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!

Never a Dull Moment in the ‘Hood

So after dark, while great dinnerplate of a moon  in the eastern sky chased a diamond-like Venus into the west, Ruby and I set out for the day’s second two-mile stroll around the ’Hood. A cop helicopter had buzzed the trees a few minutes before, a chorus of sirens wailing beneath it, but by now things seemed quiet enough. I took a shilelagh along. Just in case. But didn’t expect any cases.

But as we’re trotting along Cut-Through Street West, what do we see ahead of us, right at the top of Lower Richistan, but a whole covey of emergency vehicles, ambulances, cop cars, and enough red, white, and blue lights to light up the street all the way down to Feeder Street North-South. We get across that road and shortly come across some neighbors gawking from their front yard.

“What’s goin’ on?” I ask.

“House fire,” says one of them.

Ruby starts to play with one of their kids.

“I was afraid a kid must have fallen in a pool.”

“No, thank God.”

“Nice timing: get laid off your job and your house burns down”

He laughs ruefully. “It’s down that cul-de-sac, the one that goes to the left up there.”

“So we can get around on Ruth to get back to Feeder N/S?”

“Think so. It’s somewhere in the cul-de-sac.”

So we proceed, and indeed do manage to slip to the left to get around the commotion.This requires us to loop around to Florence Rd, where the moron’s loose German shepherd attacked Ruby — and me. We haven’t walked on that street since then. The idiots still haven’t fenced their yard, so I pick Ruby up and carry her in my arms while walking past the place. There are some positive aspects to having a small dog.

The cul-de-sac in question is lined with mid-century modern houses, same vintage as all the other large tract houses on half-acre lots in Lower Richistan, except they haven’t yet been upgraded and millenialized. All but two of them are kind of down-at-the-heels, tired-looking ranch houses. I figure they’re mostly occupied by retirees aging in place. One of them houses a latter-day pothead, a gray-haired old hippie who used to be a good buddy of the brothers who lived in the Meth House — he would take his motorcycle over there for them to work on in their shade-tree garage business. Others are pretty much invisible. Dollars to donuts someone left something on the stove and fell asleep in front of the television.

We have to maneuver around the lively scene, once we exit Upper Richistan, by going down Sub-Feeder Street N/W to the park, then back up toward our road. Interestingly, Ruby remembers where I fell and busted up my wrist, and she resists going down that sidewalk. I have to pick her up and carry her (again!) until we reach the place where the heaved concrete has been repaired When she could see that the pavement was now OK, whe decided to continue.

Dogs know more than we think.

No Cure for Stupid

LOL!!! There’s a BIG SIGN attached to the front gate reading

PLEASE DELIVER PACKAGES FOR THE BOXANKLE FAMILY TO 1234 EAST WHIZBANG DRIVE.

YOU ARE AT 1234 EAST WHIZBANG ROAD.

* ROAD AND DRIVE ARE DIFFERENT. *

Well…or something to that effect, only slightly more polite.

 

Apparently “polite” is not operative on “stupid.” Once again a UPS moron delivered a package for Josie, who’s holed up behind a wall of weeds and refuses to answer doorbells. So I had to traipse this thing over to her and leave it outside her locked security gates. She’s attached a new interior screen to the things, so you can no longer toss a misdelivered package into her entryway. But it doesn’t matter. The weeds and the jungle are now so thick no porch pirates can spot anything left at the door. 😀

Honestly. Neighbors you wish would move away….

The renters at the Perp‘s house, across the street, also fall into that category. Their ragweeds are up to your fanny. And they’re bikers. They like to roll their motorcycles out to the driveway and sit there revving up the unmuffled engines.

So how are y’all doing in the Great Pandemic Terror? I see they’ve locked down California and locked down Texas (whateverthef**k that means), but so far have refrained from applying prison technology to the inhabitants of lovely Arizona. We have closed all the schools, though; we’re told there’s some possibility that the public schools will remain closed for the rest of the semester.

Local parents have found a way to defeat that public-health measure, though: They’re banding together in neighborhood collectives to lodge the kids with a stay-at-home parent while all the worker bees go on in to the office.

This has some charm, despite its obvious untreatable stupidity: yesterday afternoon walking the dog was like a lovely Sunday afternoon, with all the little cutie-pies out playing up and down the streets. These beautiful children do add a great deal of charm and joy to an aging central neighborhood. But one hopes they’re not carrying anything to cut short one’s own plans for aging…

Frankly, I find myself wondering if a bunch of parents won’t decide that home-schooling isn’t such an eccentric quirk after all, once they discover that a home-schooled kid can get through a whole day of public-school content in about 90 minutes to two hours, at the dining-room table. If they figure out that they can hire on retirees and stay-at-home residents to watch the kidlets in play groups or take them on field trips while the working parents are at the jobsite, home-schooling may begin to look one helluva lot more attractive.

Once again, Ruby was attacked by some moron’s off-the-lead dog yesterday. When I started hollering at this pair — a young(ish) man and wife — to keep their F**KIN’ DOG on a leash, dammit! — they just didn’t get it. The dog did have a leash on. They just weren’t holding the other end.

Yes! They were letting their dog roam around their unfenced front yard dragging a leash behind it. See? “Dogs must be on leash”? Our dog IS on a leash. Right?

Neighbors we wish would move away…

Haven’t had much to say here because I’ve been paddling frantically to keep my head above a tsunami of incoming work. Sent off edits for a huge study in business management to the expectant authors. It’s an amazing thing, one that has taken a decade of research. Very, very interesting.

Literally had no time to take a deep breath when in came a book-length project. This is a historical study of Burma, Vietnam and waypoints  — again, extremely interesting. The author is a native speaker of Chinese teaching at a prestigious US university. I’m excited to read it…this is going to be a significant contribution to her field and quite a privilege to work on.

Made a run on AJs to pick up a crucial supply I’d forgotten to hoard: wine. {gasp!} What would one do if one ran out???

The shelves — all of them — ranged from empty to half-empty. Staff said the place had been going crazy for the past week — though my observation, a few days ago, was that AJ’s was pretty calm compared to Safeway, which literally was a mob scene. Most of the good cheap wine was sold out, but fortunately, I’m an aficionado of fine wines in the $8 to $9 range…and so is my pal, the AJ’s wine concierge. So managed to find an Oyster Bay Sauvignon blanc (!!! I thought they didn’t carry it! Walmart’s finest vintage!) and four superb bottles of…uhm…red stuff. This should last for a few days. I hope.

My son has been ordered to work at home. Even though he seems to prefer that when it’s his choice, when the boss says get-the-hell-outa-here, it’s a different tale. “I’m bored!” quoth he. He was reduced to cleaning out the kitchen drawers.

Yes. When you work at home you get a lot more work done a lot more efficiently than you do at an office…same as when you study at home. 😀

Speaking of work…it’s onward to Burma for me…

And the Evening Not to Be Outdone by the Day…

So I come rolling in to the ‘Hood from choir along about 9:30 p.m. and see, buzzing over the southwestern precincts, a low-flying and very angry-looking cop helicopter. He’s in hot pursuit of someone, apparently fleeing down Conduit of Blight Boulevard. But he’s not alone. To the north and also to the west, another cop copter is hovering over my old house, scanning the intersection of Conduit of Blight and Gangbanger’s Way.

By the time I get the car stashed in the garage and the pooch out in the side yard to pee, the dragonfly to the south is circling Conduit of Blight and Main Drag South, and the one to the north is over the crummy apartments and the senior-citizen trailer park above Gangbanger’s. Wring out the dog to the lovely serenade of buzzing helicopter engines, fly back inside, and lock the doors.

🙂

Welcome home!

It’s never boring around this place.