Coffee heat rising

Jack Frost Is y-Cumin’ In

The Weather Service tells us it’s COLD out there! We noticed, already… 😀 Temps are supposed to go down to 35 tonight and 33 tomorrow night. They’ve revised Wednesday’s 32-degree forecast upward, to a balmy 33. That optimism notwithstanding, they’ve issued a frost warning.

I engineered this change in our weather fortunes singlehandedly: by purchasing a Ficus benjamina and planting it in the pot recently vacated by the sickly rubber plant. Ficus, as you may know, is frost-sensitive. But I’d already subjected it to potentially killing stress a couple days ago…really, it’ll be an amazing surprise if that thing lives to see the middle of March.

Well, to get this new ornamental house-tree into the gigantic pot I wanted to put it in, I needed Gerardo the Wonder Lawn Dude’s help. The rubber plant reached up to the roof, and I figured it would be too large and heavy for me to manage. The plan was to ask him to pull out that plant whenever he next came around.

Meanwhile, SDXB called and invited himself over, craving company and some kind of time-killing junket. Couple days ago, he surfaced at 9 a.m. sharp, ready to roll.

Naturally, Gerardo and his boys showed up  just as SDXB did. I asked them not only to extirpate the moribund rubber plant but also to install the newly purchased ficus in its huge ceramic pot. This was, we could justly say, a mistake. What is the matter with me?

Was there some reason I could not have figured out, beforehand, that Gerardo is a landscape maintenance dude, not a nurseryman? Why would I imagine he would know anything about how to pot a plant? Or how to transplant a potted plant from Pot 1 to Pot 2? Whaaa?

In the first place, they  busted the rolling stand the thing perches on. So he took the wheels off it, placed the remains of the top on the ground, and plopped the pot on top of it. On the deck, where it belongs? Where it’s sheltered by the patio roof? Hell, no: they left it on the surface next to the deck, where the plant would get the full blast of sun and frost.

With the dirt, the plant, and water in it, I could not even budge the pot, much less lift it six inches and leverage it into place on the deck.  The thing was so heavy, I couldn’t even scoot it onto the dolly so as to try to leverage it up on that thing. Need we be reminded that ficus is frost-sensitive?

Come Wednesday, that plant promises  to be a dead ficus.

Its only hope was for me to pull it out of the pot. dig the dirt out of the pot , then lift the pot onto the deck. Then refill the pot and replant the ficus.

To do that, though, I had to drive way to hell and gone up to Home Depot and buy a new rolling plant stand thingie to replace the deceased. That of course consumed an hour of the day.

And the rest of the day? Fully cannibalized by the replanting project.

I had to dig the soggy, wet dirt out from around the plant’s root ball, dump it into the wheelbarrow, lift out the plant and set it aside, then dig out the rest of the even soggier, wetter dirt and deposit that in the barrow. Then and only then was the huge blue ceramic pot “light” (hah!) enough for me to lift.

In the process, I found Gerardo’s guys had recycled the dirt from the rubber plant, dumping it back into the pot. And lo! What should I find dwelling in the stuff but nice, big, fat paloverde beetle grubs. Three of ’em. Shee-ut!

Welp, that’s three fewer paloverde beetles to depredate the land. And it explains what ailed the rubber plant — the things eat the roots of plants growing where Mom lays her eggs.

Next, I needed to apply some of the insecticide that is believed to at least make a small dent on this creature’s ever-growing population. But, too tired at the end of the day to continue, decided to put that chore off.

Til today, for example?

The frost is about to be on the palm!

Not so much. With hysterical FROST WARNINGS emanating from the government and the media, I figured I’d better drag the smaller potted plants inside and then cover the larger ones — including the twice-transplanted ficus — with drop cloths.

This, it developed, turned into one bitch of an all-day project.

To start with, several of the shop lights I use to warm the air around the potted plants that have to be left outside on cold nights had gone missing. I needed two more. Plus lightbulbs to go in them. Plus some other bits and pieces of junk. Sooo…it was back to Home Depot…again.

Came away with those and some 100-watt incandescents (these new damned LED lights not only fail to emit light that doesn’t hurt your eyes, they fail to emit warmth). Every time I spot incandescent bulbs, I grab a bunch to add to my stash. In-fuckin’-furiating!

Oh well.

I also bought a new Kwikset deadbolt to replace the one the locksmith claimed was jamming because the key was worn out. Galloping Bull Shit, that: the lock jammed again yesterday. And the other two locks, which also work with the same key, operate with no problem. So now I’ve got to get a locksmith over here to install that, to my annoyance. Later.

Back at the Funny Farm… I had forgotten how much work it is to hang all those frost covers. Seven or eight of them, most of which have to be tied up or tied down, with the help of a ladder, a hammer, a box of nails, and a bag of curtain rings. It’s been quite awhile since we’ve had a hard frost here — five or six years, at least. And during that time I’ve grown, well…commensurately older. Dragging that ladder and all those old sheets around and climbing up and down and up and down and up and down and zip-tying and hooking and farting around is a great deal more tiring in 2020 than it was the last time I did it.

None of these tergiversations were  helped by cold gusts of wind, which came up in the afternoon. Every time I’d get a length of cloth in place, the wind would pick it up before I could tie it or weight it down with a rock. So, many a haul and a stretch and a throw had to be done two or three times.

I’m afraid I’m finally beginning to feel my age. Which is, we might say, considerable.

Thanks, Mr. Stranger Man…

So once again Harvey the Hayward Pool Cleaner has choked on a palm-tree seed, and I’ve dragged him (and myself…) up to the Leslie’s Pools store to be dissected, cleaned out, and put back together.

This process is free, but it’s a time-consuming nuisance.

After the palm trees favored in our parts have flowered (these are not date palms), they drop hundreds and hundreds of hard, BB-like black seeds. Right into the pool. Every time the wind blows. Every time it rains.

These BB’s can jam Harvey’s spinning innards, which are propelled by the force of water being sucked through the pool’s filter and pump. When that happens, Harvey comes to a dead stop, and no further pool cleaning gets done. Leslie’s will take him apart, remove the offending bead or beads, and put him back together.

Drag Harvey home, drop him back in the pool, slide the hose into the water so it fills up by displacing all the air in it, repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

A guy was there before me, and only one of the Leslie’s crew was minding the store. The kid said he’d be right with me; I said “no hurry.” So I waited. And waited. And waited. Two other guys came in. They waited. Another guy came in. He waited.

The fourth guy, bored, struck up a desultory conversation, during which I remarked that Harvey had choked on a palm-tree BB.

Now, this guy was an actual, living, breathing pool guy. In addition to fleecing the hoi polloi, Leslie’s does a to-the-trade business, providing deep discounts to people who can prove they’re pro’s.

“You know,” says he, “you can fix that, most of the time, by turning the cleaner upside down and giving it a sharp shake.”

What? “Oh, yeah?”

I flip Harvey over and shake him a couple of times, and POP! Out comes the offending seed. It bounces across the floor.

“Now,” says my informant, “you stick your finger in here and see if this thing will move around.” This thing is some kind of rotor device that resides just inside the hose connection. He demonstrates.

Then he flips the gadget back over.

“He needs new feet,” he says. It’s amazing how the “Harvey” conceit is contagious. Call the thing “Harvey the Hayward Pool Cleaner” and the next thing you know, everyone is calling it “him.” 😀  “And new wings.”

He then proceeds to advise on how to replace the wings, and, soto voce, suggests buying these parts from Amazon, where (as anyone who knows anything about Leslie’s knows…), they’re much cheaper.

Okay. Sooo…. I slip out the door while our cute young sales clerk is still occupied with Customer No. 1. I’m skeptical about this, but…figure it can’t hurt to schlep Harvey home and try him out.

Drag him into the house. Lash him back up to his hose. Drop him in the drink. A-N-N-N-N-D….

Holy mackerel! He takes off like a rocket!

Harvey has not shot around the pool like that since I had the puddle resurfaced!

I figured his sluggish pace was caused by the coarse, annoying quality of the PebbleSheen. But apparently not!

Two, three hours have passed, and Harvey is still going strong. He does still get hung up on the hateful new Save-the-Proles-from-Themselves drain covers, but instead of staying stuck until I come along and bump him loose, after a minute or two he manages to work himself free.


So I’m going to order the wings from Amazon, and maybe the feet, too — especially if I can find change-’em-out instructions on YouTube. Like, ohhh, say, this one…

Whoever that guy was, he not only saved me a whole lot of time (going forward), but he also saved me a bundle of dough.

I had grown so tired of the repeated junkets to Leslie’s — once every two or three days, during the seed-shedding season — that I’d decided to buy one of the newer Hayward cleaners that runs on wheels. These allegedly can handle the stupid new drain covers and also supposedly suffer less wear on the abrasive PebbleSheen surface. Planned to keep Harvey as a back-up, knowing this new thing will probably gag on palm BBs, too. Thing is…these gadgets cost FOUR HUNDRED AND EIGHT DOLLAH.

At Amazon. Probably more than that at Leslie’s.

Well. Mr. Stranger Man not only showed me a 30-second fix for Harvey, he also (silently) demonstrated that once actually fixed, Harvey runs as well on that PebbleSheen gunk as he did on the old-fashioned nice, smooth plaster!

I’ll be damned.

Of course, sooner or later Harvey will wear out. But when he does, his replacement will only be about $300, not $400+ for the wheelie model.

Meanwhile, I may not have to trim the accursed palm trees at all. Two or three years ago, to Gerardo’s chagrin, I stopped hiring him (or anyone) to climb up there and cut the previous year’s dead growth off. This, because Gerardo decided to schedule this job smack in the middle of the birds’ nesting season. Those palm trees host dozens of birds. One wants those birds up there, because they eat the cockroaches that spawn in goddamn palm trees, and they eat the cockroach grubs that fall in the pool all spring, and they clear out ants at the first sign of a new colony. Because of those birds, I have no roaches, no ants, and precious few other pests.

Well, when Gerardo’s guys barged up there and hacked back the trees, they dumped the nests full of baby birds on the ground.

When I went out there, I found dead baby chicks all over the KoolDeck, and mother birds flying around crying out in despair. Alllll day long.

Lest you think birds do not feel emotions…lest you imagine birds feel no grief, no despair: think again.

So, I’ve never let Gerardo mess with those palm trees again.

That makes them very messy, very VERY much a nuisance. To me and to the neighbors and to anyone who drives a car up the road behind the house during the windy season.

This is a question whose answer has long escaped me: Why do white people have such a fascination with palm trees?????????

What in the name of Heaven and Hell about palm trees so enchants the gringos? They make no shade. They’re ugly as an old stick in the ground. They make no dates. Certainly no coconuts. The only crop these Arizona palms produce is debris!

And they’re very good at producing debris.

They’re expensive to maintain — it costs several hundred dollars to have Gerardo’s guys trim the damn things every spring. They attract lightning. They breed cockroaches. And desert termites. And black widows. And roof rats. At least in Arabia the palm trees produced dates — matter of fact, that and millet were our area’s main crops. But these BB-fruiting things? All the way around, they’re useless, uglee, and nuisancey.

Why, White Man? What is it about these things that you find so charming?

I should have them taken out. But you don’t even want to know what it would cost to have someone come and cut them down. The neighbor across the street has been extirpating his, but he can only afford to remove one or two at a time. It will take several years to clear his yard of the things. At that rate, too, it would take four years to get rid of mine.

Is it worth the trouble?

Somehow, I suspect not.

PayPal: Why you should avoid it

Over at Quora, the subject of PayPal came up in the course of a discussion comparing US payment methods with those in Europe. Over there, checks are obsolete; electronic payment transfers are ubiquitous. Zelle is popular in Europe, as it is with major American banks. But credit unions do not exist there, and my credit union (which unlike a large bank treats its customers humanely) does not subscribe to Zelle.

One correspondent remarked, in praising Zelle:

Checks are so dangerous. You are handing people a piece of paper with your name, address, bank name and full account number, and at retailers they often notate your drivers license number and phone number too, and you top all this info off with your signature. Everything a fraudster needs!

Said I:

Credit unions don’t offer Zelle. PayPal dings you a stiff fee for every transaction and will not allow you to transfer a client’s payment to your banking institution for three months after the client pays. Also, by claiming not to be a banking institution, PayPal evades regulation by US banking authorities….and as my own experience has shown, that is FAR more dangerous than checks. When they choose to rip you off, you have exactly zero recourse to the law.

Flabbergasted, another commenter added:

PayPal is essentially unregulated in the United States. It is not a bank. It is a privately owned corporation that can do pretty damn near anything it wants. And anything it wants is not necessarily in your interest. The complaints posted online at the Better Business Bureau — presently numbering 8,696, are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Pissed Consumer reports three issues resolved of 635 reviews, with $1.9 million in claimed losses. A whole website is devoted to publicizing PayPal’s outrages.

Here’s an alternative that might work for you: a reasonably low-cost system that accepts all major credit cards, with transaction rates that undercut PayPal’s, especially if your clients are overseas.

PayPal: AVOID!

Progress Update in the Do-Nothing Department

So the Swimming Pool Service and Repair Dude arrived, as arranged, along about mid-morning. What a nice man!

Hmmm… Suppose we could get cuteness PLUS bottled water?

He discovered a clog in the pump motor, which he fixed. And he opined that the clouding problem had to do with the use of too much granulated chlorine (no!!!! Use liquid chlorine!!!) and with the high phosphate levels in the water. And he revealed that, astonishingly, the city has been adding phosphates to the water supply, the theory being that the stuff lubricates their machinery.


Makes bottled water look pretty good, doesn’t it…

Shortly I got distracted with the important business of the day — to wit, loafing — and so did not run right out there with the two bottles of liquid Cl I happen to have laying around.

And now, along about 1:30, I venture out into the ungodly heat with the uncrated bottles of chlorine in hand, only to find that…gosh! The water is one WHOLE helluva lot clearer. In the famed ungodly heat (which usually induces clouding), the water is freaking clearing up.

Okayyy…. Before we indulge in dumping in both bottles of this stuff, bought at the cost of considerable annoyance with a trip to Home Depot, that emporium where we have vowed never to shop again, let’s just hang loose for awhile.

Dollars to donuts, that thing will be clear by this evening.

Our guy wants to drain & refill the thing, which will be a pricey experience at this time of year, when the City charges a premium for its water.

But I’m thinkin’….hmmm… Clogged pump, eh? What if the damn thing is clearing up because the pump is now operating optimally?

If it’s clear by tonight, this evening I’ll add one (1) bottle of liquid chlorine and then let the pump run overnight. If it’s still clear tomorrow morning? Well…then we’ll just wait and see what happens next.

Which is…sorta what we’re doing anyway.

The Cox tech showed up. What a charmer!

Mohamed. With a wonderful Arabic accent.

Well, Moslems tend not enjoy the company of dogs, so I figure I’d better pick up Ruby, whose mission in life is to love every human on the planet to death, lest she pounce him the instant he walks through the door…and LO! He announces that he loves dogs. He has a German shepherd. He thinks Ruby is the best thing this side of German shepherdom.


So he fixes the computer and reboots the modem and upgrades stuff, all the while chatting his charming young head off. Damn. Born 40 years too soon. Again.

So…can anybody think of some OTHER reason Cox needs to send a computer tech out here?


Now to spend the rest of the afternoon working on all the stuff I’ve neglected, creativity-wise. The plan: get back up to date with the Ella story, sketch out the plot (which actually is already sketched out, roughly, so this will conveniently not entail much work), and set up another installment of Fire-Rider to go online next week.

110 in the Shade

Actually, Wunderground says it’s 112. But the thermometer on the back porch says it’s 110. WhatEVER. It’s plenty toasty out there.

LOL! Years ago I was doing a story for Arizona Highways on Aravaipa Canyon, a wilderness area in southern Arizona, when I stumbled across a poem written by a woman who had attempted to settle there with her husband: “100 Degrees in the Shade!”

It had a certain charm. Truth to tell, 100 degrees would have been very hot for those times. Temperatures were significantly cooler in the good ole days. Even when I moved here back in 1962, 102 or so is about as hot as it would get in early July (or anytime during the summer), and 110 was considered an exceptional scorcher. Nowadays, 110 is just SOP. You expect it to get up to 116 (or higher) at least a few days during the summer.

The pool is holding its own. Just now it looks exceptionally clear. Of course, one does not go in the water (unless your pool has some sort of shade structure) in the middle of a summer day, unless one craves more surgery to remove more actinic keratoses and squamous cell carcinomas. Dropped into the drink in the morning, after the de rigueur two-mile walk, and I’ll go swimming again after the sun goes down. This is why we have air-conditioning and fans.

In Yarnell just now, it’s only 93. “Feels like 89,” sez Wunderground. How do I wish I was there? Let me count the ways. In Payson, where KJG and Mr. Fireman have retired, it’s even chillier: a crisp 91, feels like 87. Brrrr!

Ah, well. Toasty après-midi or no, the chow is on the grill: a pile of multi-colored carrots, a lovely slice from a rack of lamb, and a pile of asparagus. In two minutes we flip the asparagi around, and in another two to six minutes, depending, dinner will be served.

On days like this, I suspect it isn’t even necessary to turn on the grill. Just set the food on the rack, close the lid, and go away.

The new kitchen faucet is finally installed and working…okay, I guess. It’s a little disappointing, for something that cost around $250 (plus the plumber’s bill), to end up with something that just barely dispenses a noticeable flow of water from its handsome spout, and that continues to dribble water for about 4 seconds after you close the valve.

This is described by a customer in an Amazon review. The seller responds with “you need a cartridge.” Welll….WHY would you need a new cartridge for a faucet you just paid $250 for? They give their phone number, inviting him to call and discuss.

Sooo…. I figured this morning I would call that number and grutch my little head off: demand a free cartridge, and also demand that they cover the second trip from the plumber to install the damn thing.

By dawn’s early light, though, second thoughts occurred. Videlicet:

Do I really want to do battle with this company over a dribble of water? Why?
Do I really want to spend half the day AGAIN waiting for the plumber to show up?
Is this issue REALLY worth the hassle?


Probably not.

How can I express my annoyance with this government-mandated hassle? What the barely-dispensing faucet — giving an even weaker flow than the previous representative of the same model, which, oh yes, was made after the stupid water-“saving” mandates were imposed on plumbing fixtures — will mean as a practical matter in my kitchen  is that every evening after all the day’s food has been prepared and all the messes have been cleaned up, I will have to fill the sink to the brim and then let it flow down the drain.

Just measured the time it takes to fill the sink I use all the time: 3 minutes and 57 seconds.

Truth to tell, the plumber who taught me this clog-preventing trick said to fill both sinks and unplug the two of them at once. The other sink is not only deeper but wider than the sink I use for daily fiddling. Right now it’s full of the dishes I had to wash in the absence of a functioning dishwasher, but I’d estimate that if the little sink takes four minutes to fill with the faucet running full bore, the other one will take at least five.

Got that? Four to nine minutes’ worth of wasted water, running full blast.

Honest to God, the spray attachment dispenses water more efficiently than the stupid kitchen faucet!

How, exactly, is that a good thing?

Hookin’ Up at the…uhm…HOME DEPOT?????

This is too, too comic. Really. It defies belief… So this morning I decide I need some soda ash to adjust the pool’s pH; don’t want to pay Leslie’s elevated prices and don’t want to wait for Amazon to deliver it. Solution: off to the Home Depot.

Arrive at the Depot, thinking I can get the soda ash and also a couple bags of bird seed in one swell foop. This obviates having to stop at Walmart on the way to or from the place.

Proceed direct to Aisle 2, where they now store all the pool gear. Just as I arrive, they roll in their forklift and close the damn aisle off. I say to the guy standing there, “all I need is a package of soda ash.”

He says, all silk and brandy, “Well, I have some at my house you can have. Why don’t you come by and get it?”

Thinking he’s trying to be funny, I say, “How much? Will you take 47 cents?”

At this point it becomes evident that he’s not kidding. “Just come on over,” he says in an oily tone. “You can have it.”

So I think (but, for a change, refrain from saying), f**k you!

Roll the birdseed out through to the garden department cashier (where you don’t have to hike halfway to Timbuktu to make your purchases from a human being) and head on down to Leslie’s, where the manager, ever a polite gentleman, forks over five pounds of soda ash.


I will NEVER go back to Home Depot again. Not that Home Depot, not any Home Depot.

Interestingly, this is not the first time such an antic has occurred there. The last time, it happened to Connie the Long-Haul Trucker, who is a) significantly younger than me and b) much, much more attractive. She’s blonde, with startling blue eyes, a friendly expression, and a very fit figure. A salesman came on to her while we were looking at tile grout.

Tile grout. Doesn’t that make you think sexy thoughts?

At the time, we thought it was just hilarious, stupidest thing either of us had seen exude from the male species in years. Her guy, at least, was younger and kinda cute. Mine was a wizened old buzzard who probably was working at the Depot because, as we know, no one else will hire guys over 60 in the trades.

Today: not so funny.

That is absolutely, positively the last time I buy anything from Home Depot, ever again. There is NOTHING that you can get at Home Depot that you can’t get at a local nursery or hardware store (which despite that august megacorporation’s best efforts, have managed to persist), or at Amazon. Alternatively, there’s a Lowe’s right down the road. Their staff doesn’t make lewd passes at you because…well, they don’t have any staff to speak of.

Oh, the birdseed? Don’t buy that there. Elegantly low-grade stuff. Walmart’s quality is better by several orders of magnitude.

Home Depot dudes…these boots are made for walkin’…