Coffee heat rising

Times Have Been a-Changin’…

Couple days ago, I had occasion to drive through the neighborhood around the old-folkerie where my father chose to live out the last years of his life.  It’s over on the easterly side of North Central Phoenix — actually, within (almost reasonable) walking distance of the big North Central house where DXH and I took up residence, just to show the world what we could afford.

Killing time drivin’ around the other morning was kinda fun, kinda sentimental. After running away from the church, being told we had no choir today (why??????), I filled the gas tank and then cruised up into some of the (relatively) old neighborhoods over in the area of my favorite QT station. Part of this area comprises the easterly section of a renowned slum known as Sunnyslope.

My! We’ve been told that the ‘Slope has gentrified…. They ain’t kiddin’!!

WHAT a difference. Houses and whole streets that used to be run-down dumps have been cleaned up and painted up and spiffed up…gosh! Some of those little houses — built as homes for working-class folk, downright tiny — are suddenly VERY cute.

A decade ago, you couldn’t have gotten me even to drive around in there — because it wasn’t safe. Now, if I were in the market for a centrally located house with “charm,” that would be one of the areas where I would look.

Meanwhile, in the center of this middle-classifying neighborhood, the old-folkerie where my father retreated after my mother died has been HUGELY revamped. “Gentrified” ain’t the word for it.

When my father was there, it was a sprawl of single-story garden apartments arranged around a dining/activity center/nursing home. Renamed — no longer “Orangewood” but the ever-so-snootier-sounding “Terraces” — it’s three stories, painted in the latest, most stylish eye-searing white and beige. It’s spread out vastly — probably three times the footprint of the old place. And it looks bloody expensive.

Apparently it is: I hear tell it costs even more than the Beatitudes, whose business model is based on bankrupting the inmates.

It used to be that the neighborhood where this fine institution resided was…well…shall we say trending toward shabby (not to emit the word “slummy).”  Now it’s all been cleaned up, spiffed up, painted up, even in some areas rebuilt! Who’d’ve ever thunk! I would call it an upper-middle-class neighborhood now.


In other precincts for the agèd, my dear friend L. (of the J. & L. duo) passed on a few days ago. He and his wife J. had, you may recall, moved into a similar institute called the Beatitudes, over L.’s vehement objections. But L. was very elderly — 94 years old — and his health was failing fast. He’d fallen a couple of times, and J. found she couldn’t help him get back on his feet by herself…so was justifiably frightened of what might happen if she couldn’t find someone quickly to get him back upright. Additionally, they had a demented neighbor who took to making trouble for them. One of this character’s more recent antics was making like she was going to run him down in her car.

So even though L. did not want to go, it was clear that getting away from their pretty little patio home was the wisest move, and, given that, the nursing care offered by the Beatitudes was a godsend for J., if not for L.

On the other hand…speaking of getting away…

J. was right, and within a year or so, L. passed on. A-n-n-d…within a week of the burial service, her daughters packed up what remained of her worldly goods and drove them and her off to California, where they live near Sacramento.


So much for the glories of the old-folkerie. As soon as the most pressing need was past, she was outa there.

That has to have been a very pricey maneuver. Shortly after they moved into the place, she told me it cost her everything she netted from the sale of their handsome North Central Avenue patio home to get them in there. Basically, she forked over a huge chunk of her net worth to obtain end-of-life care for L.

Think you could do better at the Terraces? After a bracing buy-in, you’ll pay a staggering monthly fee. For that you get a far better designed and roomier apartment than the cramped space J. & L. landed in. But…good luck to you if you run out of money before you run out of life.

Heaven help us.

Why should we have to impoverish ourselves, our spouses, and our children to pass from this world in peace?

Life in the ‘Hood: Stay or Flee?

Summer storms blowing in, along with a few gangsters and fruitcakes…

Didn’t notice this exchange on the neighborhood Facebook page yesterday evening:


Police website…
7:25 p.m.
August 13
Report of Shots Fired
North Feeder Street NW and West Feeder Street EW
[Map with dramatic visuals…
[This is one block from my house]
GV(Neighbor): I am at 18th and Feeder E/W, didn’t hear anything. Hope everyone is safe!
I can hear a helicopter right now , its circling right down south from my house
Funny: At Side Street and Funny Farm Drive, also heard nothing. Helicopters are hardly noticed, they’re so ubiquitous. Any news on what this shenanigan entailed?

….a-n-n-n-d…nary another word.

Could’ve been firecrackers, I reckon. We have a lot of nitwits around here who like to set off fireworks, which, annoyingly enough, are legal to sell anywhere in the county. I would’ve been swimming at that hour. Still would have been way too hot for an evening doggy-walk. As a practical matter, I don’t recall if we went out last night at all. But if we did, it wouldn’t have been until 9 or 10 p.m. By then it was raining, though.


Now as evening ambles in, we have a little melodramatic wind (not enough to do much damage, that I can see) and a sky full of dark gray and dimly white clouds that started out as thunderheads but now are pretty well shredded and turned into high overcast. If it rains tonight, my bet is that it won’t be much.

What a place! Why do I stay here?

Probably because there’s really no place much better, at least not that I can afford. In Paradise Valley, entire neighborhoods are fenced and gated off, with private security guards roaming the streets 24/7. Ain’t that reassuring for the rich and the tasteless?

Fountain Hills is probably quieter, but it’s as far east as you can get in the Valley, halfway to freakin’ Payson. Personally, I don’t find it inviting. Most of the houses are cheaply built — stick and styrofoam, tracty-looking. The place is lily-white and IMHO devoid of character. It’s a long way from shopping and even further from the folks I know.

Sun City is calm: haunted by the peace of the mortuary. It’s not entirely free of crime — some fairly eye-popping shockers have occurred out there. And those houses, too, are cheaply built tract numbers: better construction than Fountain Hills (most of the S.C. homes are built of block) but devoid of insulation. People who choose to stay there over the summer will fir out the exterior walls, lay on insulation, and then plaster over the top of it. So you get the effect of a typical stick-and-styrofoam tract house, only the structure has in effect two walls: one of cinderbock and one of styrofoam-backed plaster. To my mind, it’s a depressing place to live, made even more so by the fact that my poor mother died there after my father retired and dragged her out to the Arizona desert.

I’m fairly sure she expected to retire to Southern California — Long Beach or points south. She wanted to be in the Bay Area, but the cost of living there was well out of the question. Betcha she about fainted when my father stumbled upon Del Webb’s ghetto for old folks. 😀

Actually, I believe she liked Sun City. One time she remarked to me how much she loved the screened back patio where she could sit all morning over coffee and listen to the doves and quail hooting. It really was very, very quiet out there.

Heh. While yeah, I could do without the helicopter, siren, and lightrail serenade from Conduit of Blight Blvd and Gangbanger’s Way, I’m afraid I like the sound of children playing and teenagers carrying on.

Truth to tell, if my son were not here, I very likely would be long gone.


Well, some friends have moved to Utah, the Provo area. But I feel no desire to live there. Another friend: gone to Portland. Brrrrrr!

Santa Fe is extremely cool (culturally, that is), but from what others have told me, its ambience isn’t a helluva lot safer than the Hood’s. Don’t know anyone there. Can’t work up a lot of enthusiasm for decamping to someplace where I’d have to build a whole new life.

Prescott is nice. I do like Prescott. But…. It snows in the winter. Gets hot enough to need air-conditioning in the summer. And the gringos have discovered it, big time: hordes of immigrants from the Valley and from California have flooded into the place. Hence: out of the frying pan…

View from the Mogollon Rim near Payson

Mr. & Mrs. Fireman sold their manse in the West Valley and moved up to Payson, where they bought a truly beautiful home on a nice expanse of forested land. They seem to like it there very much. Main problem: not enough infrastructure. They have to drive into town for shopping, and even to take the dog to a vet.

In Tucson, there’s an area called Oro Valley, spreading northward along the west flank of the Catalina Mountains. It’s very pleasant. And it has the advantage of being close to a major medical center, to a fairly arty city with a large, established university (cultural life!!!), to shopping, and to a major regional airport. I suppose if I were going to decamp to someplace where I don’t know anybody and where I’d have to build a whole new lifestyle, that would be the foremost candidate.

Ohhh well…. Long as I’m livin’ in a freestanding house on a quarter-acre of land with a pool, I reckon I might as well be swimming in that pool. And so, awayyy!

Dental Insurance in Retirement…or No?

Since retiring from my job at Arizona State University, I’ve gone bare when it comes to dental insurance. It’s a risk, obviously: betting on the “not come” rather than the “come.” My teeth have always been excellent. My mother died in her 60s; her mother died in her 40s, and her grandmother also died fairly young: hence, one could lay a bet that I will outlive my teeth.

I retired at about the same time a dear friend did. She and her husband chose not to enroll in the state’s plan for dental insurance. Why? Well….

The Arizona state dental plan doesn’t cover everything. For $8.52 a month, Cigna tells you you’re insured but actually covers very little; at $35 a month, the “premium” plan it actually covers things. Their fee schedule is so complicated that She Who Is Not an Accountant can’t even begin to figure it out, but it would appear the coverage doesn’t apply to everything. But following my friends’ logic, I chose not to sign up for Arizona’s retiree dental plan because my friends — one of whom was the head of the Arizona Department of Gaming, fairly large in the Bigwig Club — calculated that over a predictable lifetime, most of us would end up paying the same or more in insurance premiums than we would pay out of pocket for typical old-folks’ dental and orthodontic care (including extractions and all the other fun and games that come with decreptitude).

I’ve been retired since December 2009. So let’s start at January 2010… This is August 2022: about 12.6  years, hm?

At $8.52 a month, one year on Cigna’s low-rent plan would cost you $102.24. By now, I would have paid out around $1,288 for retiree dental insurance, on the cheap. But of course, you KNOW that if you really need dental insurance, that amount of coverage will be a drop in the bucket; so if you’re gonna buy the coverage, you’d better buy the top of the line. And that, by now, would have cost me $5,292.

AND not all dentists will accept the state’s insurance plan. Nor do those figures take into account services that would not be covered under the state’s plans. Also it’s worth noting that some of the stuff I’ve needed has been covered, to a degree, by Medicare and Medigap.

At this point, I’ve probably spent somewhere around a thousand bucks on the Adventures in Dental Science. So compared to the price of retiree insurance, probably the cost is six of one, half-a-dozen of the other. But I haven’t had to bicker with any providers. AND…it must be remembered that many providers will not accept the low-rent coverage one gets from the State of Arizona. So for the amount I’ve paid, I’ve retained my choice of providers. And that, it develops, is big.

Very big.

Also very big is the fact that not everything appears to be covered on the State’s plan, meaning that a fair amount of one’s Adventures in Dental Science are likely to be paid for out of pocket. How much might that be? Difficult to calculate. But even a small figure would cut in to the value of the premium-supported insurance scheme.


By now, I’d guess that over the past couple of years I’ve spent about the same as or a little more than I would have shelled out to Cigna for dental, what with the present Adventures in Medical Science. However, that may change as things get worse.

Or as they get better…

Our extended amalgamated family’s beloved dentist, Dr. D. was forced to retire for medical reasons. He sold his practice to a guy who moved here from Baltimore.

This fella has taken over and, as of course he should, is now doing things his way. Not Dr. D’s way. He’s canned all of Dr. D’s excellent dental assistants and office staff (or maybe they all fled?). And I see he’s building an empire of low-rent offices over on the West Side: exploiting the impoverished set.

I’ve now seen the guy several times. And truth to tell, I don’t like him. Nor do I trust him.

Evidently for good reason, come to find out.

He told me the stake another practitioner — an orthodontist specializing in rather eccentric restorative work — had installed in my upper jaw was infected. He would like to take that thing out and…what? Rebuild it? Put in a fake tooth? A bridge?? Argha!

Not to say…innaresting.

So…couple weeks ago I got a referral from another medical doctor to an orthodontist, who herself specializes in these sorts of shenanigans. Today, I finally got in to see her — coincidentally, on the first day the damn tooth hasn’t either hurt like hell or ached vaguely.

She shot a set of X-rays. Inspected them. Let her assistant inspect them, apparently by way of pedagogy but in fact putting another set of eyes on the scene.

Then she showed the X-rays to me and said, “Look. There’s no infection around this thing at all.”

“Why,” quoth I, “does it hurt?”

“Because,” quoth she, “the implant is too long. It’s grinding against your lower teeth. Especially when (as indeed is my habit) you clench your teeth.”

She picks up a handy-dandy little whizzer and, zzziiip! Drills off the upper surface of the crown.


By damn! Now my jaws fit together straight! The teeth do not whack each other when I close my mouth. And the implant does NOT hurt.

So…uhm…howcum the Philadelphia Wonder didn’t notice that?


She fixed the damn thing in under ten minutes! Probably under five, actually: all she had to do was polish the excess porcelain off so that the fake tooth FIT, same as all all the other teeth in that part of the upper jaw.

The bill was a couple hundred bucks. A far cry from what I would have spent on Cigna’s dental insurance over the past twelve and a half years.

Unfortunately, she’s a specialist and so doesn’t do routine dental maintenance. But she gave me the name of a colleague, whom I intend to track down next week.




Moving for Olde Age?

So my friends J & L(x2, of the male variety) invited me and a bunch of co-religionists to view the valley fireworks from their high-rise apartment on Central. This has become an annual tradition, which is really cool. This year they wanted party-goers to donate a chunk of dough to the church for the privilege, a chunk which, alas, I don’t happen to have laying around on the living-room floor. So…the human will be home listening to the local bang-bang nuts playing with their explosives and trying to calm the poor little dog’s nerves. (When I’ve gone to J & L’s for the Fourth, I’ve left Ruby with M’hijito, where the unruffleable Charlie the Golden Retriever keeps her pretty calm.)

That high-rise strikes me as a potential alternative to an old-folkerie, for when I get too old to handle the hassles of living in a house on a quarter-acre of land. Though a two-bedroom there is just an apartment and so is a lot smaller and more economically appointed than the four-bedroom Funny Farm, for an old buzzard it has a lot of advantages…

  • Less space to have to keep clean
  • Much better security
  • Someone else takes care of the exterior.
  • It’s within walking distance of AJ’s.
  • It’s close to two excellent hospitals (my house is close to a large urban hospital, too, but that place is not what you’d call “great” in terms of quality and safety).
  • Incredible views!
  • The lightrail goes right by the front door — you could ride it to the museums, the library, the baseball games, AJ’s, the Episcopal cathedral downtown, and even out to Tempe (if events at the university beckoned).

On the other hand…

Moving to J&L’s tower would mean sacrificing manysmall pleasures and would make parts of my present life so difficult I might have to make major changes…like find a new home for Ruby.

In a two-bedroom apartment, there would be no space for both a guest bedroom and my office. And the whole extra bedroom and closet that I use for storage would go away!

Then we have the pool issue. Despite the latest spate of grousing, I like my private pool that resides behind 8-foot walls and piled-up vines. I love skinny-dipping whenever I feel a whim to cool off. And I’m not going to strap myself into an elastic strait-jacket for a five-minute dip in a public pool. Here, when it’s miserably hot I can step out the back door and hop in the drink. There I’d have to change clothes, ride an elevator downstairs, traipse to a pool, then climb back out, ride back up, and hang up a suit in the bathroom.

Living on top of the neighbors is not my idea of a gracious lifestyle, no matter how fancy the apartments are.

AJ’s would be within walking distance, at least as long as I can still walk that far. But how long would that be? If I’m not walking the dog a mile or two a day (which surely would not happen in that hard-edged part of town), before long I won’t be walking much at all…won’t be able to.

Despite the crime in the neighboring slums (which does spill over into the ‘Hood) and the soaring property taxes and the endless wrangling of workmen, I’m inclined to think that living in my own little cottage with my own yard and my own garage and my own swimming pool mightily beats living in a box in the sky.

Would a high-rise apartment beat self-imprisonment in an old-folkerie? Probably. But can I provide all the services for myself here that I’d have to provide if I were living in an apartment? No doubt.

Think I’d druther have those services here than there…

Fiasco Update: The Pool, the Pal, and all That

Our Pool Dude To the Rescue, a guy named Stan from the venerable (and pricey) Swimming Pool Service & Repair, arrived a few days ago and ministered to the backyard swamp. Dumped in a sh!tload of stuff that turned the water milk-white, said “run it 24 hours nonstop” and assured me that the water would clear up.

And lo! The guy was right.

The following morning the drink was crystal clear. The pump is pounding away at 35 psi — wayyyy high for that unit, which normally runs at about 18-25 psi when everything is clean.

Which everything decidedly is not.

Stan resurfaced the next day to decombobulate the filter and the pump and clean everything out.  And what a mess he found in there, after months of Ex-Pool Dude refusing to do the job.

Meanwhile, Ex-Pool Dude having stolen my Hayward Pool Cleaner, I needed to decide whether to order a new one from Amazon, or, for a hundred bucks more, to Shop Local and buy the same damn thing from the Sunnyslope Leslie’s, an outfit that mostly caters to the trade.

That store was agglomerated by the Leslie’s corporation fairly recently — for many years it had been a locally owned store, much beloved by people who work in the pool business. The former owners are still working there, but it remains to be seen how long they’ll stay.

My impression about those guys in Sunnyslope is that they probably are not crooks. I feel less wary of them than the crew at the Leslie’s in the Safeway shopping center a mile or two down the road, so if I was going to buy the thing retail and locally, that’s where I’d go.

My sense is that they’ll take it back if a problem arises…a trick that, as you know, is QUITE a trick when you buy from Amazon. That “insurance,” as it were, may be worth the extra hundred bucks.

Absolutely. So it was off to the Leslie’s-That-Is-Not-Altogether-a-Leslie’s to drop four hundred bucks on a new piece of equipment.


The whole idea of hiring someone to maintain that pool — now, to get him broken in, not later — has to do with the scheme to try to stay in my house till I croak over. Slamming around in the humid heat this morning was just this side of more than I can manage, here at the entryway to my dotage. If I”m going to stay in this house indefinitely, I’ll have to corner some hired help to do tasks I’ve been able to do in more energetic and less absent-minded years:

  • house-cleaning help
  • yard workers
  • pool maintenance guy
  • AC maintenance guy
  • handyman
  • plumber
  • electrician
  • reliable, not-a-crook roofer

At least.

Actually, just now I have access to all those except the pool maintenance guy and probably the yard workers. Gerardo clearly has lost interest in doing private yards — he told me all those years ago, when he started, that his goal for the business was to do commercial landscaping. And given that guy’s smarts and energy, I figure he’s now about achieved that goal, and so would like to get rid of me and M’hijto.

Once all the present flaps settle down, the next order of business will be to figure out how — if it’s possible at all — to avoid being scammed and taken advantage by the armies of service and product providers you need to deal with. I’d been told that elderly people are easily flamboozled and targets for scams of all varieties. But this is the first time I’ve come fully face-to-face with that fact. Everybody and their little brother has tried to take advantage of me during the present fiasco. I’ve found a few guys who were honest and straightforward — most of them workmen who live here in the neighborhood (i.e., they know I know where they live…).

Pool Dude is the most egregious case in point. He stole a $400 pool cleaner — probably to sell or give it to one of his other customers — and when I demanded that he give it back, he foisted a worn-out piece of junk on me. Did he seriously believe I couldn’t tell the difference????

Clearly, this is not something that’s going to get better. In fact, I’m wondering if it’s possible to hire some kind of agent or go-between to run interference with various suppliers and service providers.

Y’know…given the size and the up-and-coming senility of the Baby Boom generation, I imagine a person could make a decent living with exactly that kind of service. I wonder what such a service would be called? And how you could insure it or how government entities could regulate it…hmmmm….


Meanwhile, my friend J, of the J&L couple who moved to the Beatitudes old-folkerie, needed a ride to the doctor’s office. She, at the age of about 90, came down with covid-19!

Amazingly, she threw it off. She must be strong as a horse! And, so far, her husband has not caught it. Presumably, the vaccine is hold the disease at bay.

These warehouses for old folks have real problems keeping the disease under control The Beatitudes has done so, to a degree, by confining ALL the inmates to their apartments. No one is allowed to leave the campus, and for awhile no one was allowed to leave their tiny apartments! Food was hand-delivered to people’s rooms by the employees: room service, at it were. So on the one hand it wasn’t surprising that J caught the disease; on the other, it’s astonishing that L has avvoided it so far.

Also surprising, to my mind, is that they go to a doctor in Sunnyslope — probably because their former abode was right down the street from John C. Lincoln, one of the three major hospitals in the city of Phoenix. What makes this surprising is that the practice caters to Latinos — Sunnyslope is largely Mexican. And J&L do subscribe to 19th-century ideas about race, gender, and ethnicity. That notwithstanding, she made a brilliant choice in electing to go to this doctor.

Amazingly, the man proposed to CALL HER DAUGHTER IN CALIFORNIA (!!!!!!!) and discuss Joan’s health with her!

Joan wanted me to sit in on their discussion to take notes – and her daughter was complicit with this scheme – but as you can imagine, the Doc was not so happy about it. He, being brighter than the average snail, saw that speaking to Daughter himself would get whatever he needed to share across without any static, and allow her to ask whatever questions she had directly to him.

Thank goodness!

The Beatitudes…SHUDDER!!!! 

Gawdlmighty, I’d rather be dead than trapped in that prison for old folks. For the price of their pretty North Central patio home – two large bedrooms, a spacious kitchen – bigger than mine! – a handy laundry area, a big two-car garage, a big dining room and living room with a free-standing fireplace, and a nice little backyard with a patio and a nice barbecue and pretty landscaping for their cat to jump around in – they get three rooms, one of which is the size of my hall closet. No garage: but their choice of any slot under a tinfoil roof that they manage to grab (and good luck with that). No yard. No barbecue. No real washer/dryer – just a couple of teeny stacked mechanical boxes jammed in a closet. A kitchen that’s not as big as the one in the studio apartment I rented my first year out of college. A phone system that doesn’t work.

No kidding: it took us THREE TRIES to get the damn phone to dial out so we could confirm the time of this afternoon’s appointment!

And – no kidding – she told me it took ALL OF THE PROCEEDS from the sale of their house to buy them into that awful prison for old folks.

If you’re going to blow all your net worth to keep yourself going through your dotage, wouldn’t it be better to borrow against equity in your spectacularly paid-off home (you don’t even wanna KNOW what houses in North Central are worth now!!!!) to hire people to come in every day to take care of you, fix your food, clean your house, and drive you around?  Let’s say you’re 88 years old (about Lee & Joan’s age – actually, Lee is over 90). How much longer are you likely to live?

Five years? Ten years? Fifteen at the very outside?

So a practical nurse costs, say, 30 grand a year. Your food and clothing: maybe 5 grand, assuming you cook most if it yourself? Make it 10 grand, so you can go out to eat.  But throw in an extra 5 grand anyway, just to cover…stuff.

Hmmm… 30 grand + 5 + 10: $45,000 a year in regular expenses.

You live another 10 years: you need $450,000 to keep you going.

Your net worth at the outset was, shall we say, in the vicinity of a million bucks. No: make that cash holdings. Your house, at the outset, would have been worth around $300,000. Thus you have access to around $1,300,000, or  available cash (over 10 years of supposed remaining life) of $130,000/year.

Looks like you’re not gonna starve anytime soon. But what about hiring in geriatric-serving hired help?

If one nurse costs 45 grand a year, you have over twice as much as you need to hire such a person.

Can that possibly be right? English-major math…but still…. The point is, because your investments are steadily regenerating, as long as a serious recession holds off, you’re ultimately subtracting less from your total annual cost of living from the bottom line of your retirement investments.

See wot I mean? It looks suspiciously to me as tho’ if they had stayed in their house, they could have afforded to hire daily nursing care and still come out ahead of what it costs them to live in the Old Folks Prison.

Of course, the story was not that simple. (Is any story?) They had a demented neighbor who had become a very serious problem. She was always at odds with the HOA, and she kept trying to run Lee down in her car.

But then after all the story also was not that complicated. They could have sold that house and moved into another, comparable patio home (North Central is practically blanketed with the things!), thereby escaping the nutso neighbor but retaining the lifestyle that Lee so fully enjoyed.  And they would have had plenty of money (he was a nuclear engineer, forgodsake!) to bring in all the hired help they need.


Stan, the new pool dude whose name I got from the neighbors, just showed up, swept, adjusted, reset equipment and breezed out. Much to be hoped is it that this guy will be competent and not a crook. Looks promising so far.

The pool has gone from Similac white to crystal clear, and I’m sincerely hoping that the thing can be maintained at its previous level of excellence. I forgot to ask him if it’s OK to swim in the thing yet. But since I’m now not allowed to get in the sun, lest more skin cancers erupt, that’s moot. By this evening, without a doubt, it will be just fine. So I can do my Dracula thing then.




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!