Coffee heat rising

She’s OUT! She’s Off and Running!

So I’m chowing down on breakfast whilst browsing through The Economist — the single best general-interest periodical for people with functioning brain cells, IMHO — when I hear Ruby launch into a yap-fest: YAP YAP YAP YAP YAP…from…huh? From the front of the house????

WTF!?!

Leap to my feet, race through the open back door into the yard, jumping into an old pair of clogs on the way, and fly into the back yard, hollering RUBY! RUBY!!

No dog.

Round the corner of the house at a dead run and see Ruby bounding cheerily toward me…through the open side gate!

WTF, indeed! That thing has a double-cylinder dead bolt, and it gets locked every time the gate is pulled shut.

Love up the dog, lure her back into the house, then go outside to figure out what that’s all about.

Well, the doorknob-like handle on this gate has never been real efficient. Its little latch bolt — the tongue-like thing that fits into the strike plate and holds the door shut — wants to slip out of its assigned nesting spot, though it will stay put with some coaxing.

But the thing isn’t locked, and I know I locked it (it’s a double-cylinder deadbolt, so locks with a key from both sides). Because I never walk away from a door or a gate without locking it and checking to be sure it’s locked…for reasons that have been described floridly on this very blog.

So, yea verily WTF!?! Did somebody pick the lock open?

Unlikely. Why bother when there are so many juicier targets all around? Besides, it was raining last night. No burglar or bum in his right mind would be tromping around in that.

But o’course, the “in his right mind” part is operative. Hmm.

At any rate, thank the heavens Ruby had a nice little bark-fest while she was exploring the front yard, probably occasioned by some other dog owner walking their pal past the shack. And thank the heavens (x 1016) that she came to call.

It rained enough during the night to turn the backyard’s quarter-minus into slush, so now the kitchen floor is covered with mud.

But at least the little dog did not get hit by a car, creamed by a passing neighbor’s pit bull, or stolen.

And NOW…yea verily… I don’t even get through this short blog post when a helicopter — a big one, sounds like the military copters that emerge periodically from the Reserve base down on McDowell Road — comes ROARING over the top of the house, at tree-top level. Holy shit! Who are THEY after?

No one, evidently. He continues on, westward ever westward, so probably it’s a military exercise in how to chase down snipers in civilian residential areas. Ducky.

We’ve gotta get outta this place…

Bum’s Paradise

Having taken to walking the pooch twice a day on mile-plus rounds of the ‘Hood and the Richistans (upper and lower), of late I’ve found myself noting the amazing number of places where homeless folk (who abound in our parts) could pass the night without harassment.

Most of these people are pretty harmless, except that they steal. Apparently few of them have the energy to commit a rape (except for the guy who jumped over one family’s back fence to show off the family jewels to a couple of toddlers…he was a little strange…). They rarely heckle women. Their burgling skills do not often rise to the level of breaking and entering. At the park, the poor souls just sit there and zone out, far as I can tell. They will, of course, take anything from your yard that’s not red-hot or nailed down, by way of peddling it to support their drug habit: bicycles, trikes, children’s toys, decorative plant pots. And at any rate, one would just as soon not host uninvited guests in one’s side yard, especially since some of them will leave a bit of a mess at their campsites.

The tide of bums that came with the extension of the light-rail boondoggle up Conduit of Blight Boulevard has receded a bit, of late. Dunno why. My guess would be that either the city has finally heard the nonstop complaints from outraged neighborhoods (hah! fat chance!!) or maybe the lightrail has stopped forcing people to get off at the end of the line, up at the intersection of Blight and Gangbanger’s Way. Over in the Richistans, a well-connected and ambitious neighbor led a charge to make the city install gates on one of the alleys. That alone seems to have interrupted the invasion: apparently that alley was a Bum’s Highway, and now that passers-through can’t get to where they want to go via the neighborhood short-cuts, they stick to the main drags.

The main drags are surely where they congregate. Between Conduit of Blight and the freeway, sometimes I’ll count 10 to 15 panhandlers begging for handouts along Gangbanger’s way. If you try to go into the Walgreen’s at the corner of Main Drag South and Conduit of Blight, you’re likely to be swarmed by a crowd of panhandlers — I will no longer get out of my car in that store’s parking lot, nor will I visit the Albertson’s across the street at that intersection. One reason for that is that the city has kindly installed a meth clinic on Main Drag South, a few blocks to the west of Blight. Users ride the lightrail up to M.D. South, walk over and get their fix, then loiter around the convenience market across the road from the clinic, where they dig through the trash and pester customers for handouts, and hover around the parking lots and bus stops near the intersection.

Makes Sun City look good, doesn’t it?

Well. No. Not yet, it doesn’t. But there’s still Fountain Hills, Prescott, and Patagonia… 😉

So anyway, back to the point: Yesterday afternoon I’m counting. Since we often walk through the Richistans after dark (yeah, I know. But a] if someone is going to pounce you, they’ll pounce you in broad daylight as easily as after dark; and b] well…ahem… Make my day!), I’ve noted the number of nooks, crannies, shrubs, unused spaces in carports, pony walls that hide space from street view, and the like.

When SDXB and I spent three months backpacking and camping through Alaska and Canada, we rarely stayed in campgrounds, unless we’d bummed a ride with someone who was given to spending time in those places. Most of the time we just set down wherever we happened to be. Occasionally we would set up camp in parking lots — and interestingly, no one would stop us or roust us. So I’ve developed an eye for decent places to camp in urban settings.

  • Oleander hedges with enough space between them and the yard’s fence to fit a sleeping bag
  • Empty carports
  • Side yards with no motion-sensitive lights over them
  • Pony walls that create comfy hiding spots, right out in front of God and Everyone
  • Vacant properties
  • Alleys

The alleys here are long, perpendicular flophouses. The bums use them not just to camp in but as toilets of convenience. And on pickup day, they’ll go through the trash before the trucks arrive, looking for credit-card statements and other documents that they can sell to identity thieves.

We passed six such alleys, which in theory could accommodate dozens of bums in peace and quiet. In the low-rent section, the original alley right-of-way included an alcove for trash cans behind each residential lot. The little strip of alley behind my street has about a dozen of them. These provide comfy, semi-private hideaways for the weary traveler. They make convenient outhouses, too. And just in the mile and a half circuit that Ruby and I traverse on a routine doggy-walk, there are forty eight properties with comfortably dark side yards or pony walls that block the view from the street.  In addition, some months ago a house caught fire, rendering it uninhabitable. Apparently the residents had no insurance — or maybe setting fire to your shack whilst cooking meth renders it uninsurable, I dunno. That place has been abandoned, apparently with the furnishings intact: a perfect bum’s hideaway!

In addition, the neighborhood fly-by-night nursing home entrepreneur (Yes: Tony the Romanian Landlord found a new money-making gambit!) had bought and converted a big old ranch house on the northern end of Lower Richistan, right before the covid plague struck. His client nursing-home operator shut it down, evidently trying to cut their losses in time of covid, and so that house stands vacant. To his credit, he keeps it maintained…but with a quarter-acre backyard, covered patios, and an empty carport, it still is a perfect site to throw down for a night.

So that’s about 60 potential campsites. Just on a walk that doesn’t even cover a tenth of the neighborhood’s area.

Think o’ that! No wonder the place is overrun.

 

 

 

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