Coffee heat rising

Amazon and the Discriminating Porch Pirate

As you may have surmised in reading my all-too-frequent reports about the antics of the local bums, burglars, meth-heads, and thieves, the ‘Hood is pretty much over-run with porch pirates. This is why I had to spend some unholy amount of cash on a Fort Knox of a mailbox: so that I didn’t have to get all my mail delivered to a rental mailbox inside a locked building.

That notwithstanding, I do occasionally order things from Amazon, despite the risk of theft. The view of my front door is obscured by a courtyard wall, so if a package is delivered to the door, a passer-by eyeballing the house from the street is unlikely to see it.

Well, O.K., so there’s that.

Now, the other day I discovered that ground clove, when mixed in solution with water, eases the crazy-making sting-and-burn effect that my current ailment, peripheral neuropathy, inflicts on gums, tongue, and lips. Used as a mouthwash, it disappears the pain right now. Mixed with Vaseline and smeared on the lips, it also stops the maddening lip-tingle, again right now. But lo! Like nutmeg, clove is obscenely overpriced when marketed on grocery-store shelves…so I ordered a quarter pound of the stuff through Amazon, at a fraction of the local supermarket gouge.

So late yesterday evening I plop down before the computer to find a fresh new e-mail: your Amazon package has been delivered.  (And your driver was too harried or too lazy to bother to ring the doorbell.)

No, it’s not dropped by the front door. But I can see it’s out by the front gate — in the driveway.

Go out to retrieve it (surprised that it’s actually still there) and find that one of the locals has neatly sliced the long edge of the envelope off, dropped the slice inside, and replaced the package — unstolen — on the driveway pavement.

Hee heeeee! Just imagine the thought process!

Can’t give it to the girlfriend, whatever it is.

Can’t give it to the kids, whatEVER it is.

What IS it, anyway??? Funniest-looking coke I’ve ever seen. Don’t think it’s meth, either.

{sniff sniff} Nope, neither of those.

Can’t snort it. Can’t smoke it. Can’t give it away. DAY-um!  You keep it, ya weirdo!

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

So, feeling a little weary of having to emit elaborate instructions to Amazon delivery people — they can’t figure out that Erewhon Avenue is different from Erewhon Drive, and that these are two parallel streets with the same house numbers, and so they regularly deliver stuff to my neighbor one street to the north (I know: it is a difficult concept!). She declines to forward these or bring them over to my place (it must be all of 100 steps, and she walks by here every day or two with her dogs), so if a package goes to her place, it is effectively gone gone: permanently — I called Amazon’s customer service and asked if it was possible to install a permanent instruction to leave packages inside the gate, NOT out on the goddamn driveway.

Hilariously, I happened to get an Amazon CSR with a sense of humor. (How you could work for that place and retain a sense of humor escapes me: must be a seasonal hire!). So when I started to describe the Looney Tunes that is Life in the ‘Hood, she instantly spotted the ridiculousness of it all. By the time we got off the phone, we were both laughing so hard at the image of the porch pirate trying to figure out WHAT to make of a baggie full of dark red-brown dust that neither one of us could pull ourselves off the floor.

There is some sh!t I will not snort!

After the two of us managed to recover our respective breath and she flagged my account for the delivery drivers accordingly, she suggested that maybe I’d like to use one of those Amazon strong-boxes they’ve put up around the city, specifically for the purpose of thwarting porch pirates.

Well…uh… No. This is an idea whose value escapes me. If I have to get in my car to go get something, then obviously I’m going to shop local — which I would much prefer to do if it weren’t for the city’s homicidal traffic and my near-terminal case of laziness.

Dogs, Scofflaws, and Penitentiary Gray

Penitentiary Gray: the color of 2020?

One of the disorienting characteristics of Old Bat-hood is that your home is decorated in outmoded styles and colors. It stays that way because you like it that way. But occasionally gazing upon the latest fashion is…well…yes, disorienting. 😀

The dog and I got a very late start on this morning’s doggy-walk. Last night’s chill persisted for some time after dawn, plus the human is in an even lazier mood than usual. So it was after 10 before we set out. By then, almost all the dog-walking hordes had come and gone. The city is laying down black oily stuff over the cracks in Richistan’s neighborhood lanes, so we detoured to the park. This is usually problematic, because during the doggy-walking hours the place is overrun with dogs, many of them in the company of morons who ignore the large signs that read DOGS MUST BE ON LEASH. The latter — dogs, not morons…or rather, dogs as well as morons…are running loose unattended and can be quite a nuisance if they choose to pick a fight. Which inevitably one of them will.

But late in the morning, the park was almost empty, except for a cluster of parents with small children frolicking on the playground equipment and sharing their covid germs with each other and with their relatives. Quite lovely: quiet, peaceful, green…a perfect doggy-walk.

We got about four-fifths of the way around the park before we ran into the obligatory moron: some woman with not one but two big mutts running loose. One of them spotted Ruby and immediately charged her, followed by the moron’s other loose dog. Ruby being a corgi and therefore unafraid of anything, charged back. Within seconds, a dog-fight was about to start.

I hauled Ruby to the street and hollered CALL YOUR DOGS to the moron. She managed to deflect them as I crossed to the other side of the road. “What part of the law can you not understand?!” I hollered at the bitch. The human one, that is. People are SO frickin’ stupid!!!!!

The thing that pisses me about this is that I pay for that park with my taxes, too. Every year my property taxes go up. Last year they were wayyyy on the high side of what I can afford, leading me once again to contemplate the probability that I will not be able to live in my home for the rest of my life. If I’m going to be made to pay ruinous taxes, I should at least be allowed to use the facilities those taxes pay for — to use them safely and without harassment from scofflaws.

Oh well.

Have you noticed that The Stylish Color of 2020 is — appropriately enough — penitentiary gray? It seems as though every freshly painted house in the city is painted the shade of Sing Sing’s walls. Just hideous! Started counting them at the far side of the park. By the time we got back to the Funny Farm — about a third of a mile — I’d spotted TEN (yes: 10) penitentiary gray houses.

Gray and white is the new avocado green and gold. 😀 People decorate the inside with gray and white, too: every refurbished house has gray floors, gray walls, and white trim and cabinets.

Neutral colors were the style when I moved into this neighborhood, during the late Middle Ages, and they persisted for a good 20 or 30 years. My house is painted a bland shade of desert-floor gray-brown, with smart white trim (that, at least, has not gone out of style). Most of the neighbors’ houses are cream-colored or beige. Whatever dark prison gray is, it’s certainly not bland.

Here’s one that someone thinks is “awesome“:

And it no doubt would be, if you buy everything at Ikea and so can afford to redecorate when you get tired of it…in about a year or two. 😀

 

Of dogs and cops and copters…

Ruby the Corgi has been under the doggy-weather for several days. She has the collywobbles, and this morning she barfed. That will mean an expensive and stressful trip to the vet…especially since veterinarians here are not letting the hoi polloi even step into their waiting rooms. You have to wait in the parking lot until they come out and collect your animal.

Picturing the terror that will inspire, I’ve already put off getting Ruby’s teeth cleaned. And I do NOT want to drag the poor beast in over an upset stomach.

Sometimes the doggywobbles will clear on its own, just as human collywobbles will eventually go away. Sometimes…not. And we have those damn rats out there…the question is, could she have picked up a bug from one of those fine disease-carriers?

Complicating matters, something made me really sick in the same department. I suspect it was some shrimp I bought at Sprouts… It didn’t seem to be spoiled, but when I opened the bag the thought crossed my mind that those tired-looking things had been frozen for an awful long time. It seems to me I let her lick the plate after I’d eaten that meal…something I normally don’t do. But I recall that one evening, in an unusually mellow moment, I set an empty plate down for her. And this was within the time frame — if the shrimp made me sick, it could’ve made her sick, too.

I still have some imodium purchased while it was legal to sell it. Apparently, you can give it to a dog. But who knows how much would be the right amount? She only weighs 23 pounds. If one tiny pill will plug up an adult human, how many shavings off one of those pills is right for a dawg? You also can give a dog Pepto-Bismol, but liquid gunk is one helluva lot harder and messier to get down a dog’s throat than a pill coated in butter or hamburger is.

Speaking of the imodium protect-you-from-yourself gambit, I see the stuff is still for sale on Amazon. How exactly that can be escapes me. It’s supposedly illegal to sell the stuff in our parts. Apparently some morons use the stuff to get high. Therefore all the rest of us must be punished.

***

Argha! Cop helicopter just roared in and started circling a couple blocks north and east. God, how I hate the constant cop helicopter buzz-overs. This is the main reason I daydream of moving to Prescott or Yarnell or Patagonia…places where they can’t afford to buy helicopters for the local law enforcers. Most of the time, all the doors and windows are locked — and all the exterior doors now include steel security doors with hardened deadbolts. So frankly…I’d just as soon not know when a perp is frolicking around the ’Hood.

Down at my son’s house it’s even worse…the cops are constantly overhead hollering down at perps or telling people to go inside and lock the doors.

Phoenix… What a place this is! Especially when you consider how many people move here because they think it’s going to be better than California. Six o’ one, half-a-dozen of the other, folks!

Well, I might as well go drown out the serenade of the helicopter blades with the song of the vacuum cleaner. And so, away...

You thought YESTERDAY was another lovely day in Arizona?

Hah! Every day is lovelier than the next. Check out this little fella..

….and tell me if you don’t think our sweet pet Rattie isn’t one helluva lot cuter than that rat…

Which is cuter? Rat 1 or Rat 2?

Rat 1’s handsome profile was captured early of a fine Arizona day on a neighbor’s security camera.

See that thing in his hand? That’s not a Budweiser…that’s a pistol, wrapped in a plastic grocery bag.

The gate he’s coming out of? That’s an alleyway entry to a neighbor’s backyard. The photo was caught yesterday by someone’s security camera and posted to the neighborhood Facebook page. Said the proprietor: “This individual was spotted at approximately 7:25 this morning exiting our backyard at our home on El Caminito Dr. I did not see any evidence on any of our security cameras of this gentleman entering our backyard.”

At first I thought it was our boy, the one the cops were chasing around yesterday. But now I think this fella is a little older than that kid, healthier-looking, somewhat better built. So we have not one but two of ‘em frolicking around the alleys.

Meanwhile…the evening sun is sinking like a red-rubber pie tin. The air is still thick and brown from the smoke drifting across from the West Coast, the sun so dim you can stare right straight at it. Though one (who does not suffer from asthma) has no problem breathing it, the stuff out there can’t be very good for you.

My plan is to catch Rat 2 and stick her in a cage with a big bowl of bird seed (she loves bird seed) and a bag of oranges (she adores oranges), toss her and the dog in the car, and start driving driving driving. Patagonia, here we come!

Hummer heaven: Patagonia

The forgetfulness of places

Can you remember your parents remarking, when you were a young pup, that your town was developing so fast  they could hardly recognize their regular stomping grounds as they were driving around, year after year? When we lived in Southern California, my mother used to say that off and on — we could even describe it as “all the time.” After we moved over here from unlovely Long Beach, occasionally she’d remark on the extirpation of the orange groves and the cotton fields as the booming Phoenix area Californicated at a breakneck pace.

I wonder if this sense that everything familiar is disappearing or being unrecognizably altered is a function of age, or if it’s objectively true.

Probably a little of both, hm?

This morning I had to present myself down at the dentist’s office at 9 a.m. sharp, for a routine cleaning and to discuss the endodontical adventures. Once again, there was hardly any traffic at what should have been the height of rush hour. Dr. D’s office is on the sixth floor of a mid-town high-rise, a district best described as damned toney. His offices look out onto a spectacular view of north Phoenix that goes on and on and eye-bogglingly on, halfway to freaking Las Vegas. I flew into the parking garage at about 10 minutes to 9:00…the place was empty. I mean seriously: the entire ground floor was vacant. I grabbed a crip space, leaving five empty. Otherwise, I think there were less than half-a-dozen cars on on that floor.

That was weird.

Upstairs, his sidekick told me they’d had to close their office for two months. I didn’t ask for details, but I gathered from her and a little later from him that the state came in and shut down dental offices everywhere. Can you imagine being forced to close your business, from which you earn your livelihood and with which you pay at least three full-time employees? Holeee ess aitch ai!

All being found well — or at least, better than anyone expected — I escaped unharmed and went on about my business. Without the Really Old Folks in tow, I’d forgotten to put up my Official Mickey Mouse Club Crip Space Hanger (I don’t use it unless I’m chauffeuring the old people around). But luckily no one cared: the crip spaces were empty and no ticket was in evidence.

So: two moments of small mercies in the space of 40 minutes.

Whilst driving downtown, I had that uncanny “not in Kansas anymore” sensation: that the city has changed just enough in the six or eight months since I last covered that route that the place seems kinda out of whack.

It was like driving through canyons of shadows. All the way down Seventh Street, one of the two main drags that flank the central corridor, the cityscape looked familiar…but also NOT familiar. Enough has changed that nothing is quite the same. Strip shopping and tired gas stations have been replaced with shiny new rabbit-warren apartments. Easy-to-navigate intersections are now festooned with complicated left-turn lights, no turn signals, time-of-day turn lanes, on and on. New high-rises block the view of the South Mountains. Run-down shopping centers have been resuscitated as office developments. Yet many of the same old businesses and buildings are still crumbling away beside the roadways.

You look down the road and you see what you see…but you also see shadows: shadows of what used to be there. Weirdly, it’s like looking at two photo transparencies overlaid on each other.

Having escaped from the dentist, I decided to go by the fancy new Sprouts at 7th Avenue and Osborn, my old stomping grounds. This store occupies the space of a defunct Basha’s grocery store, one of a historic chain of markets that used to hold forth across the state. I used to shop there all the time when we lived in the historic Encanto District. Not a great store, but close to home and good enough for day-to-day needs. Catty-corner across what is now a large, busy intersection is a Safeway, which has survived the present wave of gentrification.

Grab what I need, shoot through the check-out line, and sashay out the door, headed back to the car, when I see a poster.

A fifteen-year-old girl has disappeared from the corner of 7th and Osborn: large reward on offer. Her photo shows a pretty young thing. Now, you may be sure, a dead young thing, dissolving away somewhere out on the desert.

Holy sh!t…a fifteen-year-old nabbed. I don’t know why I’m so shocked by this: it wasn’t safe when we lived there. I used to walk up to this store now and again. And yes, men harassed me unless I had the German shepherd with me. Occasionally a guy would stop and try to get me to climb in his truck. No way, then or now, would I let a fifteen-year-old girl walk around there, even though that busy corner has several attractions designed to call young people: a corner pizza parlor, a fitness studio, the Sprouts, a popular Mexican restaurant, the Safeway… True, the corner is much, much nicer, much modernized over when we lived there…it doesn’t look unsafe. Back in the day, you knew it was unsafe, just as here in the ’Hood you know Conduit of Blight and Gangbanger’s Way are unsafe.

We had friends of the liberated female persuasion who believed that women should refuse to be daunted by the risks inherent to living in a large, low-rent city, or by harassment from every passing male who didn’t realize you carried a pistol in your purse. Women, they insisted, have a right to live in this society and a right to move around without being harassed, and so we should all go on about our business as though we do have that right and expect it to be honored.

Right. Like you can’t be dead right, hm? 

Not Dead Yet…

Nope, I haven’t croaked over from covid-19 yet (though the accursed ragweed allergy was so exuberant this spring I came within an inch of running to the doc to get tested). Haven’t been killed in any protests — yet (though the temptation to riot in the streets is great: see b’low…)

The past couple weeks have rendered me incommunicado with…gasp!…work. A large and interesting project from a client is in-house. I should have turned it back to her before this, but a few other small distractions arose. And I’m nuthin’ if not easily distracted.

Three typical distractions this morning:

Her Majesty

The current battle in the Ant Queen Wars is in full sway. Her Majesty’s soldiers took possession of the kitchen counter, a matter complicated by the fact that I supposedly am not going into grocery stores and Home Depot…and I have no ant traps. Ordered up a package of bait that seemed to be highly reviewed.

Junk! The Queen’s minions recognized that stuff for what it is. So now we have another brand on order from Amazon, one that I’ve used before and…why didn’t I order that in the first place? Ohhhh well.

I thought the troops were entering the field of battle through some opening in the Cave of the Dishwasher, and so this ayem planned to call the handyman to pull the washer out from under the counter so I could sprinkle some DE under there. But by the light of dawn, the laydeez trail became visible: they had discovered an entry beneath the security screen on the side door to the garage. From there they marched across the floor to the kitchen door, where they managed to penetrate to the battlefield despite a thick piece of insulation along the doorjamb.

This was good. DE is not something you want to sprinkle liberally around a kitchen, and especially not on a counter — not unless it’s food-grade DE. This is swimming-pool DE, not something you’d normally choose to play with. But in the garage? WGAS!

So I bombed the trails across both entryways, handily repelling that battalion.

***

Earlier, it was out the door with the hound. We got out at 5 a.m. — hot and muggy even at that hour. The weather we’re enjoying is what I would call July weather. Usually in June it does not reach 112, and June is normally quite dry, so that the mornings and evenings are highly tolerable.

Not so, now: an hour’s walk through whatever that is out there turns into an uncomfortable traipse.

As we’re trotting homeward, a crazy lady hauls up behind us, yapping away as loud as she can yap.

I hate that. Most women do not know how far their voices carry outdoors, and so even normal conversation can be annoying from quite a distance. But this wasn’t conversation — she was alone. Finally I realized she was talking to herself in a loud voice…. But no…she wasn’t talking, she was singing. Sort of. More like squawking. She was moving faster than the dog and I were walking (which was as fast as I could chug along), and so instead of falling back, she was gaining on us.

At the corner of Neighborhood Lane and Feeder Street NW is a house where I often stop to chat with the residents. Butch is usually out puttering in the yard or the garage, with his wife Marge coming and going. If I can get to them there’ll be some safety in numbers, and if we have to we can go inside their house until the lunatic moves on. I don’t see him in his usual domain, but expect he’s in the garage.

As we come abreast of their house, the garage door opens and out comes Marge. I ask if I can hang around for awhile, and we wait together until the Loony Tune goes around the corner and heads south on Feeder Street. By way of polite small talk, I ask how they’re doing, and SHE says she just got back from taking Butch to the hospital for brain surgery.

Say what? She’s pretty upset, and I can tell you that she’s one tough lady.

She says that several years ago, Butch had three small tumors called meningiomas removed from the tissue that surrounds the brain (the meninges…hence meningioma). She said two of them were benign but one was ambiguous — not quite cancer, but not NOT cancer, either. As a result, he went through forty rounds of radiation therapy!

Holy crap!

What had her most upset right this minute was that because of the covid terror, they wouldn’t let her go in with him, and they will not let her visit him.

***

And in other news of how national events touch our lives… When Ruby and I got home, I picked up yesterday’s mail delivery as we walked past the mailbox. What do I find in the day’s catch but a pretty little check-sized envelope from the Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service.

Hot DAYUM, think I: this must be the ballyhooed second stimulus check! Must drive this thing up to the CU the minute they open, since the money bin is running dry.

No.

Not so much.

Rip open the envelope and find A CAMPAIGN LETTER FROM THAT BASTARD TRUMP RAVING ON ABOUT HOW WONDERFULLY HE AND HIS FELLOW REPUBLICANS (who, yes, dear fellow Republicans, do carry around his mud on their shoes) HAVE WANGLED THIS MUNIFICENT $1200 PAYMENT FOR US.

Holy goddamn shit. Excuse my language but it’s mild compared to the phrases passing through my mind.

Yes. That Bastard used taxpayer dollars — that would be your money and my money — to crow on and on about the CARES Act “which I proudly signed into law.” He personally loves you so much that he is “pleased to notify you” that your $1,200 payment (which, BTW, arrived here two weeks ago) is on its way.

Well. Does that mean he’s sending another $1200? Or is he just so stump-dump unaware he doesn’t know the money has already been sent out? Or so goddamned outrageously corrupt that he figures he can get away with sending out campaign mail on the taxpayer dime?

How is it possible to express my rage with the present State of our Union? If it were not 104 degrees at 9:00 p.m., I would cheerfully join the rioting mobs. Only be sure to wear a football helmet. Did you see where a couple of cops shoved a 75-year-old man off his feet and busted his head on the pavement? They were about to walk away and leave him there, as you can tell by a bystander’s video, when several onlookers told them they’d better call an ambulance.

And how did you like Der Wannabe Führer waving a Holy Bible around (upside down, aptly enough) on the steps of a church whose clergy and members could not agree less with his bastardry?

Oh, dear God. No wonder I’m not getting anything done. Back to work!