Coffee heat rising

California Dreamin’…or is that a nightmare?

Amazed to learn from my son that, like me, he also is bothered by driving over the increasingly Southern California-esque roads here in lovely L.A. East. He is a confident, assertive driver who isn’t bothered by lunatics, morons, flashing red lights, gunshots, and assorted other features of driving on the homicidal streets of Phoenix. Nor is he inclined to fly into fits of high rage, as his muther is…

Wouldn’t it be grand if I could leverage that to persuade him to move SOMEPLACE less massively tacky?

To my mind, the Valley of the We-Do-Mean Sun gets more and more like the crowded, smoggy, grody L.A. Basin with every day that passes. I detested living in Long Beach, with its air that would make me sick and its blandly ticky-tacky aging suburban style and the streets mobbed all the time and the grodily casual style of its fine inhabitants. And the longer I live here, the more I think I’d like to be living somewhere else.

I don’t think he’ll choose to make an escape, because his dad is firmly stapled to the Valley floor. Current Wife has a daughter who works as a librarian here, and so she’s unlikely to agree to move to Prescott or some such. As long as DXH stays put, my son will stay put.

Hm. Wonder if I could talk him into investing in a second home, off in some remote locale. Then I could stay there most of the time. He could come up and hang out when he wants some peace and quiet. But he’d still have a foothold down here, from which he could keep an eye on his Dad and New Wife.

Wonder if he could be talked into moving to Fountain Hills? That at least is pretty far from Crime Central. But truth to tell, it’s a long way from his Dad’s place, too. If either of those two old folks has a stroke or a heart attack, it would take him 40 or 50 minutes (at best) to get to the hospital. Here, all three major metropolitan hospitals are within five or ten minutes of his house.

DXH, who was happy to escape life in small-town Western Colorado (actually, it was the largest burg on the Western Slope…but still: a backwater), absolutely positively will NOT be persuaded to move out of central Phoenix.

Hm. Maybe. Unless..he thought that Fountain Hills, being adjunct to Scottsdale, would put him closer to the Cultural Venues he favors. But…no: the Chamber Music Society is performing at Central Methodist — they used to haunt the Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts. AZ Theater Co performs downtown, too…so that scheme wouldn’t work.

BUT….really, the kid and I are both very spoiled to a) living in central locations and b) construction that is not ticky-tacky. Most of Fountain Hills IS ticky-tacky. All very nice and new(ish), but strictly from stick-and-Styrofoam. In Wickenburg–formerly a railroad town on the way to Las Vegas and southern California, now effectively a suburb of Phoenix–you can find some very pretty properties, but the same issue holds: newer structures are certifiable junk. I happen to favor houses with WALLS. Remember those?

The more I look at the real estate listing in those suburbs today, the better I like my house. And neighborhood.

Construction is better. Houses here are not QUITE right on top of each other. The place is centrally located. No jet aircraft graze the top of your chimney. A-a-a-a-n-d…as gas skyrockets up, the fact that we’re right on the lightrail line starts to look better and better. Conduit of Blight and Gangbanger’s way, along which the lightrail is slated to run, begin to look like assets.

Contemporary house construction is cheapied down to the point that if they built the places any flimsier, people would be living in tents.

Interior walls hardly exist anymore. Those that do often don’t go up to the ceiling — they’re more like room dividers. Most late-model houses have no gas service, and builders proudly present you with a glass-top hotplate instead of a real stove. For most people, that’s prob’ly OK, given that Americans don’t cook anymore. But…I still want an actual stove!.

Even expensive tracts are now fields of houses built eave-to-eave — in one Wickenburg development, even with the tricky marketing photography you can see that the neighbors behind you can gaze right straight in your back windows. So ALL of your drapes and blinds would have to be closed ALL of the time! Why have windows at all?

Meanwhile, in quieter venues like Wickenburg and Fountain Hills, those nice desert-y backyards are gonna be full of coyotes and rattlesnakes. Dandy! You wouldn’t dare let your dog out to snuffle around in peace. And in fact, you probably ought not to let a small child play in those yards unsupervised. Every…minute…the…kid…is…outside, Mom or Dad or Babysitter will have to be peering over her shoulder.

Here in the ‘Hood, our houses are made of block. Interior walls are insulated. Gas service allows you to have a real stove in the kitchen. And you don’t have to take out a bank loan to drive to the grocery store, what with gasoline now almost $5 a gallon.

It does make our centrally located districts look highly desirable — notwithstanding Biker Central and the constant cop copter fly-overs and the late-night drag-races and the nuisancey lightrail and the panhandlers in every parking lot.

Ugh. I guess next week…or maybe this afternoon, depending on mood…I’m going to have to think through a set of Instacart lists. With the price of gasoline now, unless Instacart has jacked up its rates accordingly, it will cost no more (maybe less) to order up delivery of grocery and Costco items than to traipse around the city after them. This would relieve me of two hassles in one trip: Californicated roads and astronomical gas prices.

Wow! Life in These New-nited States!

Never a Dull Moment

Certainly not at 1:00 in the morning… The wind is howling up quite the storm. The Soleri bell in back is jangling madly. Tbe corgi is unnerved. Haven’t peered out to see what’s going on, but figure the pool will be filled with debris by dawn.

Fortunately for me (but not for him…), Pool Dude is slated to show up shortly after dawn. He’ll have quite the mess to clean up.

Just now life is tending toward mess, national and international events aside. Even if the wind weren’t wailing, I wouldn’t be able to sleep. Developed a cyst thing in my eye. Besides being damned creepy, it itches and it burns enough to keep Dracula himself awake all day. And me all night…

The aged eye doctor I found (the guy must be 85 if he’s a day…maybe older than that!) insists that it probably will go away. Sources I’ve found say you can treat it with steroid eye drops, but he declines to prescribe anything other than over-the-counter eye drops, which do (as far as I can see) little or nothing. So I suppose in a day or so I’m going to have to brave the bureaucracy at the Mayo and try to get my doc out there to refer me to one of their specialists.

Shee-ut! Like I have nothing else to do but spend two hours driving back and forth to northeast Scottsdale.

Speaking of the which, yesterday I traipsed out to the Apple store at the wildly fancy Kierland Commons, whence Apple’s corporate (un)wisdom sent its formerly centrally-located store. They give lessons on how to use the iPhone, it develops. So I made an appointment and then drove and drove and drove and drove and drove and…etc., arriving in Scottsdale right on time: 10 a.m., as they opened,

Except…not.

They didn’t open.

Their servers were down, said they. So they sent everybody who was standing around outside away!

It’s a 45-minute drive out there! So I wasted 90 minutes and a quarter-tank of gas schlepping to Scottsdale for nothing! And I still have no clue how to use the miracle iPhone…

“Wanna make another appointment?” say I to the young woman engaged in shooing away customers, She does, after all, have an iPad in her nicely manicured paw.

“We can’t! Because the servers are down!”  Never heard of a pencil and a pad of paper, I guess. 😀

Back to the car, via Restoration Hardware, where I spotted a sofa and chair that would be perfect for my son were the price anywhere near what someone other than Steve Jobs could afford.

Out in the parking lot I find a black guy standing by a car now parked right next to mine.

He is cute. Very, very cute.

He looks impatient, and he also looks a little nervous about the old white broad spotting him as he lurks near her car.

“You look like a man who’s waiting for his wife!” say I.

“That’s right!” He laughs. We chat.

Born 30 years too late. {sigh}

Eventually I climb in the Dog Chariot and cruise off down Greenway Road, whence I came.

Outward bound, I’d spotted a housing tract on the north side of Greenway: 1970s and 80s mass-produced houses. Curious, I dodge into the place and drive around.

It’s actually quite a pleasant neighborhood, very similar to the ’Hood. Matter of fact, I spot one house made of cinderblock that looks for all the world like it’s the same model as the Funny Farm. Most of the places, though, are considerably more fancy-looking. I wonder what houses cost there (though I can imagine)  but can’t find any “for sale signs,” so never do get a line on that. Back at the Funny Farm, though, I do find some listings posted on the Web.

  • Holee mackerel:lookit this thing! It’s in the general area…a million dollars for a house the size of mine, elbow-to-elbow with the neighbors! Auuughhhh! Thanks, I’ll take my pet burglars…
  • eeeeek! For 2/3 of a million bucks: this is 270 square feet smaller than my house, same kind of slump-block construction. Fake stove. Home Depot kitchen cabinets. No pool. Only three bedrooms. And…huh…that’s odd. It actually looks like the pool might have been filled in. Jeez…did a kid drown there?

Meanwhile, the eye cyst is getting very much on the old lady’s nerves, and I’ve been told Aged Eye Doc went into the hospital to have surgery on a knee.

When I get home, I call Young Dr. Kildare’s office to try to get a referral to another ophthalmologist. I cannot get past the telephone runaround. After “If yada yada yada, press nine,” I hang up in a rage.

I try to reach the eyeglass place: they’re not open. (They’re never open. Is the place a front for a cocaine operation or what????)

Now I decide to drive to Costco, which has a very good and very busy optometry department, and ask for a referral to an ophthalmologist that they know. And buy a few groceries while I’m at it. Okay: acquire a list of names, buy a few pieces of junk, drive home.

These supposed eye docs comprise a list of guys working for some chain eye-care outfit. Oh well: any port in a storm.

Calling one number, I get a lady on the phone who is a complete, blithering MORON. I cannot make her understand that I need to see a doctor promptly because I have a lump growing in my eye and it HURTS. Finally I lose my temper at her impregnable barrier of brainless obtuseness and hang up.

What to do, what to do??????

Call Aged Eye Doc’s place, hoping his staff will be there. And yea verily! Get his appointment lady. Ask if they could please refer me to one of Eye Doc’s colleagues, because this thing is not getting better (as he had hoped it would) but instead is getting bigger and worse.

Incredibly, she says he’s in the office for short periods and will see me TOMORROW MORNING!!!

Whaaaaaa???!!!?

I say But he just had surgery on his knee! 

She says Yeah, he did, but he’s coming in to the office for a couple of hours a day. 

I say He’s a man of steel! 

She laughs and makes an appointment for 10 ayem. Thank the heavens!!!!!

So I show up at that duly appointed hour this morning. He proposes to do nothing about it. Says the alternative to waiting and watching and hoping the eyedrops help is surgery. He’s in no hurry to do surgery. I mention that I learned that steroid eyedrops are often used on these things. He demurs.

Well, at least he’s not knife-happy. Surgery on an eye does not sound like a good thing.

It’s now 2:00 in the morning, as we scribble. The wind died down for…oh, about five minutes. Now it’s wailing around again. “Gusting,” I suppose that is.

The dog is asleep. Wish I were, too…

Real Estate: California Territory

So SDXB and I went over to the hillside neighborhood I “discovered” below the hiking trails at North Mountain. The trails themselves have become counterproductive for exercise walks, partly because they’re so damn crowded — especially with morons charging past you huffing and puffing their germs into your face — and partly because it’s just not that safe to take Ruby the Corgi up there. Same reason: morons (they bring their own out-of-control dogs), plus rattlesnakes, cactus thorns, and sharp rocks.

“Discover” isn’t exactly the term for it, because we both have had friends who lived in that neighborhood, over the years. But the two things I found of interest were a) the paved (!!) sidewalks and roads that curve up and down and around and b) the houses that look like they were constructed by the same builder who installed the houses here in the ’Hood. SDXB agreed that they were alarmingly like our places…and also that the relative quiet of the neighborhood was striking, as was the absence of derelicts and other sketchy types.

Basically, the houses are much the same as the ones here, only in a safer, quieter area. With nice gentle grades to walk Ruby (and me) on. And of course a steep mountain trail out back, for the purpose of getting some serious exercise.

So when I got back I googled real estate in that zip code. HOLY maquerel! In the first place, nothing’s for sale in there just now., In the second place, Zestimated prices for houses similar to ours are breathtaking! Here’s a shack for sale just to the west of the neighborhood, certainly not a better area and arguably not as desirable:  YIPES!

Okay okay, 5 bedrooms IS a little much.

But almost 700 grand for a tract house that faces on Thunderbird Road, one of the Valley’s mainest of main drags and a major commuter road???  Give…me…a…BREAK!  (aaanndd…btw, how happy ARE you that you don’t have to clean those shiny marble floors?) And the pool where passing golfers can peer at you as you’re splashing around or enjoying a cocktail at poolside — no skinny-dipping for the likes of you!

So I go to look up prices here in the ’Hood…could I make an even trade, more or less?

Zillow thinks my house is worth a measly $565,600 grand. Redfin puts it at $606,699. Either estimate is a far cry from the $235,000 I paid for this place in 2004, or the $100,000 for the identical model I first bought here, about three houses in from the horrible Conduit of Blight Blvd.

We have arrived in California territory, price-wise. How on earth do young people ever get in the door of a real house (not an apartment, not a condo)? One semester I had a student who, with her husband and two small kids, lived a ways to the west of that North Mountain tract. Their tract was what I’d call working-class construction — I had occasion to see it when we had a major storm that blew the roof off the house, and the young people needed some help until such time as one or the other set of parents could get into town. Just the most standard, cheaply built stucco-and-styrofoam stuff — their place was largely trashed by the storm, and some of the other houses there were even worse off. The prices over there are now similar: $600,000+++ for tiny little tract houses! I can’t even imagine how a young couple would come up with that kind of money, even with both of them working full-time.

Soooo…. It looks like we bought my son’s house more or less in the nick of time. If, as he prefers, I live in this house until I croak over, he’ll inherit a paid-off shack that right now is worth 600 grand but in another ten to fifteen years will presumably be pushing a million bucks. His house is worth about $500,000 now (sez Redfin). If he inherits this paid-off house, he could…well…think about it! He could…

  • Move here and sell his house, netting around a half-million dollars
  • Move here and rent his house, providing a moderately steady second income
  • Stay in his place and sell my place, netting around 600 or 700 grand, put the money in his retirement fund, and knock off working early
  • Stay in his place and rent this place for some truly outrageous amount of money
  • Sell both houses and move to rural southeastern Utah or southwestern Colorado, one of his daydreams
  • Sell them both and move overseas, where (depending on his choice) he could live like a king and never work again
  • Or of course just keep on keepin’ on, holding his job and collecting a decent salary until he reaches retirement age and then moving to the South of France on the proceeds of both houses, his retirement fund, and my retirement fund. 😀

Financially, it would give him a lot of choices.

Probably the most advantageous strategy for him (and maybe for me, too), would be for me to stay in this house until they carry me out feet-first. It’s a nice neighborhood with pleasant neighbors…its only drawbacks are the startling crime and vagrancy rates and the noise from the main drags and the constant cop helicopter buzz-overs. But both of those come under the heading of Life in the Big City.

Wow! How long can this go on?????

Real estate prices have gone bonkers here…and they continue to bonk! Every day some new ad comes in with yet another Never-Neverland price that just BOGGLES the mind.

Check  out the latest…

THIS thing…holy mackerel. Scroll down in the data and you see the original list price was a bargain $399,000…they’ve RAISED THE PRICE by 51 grand!!!!!!!!!!

Gasp!

The Coronado district is an aging tract of houses dating from the early 20th century. Young people regard them as “quaint” and “historic.” And they’re located conveniently to downtown, to several fairly respectable schools (private and public), and to the mid-town amenities (restaurants, shopping, hospitals, office buildings, community college, cultural center, AJ’s…and the like). A-n-n-d…don’t say it too loud: the houses generally require rewiring, replumbing — both of these by guys who know how to work on antique infrastructure — and termite treatment.
******
Speaking of mid-town… You, too, can live conveniently within walking distance of Chuck’s Auto Repair. Good thing: you could work a deal to leave your car parked in his fenced lot….. The house is in a highly questionable area, and note that there’s no safe place on the lot to park your car. The entire decrepit…ahem, quaint 1,000 square feet can be had for a bargain FOUR HUNDRED AND NINETY GRAND.
:-0
Dontcha love the Day-Glo turquoise paint? No pool, no play equipment, no garage, no space for a full-sized dining table, no… You could rent an apartment that’s bigger than that and nicer than that, and not have to take care of tired-looking yard!
*****
Then we have this astonishment: for half a million bucks, you too can live in lovely Sunnyslope. Nevermind that Sunnyslope is a dangerous slum, where you get your entertainment by dodging bullets and where each night you’re serenaded with the cheery buzz of cop helicopters and the merry melody of ambulances and fire trucks hauling victims to the nearby hospital… Sunnyslope is dominated by biker gangs. This house backs onto a large urban high school and is about two blocks from the Arizona Canal, also known as the Bum’s Highway.
The boggle minds!
*****
Where are people getting the money to buy these fine palaces? And even supposing a person has no qualms about going into debt for an amount equivalent to the contents of Uncle Scrooge’s money bin, how on earth have people been persuaded to dump it into a decrepit shack in a notorious neighborhood?
….
Obviously, this is an overheated market that can’t last. One of these days — in the not too distant future, I’d guess — these prices are going to come back down to earth. They may even drop to less that the houses’ pre-bubble prices. To my mind, you’d be far better off to rent until such time as that happens.
Caveat emptor!

What? A Poem of What…

Shot off in the purple haze emanating from the bottom of a bottle of wine…

************

“You fell,” he said.
“I’m not leaving my home,” she said.
Her home, where she had brought up the man in front of her from the age of about nine.

“You can’t stay here alone,” he said.
“I’ll be fine,” she said.
Unconvincing.
Unconvinced.

“No.”

“Yes.”

“We must put you somewhere else.
A home where someone is there
All the time
24/7
To look after you.”

“No.”

“Yes.”

Can you not imagine, my son,
How you might love your home
More than life?

No.

Can you not imagine, my son,
That some things matter more than life?

No.
“I am afraid for you.”

No. No, my son: you are afraid for yourself.
For your guilt. For your conscience.
Most of all,
For your impotence.
For the impotence that is human.

“We will sell the house.”

“No.”

“We can use the money to pay
For your care.”

No. No, my son. You will use the money
To pay for your guilt.
To pay for your impotence.

“Put her in this bed,” he said.
“And let her sleep.”

Let us sleep.

All of us.

*************

This afternoon I stopped at a house for sale in the neighborhood just to the east of mine. The houses are about 20 years older than the ones in my tract (which came into being in the early 1970s) and also about half again as pricey. Needed work, the place did. As I’m about to clilmb into my car, along comes a middle-aged man, who pulls into the driveway and climbs out of his SUV.

“Tryin’ to sell the place, are ya?” I ask.

“We have an offer,” he says. “Looks like it’s gonna go through.”

We chat.

His mother has lived there for lo! these many years. They moved in when he was nine years old, and that’s where he grew up. From his point of view, it’s the family homestead.

They have her in a “care home.”

I sense what this means: one of those fly-by-night outfits run under the radar by Tony the Romanian Landlord and his ilk, the one who has peppered the ’Hood with a half-dozen “nursing homes.”

He thinks it’s grand. It’s not, after all, the Beatitudes or the Terraces. That would be why I sit here getting shit-faced on the dregs of a bottle of Bogle.

Holy fuck, what a people we have become!

But meanwhile, beside it all and beneath at all: what do we do with our parents when they can no longer care for themselves?

What do we do with people that we, deep in our hearts and unmentionable souls, do not want to care for ourselves? Or cannot care for, wives and sisters and daughters having to go into the marketplace to help keep the roofs over our heads and the food on our restaurant tables and the SUVs in our driveways?

What?

Brave…Strange New World

I wanna say, in the first minute, that surely it hasn’t been SO long since I drove down Seventh Street that the place has changed to the point that I barely recognize it. But…but…??? Maybe it has?

Or maybe instead I’m losing my marbles.

Seventh Street is a road that, when I lived on the east side of Central Avenue between Central and Seventh, either housed my favorite haunts or formed a large part of the route to them. But… On reflection…???

In the first place, now that I live to the west of Central and even of Seventh Avenue (in Phoenix, avenues are to the west of Central and streets are to the east), many of those places on Seventh Street and Twelfth Street that I used to haunt, I hardly ever go to any more.

These days I tend to avoid the Safeway at Seventh Street and Glendale, where I used to do most of my non-Costco grocery shopping. It’s overpriced and overcrowded. Most of my groceries these days come from Sprouts, AJ’s (a local gourmet market), or Costco. Same with the Walgreen’s catty-corner across the intersection from the Safeway. Most of the stuff I’d buy at a Walgreen’s, I can get from Amazon or from the Albertson’s just down the street. If I just must patronize a Walgreen’s, there’s one across Conduit of Blight from said Albertson’s. All that’s required is to run the gauntlet of panhandlers to get in the front door: annoying, but a lot less time-consuming than driving several miles to a bum-free parking lot.

Unholy traffic! It was only quarter after three, but you’d  have thought it was pushing 5 p.m. Unless an awful lot of businesses are letting their workers off early because tomorrow’s Thanksgiving, the traffic on 7th Street has increased so vastly as to make the road almost unrecognizable.

Seriously. I was searching for my favorite bicycle shop, there to replace a pair of padded biking gloves that I use when manhandling Ruby’s leash. I know where it is. I know exactly where it is.

Damned if I could find it!

So I ended up having to trek east to Twelfth Street, schlep way the Hell & Gone down to Bethany Home, and backtrack north up Seventh again. Of course I found it, right where it belonged. But the whole corner seemed so changed, so altered, that I almost didn’t recognize the place.

Today’s road cruise took me past a place the handsome young real estate agent took me to: Nice enough patio home. Actually a very pleasant place, all things considered. I declined, because I really don’t want to live in a patio home — don’t like being crowded that close to the neighbors. Now…boy! Am I glad I said “no, thank you!” The tsunami of traffic pouring past that place…yipes!!! The noise would be deafening. It would be like living next door to Niagara Falls, twice a day.

Money blogger’s message here: Next time you’re looking at a house to buy, before you make a bid on it, go visit there during the rush hour. Park the car, get out, walk around for ten or fifteen minutes, and listen to what you can hear.