Coffee heat rising

Loafifying…

How was your Thanksgiving? I hope a pleasant holiday was had by one and all! Mijito and I went over to his friends’ house…they not being middle-aged bachelors are happily married with half-grown kids and large extended families. Had a great time!

Today, I’m hanging out at the Funny Farm doing…nothing. Exactly nothing.

This loafing stuff has gotta stop! I’ve become addicted to it. I’ve learned to loaf with élan thanks to the Covid terror…I don’t even go to grocery stores anymore: just send a delivery person or order on Amazon. Walk the dog twice a day. And that’s it, in the mobility department.

The plague thing, it appears, is never gonna go away.  This is ducky: Looks like we’re going to have to run out and get a new set of shots every time the damn virus mutates into some new strain.

Dunno about you, but I’m getting mighty tired of the lock-up in solitary confinement. I see no one. I go nowhere. I do nothing. And I’m mighty tired of it! {whine}

That’s only a slight exaggeration. Driving around in parts of town where I haven’t gone since the lockdown began is vaguely disorienting. The city continues to evolve as we sit hunkered down in our caves. Normally, I’d be driving through those areas even if I wasn’t going TO a destination there, just to get from Point A to Point B. But since I don’t go to Point B anymore — send the Instacart runner if I must, or else order stuff on Amazon — there actually are parts of the city where I haven’t gone in a year or more, since this whole flap arose. And without the church and choir, I have exactly zero social life. Thanksgiving at the kids’ (now middle-age parents’…) house was the first large social event I’ve been to since the horrible flap blew up.

And it looks like the solitary confinement is not gonna go away soon:  Pfizer says, sounding optimistic, that it can whip up a new vaccine for the Omicron variant in a mere 100 days — forgodsake, that’s three and a half months! Before it even starts to get to market…

Meanwhile… Have you been watching the price of real estate? Migawd…we’re putting Southern California to shame. Lookit this: two bedrooms, one bath. Over by the coliseum, where the neighborhood streets (and people’s front yards) disappear under a tide of parked cars every time any event takes place. Four and a quarter! Over four times my father’s entire retirement savings, which he figured would support him from the age of about 50 until he fell face-forward into the grave. Then we have this astonishing slum property, right around the corner from Chuck’s Auto (car dude extraordinaire), around the corner from Xavier & Brophy (fancy private high schools), and within walking distance of the place where DXH and I lived when we were first married: https://my.flexmls.com/DeanTompkims/search/contacts/20211024182402853739000000/newsfeeds/listings/20211124193010032749000000  Terrifying!!

Seriously terrifying: if a fire started on that stove while you were upstairs in the bathroom, you’d have to jump out a window to escape. Assuming you could get a window open…

The Funny Farm is supposedly worth (sez Zillow) over five times what I paid for an identical model two blocks closer to Conduit of Blight Blvd., back in the day; and well over twice what I paid for the present FF. How the hell do young people get by in these circumstances?

Meanwhile, in other overpriced climes: couldn’t make it to Costco on gasoline fumes yesterday, so filled up at the QT over in east Sunnyslope: THREE DOLLARS AND EIGHTY-NINE CENTS A GALLON!

Hoooolleeeee mackerel. Went ahead and filled up there, though, figuring a couple extra bucks was worth avoiding a twenty-minute wait in line at Costco’s gas pumps. Plus I wasn’t entirely sure the tank had enough gas to make it all the way out to Paradise Valley.

It bein’ Black Friday, Costco was JUST JAMMED.

Only needed a couple things, though, so that was not such a BFD.

Quite.

Well. Yes, it was.

One of the things I needed there was to order up a new pair of  glasses, since this morning I was soooooo delighted to discover I’d lost my regular pair of progressives. Supposedly a prescription is good for one year. By law.

Answer: Nooooo they will not. My computer says it’s still November. Right? I renewed these effing glasses last December. THEREFORE we should have another couple weeks to go before I have to do another government-mandated hoop-jump.

Well. No. They flat refused to sell me a new pair of glasses.

Next time I get a new spectacularly expensive prescription, I am going to buy TWO pairs of regular (not shades) progressives, so that I don’t get screwed like this again. One Rx fits me for a good two to three years, and if I lose or break a pair, I do NOT need Big Brother ordering me to throw my money down the drain like that.

And speaking of spectacularly expensive: Inside the Costco, I picked up a chunk of my favorite white cheddar cheese and then turned to the adjacent wine aisles, where I planned to restock the stash of Spectacularly Cheap Red.

Uh…

No.

INCREDIBLY, their prices for Cheap Plonk were in the Baron Rothschild range!!! Seriously: You could do better on a mid-range to cheapo bottle at freakin’ AJ’s (!!!!!!). And certainly much, MUCH better at Sprouts.

So I was just furious. Drove way to Hell and Gone out to Paradise Valley and bought nothing except for a chunk of cheddar cheese, the like of which also I could’ve gotten at AJ’s or Sprouts, in smaller quantity. And after this: those fine venues are gonna be where I shop

{sigh} After I got home, I stumbled upon the “lost” glasses, so once again can see my feet as well as the side of North Mountain. I’d put them away. As in their proper glasses case, in the cabinet where they belong…bizarre behavior! No wonder I couldn’t find them…

What a g.d. wasted afternoon.

Not exactly loafing, quite. (A typical Costco covers about an acre, so a stroll around it is at least a little bit of a walk.) But somehow wasting time and effort seems even more unhealthy than loafing.

Loafing’s not all that great for your morale, though. Yesterday while wasting time on the computer, I chanced to learn that my former bestie’s brother-in-law died several years ago, in Prescott. Of melanoma, the very entity Wonder-Dermatologist sliced off my face a few weeks ago.

That is just hair-raising…you couldn’t hope to meet a more vigorous, smart, and healthy man.

Ex-bestie: retired from Scottsdale Community College, living in Washington State with her new hubby, in what looks like a very nice home and neighborhood. Ex-bestie’s ex-husband: remarried and living happily ever after in a small town in Oregon. Third of the three brothers: still in Arizona and practicing law, having retired from the Superior Court bench.

How could we possibly all be old enough to have retired???????

Slow-Motion Suicide?

Every now and again, I think about my mother. And I wonder.

Did she kill herself on purpose?

Like today’s political conservatives who disbelieve and reject what the CDC says about covid-19, she and her cohort disregarded what a government agency said about tobacco smoking. Stupidity, ignorance, cant…whatever you want to call it…the effect was the same. Science meant nothing to her. Facts meant nothing to her. The obvious meant nothing to her. She would do as she pleased and would hear not a word to the contrary from Big Brother.

***

My father, who went to sea until a few years before she developed the cancer that would kill her, apparently wasn’t paying attention. Evidently it never registered: the only conscious moments she spent without a cigarette in her hand were when she was in the shower and when she was stuffing food into her face.

Otherwise…first thing in the morning she lit up a cigarette, before she lifted her head from the pillow, and the last thing she did before she turned off the nightstand light was to smash out the cigarette she was smoking to see off the day. She puffed away until food was on the table, and the instant she put her fork down after a meal, she lit up another cigarette. Once she was at my house for 40 minutes…by the time she left, the seven-inch-wide ashtray on the coffee table was full to overflowing with butts smoked all the way down to the filter.

Even though he smoked, too, how could he not have noticed how extreme her habit was?

But he didn’t. Oddly enough.

🙁

You only just now noticed? How could you have missed it? Did you, seriously, never pay any attention to her? Maybe that’s why she spent most of her adult life committing slow-motion suicide?

Happy {sigh} Hallowe’en…

Hallowe’en is hands-down my favorite holiday. I just love seeing all the cute kids (and teenagers…and grownups) decked out in their costumes and handing out candy from our post in the neighbor’s driveway. Which makes this covid-plagued holiday…well…just depressing.

My neighbors, one of whom has a potentially life-threatening case of chronic asthma, agreed with me that we should refrain from participating. Given that I have a bizarre vulnerability to respiratory infections — a good case of the flu can lay me out for two months — I’m unhappily going along with this. Soooo… Instead of partying by the sidewalk, we’re all hunkered down inside our houses with the front blinds shut and the lights in the front of the houses shut off.

{sob!}

To forestall a doggy frenzy, I took Ruby the Corgi for a short walk. A big block party is going on down the street. (Who, us? We don’t need no steenkin’ virus protection!), and the usual hordes of cuties and crazy teenagers are milling around. We crossed the street whenever we saw another gaggle coming along, but…I hope we didn’t stroll through any clouds of viruses. The principal mode of contagion is respiratory: picking up the virus on the air. (sigh) So I risked my life, just by walking the dog around the block this evening.

But oh, my! WHAT a beautiful evening it is. Venus floats in the western sky, the deep azure west deepening to black as your gaze moves toward the zenith. All the cuties are charging around, just too adorable to be believed. Grown-ups lurk on their front yards in lawn chairs. And…

Yeah: …and all their germs are floating in the air.

Have I exposed myself to the disease by walking the dog when mobs of kids and teenagers and parents were roiling around?

Probably not. Says the CDC: “The principal mode by which people are infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is through exposure to respiratory fluids carrying infectious virus.”

Yipes!

However. that august source continues, “The risk for infection decreases with increasing distance from the source and increasing time after exhalation. . . . Although infections through inhalation at distances greater than six feet from an infectious source are less likely than at closer distances, the phenomenon has been repeatedly documented under certain preventable circumstances.10-21 These transmission events have involved the presence of an infectious person exhaling virus indoors for an extended time (more than 15 minutes and in some cases hours) leading to virus concentrations in the air space sufficient to transmit infections to people more than 6 feet away, and in some cases to people who have passed through that space soon after the infectious person left.”

So…

  • Nope: never got within six feet of any passers-by or sidewalk candy-hawkers.
  • Nope: definitely not around anyone for more than 15 minutes…or even for anything like as long as 15 minutes.
  • Nope: absolutely not indoors with anyone.

Looks unlikely that the dog and I exposed ourselves tonight.

Ah…paranoia in the time of pestilence…

9/11: Twenty Years On…

This morning one of my walking buddies asked me where I was and what I was doing at the time of the 9/11 attack.

Well: I was on the phone to my son in Oakland, trying to convince him not to go to work in San Francisco via the Bay Bridge. He was having none o’that from his muther, but mercifully his employers called every worker and told them to stay home, stay out of downtown SF, stay put.

Having lived for ten long years in Saudi Arabia, I think I can share a little insight into those terroristic events. Like this:

The Saudis supply a large portion of the gas and oil this country requires to keep on operating as a “First-World” country. You may be sure we wouldn’t want to hurt their dainty feelings. Would we? Even though most of them deeply hate us, as infidels and as Westerners.

Seriously, I’m convinced that the sole reason for continued diplomatic and business relations with the Saudis is to facilitate pumping and export of their oil to Western countries.

Our friends and our enemies, in the world of RealPolitik, are those who are of some use to us at any given time.

Y’know, after all these years I remain puzzled over one question:

Why did the 9/11 plotters do such a damn half-assed job of it?

Think about that.

They swiped three airplanes and flew them toward targets that were, yes, significant. But despite the mayhem they caused, they inflicted nothing even faintly like crippling damage to this country. And they could’ve. It would have been easy.

Like this:

Yes, engage Plan A: hijack a couple of large planes full of jet fuel and ram them into key targets. But…at the same time:

Develop Plan B to include federal sites in at least two or three other major cities, such as Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Dallas/Ft Worth…whatever. In these cities, use trucks or automobiles carrying explosives to bomb key sites. Attack them all at the same moment.

For example…

  • In San Francisco, blow up the Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the San Mateo Bridge. This would bring the city to a dead stop; at the time it could have been accomplished easily.
  • Also in the Bay Area, take out Treasure Island, which hosts a key naval base.
  • In Seattle, blow up the metro train/bridge network, or set off a bomb just about anywhere in the airport.
  • In L.A. set off bombs at LAX, John Wayne Airport, and the Ontario Airport. These would not have to be taken into a terminal; any explosion in any location at one of these sites would bring the facility to a halt.
  • In Chicago, take out the Federal Complex — again, reasonably easy to do with a UPS truck bearing a load of dynamite.
  • In any major seaport, blow up the piers for freighter and tanker docking.

None of this would have been hard to accomplish, and all of those actions could have been timed to happen at once. When I say the plotters weren’t very bright, I ain’t kiddin’. Instead of wreaking serious havoc nationwide — doable at minimal expense and modest loss of Heroic Martyrs’ lives — they showboated with a spectacular event that, in view of what they could have done without much more expense and manpower, took out relatively few Americans (almost none of them military or part of the upper leadership) and did relatively little damage. A couple of NYC skyscrapers in comparison to skyscrapers in several cities plus the major thoroughfares into a key West Coast city plus anyone who happened to be at an airport in LA or Seattle at the wrong time plus chaos at a large West-Coast naval base plus destruction of government buildings in a major Midwestern regional city plus destruction of a major seaport (with concommittant loss of lives, freighters, and tankers) would really have done the job.

Our boys had relatives and friends in the higher echelons of the Saudi government. Given enough time, they could have raised all the cash they would have needed to launch a coordinated, multi-pronged attack. And they had a good shot at pulling it off.

They fu*ked it up, I’m afraid…

Luckily for us.

A Raft Made of Palm Fronds

Where we lived in Saudi Arabia — I grew up in an oil camp full of American expats on the shore of the Persian Gulf — the fences between our houses were made of sticks derived from stripping the leaves off the center spines of palm-tree fronds. Date palms, oleanders, a kind of jasmine shrub, and a tree-like affair that looked a great deal like a paloverde were the only things that grew out there, where the soil was mostly sand and salt. A sort of bermuda-grass would grow, in a sickly and lumpy way. But otherwise that was about it.

I had a plan, when I was a little girl.

It was to run away.

Not just to run away, but to sail away — because obviously, even to the mind of a young child, the only plausible means of escape were by air (impossible for a kid without her parents) or by sea.

The latter would be exquisitely dangerous. Even the ten-year-old I recognized that. But it was reasonable to reflect that to be dead would be better than to continue living in that place.

I was an unpopular little kid — a weird one. School was an unhappy place for me. And home wasn’t a whole lot better when I wasn’t sequestered in my room,  terrified of my father and  miserable in general with life.

So I hatched a Plan.

The Plan was to build a raft, equipped with a sail made from a sheet, and set to sea off the coast of the Rub al Khali, one of the most barren deserts on the planet. The body of this raft would be made of palm ribs, readily available from the fences the Arabs built to delineate the lots that held the Americans’ company houses. These I would lash together with rope and wire.

Once fully equipped, I would sail down the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz, then make my way up coast of Asia. Cross the Bering Strait and make landfall in Alaska. From there I would walk and hitch-hike down into California. And once home: take up the lifestyle of Little Orphan Annie.

Great idea, ain’t it?

This evening I was led to reflect on my father’s life, blighted as it was from the beginning by circumstance, and how he managed to overcome most of that. Yet…how any extended happiness contrived to elude him.

My father was a change-of-life baby, an unfortunate surprise for his parents. His youngest brother was 18 years older than he was.

His father did not want to raise another child, starting out in middle age. So he ran off, leaving the infant and the 40-plus mother in Texas to fend for themselves. She had inherited a substantial amount of money from her own father, who had made a fortune freighting buffalo hides out of Oklahoma into Kansas. Some time later, the unwilling dad was found by the side of a remote East Texas road, allegedly a suicide.

That, I think, is dubious. Given that during his careers as a prison guard and as a cowboy he had plenty of opportunities to make the occasional mortal enemy, I suspect it’s just as possible that he was murdered. But that, interesting as it may be, is neither here nor there.

My grandmother diddled away her late father’s wealth (equivalent of about $2.75 million in today’s money), swindled by dubious building contractors offering to fancify her home and by spiritualists who promised to contact the dead in séances from the living room. When the two older brothers learned their expected inheritance had been looted — way too late! — they turned on each other. My father dropped out of high school, lied about his age, and joined the Navy.

Hence, a career as a deck officer: Navy, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine. It was this seafaring work experience that bought him a handsomely paid, all-expenses-covered job as a harbor pilot in Arabia, steering supertankers in and out of the port at Ras Tanura.

He led an interesting life full of interesting (but also often tedious) adventures. He worked hard. He set himself the goal of earning and putting into savings the amount of the fortune his mother squandered. Today, that’s no great pile of dough — to buy my little tract house would cost five times that many dollars. But he wasn’t an educated man and he didn’t understand about inflation. And besides, by the time he retired, the dollar hadn’t lost so much value that he and my mother couldn’t live a modest middle-class lifestyle on what he’d saved. They paid for everything in cash: cars, the house in Sun City, their daily necessities. If they couldn’t afford to buy it in cash, they didn’t buy it. And they lived pretty well.

That cash-only lifestyle — and its obvious benefits when good times turn to hard times — was what taught me never to buy anything that you can’t afford to pay for out of pocket. That includes a house: if you don’t have $500,000 in savings (and then some), don’t buy a $500,000 house. Buy a $100,000 house and pay for it in cash dollah.

[Unless, of course, your investments are returning more than the amount of interest you would have to pay on a mortgage loan. That concept was above my father’s head, but it’s worked OK for me.]

I think he never had a very happy life. Or if he did, it was only for short stretches. He went to sea most of his adult life: hard, tedious work. As for the ten-year stretch in Arabia? Who knows what he really thought about it: he wasn’t a complainer. I doubt if he thought much about it one way or the other: he took things as they lay.

My mother used my (supposed…) infection with mononucleosis in the 6th grade as an excuse to demand that we come back to the States. He reluctantly agreed. We moved to California, where for a few years he shipped out of Rodeo (in the San Francisco Bay Area) and then for a few more years out of Long Beach. By nature he was a homebody — he loved to putter, and he would cheerfully do things like scrub the kitchen floor for my mother. But now “home” was a cabin on an oil tanker.

He retired in the late 1960s…just in time for a wild inflationary period. Shortly, the value of his life savings shrunken, he had to go back to sea: he was on a boat when I graduated from college, and he was stuck in a storm off Alaska when I got married.

Finally he retired again, once and for all, and came “home” to Sun City.

I believe he and my mother were happy enough there, for awhile. But it wasn’t long before she smoked herself to death. Not surprisingly, given that she was smoking six packs a day by the time she died, she lasted only another six or seven years after they moved to Arizona. Then he had to care for her while she died hideously over a four- or five-month period.

Devastated by her death and the horror show that accompanied it, he sold the Sun City house, moved to a life-care community, and married a woman he met there. This was not an especially happy match. But because he was afraid that if he divorced her she would get all his money (Arizona is a community-property state), he stayed miserably in the union. By way of survival, he snuck off and rented a studio at another old-folkerie…he would tell the wifeling that he was taking the car to the repair shop, and then he would repair, all right: to the other apartment and sit in front of the TV all day.

LOL! You shoulda seen the Vigoro fly when she found out about that! 😀

When you come right down to it, life is a raft made of palm fronds, isn’t it?

Movin’ on Up…

No freakin’ way do I remember what I intended to write for the next FaM post, working title “The Anchorite’s Story”…ohhhh yeah, you can imagine, right? WhateverTF, times have changed.

Times change by the hour these days. Have you noticed that?

Down to the Church this morning and afternoon, for a get-together and lunch and plans for what on Earth are we gonna do? Volunteered to go back to help staff the Front Desk: seem to be assigned Thursday afternoons. Could not be more perfect, dear Boss! <3

So we sang a bit, hunkered together in the Sanctuary, toward the back. Our spectacularly talented music/choir director played spectacular music on the organ and then showed up at lunch and asked us to come on back, come on back. And of course, none of us could stand it: OUTTA OUR WAY! We’re comin’ on back!!