Coffee heat rising

Shopping Adventure in the Absence of Instacart…

In the “How Dumb Can You Get?” department, today I believe I scored a gold medal for Olympic how-dumbness.

This morning I decided nothing would do but what I must drive up to Costco so as to purchase, among other things, two pair of size 12 blue jeans in my favorite brand: Gloria Vanderbilts. My usual size 8s and 10s no longer fit, after the extended period of sedentary solitude occasioned by covid confinement and then by the broken shoulder.

I had tried to put an order through Instacart to achieve this purchase, but ran into an Olympic-sized snafu, and a chucklehead who barely spoke English as their excuse for customer service. After this jerk put me on hold with obnoxious Muzak blasting into my ear at high decibels, I hung up and went on about my way.

Now, if you had been here, you would’ve reminded me that today is Good Friday. And yes, that would be the Friday before Easter, the first big holiday we’ve had in over a year for which large numbers of people imagine that it’s probably-sort-of-kind-of safe to get together with their families. Right?

Pissed as hell with Instacart — whose employee has now become aware that I have checked out and has begun to harass me with nuisance telephone calls — I clamber into the dog chariot and head on up toward Costco, over Phoenix’s homicidal surface streets.

There must’ve been a thousand people inside that store along about 11 AM. I exaggerate not. This store has an enormous parking lot and almost every space was filled. I parked next to a sporting goods store that occupies the pad just to the north of the Costco’s. Under the best circumstances, any given Costco is crowded and hectic. But when the stores are really crowded, they morph into Sites of Nightmare.

So there I am inside this concrete cave trying to get from point A to point B through churning mobs of people, each one of whom believes that she or he is the only person in the place  and navigates accordingly.

Turns out that it was a good thing the scheme to deploy an Instacart runner was foiled. If any such soul  had been sent forth into the fray to try to find a pair of Glorias, they would’ve been flummoxed. Apparently, Costco has decided to quit carrying Gloria Vanderbilt jeans, one of the very few brands that accommodates the rear ends of aging women. All that was left were the sad dregs of their last shipment, clearly meant to be the LAST shipment.

Hell and damnation!

Eventually I decided to experiment with a couple pairs of Buffalo jeans by David Bitton. These are made of stretchy tencel — no, not the desired denim, but the stretch might give them an outside chance of sorta-maybe-kinda fitting. I buy denim jeans for a simple reason: I do not want to live in stretchy athletic tights! I like saggy baggy comfortable jeans. That is why I like Gloria Vanderbilt jeans.

But…whatEVER.

An hour of banging from one wall to the next wall to the next wall to the next wall inside the Costco eventually elicits the dog’s treats, a roast chicken, no make-up of any interest whatsoever, a bottle of cheap Portuguese wine, a box of grapes, a box of Campari tomatoes, a chunk of cheddar cheese, a chunk of blue cheese, a box of blueberries, and…some other stuff, I’m sure. A lengthy stand in line transfers ownership of these items to me and finally I am out the door.

Escape into one’s vehicle is most surely not escape from the madding hordes — this is being, after all, lovely Phoenix: capitol of the lunatic Arizona driver.

I’m making my way home by surface streets, electing not to risk my fellow homicidal drivers’ lives with a one-handed jaunt down the freeway. Incredibly, the southbound I -17 has been detoured onto Conduit of Blight Boulevard! No kidding: four lanes of 70-mile-an hour-traffic is pouring onto a surface street best described as “annoying” during its better moments.  Conduit of Blight is aptly named in the map of my personal geography. It passes through some of the dreariest agèd ticky-tacky in the city. Naturally, the residents are out and about, and — typically– one of them is tooling along blasting everyone around him with his boombox. Literally, the bastard has got the thing blasting so loud that even with all the windows in my car closed, each THUMP from his bass speaker causes my rear-view mirror mirror to vibrate!

This lovely serenade follows me all the way down to Gangbanger’s Way, where I hang a left, dodge away from the bastard, and whip into the ‘Hood. This, need I remind you, is why I do not carry a pistol in my car.

What a place!

Out of the tunnel of annoyance, into the daylight of hilarity…

Tuesday: The usual 4 AM a.m. wake up call leaves me, once again, without enough sleep by the time I finally give up and roll out of the sack. About three hours later, I decide I’d better walk the poor little dog, who has not been outside in for-freaking-ever.

So I’m lashing the dog up in the complicated lash-up required to keep her more or less in line wiithout having her choke on her collar and fly into a reverse-sneezing frenzy. Remember, a doggie walk in these stressful days has to be managed with one hand: normally it requires two hands to keep her under control at all times. So in the best of conditions, this stroll is going to be a one-handed wrestling match.

Phone rings, just as we’re about to head out. My friend who was going to drive me to the first physical therapy session in the morning. Yeah.

Well, says she, she has remembered that she has a couple of errands in Scottsdale. So she will need to drop me off about a half an hour early and I’ll have sit there and wait for the therapy appointment and then  after that little nightmare is over I will have to wait again for heaven only knows how long until she gets back from Scottsdale to pick me up.

To put it mildly, this is not a scenario that appeals. So I say I will find some other way to get there.

As a matter fact the “other way” will be for me to drive myself, over my son’s dead body and in direct contravention of doctor’s orders.

Frankly I believe I will have no problem driving over there one-handed. As a practical matter I drive around with one hand most of the time. Except of course when dodging my fellow homicidal drivers. This, after all, is why we have power steering. Right?

By 9:45, the rush hour will be over and it should not be too unsafe to get there. It’s only 3 miles. I can get down there and also back home with a series of right-hand turns… In fact the only left turn I would have to make would be off a neighborhood arterial onto a relatively tame main drag. Additionally, the parking at this place consists of a long row of single-car spaces, so you can drive straight through without having to back and fill to get out.

Ruby loves grass, probably because we don’t have any. So when we get into the Richistans, all she wants to do is wallow and roll in the luxuriant, irrigated lawns that grace the stately homes. And, we might add, sniff every drop of dog pee that has ever  been deposited thereon. And of course, dump on said grass. Preferably directly in the line of sight of the proprietors’ front windows.

It’s supposed to reach 90° by afternoon and it’s already getting warm. All I want to do is move along, get the doggie walk out of the way and get back home where I can sit down and put my feet up again. So while she’s sniffing around in someone’s grass, I decide to stride right along… As I’m marching toward Pretoria, dragging her highness behind me, I hear ssskkkkkkkriiichchchchch….  

Huh? Turn around, glance back, and there’s the poor little dog at the end of the lead: she has assumed the position and is now helplessly being dragged forward by the harness, squatting and looking much like a stuffed Easter bunny.

Oh, dear God! I stop. She finishes the job: all over the neighbor’s front sidewalk. So there’s a nice mess to clean up!

We continue up the way and of course, invariably, it does not matter what time of day or night you leave your house with your dog…you cannot avoid your fellowvdog-walkers…

Along comes someone else with two large black beasts straining at their leashes. On our side of the street. The only side of the street that has any shade.

So we have to cross the (hot!) (asphalt!) road and proceed down the sunny side of the street until we get past that patrol. They drag their human into a garage, but the human leaves the garage door open, thereby also leaving open the question of whether he has let his dogs off the leash to roam around loose inside there, ready to charge us as we walk past.

I’ve noticed, on the way out, that the Funny Farm’s front yard is sprouting a nice crop of dandelions and assorted other weeds. When I get home, I call Gerardo to find out when he figures he will be around again. He says he’ll come over tomorrow. How convenient. I tell him that I won’t be here tomorrow morning, but Luz will be here. I arrange to leave a check for him on the back patio table. It also means I will have to leave the side gate open, because he has lost the key that I gave him and I have never managed to go to a locksmith and have another one made. Nor am I going to do so tomorrow, given the circumstances. I pointed out to him that Luz will need to be alerted to his presence since she will be less than thrilled to see a crew of dudes invade the backyard while she’s here alone.

At any rate speaking of the dog and the doggie products, I did manage to pick up three weeks’ worth of doggie mounds out of the backyard this morning. This is the first time that I have felt up for even trying to maneuver the doggy picker-upper gadget… And SURPRISE! Nooooo problem! So that was a pleasant discovery.

As a matter of fact, overall the arm is feeling a lot better. It seems not to hurt (much) unless I lift it up and out to the side. Lifting the arm straight frontward seems to elicit scarcely a twinge… Though I will say I haven’t tried to raise it over my head. So I take this as a good sign. I hope.

One thing that is clear from this fiasco: you cannot live in Phoenix without access to a car…PERIOD. It very well may be that if you imagine you are going to age in place in a freestanding home, you’re simply going to have to be able to drive a car or to find some way to get some transport service — not volunteers, not relatives — to ferry you around. This predicament, of course, is what makes it possible for outfits like the Beatitudes to talk the elderly into consigning themselves to a de facto prison. The Beatitudes will ferry you to doctors and grocery stores — at some considerable inconvenience to yourself, but at least you can get there.

One way around that, I think, is to move into one of the newer apartment developments that are going up around the city. These things are roughly modeled on European urban areas: commercial and office space on the ground floors, with apartments on half-a-dozen upper floors. If you live in one of these places, you could in theory avail yourself of restaurant food and maybe even some (very expensive) specialty groceries. One of my friends works in such a place right now…apartment buildings and office buildings are mixed together with retail and restaurants in a single development. It wouldn’t be my first choice of living environments, but on the other hand it wouldn’t be my last choice, either. The Beatitudes would be my last choice. With Sun City as the second-to-last.

The big malls built in the 50s and 60s here are moribund. Plans are on the drawing board to convert one such mall — the venerable Paradise Valley Mall, home of Macy’s (defunct), Dillard’s (now renting out its second-floor offices to freelance entrepreneurs), Penney’s (on its way out), and the like. There is a freestanding Costco in that shopping center — one would presume they will close it because it will be way too tacky to go with the fancy production the developers intend to build… But if it doesn’t close… If it stays in place… Well! That would make such an apartment development look mighty attractive. The living space would be right next door to a place where you could buy anything your heart wants, in lifetime supplies. Costco also has a gas station that underprices the competition by anything from $.05 to $.13 a gallon. It would be across the street from a Target, an REI, a Dollar Store, and a slew of middle-class restaurants. And it’s just up the road from the Valley’s largest and best-stocked Fry’s supermarket, which competes directly and ferociously with AJ’s, purveyor of fine and overpriced goods And it’s also close enough to the Mayo Clinic that you could get there quickly, and the 911 people would drive you there if you asked, rather than telling you that they’re going to take you to the depressing facility at John C Lincoln. The truth is that might be a place for me to consider moving to.

Fact, I think I will ask one of my coreligionists, who is an ambitious real estate agent, if she’ll keep an eye out for me as that place is developed.
Later. Having been up since 4 a.m., I’m going to take a nap before the sun comes up. And honi soit qui mal y pense!

Historic perambulations

Dawn spreads its glowing veil over a spectacular day: clear blue skies, bright sun, and cool air. Temp is about 68; expected to max out at 70. Sooo….along about mid-morning the hound and I set out for a lengthy stroll.

She, of course, wishes to go to the park. So…OK. Off we go to the park and then a block past it to South Tony Realms Drive, a lane that runs between Feeder Street North/South and Main Drag West, proceeding through a neighborhood that could be called Old Money. The houses, most of them on third- to half-acre lots, were built in the 1950s and maybe the early 60s. It’s quite a lovely neighborhood with irrigated lawns (irrigation is really about the only way even rich people can afford lawns anymore) and nicely maintained brick or block homes. As you might imagine, a third or a half an acre of affordable grass is in high demand, and so a lot of those places are being fixed-and-flipped. We saw three in the process, there in about three blocks of side streets.

It’s interesting how eccentric the neighborhood is, in a low-key way. For one thing, at least three sections consist of what I’d call “semi-custom houses.” That is, you can tell they were installed by the same builder using a sort of…oh, builder’s template, maybe. But they’re not recognizably the same model in the way the houses here in the ’Hood are. The ’Hood is a later vintage — early 1970s. Other parts of the neighborhood — which are in high demand now — were built out in the late 1950s. This whole area was out in the country in those days: cotton fields and citrus orchards.

My part of the area is a tract that was started by a couple of brothers who were prominent builders here, Hugh and Frank Knoell (pron. “k’NELL”). Theirs was the same company that built out Sun City, and the houses are very similar: uninsulated cement block structures with unassuming front elevations, all of them looking much the same. I’d say there are maybe a half-dozen different floor plans and elevations, though a couple of nearly identical elevations are attached to floor plans that are different on the inside. Something terrible happened and Knoell went out of business when they were about halfway through building out the tract. Knoell sold to another builder, who finished the job, so that part of the tract is subtly different…but not enough so you could tell unless you knew about it.

To the north of my part of the ’Hood stands a smaller tract of contemporaneous classic Southern California style. It’s a lower-rent area, and the houses are Pure Anaheim. Which is about as bourgeois as a residential structure can get. 😀

For reasons unclear to me, the area to the south and east of the park (which at the time was not a park but rather a sheep pasture) was more upscale. Beverly Hills it ain’t….but the houses are large and occupy lots ranging from about a third to maybe a half an acre. Most of them are apparently custom or “semi-custom” homes, all but a couple of them sprawling single-story ranchers. No two of these places seem to be the same.

But the weird thing is…they’re not all vast sprawling monuments to their original owners’ egos. Some of them are quite large. But a few really are no bigger than my house. Apparently some people wanted to live in relatively small homes — less upkeep, presumably — but with lots of elbow room between the neighbors.

At one point along the line, after I’d moved into my first house here, much closer to Conduit of Blight, I looked at an open house over in that older area….more out of curiosity than with any idea of actually buying it. It faced on the park, a circumstance that was considered a marvel of luxury. It was a little large for my taste — for one person and a dog, you don’t need to live in a hotel. But the thing that was a jaw-dropper was that it still was using a septic tank!!!!!

Not surprisingly, in a way: by the 1950s, this area was still out in the country. Encanto Drive — smack in the middle of what is now considered the “historic” central city — was the city limit: about 7 miles from here. But as the sewer system expanded, most people connected with the city lines. I think it was free (read, “paid for by your property taxes”) at the time. Someone was either real cheap or real suspicious of Big Gummint! 😀

Dog is campaigning for an evening doggy walk. Away!

Love Under a Coyote Moon

Urban coyote

It was a long night.

The Human woke in the wee hours of the morning — very wee. The Dog dozed while its creature tossed and turned, worried and fretted, got up twice to gulp down various tablets: aspirin, allergy pills, whatnot. Turned on its magical noise-making lightbox and poked away at the little black pedals arrayed across its surface.

An incipient sore throat conjured visions of covid-19, God help us all! Is this just a residue of the choking fit that visited in the afternoon? Or maybe an allergy? Or…or…what?

I get up, stumble down to the medicine cabinet, and scarf down a Claritin. But…but…but…I’ve already dropped a Benadryl. Took  one of those along about 7:30 p.m., in hopes of staving off a not-atypical allergy-mediated sore throat and runny nose. By 12:40 in the morning it should have kicked in, and I don’t think it would wear off in just five hours.

Holy shit!! I’m coming down with the covid disease. Right? That’s gotta be it.

Sleep is now out of the question.

Couple hours pass. Waking hours. The Claritin does nothing.

At 3 a.m., I get up and drop an aspirin. But I know now I’m dooooomed! No question of it, DOOMED! What other explanation is there but covid covid fucking covid! Ten days before I could manage to prize free an appointment for a shot!

Is that not typical? I ask you: how typical is that!

Give up trying to sleep.

Along about 4:30 a.m., the Human is pounding at its little black pedals when we hear a noise. A weird noise. It’s coming from outside the bedroom’s east wall, loud enough to resonate through the slump block. Like…bleating.

A sheep? There’s a sheep out on the sidewalk?

b-a-a-a…b-a-a-a…b-a-a…b-a-a-a…

Sheep? Seriously? Goat, maybe? Do goats bleat?

The neighborhood does have several remaining agricultural properties, land banks and tax dodges for their owners and pleasant rural-looking pockets in the midst of an increasingly gentrified zone abutting an increasingly tough and ugly slum. One person still keeps a few critters, among them an overgrown Vietnamese pig that has been known to escape.

Do pigs bleat? No…I believe in any language pigs oink.

Cat? Naaahhh…cats yowl.

Dog? Whatever this noisemaker is, it ain’t barking. Besides, if it were a dog, Ruby would be up and at’em. She’s profoundly uninterested.

Javelina? Hmmm… Javelinas make a kind of grunting sound, but I don’t believe they’re known to bleat.

Fox? Foxes can make a variety of interesting sounds, being clever little critters. But none of them sound like a sheep.

Delinquents? Since when have teenagers begun to bleat while TPing the trees?

“Ruby! Hey! Ruby! Wake up!”

Dog eyes the human wearily. Now what?

“Listen to that! What is that?”

Dog lifts head off mattress.

b-a-a-a…b-a-a-a…b-a-a…b-a-a-a…

You woke me up for THAT? It’s a sheep, you ridiculous creature. Put away the freakish computer, turn off the damn light, shut up, and go to sleep!

Human continues to peck at the computer. Before long, the bleating ceases.

Not too very much longer after that, Dog stirs and notices the sun is bleaching the eastern sky. She arises and demands food.

Human and Dog stumble out to the kitchen, where Human sets a dish of food on the floor. Dog feasts, then goes on about its business.

As the sun marches toward the zenith, Dog and Human set out for their daily stroll through the neighborhood. As they pass the east side of the house, Human spots a skiff of gravel scattered across the sidewalk. The gravel top-dressing on the side yard is roiled up a bit, right outside the bedroom wall. A few doggy-looking footprints are visible.

And now by the light of day, Human remembers: It’s mating season for coyotes. This is February. Sonoran desert coyotes whelp in March (or thereabouts). The serenade we heard at 4:30 in the morning was the Song of Coyote Love.

This means two things:

  1. Soon we will have coyote pups abounding in the ‘Hood, wherever Mama Coyote can find a quiet and secluded place to den. A-n-n-d…
  2. This means Ruby-Doo will be at some risk for the next several months.

When coyotes are whelping, they try to clear their territory of other canids. This is because competing coyotes, as well as wolves, will kill the pups when they find them. A coyote actually will come over your wall to take out your dog.

And that means Ruby will have to be watched every time she goes out in the backyard. Over the next three or four months, she cannot be let outdoors alone to putter around, as is her wont.

Few years ago, a couple of my neighbors — a gay couple — were lounging in their living room having a cocktail before dinner. Their greyhound was perambulating around the backyard, where the men could see them through the living-room window. All of a sudden they saw a coyote come right over the back wall! Unfortunately, this was not the wiliest of moves: the animal was no match for an 80-pound hunting dog.

The grey took after the coyote. It managed to escape over the wall as the two men watched in awe. The hound was unfazed.

A few days later, one of their neighbors happened to mention that, gee, he’d found a dead coyote laying in the front yard.

Welp. A corgi a greyhound does not make. Ruby would be no match for a coyote.

Coyote image: By Frank Schulenburg – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46976005

The Walking History Archive

Have you ever noticed how weird it is when you’ve lived in a neighborhood for so long that you remember the people-before-the-people-before-the-people who now live in this or that house?

Honestly. Sometimes I feel like I’m a creature from another century. Which, come to think of it, I am!

This morning the Hound and I strolled through a small tract just to the south of us. Those houses have traditionally been more expensive than the newer (but now “vintage”) slump-block houses of our tract, though we’re catching up fast. But young people are moving in there and fixing those places up, too, adorning the walls with lots of eye-searing white, prison gray, and charcoal black paint. And the houses respond well: some of them look very nice, indeed.

Case in point: a house on the corner of a little neighborhood lane that debouches into the park.

I seriously considered buying that house, at the time SDXB and I were engaged in battle with the Romanian Landlord (aka The Perp). It had separate mother-in-law quarters, a spacious apartment with everything a guest or an elderly parent would like to have. My idea was…I would buy the house. SDXB and I would sell our houses up here and move in there. He would have the MiL quarters to use as he pleased: as his man cave or his office or his own private apartment, whatever. It’s a very pleasant house in a very pleasant neighborhood.

Only obvious drawback was that it wasn’t far enough away from the Perp, for our lawyers’ taste.

SDXB is chronically armed to the teeth. I’m not exactly defenseless myself, plus at the time I roomed with a very large, very menacing German shepherd who didn’t take no flak from no-one, not even a half-baked Romanian mafioso. But that notwithstanding, he absorbed the lawyers’ hysteria and betook himself to Sun City. I, having been there and done that, declined to go along, so stayed right where I was. And still am.

But nevertheless, that house had a genuine, nonimaginary drawback: its history, one that you’d think would make it hard to sell.

It had belonged to a couple who had a young child, a little boy. The dad was a cop.

One day the man came home and set his service revolver down on the coffee table. What would possess you, I can’t even begin to imagine…but yep! That’s what he did. Little boy came along when the parental backs were turned, found the gun, and picked it up to play with it. It discharged and shot the child in the gut.

He survived, surprisingly enough, but the slug ripped his intestines apart. He would have to wear a bag on his belly for the rest of his life.

The marriage, not at all surprisingly, could not withstand any such event. The couple divorced and disappeared into the Naked City. Another couple came along, lived there for a year or two, and by the time of the Perp Adventure were themselves moving on — that’s why the house was on the market.

We decided against buying it.

SDXB moved to Sun City.

Anna the GerShep chased the Perp’s would-be revenging son-in-law off and so terrorized the poor man he ended up sitting in his driveway sobbing. She and I were never bothered by that tribe again.

Animosities ceased after I rescued the Perp’s grand-daughter from a vicious dog that attacked her, by getting her and her puppy atop a mailbox stanchion and then facing down the damn dog…which was no less cowardly, really, than the son-in-law. 😀

I can walk through this whole area and remember a lot about the people who have lived in any given house over the years. I’m an ambulatory local history journal, I guess.

She’s OUT! She’s Off and Running!

So I’m chowing down on breakfast whilst browsing through The Economist — the single best general-interest periodical for people with functioning brain cells, IMHO — when I hear Ruby launch into a yap-fest: YAP YAP YAP YAP YAP…from…huh? From the front of the house????

WTF!?!

Leap to my feet, race through the open back door into the yard, jumping into an old pair of clogs on the way, and fly into the back yard, hollering RUBY! RUBY!!

No dog.

Round the corner of the house at a dead run and see Ruby bounding cheerily toward me…through the open side gate!

WTF, indeed! That thing has a double-cylinder dead bolt, and it gets locked every time the gate is pulled shut.

Love up the dog, lure her back into the house, then go outside to figure out what that’s all about.

Well, the doorknob-like handle on this gate has never been real efficient. Its little latch bolt — the tongue-like thing that fits into the strike plate and holds the door shut — wants to slip out of its assigned nesting spot, though it will stay put with some coaxing.

But the thing isn’t locked, and I know I locked it (it’s a double-cylinder deadbolt, so locks with a key from both sides). Because I never walk away from a door or a gate without locking it and checking to be sure it’s locked…for reasons that have been described floridly on this very blog.

So, yea verily WTF!?! Did somebody pick the lock open?

Unlikely. Why bother when there are so many juicier targets all around? Besides, it was raining last night. No burglar or bum in his right mind would be tromping around in that.

But o’course, the “in his right mind” part is operative. Hmm.

At any rate, thank the heavens Ruby had a nice little bark-fest while she was exploring the front yard, probably occasioned by some other dog owner walking their pal past the shack. And thank the heavens (x 1016) that she came to call.

It rained enough during the night to turn the backyard’s quarter-minus into slush, so now the kitchen floor is covered with mud.

But at least the little dog did not get hit by a car, creamed by a passing neighbor’s pit bull, or stolen.

And NOW…yea verily… I don’t even get through this short blog post when a helicopter — a big one, sounds like the military copters that emerge periodically from the Reserve base down on McDowell Road — comes ROARING over the top of the house, at tree-top level. Holy shit! Who are THEY after?

No one, evidently. He continues on, westward ever westward, so probably it’s a military exercise in how to chase down snipers in civilian residential areas. Ducky.

We’ve gotta get outta this place…