Coffee heat rising

Another lovely day in Arizona…

So along about 3 or 4 a.m. I happened to remark to a correspondent that the day was shaping up to be a Day from Hell…

Chortle! One should never say things like that. God finds those one-liners too, too funny.

Well, wait though: Her practical jokesterism at least did not extend to conkering out the car. That’s good, no?

Dawn cracked, and I decided to try to find out what could be done about the propane bottle that developed a weird leak after the barbecue cleaning dude reattached it to the system. This was about as fruitful as you might imagine any bureaucratic exercise to be. After jumping through a long and pointless series of phone hoops, I gave up with the city. Called Gerardo, who said he would don his Superman cape and fly over this afternoon. This was another exercise in futility, but as it develops, it’s prob’ly just as well that he didn’t. In fact…very, verrreeee good that he didn’t surface late this afternoon….

But we get ahead of ourself…

First, I go on about my business: traipsing half-way to Timbuktu to visit WonderDermatologist. She agrees that the Thing disfiguring my left-hand finger-flicking finger is yet another precancer and must go. Now.

Does she wonder how I am going to drive with this crucial navigation instrument disabled? Probably just as well that she doesn’t. She practically runs her nitrogen squirt bottle out of juice. This is good. I’m invited to visit her again in two weeks, when we’ll assess how today’s antics worked, and out the door I streak.

Decide to venture across from the 101 on Gangbanger’s Way,  a thoroughfare that runs faster and more smoothly than Main Drag South, which at this time of year is more crowded than Gangbanger’s. Fly low up the freeway, fly low across the city…through the lovely slums that grace the central west side, ahhh yes eventually arriving at the war zone that is the intersection of Gangbanger’s and Conduit of Blight Blvd.

This journey is one endless reminder of Southern California and all that I used to hate about it. The smog. The traffic. The ticky-tacky. The instant-slum tracts. The tired and dreary strip malls. The crowded roads, sun glaring off acres of asphalt. The panhandling derelicts. The exhausted workers navigating the streets on foot. Lordy, but Phoenix is SUCH an ugly city! Just like Long Beach: an ugly place to live.

You know, I do love my neighborhood. It’s a pretty little enclave, gentrifying like mad now that young parents have learned they can put their kids in the Madison schools from here. (Madison is the only decent centrally located public school district.) But driving in from the northwest on Gangbanger’s Way is just deeply depressing…and it gets creepier and creepier as the months pass.. From about 43rd Avenue all the way over to about 23rd Avenue is plain old slum, dirty depressing dangerous and scary. Some of the houses facing Gangbanger’s around 23rd are OK, holding their own; then, eastward-bound, they give way to commercial properties, some of them abandoned.

The city is about to extend the accursed lightrail up to MetroCenter, which is now dead, a ghost mall. Why? It escapes comprehension. The highest and best use of that property would be to turn it into a social service center for the homeless, but the city has big (hallucinatory) plans to revive it as offices and medical centers. Har har harrrrr!!!!!!! So this boondoggle will be yet another fantastical waste of taxpayer money, and the train will continue to transport drug addicts and homeless into our neighborhood.

Catholic Social Services has built a charity home for pore folks on Main Drag South at Conduit of Blight, and an even bigger project has gone up on Main Drag about a half-mile west of that. Alas, while this kind of housing is indeed much needed, projects good neighbors do not make…

So…every now and again I think about whether I should move while I still have the physical strength to do so. And if so, where???? If the church never re-coalesces, there’s really no reason to stay in North Central. Or in Phoenix at all. But where on earth to go???

  • Sun City is a definite NO.
  • Arcadia I cannot afford.
  • Biltmore I cannot afford.
  • The Southern-California style ticky-tacky tracts of the far east and west valley: no, thanks.
  • Payson: eek! no Costco!
  • The south of France I cannot afford.
  • But why not Fountain Hills? Like Sun City, it’s quiet as the tomb, and it’s close to my doctors’ office and close to the kind of shopping I enjoy. Nice view of the mountains, and a straight shot up to Payson, where KJG and Mr. Firefighter hold forth!
  • Oro Valley outside of Tucson is supposed to be very nice, and it’s convenient to Tucson. It is part of Tucson these days, actually.
  • Prescott: a possibility, but further from friends and established huntin’ grounds than I’d like.
  • And of course Patagonia, venue of some lovely country houses just up the road from the border with Mexico…

Depressed after this fine tour of my hometown, I crawl back in the sack for a little nap, hoping to catch up the sleep that ended around 3 this morning.

Soon enough, Ruby jumps to attention. DAWG ON POINT!!!!! 

Something is going wheeeeeeeeeeeee….

What? Rattie’s in the hall? I hear a squeal, and it ain’t the Song, Song of the Rat. No indeed. It’s the serenade of a vehicle that needs a brake job.

WTF? Climb out of the sack, stumble to the front windows, peer out and lo! A cop SUV is idling in the street in front. Two of the biggest rhinoceroses you have EVER seen charge into the front yard (Holy doggerel! Where’s my pistol?). Call the hound to heel…and watch the show.

These vast lumbering critters roust some poor, scrawny little bum out from under the shade trees in front, where he’s been trying to sleep in the gravel.

Yes. That’s on the gravel. Like, little sharp pieces of granite.

Understand: it’s 108 degrees out there. He must weigh all of 130 pounds, he’s filthy, his hair is matted, he doesn’t even have a backpack in tow. They start to rough him up. Amazingly, he manages to slip out of the grip of the guy who’s grabbed him and he takes off down the street. The cops give half-hearted chase but quickly stand down. Doesn’t seem to enter their minds that he could easily hop over the wall into the backyard, just like Matthew the Garage Invader did. Now moderately well armed myself, I watch them give up and drive off. Then I patrol the front and back yards and the alley.

Poor little sh!thead. What do you suppose brings a man to such a pass?

Gerardo did not show up. Good thing! Otherwise he and his suspiciously unilingual cousins would have landed in the middle of this…uhm…manhunt. {sigh} Could be they drove by and saw the game in progress, so decided to move along.

Welp, our visitor having failed to steal today’s Amazon delivery, we also move along: Unwrap the package of tinfoil pie tart pans and combobulate the much-vaunted RAT REPELLANT DEVICES!

The scheme is to punch a hole in a pie tin, run it up the metal rod that holds the bird feeder (endlessly attractive to Rattie), and secure it in place over the existing DYI rat baffle, made of a plastic doodad that has proven too small to discourage our little pal. Fiddle with this briefly, and dayum. I think it’s gonna work. If it doesn’t, at least we had some fun trying it.

The resulting gadgets look weirdly like little flying saucers, come to light on the bird feeders’ hangers. Got them attached fairly firmly (if hilariously) but gave them just enough play to wiggle a bit, should a four-legged critter decide to climb on top of the UFO. Unless Rattie is acrobatic enough to jump down and backward in one motion (from a platform that wiggles), I don’t THINK she can hop from the contraption to the lower end of the hanger. If she can, by golly, she’s earned her share of those bird seeds!

Seriously, I think if she tries to proceed past the tinfoil barrier, she’ll most likely fall on the ground. This will cause an annoyed Rattie but should do no damage to much of anything else.

Cop helicopter shows up a little before 7 p.m. and frantically buzzes the street just to the north, right where my old house resides. They used to materialize every goddamn Friday and Saturday night at 11 p.m. sharp. This is a little early for them…maybe our scrawny guy showed up at someone else’s motel. 😀 Now, shading a little after 7:30, they’ve roared off somewhere else and it’s quiet out there again.

So it goes. That is what we Arizonans call “one helluva day.”

To top it off, WordPress crashed as I was finishing this post, so that helluva day is no longer today but vaguely yesterday. Wouldn’tcha know?

 

If You Were Your Kid…

If you were your kid and you were an American, come of age in a time when America the Great was rapidly turning into a Third-World Country, what would you do differently from what your parents did? From what your kid him- or herself is doing right now?

Do strange little thoughts like that ever cross your mind? They sure as Hell cross mine.

My father planned carefully for his retirement and his old age. Thanks to his planning — and to his lifetime of amazingly hard work —  I haven’t had to put in that much single-minded effort: he left me enough to live on comfortably through my dotage. But that’s not so true of my son.

Although my son’s dad is affluent, like me he also no doubt will live (expensively) into advanced old age. My son’s grandmother just died at the age of 106 (no, that is not a typo), having spent the past 20 years wasting away ruinously in a nursing home. The new wife is a good 20 years younger than me, and though she has a highly competent son, she also has a feckless, dependent daughter who never will be able to care for herself and her offspring. Thus most of whatever my son’s father has now will be dedicated to supporting the less gifted occupants of that side of the family.

My son, the recipient of a spectacularly expensive private education, has a decent job but not one that will make him rich. It can, however, allow him to work remotely from just about anyplace that he chooses.

My mother smoked herself into the grave in late middle age. We have no clue how long she might have lived had she never picked up a cigarette. Her father died of Hodgkin’s disease, an acquired cancer not uncommon in his part of the country: we have no idea how long he might have lived had he dwelt someplace else, never smoked, and never drank. Her mother chippied herself into the grave: we have no idea how long she might have lived had she never been exposed to the kinds of reproductive viruses one acquires during a wildly misspent youth. But the other women on her mother’s side of the family were Christian Scientists who lived into advanced old age: we do know that in the absence of alcohol and tobacco, they lived into their mid-90s even without ever going anywhere near a medical doctor or a patent medicine.

So what we have here, in the planning department, are two people — me and my son — each of whom have a shot at living into advanced old age. Or not.

What can be done for my son — by me or by him — to ensure that he will be financially secure into his dotage?

We know that I absolutely positively do NOT want to spend my last years in a “life-care community,” a rabbit warren in which to lock up old folks. My father consigned himself to one of those places after my mother died, and I have several friends who are now living (expensively) in similar prisons. I will take a swan-dive off the North Rim of the Grand Canyon before I allow that to happen to me…and that also is neither a joke nor a typo. My house is paid for: if I die tomorrow my son will inherit a piece of property worth about $400,000, free & clear. My son’s house will be paid for in another 10 or 15 years; it will be worth around $325,000 to $350,000, if all things remain equal. He lives frugally and invests in IRAs, and so he presumably will have some retirement savings in hand, if he lives into his dotage.

BUT…

The Covid-19 fiasco has shown his employer, clear as handsomely chlorinated swimming pool water, that there is no reason to maintain expensive office space to support a profitable insurance business. He believes the company will never re-open its pricey new digs in Tempe, a dreary suburb of Phoenix. Shortly before the Covid fiasco began, he was promoted to a managerial position. He remains a manager: remotely.

What this means is that there’s really no reason for him to continue living in a dump like Phoenix, a vast, ugly, crass bedroom tract that we might kindly call L.A. East. If the company settles permanently into a mode in which most or all of its mid-level employees can work online, he could in theory live anyplace he pleases.

And there are many, many better places to live.

In Arizona alone, for example, towns such as Prescott, Bisbee, Patagonia, the outskirts of Tucson, and even Payson have far more temperate climates and are nowhere near as grubby and  crime-ridden as Phoenix. Nor is there any reason to stay in a culturally backward hole like Arizona. If you want to live in the Southwest, there are many better places to live in Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and parts of New Mexico. If you don’t mind jumping on a plane to visit your employer for monthly staff meetings, Oregon, Washington State, parts of Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, and waypoints are highly desirable venues. With a fistful of cash from the sale of two houses, you could easily install yourself in the Low Countries, Ireland, the south of France, Italy, Scandinavia, Switzerland, Canada, New Zealand, or parts of Australia.

Why stay in a declining economy with a corrupt leadership and a moribund health-care system?

Why not use the capacity of electronic telecommuting to ensconce yourself — now, while you still have some years to enjoy life — in a better place?

If I were my son, I would be so gone. Right now: I wouldn’t wait for retirement, certainly not given the wacksh!t direction into which our country’s politics have dragged us. I probably would leave the US, given half a chance to pull it off. But even if I chose to stay in the this country, you can be sure it wouldn’t be in Phoenix.

Speaking of the which: as we scribble a cop helicopter is buzzing its way toward us, the dog has flown into a batsh!t frenzy, and I suppose I’m going to have to get up, dig out a pistol, and lock the security doors. So much for the scheme of taking a moonlight dip in the pool.

Where would you want your kids to spend the best years of their life?

Routine, Crisis, and Grief in the Age of Covid

Up at 3:30 sharp. Hate this…especially in the Age of Covid. In the middle of the night, your neuroses and your hypochondria are unleashed. But it has become a custom, a habit, some kind of physiological necessity. The internal alarm clock goes off every morning between 3 and 4.

M’hijito is bringing his dog over here around 8, on the way over to pick up his dad and New Wife. Word came down that his grandmother — DXH’s mother — is breathing her last in the Grand Junction, Colorado, nursing home where she’s spent the last 20 years or so of her life.

She is 106 years old, God help her.

They were told that they would all have to take and pass covid tests if they are to go in to her room to say good-bye. Not that this would make much difference, as she’s been blind and deaf for upwards of a decade.

My son used to go over there several times a year to visit with her. But finally he announced he was not going back, because he didn’t believe she even knew he was there. That decision came down several years ago.

At any rate, from here he will run over to his dad’s house, pick them up, and drive them to Grand Junction, a 10- or 12-hour junket.

I am not pleased.

DXH is 80 years old, for God’s sake! He’s had a heart attack and bypass surgery. If he catches this thing, he is not going to get to be 81. NW is significantly younger…but you can be a whole lot younger than 80 and still not be a spring chicken. So both of them are put at risk by this junket, as indeed is my son. Unless they brought food with them, they’ll have to stop to eat either at Flagstaff or at Kayenta. They might make it to Four Corners without fainting from hunger…but I wouldn’t put money on it.

Kayenta, where we always used to stop to grab a bite to eat partway through this journey, is in the middle of the Navajo. The plague is holding forth there, as it has from the outset, with a vengeance. On the Rez, 8,243 people have fallen sick…they’re not even saying how many have died, but other sources report that it is a LOT. These are rural, almost nomadic people. There are no large towns on the Rez. By comparison, Yavapai County, which comprises the town of Prescott (once the state capital) has counted 1,167 cases so far. The population of the Navajo Nation is 273,667. The population of Yavapai County is 235,099. So…uhm…think of it this way: 273,667 is NOT to 8,243 as 235,099 is to 1,167.

Not by one helluva long shot.

So. I do not want my son or his father or his father’s wife driving through that area!

Of course, I have no choice in the matter. They decided not to fly, apparently figuring that was riskier for the old folks than driving. And that no doubt is true.

§§§

At 4:20 sharp, the hound and I are out the door!

Took her out to pee about 4:15 to find it was JUST GORGEOUS outside, Venus in the morning sky, the air highly tolerable.

I had decided to opt the morning walks until it cools off a little: by 5 or 5:30 a.m. it’s just gawdawful out there. (To give you an idea: it was 113 yesterday, down from 116 a couple days ago.) But in the predawn gloaming a thought occurred: y’know…we could shoot out, make our dash through Upper Richistan, and get back before the heat comes up.

What a brilliant idea! It was just lovely out. We encountered only one(!!!) dog, and that was on the way back into the ’Hood. Normally I have to wrestle Ruby past a dozen or more dogs. A coyote lives on the road that leads through Lower Richistan, but if she was in the shrubbery over there, she didn’t make herself known. Forgot to bring my shilelagh, so felt a little antsy about that…but mercifully, nothing happened.

Back in the house by 5:20. Dog fed. Human dropped into the pool. Plants watered. Bird dish refilled with water. Hot dang!

§§§

I never got along very well with my mother-in-law. She’s way too much like me: highly opinionated, and not very polite about it.

My mother, who struggled all too visibly to reserve judgment, was nevertheless unmistakably abhorred. And over time MiL did not wear well with me. I do not care whether your political and social and moral beliefs fail to come up to my elevated standards. Seriously. You can be as wacksh!t crazy as you like, you can even be a damned Trumpeter, and as long as you stay out of my face, you’re welcome to it. But that one…could not stay out of your face. If you did not think just the way she did, well then…obviously you were none too bright. And she was happy to tell you about it.

You know the type. Facebook is littered with them.

So that marriage entailed a 20-year struggle to stay polite around the woman. Thank God she lived in another state.

Yet at this point…well, I feel sorry for her but do not feel sorry she is passing.

To live to be 106 years old is to outlive life.

That horror is not something you would wish on anyone. Imagine being confined to a bed in a nursing home, unable to so much as get yourself to the toilet or into a shower stall, unable to see, unable to hear. Not even a mindless daytime TV show to while away the endless hours. There must be a better way to get off this mortal coil.

Her other son lives in Texas. I assume he’s flying over to Grand Junction. Whether they intend to linger at her side until she passes (if she passes…), I do not know. Whether funeral arrangements have been made, I do not know — although given that New Wife is a woman of sterling common sense and considerable prescience, I would assume so. And if so, are they going to stay in Colorado until a funeral and wake and whatever hoohah take place? Or what?

MiL made herself a minor celebrity there on the Western Slope, during her heyday. She wrote a newspaper column for the Grand Junction paper, worked for awhile as an announcer for the local NPR station, and carried a bright red banner of feminism over the heights of Grand Mesa and right into the precincts of Denver, where she got herself appointed to various political jobs, whenever a Democratic governor was in office. So active was she that at one point she was anointed Colorado’s Woman of the Year.

She did a lot, for a small-town librarian who had ill-advisedly married a bright but mentally questionable young man, struggled through 20 years of marriage, finally unloaded the clown (after he took up with his old college girlfriend), and ended up stuck in a small city in the middle of nowhere. Overall, she seemed fairly happy. She had friends. She adored her sons. She achieved a degree of recognition for her public work.

Not a bad life. All things considered.

The Strange Benefits of “Lockdown”

So we’re told that the “lockdown” of America’s population — basically urging everyone to stay in their homes, to shut down businesses, to stay at least six feet away from other people (preferably more), to stay away from church services, movie houses, athletic events, restaurants, and whatnot — has apparently begun to work. The coronavirus wildfire is beginning to cool. But we won’t be safe, not a chance, until a vaccine is produced. And when will that be?

“Given the current severity of the crisis, there are efforts to fast-track a vaccine for COVID-19 in as little as 12 to 18 months,” Dr. Abe Malkin, the founder and medical director of Concierge MD in Los Angeles told Business Insider.

A year to a year and a half? As little as? Seriously?

Our honored leader, dumb as a post as usual, craves to reopen the economy ASAP even though at the moment our country has the highest covid-19 death toll of any in the world: 20,000 of our people killed. This ill-advised desire of his is hardly surprising given that we’re headed into a depression the likes of which we haven’t seen since 1929 and that he campaigned on promises of invigorating the economy.

Meanwhile, those who understand economics warn that we’re skateboarding down the tubes at accelerating rates. “The pain will deepen,” opine the august editors of The Economist, “as defaults cascade through domestic payment chains.” Far as I can see, they’ve got that dead right. Recovery from this fiasco in the short term will be miraculous; in the long term it will require fortitude, patience, and — hang onto your hat — intelligent leadership.

If this thing goes on much longer, we could find that the measures we’re taking to save lives could alter the fabric of our society: change the ways we do things permanently.

On the other hand, not all is angst. Let us consider the strange benefits of “lockdown.”

It has given Mr. Trump a royal opportunity to display what a bumbling clown he is. Maybe his performance will move voters off the dime to get him out of office.

There’s almost no traffic! Even at 7 or 8 a.m., I can get across Feeder Street N/W without risking my life. The horrid Conduit of Blight Blvd. is relatively quiet and clear. Driving on a freeway is not the usual nightmare.

I haven’t bought gasoline in a month! And the car’s gas tank is still three-quarters full!

My auto insurer is refunding 15% of this year’s car insurance premium! Hafta say, it had crossed my mind to quietly resent having to pay to insure the tank for the weeks and possibly months that I’m not driving it. Since the cost of insuring that damn Venza is in the vicinity of $750, a 15% refund will go a ways toward next year’s tax & insurance budget.

With people home all the time, the neighborhood is safer: fewer burglaries, fewer car break-ins, less harassment of women.

Delivery services are growing. Getting someone else to bring your groceries to you instead of having to do battle with traffic and crowds is kinda nice. Walmart, Sprouts, Albertson’s, Safeway, Basha’s (a local grocery chain), Fry’s (Kroger), CVS, Walgreen’s, and Home Depot will deliver whatever your heart desires, right to your door. Right now I could order 20 pounds of (much-needed) birdseed from Walmart for a tiny fraction of what the same stuff goes for on Amazon.

Restaurants are turning themselves into grocery stores. In addition to selling cooked meals to go, many are selling grocery items. One proprietor here will sell you a margarita to go, too, with your upscale gourmet “Mexican” meal.

My son has been working at home for the past three weeks. He says his employer, a large nationwide insurance company, has closed and locked its large building in the East Valley. He’s afraid they won’t re-open it. Whether that means he thinks they’ll move their operation to some other city, laying off all their Phoenix workers, or whether he suspects they simply will ask everyone on their staff to telecommute has yet to be articulated. But…

Why not have all office workers work from home all the time? Companies wouldn’t have to rent expensive office buildings — these could be converted into homeless housing or retail space. Or  torn down to provide some green space. All a company would need is a meeting room to bring staff together once a month or so, and private space for one-on-one meetings.

Meanwhile, my neighbor across the street, a high school teacher and English-as-a-second-language specialist, appeared to be relaxing on his front porch the other day, talking into his laptop’s microphone. In response to a quizzical glance, he announced “I’m teaching!

Yep. I’ve done that. Created the Great Desert University’s first online course in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. It surely has its advantages over standing in front of a roomful of students for 90 minutes to three hours.

Why not put schools online all the time? Where schools exist to provide free lunches and baby-sitting services, why not frankly make them child-care centers? For single parents and couples who both have to work, existing school buildings could be converted into baby-sitting facilities with computer hookups to have the kids do their schoolwork online. Is it really necessary to congregate kids in prison-like facilities to teach them?

When I was teaching at the university’s westside campus — a commuter campus smack in the middle of a district where you really don’t  wanna put your kids in a public school — I was surprised to discover that a bunch of otherwise perfectly sane adult students were homeschooling their kids. Nooo, amazingly, they were NOT religious nuts or end-of-the-worlders. These were people who had tried the public schools in that part of town and found them beyond wanting. And because most were working-class folks, few of them were earning so much that one partner’s salary would be sorely missed. Several classmates explained that after doing the math, they realized that if one parent stayed home to supervise their kids’ homeschooling, it actually cost the family budget nothing — and indeed in some cases they came out ahead. This was because if one parent, usually the mother, stayed home, they didn’t have to pay for office clothing, for gasoline to commute, for higher auto insurance to cover commutes to two jobs, for lunches out, for day care, for summer child care, and so on. Not only that, but these people were convinced their children were getting better education — and having taught the products of Arizona’s public schools after they reach our universities and community colleges, I’d say they had somethin’ there. Not one but several of them reported that their kids could get through a whole day’s classroom instruction in two hours, sitting at the dining room table. They said that if they sat their kids down shortly after breakfast, the kids would go through the lessons, do the homework, and finish by noon.

They would then spend the afternoon in field trips, learning projects, music lessons, or other creative activities. Kids had no problem passing the standardized tests and no problem with the SATs.

Think o’ that… As for socialization, the public schools here are required to let home-schooled kids join in extra-curricular activities, so many of these kids were on track teams, baseball teams, band, debate clubs, even football teams. In addition, the Phoenix area has large kids’ soccer and baseball leagues, so there are plenty of PE-like things for home-schoolers to join.

I’m tellin’ you…if this lock-down maneuver goes on for very long, a whole lotta parents are going to figure that out. Why would you put your kid in a prison-like school where they’re going to bring home a disease, a pack of cigarettes, or a baggie of weed…when you could teach them better at home?

If that happens, school districts will (one hopes) respond by providing extensive online instruction. And then maybe all teachers will be able to hold forth from the comfort of their front patios.

And speaking of change in the offing…

Sheltering in place is about the same as aging in place. This fiasco is giving me a chance to see what will be involved in staying in my house when I’m too old to go out and bat around the homicidal streets of Phoenix, and to figure out how to make it happen, while I’m still “young” enough and clear-headed enough to figure anything out.

Being forced to figure out how to get damn near everything delivered is good preparation for the Aging in Place Scheme. If all the places that are doing home deliveries now continue to do so into the future — and they probably will, because most of them are contracting out the service — it would be relatively easy to stay in your home (assuming no crippling disability) well into your dotage. All these delivery services essentially co-opt the largest part of one’s need to drive.

For other purposes — entertainment, for example, or church, or clothes shopping — Uber or else catching rides with younger friends will do the job.

What’s good about social distancing and self-isolation in your parts?

Of Taxes and Best-Laid Plans and Lamps…

WonderAccountant is having a tax frenzy. Honestly…I don’t understand how anyone can do that crazy-making tax-prep ditz for a living!

I thought I’d set up my spreadsheets to totally simplify this year’s antics, but apparently I failed. One thing I didn’t realize is that repairs and maintenance on the house are now tax-related because we’re now a sole proprietorship, not an S-corp. It’s been many a year since I incorporated The Copyeditor’s Desk. We decided to de-incorporate, though, because she felt we would do better on the personal tax side if we did that.

This afternoon the young(ish) eldercare lawyer is supposed to call. I want to discuss the matter of the long-term care insurance, which everyone is telling me to get rid of. Naturally, when I called to cancel it, Metlife had a trained poodle on the phone coming up with every which way to keep me paying premiums.

So the next step was to plow through a four-inch-deep pile of paperwork from Metlife and its predecessor, TIAA-CREF. Metlife is truly notorious for trying to weasel out of paying benefits.

It was my understanding that if you quit paying, the issuer was supposed to pay back your premiums ($19,000, so far, since I started with TIAA in 2001). But…no. However, according to the original policy, which as far as I can tell was unchanged when Metlife bought TIAA’s LTC insurance business, they apply the balance to any nursing home bills you rack up — but they do not repay the unused premiums to you.

Well, after all these years, 19 grand would pay for 2.8 to 3.6 months of nursing home bills (private room/shared room)

Most people die within 3 months of admission to a nursing home. So what remains there would probably cover most of the bills.

If I quit paying premiums now and instead put the money in a CU savings account, at $133/month, that would add up to $1596 a year.

American baby-boomers can expect to live to be about 85, on average. So that would add $15,960 to the 19 grand already in Metlife’s coffers, for a total of $34,000 available (supposedly) to cover nursing home bills. Assuming I can get Metlife to return my money to me if I cancel their policy. At about $5,000 a month (by then, presumably), that would cover about 7 months in a home.

Some people, of course, are stuck there for a good deal longer than that.

My healthier relatives — the Christian Scientists who did not drink and did not consume coffee and walked daily and ate what we today call “whole foods” — lived to be 94. They each effectively dropped dead of heart attacks. Neither one went into a nursing home. But…let’s suppose you weren’t made of quite THAT sturdy stuff, but still you managed to stumble along to, say, about age 92 or so… Hmmm…. That would leave time, at $133/month, to accrue $27,132 for nursing home coverage. Let’s figure the price will be around 6 grand a month by then, eh?

$27,132 plus 19 grand (assuming Metlife even still existed to cough it up, assuming Metlife would cough it up) would give you $46,132 as a nursing home fund. Assuming nursing homes cost about 6 grand a month by then, that would last you about 7 1/2 months. According to my English-major arithmetic, which is nothing to place a bet on.

So…you’re takin’ your chances. My father was in a nursing home about two weeks before he croaked over. But…heaven help us! D-XMiL is a hundred and five years old and still alive, laying in a bed in a nursing home unable to see or hear. God help her. And she’s been in that state for years.

Interesting. Assuming inflation drives nursing home costs to “only” $5000 a month in 10 years (not a safe assumption) and to 6 grand in 15 years, the number of months that saving program would cover is almost same.

Jeez. Think o’that…

So after a brief telephone chat, our proposed new estate-planning/elder-care lawyer engineered a meeting in a couple of weeks. He thinks — contrary to the advice of the financial dude and the accountant but in accord with Consumer Reports’ opinion, that it’s actually a good idea to continue paying LTC premiums, if you can afford it. I can, but it frosts my cookies. PLUS: reviews of Metlife are awash in horror stories. Apparently they do every goddamn thing they can to avoid paying as agreed in their contract.

In less tenebrous climes…

Isn’t that a great word? Translations of the Greek epics describe Hades — which was just an underworld populated by the shades of the deceased, not Hell as in a place of torture — as “tenebrous.” Shady. 😀

In less tenebrous climes, the new glass shade arrived to replace the one I busted a couple weeks ago. None of us — we’re talking moi and not one, not two, but three lamp store and repair folks — could find one just like the deceased. The closest I could find is not opaline — it’s just milk-white — and is shallower & flatter than the late lamented shade. However, if you’d never seen the old shade, you sure wouldn’t know any better. I think it will do the job just fine. And to my amazement, it fits in the fixture and accommodates a 3-way bulb just fine.

The Lamps Plus dude proposed to adjust the fixture to make it fit exactly, which I suppose would be nice. But the fact is, it looks fine and I fail to see why it needs any adjustment.

And also in the lights department: The middle bathroom in my house is illuminated by a pair of matching wall fixtures, one on each side of the mirror over the sink, that each use a couple of small halogen lights. Naturally, one of those crapped out this morning.

So it was off to French’s Electric Co to try to snare replacement bulbs. Good luck, I figured, since every light bulb that works has been taken out of our sticky little hands.

To my surprise, they had a few! 40 watts, said he. So I bought the whole boxful, sensing that these will not be around much longer.

Indeed, when I got home I found that 40 watts was what the fixture was rated for…but that the other bulb in the lamed fixture was a 120-watt number. Jeez. So I replaced them both, elegantly not touching the glass on the things. Perfect!

Then I noticed that another bulb was out on the other fixture. Replaced that. Noticed that the two bulbs in there were also 120 wats. Hm.

BUT…the result was gorgeous! Much brighter than the incumbents…so much so that one could in theory paint one’s face in front of that mirror, which until today has not been an option. It’s been much too dim in that bathroom to make up your face.

I hope these will last. The upshot, though, was that I used two of the four lights I’d bought, trying to stockpile three of them for future use. So now I’ll have to go back over to French’s and buy another box of them, hoping to have enough to last into my dotage.

What a stockpile I have in the storage room! Almost every drawer is jammed with incandescent lightbulbs. That’s how much I hate, loathe, and despise the eye-stinging light from those horrid LED things. Once my stash is gone, I guess, I’ll have to switch to candles.

Since I habitually turn off the lights whenever I leave a room (unless I have to go out after dark and need to make it look like maybe someone’s home), light bulbs last a LONG time at the Funny Farm. A couple of those bulbs in the bathroom had been there since I had the fixtures installed — sixteen years ago. So I expect eight or twelve extras will last until I croak over. And then some.

Old Age: Fightin’ Back!

Yay! This morning WonderOrthodontist decided not to perform the next step in replacing the busted tooth, because he felt it needed some more healing time. Six weeks!!

This was not something I was looking forward to: I’ve had about enough pokes in the gums to last me for the rest of my life. So despite having to trudge over to his place through the rain, I was delighted to dart in, socialize with his charming staff members, admire his cuteness briefly (this is yet another highly educated specimen of gorgeousness!), and dart out.

However…  Driving across town reminded me — again — that Old Age is creepin’ up. That would be old age in the form of freaking senility.

I have to admit that I am beginning to feel some concern about issues that seem to be associated (possibly) with age.

Ever since I tripped in the dark over that busted slab of sidewalk, I’ve felt weirdly unsure on my feet. Especially in the bathtub…but also just about anyplace in the house. I find myself picking my way across the floor, particularly near steps, for fear I’m going to trip or misstep again. That is not my style.

But given that I walloped myself magnificently and that it took weeks and weeks to recover, it makes sense. It’s reasonable, right?

Fine. However, we have another issue that is much more worrisome: an apparent growing degree of confusion.

This is not forgetfulness, though like anyone over about 50, I forget where my keys are if I don’t put them away where they belong. As issues go, that one is neither very serious nor does it seem to be getting worse.

The problem has to do with not recognizing or remembering exactly where I am, even though I’m on a path that’s so beaten it’s practically polished.

I have been driving in this city since 1966. That is fifty-four years. I navigate by dead reckoning because a map of the roads and neighborhoods is imprinted on my consciousness like the migration routes in a mallard’s brain. Yea verily, I know the city so well I can get from point A to point B without even looking where I’m going. No, I don’t have to read the road signs anymore.

Except…

The other day I went out to the credit union, which lurks on the ASU West campus at 45th Avenue and Thunderbird. You understand, I worked at that place for ten years. I drove out there five or six days a week, every week, at least once and often twice in a given day. Frequently I drove out and back after dark, to teach night classes.

ASU’s westside campus is bounded on the east side by 43rd Avenue and on the west side by 51st Avenue. Both of these are faceless, bland, Southern-California-style runways that pass through faceless, bland tracts falling to decay and past faceless, bland strip malls that invite you to do nothing more than to pass them by.

So I’m cruising up 43rd, and on the way am looking for a Fry’s Supermarket that stands on an east-west thoroughfare called Peoria — another faceless, blandly ugly road. When I can’t find the thing, I figure it’s on the next road over, west of the campus, not east of it.

I know that is wrong, because I know what’s on 51st, and it ain’t a Fry’s. But nevertheless I come to believe that is the case. But here’s the thing: I think I’m on 35th Avenue and that the next road on the other side of the campus is 43rd. Which it decidedly is not.

When I realize I’m not northbound on 35th but instead am already on 43rd, I become seriously confused…as in I don’t know quite where I am. Not until my car comes up beside the campus do I recognize where I am, but I still can’t understand why 43rd is in the wrong place.

It’s not, of course…35th is the road I use to drive from the campus up to the Costco on the I-17 — it’s another couple miles to the east of the campus.

Even after I finish the errand in the credit union and climb back into the car, I’m still almost convinced that 43rd is on the west side of the campus. To wit: I’ve come unstuck in space!

That was creepy.

And now we have today. I head off to the orthodontist’s. His office is situated on a road I have used to drive home from the ASU Main campus and back and forth to various shopping and business venues for many, many years. I’ve been to his office several times over the past three months or so.

The usual route would be across Glendale (which gets renamed “Lincoln” as it passes eastward) to 36th Street, down through a ritzy neighborhood to Stanford, eastward again past the swankiest private school in the state, and then south on 40th to the doc’s office building. However, Glendale/Lincoln has been all dug up for yet another public-works boondoggle and is projected to be so for months. It is one of the most heavily traveled surface streets in the city, and so has been bumper-to-bumper all the way from 24th Street to Tatum, on the edge of Scottsdale.

Avoid!

Hordes of avoiders are driving all the way down to Camelback Road to move east and west across the north-central part of the city. Thus, Camelback Road:

Avoid!

So the plan is to drop down 7th Street (where I have to buy some gasoline) to a major feeder street called Missouri, cruise across that to 24th, and from there go north and then navigate east across Stanford to 40th Street.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

See…the problem is… Stanford doesn’t go through to 24th Street.

You have to pick it up on 32nd, where it debouches into the fast-moving traffic flying between Camelback and Lincoln.

I know this. I know it as well as I know where the water glasses in my kitchen cupboards are.

Nevertheless, I make my way across Missouri to 24th and then northward…growing ever more puzzled that I can’t find the turn onto Stanford.

Not until I get almost all the way up to Lincoln do I realize that I’m on the wrong road to turn east on Stanford!

Got that? I’m as lost and as confused as a flatland tourister from Cleveland!

This is alarming because I’ve used that Stanford cut-through for years to get across the city to and from Scottsdale, to get to my hair stylist, to dodge traffic while coming back from Tempe, and to evade the eternal mess on Camelback Road.

Holy sh!t.

It begins to look a whole lot more alarming than “losing” your car keys or your glasses. It begins to look a whole lot like real senility.

I should not be confused in any way about something I’m so familiar with. Something’s wrong there.

{sigh} Reflecting on this predicament this afternoon, I wondered if I might be doing something to cause this — other than simply aging. If so, what might that “something” be?

Well, there are several possibilities, to tell the truth. For one, I hardly ever go out any more — that’s why the mileage on my car is so low. I hate driving in Phoenix’s wackshit traffic, and so avoid it as much as possible. That’s why I quit the Scottsdale Business Association: that drive to the Pavilions, way to Hell and gone across two freeways in the rush hour, was more than I cared to contemplate.

So we have some candidate causes here:

  1. Lassitude. I’ve stopped doing almost everything. I’m not even keeping up the garden.
  2. Lack of social contact. The church is the only place I see people anymore.
  3. Illness and injury. Neither of these can be helping the situation.
  4. Drinking. Possibly two or three glasses of beer, wine, or whiskey are 2 or 3 too many.
  5. Lack of interest in much. I don’t give a shit anymore.
  6. Desire to stay off the roads; increasing dislike of driving.
  7. Age.
  8. Possibly signs of senile dementia.

Could be any of these. Could be all of ’em, eh?

So the question is… Is there anything that can be done about this stuff?

Obviously, there’s nothing I can do about getting older. Nor, if I’m losing my marbles, can I do anything about that.

Maybe I can slow the process down a bit, though.

  1. Get off the duff! Get back to gardening (at least), get back to hiking in the mountain preserves. Pick up a goddamn pen and start writing again. Take the dog to different places to walk. Re-explore the Valley.
  2. Revive old friendships and relationships. Try to inveigle my way back into SBA or, failing that, rejoin the Chamber, whose avatars persist in nagging me to come back. Join one of the many groups at the church.
  3. Drink water, not wine or beer, with dinner.
  4. Get over it about the damn traffic! Stick the dog in the car and take her to other parks and hiking trails. Or just drive up the rim and hike in the sticks.
  5. Do some shopping. I haven’t seen the inside of My Sister’s Closet of Nordstrom’s Rack in two or three years.
  6. And…keep a record of these happenings, to see if they continue even if I manage to change the elements above.

Frankly, I don’t feel much hope that throwing myself around to bring a little more life back into my life is going to make much difference. Doubt if it’ll do much harm, though. And if I do have a record of this weird stuff, at least I’ll know whether it’s real. Or not.