid Third-Degree. I go no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no… to another eight or ten minutes of questions that could easily have been condensed into three or four questions. Fork over my Medigap card and my Medicare ID.

She asks me for my “Blue and Red Card.”

Huh??????

“I’m sorry,” I say. “I have no idea what on earth you’re talking about.”

She says, “You know. Your Blue and Red Card. Your Medicare card.”

“You mean this one?” I give her the photocopy that I’ve been carrying around ever since my original Medicare card was stolen.

She looks more closely at it. “Ohhhh, yeah! That’s it.”

No kidding, kemo sabe?

Now as we proceed, it develops that she cannot figure out how to enter the data to charge up a flu shot on Medigap/Medicare. She asks her coworker how to do it. Coworker, visibly annoyed (because she’s visibly very busy) drops what she’s doing to instruct.

In the process, our heroine remarks that she was off work for eight weeks and so has forgotten how to work the computer.

Uhm. You forgot how the computer works in eight weeks? 

Definitely not the brightest rhinestone on the pharmacist’s lab coat.

It takes her another eight or ten minutes to figure out this two-minute process, during which another elderly woman hoves up to the drive-through window in her Cadillac, whence she asks for something that was supposed to be ready. She is given a nice runaround.

I think If I’d stayed behind the Safeway crone I’d be on my way home by now. Matter’o’fact, I’d probably be in the house by now.

The paperwork filled out and the stabber in hand, I ask if they could please send a notice over to the Mayo to let them know (as the doc there requested) that I received this inoculation.

Now…get this: She says “Where’s that?”

No kidding. Another sentence or two, and it becomes startlingly clear that this little lady has NEVER HEARD OF THE MAYO CLINIC. Not only does she have no clue where it is, she doesn’t know what it is.

I think…I’ll bet you were in one of my 300-level “professional” writing courses, weren’t you? Probably one of the classmates who never heard of the Civil War or never imagined it happened during the 19th century. Whenever that was…

Holy shit. Next time I’ll drive out to the Mayo to get a shot.