Coffee heat rising

Heat-Soaked, Heat-Tired…

Two in the afternoon. It’s 112 in the shade of the back porch. Running up the power bill by leaving the thermostat at the night-time temp: 78 degrees. I keep fading, coming back, fading. Feel OK for and hour or two, then feel like I need to go back to bed. Just finished eleven (count-’em, 11) sentences in the Ella’s Story chapter that needs to go online tomorrow. Have no idea where the thing is going.

What next? How about back to bed?

Why, you ask, do I feel so tired, other than that the fine enervating effect of prolonged 112-degree heat? Why, indeed:

  • Up at 4:30 a.m.
  • Read email, answer messages.
  • Read news, grind teeth.
  • Get dressed, more or less.
  • Out the door with the dogs: 5:15 a.m.
  • Walk dogs one mile
  • Feed dogs
  • Mix up large container of Roundup (yeah, I know, but if you want to come over and pull fire-hazard weeds out of the alley by hand, be my guest!)
  • Unlock iron bars that span the back gate to discourage transients from using the gate alcove as a loo.
  • Don heavy garden gloves.
  • Drag wheelbarrow and dog pooper-scooper through back gates, up the alley, into front yard.
  • Use the scooper to lift a very prickly piece of prickly-pear cactus off the ground and into the barrow.
  • Lift the pot with the dead prickly-pear cactus off the ground and into the barrow, trying not to touch the plant.
  • Roll these to the garbage can in the alley.
  • Lift pot (very heavy, even though dessicated) into the shoulder-high trash can. Toss.
  • Toss dead prickly-pear pad in after it.
  • Peel ruined gloves off and throw them and the myriad stickers they’ve collected into the trash can.
  • Drag wheelbarrow back into yard. Close and lock back gate.
  • Pick up dog mounds; deposit in dog poop/junk mail container — another device to discourage transients, who will go through the trash looking for things with your name and address…especially credit-card offers.
  • Carry dribble-bottle of Roundup into the front yard
  • Drip Roundup on weeds on east side of house.
  • Down the alley: Douse the idiot neighbor’s butt-high crop of fire-hazard weeds with Roundup.
  • Drip Roundup on the few weeds that have broken through behind my house.
  • Put away the Roundup gear.
  • Lubricate the wheelbarrow, whose squealing probably woke up the idiot neighbors (one can only hope…)
  • Put wheelbarrow back in its place.
  • In bathroom, dig out tweezers. Pick (painful!) hair-thin prickly-pear stickers out of fingers and out of a toe (!! HOW???)
  • Back outside: water potted plants.
  • Turn sprinkler on bedding plants and rose on west side.
  • Check pool chlorine.
  • Jump in pool, swim around.
  • Rinse incipient growth of mustard algae off steps.
  • Wash self and hair in hose.
  • Turn soaker hose on cat’s claw vines.
  • Dry off.
  • Comb out tangles and put up wet hair.
  • Fix and consume coffee and breakfast.
  • Put away dishes.
  • Pick up dog dishes, too.
  • Write to correspondents.
  • Begin trying to write Ella, chapter 28.
  • Daydream.
  • Read news.
  • Think how fricking TIRED I am.
  • Worry that weight continues to fall off despite effort to end diet.
  • Write to correspondents at some length.
  • Write and publish a short Quora essay. Watch with amazement and amusement as a flurry of “likes” flashes up on the screen, forthwith.
  • Consider, in awe, that 17,200 people have read one of those Quora essays!
  • Make note in relevant Facebook discussion as to how you can use Quora to guide traffic to your website or author page.
  • Think how fricking HUNGRY I am.
  • Decide to fix slumgullion, using US-made pasta, which seems to be more fattening than expensive Italian pasta guaranteed made with European wheat. Ooohhkkkayyyy…
  • Think how much I do not want to drive to Sprouts to buy one (1) onion.
  • Realize I have a bunch of frozen mirepoix.
  • Exhume this from the fridge.
  • Start mirepoix sautéing. Throw in some frozen chopped spinach.
  • Defrost hamburger.
  • Set large pot of water to boil.
  • Mince garlic, add tbat and a fistful of walnuts to mirepoix.
  • Sauté hamburger.
  • Start pasta boiling.
  • Toss browned meat into mirepoix, adding dash of nutmeg, sprinkle of cinnamon. Simmer.
  • Add half a box of leftover Pomí tomatoes to frying pan. Approve: an acceptable sauce, even absence a splash of red wine.
  • Retrieve pasta; mix with sauce. Dump some on a plate; put the rest in a refrigerator container.
  • Sprinkle generous amount of Parmesan over the chow on the plate.
  • Eat.
  • Feel a lot better: maybe I’m not dying of liver failure after all?
  • Start writing.
  • Procrastinate, racking up large numbers of game points.
  • Read Facebook.
  • Write.
  • Think how fricking TIRED I am.
  • Lift the dogs onto the bed.
  • Climb on after them.
  • Write this.

So it goes.

Live-Blogging from Storm Central

July 30, 8:00 p.m.

Well, not exactly blogging: power’s out and likely to be that way for quite some time. We could say “pre-blogging”…in Word, the laptop being fully charged but, of course, offline.

Dinner at M’hijito’s house. Just as we were finishing the feast, we could see the storm blowing in, and then a pretty heavy dust-storm hit his part of town. I wanted to get home, as I’d taken a Benadryl a few hours earlier to stave off a (weird!) allergic reaction, and it had turned me into a zombie. Just wanted to go home and go straight to bed.

Not so much.

So I figured if I was lucky and the traffic was thin, I could fly low and get home before the rain started.


About halfway up the north leg of the trip, some serious rain started to sluice down. Limbs were already down all over the road, and now it was sheeting rain. An ambulance trundled by and – oh yeah, naturally – turned into the ’hood.

My beaten path to avoid Big Brother’s hateful speed bumps and aggravating round-abouts entails entering our area from the east side on a little neighborhood lane that everybody who lives here knows runs from Main Drag east to Primary Feeder Street North/South.

Via Neighborhood Lane, I’m trying to reach Secondary Feeder North/South, midway between Main Drag East and Primary Feeder Street North/South, by way of making my way up to the small neighborhood road that runs from Lower Richistan to Normalville, my part of the ’hood.

I get about three-quarters of the way up to Small Neighborhood Road and find a large branch down across Secondary Feeder N/S. So hang a U-ie and go back down to Neighborhood Lane, upon which I figure to reach Primary Feeder N/S. And THERE I find my neighbor Josie stopped in front of an entire downed tree.

In the dark, it appears a whole Aleppo pine – and these things are HUGE – uprooted and came crashing down across the road. I get out of my car to check the house across the street, to see if everyone’s OK. It looks like it didn’t quite reach that house, but it’s in their yard. If the residents are home, they’re huddled inside. I don’t think anyone’s hurt.

Josie knows the people who own the house where the tree stood, and she’s on the phone to them. They’re not home. We think their house is OK…except, ahem, for the absence of one exceptionally large shade tree.

Now I tell Josie that I couldn’t get through on Seccondary Feeder N/S. She says she couldn’t get through on the Main Drag to the south, either, because the power is out and the traffic is insane. She doesn’t think we can even reach Primary Feeder Street N/S along Main Drag South.

I say I think I can pull the downed limb off the road if we go back up Secondary. We both make U-turns and she follows me up Secondary. But by now others are trying to get through, and now a neighbor – a large male neighbor – is out in front of the house where the limb fell, trying to wave people away from the traffic jam.

I say I think we can pull it far enough off the road for cars to pass. He says he tried and couldn’t move it. He suggests we go up the wrong way on Secondary – Secondary is a divided road with a planter strip up the middle. No one is coming in our direction, so Josie and I cut across the road and make our way up the down street.

Luckily, we reach Main Feeder East/West before anybody comes our way. And before a cop comes along.

Because the power is out, once I get to the Funny Farm I can’t get into the garage. It is pouring rain. Leaving the dogs in the car, I enter the house, free the garage opener latch, and push the door open. Manage to haul the door closed behind the car – fortunately the door is well balanced, because it’s old, all steel, and damned heavy.

July 30, an hour later:

The power is still out. It’s damn hot in here. I’ve opened the doors that have security screens with drill-proof deadbolts, but of course can’t leave any of the sliders or the windows open. Well….I do have the bedroom sliding door open, because what we have here on the bed is a dual alarm system. If anyone comes anywhere near the place, they go off like banshees.

Which, I suppose, is what they are.

Not surprisingly, I can’t get online, so cannot check the Salt River Project website for word of how soon they might get the power back on. Not very, I expect. People are wandering around outside yakking, babies are screaming, and it’s wet and steamy. Still sprinkling a little, but not enough to keep the yakkers indoors. Or to keep the damn helicopters from buzzing overhead.

Some very odd things are working in the outage.

The phone, for example. I was told it would not run without electric. The Cox guy put a battery in the modem, but that thing died forthwith. So I’m bopping around in the dark when I hear an unfamiliar phone bell ringing. WTF? The clamshell throwaway phone??? My son, trying to get through????!?

Grab the camp lantern, make my way to the office, whence the noise emanates. It’s the main phone that plugs direct to the cable connection. Pick it up: La Maya on the phone. We yak for awhile. She says to be careful about leaving doors or windows open, because she caught a sh!thead prowling outside one of her windows a night or so ago.

Thank heavens for Schlage and Medco locks, think I.

Still. This is the time when you do want your German shepherd back.

And in the weirdly still-working department: I had a Washington Post online game up on the computer before I left the house. Even though the computer is offline, the little game is working! 😀


The streetlight outside the Funny Farm flickered a few times, as though the power was trying to come on. Then went dark again.

And now it’s raining steadily again. It’s hot and stuffy in here. Believe I’ll throw a sheet on the tiles and go to sleep on the floor, where it’s cooler. A lot cooler…

July 31, 1:00 a.m.

The power finally came back on sometime in the wee hours., just as I was figuring that come dawn, I’d have to make a run on Walmart, Fry’s, and whatever other stores I could think of in search of dry ice to try to preserve the food in the fridge and freezer. If the whole area’s power was down all night, it could be quite a long grocery store run…

Salt River Project’s website says the power went off here around 7:15 last night. So it’s been off five and a half hours, give or take. This would be O.K. if it hadn’t been around 100 degrees when the power went out. Just now it’s about 80 outside, and around 83 inside the shack.

I see a new assignment came in from a client while all these shenanigans were going on. I hope they don’t want the thing back tomorrow, because today I’m gonna be in no shape to read technical copy. Ugh.

July 31, 7:17 a.m.

Power was out most of the night. Cox has been up and down. No phone, no pool, two heat-soaked pets…ain’t got no cigarettes.

I think the cable (i.e. phone) connection is up right now, but that doesn’t mean it’ll stay up. Here at the Funny Farm, though, it looks like things are intact. Thank heaven Luis came earlier this summer and thinned out the forest! But for sure…I’m going to have to do something about that devil-pod tree. If that thing falls over, it will smush either my house or Terri’s.

July 31, 8:27 a.m.

Dogs fed and walked. Property reconnoitered. Phone and Internet crashed again and are still out…I do hate Cox. Really. Hate. Cox.

Neighbor took this foto of the scene on Neighborhood Lane, just west of Primary Feeder Street N/W.  That tree was uprooted and blown out of the front yard on the right-hand side of the image. Fortunately, the lots are huge and the houses are set back a good distance off the road. If it had been most other neighborhoods in this city, that tree would have fallen into the house situated on the left side of this picture.

That’s an Aleppo pine, a type of tree popular when the tract was built out…back in the 1950s. So the tree is probably 50 or 60 years old. At least. Another pine in the yard lost about a third of its branches — whether because this tree hit it on the way down or from the action of the wind.

Mercifully, no damage here at the Funny Farm. The potted ficus tree, which has waxed huge in its new place beneath the lath shade covering, fell over. Its pot didn’t break, thank goodness, and I managed (just) to haul it back upright and drag it, a quarter-inch at a time, back into the shelter. Fine mess in the pool, but Harvey the Hayward Pool Cleaner was up to it with no problem. Harvey was already out of the water, in anticipation of just such an event as occurred. Turned on the pump, which scooted the big stuff into a pile. Scooped that out easily with the hose-end water vacuum. Then dropped Harvey back in the drink, where he began tracing white trails through the brown dust. Otherwise everything seems OK except maybe the bougainvillea on the side, which got royally walloped.

Was very glad I’d hired Luis to trim all the trees in front. That devil-pod tree on the side, though, is beyond one man and a saw….Gerardo wants to take it down, but I’m afraid of having one of his cousins fall out of the damn thing. Since he’s laid first dibs on the job, though, I’m also afraid of pissing him off by hiring a tree company (at many times what he’ll charge) to cut it down. And don’t know what could take its place…as hated as it is, it DOES shade the west side of the shack.

I see the wind did blow a lot of shingles off the neighbor’s roof catty-corner behind me. That guy…there’s always one in every neighborhood, isn’t there?…is a shiftless soul. He inherited the house from parents who lived there till they died. And since he didn’t have to pay for it and is one of those clowns who doesn’t understand that real estate = dollars and paid-off real estate = investment, he’s just let it rot away. So that won’t be fixed, and what was already getting to be an eyesore will now be even dumpier.

Checked my own roof with binoculars. Doesn’t look like there’s much damage, though a couple of shingles might need repair. The roofing guys who installed that roof after Late Great Hailstorm didn’t leave me any extra shingles! Duh! I didn’t even think about it at the time. So…finding shingles to match may be a bit of a challenge. Dollars to donuts, they’re not available at the Depot, eh?

July 31, 10:34 a.m.

Having enjoyed all of about two hours’ sleep last night, I’m going back to bed. And so, away…



Overlazied and Underpaid…

LOL! Not exactly underpaid, but not doing enough work to matter! Which in Arizona’s summer heat is probably the best way to survive: not working.

Truth to tell, today’s summer heat is not as advertised. It is not going to reach 117 today. Not a chance: at noon, it’s only 110 out there.

The hounds and I rolled out at 4 a.m. so as to get in the mile’s dog-&-human walk before the predicted blast-furnace heat rose up. It was only about 87 at that time — we were told the low would be 90. The morning was actually rather pleasant. We encountered about ten of our fellow dog-walkers, all of whom apparently had the same idea. Arrived back at the Funny Farm around 5:40, fed dogs, watered plants, refilled the pool, tossed in some more chlorine tabs, went swimming.

That must have pleased the neighbors, because Ruby barks hysterically every time I get in the water. Apparently she thinks the human is going to drown. Then (horrors!) she won’t get fed anymore.

Since the neighbors were the cause of my spending the Fourth of July working myself up to a near heat stroke and having to opt out of my favorite party of the year so as to stay home and guard the Farm from the risk of nitwit-initiated fire, I do not give one thin damn if my dog barks them out of the sack on a 90-degree morning. 😀 Bay away, little dog!

All that notwithstanding, the heat and the humidity begin to wear. Just now — along about two in the afternoon — it’s about 115 on the back porch. Not intolerable…but somewhat warm.

Where creative and productive work are concerned, I do best in a cool, fairly gray climate: San Francisco and London are ideal. All this sunshine is a distraction. Actually, what happens is that it puts me in zombie mode. I just do not feel like working.

As in I cannot force myself to do ANYTHING.

Last week I had seven days in which to scribble the current installment of Ella’s Story. Did I write it last week? Was it ready to go come Monday morning?

Hell, no. Of course not.

But I did rack up 50,810 points on the set of games I’ve been playing.


So it was the middle of the afternoon before that got done, and then (IMHO) not very well.

Yesterday the place was overrun with various workers, which rendered writing or editing much of anything…problematic, shall we say.

Happily enough, though, I was rescued from having to pay some batsh!t amount of money to repair the propane grill! Its main knob — the one that turns on the primary burner — was stuck somehow. I thought the tube it attaches to had somehow got bent, and was silently blaming it on one of Gerardo’s cousins, whom I suspected of having whacked it with a leaf-blower.

BBQ repair dude was supposed to show up between 2 and 3 p.m. — try to imagine throwing yourself around with a heavy gas grill, in the sun, in 112-degree heat!

Not surprisingly, this poor fella called in sick. Along about 7 a.m., the office called and asked if they could send someone between 9:30 and 10 a.m.

This put the eefus on my plan to hit the grocery story as soon as rush hour ended. But without an oven, I’ve gotta have that grill working.

Well…”someone” was the company’s owner, an interesting and entertaining man. Forthwith, he discovered that nothing serious was wrong — a little rust or, he thought, just dirt, was jamming a part, He cleaned and lubricated the knob assembly, whilst entertaining me with conversation.

So that was good. Even better: he only charged $68 to fix it!

Man! I was expecting a $200 bill. The original appointment included their whiz-bang cleaning service, which I really did not need and would prefer not to get until after the weather cools off. So he opted that and barely charged enough to cover the gas to drive his truck up here.

So, even after yesterday’s junket to the grocery store, I still have $58 left in this month’s budget, with only a week to go.

At said grocer, I picked up a roll of dog food, meaning the doggy meals are now covered for the rest of the month and then some. Got a very nice watermelon — paying lots more than would have been required at Costco,. but obviating an extra trip to an extra store through the heat.

I may have as much loot as I need to make it to August 1 without having to buy any more food or household items. Possibly not. But whatever comes up surely will not cost $58.

Memorial Day, Memories, and Amazing Work

Yesterday being Memorial Day, the berserk hordes who now inhabit Our Great City headed out of town, leaving the city streets prett’ much empty. And good riddance to them: it gets less and less pleasant to live in a city that keeps growing like some unholy fungus from outer space…without regard to whether there’s enough water to support millions of people from now into perpetuity…or even until the day after tomorrow. Meanwhile, though, some of us do not quit working just because it’s a holiday: Luis the Arborist showed up at 6 a.m. sharp (uhm… more or less) to cut back the overgrown paloverde, palo brea, and olive.

I hate to do that to these beautiful trees. But the paloverde had sent two limbs up over the roof. One of these sprang from a trunk (it has four trunks) that had started to sag ominously under the weight…suggesting that the first good, hard monsoon that blows in this summer would drop a half-ton of tree limb onto my roof or the neighbor’s. The palo brea poses no threat to any structures, but it does crave to claw out the eyes of passers-by. Given the opportunity, it drapes its monstrously thorny boughs over the sidewalk, where they wave in the breeze right at head-height for a human. So that thing has to be trimmed back every year.

And yes, I do hate cutting them back, especially the paloverde. This morning there are NO birds in the side yard. As I’ve said recently, normally the place is alive with them. So presumably they were either nesting or taking shelter in the overgrown paloverde.

Before Luis came over, I inspected it to see if I could spot nests, but couldn’t see any. So thought it safe enough to let him have at it. But this morning’s absence of the flocks of sparrows, towhees, dove, and house finches suggests that was wrong.

However…the risk of a 500-pound tree limb falling on the roof kinda outweighed the risk of, alas, scaring off the birds.

Meanwhile, a Memorial Day shopping expedition was planned with friends VickyC and KJG. I had to arrive at VickyC’s house at 10 a.m., meaning the key errands I needed to do — grab some dog food and fill up the gas tank — had to be done early. Wrangling the tree guy around the dogs threw a monkey wrench in the plans to do those tasks.

Flew up to Walmart, which is close to the house and usually has the fancy dog food — overpriced though the stuff is for their customer base. But no…they had no chicken, only beef. Ruby the Corgi Pup is allergic to beef. So had to traipse all the way down to AJ’s. The Costco was on the way from the Walmart to the AJ’s, and by then it was past opening time.

Arrive at the Costco gas station to find it empty. Closed. Padlocks on the gas pumps. F!!!ck.

Moving on to AJ’s, they were mercifully open (not so merciful for their employees, but I have no idea what I would’ve done about the dogs had the store been closed…not many places carry this particular brand of overpriced dog food, and it takes two or three hours to cook a new batch of their regular chow).

This junket, as it developed, was a Drive Down Memory Lane.

Holy mackerel…do you have any idea how long it’s been since driving around our fair city was a pleasant endeavor?

The streets were essentially empty. Every yahoo and homicidal driver had freaking left town, Memorial Day traditionally being the first really hot day of the summer. Everyone who’s anyone and a great number who are no one heads out of the city, northward bound on often motionless freeways.

And I was reminded that — can you believe this? — once I liked to drive around Phoenix. Once upon a time it was actually fun to get in your car and just cruise the streets, day or night. As bored 20-year-olds, we had a game in which we would get in the car, the driver poised to take orders from the person in the shotgun seat. Said sidekick would flip a coin: heads we go left; tails right. And we would just drive around, exploring the city at random, usually ending up on the side of Camelback Mountain. If driver and sidekick were members of the opposite sex, this accidental destination presented some even more entertaining possibilities. 😉

So it was strangely pleasant. Despite the frustrations encountered at the Walmart and the Costco, I arrived home in an almost unheard-of good mood, instead of mad as a cat and grinding my teeth. Surprising! On any normal day, driving here leaves you wanting to bite someone.

Leads me to think I should think about living in a smaller city. Like, say, Prescott. Or the beloved Yarnell. Ah, Yarnell. Ah, 40 acres a few miles out of town. Yes. Please.

KJG and her husband, Mr. Fireman, just sold their house up against the White Tanks. They’ve bought a place in Payson, where they’re now in the process of moving. It’s on four acres of forested land and is really going to be a lovely place to live.

Our plan was to have lunch at a favorite place in lovely downtown Tempe, then make a run on our favorite European shoe store, which was having a 10% off sale. But just before we left, we discovered the restaurant was closed. So were all the restaurants in the vicinity of VickyC’s house.

So we came on up to the Funny Farm, where I happened to have a nice package of organic free-range chicken thighs snabbed from the local Sprouts. We cooked those up with some veggies and a side of fresh tomatoes, and enjoyed sitting around yakking for quite some time.

KJG remarked that she’s headed up to Payson this week to establish residence and clean cupboards, cabinets, closets, and everything else preparatory to the arrival of their worldly goods. Mr. F is staying here for the nonce, so that he can continue to pack stuff into their pick-up and trailer and to keep the crazy neighbors’ horde of cats out of the yard…the new buyers being innocent of the fact that KJG and Mr. F are moving because of the filthy cats’ defiling the house’s yard, walls, patios, and gardens.

Isn’t that something? Being driven out of your dream home, custom built for you in one of the prettiest parts of the Valley, by effing nut cases who board mobs of cats and refuse to keep them off your property! These people essentially hijacked the HOA, so the specific written covenants were not enforced and are never gonna be enforced.

At any rate, she remarked that she didn’t have enough silverware to leave some for Mr. F and take enough for her — they only have one set.

Mwa ha ha! Lo and behold, I just happen to have a whole set of fairly fancy flatware, purchased at Williams Sonoma about three years ago. Bought it because I was about to host a temporary roommate, and I knew the fact that my working stainless looked almost identical to my Christofle — which I use all the time — was gonna cause trouble. The silver, while it can be washed in the dishwasher, has to be loaded separate from the stainless. Well, the existing stainless set is such a close knock-off of the Christofle pattern that sometimes even I have trouble telling them apart.

As soon as the roommate moved on — joining her husband in San Francisco, whence he had decamped three months before her contract employment ran out — I resurrected the Christofle knock-offs. Old age: anything new makes you nervous. 😉

So she was pleased to take this practically new set, and I was delighted to give it to her. A great housewarming gift, eh? May she use it in good health, now and evermore.

By the time we finished stuffing ourselves and talking ourselves blue, KJG was getting tired. She and Mr. F have been schlepping up and down to Payson (a 2½ hour drive) carrying their worldly goods, all the while packing and trying to keep the Waddell castle pristinely clean (and cat-urine stink-free…). So she excused herself.

VickyC and I drove out to Tempe, where I spent a great deal more than I could afford on a new pair of dressy(ish) black sandals. My old ones, which I wear to excess, were completely shot: holes worn on the insole under the toes! So that was a pricey trip. Not as pricey as it would have been, though, had we found a non-fast-food restaurant open.

And so it goes…


“Another Beautiful Day in Arizona…”

“…Leave us all enjoy it!”

{chortle!} That was the slogan of a long, long-ago governor of Arizona, a classic specimen of the state’s political fauna. The guy had been a radio announcer before he rose to the state’s highest office. He was a bit of an ignoramus, a good ole’ boy who may or may not have feigned that style. As it developed, he was far from the most stupid of the critters we have elected to public office. Evan Mecham took that cake. Ev was the Donald Trump of the Southwest.

What a character.

Ev was so flamboyantly bizarre — and so excessively stupid — that nobody wanted to miss a minute of the sideshow. We all — every citizen of the state — went out and bought these tiny portable TVs (this was long before the day of cell phones and Google News), which we toted into the office with us. It took a year and four months to shovel him out of office. He was impeached in April 1988, when he enjoyed a criminal trial for his efforts as, uhm, governor.

It was hilarious while it lasted. But then…to have a fool for a governor is a bit different from having one as President of the United States, hm?

In less laughable climes: Just found two (!!) emergent holes of paloverde beetles under one of the beloved Arizona sweet orange trees. The monsters love citrus as much as they love paloverde trees.

That tree was peakèd this spring, so I suspected something was up. (Or…down under.) Citrus trees will go “off” once every few years, look sickly, and produce rather sad fruit. Then they revive the following year. It’s as if they need to “rest” every now and again. But I’m afraid the present anemia resulted from its roots being eaten by these goddamned bugs’ grubs, which live most of their lives underground — about 8 years. When they emerge to breed, they’re at the end of their lives — they only last a few days above ground.

Control is extremely iffy. We might say “feeble.” Virtually nothing kills them. Some years ago I found a supposed organic treatment — you apply these microbes that allegedly attack the grubs, infect them, and do them in. But after a couple of years of applying according to instructions, they didn’t do a thing.

Then a guy at Home Depot — a retired arborist come back to earn a few pennies to finance his loafing — steered me to an insecticide that he claimed, contrary to accepted wisdom, would do the grubs in if applied at the right time of year and well soaked into the ground. That stuff does work moderately well. It certainly cut the number of emergent holes, which at one point were upwards of a dozen around the paloverde tree. Since at any given time an infestation can deliver hundreds or thousands of grubs, you know that for every mature, flying beetle dozens and dozens of babes are chewing away at your trees.

The problem with said insecticide is you can’t apply it to food plants. So if I put this stuff on the oranges, I won’t be able to eat next year’s crop of oranges. And that will not be a good thing. Those oranges are like candy. I gorge on them all spring, starting in February. I can easily eat five or six for breakfast, and then pull off some more during the day.

So I’m loathe to apply it. Not only do I not want to do without next year’s crop, neither do I know whether the following year’s fruit will be safe to eat. And of course, given that this stuff certainly isn’t going to kill all of the thousands of grubs underground (there were still some emergent holes the summer after I dumped it around the paloverde tree), getting rid of them may entail having to apply it several years in a row. Or…now and evermore.

It’s very early for paloverde beetles to emerge. Forgodsake, this is only May! They normally come out at the beginning of monsoon season, which starts mid- to late July. Apparently the combination of heat, humidity, and long daylight hours calls them forth. For two of them to climb out of the ground at this time of year is pretty surprising.

A flock of a dozen whitewing doves are scarfing up the seed I put out this morning. An interested thrasher is also lurking around. Thrashers will eat paloverde beetles. I’ve seen one do battle with one of those armored bugs…and it’s quite a show! So it’s in the trees’ interest to attract some fierce and muscular flying dinosaurs…as well as their cousins, the mockingbirds.

Here’s a thing that looks sort of like a house finch, but he’s probably not getting the type of food he most needs. His head and breast are distinctly orange, not red, which (so we’re told) indicates he’s not finding food with enough pigment to make him red. When you’re a lady house finch, you tend to favor a gent with the reddest possible coloring.

And the requisite pair of Abert’s towhees are back. These fine little birds will clear out an anthole in a few days. They do a funny little dance in leaf litter that involves hopping back and forth to stir things up until they flush a sowbug or some other hapless ground-crawling critter. It is, we might say, a well fed bird in these parts.

Speaking of the paloverde tree, one of its major branches has become so heavy it has dropped down to the level of the back wall and threatens to rest on the roof. Luis the arborist said he would come by this afternoon (that would mean “some time this week, maybe”) to take a look at it.

Luis is a very fine tree guy, hampered only by the fact that he no habla a helluva lot of inglès. Old-country men have much to recommend them, specifically a kind of grace and courtliness that tempers their machismo. Not only does he have this much-to-be-desired characteristic, he also really knows how to maintain trees. Never once have I seen him hack away at a tree with a chainsaw. He trims and shapes each tree by hand, with his brain fully engaged. He knows what he’s doing, and he does it well.

My plan is to ask him if we can brace that big stem up, because (especially at this time of year!) I don’t want to lose its shade. But I can just imagine what he’ll say about that.

I may have to take out a bank loan to pay him — there wasn’t enough in the checking account to cover Chuck’s bill for the damn Venza’s new battery and also stave off bankruptcy. In addition to the paloverde tree in back, the shrubs I installed in front to block the view of the former Dave’s Used Car Lot, Marina, and Weed Arboretum ran amok this spring. It’s surprising the neighbors haven’t complained to the city about them. So there are at least three very large plants out there that need to be cut back.

devil-pod-treePlus Gerardo would like to say good-bye to the devil-pod tree on the west side. I’d like to see it go, too. But…

a) I do not wish to say good-bye to its shade, despite the unholy mess it makes; and
b) Neither do I wish to say good-bye to one of Gerardo’s cousins, who you may be sure will be sent into the treetop (which touches the stratosphere now) to hack it down; and
c) Nor do I wish to have one of those characters drop a branch on my neighbor Terri’s roof, since I very much doubt my homeowner’s insurance will cover any such antics.

I think it will require a crane to take it down safely, that’s how high the tree is now. And I’m going to afford that…how?

Up the Hill Again…and back

Ugh. Doing this little climb every morning for the next eight days is going to be a challenge. Not because I can’t do it but because, as usual, I don’t wanna do it. 😀 And because as also usual there are a zillion other things I’d rather be doing. Loafing, for example.

Got a late start yesterday, having foolishly turned on the computer to check email and take a “quick” look at the Internet: always a mistake. By the time I got out of the house, the sun was fully risen, rush-hour traffic was in progress, and I could not find a place to park at the trailhead. So to my intense annoyance I had to turn around, head back down annoying 7th Street to the “Visitor Center,” which because of its entrance off a high-speed major thoroughfare is tricky to get into and tricky to get out of. A boondoggle of recent construction, this fine facility at least has enough parking, most days.

But it’s about 3/4 of a mile from the trailhead — maybe more than that, given that that the trail there winds a little. So that added about a mile and a half to the hike. Pile on the mini-heat wave we were supposed to have on Tuesday, and I was not a happy camperette.

I started out in hummingbird mode — hummingbirds being creatures given to constant rage — and continued pretty much in the same vein. That did not help my attitude about this project, which is, shall we say, jaundiced.

Women who hike for fitness like to bring a friend, and they like to yak. Apparently most women have no clue how far the female voice carries across the desert. Two women babbling at each other can be heard a good half-mile away.

Which might be OK if they had anything interesting to say. They don’t. Hiking, slenderizing women talk about three subjects and only three subjects: their diets, their friends (or roommates), and the office. That’s it. Apparently they think of nothing else. So not only is the chatter of their voices annoying, the fact that they have fuckin’ nothing to say is equally irritating.

Then we have the manners characteristic of the hordes that run up and down the Phoenix Mountains.

You know… A hiker coming downhill customarily has the right of way on a trail. This is because momentum makes it harder for a person walking downhill to stop, especially if — as in the Phoenix Mountain parks — the trails are rocky and littered with roller-bearing stones. If you meet someone coming down as you’re going up a narrow trail, you’re supposed to step to one side to let that person get by. The reason is obvious, if you have ever walked either up or down a rocky mountain trail.

But bear in mind that the trail in question is not narrow. It’s a good fifteen or twenty feet wide — it used to be a road for automobiles, and still bears some of the asphalt laid, decades ago, for that purpose.

The  broad thoroughfare that goes all the way up Shaw Butte is so heavily thumped with daily hiking and mountain-bike traffic that there are two traces cleared of roller-bearing scree all the way from the trailhead to the top. In many places, there are three of them. So, if you see someone coming down at you or if you come up behind someone walking slower than you’re going, the logical (polite…) thing to do is to step one or two paces to the left or the right and go around them on the adjacent trace.

But that’s not what these bitches do.

They come up behind you, yakking blithely all the way, and they tailgate you! They come right up your ass and tromp along at your heels. So you have to step aside, stop, and let them pass.

Or, if they see you coming downhill and they’re climbing up below you, they step into the trace you’re using and dare you to keep walking.

You understand: there’s no point in this. With two and sometimes three traces of beaten path — relatively free of loose stones and small outcroppings — there’s no reason to insist on getting in someone else’s way.

Yesterday morning, I took one pair of them up on the dare. Admittedly, one of them was a guy. But he also was an airhead. These trails are populated with airheads. Believe me.

So I’m headed downhill on one of two parallel traces on this wide trail. This guy and his woman are coming up. I see them. They see me. It is obvious that they see me, from a fair distance away. So they march into the trace that I’m coming down on and proceed uphill straight at me.

I think, f*ck you, and just keep on walking.

We are practically bellybutton-to-bellybutton before the oaf steps aside.

Meanwhile, because I’ve made a late start, the sun is well up over the nearby mountains, and so it quickly gets passing warm on the trail. Fortunately I’ve brought plenty of water and dressed in layers. But that notwithstanding, by the time I got about 2/3 of the way to the top, I was damned hot.

I do not like being damned hot. That is why I usually have enough sense to leave the house before sunrise…

Then we have the view. The trail up North Mountain is best described in one word: boring. It is a boring trail devoid of most wildlife, which has been scared off by the hordes of device-connected, “music”-jangling, yammering humanity. The view off the side of the trail is just plain ugly.

Phoenix sprawls to the north — way to the north now — of the Mountain Preserves. What spreads out below you is mile on mile on mile of elbow-to-elbow ticky-tacky developments, commercial strips, and industrial slum. A huge high school looms in the near distance: it looks exactly like a prison. Even on a clear, relatively low-smog day, it is a dreary view.

Just below the top, I paused to swig a swallow of water. An older man also paused on the point and said hello. I said I sure was glad I was born 50 years too soon to go to a school that looks like a jail. He laughed and said, “Me, too!”

So I need to find some other hiking venues. This morning I probably will go to the flats behind North Mountain. Absent the rather precarious climb I’ve described before, the area really doesn’t have a good place to trot up and down hills. But you can walk from Peoria Ave. to Thunderbird, which is about 1.8 miles. Trails allow for a wandering path, and two of them will take you up low rises. So if a person walks at a fast clip, she presumably can get at least a little bit of a workout. Better than sitting in front of a computer, anyway.

Today I have to meet some friends for lunch at 11:30, so will need to get in some pass at exercising and still have time to get home, get cleaned up, paint my face, and get dressed. Since I didn’t get home from yesterday’s junket until almost 10 a.m., I need to go someplace closer, easier to park, and faster to walk.

Enough is enough…and I’ve barely begun!