Coffee heat rising

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.

Tell me we’re not this old…

…are we?

Walking the dog this morning, I fell into a reverie about my father and his life’s ambitions…this, stemming from the realization that my house, all by its little self, is worth FIVE AND A HALF TIMES the amount he had set himself as a goal to accumulate so that he could retire.

And “retire” was his life’s goal: he just wanted to quit working.

Quite reasonably: his job was hard (most of us would find it grinding), it kept him at sea most of his life, and at heart the man was a homebody.

He had dropped out of high school and lied about his age to get into the Navy by way of running away from home. So as you can imagine, he was not a real sophisticated guy when it came to things that you and I might have learned in high school and college, or in the sort of jobs we would have had as adults. He didn’t understand, for example, about inflation. For him, a dollar was a dollar and always would be a dollar.

He figured that if he could accumulate, in savings, $100,000, he would have it made. Whenever he reached that goal, at whatever age it happened, he would quit his job and retire to Possum Kingdom. 😀

Once $8,000 would buy you this house…

Well, Sun City came along at just about the time he was approaching his goal. He thought that was a grand idea: cheap houses and no damn kids barreling around outside squealing and laughing.

When he retired, he did have that hundred grand — and then some. As I recall, it was about a hundred & ten.

He worked SO hard. A ship’s deck officer worked 24/7, with crushing responsibility for a multi-miillion-dollar vessel filled with enough oil to destroy a hundred miles of coastline.

This line of thought arose when, God only knows why, I recalled how angry my mother used to make him when she would go out and diddle away some phenomenal amount of money on make-up or clothes. She loved make-up, probably because her endlessly toxic smoking habit had wrecked her complexion and traced a road map of wrinkles over her face. I can remember one time, when we were living in Southern California and I was in high school, we went into a department store and she spent two hundred dollars on makeup.

$8,000 wouldn’t buy you the front porch at this place…not today!

How much was that, really? Well… Two hundred bucks in 19 and aught 60 was worth $1,853.45 in 2021 dollars.

Holeeeee crap!!! Can you imagine? It’s a wonder she survived…clearly the man was a marvel of self-restraint.

Redfin thinks my little house is now worth $579,225. Well over FIVE TIMES the net worth he figured would sustain him from the age of about 55 through his dotage until he toppled over into the grave.

It didn’t, of course. He ended up having to go back to work, not so much because of inflation but because — another outcome of his financial naiveté — he had almost all his savings invested in insurance securities, which tanked shortly after he quit.

Never put all your eggs in one basket…

Wow. It’s hard to believe I am SO OLD that as I was entering adulthood a grown man could, quite reasonably, figure he could retire on a fraction of what my house alone is worth. A tract house that is most certainly not Mrs. Gotrocks’ dream home!

Their little house cost $8,000 when it was new. Redfin thinks it’s worth $274,000 now. That’s pretty cheap for middle-class housing hereabouts. Cheap because…well…Sun City. 😉

SDXB wants me to move out there, partly to get away from Tony the Romanian Landlord (who busies himself just now with installing a nursing home two houses up the street) and partly, o’course, because you can’t beat the price of the real estate there. But oh, my…Sun City.

I just do NOT want to live in a ghetto for old folks. This morning as Ruby and I were strolling around, we passed pretty houses with irrigated lawns, and xeric yards with lush trees and shrubbery. (Yards in Sun City are “desert landscaped” with gray gravel. Or gravel dyed green, presumably to ape the look of a lawn.) Stopped to chat with a neighbor who was having her kitchen cabinets refinished — woo HOO! Gossiped while we watched the carpenter work. Watched a nitwit roar up Feeder Street N/S on an unmuffled motorcycle. Frolicked around a grassy public park (there is no grass in Sun City, except on the private golf courses where no, your dog is not allowed). We admired a gaggle of little kids playing on the swings and slide (no, your kids are not allowed in SC, either). Roamed into the Richistans where we assessed the progress of a spectacular renovation job (no, there are no Richistans in Sun City: the houses are all of a kind). Hopped in the car and darted down to AJ’s (no, there are no AJ’s grocers in Sun City or anywhere near it) and bought a roll of spectacularly expensive dog food for the Queen of the Universe.

Yes. I could bank about $275,000 if I sold the Funny Farm and moved to Sun City.

But between you’n’me, I don’t think it’s worth the cost.

I do NOT know what, if anything, can be done about Tony’s empire-building at the expense of all the other neighbors’ property value … or even if it will come at our expense. But I do know I don’t wanna live in Sun City, no matter how much cash I can pocket by selling this place and moving out there.

But still, the thought lingers: I am SOOO OLD I can remember when a brand-new middle-class house cost eight grand, and when a house just like mine (same model, same size, same tract) cost a mere one hundred grand. And when a bag of make-up worth $200 would have bought you a freakin’ trip to Switzerland.

New Adventures in Real Estate

So time and Tony’s nursing-home schemes trundle on.

Since my last post, I determined that I’d better move out of here while the movin’s still good. Encountered a handsome young real estate agent () and spent most of yesterday gallivanting around the North Central part of the city looking at houses on the market.

And we did find a really nice place…not far from here! Just below Main Drag South. About the same size as the Funny Farm. Freshly renovated. Nice neighborhood. Convenient to all that which this house is convenient unto.

O’course, that nearby location means even if I keep my name out of the public record, Tony can easily follow me home if he spots me — as sooner or later he will — and then he will know where to harass me.

Oh well. The place is so appealing and so perfect, I was willing to take that chance.

So we wanted to invite M’hijito to come and see it before I arrive at a final decision to make an offer.

When I called him last night, he threw a baroque sh!tf!t. He does NOT think I should move out of this house, nor does he seem to believe that Tony represents any real threat.

Funny. The judge he threatened sure as Hell did.

Ohhhh welll…

The kid actually proposed to take over control of my financial affairs. O’course, he’d have to prove I’m incompetent, which he can’t. Especially since I can easily trot out the court transcript that records Tony threatening the judge. But an attentat like that would, you may be sure, permanently blight the mother-son relationship. Such as it is.

About 80% of the reasoning for selling this place and moving away from the Nursing Home Empire is to preserve the capital presently invested in real estate here in the ‘Hood. The Funny Farm is fully paid off, and just now is worth something over over half a million dollars. That is a bit under half my total net worth. So this house represents a large part of the estate he will inherit from me.

Well. If he doesn’t give a damn whether it loses value as it’s surrounded by commercial enterprises, why should I? And why should I go to the endless trouble and probably even more endless work entailed in transferring funds and moving house, just to preserve an asset that will go to him one way or another, whether it’s worth what it’s worth now or not?

Et honi soit qui mal y pense…

 

Real Estate, Landlords, and the ‘Hood: Update

Good grief! It’s been awhile since I’ve been here at FaM! In the interim, the real estate search project has continued. Tony the Romanian Landlord has made excellent progress on his project to convert our former neighbor’s home into a nursing institution. And I’ve learned a bunch of things.

I’ve been quietly and not-so-quietly looking for someplace else to live. Someplace not Sun City, not Payson, not Tucson, not Boise, and on and interminably on. Which is to say, someplace else to live in Phoenix, preferably in the zip codes that make up the “North Central” district.

Real estate is radically hot here just now. Any house that’s even faintly desirable moves within three days of appearing on the market. So it seems, at least. That is literally true in many cases, and in others, kinda metaphorically so. Nothing stays on the market for long.

And the prices simply defy belief! We are in California territory, folks. I thought I paid too much for this house when I bought it for #$232,000. It’s now worth at least $550,000!

Redfin thinks our beloved old house in Encanto is now worth $1,146,500. It was a gorgeous place, now gussied up with “more money than taste” embellishments.

My son’s charming but tiny little house? $480,208.

Can you imagine? It’s hard to conceive how young people can even dream of buying a freestanding house. And apparently they don’t: apartment blocks are springing up all over the city.

Oh well. In the interim, what else has happened?

Among other things, I learned that the quiet, elderly couple who live across the street from me are yet more of Tony’s relatives!

Yes!!!

They are Pretty Daughter’s in-laws! Her husband’s parents.

“Were” is, at least partially, the operative term. The old man died, and the elderly woman has been living there alone. My guess is that as soon as Tony finishes the nursing home two doors down, the first tenant will be Mom. Then he’ll glom her house and turn it into a nursing home, too.

Meanwhile, my eccentric next-door neighbor, who occupies the house between the Funny Farm and Other Daughter’s place, drained her swimming pool. She also had some masons lay two rows of large cinderblocks atop her back wall, so no one can look over her six-foot (now about ten-foot) wall into the yard.

When you drain a pool here, you often end up with a shallow puddle of water in the bottom of the deep end. This pond then merrily breeds mosquitoes. The damn thing is way across her yard from my side fence, so I can’t tell whether any such breeding ground is there. But her pool is right up against Other Daughter’s fence.

And lo! A few days ago Other Daughter reported that she came down with encephalitis! And she damn near died. Apparently at one point the doctors thought she was going to die. Then, when she came back around, they thought she would never walk again — she couldn’t move her legs!

Eventually she did recover control over her legs and is now walking briskly around the ‘Hood, as has been her wont forever.

The type of encephalitis that holds forth here is called Western Equine Encephalitis. A-a-a-n-d…it’s carried by mosquitos!

Whaddaya know?

I haven’t seen her long enough to catch her and clue her to the possible connection between this terrible illness and our neighbor’s mosquito-breeding bit. But if I’m right, she needs to tell her dad about that. If anyone can put the eefus on that, it’s Tony.

Otherwise, though, I have two big containers of mosquito bits. If Other Daughter could ascertain whether water is standing on the bottom of that pool, we could throw a fistful of that stuff over the wall, and that would take care of the problem.

But problem it is: if O.D. could catch a horrific ailment from bugs growing in a neglected pool, then so can other folks in the neighborhood. Including me. And Ruby. And all those old folks in Tony’s planned institutes.

That poor young woman! Can you imagine? What an ordeal!

Meanwhile, life goes on, for the rest of us as well as for O.D. The weather is beyond gorgeous. And I most decidedly do not want to move out of my house.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve driven from pillar to post, searching for some replacement for the Funny Farm. There’s precious little out there. Certainly precious little in the price range I can afford. There are some cute places here and there…but the cost is in the many hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the desired neighborhoods, affordable places are close to fine thoroughfares like Conduit of Blight Blvd., which emanates a deafening roar 24/7. Or they’re 900 square feet. Or they require tens of thousands of dollars worth of repair and upgrades.

Meanwhile, I become more and more aware that I like my house — nay, I love my house, and I do not want to move out of it. Within the next week or two, it’ll be too late to peddle it to some unwary buyer, because Tony will have his latest nursing home in business. And you know, maybe the correct attitude is, to quote our Late-Unlamented First Lady,

I don’t care.

Do you?

Those Eastern Europeans! Maybe they’ve got somethin’ there!

😀

 

Real Estate Window-Shopping

Tony the Romanian Landlord, my bosom enemy, has bought the house catty-corner across the street that recently went on the market when the long-time owners decided to retire to the high country.

Tony, after a hostile encounter some years ago, hates me with all his flinty heart. And he’s a nasty fellow. Some of the neighbors around him think he is Romanian Mafia. I don’t…I think he’s just a guy who’s trying to get ahead and is doing so by the rough customs of his native land. But that notwithstanding, during our last encounter he threatened a judge and scared my lawyers so badly they urged me not even to go home, but to rent someplace far, far away, spend the night there, and sell my house right now.

I declined.

He himself has never tried anything, but his mentally ill ex-son-in-law did, presumably to get in good with Dear Old Dad. After my German shepherd took out after him, he ended up sitting in the middle of his driveway weeping. Poor li’l guy.

That the old man has got his hands on a house this close to the Funny Farm is a concern. When my neighbor right behind me sold so she could move into an old-folkerie, she told her realtor (who happened to be her cousin) NOT to sell to Tony. Well….the instant the For Sale sign went up, he showed up at the door. And he was, she reported, absolutely enraged when the realtor refused to do business with him.

But he did get his hands on this latest sale, across the street. I don’t know what he intends to put in there — he cranks his money with a chain of nursing homes, all installed in formerly private homes in residential neighborhoods. But you can be sure it ain’t good.

The previous owners took excellent care of the house, and when they put it on the market, it was gorgeous. Freshly painted. Beautiful flooring. Nice yard. Nice pool.

Tony’s boys have been in there for weeks pulling the house apart. They’ve deconstructed the interior and have been inside building stuff: presumably dormitory-style cells to accommodate whatever fine folk Tony intends to put in there.

So the question arises: Should I sell now and get out of here while I can? If he does what I think he will — install some highly undesirable institution in there — because Arizona law requires sellers to disclose any potentially negative issues, I won’t be able to sell this place for what it’s worth: about five and a half hundred thousand. Much less than that, and I won’t be able to buy a comparable house in a reasonably safe neighborhood…real estate values have run amok here. And of course, the way to frost his cookies would be to move just as he’s finishing up his repurposing construction and before he can move in a crew of clients.

This question has been nagging at the back of my mind for some time. Lately I’ve explored several neighborhoods in what is called the “North Central” district, searching for a place comparable to mine. By and large, these are scarce: North Central is a tony area occupied largely by affluent business executives, lawyers, and doctors. I live on the fringe of North Central, just below a violent and alarming slum called Sunnyslope. A canal and a main drag known to FaM readers as “Gangbanger’s Way” delineates my middle-class neighborhood from that more wild and woolly part of town. But…the wildness and the wooliness depress the property values in our tract. Get deeper into North Central, and I can’t begin to afford to buy.

While I was over on the far northwest side of town yesterday, arranging to ship the ailing MacBook off to the Apple factory, I had to drive through a part of the Valley called Arrowhead Ranch. This is a large Southern-California style tract development, most of it on the high end. I would call it upper-middle class, by and large; however, a few years ago the Republic reported that the Arrowhead area has the largest number of millionaires per-capita in the Valley.

Apparently most of these are owners of service businesses — carpet-cleaning, air-conditioning, pool building and repair, & the like — who live over there because it’s relatively close to their establishments. It’s the only upper-middle-class area between the I-17 and Waddell…which is a LONG way west.

When Arrowhead was first built out, I wasn’t impressed. But as I drove home over surface streets that took me through the increasingly dire slum just to the north of the ’Hood, I thought that place looks better by the day….

The houses are stick & styrofoam, which to my mind is the hallmark of cheap construction (literally: a strong man can put his fist through an exterior wall…that’s how the burglars got into a friend’s home out there). But if you can get past that…some of these places are pretty nice. This one, for example, is comparable in size to my house, only in the late 20th-century plaster-&-styrofoam style. Personally, I hate those glass-top stoves…and they’re apparently in most of the houses out there. I saw ONE gas stove during 45 minutes or an hour of browsing this morning. I’d about concluded that they just don’t have gas service in Arrowhead….but there one was. Presumably a younger crowd of homeowners means a preponderance of people who don’t cook at home, or who think cooking has to do with microwaving.

It is a LONG way from the church — a good 40 minutes or more, depending on traffic. So that activity would go away. More to the point, it’s just as far from my son’s house…meaning I would see him even more rarely than I do now.

This place is a thousand square feet larger than mine, almost.  Kinda cute. But it’s north of the Loop 101 freeway, which is…kinda weird. The dust-catching “plant shelves” (trans.: we are too cheap to build the walls all the way up to the ridiculously elevated ceiling) are a turn-off, as are the factory-made kitchen cabinets that don’t go up to the ceiling, either.

And this one:  Hmmm…. Same bland, cheap architecture…right on an artificial lake (read: mosquito-breeding pond). And no wall between you and the scenic view. Meaning no privacy in your backyard. No skinny-dipping: you’d have to lash yourself up in an elastic strait-jacket every time you wanted to go swimming.

This is not a bad little shack, in the price range. Once again, only a hot plate for a stove. Backyard scenically opens onto the golf course.

Know what happens when your house sits next to a golf course? I looked at one of these fabulous golf-course abodes at Arrowhead some years ago, before I bought my present house. People whack golf balls off-target and they fly into your house’s walls. That plaster can’t withstand the pounding, so it’s soon pitted with golf-ball sized divots. Notice the screens on the windows in back…no doubt there as much to keep the glass intact as to provide “shade.” Backyard is dreary…looks like it’s never been landscaped — notice the neighbor’s yard is pretty lush. Suggests the place was used as a rental for a goodly period, or that the outgoing owner let everything die. Hmmm…

In.
Aus.
Pi.
Cious…..

Then there’s this. Another fine golf ball target. What on earth do you suppose IS the appeal of all those plant shelves? Just imagine having to keep it clean! And that bathroom, where they ran amok with the Mexican tile: eeeeeek!

The demented high ceilings: you, too, can pay APS to air-condition the stratosphere!

These places make our early 1970s houses look good by comparison. Our design is more intelligent. No stupid plant shelves. No stratosphere-high ceilings. Gas service, so you can have a real stove if you want one. Only drawback is the proximity to the slums on the west side of Conduit of Blight and to the north of Gangbanger’s Way, and consequently the crime level and the ever-present stoned-out transients. But that can be dealt with by a good, loud dog.

Mr. WonderAccountant is about to retire. Their son and his young wife took up residence in the West Valley, and they’ve been urging the WA’s to move out there: just now they live right across the street from the Funny Farm. WonderAccountant herself does NOT want to go. She likes it here. But…if they do one day move, you can be sure Tony will glom that place, too. About the only way I could keep him out of it would be to buy it myself and rent it, or sell it to someone of my choice. I actually could… Even without selling my own house, I could probably buy that place with cash.

But I’d sure druther not….

Don’t know what the jerk is doing to the place across the street, but after weeks of daily banging around, his crew are STILL deconstructing and reconstructing over there. Presumably they will make it a drug rehab half-way house or an institution for raving lunatics. If I’m going to move away from whatever gem he’s installing over there, I do need to get on the stick…get sold and moved before he puts a public nuisance in there that will make it impossible to sell this place for the going rate….which of course I would need to clear in order to get into someplace comparable somewhere else.

Hadn’t considered Arrowhead before…but now it’s definitely on the radar. Encanto — where DXH and I first lived, in an absolutely gorgeous 1929 house — has the same issues as the ’Hood does: crime and bums. But look at this little cutie.  That is right around the corner from where we lived, literally: we were at 326 on the next street south of Encanto. The Encanto area and its adjacent, ritzier Palmcroft district are just flat overrun with derelicts, burglars, and wannabe rapists. Hence the bars on all the doors in this little house. Probably all the windows are alarmed — or not: actually, those old-fashioned crank windows with the steel frames are hard to break into.

Eight and a quarter for THIS????? What ARE they smoking?

Whoa!!! Lookit this! Dayum! Right on the fringe of Darkest North Central! It’s a little too close to Glendale, a large and noisy thoroughfare. But it’s in a pretty tony area….the price is a little alarmingly low for that part of town. Wonder what’s wrong with it? All you can tell from these images is that it needs to have the backyard landscaped. I could easily do without my swimming pool…and look at all the space for one’s German shepherd to run around back there. Hm.

I’m afraid the racket from Glendale would be unacceptable, though.

Another one down in that area. It’s a cute little house. Pretty much in the middle of the neighborhood — relatively quiet, one presumes. Floors need to be redone: that could be an expensive proposition. The bamboo patio is a little weird — presumably the jungle is for privacy, since the thing is in the front. And personally, I really don’t like electrical lines spanning the pool. They may not be legal: today the code says you can’t build a pool beneath electric lines.

Uh oh! Just remembered I need to go to the store….and eeek! It’s almost noon. Thank the heavens for Instacart!

Whaddaya think, dear readers? Hold the fort? Or take the path of least resistance and move, before Tony installs whatever malign disaster he’s working on?