Coffee heat rising

Bum’s Paradise

Having taken to walking the pooch twice a day on mile-plus rounds of the ‘Hood and the Richistans (upper and lower), of late I’ve found myself noting the amazing number of places where homeless folk (who abound in our parts) could pass the night without harassment.

Most of these people are pretty harmless, except that they steal. Apparently few of them have the energy to commit a rape (except for the guy who jumped over one family’s back fence to show off the family jewels to a couple of toddlers…he was a little strange…). They rarely heckle women. Their burgling skills do not often rise to the level of breaking and entering. At the park, the poor souls just sit there and zone out, far as I can tell. They will, of course, take anything from your yard that’s not red-hot or nailed down, by way of peddling it to support their drug habit: bicycles, trikes, children’s toys, decorative plant pots. And at any rate, one would just as soon not host uninvited guests in one’s side yard, especially since some of them will leave a bit of a mess at their campsites.

The tide of bums that came with the extension of the light-rail boondoggle up Conduit of Blight Boulevard has receded a bit, of late. Dunno why. My guess would be that either the city has finally heard the nonstop complaints from outraged neighborhoods (hah! fat chance!!) or maybe the lightrail has stopped forcing people to get off at the end of the line, up at the intersection of Blight and Gangbanger’s Way. Over in the Richistans, a well-connected and ambitious neighbor led a charge to make the city install gates on one of the alleys. That alone seems to have interrupted the invasion: apparently that alley was a Bum’s Highway, and now that passers-through can’t get to where they want to go via the neighborhood short-cuts, they stick to the main drags.

The main drags are surely where they congregate. Between Conduit of Blight and the freeway, sometimes I’ll count 10 to 15 panhandlers begging for handouts along Gangbanger’s way. If you try to go into the Walgreen’s at the corner of Main Drag South and Conduit of Blight, you’re likely to be swarmed by a crowd of panhandlers — I will no longer get out of my car in that store’s parking lot, nor will I visit the Albertson’s across the street at that intersection. One reason for that is that the city has kindly installed a meth clinic on Main Drag South, a few blocks to the west of Blight. Users ride the lightrail up to M.D. South, walk over and get their fix, then loiter around the convenience market across the road from the clinic, where they dig through the trash and pester customers for handouts, and hover around the parking lots and bus stops near the intersection.

Makes Sun City look good, doesn’t it?

Well. No. Not yet, it doesn’t. But there’s still Fountain Hills, Prescott, and Patagonia… 😉

So anyway, back to the point: Yesterday afternoon I’m counting. Since we often walk through the Richistans after dark (yeah, I know. But a] if someone is going to pounce you, they’ll pounce you in broad daylight as easily as after dark; and b] well…ahem… Make my day!), I’ve noted the number of nooks, crannies, shrubs, unused spaces in carports, pony walls that hide space from street view, and the like.

When SDXB and I spent three months backpacking and camping through Alaska and Canada, we rarely stayed in campgrounds, unless we’d bummed a ride with someone who was given to spending time in those places. Most of the time we just set down wherever we happened to be. Occasionally we would set up camp in parking lots — and interestingly, no one would stop us or roust us. So I’ve developed an eye for decent places to camp in urban settings.

  • Oleander hedges with enough space between them and the yard’s fence to fit a sleeping bag
  • Empty carports
  • Side yards with no motion-sensitive lights over them
  • Pony walls that create comfy hiding spots, right out in front of God and Everyone
  • Vacant properties
  • Alleys

The alleys here are long, perpendicular flophouses. The bums use them not just to camp in but as toilets of convenience. And on pickup day, they’ll go through the trash before the trucks arrive, looking for credit-card statements and other documents that they can sell to identity thieves.

We passed six such alleys, which in theory could accommodate dozens of bums in peace and quiet. In the low-rent section, the original alley right-of-way included an alcove for trash cans behind each residential lot. The little strip of alley behind my street has about a dozen of them. These provide comfy, semi-private hideaways for the weary traveler. They make convenient outhouses, too. And just in the mile and a half circuit that Ruby and I traverse on a routine doggy-walk, there are forty eight properties with comfortably dark side yards or pony walls that block the view from the street.  In addition, some months ago a house caught fire, rendering it uninhabitable. Apparently the residents had no insurance — or maybe setting fire to your shack whilst cooking meth renders it uninsurable, I dunno. That place has been abandoned, apparently with the furnishings intact: a perfect bum’s hideaway!

In addition, the neighborhood fly-by-night nursing home entrepreneur (Yes: Tony the Romanian Landlord found a new money-making gambit!) had bought and converted a big old ranch house on the northern end of Lower Richistan, right before the covid plague struck. His client nursing-home operator shut it down, evidently trying to cut their losses in time of covid, and so that house stands vacant. To his credit, he keeps it maintained…but with a quarter-acre backyard, covered patios, and an empty carport, it still is a perfect site to throw down for a night.

So that’s about 60 potential campsites. Just on a walk that doesn’t even cover a tenth of the neighborhood’s area.

Think o’ that! No wonder the place is overrun.

 

 

 

Duck and Cover! HOLY mackerel!!

LOL! (okay okay, you have to be a fully jaded resident of the ‘Hood to think this is funny…baaaad human!) Remember how I wondered, in a recent post, how long it would take the young military family who just moved into my old house, up near the intersection of Gangbanger’s Way and Conduit of Blight, to discover that a cop helicopter parks over the house every Friday and Saturday night at 11 p.m. sharp? Welp…yesterday we got Parked Helicopter with a vengeance — and not even a Friday, not even the middle of the night. 😀

Along about 7 in the morning, we got the old familiar WAP WAP WAP WAP WAP…but louder than normal. Meaning closer than normal: the guy was hovering over a house one street to the north and three lots to the west of the Funny Farm. WTF?

Check the neighborhood Facebook page, where gossip has it that a cop was killed in the slum apartments to the west of us, facing on Blight, and they’re trying to catch the perp. Or noooo, it was a K9 cop that was shot and killed. Or…whatEVER…somethin’s comin’ down….

Hm. Fetch the pistol. Consider whether ’tis better to lock all the doors and hunker down or to throw the dog in the car and head out to Sun City. Blight is shut down tight…I’d have to go around Robin Hood’s Barn to get west to drive to SC. My son, you may be sure, would not be pleased to see his muther and her dog show up in his driveway at seven in the morning.

An hour or three later, the story  finally hit the local PlayNooz. They killed the perp, but the dog, contrary to earlier reports, was not dispatched to its maker.

Over to Faux Gnus, to see what they have to say about it. Believe it or not, Fox is the only decent broadcast news station in the county. Hmmm… This report has the dog shot, too. The apartments are not the weary piles directly to the west of us, but an even tireder complex just north of Gangbanger’s Way. This garden spot adjoins the trailer park where we nearly bought a mobile home for SDXB’s mom, Tootsie…but (fortunately…wisely) thought better of it.

Those folks who moved into my old house, much closer to that bucolic intersection…bet they’re just beginning to get the idea of why I moved away from there. Won’t be long before they start to wonder why the hell they didn’t just move into base housing for the duration of Dad’s assignment.

Yarnell’s a-callin’… One thing you can say about Yarnell: even if they have a police department (highly unlikely), it can’t afford a helicopter.

No helicopters over this one…

In the Village Cluster

Ever think of a city not as a single vast sprawling entity but as a set of villages that, for whatever strange reason, happen to have clustered together? That, sometimes, is what lovely Phoenix seems to be. Not just in relation to its endlessly sprawling Southern-California style suburbs, but where its own internal districts are concerned.

And one of the quirks of living here is that you tend to hang out a lot in your own village and, for long periods, to visit only a limited set of other villages. One reason for that, of course, is that you have a routine that puts you on a fairly set path. The other is that driving in this city is not very much fun.

It used to be fun — driving, I mean. Back in the dark ages, when the roads carried about a quarter to a third as much traffic as they do today, sometimes one would actually get in the car and go exploring, just for the helluvit — because yeah, driving here used to be a pleasant way to pass the time. Now it’s just a giant, sprawling headache.

Today I had to revisit the dermatologist whose office is halfway to Yuma. This time I and my fellow homicidal drivers escaped the panoply of wrecks. But I had a couple of errands to run on the way home. This required me to visit my old stomping grounds — the historic Encanto District — and then cruise up Central Avenue to AJ’s fancy overpriced grocery store. Usually I evade driving on Central, because I hate the accursed lightrail train, which makes a hair-tearing mess of the traffic signal timing. But today cruising north on that tangled road seemed like a path of…well, less resistance.

Mid-central Phoenix is one of the “villages.” It’s one my mother and I used to hang out in a lot, and it’s also one I used to drive through with some frequency when the ex- and I lived downtown. Today it occurred to me that my mother would barely recognize it, here in the 21st century. For that matter, the 20-year-old me would be lost there, too. Our favorite venue, the formerly upscale Park Central, no longer houses stores at all, leastwise not so I can see. It’s mostly offices, a modern art gallery, and clutter. All up and down Central Avenue, developers have built four- to six-story apartment buildings, as well as a few new high-rises. These apartments are real rabbit-warrens…all shiny and new now, but the sort of junk that you know will be just that — junk — within a couple of decades: crowded and cramped and tenementy. A few places persist, but most of our old hangouts are gone, replaced with smaller, shinier, more harder-edged hangouts.

So after driving and hassling and driving and driving, I finally arrive home. Let the dog out. Sit down. Turn on the computer. And find this amusing message in the email from WonderAccountant, my neighbor across the street:

Hi–

I guess this is the happening corner.  This morning I looked up from my computer to see a police car parked in front of my house with the officer walking towards the northeast corner of the house.  They began talking to a person that I could not see.  A few minutes later two policemen escorted her to another waiting cop car down in front of Felicia’s house.  Not sure what was happening.  The woman was youngish, African American, wearing leggings, boots, and a knitted cap.  It struck me that she was dressed for the weather.  I didn’t see anything else.

 Perhaps you did?

Perhaps not, this being the first I’d heard of it.

Felicia is Other Daughter for this blog’s purposes, the lesser offspring of the Perp, known to the real world as Tony the Romanian Landlord. Between me and Felicia lives Terri, another freelance accountant. That gives us three lone women living in a row on this side of the street. And of course, facing us we have W.A., who is alone all day while Mr. W.A. works at his partnership’s office.

{sigh}

Yesterday I was mooning on to myself about how much I love my house and how much I love my neighborhood and how really, when ya come right down to it, I can’t imagine moving (because no place is any better and precious few places are as good) and how for sure I’m going to age in place and stay here till I croak over.

Today Prescott and Tucson look better and better…

Life in the Department of Looney Tunes…

Phoenix: what a place!

This morning I had to traipse to the dermatologist’s, a 40-minute trek, each way. About half of this journey traverses a seven-lane surface street called Northern Avenue. The odd lane in these big main drags is a center lane restricted to left turns. You can use them to turn left ad lib across oncoming lanes just about anywhere in the middle of any block, but at the major intersections they’re (obviously) controlled by the traffic light. There, you pull out partway into the intersection on the green. Poised in the void between 12 lanes of intersecting vehicles, you stand till the light turns yellow, at which point you floor it and  FLY across the oncoming traffic as though your life depended on it. Which it does. If you can’t cut some oncoming driver off safely or slink in behind him as he shoots past in the opposite direction, you wait till the light turns red and then cruise across three lanes of restless and annoyed drivers. (All Arizona drivers are, by nature, restless and annoyed. Many have certain other features, such as drunk, stoned, crazy, stupid, and whatnot.)

So I’m cruising westerly, westerly, ever westerly when, at 27th Avenue, I come across a nice wrecky-poo in the westbound left-turn lane. A moron has miscalculated and driven out in front of a cross-bound vehicle. Speed limit on these streets is 40 mph, which means everyone is driving 50 mph. Not surprisingly, the moron’s truck has been creamed. The front end is crumpled tinfoil. A cop is trying to restore order. Passersby are gawking. An ambulance approaches.

My coconspirators and I manage to sneak through the green light before another emergency vehicle arrives and while the cop is distracted with trying to deal with the smashed vehicles’ occupants.

Back up to speed, we approach 35th Avenue — this is the next intersection on down the road! From a distance, we can see flashing lights and…and…yes!!! ANOTHER wrecky-poo!

This one defies belief.

As we approach the intersection, we find a good-sized pickup — Silverado or F250 size — in the left-turn lane. A moron has rear-ended this vehicle, apparently at speed. IN THE FREAKING LEFT-TURN LANE! Moron’s car is unrecognizable. But he’s managed to smash into the truck so hard that he’s pretty well bashed in the truck’s bed and its rear wheel wells, and…get this… A wheel on the moron’s vehicle has sprung loose intact from the car and it has rolled down the road and underneath the rear end of the truck, where it is now wedged, standing upright.

WTF?????

This also appears to have happened just a few moments ago. A couple of befuddled-looking cops are on the scene starting to wrangle some stunned-looking participants. We who are passing drivers push on, before these cops can think to hold up the traffic, and we all escape intact.

Ahhhh…. Just imagine how stoned or drunk you would have to be to believe the center two-way left-turn lane is another ordinary traffic lane, so that you’re cruising along at 40 to 50 mph in it. And accordingly, because you figure everyone else is doing the same, you don’t happen to notice that the guy in front of you is stopped. With his left-turn signal flashing.

What a place, indeed!

Of dogs and cops and copters…

Ruby the Corgi has been under the doggy-weather for several days. She has the collywobbles, and this morning she barfed. That will mean an expensive and stressful trip to the vet…especially since veterinarians here are not letting the hoi polloi even step into their waiting rooms. You have to wait in the parking lot until they come out and collect your animal.

Picturing the terror that will inspire, I’ve already put off getting Ruby’s teeth cleaned. And I do NOT want to drag the poor beast in over an upset stomach.

Sometimes the doggywobbles will clear on its own, just as human collywobbles will eventually go away. Sometimes…not. And we have those damn rats out there…the question is, could she have picked up a bug from one of those fine disease-carriers?

Complicating matters, something made me really sick in the same department. I suspect it was some shrimp I bought at Sprouts… It didn’t seem to be spoiled, but when I opened the bag the thought crossed my mind that those tired-looking things had been frozen for an awful long time. It seems to me I let her lick the plate after I’d eaten that meal…something I normally don’t do. But I recall that one evening, in an unusually mellow moment, I set an empty plate down for her. And this was within the time frame — if the shrimp made me sick, it could’ve made her sick, too.

I still have some imodium purchased while it was legal to sell it. Apparently, you can give it to a dog. But who knows how much would be the right amount? She only weighs 23 pounds. If one tiny pill will plug up an adult human, how many shavings off one of those pills is right for a dawg? You also can give a dog Pepto-Bismol, but liquid gunk is one helluva lot harder and messier to get down a dog’s throat than a pill coated in butter or hamburger is.

Speaking of the imodium protect-you-from-yourself gambit, I see the stuff is still for sale on Amazon. How exactly that can be escapes me. It’s supposedly illegal to sell the stuff in our parts. Apparently some morons use the stuff to get high. Therefore all the rest of us must be punished.

***

Argha! Cop helicopter just roared in and started circling a couple blocks north and east. God, how I hate the constant cop helicopter buzz-overs. This is the main reason I daydream of moving to Prescott or Yarnell or Patagonia…places where they can’t afford to buy helicopters for the local law enforcers. Most of the time, all the doors and windows are locked — and all the exterior doors now include steel security doors with hardened deadbolts. So frankly…I’d just as soon not know when a perp is frolicking around the ’Hood.

Down at my son’s house it’s even worse…the cops are constantly overhead hollering down at perps or telling people to go inside and lock the doors.

Phoenix… What a place this is! Especially when you consider how many people move here because they think it’s going to be better than California. Six o’ one, half-a-dozen of the other, folks!

Well, I might as well go drown out the serenade of the helicopter blades with the song of the vacuum cleaner. And so, away...

Morning in Arizona…

You have to be an Arizonan to think a cloudy morning is gorgeous. 😀 The weather is finally cooling off — at darned near the end of October. The summer of 2020 has got to have been the longest summer on record, here in these parts. We’ve had three-digit heat until just the past week or so. Finally was able to turn the watering system from daily to once every other day. By now, it would normally be about time to cut it back to once every three days.

Keeping potted plants alive in a low-desert summer is a challenge, unless your plants are all cacti. Anything that has actual leaves on it has to be watered every. single. morning. Miss a day, and your plant keels over dead before sundown. A large part of my garden resides in pots.

The usual winter flocks of birds have yet to migrate this year. The few doves and finches that stayed behind are not even finishing off all the seeds that fill the feeder each day. It’s possible, I suppose, that they may have been frightened off by the occasional appearance of the hawk that’s come a-visiting. But I doubt it. First, they’re not that smart. And second, the hawk’s appearances are few and far between.

The Rattie gambit continues. At this point, she has allowed herself to be persuaded to enter the cage trap by following a trail of bait — pieces of apple seem to be her favorite. BUT…she’s too damn smart to try to grab the piece left on the little plate that triggers the door to fall.

Right now the door is secured open, so as to persuade her that nothing could be safer than the cozy den that is the inside of a rat trap. The plan is wait until she’s confident enough to stroll back and forth  — and to take the bait from the trigger — and then set the trap to slam shut on her.

Roof rats are said to adore peanut butter. She didn’t seem impressed by the gobs M’hijito smeared on the trigger. So the next plan is to get some peanut-butter candies and set one on the trigger plate.

Last night, though, she did stumble onto a glue trap. But…after dragging it across the yard, she managed to shed it outside the doorway to her den.

It is not good when you realize that a small rodent with beady little eyes is probably smarter than you are.

The endless national quarantine also drags on. The church has opened in a half-baked way, but since I’m told there’s a real good chance I’ll die if I catch the present contagion, I’m staying away. Choir is shut down, of course — singing in a choir being about the riskiest thing you can do when an epidemic disease is about. Our choir director is engineering the most amazing compendiums of our voices, having us sing our parts at home into a computer and then blending all the recordings into one highly convincing production. Problem is…

Well, the truth is…I don’t sing. I sing along. The choir is generously laced with professional and near-professional-quality singers. As long as I’m near one of those talented singers, I can manage a serviceable job. But sitting here in front of my computer, my rendition of Joan Baez sounds a whole lot like Daffy Duck.

The Frontline crew — the group of women who volunteer to staff the office’s front desk — are back in business. But for the same reason I’m staying away from choir, I’ve de-volunteered for that, too. Picking up a phone and speaking into a handset that at least ten other people have used and that, with a bunch of little holes in it, would be impossible to disinfect, does not seem like a wise move.

Meanwhile, the antic Hallowe’en festivities are also off, at least on our street. The WonderAccountants and I usually sit in their driveway to dispense candy and ogle the goofy outfits. Because this is a middling affluent neighborhood surrounded on three sides by low-income areas, people truck and bus their kids into the ‘Hood, we we get to enjoy dozens and dozens and dozens of adorable kids and teenagers in the craziest outfits you ever saw. Sometimes the moms and dads are decked out, too!

A great controversy arose on the neighborhood Facebook page, pretty much echoing the nation’s artificially hyped ambivalence about the risks of covid-19. Some people are saying they’re not participating in Hallowe’en this year. Others are saying they most certainly are, and defiantly pile up vast monuments to Hallowe’en in their front yards. And still others suggest we set up tables in the park and try to dispense candy from a distance. As it were. Here on our end of the street, we’ve come down on the side of the better part of valor. I do not know what the Evangelicals across the street — the ones who believe covid-19 is a hoax dreamed up by the Democrats to make Donald Trump look bad — plan to do. Oddly, it seems not to register that a holiday celebrating Satan and his demons isn’t exactly Christian…but they regularly participate.

Whatever. I will spend the evening listening to Ruby have a barking frenzy every time anyone even so much as approaches the house, to say nothing of ringing the doorbell. And that’s too bad. Hallowe’en is my favorite holiday. But not this year.

Sooo… days and days and days go by with no human contact. Luckily, I was already something of a hermit, and so I’ve not completely lost my mind — assuming it wasn’t already lost before this stuff happened. Often when Ruby the Corgi and I take off for a doggy walk, we meet Margie, the bodacious 94-year-old Lhasa Apso Lady, with whose dog Ruby has managed to make peace. But that’s it: one human, sometimes, in a given 24-hour period.

But what the heck! I’ve managed to rack up 425,000 points in the Washington Post’s online time-waster games. That’s quite a chunk toward my ultimate lifetime goal of 1 million points.