Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

October 3, 2019
by funny
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Green Hemorrhage

Wow! The long greens have been washing out of the Funny Farm like a flash flood! I’m freakin’ going broke here…but oddly, most of this results not from impulse buying or budget-free living but from a weird confluence of bureaucratic gouges and house-related expenses. Some of them pretty hefty expenses. Most of these were either for things that had to be done or for things I figured were better attended to now than put off.

First, of course, we had the blinding $2500 property tax bill. Put that on a charge card. The statement just came floating into the mailbox…so that has to be paid forthwith. With any luck it will elicit a little kickback from American Express…more, I hope, than the gouge the County charges for the privilege of putting it on a card.

Then, the pool fiascos…holy mackerel!!!

After the $10,000 replastering job, as you’ll recall, the pool was absolutely gorgeous for a week or two…then it filled up with green London Fog. For $100+ per visit, Swimming Pool Service & Repair’s redoubtable Aaron came over and tried to beat the stuff back. Repeated visits and a $125 filter cleaning did nothing. Finally, after I remarked that I was thinking about simply filling the pool in, enough being enough, already, they came over and tried again a couple of times. Much to no avail… The green fog just came right back. (3 x $100: $300, + 125: $425)

You’ll recall that at the outset of this adventure, on the advice of WonderAccountant’s pool guy, I was pouring two gallons of chlorine into the drink: $13 a day…that would be $390 a month. This doesn’t count the soda ash and assorted other chemicals or the new test kit I had to order from Amazon.

Finally Aaron proposed that they should drain the pool, power-spray it with chlorine, and sanitize the pump, the filter, and any other equipment. Hoping against hope to save the pool I agreed to this: $350.

And indeed: they did a wonderful job! The water was sparkling clear and it stayed clear with little or no work on my part.

The job racked up not only the $350 for the work, but something over $100 charged by the city for refilling the pool after they drained it.

Then about two weeks later, along came the palm tree guys. They proposed to trim and clean up the four neglected palms — those trees hadn’t been trimmed in three or four years — and also “skin” the palm that never had the dead palm frond stumps removed: $250. This was a job that really needed doing, and the price was about what Gerardo would charge…only they’d do it now, not sometime whenever Gerardo & his guys get around to it.

I told them they absolutely must not drop the palm fronds into the damn pool! Right. “Sí señora…no palm fronds in the pool.”

Couple hours later I look out there and the damn pool is FULL OF PALM FRONDS!

I go out and say, “I asked you not to drop the palm fronds in the pool!”

“No problem, señora! We’ll pull them out!”

He didn’t understand what I was saying when I said “no palm fronds in the pool.” He thought I meant “please don’t leave dead fronds and leaves in the water,” not what I really meant, which was “throw the palm fronds over the wall into the alley and onto the street, and then from there load them into your truck.” And of course he had no clue that palm fronds harbor, among many other pests, billions and billions of mustard algae spores.

Of course, they pulled the fronds out of the water, which was exactly what they planned to do. Then, after I taught them how to do it, they cleaned the remaining debris off the bottom of the pool.

They charged $250 to trim all four palm trees (cleaning out at least 3 years’ worth of neglected debris, still clinging to the tops of the 30-foot trunks) and to skin the one inadequately maintained tree. It was miserably hot, they damn near killed themselves working like acrobatic climbing mules, and then they spent another hour shoveling out the pool. Amazingly, they engaged this last annoying chore with good cheer. I gave them a $100 bonus, given the vastness of the job I’d foisted on them.

Understand: Gerardo charges $50/tree: $200 per job, and the unshaven tree would be left unshaven. Over three years, that’s $600…so I came out ahead on that one, and got the neglected frond stubs cut off that one tree at no extra charge. (You don’t even want to know how much Gerardo proposed to charge to shave that tree!)

I poured some more chlorine into the drink. Once again, to no avail.

Within three days, the pool was a murky green swamp again!

A-a-a-n-d once again, I call Aaron in despair, pretty much determined to drain the pool and fill it in. Yea verily, I get the name of a pool demolition company, whose guy gives me an estimate of $12,000 to $14,000. Installing a deck over it with a pump in the bottom to keep mosquito puddle dry would come to about the same.

Aaron sends his colleague Don over. He dumps in some chemicals that, after about 12 hours of run time, sort of clear the water. That bill has yet to be presented. He also suggests that instead of fighting the thing myself, I should hire a pool maintenance guy to come in once a week to do battle with it.

I remark that during the Year of the Surgeries indeed I did do that, to woeful result. It was a total waste of $80 a month and and a total waste of time. He says maybe I should try someone else. So far I haven’t seen the bill for that visit.

Determined to give it one last chance, I ask the neighbors on the ‘Hood’s Facebook page if anyone can suggest a pool guy. And lo! Some woman warmly recommends the Pool Dude of the Century. Another pool dude is also recommended.

I reach the second guy first — he wants $120 a month. Right, pal. We’ll be calling the demolition guy back next.

Finally the first guy returns my call. He comes over, inspects the mess, and says he’ll do it for $85 a month. Weekly visits, chemicals included. Welll….ohhhkayyy…I figure I can always can him when (not “if”) this doesn’t work: “You’re on!”

So he, that very morning, applies three chemicals that he happens to carry on his truck. “You’re gonna have to run the system overnight,” he says. “It’ll take about 24 hours for this stuff to do the job.”

That evening I go out and look at the water: still murky. Another lost cause, I figure, and plan to call the demolition crew the following morning.

But lo! Comes the dawn, I stumble out to the poolside and by golly, the water is as clean and sparkling as it was after Swimming Pool Service and Repair worked their chlorine-washing magic!

He came back the next day, brushed everything down, and it looked incredible. Then he came back a couple days ago for the first of his regular Wednesday jobs. So far, he has yet to present me with a bill, but he did say clarifying it would be about $20. Sooo…$20 + $85: $105.

Okay, so the $2500 for the tax bill did not come out of the day-to-day living funds, that’s so: It was in the Tax Savings account. But the rest of it most certainly did  come out of the grocery budget: $1,715.

Just the beginning.

Then there was the $125 for the closed-toed black shoes we’re required to wear to choir on Sunday. Of course I have perfectly fine pain-free shoes bought specifically for that purpose…but the new director demands closed-toe shoes. You understand: I buy and wear these expensive shoes specifically because my feet hurt as a direct result of wearing shoes designed to please men! Some years ago, after deciding not to have risky surgery on my feet but instead to wear Birkenstocks until my feet eventually stopped hurting at every step (took about three years). At that time I made a considered and very deliberate decision:

I will NEVER AGAIN wear shoes that hurt just to please a man’s taste.

So strongly do I feel about this that I have seriously considered quitting the choir.

But eventually I thought better of that, drove out to Tempe, and plopped down $143 for a pair of black clogs. Wore these to church and found, yea verily, they’re uncomfortable and hot! Very, very hot. I’ve never had my feet actively made hot by a pair of shoes.

A few days ago, I was back out in Tempe to meet The Kid at a restaurant next door to the store. While waiting, I perused the store’s goods again, and mentioned to the clerk that I hated the shoes I’d bought. She said well, I could bring them back if it’s been less than two months.

Truth to tell, I’d have to figure out if it’s been that long or not. This whole week has been one long, hectic whirl, and I certainly haven’t had time to make a 90-minute drive back and forth to lovely downtown Tempe. But…if they’ll still take the shoes back, maybe I can trade them in on something less…clunky.

Yes. Believe it or not, they had a pair of black closed-toe CFMs! 😀

Such a temptation… {cackle!}

God lord, no wonder I’m broke…there’s more. Endlessly more:

  • Chuck’s Auto Service: $96, car maintenance
  • State of Arizona: $17, auto emissions rip-off
  • State of Arizona: $280, car registration rip-off
  • Maricopa County: $53 rip-off for paying $2500 in property taxes by credit card
  • Mayo Clinic: $80 not covered by Medicare or Medigap
  • Plumber: $143, replace worn-out part, fix annoying toilet
  • Gerardo: $150, yard work plus dig up ungodly vicious plants
  • All Saints: $25, choir folder

And the beat goes on…

October 2, 2019
by funny
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A Minor Triumph…and a YIPES!

So when I moved into the Funny Farm, lo! these many years ago, the flowerbed under the front window hosted four strange and rather dowdy plants. These things, a variety of bamboo (we’re told), were planted by Satan and Proserpine (the previous owners) as supposedly highly xeric. The path of least resistance has long been to ignore them. They need to be hacked back every couple of years — a task honored more in the breach than in the act. By and large, they’re forgotten until it occurs to me that I can’t see out the front window.

But fall being Arizona’s answer to spring — and fall finally having arrived in the past week — I decided I would spend the day cleaning up the gardens out here. And one of the things I’d like to do, thought I, is get rid of those damn bamboo-oid things and replace them with something prettier. Such as three or four dwarf bougainvillea.

The full-size boug over by the gate has thrived for years. It’s pretty well sheltered, so even a hard frost doesn’t faze it much. And it does appear that hard frosts are, once and for all, no longer in the cards. And a bougainvillea is truly a beautiful plant. Look up dwarf bougs online and indeed do find them…to the tune of around $30 to $35 apiece. Holy mackerel.

But I remain determined: these are the perfect plants for that spot. If I’m going to get them, I’ll just have to spay some stupid amount of money.

Amazingly, just as I’m about to finish my breakfast and get down to gardening, along comes Gerardo and his crew. I ask them to pull out the bamboo-oids, which they do…with enormous difficulty. The ground is dry and hard there, and the plants are firmly anchored into the concrete-like ground. They have to take a pick-axe to the things to get them out. But get them out, the eventually do.

Exit Gerardo and friends. And over to Whitfill’s.

The place is a madhouse, fall having sprung…you never saw so many pushy rich people in your LIFE! And all of the nursery’s numerous blue-shirted staff were collared. Open your mouth to ask a question and somebody barges in and collars the buy.

I finally manage to push my way up to the cashier to ask if the have any such critter, and she says all the bougainvillea that are staked are regular size; all the ones that are not staked are dwarf size.

Ohhh-kayyyyyy… Back onto the lot to explore two or three cluttered acres again. Just about to give up when I spot a cluster of small bougs in pots, but I can’t tell what they are, except to see they have wonderful classic maroon blossoms. And along comes a blue-shirted fellow, clearly fresh from the men’s room, who is unattached. Ask: “Are these dwarf bougs?”

“They are,” says he.

Since I haven’t been able to snag a cart, either, he helps me carry them to the cashier.

“Are those $10?” she asks.

“Uhhmmmm…” Say what? “Well, they have a number marked on the pot.”

“That’s ten bucks, then.”

Seriously? They’re upwards of $30 at the other merchants that stock them. I don’t argue. Outta there with four healthy little plants, only $43 lighter.

***

Back to the house. Loaf around for awhile. Admire the sparkling clean pool, visited this morning by the brand-new pool guy. He has fixed it, and apparently it is going to stay fixed, at least for awhile. He came by at 7, chatted, cleaned the walls and steps, fooled with the chemicals, chatted some more. Played with Ruby, who thinks (like all guests) he’s some sort of god.

Get up and clean the front window, which, for the first time in several years, I can reach.

Drag an old hose long enough to reach the excavated flowerbed out to the front; unkink it, and miraculously to get to work. Pour water on the flowerbed (we might note that an hour later said water has not soaked in: a sterling bad sign).

Ruby is coming and going (mostly going) during all this.

A little later, for reasons I do not recall I happen to look out the back door…and the back gate is standing open.

WTF?????

Remember, that gate has another barrier behind it, in the form of a padlocked steel gate. And that gate? Ruby can easily slip under it. Once escaped, she’ll run off to Timbuktu.

In a moment of real panic, I call and search for the dog.

Mercifully, she’s fallen asleep in her favorite nest under the back bathroom toilet.

This would mean, you understand, that she hasn’t noticed the gate hanging open. An  hour or three ago, she was soaking up the sun out by the orange tree that happens to stand right next to that gate. If it was open then she would have noticed.

You understand: Ruby can slide under that gate. I can crawl under it. And a fairly slender man could no doubt squeeze under it. Not only that, but this morning the cop helicopters were buzzing back and forth for a good hour, obviously looking for someone.

All of which that suggests strongly that somebody came into the alcove, over or under that locked steel gate, and unlocked the wooden gate into the yard. OR…more rationally, one of the lawn guys could have opened the gate, found he couldn’t get out to the trash can, and just turned around and hauled his leaves and junk out to the truck’s trailer…forgetting to close the gate.

Holy crap! The back door has been standing open most of the afternoon — the day is gorgeous and Ruby has been wandering in and out. If anyone actually got into the yard and he did it while the kitchen security door was hanging open he could’ve just walked right into the house.

Find another padlock and attach that to the latch on the wooden gate. So now we have to negotiate two goddamn locks just to take the trash out. Make that four: the deadbolt on the kitchen door and the deadbolt on the heavy-duty kitchen security door.

Well, thank God that Ruby slept through whatever happened there, or just didn’t happen to wander into the backyard while that gate was open. If she had, she’d have been long gone. Her collar has her name and phone number on it, but she doesn’t wear that thing in the house. And she is chipped. But either way, she’s quite a stealable little cherry. Chances are about 50/50 that whoever found her would never bring her back.

October 1, 2019
by funny
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Out of the Frying Pan into…?…

A question that comes more and more often to mind: should you move out of your home and into a life-care community while you still can? They usually won’t accept you unless you’re ambulatory, so if you’re in a wheelchair, for many of those places, you’re no longer eligible. This means you’ve got to cut short time that you might be fully ambulatory and surrender your independence now to secure a place as insurance against the possibility that someday you might not be able to care for yourself.

Just this morning I found myself revisiting that question, when I came across this pretty nifty shack, on the market out in Sun City. It’s very different-looking from the standard Del Webb model, it’s been updated beautifully, and the seller is asking about $50,000 less than I could get for my house. Thus I could probably sell my house, pay the movers, and still have a few bucks in my pocket.

But still. It’s Sun City: a mausoleum for old folks who refuse to die and wish not to have kiddies around them. I lived there with my mother for awhile between undergraduate and graduate school and really don’t want to live there again. Not that it’s not nice and all…but…it is a ghetto for old folks. Ideally, I want to “age in place” in my present home. Yet it’s unclear whether that’s the best plan of action, given the costs and hassles, the crime rate here, the risks entailed in aging alone, and just the size of the property.

The alternative is a life-care community such as The Beatitudes, a destination upon which we have touched before in these precincts. One of my choir friends and her late husband moved into the Beatitudes and decided they didn’t like it. Even tho’ the outfit refunds your money if you decide to move out within a certain period, it must have been a mighty pricey fiasco for them. The cost of moving alone is a big hit, to say nothing of the costs of selling a house and then having to replace a lot of furniture that wouldn’t fit into a tiny old-folkerie apartment. Add to that the cost of having to buy another house and move again! Still, you have to think realistically about whether you can manage on your own if you age — even if you stay pretty healthy into your dotage, you’ll still be in your dotage. About the time you hit 85 or 90, you’re gonna need some help with everyday living.

Clearly, in a culture where adult children expect to pretty much divorce their parents, there’s no easy way to address the problems presented by old age. I figure the trick has got to be to plan ahead. Way ahead.

So if, like me, you’re inveterately rogueish when it comes to institutional life, then you need to come up with a plan that will work to keep you out of a warehouse for old folks, at least until you’re just a few months from the end. SDXB seems to have thought that through reasonably well. Consider what you need and don’t need:

Need:

  • A roof over your head without a lot of space to keep clean, and in good repair
  • A low-maintenance yard
  • Ideally, a place you can lock up and leave whenever the mood suits you — go away for the summer, go off on a cruise, whatever
  • Low costs
  • Reasonable safety (low crime rate; decent fire department)
  • Nearby medical care, hospitals, and yes — even nursing homes

Don’t Need:

  • A large amount of living space
  • Yard landscaping to take care of
  • Swimming pool
  • Central urban location (interestingly, now that the city has oozed that far westward, Sun City is “centrally located” in its space)
  • Pets
  • Children
  • Anything to hold you down

Well, Sun City exactly fits those needs. The floor plan of the house that SDXB found there is to die for. It’s perfect for one person, or for two people who like each others’ company a lot. If I could get that place and transport it to Prescott or Peeple’s Valley, I’d do it in an instant.

Costs are low out there because in the older tracts, there are no school taxes! When Del Webb started his first tract, he talked the County into exempting it from school taxes on the grounds that no one living there would be sending their kids to the local schools. Additionally, because people can get to shopping, churches, doctors & clinics, entertainment, and whatnot without ever leaving Sun City, car insurance rates are relatively low (though higher than you’d expect because the widespread senile driving habits do drive up the accident rate some); and because the houses are all block construction and most have no pool, homeowner’s insurance rates are in the sub-basement. So that fulfills three of the proposed six planning “needs”: easy-to-maintain living space, little or no exterior maintenance, and low cost of living.

Crime rates are very low. To the extent there is crime, most of it occurs along the main drags that run through the area, not in the residential parts, per se. This picks off two more criteria: low crime, and because of that, it’s reasonably safe to leave a house for several months at a time. And finally, there are two major hospitals out there, one of them among the three highest-rated hospitals in the state. They also have one of the best life-care communities in the state, if it should come to that.

My guess is that my father stumbled across Sun City — he was sailing out of San Pedro at the time and counting the minutes until he could retire. They’d seen a condo in Long Beach that I thought was very nice, but apparently it was also very expensive, something that was agin’ my daddy’s principles. With that idea vetoed, my father proposed that they move into a trailer on the coast: all very scenic…and appropriately cheap. My mother was having none of that.

Right about that time, Del Webb was building the first phase of Sun City, and he had a nationwide ad campaign going. My father must have seen some of that advertising or else one of the men on the boat knew about it and told him. Whatever, nothing would do but what they had to move to Arizona.

My mother didn’t seem to object to Sun City. They did, after all, have a house, not an apartment, for a change. The weather was nice most of the year. And she was an affable soul — made friends easily wherever she went.

SC worked out pretty well for my parents, but it must have been difficult for my mother. Her best friend lived in Long Beach, and her family lived in the Bay Area, a reasonably easy drive up the coast. She never complained, but my guess is she must have been only moderately happy there (which is a way of saying she may very well have been miserable). Long Beach was a city, part of the LA area. Sun City was a fake town in the cotton fields outside of Phoenix, which at the time was a dumpy small city/big town in the middle of nowhere. She was a city girl. Although my father’s brother & his wife moved there, as did two couples who had been longtime friends, if you don’t golf and you’re not into ballroom dancing or pointless crafts projects, there isn’t much to do other than play cards.

***

Now let us consider whether, if you were truly afraid to age in solitude (and there are good reasons to be afraid), the cost of living in a place like the Beatitudes would pay for itself.

Let’s assume that the rumor we’ve heard — a cramped two-bedroom in a tower at the Beatitudes costs $7,000 a month, inclusive all services — is actually true. That may not be a good assumption, as it may be based on the number of people occupying the apartment; and of course, it may be inaccurate. But let us assume.

At $7,000 a month, my total assets would support me for 25.9 years if I stayed in my home. At $3,500 a month (assuming the 7 grand figure is for two people and one occupant would be half that figure), obviously I could live here for almost 52 more years.

Although it’s not impossible that I’ll live beyond the century mark, it’s not likely, and so very probably that I could stay here until the end of my life. Especially since I don’t spend anything even vaguely like 7 grand a month, by the time I become infirm enough to need daily help, plenty of cash would be left to pay for it.

If I were to move into the Beatitudes now and fork over the total value of my home to move in there, then my remaining assets would support me for 17.8 years at $7,000/month.  And should I happen to live that long, I’d be 92 when the money runs out: right about the age when one really does need a life-care environment.

So: would it not make sense to stay in one’s home at least until one’s mid-80s? Preferably into one’s 90s, if one lived that long?

***

After my parents had been in Sun City about ten or twelve years, my father found out about life-care communities and, specifically, about Orangewood, an old-folkerie on the northern border of North Central Phoenix. My father thought the life-care concept was a GRAND idea. Even though the Sun City house was a low-maintenance affair — gravel lawns = no mowing! — he apparently was thinking they wouldn’t be able to care for themselves forever in a freestanding house, and they might as well get themselves in the door at Orangewood while it was still easy to do so.

My mother did not want to move to Orangewood and, for what was probably the first time in their marriage, she put her foot down and she got her way.

So they were still in the Sun City house when she succumbed to cancer. But as soon as she died — literally within a couple of weeks — my father applied to the place. The six- or eight-month waiting list was an exaggeration: within a few weeks they were welcoming him to c’mon in.

He didn’t mind Orangewood. It would have made me crazy, but he had lived on ships since he was about 17 and so was socialized to institutional life. And he was a guy who would eat whatever was put in front of him, so he didn’t seem to resent the awful out-of-a-bag-into-a-steam-table processed horrid food. He appeared to be happy there, at least until he was a couple years into the marriage with the dreadful Helen, who snatched him up the minute he walked in the door. The point being, if you don’t mind that lifestyle, including a life-care community in your long-term planning makes sense. In my father’s case, he rescued his family (families, actually) from having to shoulder a great deal of terrifying responsibility after he arrived on his deathbed. He received excellent care in his few final months, and for that matter, was kindly accommodated all the time he lived there. With the exception of a predatory doctor who was in the business of ripping of Medicare, staff at Orangewood truly were wonderful people.

My father’s Grand Plan for old age (first in Sun City; then, as an afterthought, in a lifecare community) worked well for him, except for his having married Helen. After the honeymoon wore off, she drove him nuts. At one point — get this!! — he found a similar life-care old-folkerie down the road, except you didn’t have to buy in: you could rent! So…being a wily old bustard, he snuck over there and rented a studio apartment. This he outfitted with an easy chair, a television, a lamp or two, and a coffee pot (no doubt a bottle of Canadian Club, too). He would tell Helen that he was going about one errand or another — usually his excuse was he had to take the car to the repair shop, and he was going to wait there for the work to be done. He must have had other excuses, too, but I have no idea what they might’ve been. Then he would drive over to this apartment and spend the whole day in blissful peace and quiet, parked in front ot the television set! 😀

After a few months of this, he gave it up. He sold the bargain furniture and TV set and returned to domestic…uhm…bliss at Orangewood. He must have been miserable. He told me he was afraid to divorce her because of the community property laws: “she’ll get all my money!” And, her mother being a Superior Court judge and her son-in-law being an accountant who also had a law degree, he could’ve been right…

  • So, item: Do not mess up your old-age plan by remarrying, should you be widowed. Far better to live in sin.
  • Item: In that department, a live-out arrangement is infinitely preferable to a live-in arrangement.
  • And item: Consider all the potential alternatives to your plan.

September 27, 2019
by funny
4 Comments

Dogs and Depots…

…two entirely unrelated topics. Why not?

Dogs

Hallelujah, brothers and sisters! Ruby the Corgi and I did not run into one single dog during today’s morning perambulation. Normally the place is overrun with dog-walkers, especially in the park-like million-dollar groves of Richistan and Upper Richistan. Yesterday we encountered 11 dogs in about a mile and a half.

Not that I begrudge other people the privilege of walking their dogs around the ‘Hood. It’s wonderful that neighbors here feel safe enough to gallivant the streets with their poochies at the first glow of dawn or the last ray of sunset. The problem is that Ruby is ill-trained. She came to live in my precincts right at the start of the Year of the Surgeries. And believe me, at no time during that period was I in any shape to train a vigorous, energetic young shepherd dog — not even a dwarf shepherd dog. Result: even though Ruby will now walk on a leash peacefully enough and sometimes will even heel (it’s a miracle!), she will lunge at passing dogs, especially if they show even a glimmer of interest in her.

Many of these animals do show more than a glimmer of interest, and it is not friendly interest. Some are fine and would probably play with her — we do have one big old funny-looking doggy pal, a rescue named Sammy. But Ruby has been attacked three times, twice by dogs off the lead, and lunged at murderously by more leashed dogs than I can count. It means every time we encounter another dog-walker, I have to wrestle Ruby under control, cross over to the other side of the street (these people invariably hog the shady side of the street! 😀 ), and physically drag Ruby past.

Often, a person’s dog will not be well under control. Some are off the lead, illegally. Many accompany women pushing strollers, who are often preoccupied. Sometimes an Orthopedist’s Friend goes bicycling past with a big dog on a leash — the other day one such dog yanked its human off the bike when it charged at us from across the road. (Seriously: an orthopedist once told me he just loves people who run their dogs beside their bicycles — they’re a gold mine for him!) And then there are the folks who think their dogs and my dog “just want to play.” God help us.

All of which is, in short, a damned nuisance.

Where was everybody? That escapes me. The weather, though still a little overcast after the past two days’ rainstorms, is gorgeous. A spectacular rainbow was glowing just to the west of us, an amazing thing to see. It’s cool (at last!) and not about to rain and…?????  Not a holiday, far as I know.

Thought we must have gotten a late start — I suspect many of these folks are walking their dogs before they go to work, although some of the women are clearly Junior-Leaguers or other women affluent enough to be stay-at-home moms. But no: we got back to the house right at 7, which means we left around 6 or 6:15 a.m., right at the height of the doggy rush-hour. So what kept all these folks and their dogs indoors, I cannot imagine.

Depots and Daisies…

Speaking of dogs — in a metaphorical sense — I am soooo done with Home Depot!
Why do I go to HD at all? Well. Because it’s closer than the Lowe’s. Except it’s not significantly closer: if I were to get off my duff and drive up the freeway to the Lowe’s, it would be about the same distance as the surface-street junket to the nearest annoying Home Depot.

So day-before-yesterday I go by Whitfill’s, the small-business-owned nursery next-door to the Safeway, a long trip from either home improvement emporium. This is the preferred shopping destination for plants, because Whitfill’s is NOT owned by a Trumpeting megacorporation, but by a local family. Several generations of local family.

The shelves were pretty bare in those precincts…didn’t see any of the several specific plants I coveted. Figured it’s between seasons and so probably their stock was low because it was all sold out. But, thought I, HD would have the pretty much plain-vanilla plants I had in mind. Also needed: a couple of pool chemicals the SPS&R dude recommended this yesterday morning, by way of beating back the resurgent mustard algae. He dumped in a couple ounces of SkillIt, said who told you to put in 16 ounces? (The instructions on the side of the bottle, boss!), and recommended having some PhosFree and some Silvertrine on hand. And his parting shot?  “Don’t buy this stuff from Leslie’s. They’re pirates!”

No. They did not have either of the pool products recommended. We already knew they don’t carry Skillit. So no, these were not on hand as of yesterday afternoon, but probably will be today, because Amazon says they’ve shipped and are on the way.

Nevertheless, I load up on posies and various other home-improvement tchotchskies, and then head for the checkout.

In the garden department.

I always check out in the garden dept, because HD has replaced most of its cashiers with effing DIY self-checkout computers. To get a human, you have to hike to the far end of the store, halfway to freaking Wickenburg, and then hike back halfway to the Superstition Mountains to find your car. But for some reason unknown to 21st-century personkind, they’ve kept a human in the garden department.

One. Human. So, the garden department is my exit.

They used to have two or three cashiers in there. Now they have one, locked up inside an air-conditioned cubicle, and…yes…a goddamned computer checkout station.

SIX PEOPLE were standing in the human cashier’s line.

Over at the robot cashier? None. Zero point zero-zero.

So I join the long line and wait. And wait. And wait. And finally think ooooo fukkkit! 

Roll the full cart over to the side, abandon it, and stroll out of the store.

Cruise down to Whitfill’s — the family-owned nursery — figuring WTF, I’ll just make do with the dregs of whatever they have left on hand.

But WHOA!! Nooooo…since yesterday afternoon, they’ve received a truckload of new inventory. Hot diggety DAYUM, do they have the new inventory!  The gods reward those who persist in support of employees with minimum-wage jobs.

So I grabbed a lovely big blue salvia to put in the large empty pot on the west side. And a raft of strange little blue posies. And a raft of strange little orange posies.

Back to the Funny Farm.

Oh, joy: this pile of plants was enough to spiff up both the back west garden and the front courtyard. Courtyard still needs a little clean-up, but that could wait until morning, when it’s cool again.

What do you suppose possesses the management of Home Depot? Do they have no cameras in the garden department? Is there no manager who can see the endless line at the human’s cash register and the vacant station staffed by a f*cking computer? What COULD they be thinking? I bought about $70 worth of stuff. At Arizona’s minimum wage, that would have employed a cashier for just over six hours. Yes. One customer’s purchase would have covered almost an entire shift for a living employee!

I cannot justify continuing to shop in stores run by people who can only be morons. That is the sole explanation for this stupidity. Well. That, and brain-banging greed.

September 23, 2019
by funny
0 comments

Tornadoes Outside, Whirlwind Inside

LOL! Hilariously, every time it rains here, the news media — whose employees are perennially bored witless — regale us with tales of tornadoes, monsoons, and menacing floods that would put Noah’s Ark to shame. They’re having a great time just now: a tropical storm has blown up from the Sea of Cortez, and everyone’s in a great uproar. Oh, the horror! Oh, the terror! Omigod, it’s a tornado!

Well, no it’s not: it’s a whirlwind that picked up a lot of dry dirt. We call those “dust devils” in these parts.

As for the terror and the horror: well, yeah…the level of stupidity that holds forth among Arizona drivers is terrible and horrible. They drive into flooded washes, and then they’re astonished to find that a car will stop running when it’s up to its carburetor in muddy water. 😀

This morning when it came time for our dawn walk, huge pregnant clouds were floating overhead, and the richly humid air felt thick as cake batter. Ruby the Corgi and I decided to risk it, though: we set out for a mile-long hike with an umbrella in hand. But nay…we never needed to open the thing.

Shortly after we got back to the house, though, water coalesced out of the atmosphere in a brief, stiff downpour, huge drops falling straight down. No wind to speak of. No lightning, no thunder.

Ruby is not fazed by wind and rain, though she could do without bright flashes of celestial light and ear-splitting thunder. Just now, though, she is terrorized by an indoor whirlwind: this little dog hates, loathes, and despises the vacuum cleaner. Luz the Wonder-Cleaning Lady is here, forcing the vacuum to suck up every micron of dust off the floors. Ruby’s pet human, on the other hand, is most grateful to have someone else doing that job, and doing it exceptionally well.

After the Dog and the Human returned from journeying around the neighborhood — delightfully, the threat of rain chased most of the dog-lovers indoors, so we encountered just three other dogs, two of them on a single lead — the Human took it upon itself to shovel out four of the five office file drawers that have become overgrown with weeds. The sheer amount of paper that pours into this house — most of it generated by Medigap, Medicare, and assorted financial institutions — truly defies belief. So much of it piles in that it induces a kind of paralysis, so that after awhile you end up with mounds of paper stacked atop every table.

My active file drawers had grown pretty unintelligible. Cleaning out and organizing those things was an all-morning challenge…not to say “aggravation.” However, a strategy for simplifying the tasks of filing and finding occurred to me: Once the files are cleaned out and reorganized, create an index for them.

Duh! How obvious is this?

So now I have four tables generated in Word — one for each drawer — that show where each set of file folders resides and how the things are organized. I’m going to print out these little guides and drop them in the desk, where they can easily be found…et voilà! No more searching for paper stashed…where?

Or at least, with any luck, a whole lot less searching.

This little project entailed hauling out pounds and pounds of paper to the long-term storage file cabinet in the garage. One of the disadvantages of self-employment is that you have to save every piece of business-related paper until after the fall of American civilization. This accrues a phenomenal amount of debris. So much, in fact, that the big four-drawer cabinet in the garage is now chuckablock full. No way can I squeeze so much as one more sheet of paper in there. If this paper-storing enterprise is to continue, next year I’ll have to start stashing the stuff in cardboard boxes and storing those in the garage cabinets. Like I’ve got lots of room in the cabinetry to waste on paper.

Welp, here comes another downpour, this time accompanied by a little lightning and thunder. A little…close-by lightning! Since we’ll likely soon lose the power, time to post this thing and begone.

 

 

September 19, 2019
by funny
4 Comments

Make Our Plastic Buckets Great Again!

So I pick up a pair of scissors and go to snip open some paper item, and PLONK! The damn things fall apart in my hand.

This is the type of scissors that has plastic handles. I always thought they were regular scissors only dipped in a plastic coating to make the handles more comfortable to use. No. Ohhhhhh no. The “plastic coating” IS the handles!

Annoyed, I tossed the thing into an empty plastic wastebasket. It goes SPROINGGGGG! and the handle shoots off. If it weren’t inside the basket, it would have flown across the room.

Nice. Do I want to make a special trip to…where????  Target? A sewing store? Bed Bath & Beyond???…to buy a new pair of shears? Of course not. Call up “scissors” on Amazon. Not surprisingly, they’re all made with plastic handles now. Enter “scissors metal handle” in the search bar and bring up a few all metal scissors, amongst a plethora of “soft grip handle” scissors. These — the real ones, I mean — range in price from $17 to $34, as compared to six or seven bucks for the “soft grip” junk.

For cryin’ out loud. That is the second episode of shoddy imported junk this week. We also have the Case of the Mop Bucket.

Yes. How hard is this? A mop bucket, right? Seems like the sort of thing you’d find in every corner dime store. Oh, wait…

I’ve had one of those for some gawdawful number of years. Brought it over here from the old house when I moved in back in 2000 and aught 4, so it’s at least 15 or 16 years old. Holds four gallons or so. Probably more than that, actually. I think of it as a standard mop bucket.

But noooooo. No more.

Its handle broke yesterday morning while I was mixing acid to pour into the pool. No big deal, I think: I have to run up to the Walmart later on, so I’ll just pick one up there.

Bucket. Walmart. Seems like a natural pairing, doesn’t it?

At the risk of repeating myself: No more!

The only bucket they have in the cleaning department is this ridiculous little flimsy red thing. Holds 2.5 gallons.

Seriously? If you put a string mop in that, the mop would soak up all the water in the little plastic pot. How exactly would one rinse the mop out in this fine device?

Oh well. I have to go to Home Depot. They’ll have a real bucket.

Uh huh: No more!

They also were peddling the 2.5-gallon red plastic toy bucket. And only the scrub bucket, unless you wanted one of those hulking janitorial things on wheels.

Get back here, search for it on Amazon: find an Oxo bucket that appears to be identical to the Deceased. Said to hold four gallons. How much?

Hang onto your hat: sixteen dollah! For a freaking plastic scrub bucket! Mmmhmmm: four dollars a gallon. 😀

They delivered the thing overnight, and I’ll say it’s actually better than the old one (or appears to be…), because it has measurements for both detergent and water embossed on its plastic interior. That’s kinda cool. Problem is, as you’ll recall from chemistry class: when combining chemicals (such as acid and water) it’s A to Z, never the other way around, lest you blast yourself in the face with a nifty little chemical reaction. So: acid to water, not water to acid. Too bad…that could have removed one step from the water balancing chore. Oh well: at least I was able to get a bucket.

You understand where the rage that fuels the Trumpeters comes from, when you contemplate these annoyances. Blue-collar jobs sent off-shore, and products that used to be made by Americans — and made competently — manufactured as instantly disposable trash and sent back to us. Reverse racism presented as righteousness. Insistence that guns must be taken out of our sticky little hands, but no clue as to how to address the meth, heroin, and homicidal lunacy issues. Light bulbs that don’t emit light. Clothes washers that don’t wash clothes. Faucets that don’t dispense enough water to rinse a dinner plate in under ten minutes.

Grrrrr! I hate feeling crabby, but this is the kind of stuff that makes me feel crabby.

Make Our Plastic Buckets Great Again!